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Monday, April 15, 2013

The Recovering of the Lord's Testimony In Fullness # 7

The Warfare

No Living Relationship With The Lord

We could have proceeded from the other end, and said, 'Now, here we have some people, with leaders whose names are mentioned, who are hostile to this that is so important to God and to Heaven. That is their position, that is their attitude, that is their spirit. Why is it?' The answer essentially is that they have no real relationship to the Lord. Whatever may be their profession, whatever may be their phraseology, whatever may be their pretense, their form, they themselves have really no living relationship to the Lord. That is where we begin with these people.

But we go a little further, because we have some of their leaders mentioned, and these men were outstanding men.

First of all there was Sanballat, who is called "the Horonite" (Nehemiah 2:10). That simply means that he came (probably) from Beth-horon, a Samaritan city; he came from one of the towns of Samaria. He was one of those people who had been placed in the land by the king of Assyria; they are described in the chapter from which we have read. He was one of them, he was after that kind.

Then you have Tobiah. You notice the pronunciation - Tobi-jah. It does not sound like that in your Bible, but that is the right pronunciation. You notice the end of his name is 'Jah,' 'the Lord.' This man is ostensibly linked up with the Lord in some way. But Tobiah is an Ammonite, and you remember the word in Deuteronomy 23:3, "An Ammonite ... shall not enter into the assembly of the Lord; even to the tenth generation shall none belonging to them enter into the assembly of the Lord for ever." And then the reason is given: "They hired against thee Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse thee." This is the background of Tobiah: something which is impinging upon God's inheritance, in a kind of link and association with Him, but rally in nature inimical to the Lord. That is Tobiah, the Ammonite.

And if we get right back behind him, we remember that Ammon was one of those children of Lot through his own daughters - one of the most tragic and terrible things in the whole of the Old Testament. So that Ammon has to be numbered among those mentioned in Hebrews 12:8, "If ye are without chastening, ... then are ye ... not sons" - false children, the horrible word which we refrain from using; false children, pretending to be children of God. That is Ammon through Lot: in association with God, with Abraham, but inwardly not of the pure seed of Abraham, not of the pure seed of Israel, not of the pure seed of God's people. He has his name mixed up somehow with the Lord's people but he is not a true son - he is a false son. That is Tobiah: a fleshly association with the land, but a spiritual alienation from the Lord, and persecuting the truly spiritual. As Paul puts it: "he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit" (Galatians 4:29); and so it is always.

We come to another man a little later on. He is Geshem, at one point called Gashmu, the same man, and he is called "the Arabian." He was either an Edomite or an Ishmaelite whichever it was, it was very bad. You know their history, how they both of them warred against that which was spiritual. Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, dwells much upon that. This one, Ishmael, born of the bond woman, warred against him who was born of the free woman. So the flesh wars against the Spirit, the earthly against the heavenly. Or he was of Edom, of Esau. How Esau fought against Jacob! He was against that which was in the line of sovereign election; he would indeed slay that at one point. Both of these, whether it was Esau or Ishmael, whether it was the Arabian from Edom or from Arabia, represent the conflict between the flesh and the Spirit, the natural and the spiritual.

Carnal and Fleshly Men

Now you will know how full the New Testament letters are of this very thing. You find not only what I have mentioned, the hostility to the salvation of souls and the general conflict bound up with being a Christian, but you find a specific kind of assault wherever God's fuller purpose is brought into view. If Paul represents anything at all, he represents the full and ultimate purpose of God. It is through him that we have the wide, vast range of the eternal counsels and purposes concerning the Lord Jesus, and it was with assaults related to these very things that Paul was having always to contend, in peculiar ways. They did not seem to bother Peter so much, James had his difficulties, John had his difficulties, but Paul seemed to have difficulties of a peculiar kind.

Take these Judaizers, to begin with, who were always on his track. He never went anywhere but what they were soon on his heels to undo his work, to destroy his ministry, to defame his name, to undercut his apostleship. What sort of people were these Judaizers? They were not all the non-Christian Jews. If the letter to the Galatians is true, what these people were saying to the Galatian churches was: 'Christianity - yes, we allow it, we  permit it, we recognize it; but after all, it is only an attachment to Judaism - it is a kind of supplementation of Judaism.' They would make it a Jewish Christianity. You remember how the Jews, the Jewish leaders, went down to Antioch to try to get the Christians to recognize the Jewish law and to incorporate it into Christianity, to observe all the Jewish rites and still be Christians. The whole letter to the Hebrews is on that matter. But here are Christians who are being tempted, not to give up the law, to depart from the law, to cease to recognize and own the law - that is not the question at all - but to add this Judaism, the law and its practices, to their Christianity, and combine the two. They were told, 'You must be circumcised, you must do this and that, observe this and that.'

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 8)

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