The Garden of God
Beauty For Ashes Part 5 - George H. Warnock
CHAPTER 8 - VICTORY...AND TRAGEDY
"Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them; and that Rock was Christ, But with many of them (or, the most of them) God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness" (1 Cor. 10:1-5).
After saying these things the apostle goes on to caution the Corinthians that these things happened to Israel as an example for us... that we might learn from the failure of Gods people in former times and avoid the pitfalls that brought a curse on them, instead of a blessing. Here the apostle shows us clearly how the blessing of God intended for their daily bread, and for their thirsty souls--became a curse... because their hearts were hardened against God. And lest the self-confident should shrug this off as an unnecessary warning to them, He admonishes us still further:
"Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (vs. 12). I want to speak of a few outstanding cases in the scriptures where Gods blessings were followed by His judgments, because His people did not take it to heart.
The Snare of an Unprepared Heart
I would not want to call this "The snare of blessing"... but it becomes that if the heart is not prepared. What God intended as a blessing to His... people in the wilderness... food and water to sustain their weary hearts and nourish their bodies... this blessing became a curse because of their embittered hearts. Asaph tells us that it was "a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God" (Psa. 78:8). God Himself laments over the rebellion of a people who witnessed miracles and wonderful works and blessings such as no nation before or since has witnessed... yet in the aftermath of it all they hardened their hearts and failed to learn Gods ways. (See Psa. 95:7-11). This is no light thing that what God intended to nurture us, and feed us, and strengthen us, and bless us... can actually become our downfall if the heart is not humbled and steadfastly fixed on Him. Gods Word to you and me is this: "To day if ye hear his voice, Harden not your hearts." (See Heb. 3:8-15; 4:7).
Strange Fire in the Holy Place
One day there in the wilderness Moses told the priests to offer up certain sacrifices before the LORD because God was going to visit them that very day. "Today the LORD will appear unto you" (Lev. 9:4). Messiah wasnt due to appear for hundreds of years yet but the Lord of Glory appeared to His people many times before His first coming. Why then should Gods people get disturbed when we talk about the Lord of Glory coming into the midst of His Church before His "second coming"? And insist that whenever the writers of the New Testament talk about the Lords "Appearing"... that it cant happen till the "second coming"? Anyway, He came to them. He came in the awesomeness of His Glory away back there in the wilderness. It wasnt just some kind of a vision. Moses said, "Today the LORD will appear unto you"... and after the people had humbled themselves in sacrifice and offering, the LORD "appeared" to them. "And there came a fire out from before the LORD... which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces" (Lev. 9:24). When people "fell on their faces" in the scriptures, it was in deep fear and repentance and worship, as they humbled themselves before the Lord. I think we are going to see Gods people "fall on their faces" again, when His holy Presence comes into our midst.
But in the wake of that, two of the priests whose hearts had not been changed by this awesome revelation of Gods glory decided they would light their own fire. One day they were diligently following the instructions of the Lord in preparing the sacrifices. But a few days later they are blatantly doing their own thing! God deal with our hearts in this awesome hour, lest we busy ourselves doing our own thing, lighting our own artificial fires, and all the while enjoying His manifold blessings and ministrations of the Spirit. Nadab and Abihu "offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not, and there went out fire before the LORD, and devoured them" (Lev. 10:1, 2).
The Lord of Glory is going to appear in the midst of His people once again... and you and I had better prepare our hearts now for the glory of His Appearing. He tells the Church of Ephesus, "I WILL COME unto thee" if you do not repent. He tells the Church of Pergamos, "I WILL COME unto thee" if you do not repent. He tells the Church of Sardis "I WILL COME on thee as a thief" if you do not repent. Why must we argue whether or not this is "the second coming" if we know it is the Lord of Glory coming to His Temple, to deal with the iniquity that is in His Church?
Quail Instead of Manna
The people of God were on their way to Canaan. Even in their much murmuring and complaining God had been faithfully making every provision for them: manna from heaven that provided absolutely every nutrient that they needed for physical health and strength. Water out of the Rock... pure and fresh, and so mingled with the life of God that it was called "spiritual drink". The Cloud of His presence overshadowed them by day and by night. Briefly stated, Moses declared:
"Thou hast lacked nothing". But they got tired of it all. The vision of Canaan became something far-out and strange. This precious food God gave them became something they loathed. It didnt satisfy their fleshly appetites anymore. It didnt seem to fill them up. (We have dealt with all this at some length in the writing "Beauty For Ashes Part II - A Way Through The Wilderness").
They complained to Moses, and Moses told God about it... and God said "I will send them flesh to satisfy the lusts of their hearts... I will send so much of it they will not know how to handle it". What a strong warning to us in this day! If we forsake the vision of those "far-out" fruits of Canaan land, and continue crying out for temporal blessings... God might listen to our cries! God sent them so much fleshly blessing it seemed to fall like rain from the sky,--but it was a blessing that became a curse. The prophet Malachi said, "If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart... I will curse your blessings" (Mal. 2:2).
Even while God was blessing them and answering their prayers, they were "sinning against Him" "provoking Him"... "tempting Him"... "speaking against Him"... "limiting Him". (See Psa. 78). I know God is blessing His people today in copious showers everywhere, But in many cases there are resentments and murmurings against God and man, hard-feelings, unforgiving attitudes of the heart. And perhaps most of this stems from lack of vision for the true riches. The deeper life that comes in abiding union with Christ is set at nought for the enjoyment of temporary blessings that soon wither away.
In the morning God "rained" manna on them from heaven, And at eventide He "rained" flesh on them by an east wind, (In the scriptures the "east wind" speaks of blight, and drought, and judgment). And while He was answering their prayer His anger was kindled against them.
He "opened the doors of heaven, and had rained down manna upon them... He rained flesh also upon them as dust, and feathered fowls as the sand of the sea" (Psa. 78:21-27). It wasnt something the Devil sent. God sent it... because they insisted they were starving to death with that loathsome manna. Actually they were never so healthy in their lives. There was not one "feeble one among them" as they walked with God, and partook of His provision with thankful hearts. The leanness they thought they had, kept them in good health and strength. They thought they were too "lean" by eating the manna; but when they ate the quail, God "sent leanness into their soul" (Psa. 106:15).
Notice this very awesome fact: While they were chewing on the food that God sent them, "The wrath of God came upon them, and slew the fattest of them" (Psa. 78:31).
Now if all this sounds strange and perplexing it is because we do not understand Gods righteous judgments. We can see an enactment of this same story right in our midst today. Once again in the midst of the Church we have "a mixed multitude" who have "mixed desires" (See Num. 11:4). We better seek the Lord earnestly that He would purge from our hearts every desire that is not from Him. Because if we want God, but want carnal blessings along with it--God may send the manna in the morning, and the quail in the evening. "Purge our hearts, Lord, from evil desire, that we might delight ourselves only in Thee."
Revival in the Midst of Rebellion
Right in the midst of the mixed multitude... where the vast majority were lusting after flesh... God sent a revival. At least there was a genuine prophetic movement that went through the camp on the very same day the people were lusting after flesh. I think this was the first prophetic movement mentioned in scripture. The prophets were men of God. Moses had come to such frustration, He called on the LORD for help. He told the Lord the burden he was carrying was too much for him. So the LORD came down and took some of the Spirit that was on Moses and distributed this power and anointing upon 70 elders in Israel. Prophesy came upon them in great anointing... even upon two of the men who had not come to the tabernacle. This bothered Joshua and he ran to Moses to have him put a stop to it. The very idea of men prophesying there in their tents, with no official prophet there to judge what was going on! Moses simple reply was, "Would God that all the LORDs people were prophets..." (Num. 11:29). Moses was happy to have this reinforcement of the 70 elders, and rejoiced in the new anointing that came upon them. Yet on this very same day the quail blew in from the east... hordes and hordes of them and every man gathered as much as he could... much more than he could handle. They even worked through the night, there was such a bountiful supply of flesh.
Who sent the revival of prophesy? It was God. Who sent the manna in the morning? It was God. And who sent the abundance of quail in the evening? It was God. It was "a wind from the LORD" that brought the quail. The same God who brought a revival of prophesy, and who sent the manna, in the same day He sent the quail.
There is a "mixed multitude" in the Church today, and they have "mixed desires". And we better ask God to purify our hearts and minds that our desires might be for Him, and for Him only. God is blessing His people whose hearts are hungry for Him. And at the same time He is blessing the people who are tired of the manna, weary of listening to His Word, and are craving the excitement of carnal desire. In the midst of all this strange mixture we hear these words:
"The wrath of God came upon them, and slew the fattest of them, and smote down the chosen men of Israel" (Psa. 78:31). Do I hear some one arguing... "But God, it was You that rained flesh upon them!"? And Gods simple reply to that is this: "If my people refuse to go My way, I will bless them according to the desires of their hearts. But if My words do not penetrate their hearts, and bring obedience and humility and meekness and the fruit that I desire, ...my blessings will end in My holy judgments." God slew "the fattest of them". They didnt need that flesh. None of Israel really needed it, and certainly not those who were flourishing. The manna was Gods total provision for their every need. Moses makes that very clear: He sent the manna "to humble thee, and to prove thee, ...that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live" (Deut. 8:2, 3). God knew it would seem like "lean fare"; but He also knew that if they received it as the bread of Heaven they would discover this very precious truth: that their life and strength depended far more on hearing every Word from His mouth, than on the bread He gave them to eat... and this was why He made the manna seem like lean fare. It was intended as the appetizer that would increase their hunger for more of His living Word.
These are solemn instructions to us in this hour when people are saying, "I used to come to Church to hear sermons, etc etc. ...but now I come to Church to have fun". O how we need that heavenly food from the heart of God! How we need to partake of those riches of glory that are in Christ Jesus. "Lord, we pray, evermore feed us with Thy living bread."
What was the conclusion of this mixed blessing, poured out on a mixed multitude, followed by the wrath of God? The place where the Cloud of Glory had rested... the place that God intended as a resting place in the wilderness... became a huge graveyard. So they called it Kibroth-Hattaavah... which in plain language means, The Graves of Lust, or The Graves of Carnal Desire... "Because there they buried the people that lusted" (Num. 11:34).
Before leaving this thought, I feel I have to say this: God is sending forth a Word from His heart this day that is sufficient to cause His people to come to the full measure of "the stature of Christ". He has made every provision for us "to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ". But this Word carries with it a great responsibility... to walk with Him, to know His will and do it, and to rid the House of God of all these fleshly adornments of worship, and this strange fire that He commanded not. He wants us to take very seriously this matter of hearing the voice of God and doing His will. But many of Gods people are saying, "We dont want that far-out stuff... Give us flesh! Give us power and wisdom and money to embellish Your house with beautiful extravaganza for praise and worship... something that will attract the crowds." Of course they wouldnt say that, in so many words. But this is what God is hearing! And in many cases it seems God is answering their prayers!
Give us a King .. Instead of the Lord God
Of course, nobody would say that either... not out loud! But that is what God heard.., for He alone can hear the unspoken thoughts of the heart. God had faithfully spoken His Word to His people through Samuel, and protected them from their enemies... and they knew it. But Samuel was getting old, and it didnt appear there was another prophet to take his place, and they were getting fearful. They asked Samuel for a king, and Samuel asked God about it. And God said, "They havent rejected you, Samuel, they have rejected Me... Go ahead and make them a king... give them what they want".
And when the king was anointed by the prophet and set before the people... Samuel asked God for a miracle... and it was a miracle that would startle them. It was the time of wheat harvest. Every one knows that rain is not something to be desired in harvest time. It is then we need dry weather and lots of sunshine. But Samuel said "I am going to ask God to send you thunder and rain... and this will confirm your wickedness in asking for a king." A great rain fell that very day, in harvest-time, when the last thing they needed was rain. "And all the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel" (1 Sam. 12:18).
Yes, we need Gods rain in due season, but not at harvest time. I believe we are yet to see a mighty deluge of "the early and the latter rain", but let us understand what it is for. The Early Rain is the Seed Rain to start growth in the fields, and the Latter Rain is the Harvest Rain... to bring the field to fruition. We have had a portion of the Latter Rain in this century. But there is a whole new generation in the land that greatly needs the rain. As the Rain falls let us understand it is but for a short season. Gods purpose in the rain is to bring the "good fruit" to ripeness. Then the rains will stop. The Sun of Righteousness will arise, with light and with heat. The harvest of the earth will become ripe and dry. And then the sickle will be thrust in to gather the fruit. If there is both Early Rain and Latter Rain in the same season... then we can be sure there is going to be a sowing of the good seed, and a reaping of the same, in quick succession. For God indeed will do "a quick work in the earth, and cut it short in righteousness".
An Idol .. from the Spoils of Victory
Perhaps there is nothing more subtle than the idolatrous spirit that secretly creeps its way into the hearts of Gods people. When Gideon was apprehended of the Lord one of the first things he did was to throw down the altar of Baal in his fathers home, and cut down the grove. And then after the tremendous victory God had given him, the people wanted him to be their king.., and he humbly replied, "I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the LORD shall rule over you" (See Judg. 6:27, 28; 8:23). But shortly after this we hear him asking the people to bring some of the spoils of battle. I wonder what he had in mind? They willingly brought gold, and ornaments and beautiful raiment. Now what was he going to do with all that? Maybe it was just a very innocent request, so they could glory in the great victory God had given them. But he took the spoils of battle and made the most beautiful priestly garment you could imagine, a gorgeous looking "ephod". "And all Israel went thither a whoring after it". The fruit of his tremendous victory "became a snare unto Gideon, and to his house" (Judg. 8:27). I recall hearing of things like this happening in the Church. In one church that became world-famous they had a room packed with wheel-chairs, and crutches... and other relics of the mighty healings that had taken place. People would come and look upon it in wonder and amazement--I am not judging, I am only asking: "Were they saying, O Lord how great Thou art"? Or were they idolizing this wonderful person that God had used to perform these healings?" God longs to bring forth rivers of healing water. But O how He longs to prepare the hearts of His people with grace, lest His blessings are turned into idols.
We simply do not know the inherent craving within to take glory to ourselves, if God does not reveal "the thoughts and the intents of the heart". Only the quickening Word of God that goes forth as a sharp two-edged sword can cut and divide asunder, and reveal what God sees buried deep within the heart (Heb. 4:12). Do we have the courage to sincerely and earnestly ask Him to use the Sword of the Spirit in our hearts?
A Man of Great Wisdom Turns to Idolatry
This is perhaps one of the most tragic stories in the Bible... the story of Solomon, a man who came to the throne in great humility, and built a temple for the name of God... and later turned to idolatry. (See 1 Kgs. 11:5, 6). God knows the subtlety of the human heart far better than we do. And may we pray earnestly, "O Lord, Thou who alone knowest the hearts of all men, search me and know me, try me and know my thoughts, see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting". God warned Israel what could happen when they came into Canaan, the land of fruitfulness and abundance. "Beware", He said, lest when you become rich and prosperous, "Then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the LORD thy God" (See Deut. 8:14). I am not talking merely about natural prosperity. There is a spiritual prosperity that the Church is boasting about these days, and God looks down and sees the utmost spiritual poverty. God will reveal in the Day of the LORD, in the Day of His fire, whether our works have brought glory to His Name, how much of it is "gold, silver, and precious stones" and how much is "wood, hay, and stubble". We thank the Lord for every good and perfect gift that He bestows upon us; but let not our prayers stop there. We must find the grace to lay it all down at His feet, in loving self-sacrifice unto Him. For unless we do that, we cannot be His disciples (Lk. 14:33).
Chapter 9 - In Pursuit of One Thing
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