Now, here, again, the Spirit of God shows that God's ways and means are always positive and not negative. I want to say that with emphasis; let us underline it in our minds. God's ways are always constructive and not destructive; they are purposeful, and not just ends in themselves. And if God's inclusive, comprehensive means is the Cross, let it be understood, once and for ever, that by the Cross He is working to an end - a large end. The Cross is never intended to end with destruction; it is never intended to end with a negative. God is working for some great thing, and He uses the Cross in this positive way.
You see, the weakness in our apprehension of the Cross is largely due to a misapprehension of the Cross. Our idea of the Cross is that it is destructive, it is negative, it is death. We revolt against that; we don't want to be always talked to about this death of the Cross - death, death, death. It is indeed possible so to preach the Cross as to bring in death; but that is a mis-preaching. That is not God's interpretation of the Cross at all. Let me repeat: the Holy Spirit here shows quite clearly that God's ways and means are always positive and not negative; they always have in view something more, and not something less; not an end, but a new fullness.
If only we could really grasp that, it would transfigure the Cross. When the Lord confronts us with the challenge, what do we do? We revolt, we draw back - we don't like it! Why? Simply because we have not seen that, in this application of the Cross, God is set upon securing something more in our lives - in our fellowships, in our companies, in His Church - something more than there has ever been before. That is God's law. God is not a negative God. Other gods are negative gods, but our God is not a negative God. He is not working to bring things to annihilation; He has very large purposes before Him in all His ways and in all His means.
What we really have to see is that, whatever the Cross may negate - and it will, of course, negate some things - it is God's most positive instrument for securing spiritual, heavenly, eternal values. The Cross is God's most positive instrument for securing the enlargement - not the annihilation - of that which will abide for ever. While it is true that the Cross, in the first place, does represent God's "No," and that we cannot have God's "yes" - the Arm of the Lord - until we have accepted His "No," then the way is clear for us to come right into His "Yes." And, mark you, God's Name is not "No!" His Name is "Yea and Amen" (2 Corinthians 1:20) - He is "the God of Amen" (Isaiah 65:16) - the Positive, the "Verily," the God of purpose.
So it is very necessary for us to move on to this settled basis, that God always comes in with a mind to create (or to recover), to build and to increase. If only we could believe that of the Lord - even in our most devastating times, when everything seems to be taken away, and all is stripped from us; when everything seems to be going, and we think we can see an end coming: if only we could believe then that God is working - not to bring values to an end, but to increase them! That must be our ground - that He is ploughing, He is digging; He intends a harvest: He intends something more. He knows why He is doing it in that way - we don't. But we can be sure of one thing: God is at work by the Cross to make things safe for Himself.
The Cross Makes Things Safe for the Lord
Now, just supposing the Arm of the Lord were revealed to you or to me; supposing the Arm of the Lord were revealed in the locality where we live, in the place of work where we are engaged, or in the company with which we are connected, supposing the Lord came out with His mighty arm, and showed that arm in prospering, in increasing: what would happen? Perhaps you will not agree with this, because you feel that it would not be true in your case; but that is just where our hearts are deceived. I can tell you what would happen. You and I would come into the picture; you and I would begin to strut about in this thing, now that it is growing and enlarging and prospering and becoming something to be taken note of. We should be walking around just like peacocks, with our tails all spread out; we should be metaphorically, if not literally, wearing a badge with "Superintendent," or "General Manager," or something like that, written large across it! We should begin to talk about the thing; and if people began to talk about us, how pleased we should be!
That is the infinite peril, and God will not run the risk of allowing that in something that is wholly of Himself. The Lord must make things safe for Himself, so that, if He does stretch out His mighty arm and do something, you and I will not begin to pocket the credit; we shall be a hidden and a covered people.
It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of this. Has this not been perhaps one of the deepest underlying laws of the revealing of the Arm of the Lord through the whole course of Christianity? Why was there that growth, that expansion, at the beginning, which has never been paralleled through the centuries since? Because the Church was stripped and peeled and emptied, broken and battered and bruised and persecuted, because it preached Christ crucified as the wisdom of God and the power of God - and the world would not have it. The Arm of the Lord was revealed to that. The Church was not trying to avoid the offence of the Cross in order to find a place in this world. No, it preached the Cross; it was not ashamed to preach Christ crucified. it cost everything - but the Arm of the Lord was revealed.
What a tremendous lesson for us!
We are brought back to this chapter in Isaiah. This chapter, which is the quintessence of the New Testament and of all God's ways, shows that the Arm of the Lord is revealed to that humbled, emptied, despised, broken and crucified Servant. It is an abiding law. Let there be no mistake about it - if you and I have an assertive spirit, a self-confident spirit, a "managerial" spirit, or anything like that, the Arm of the Lord will not be revealed. But if we find that He is stripping, emptying and pouring out, seeming to bring to nought, we may be sure He is doing it to make things safe for Him to stretch out His Arm. Do yo believe that? I say again - He is the God of the positive and not of the negative; He will stretch out His Arm if only He is allowed to complete, to perfect, that work of under-cutting everything that would take glory from Himself. You and I do not know how much there is in us of that kind, do we? We think we have just about touched bottom, we have come to the end; there is nothing left in us. But what would happen if the whole situation suddenly changed - took the upward road, and began to enlarge? We should come in again - our inveterate flesh would at once begin to assert itself! The Cross is the great clearing instrument; it is the only way of the glory.
(continued with # 1 - "The Central Place of the Cross")