The Family of God - George H. Warnock
The Family Of Jacob
In the family of Jacob we have a type... perhaps we should say a prototype... of the Family of God; and this is what we want to consider in this writing.
God has declared Himself to be "the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob..."
In Abraham God called a man whom He would discipline, and test, and try, until He had made of him a pattern of FAITH for all generations to come. He was to become "the father of all that believe," "the heir of the world," the one in whose Seed (remember God said SEED, not seeds, for the Seed is Christ--Gal. 3:16, 29)... the one in whose SEED all nations of the world were to be blessed.
In Isaac we have the firstfruits... the firstborn son of Abraham's family... the hope, the promise, the earnest of the great Family of God that was yet to be born.
In Jacob we have the outworking of God's dealings in the Family of God: first in Jacob himself, and then in his twelve sons. And in all this we have a clear picture and pattern of how God deals with His family by way of disciplining, teaching, chastising, frustrating, devastating... and yet in and through it all ordaining and preparing them for a glorious latter end.
All this, of course, is for our edification and encouragement, as we travel much the same pathway as they did, and experience the same frustrations, longings, disappointments, joys, and encouragements as they did.
As we become acquainted with the God of Abraham we learn obedience, faith, trust, and yet in the midst of it all, a certain unrest, a certain perplexity, a certain frustration. We embrace the promise and begin to walk in it, but the promise lingers unfulfilled. We pitch our altar, and know the presence of God, but not for long. We must move on, and on... to new altars, to new areas of commitment and dedication to God. New horizons open up before us. New frustrations beset us. All the while we are looking for something more real, something more permanent, something more lasting... only to find ourselves in the end as "strangers and pilgrims in the earth." Nothing fully satisfies, great and wonderful as it may be. There may arise from time to time the feeling, "Why can't we be satisfied like Lot... to find a well-watered plain somewhere in the land, and just settle down." Some of God's righteous ones, like Lot, will do that; but we can't. The Vision holds us steady... the Vision of a "City which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God..."
Of course the Lord is faithful, and after patient endurance on Abraham's part, God fulfils the promise. Isaac comes forth, the true child of promise, and there is joy and laughter (as "Isaac" means)... laughter such as only Abraham and Sarah can understand and experience. Not the giddy joy and laughter of entertainers who go about promoting the laughter of the world in the midst of God's people... but the laughter of true spiritual HOPE. There is "rejoicing in hope of the glory of God." There is a joy that is born out of tribulation, and patience... A joy that comes in the morning, after the night of weeping. There is still much work to be wrought out in the lives of God's Family, but the hope, the Vision... will sustain and strengthen as God completes the work that He has begun.
And so we come to Jacob, in whom God would give us a pattern of the transforming work of His grace in the lives of His chosen ones. In Jacob God reveals the process whereby He would change the name of His chosen ones; for when God "names" His people, He names them according to the nature that they have, or the nature that is yet to be, And the changing of Jacob's name signifies the changing of his nature, of his whole way of life, until Jacob comes forth as ISRAEL, Israel the Prince of God, Israel the Overcomer.
Like Jacob, we too are born the beloved of God. Even before he was born God said, "Jacob have I loved..." In vain are we going to search out the heart of God in an attempt to discover WHY He loved us. In vain are we going to search out our own hearts, if perchance the reason for His love was prompted by something we discover within ourselves. So let us leave all this kind of searching aside. But we must know, if we are going to survive the tests, the frustrations, the trials, the temptations of life... that in and through it all our Father God loves us, and for NO REASON that He has been pleased to reveal.
And yet, in spite of this love, and our awareness of it, it does not prevent us from striving to get it, or from striving to maintain it. And like Jacob we are going to discover that with every effort we make to get more and more of this spiritual life, the more frustrated we become. It takes time... and experience. But sooner or later we are to discover that to really find God we have to surrender all that we have acquired. I mean surrender all our spiritual blessings, all our spiritual enablements, all our spiritual gifts.
You see, God may entice us with gifts and blessings... for these gifts and blessings proceed from Him, and they indicate to you and me somewhat concerning His nature, His heart... and they are necessary for our spiritual growth. But God wants us to know that it is not sufficient merely to have certain of His blessings and His gifts residing within us... He wants to occupy the throne room of our heart completely, alone and by Himself.
No problem, of course... as long as we can hold on to what we have until we can replace it with something better. "God, you give me more of Yourself, and I'll give you more of myself..." But God does not work that way. Were He to do so He would be allowing you to have the lordship that He the Jealous God requires for Himself. And so He will insist that we surrender to Him, before He will surrender to us. "Give Me everything, every natural endowment, every spiritual endowment... every natural possession, every spiritual possession. Then I will give you MYSELF..." For God is a jealous God, and will not share His glory with another. He may share His blessings, all the while we are receiving comfort and satisfaction from other sources. But He will not share His glory, His abiding presence, His lordship with anything or anyone else.
The experience of Bethel is a wonderful experience. The word means "House of God"... and the revelation of the House of God, the Church of God, the Family of God, has been precious in our eyes. The vast majority of the Family of God have camped right there, and seemingly desire nothing more than the revelation of His glory at the House of God. After all, Jacob discovered Bethel to be "the gate of heaven." What more could we desire?
But to what had Jacob really attained? Really, all that was there was a heap of stones. What he had was a revelation, and it was good. "The House of God." "The Gate of Heaven." Angels of God were ascending and descending upon the heap of stones. But how few of us have noticed that GOD HIMSELF was still beyond his reach... that God was at the TOP of the ladder!
We are still very much at Bethel. the place of the revelation of God's purposes in His people. But we are still a heap of stones. God is working on those stones, I know. And He will continue to chisel, and shape, and fashion according to His will, until we become "living stones" and built together to form "a habitation of God in the Spirit."
There are many things that God says concerning His people as positive declarations. We are His Church. We are His Building. We are His Temple. We are Living Stones. And we could go on and on. But God help us not to fall into the deception of thinking that His declaration of what we are is sufficient, and thereby deny to ourselves the workings and dealings of God in our lives that will truly and effectually MAKE US TO BE what He DECLARES US TO BE.
When God appeared to Abram and announced, "Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee" (Gen. 17:5), God was declaring His purpose. And as Abraham embraced God's Word, his faith would grow and be strengthened in order that the promise might be fulfilled. God's declaration of what he was, was sure and certain because God had declared it but it wasn't actually so as yet. The promised seed (Isaac) was not even born yet; and the actual fact of Abraham becoming the father of nations would be years, decades, centuries away.
Inherent in the changing of the NAME is the guarantee and the provision by God Himself that we cherish and embrace, in order that it might become actual and real in our lives. He calls His own Name upon us. He says we are holy; He says we are AS HE IS; He says we are His brethren; He says we are righteous; He says we are of His flesh, and of His bone; He says we are one with Him. As we embrace that He will MAKE US TO BE what He now DECLARES US TO BE.
First Bethel... Then Peniel
This is the order: Bethel, the House of God; and then Peniel, the Face of God!
The time had come for God to strip the striving, grasping Jacob of all that he had. And so on his return from Haran back to the land of promise, God was preparing him for that confrontation with Himself that would make him to be an OVERCOMER. Jacob finds himself alone, alone under the stars at Jabbock. He was facing what he thought was a revengeful Esau, and in fear he surrendered and forfeited everything he had. And now at the fords of Jabbock God confronted him face to face. The struggle lasted all through the night; for though we long for God, and earnestly pray that He will have His way with us... as He seeks to do so He finds it difficult to prevail against us.
How can mortal man make it difficult for God to subdue him? Simply because mortal man was nevertheless made in God's image... and God's dealings with man (especially His chosen ones) are mingled with great concerns that the image which man has lost may be found again. God's sons are begotten, and not merely created like beasts of the field. They are begotten in the Father's image and likeness. Therefore He desires a Father-son relationship, obedience, submission, friendship, fellowship. He has ten thousand times ten thousand of other creatures that do not bear His nature and likeness; and they do whatever God says. But His sons He has chosen from among the sons of men, and God would reproduce in them His own nature: by dealing with them as with sons, by discipline, by chastisement. His hand may be heavy upon them at times, but then He will restrain Himself... that His disciplined ones might voluntarily and willingly draw closer to Him.
But at the breaking of the Day the Angel of God touches Jacob with the touch we all long for, all the while strenuously resisting His every attempt to reach us.
We must continue to ask the Lord to bring us to our Jabbock. Dr. Strong says the word "Jabbock" is from a word that means to "pour out" or to "empty." We often pray, "Lord, fill us..."
And it is true that God can give us many things, many blessings, with whatever degree of commitment we are able to give, But if we truly desire the "fullness of Him" there is only one way a complete pouring out and emptying of ourselves at the river Jabbock. It is only in giving Him all of us, that we can receive all of Him, He will not give up on us, because we are slow to yield. He will continue the confrontation, if our hearts are truly after Him, until He succeeds in giving us the final touch... the touch that cripples, the touch that leaves us lame, never to walk the same again. Jacob had received a "new name" consistent with the new nature and the new life that he was to live from that day forward. No longer "Jacob the supplanter," but "Israel, the prince of God."
But Jacob did not go forth from that experience declaring himself to be God's man of power. When you hear of men who claim that title, or accept it... you just know that they have never seen the Face of God at Peniel, After that kind of experience, God's Israels will limp their way along in the ways of God, forever halting on their thigh. Paul said, "Let no man trouble me, for I bear in my body the brand-marks of the Lord Jesus." There might be a lot of boasting at Bethel, the House of God; but there will be none at Peniel, when one beholds the Face of God. Long after Jacob's glorious experience at Peniel we hear Jacob testifying before Pharaoh, "Few and evil have the days of the years of my life been..." (Gen. 47:9).
The positive testimony, the testimony of God's overcoming ones, is this: that in me there dwelleth no good thing... that His strength is made perfect in my weakness. that in and through every devastating experience we have known in life, God has been faithful to give Beauty for Ashes, the Oil of Joy for Mourning, and the Garment of Praise for the spirit of heaviness.
God Of Jacob!
God of Abraham! We can understand that, for Abraham was a man of faith, who walked in obedience before the Lord.
God of Isaac! We can understand that, for the Fear of God was upon him, and he too walked with God, with few deviations.
But the God of Jacob? What encouragement to you and me, who have known much perplexity and discouragement, and yet have discovered in and through it all that God was working in our hearts great longings and desires for Him, and for Himself alone. And to think that He puts His own Name upon us: "Israel, Prince of God... you have Power with God and with Men."
It is a Name we bear in our reproach. We do not FEEL that the Name is appropriate... but we must take it. Our hope can be in nothing else, but that we accept His Name upon our lives. In doing so we are actually inviting Him to have free rein in our lives, and to work His nature and character into our beings. His Name He would put upon our foreheads that we might have His heart, His mind, His thoughts... and that we might walk in His ways. The God of great power and might, condescends to put His Name upon the sons of men. But what kind of condescension is this that He would take OUR NAME, and ascribe it to Himself. Listen to this:
"This is the generation of them that seek Him, that seek thy face, O Jacob..." (Psa. 24:6). God takes the name of Jacob for Himself! For He takes our nature, our sickness, our problems, in order that we might take His Name, His nature, His strength, and His life. He becomes our "Jacob"... that we might become His "Israel"!
A Family Of Many Brothers
We are talking about the Family of God. God has a family. He has One Beloved Son, an only begotten. There is only One that is in this unique and special sense the Son of God. But God will not be content until He has a FAMILY like Him. Not because He is not satisfied with the only Son... but because the only begotten of the Father is so precious in His sight, and so delights His heart.., that He wants to have more like Him.
We get discouraged sometimes when we see the many faults and failures in the Family of God: the resentments, the pride, the jealousies, the hate, the conceit, the divisions, the striving for pre-eminence. Then we read of God's requirement of us, that we walk in unity, and in love, and in truth, and in peace. And O the frustration that sets in as men try to bring this about in the Family of God. Of course, we have to lower the Vision of God to our human plane in order to make it work. We do not insist that the Family of God walks in total harmony and union with the Son of God and with one another. Obviously that is impossible. So we just encourage people to love one another, to be kind and forgiving, to forget their differences... to try and get along as the happy Family of God. The various schemes that we have mentioned are brought into play... teachings of "submission" to authority and leadership, and the like; and with these methods we hope to alleviate the stress that we see as brother tries to co-exist with brother in the Body of Christ.
All well-intentioned, of course, and for a season it might seem to work. But surely we have had enough experience in Church life by now to know that sooner or later there is going to be a disruption... another division... another clash... and new congregations will be born out of the ashes of the old. Then there is a certain sense of satisfaction in the thought that the trouble-makers have left... now we can start building afresh, Or the "trouble-makers" that have left get to feeling... "We are going to go on with God, no matter what the others do"... and there is a new fellowship of come-outers.
All this has been very frustrating to behold; especially in the eyes of those who just know that they have the order for the New Testament Church. They just know that if Christians would get out of all these old systems and join them, they would grow in grace, and unto the stature of Christ!
"We have no problem in our fellowship," I have heard it said... "We have New Testament order and leadership. Our ministers work together in harmony. The people are taught to obey the leaders. as they do that there is peace." Or, words to that effect.
Not to mention of course that if one or more of the corporate leadership disagrees they are dis-fellowshipped because of insubordination.
And not to mention that if the people leave from time to time it is because they are rebellious... or (and this is quoted frequently), "They went out from us, because they were not of us.., for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us..."
A Sign That Deliverance Is At Hand
But personally, in and through all the strife and the division and the separations that I see going on in churches and fellowships of various kinds I find real cause for hope and encouragement. I just know that God has a plan... a plan that Is much greater than any of our plans. I just know that God is working in the earth to bring about true reconciliation in the Family of God; and to bring into being the peace, and the unity, and the harmony that God is after. And I believe that God's plan is even now being unveiled, and it is working; and the strife and perplexity and upheavals that we see going on about us, even amongst the dedicated and committed children of God, is an indication that the Day of Deliverance for the people of God is nigh at hand. Why do I say this?
Never was the nation of Israel closer to the day of deliverance from Egyptian bondage than the day that Aaron and Moses stood before Pharaoh and said, "Let my people go..." And yet the bondage, and the strife, and the turmoil in the people of God was never greater than it was in that hour. Furthermore, it got worse, and not better... right up until the night the children of Israel departed from Egypt!
Never had such frustration and division and distress overtaken the twelve disciples as in the day and hour when Jesus died on the Cross. And the little flock to whom God had promised the Kingdom was scattered far and wide on that dreadful day. Yet it was in that very hour that our Lord by His death and by His resurrection would gather them together in the unity and harmony of His Spirit.
THEIR TIME OF DESOLATION WAS BUT THE BIRTH-PANGS OF A NEW ORDER!
I believe it is so today. There is a lot of talk of unity, of coming together, of ecumenicism... whether it be out there in the apostate church or amongst God's true people. And the more we see and hear of it, the more strife and turmoil are we caused to behold, IT IS BUT THE BIRTH-PANGS OF GOD'S NEW ORDER!
He is sifting, sifting, sifting, the hearts of men. God is not in the least interested in gathering together and joining together a carnal people, a people filled with their own ways, a people of contention and bitterness and strife. And when men in the Church think they can just brush all this under the carpet in the name of "love," or in the name of "submission" to authority, or in the name of maintaining "New Testament Church Order," God is quick to come on the scene, with eyes as a flame of fire, and to devastate and confound the devices of the carnal heart.
Jacob's Happy Family In Canaan
Moved upon by God to come back home, after spending some 20 years or more in Haran with his uncle Laban, Jacob returned with the blessing of God, and settled in the land of Canaan, the land of his fathers, the land that God had promised to give them for their inheritance. Of course, they continued on in the land as "pilgrims and strangers"... for the day of actually possessing their inheritance had not yet arrived.
God had been faithful to the striving, self-seeking Jacob all through the years of his exile; but now he is home with his family, his very happy family, and dwelling together in peace in the land of Promise. All living together in communal harmony, and blessing. All working together, and knowing happy times together, as the heirs of the blessing that God had promised their father Abraham.
But they were still but the stones that Jacob saw at Bethel many years before. The Family of God, yes; but not really builded together as the true Bethel, the House of God.
Let not God's ministers continue on in their vain delusions any longer. We do not have the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace just because we can assemble together under one roof, and sing the same beautiful songs of Zion, and raise our hands together in praise and worship. It may all look very good to the undiscerning eye. And occasionally you will hear remarks like this, when there is a mixing of various congregations and fellowships: "Isn't it wonderful how God is bringing together the Body of Christ... look at this congregation... and all the different churches that are represented..."
Sooner or later they are to discover that there is another upheaval, another trial, another scattering, and great disillusionment sets in. "How long, O Lord," we ask, "Are these things to be?"
God lift the veil from our eyes that we might see: it was not a "division" that took place when suddenly the people of God were scattered; but the "division" was there long before they even assembled together in one congregation in the first place. It simply took these many months or years for the division to become unveiled.
A Divided Heart
Again, let us say, God is not in the least interested in His people trying to maintain a semblance of "unity"... if their hearts are divided. He is not in the least interested in joining flesh to flesh, carnality to carnality... and CALLING IT THE UNITY OF THE SPIRIT. The "unity of the Spirit" means exactly that we are ONE WITH THE SPIRIT OF GOD. We have come under His Lordship. He is in charge. He dictates the order and the worship and the praise of the people of God. He gives the direction in which we are to go as we assemble together in His Name. The members of the Body of Christ come together having sought the Lord earnestly... that they might not fail to contribute their portion for the edification of all: whether it be a Word, a Song, an Utterance... or whether it be to quietly sit there and pray for, and move in union with those whom God is using.
We could go on and on in this... and we all know very well that this type of gathering is practically unknown in the assembling together of the people of God. We are not talking about "the unity of the faith" which is still farther down the road, we are talking about the "unity of the Spirit" which is now within reach of the people of God, regardless of our present understanding of Truth, and of the mysteries of God. All we need to maintain the "unity of the Spirit" is a people who, regardless of their present understanding of truth, are committed, yielded, sold out to God, and are seeking Him with all their hearts. Their hearts are united unto Him, and therefore unto one another. And we are exhorted to maintain this kind of unity as God would lead us further and further... even unto "the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God."
But away with the notion that we can keep the unity of the Spirit just because we have His gifts and blessings... if the hearts of God's people are set in their own ways, with hearts divided between God and themselves... a little area here for God, and the rest I will take care of myself. A heart for religion, and a heart for the world. A heart for the worship of God in Spirit and in Truth, and a heart for the idols of the heart.., those things that I just must have whether God is for it or against it. A heart for the beautiful songs of Zion, and a heart for the jazz and clanging cymbals of Rock-and-Roll... or perhaps a mixture of the two, using the words of Zion and the lyrics of Satan.
A divided heart means a divided life. And many divided hearts gathering together under one roof to worship God... means a divided fellowship. It may not appear that way right now. You can sing all the choruses about the Body of Christ and the happy Family of God. But sooner or later it will be manifest for what it is: a group of people with divided hearts, divided interests, divided hopes, divided desires... And then one day when something drastic happens and the flock is scattered we look about and blame this elder, or that deacon, or that pastor, and go about looking for a new board, and a new pastor... and start the same proceedings all over again.
In actual fact the "division" was there right from the start, but well glossed over, well covered up... until He with eyes as a flame of fire gazed upon them, and everything went up in smoke because of His searching, penetrating, consuming fire.
But God has a wonderful and a glorious solution to the whole problem; and we see it beautifully portrayed in the Family of Jacob.
The Unveiling Of The Human Heart
Jacob and his family were living together in Canaan, as one big happy family. But like the pile of stones upon which Jacob had laid his head many years before, they were not yet "living stones," shaped and fitted together, as the House of God. But this is what God had in mind, and God would yet bring it to pass.
If this is the day of the unveiling of Christ, and the joining together of the Body of Christ, it is also the day of the UNVEILING OF THE HUMAN HEART, and the manifestation of the hidden things of darkness that lie concealed in the hearts of God's people.
What is it that begins to unfold the inherent hatred and dissension that lie concealed in the hearts of Jacob's sons? Nothing less than Jacob's special love for Joseph. Of course it does not seem fair that Jacob should prefer one son above another. But we want to emphasize in and throughout this whole episode God's dealings with His own family.
Jesus said, "If any man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him" (John 14:23). Does God not love everybody? Yes, but there is a special love that flows out to the one who loves Him.., for the simple reason that "deep calleth unto deep." His love for us would draw forth from our hearts our love for Him. And if we respond to His love, and allow ourselves to LOVE Him... then there is a further response from His heart. Our love for Him releases the flow, And the mutual love between the Father and His sons will grow and grow and grow... until they LOVE, even as He loves...
But rest assured, when this kind of love relationship develops between you and your Lord, there is going to arise great opposition to it from those who love Him not. The reason is because Love and light are inseparable, and light cannot co-exist with Darkness. Therefore "men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil." Love brings to the light; and light exposes the evil that is there. Repentance washes away the evil; but if there is no repentance there is great opposition.
Why was Madame Guyon whom we read about persecuted so much? We can discover no other reason than the fact she loved God with an intense love...--so intense that it exposed the darkness and the evil of men's hearts. Why were Luther and the reformers persecuted and hunted and hounded, and many of their people tortured and burnt at the stake? Really, for no other reason than the fact that they loved God with all their hearts... loved Him more than the establishment... more than their Bethel, the House of God, that had become apostate and corrupt. Why did Cain slay Abel? Because "his own works were evil, and his brother's were righteous." And why did the religious leaders of the day slay Jesus, who was the full expression of God in the earth, and manifested the fullness of love and mercy and truth? Simply because the hearts of men were filled with hatred and iniquity, and the love of God that was revealed in Jesus exposed them.., and in pride of heart they refused to come to the Light for healing and cleansing.
Joseph, very innocently, but as a lover of the truth, would tell his father of the evil deeds of his brothers. This angered them. But more than this we are told that Jacob showed special love to Joseph, and this caused them to hate him more.
But not only had Jacob favored Joseph. God did too. God would give him dreams, dreams that had great spiritual meaning; and these served to aggravate the problem still further. Joseph had dreams of preeminence and of lordship. God gave them, so we cannot accuse Joseph of pride or bigotry. In child-like simplicity he told his dreams. But this would bring Joseph into still further trouble. God knew it would. But God had ordained a furnace of affliction for Joseph, and God knew how to take care of the situation.
"And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words" (Gen. 37:8).
You who have known God's special favor and grace upon your life, learn to temper this with the realization that the grace and the favor He is showing now, is ordained of God to be a cushion to lessen the blow, and to make the devastation to be endurable, in the furnace of affliction that lies before you. As you become aware of this, it may be that God will provide the grace now to humble yourself before Him, and to seek Him more earnestly for grace in this hour, when you feel you need it less. For you need His grace exceedingly, if you find your heart and mind dwelling upon thoughts of Kingdom power and authority and rulership in the Kingdom of God that is about to be revealed!
Now what was God doing in Jacob's family? He was beginning to expose the evil of their hearts; and in bestowing love and favor towards Joseph He was simply manifesting the evil that was already there in the other brethren. All the while they were the happy family of Jacob, living in the beautiful land of Canaan. But they had divided hearts. Sooner or later there would be a confrontation. And it would come through Joseph the beloved one, and who was on a mission of kindness to his brethren, to see how they were getting along.
"Here comes this dreamer," they said, "Come let us slay him, and we'll see what will become of his dreams..."
But God was working in their lives, and sovereignly exercising control in the whole matter... and they could not slay Joseph.
We have to know in all our dealings with men of this world, and in all our experiences in life, that God is behind the scenes working all things together for good "to them that love God"--and all for His glory. But perish the thought that God causes the evil... that God put that hate and rebellion in the hearts of Jacob's sons, in order to banish Joseph into Egypt. God has put a hedge about His people, and thwarts the devices of the evil one on our behalf; and if He sees fit to lower the hedge here and there, as in the case of Job... it is because in His great love and wisdom He is going to frustrate the devices of the evil one, and bring great glory out of it all.
All the brothers were involved in the plot, but some of them had a greater degree of guilt than the others. To Reuben's credit we have to say that he had planned to rescue Joseph from the pit, and send him back to his father. But when the other boys saw a caravan of merchantmen on their way to Egypt, they realized that perhaps they could derive a little gain in the matter, and they drew him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver.
When iniquity abounds, there is no end to the expression of evil that lies inherent in the human heart. First, evil conversation... Then jealousy... Then hatred... Then conspiracy to kill... Then covetousness... Then lying and deception... All this was there in their heart, yet they seemed to be living in harmony, in communal blessing, as one big happy family, in the beautiful land of Canaan!
This was the experience of Jacob's sons. And when their father examines Joseph's coat which the boys had taken from him, and dipped in the blood of a goat... Jacob is completely devastated. "It is my son's coat; an evil beast hath devoured him... I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning..." (Gen. 37:33, 35).
But what was God doing at this time? God was preparing a man for the day and hour when He would RECONCILE THE FAMILY OF GOD, to one another, to Jacob, to Joseph, to God Himself.
If God's people could only know this and understand... that the evil that is purposed against us can do us no harm whatsoever if we are walking in God's way and doing His will! What a difference it would make in our relationship with God in that hour! If and when this happens, God help us to know that He is preparing us for the day and hour when we can come back to our brethren, and bring them into deliverance, For if we receive all this as from God, then we who are rejected are but released into the oceans of liberty and freedom; while those who are free to go their own willful way are actually weaving for themselves a net of great bondage.
Of course when things like this happen there may not be very much desire in our hearts to help our persecutors. There may even be thoughts of vengeance and retaliation. But let us be quick to discern the evil of our hearts in that day, lest the enemy succeeds in frustrating the good that God has designed in our lives because of the furnace of affliction. It may be hard to discern this, if you see Satan stoking the fires. But let us learn that Satan doesn't know everything... and it is quite apparent as we read the Scriptures that Satan rarely seems to know what he is doing when he afflicts the child of God... he just does not understand the mystery of the Cross!
Joseph may have had very little love for his brethren as he cried and besought them earnestly for mercy. Anticipating the day and hour when he would be able to return to them and show them mercy and forgiveness... this was probably farthest from his thoughts. But it was in God's thoughts. And when God was through with Joseph he would be able to love and forgive and show mercy and deliver the whole Family of God. But to fill this role, he must be prepared through hardship, and bitterness, and misunderstanding, and cruel bondage.
I know that there is the outpouring of God's love in our hearts by the Holy Spirit within us; and we can experience this intermittently, as we know special seasons of God's blessing in our lives. But God's plan goes much deeper than this, and involves the very changing of our nature and character within, till LOVE is an inherent part of our being... and we "LOVE... even as He loved," and "show mercy" even as He showed mercy.
The Vision Tarries
What is our responsibility when the Vision tarries? Blame the Devil for his opposition to us? Or blame ourselves for our lack of initiative and aggressiveness? The prophet Habakkuk gives us the answer, the answer that God gave him in the hour of his own affliction:
"THOUGH IT TARRY, WAIT FOR IT..." (Hab. 2:3).
It seems like vain comfort in the hour of affliction, but this is God's answer. The delay of the Vision only adds to the severity of the affliction. God knows this; but He also knows that the delay of the Vision will add to the character-building of the man who has the Vision... if he will but WAIT FOR THE VISION TO BE FULFILLED.
To take the Vision in our own hands, and try to make it work, will only add to our problems. And so God's chosen ones, God's Josephs, are handicapped in the matter. So handicapped are they that they couldn't take things in their own hands even if they tried. It is a sort of a handicap-situation in which they themselves very innocently co-operated, so they cannot "blame" anyone but themselves. For as they earnestly sought the Lord in earlier days they always said, "Lord I want to go your way... all the way. Hinder any plan or device of my own that would hinder the full outworking of your purpose in my life. Don't let me find true fulfillment... don't let my ministry know any enlargement, except Lord, as you know that I am able to abide faithful in it, and have the power to overcome the temptations that invariably come to that one who is used of God. Release me to accomplish your works in the earth, but do not release me till you have accomplished that needful work in my own life..."
And because we prayed this way in the time of peace and safety, and without any pressure of circumstances... God is faithful in the hour when the pressure is released upon His people to close His ear, and refuse to hear their pleadings when they cry unto Him, "Lord, take me out of this... I know I prayed that you would have control in all things, and I covenanted to go your way all the way... and I meant it... but Lord, I didn't think it would come to THIS... take me out of it..." But God does not hear. He did hear that other prayer of true dedication and commitment that you made in the time of peace and safety; and now that His hand of trial and testing is heavy upon you, He closes His ear so He will not hear the cry for release from your commitment.
O yes! He knows what you are saying. But if you really meant what you said back in those days when you gave Him your all--He will not let the extreme pressures of the moment change His mind concerning you. He loves you too much for that.
And so Joseph is in prison. He cannot go home, even if he wanted to, and repent of his dreams.
God help us to know that the prison-houses which He ordains for our discipline are ordained of Him, that we might bring deliverance to others who are in prison because of their sin and iniquity. God help us to know that the hatred that is hurled against us, is intended of the Lord to bring forth love and mercy toward them. God help us to know that the misunderstandings to which we are subjected are ordained of the Lord that in the day of our release we might understand and show mercy to those who knew us not, and who in that day will be subjected to misunderstandings and torments and afflictions too grievous for them to bear.
Joseph's feet were placed in fetters. But worse than that, his soul was laid in iron.
"Whose feet they hurt with fetters; His soul came into irons" (Psa. 105:18).
This is a more literal translation. Bodily affliction is one thing, and it can he very severe, But the bondage of the soul can oftentimes be even more severe.
And still the vision tarries. A year goes by... two years... five years... ten years...
But God was with Joseph and caused him to prosper. There is a scripture that says, "I would above all things that you should prosper, and be in health, even as your soul prospers." And what perversion men have made of it! Now don't look up Webster's dictionary to get the meaning of the word "prosper"--you had better go to the Bible for that, or you will find yourself in a lot of trouble.
Joseph prospered in a prison-house... because he was there in God's will, was being disciplined of the Lord, and God gave him favor with the captain of the guard. He found Joseph to be a trustworthy and obedient SLAVE, and God honored Joseph for his obedience to his master. Paul had a "prosperous" journey to Rome. I believe he did. He had prayed for one, and I believe God granted it. He went there in the will of God. Shipwrecked, of course, and he may have had to float to an island on a plank from the broken ship. Yet in and through it all it was a prosperous journey, because God was with him, as God confirmed the Word to the prisoners on the ship, to the sailors, to the captain of the soldiers. And when they landed on the island Paul saw the hand of God at work in healing the sick, and confirming the Word with signs following.
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