The Recovering of the Lord's Testimony in Fullness
An Old testament Illustration
We have illustrations of this in the Old testament. We have Elisha and the men of Jericho who one day went to him and said, "The situation of this city is pleasant" - 'every prospect pleases' - "but the water is bad, and the land casteth its fruit." (2 Kings 2:19) - the mark of death. Of course you know where that came from. You remember that when Jericho was destroyed, the curse was pronounced upon it, and Joshua said, "Cursed be the man before the Lord that riseth up and buildeth this city Jericho: with the loss of his firstborn shall he lay the foundation thereof, and with the loss of his youngest son shall he set up the gates of it" (Josh. 6:26).Death, the mark of the curse, was pronounced upon it, and now these years afterwards the men of the city come and say that in the very waters of this city, with all the prospects that are fine and good, death resides; nothing comes to perfection, "all is vanity and vexation of spirit" (Eccles. 1:14), all is disappointment. Elisha said, "Bring me a new cruse and put salt therein" (2 Kings 2:20-22). They brought him the new cruse and put the salt in, and he emptied cruse and salt into the waters and the waters were healed. Death was destroyed by the salt, but it had to be in a new vessel.
We could stay long with that, but you see the point. If Elisha is the prophet of life, as undoubtedly he is, for everything about him and all his works speaks of life conquering death, here is the testimony. The salt is the emblem of life which destroys the power of death and of barrenness, unfruitfulness and disappointment. A wonderful life is this. "Ye are the life of the earth.'
We have other illustrations, but I am not going to stay to give them. We said in a previous study that the Book of Ezra represents the sovereignty of God, while the Book of Nehemiah represents the cooperation of man with that sovereignty. Going back to Ezra: if that book is the embodiment of the sovereign activity of God, God acting from heaven on His own, right out from Himself, what is He doing? If He stirred the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, and if Cyrus made this decree, and if the decree was the result of a work of the Spirit of God in Cyrus, then, when Cyrus said, "And salt without prescribing how much," it was a provocation of the sovereignty of God that made him say it. Cyrus was undoubtedly an instrument of Divine sovereignty. You know how Isaiah speaks about him. "Thus saith the Lord to His anointed, to Cyrus, ... I will gird thee, though thou hast not known Me" (Isaiah 45:1, 5). An instrument in the sovereignty of God. And now this man, in the hand of God's sovereignty, is saying: "And salt without prescribing how much" (Ezra 7:22). All these other things may mean very little if there is no salt, no vitality This element must so to speak pervade the whole.
God is after this something which is more than the framework of things. It is an indefinable something. Sometimes you may hear hymns - some of the good beautiful hymns. These hymns may be sung by two different kinds of people. Some of them may be sung by a very capable, a very artistic choir, sung with perfect technique, with beautiful artistry, and with fine voices and harmony. Others, on the other hand, may not be sung with all that professional skill, with all that artistry, or with all that standard and quality of voice - but you can tell the difference between the saved and the unsaved every time. You know that on this one side it is a church choir of unconverted people. I mean this - perhaps that is harsh judgment - there is something lacking. It is wonderful, it is beautiful, but there is something not there that you miss. On the other hand, you know these people are saved people, they are singing because they love the Lord, they have a relationship with the Lord.
Now of course it takes a Christian to discern the difference; but there is a difference. You know it, you have heard it yourself. It is just salt - this indefinable something that makes all the difference between those who are in vital relationship with the Lord and those who are doing the same thing without that relationship. They have got all the semblance, all the appearance, all the bulk, of the salt - yes, but there is something not there. The salt is without savor. We do not want just a technique, accurate, correct doctrine, proper Christian practice, forms, liturgies and all the rest. What is necessary, whether these are present or not, is that there should be this vital something that caused people to realize: 'Well, they may not be artists, they may not be tremendously capable people, there may not be all the marks of wonderful efficiency about them; but you meet the Lord, you register some indefinable thing that matters.' The recovery of that testimony counts for more than all the words, the phraseology, the form, the technique. It is quite possible to have a New Testament technique and New Testament churches, Christian doctrine and practice, but still be without that something that registers, and that is the testimony to be recovered.
(continued with # 5)