The Garden of God
Beauty For Ashes Part 5 - George H. Warnock
CHAPTER 5 - AUTUMN...BRINGING IN THE SHEAVES
"He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him" (Psa. 126:6)
"Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe. (or, dried), And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped" (Rev. 14:15, 16)
This is the "precious fruit of the earth" that God has been waiting for. But there is another harvest that is also "fully ripe"... and this harvest consists of the "vine of the earth" which is cast into "the great winepress of the wrath of God" (Rev. 14:18, 19).
There are two kinds of harvest, and both must come to fulness of maturity. There is the "mystery of iniquity" and there is the "mystery of Christ". Generally the Church has no problem believing that the working of evil in the sons of disobedience will come to complete fulness; because we see it happening before our eyes. We see the Devil fashioning his people into his own likeness. But somehow most of God's people seem to think "the mystery Christ" cannot come to fulness till we get to Heaven. I am confident if the Devil can bring the seed of evil to a ripe harvest of sin and iniquity... surely our Lord Jesus who died to redeem us, and who overcame Satan by dying on the Cross surely He is able to bring His people to ripeness even "unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ". Or do you think, perhaps, that the Devil has greater authority and power over his people than our Lord Jesus has over His?
This is what harvest time is all about: the seed that is planted must come to fruition... and ripeness. God's harvest is said to be "ripe", and the word means "dried", "shriveled", "withered". We don't like the feeling. We seem to be dead... and often we feel that way. But it must be this way in harvest-time. The "green" of former times has turned to brown. Many have become discouraged because they feel so dry. I am not saying God's Garden has received the full measure of the Early and Latter rain that Joel talked about. For even now in harvest-time we know there is a generation of God's people who must experience "the early and the latter rain" in their season. But we must be very close to the harvest that Jesus spoke about when He said, "the harvest is the end of the world". And in harvest time the Gardener will bring His fields to dryness, so the grain can be threshed and separated from the chaff. Harvest time is separation time. God will separate the wheat from the tares; but He will also separate the wheat from the chaff. God says, "Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn" (Matt. 13:30).
In this hour of consummation the Gardener comes into our midst looking for one thing, fruit... the precious fruit of the earth. Failing to recognize the season in which we live, and "the hope of His calling" in our lives, can only lead to frustration and bewilderment in this hour when nothing seems to be moving in the direction we had hoped or planned or sought to achieve. For certainly if God has apprehended you, you are going to discover that He is blasting away your every attempt to restore some of the good old days of the past. Perhaps the Lord is cutting you down so small that you are beginning to wonder if you have lived your whole life in vain. After all, could it possibly be God's will that you have flowed in successful service for the Lord in years past, only to find yourself at the end of the way almost alone, and with very little meaningful fellowship in the body of Christ? Or perhaps ministering to the ones or twos? Or not ministering at all? Yet are these any evidence whatever of God's displeasure? Not at all, if we know a little about God's ways. God's pleasure in His people is determined by the quality of our love for Him, and not by the gifts He has showered upon us, or in the service we offer Him. Does He not say, "Though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity (love), I am nothing" (1 Cor. 13:2)? We all know that scripture well, but I fear most of us cannot bring ourselves to the place where we esteem God's love working in us to be His highest desire. We fail to recognize that "he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him" (1 Jn. 4:16). And that when we come into Love, there is nothing more that can be added except more of the quality and attribute of LOVE. The Church abounds with great and successful ministries whose real concern is to "get the job done" rather than to pursue this high and holy calling where we dwell in God, and God dwells in us. God is waiting patiently for this precious fruit to come forth in His people. And blessed are we if we are waiting for it too. May we understand what this means: that God is "waiting" while tenderly caring for His Garden; and we are "waiting" while responding to His blessings, and allowing His Word to penetrate our hearts and change us.
Our Lord Jesus was faithful as the Seed to go into the earth and die. And therefore the Father will be faithful to ensure that this "precious fruit" will come forth right here in the earth where the Seed was planted. We know "the blade" and the "ear" are forming here in the earth. Then should it seems strange that "the full corn in the ear" should also take form here in the earth? This is where God desires the full measure of LOVE to be manifested... right here in this world of sin and hatred and malice, where His love is needed... far more than it is needed up there in Heaven! It was right there in Egypt that God had a Joseph ready... prepared for the hour of famine... to feed not only the Egyptians, but also the people of God in the land of Canaan.
The Color of the Fields is Changing
My garden takes on a wholly new character and color when the time of harvest draws nigh. The beautiful flowers wither away and die. The leaves fade, turn color, and drop off. The stalks of grain turn yellow, and lose all their natural vitality. The color changes from green to brown, or yellow.
This is what confuses and frustrates most of us when harvest time draws nigh. And unless we understand the Gardener's design in it all, we are apt to condemn ourselves or others for the deathly state we are in. And so perhaps we go looking for something to revive us again... something that will restore the joy that we feel should be there. And if we discover the joy, perhaps we will be satisfied for another short season. May God help us all to know that the true "joy of the LORD" is one of the signs of harvest time... and that it is not like the "joy" of the world about us. It is "the joy of the Lord"...
The joy that comes when we know God has been working all through our days, even when we thought He had deserted us.
The joy we discover in harvest time, when all along we thought He had stripped us down to zero because of our failure, rather than because of His design.
The joy we know when He shows us that He used the pruning knife, not to destroy us, but to bring forth more and better fruit.
The joy of knowing the Potter had crumbled the vessel that was marred in His hands, not to cast it away, but to make a new vessel that would be "approved" in His sight.
The joy that comes after many nights of failure and disappointment, when we discover that God's intention all along was to bring us to ashes, to cause the leaves to fall, to cause the flowers to fade away and be trampled in the mud... because He was looking for the fruit.
The joy we experience, when He comes "to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He might be glorified" (Isa. 61:2, 3).
Think of that! That God can actually bring a people to the place where their supreme joy and delight is not to get everything God has for them, but to give themselves wholly unto Him, "that He might be glorified".
"Now the time was the time of the firstripe grapes" (Num. 13:20).
"My soul desired the firstripe fruit" (Mic. 7:1).
"These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb"(Rev. 14:4).
God's prophets spoke as they were moved along in the Spirit... so I know it is God that is saying, "My soul is desiring the firstripe fruit".
God loves all His family. He loves the whole world. But there is a certain reward of His love that His people draw from His heart when they do those things that please Him. God tells us that He takes special delight in those who "fear the LORD", and "speak often one to another" and "think upon His name". The Bible says He is attracted by that, and He listens in, and commands a book to be written about it. They are so special that He says, "They shall be mine... in that day when I make up my jewels" (Mal. 3:16, 17).
But be assured of this, God's special ones are not aware that they are "special". They "fear the LORD" so much, that if such a thought comes to their mind they ask the Lord to purify their hearts from all such defilement, because they want to walk close by His side. They know their God will not walk with the proud or the scornful! They know that except they take their place as the servants of all, and the least of all they are not true disciples. They know that only those who suffer with Him in His rejection and cross... will reign with Him in glory. The Gardener alone will decide what fruits He will pick as "firstfruits unto God". Our Lord Jesus Christ has become, preeminently, "the firstfruits of them that slept" (1 Cor. 15:20). But He is joining a people unto Himself, making them to be members of the same body with Him, as "a kind of firstfruits of his creatures" (Jas. 1:18).
Our fellowship with God and with one another is based on "walking in the light" (1 Jn. 1:7). It would be wrong to base our fellowship on what kind of a "message" we have: Kingdom Message, End-Time Message, and all the different titles that we hear these days by people who have left the traditional church. We only have true fellowship when we "walk in the Light"... not just in knowing about the Light. We must walk in abiding fellowship with the King, rather than just learning the Kingdom Message. Are we following in the steps of Him who is poor in spirit? The One who mourns over His people? The One who is meek and lowly in heart. We must respond to His call: "I want you to give yourself wholly unto Me... to be separated entirely unto Me, that I might do with you as I will".
What is the Chaff?
"And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the tree; therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire... He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his (threshing) floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire" (Matt. 3:10-12).
This message is clear: In harvest time the ax is laid to the root of the corrupt tree. And the chaff of the grain fields is to be consumed in fire, or blown away with His winds. Now the chaff was once a part of the stalk of grain as it grew there in the field. It was a green stalk, full of life, and a channel of life to convey the nutrients of the soil into the head that was forming on the stalk. But in harvest time it turns yellow and brown, and dies.
I do not know what kind of channel God may have used in your life to bring forth the fruit. But we must not continue to give life supports to that which once served God's purpose, and now is no longer valid if it has fulfilled God's intention. The chaff does not grow out from some evil thing that plagues the inner man. The chaff is that which God used for a season to bring life to you or to others... but in harvest time it is no longer necessary. And because it is no longer necessary or useful to God, He will consume it in the fires of harvest time. The green has turned to dryness... and harvest time is threshing time, to remove from the grain everything that is no longer necessary to God and His purposes.
Already a fire is kindled to destroy the chaff from the threshing-floor. Already the threshing instruments of His judgments are being sharpened and made ready. Already the winnowing-fan is in His hand. Those beautiful tall stalks of grain, once absolutely essential for the growth and development of the plant, are beginning to feel the sharp teeth of His judgments, and are being reduced to chaff. Do we understand what God is saying? Not only your sins and your failures and your mistakes... but that which He Himself produced within you by His life and blessing. All this becomes chaff in the day of harvest. Why? Because all He is looking for now is the grain that has been reproduced after the likeness of the corn of wheat that fell into the ground and died.
What do we do then? As individuals and as assemblies who gather in His Name, His absolute Lordship must be established in every life that seeks to move with Him in this hour. Then He with eyes "as a flame of fire" will show us what He wants us to do. We must stop telling God what He must do, and "inquire of Him". But will this not cause a lot of divisions in the Church, if we change our direction too drastically? Very likely. For there can be no gathering of the wheat into the garner without a lot of separation of the wheat from the chaff. He must cut, and beat, and thresh so thoroughly that the winds of His judgments may sweep everything away except the pure grain.
With the grain in the garner all else out there is chaff, and He consumes it with His Holy fire. This is what the "baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire is all about". We are inclined to shrink from such devastating language as that. Some theologians tell us that this "baptism" has nothing to do with Christian experience, but that it refers to God's judgment on sinners. But not so, for Jesus prior to His departure told His disciples, "John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence" (Acts 1:5). Judgment? Yes. For God's judgments must first begin in His Sanctuary. He will judge the world with the same fire; but God's people need this mighty baptism of fire, to burn up all the chaff, and endue them with His glory and power. Do we wonder why there are multiplied millions of Christians who profess to have been baptized in the Spirit... and yet fall so far short of what the early disciples experienced? I think it is because we have settled for much less than God intended. Do we gather together in His Name in "one accord" as those early disciples did? (Acts 2:1). Have we felt the blowing of those mighty winds of God, that He sent to sweep away the chaff? (Acts 2:2). Have we seen those holy tongues of fire, resting upon us and consuming us with His presence (Acts 2:3)... Not to mention that in many cases God's people have been taught how to speak in tongues, instead of speaking under the unction and power of the Holy Spirit. For these reasons I am afraid our "Acts 2:4" experience in most cases is sadly lacking those ingredients of grace and truth and love that characterized the anointed people of the early Church. We need to continue seeking God that we might be swept clean with those holy winds of God, and be baptized in that holy cleansing fire of the Holy Ghost.
What we need today is a baptism of "weakness"... a baptism that consumes the dross of pride and arrogance, with refiner's fire. And surely this is what John the Baptist proclaimed when He said of Jesus, "He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire" ...fire to consume the chaff of the harvest threshing floor, fire to consume the dross from the gold, fire to burn out every trace of sin and carnality.
It is the Dawn of a New Day
A new Day is dawning upon God's people. Already some are beginning to sense the Day Star arising in their hearts... and we know this is but the prelude to the rising of the Sun of Righteousness, with healing in His wings. Many are aware that a change is taking place in their lives, "from glory unto glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord". Already there is a breaking and a melting of the ice and snow on the mountains, and streams are beginning to flow in the Garden of the Lord. Winter is giving way to spring time in this hour when God is doing a quick work in the earth. And spring is merging into summer. And summer into autumn. God is saying to His people, "Seek ye my face", and with David they respond, "Thy face, O Lord, will I seek". They do not argue the matter with the Lord, "But Lord, You know I can't see Your face until You come again, and I am waiting for that". They want to see His face before that day, and walk in the light of His countenance today.
Do you think this yearning for resurrection life, this deep travail and groaning for full redemption, is just a repetition of false birth-pangs? Do you think it is just a historical event that is to take place, rather than the groaning of the Spirit to bring forth a people from the womb of a groaning creation? A creation that has been groaning these thousands of years since the Fall? (See Rom. 8:19-23).
The caterpillar has lain still and dormant these many days, wrapped up and confined in a cocoon of his own making yet not his own, but rather according to the spirit of life within him. He is not concerned about time tables and dates like the other worms that are crawling around. When his hour has come he struggles and yearns to come forth... yet not he, but the spirit of life within him. And suddenly that cocoon bursts open... not because he kept watching the calendar, but because the pressure of new life within him could no longer be restrained by the cocoon that kept him in bondage. The cocoon bursts open, because of his struggling... yet not his, but the struggle of the spirit of life within him, and he finds his new element in the atmosphere above. And all the while the other worms are reproving him, for they just know for sure that worms do not sprout wings and fly.
Behold the Fig Tree, and All the Trees
"Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; when they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand" (Lk. 21:29, 30).
Now if the fig tree is the nation of Israel, it follows that "all the trees" are the other nations. What does this mean, the trees "shooting forth?" Jesus tells us clearly what it means. "So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand" (vs. 31). "These things..." What things? Let's just refer to them briefly: Jerusalem compassed about with armies. Great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. Signs in the sun, moon, and stars. Distress of nations, with perplexity. The sea and the waves roaring. Men's hearts failing them for fear. The powers of heaven shaken. And finally, the revelation of the Son of Man from heaven, in power and great glory.
Much of this "distress" took place in A D 70, as the Romans sacked Jerusalem and the temple. But the distress of "the fig tree and all the trees" continues to intensify, and will come to fulness.
We do not rejoice in the destruction that is coming, but there is a sense of expectation in knowing that God is going to deal with the horrible violence that covers the earth, as He did in the days of Noah. The apostle Paul likens these judgments to the "travail" that comes on a woman with child (1 Thess. 5:3). Why? Because there is new life that will come forth out of His judgments. For in the time of the "seven last plagues" of the wrath of God, the overcomers are singing the Song of Moses and the Song of the Lamb. Both these songs are songs of triumph. And we hear them singing, "Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest" (Rev. 15:4). The wrath of God is a fearful thing. But "the fig tree and all the trees" are going to be humbled at His footstool, when God's judgments are in the earth.
So we do not despair when we see racial tensions all over the earth, each killing his brother for the glory of his god; and each totally ignorant of the true riches of Christ. In the midst of it God is preparing the sons of the Kingdom to go to the nations with the "beautiful feet" of the Gospel of Peace.
Man... desperate, ambitious, self-seeking, proud, arrogant man is trying to maintain his own selfish identity through political maneuvering, and war, and uprising, and rebellion... and while all this is going on there are peace conferences, and overtures, and peace pacts, and cease-fires, ...only to give way to more angry demonstrations of hate and violence...
SO MAKING TURMOIL.
But God comes on the scene, bringing the remnant of Israel, and all the trees, to brokenness and desolation, and finally to the foot of the Cross. The elect of Israel (the branches that were "broken off") are grafted back into the Olive Tree along with their Gentile neighbours (Rom. 11:22-24). And then they make the amazing discovery that they are true blood-brothers because they are washed in the Blood of Christ, and are now members of one Holy Nation. So why are we fighting against our brother, and against God? And then we read these beautiful words:
SO MAKING PEACE.
It was there at the Cross that God made peace: made peace with rebellious men of all nations. And no man is going to bring to nought that great Peace Pact, where God "hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; ...for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace" (Eph. 2:14, 15).
This is the role of the sons of the Kingdom, to proclaim the Peace Pact that God made for all nations. Then it shall be said of them: "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!" (Isa. 52:7)
"For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Rom. 8:19, 21).
Chapter 6 - The Gardener Waits For the Fruit
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