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(New Life c. March 2000)
RAIN REFRESHES WHERE IT DOES NOT FLOOD
THOSE WHOSE FORTRESSES ARE ON THE HIGH ROCK
SPIRITUAL WAR AND PERSONAL PEACE
As the wrangling of war and the hollowness of unhallowed hate move on to their appointed end - something which Daniel so immovably covers in the dynamics of progress to the inevitable downfall of such things in 9:27 and 12:1-3, and Christ indicates in Matthew 24:11-13,22-25,45ff.: there is time to reflect.
this evil ? It is not a mere conflict of interests of special interest
groups, heaven forbid. Murder of millions is not ... interesting. Maiming
of children is not a subject for exploratory research of the mentally limbered
up, doing their joyful labours amidst the world of human events, in the
light of day. It is night, and oppressively so, in the lairs of cruelty
upon the earth (Psalm 74:20), and their products grow like a raging torrent
in flood, storming down from the higher hills.
The owner, as Christ makes so clear in His parable along such lines as these in Mark 12, and Isaiah in his rather kindred one in Isaiah 5, is not impressed (cf. Mark 12). His love and patience bring some to imagine (II Peter 3:9) that He is slack; His mercy on the Cross, that He is a sure touch for easy manipulation. They have much to learn!
The sudden surges of this and that, like those of the fashion shows and machines that grip so many of the populace, in cars, in dress and in real estate, come equipped with self-assurance, and then, their time done, go with feeble panache, like roistering party-goers at 5 a.m., apprehended by the police, but still evidencing some of the bouyant results of alcoholism.
This alcohol is spiritual. It is intensely and ultimately in the spirit of man that its drunken effects abound (Hosea 9:7, Isaiah 29:9-20 cf. It Bubbles, It Howls, He Calls Ch. 9, Little Things Ch. 5).
However the battle rages. God does not simply overpower, having submitted in Christ (II Cor. 5:17ff.) for the procurement of just pardon (Romans 5:1-12), and showing the love of opportunity for grace, while it is still day. The realities are permitted to appear over time, and the scope of His wisdom is gloriously rich (cf. Benevolent Brightness or Brothy Bane 87).
The end however comes. That is the scenario and will before too long, be the scene (cf. Matthew 24:14: "then shall the end come!").
Let us first hear the word of the Lord as it is expressed to the prototype of this Gentile situation in the earlier days of Israel, and LEARN:
Hosea 9:7ff., we see the spiritual plight in the provocations of the spirit
of man, leading to spiritual blight:
"The days of punishment have come;
The days of recompence have come.
The prophet is a fool,
The spiritual man is insane,
Because of the greatness of your iniquity and great enmity."
Of course, they were not without a witness:
"The watchman of Ephraim is with my God,
But the prophet is a fowler's snare in all his ways -
Enmity is in the house of his God.
They are deeply corrupted,
As in the days of Gibeah.
He will remember their iniquity,
He will punish their sins."
In Isaiah, the drunkenness of spirit is displayed as on a medical film commentary:9 Pause and wonder!
Blind yourselves and be blind!
They are drunk, but not with wine;
They stagger, but not with intoxicating drink.
10 For the Lord has poured out on you
The spirit of deep sleep,
And has closed your eyes, namely, the prophets;
And He has covered your heads, namely, the seers.
11 The whole vision has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one who is literate, saying,
“Read this, please.” And he says,
“I cannot, for it is sealed.”
12 Then the book is delivered to one who is illiterate, saying,
“Read this, please.”
And he says, “I am not literate.”
13 Therefore the Lord said:
“Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths
And honor Me with their lips,
But have removed their hearts far from Me,
And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men,
14 Therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work
Among this people,
A marvelous work and a wonder;
For the wisdom of their wise men shall perish,
And the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden.”
15 Woe to those who seek deep to hide their counsel far from the Lord,
And their works are in the dark;
They say, “Who sees us?” and, “Who knows us?”
16 Surely you have things turned around!
Shall the potter be esteemed as the clay;
For shall the thing made say of him who made it,
“He did not make me”?
Or shall the thing formed say of him who formed it,
“He has no understanding”?
17 Is it not yet a very little while
Till Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field,
And the fruitful field be esteemed as a forest?
18 In that day the deaf shall hear the words of the book,
And the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness.
19 The humble also shall increase their joy in the Lord,
And the poor among men shall rejoice
In the Holy One of Israel.
20 For the terrible one is brought to nothing,
The scornful one is consumed,
And all who watch for iniquity are cut off - "
The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.
The cause and the condition, the curse and the remedy are all apparent here, even the predicted advent of the Messiah, who having come in service to secure the ransom for sin demanded by justice, is returning to secure the sovereignty demanded by righteousness, but in love, since God is love, and the day of the beauty of holiness will endure even on this earth (Psalms 67ff., and Isaiah 65, Revelation 20, Habakkuk 2:14), until He pleases, and the kingdom of heaven is found manifest in a new earth and a new heavens in which dwells righteousness. The eternal realm of glory is the ultimacy of His counsel, and it is free, magnificently free, with the constraints not of puny pugnacity, but of truth and peace, with the God who made man, and who has made him free: not with the audacity of presumptuous autonomy, but with the delight of enduring life.
Man fights it out in the meantime, with puny weapons, as if they could secure anything but fame and contempt in the end, for seeking to scale the heights with the engines of the depths.
However, this our contemporary embroilment of spirits, this meeting of minds with the hinterland of spirit in angry turmoil, which is the very vainglory of history, though with it is often mixed the courage and constancy of the saints, whose minds are not for the glory of this world, to invent it, but for that of the Inventor, who made it: it is what is occurring in its various forsaken modes and evil emplacements of the world. Much is scarcely aware of it; but the battle is not omitted through ignorance. Many do not care for it, but the battle is not stilled by apartness. The airport is in view for capture, that men might not fly in the spiritual spaces. It is not the less a battle because so many serve and worship the gods of the sacred self, the quietly contented fulfilment of self, the idols of convenience and the sordidness of gain.
It is puffing its smoke into the air, even literally, and its radiation into the seas, even literally likewise, so that those asleep have little starts in their beds, and wonder if it were a passing nightmare. Nightmare ? without Christ, yes. Passing, not so: it comes to pass before it passes, and its portent is truth, in the impact on lie. Consent to crime is still crime. Consent to folly is still folly. There is no room whatever for complacency or ostrich antics.
But enough! It is a day for glorying in the wonder of the courage and constancy of the saints, in the excellent wisdom of God and His marvellous provisions in the midst of the battle (as in Ephesians 6!), for His warriors, His people, dark or white, rich or poor, who serve and follow Him. In the end, there IS peace in their hearts, there IS courage and foundation in their living and there is power in their emplacements by the will of God. All things DO work together for those who love God, for the ones called according to His purpose. Goodness is not self-centred but filled with light and grace. Things are not what they seem; and what they are has appeared, but will appear most evidently when the test is over, the pilgrimage is past. As Christ has put it:"The Son of man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend and those who practise lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear" - Matthew 13:41-43.Meanwhile, let us look at these hidden things, when they appear, and consider the famous case of Nate Saint, that sacrificed missionary to the Auca Indians, an epilogue this time told by his son, in a mission with MAF, in Africa, in fact in - of all places - Timbukto.
It is not for ever that suppression, oppression and false impression legislate and imprecate. In the beginning was the truth, and in the end it will be. It is never dented, for it is the very word of God, imperishable and discerning.
Timbbukto! Has not this very name been assigned proverbially as something distant; yet we have the privilege to come close and see the pitter-patter of divine rain, when it does not flood, but refreshes, because one is outside in the celestial air, willing to have its delicate drops as they come. This story illustrates the deft and diligent was in which the good can rain down, when those who follow the Lord find indeed that "all things work together for good for those who love God, the called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28) - and His purpose in the Gospel is MOST clear!
Nate Saint was a missionary pilot, one of the renowned five missionaries, and the wife of one of them, Elizabeth Elliot was famed for her fearless return to the murder location with the message of reconciliation IN Christ to God, while attesting peace and love in the process, on her own account. Was this then not returning good for evil, kindness for cruelty, the right for the wrong and solicitude for deprivation ? This is the way. In this, she walked it.
Now there is an account of the son of another of the 5, by name Stephen Saint. Strangely attracted to the town of Timbukto, once he realised it was more than a name of fiction, he had occasion to be near when on a fact-finding trip to West Africa for Mission Aviation Fellowship.
Arriving in Mali, he used a flight in an aeroplane, chartered by UNICEF, one intended to be able to bring back doctors in Timbuktu, on its return. In 110 degree heat, after arrival at his destination, he found that the plane was NOT available for return. To come back, then ? Perhaps a truck would be available, but it might indeed break down - and Westerners were unlikely to last, if so, in the desert! In a land where rich grasslands had turned in the prolonged drought explosion into desert, there was little ease in this approach! Who even spoke English in the place! In broken French, he asked a gendarme, who said, No road, only sand! He remembered his father who had known the plight of missionary in a strange land: now dead but a living memory, the pilot of the Piper plane which flew missionaries about the jungle locations. A new empathy had a base...
In Mali, surrounded by people who did not have his faith, hostile to Christianity, he felt the parallel to the position his father had occupied. With Christ within, could he not pray for safety in trouble and the way to return to Mali ? But in the meantime, his thoughts ranged with disquiet: WHY did his father have to die ? WHY could not the events have been otherwise, such as the TIME of his father's landing when Aucas, in a bad frame of mind, had elected to kill!
As he prayed, so did the result happen, quietly. Would he wire for help, charter a plane ? He sought a telecommunications officer. This form of communication, for its success, however depended on various contingencies: far from a uncertainty, not a timely provision for an emergency. What then ? HE REMEMBERED then that just before he left for Timbuktu, a fellow worker had told him of a tiny Christian Church, in addition to the Mosque of the place. Few visited that church in the Moslem realm.
Asking children about the church, he found help. His 'army of waifs' indicated a mud-brick house, with no one present, and later a young man approaching, handsome and with flowing robes. This was a young Christian in service for Christ. On the wall of the hut, from the prophet Isaiah, "and by His stripes we are healed."
His name, Nouh Ag Infa Yatara.
Telling of the chilling events of his earlier years, when he became a Christian and how a distressed Moslem parent put poisoned food before him, an offering ... which did not harm him, he related that the eating of this food led to permanent partial paralysis of a brother. Cast out, he was thus miraculously preserved from a horrible end, desolate and sick. For his part, he was not sick, though his brother was violently ill, and severely impaired! Then the efforts to deal with him lapsed: they possibly had sensed that a higher power was at work, and paused.
How had he become a Christian ? The young man, when a boy, had stolen something and been treated not harshly, but with kindness and given some scripture which had led to his conversion; and it was this which had led to his school-teacher revealing the matter, and so to his being cast out of his Moslem home, and provided treacherously with poison as well, when at a family meal.
Now Stephen Saint decided to ask the young man WHY his faith meant so much to him that he would suffer the likelihood of death for it, as he did.
"I know God loves me and I'll live with Him forever. I know it! Now I have peace when I used to be full of fear and uncertainty. Who wouldn't want to give up everything for this peace and security?"
Courage ? Nouh mentioned that the Christian who was kind to him had also given him some books about the 5 missionaries of whom Nate Saint was one. He learned how they had not sought to use their weapon power to kill, but with a very different message had sought to bring blessing to those who in the end turned and killed them. WHY ? The answer thrilled him in what it exposed.
Stephen asked WHY did Nouh act with such courage and disregard of danger ? The life of Christ and His certainties, came back the answer. This was something greatly commended to him in the life of the young 5 missionaries. Now Stephen began to see an answer to his own earlier question within himself, WHY was it so arranged that his own father had died ?
Nouh noted that one of the missionaries had the same name as himself: Saint. Yes, said Stephen, he was my father. Here was the man who had helped influence the young child of a Moslem household, to seek the Lord.
Long they talked, and they embraced when their time was gone. Stephen confirmed the story to be true, concerning the 5 missionaries whose lives had had such an impact on the seeking boy, years earlier. Nouh ? He assured Stephen that God had indeed used his father's death for good, helping Nouh to come to Christ. Meanwhile, this young African, in his own example, fired by faith, helped Stephen find the fulness of the faith which his own father had displayed.
What a complexity, what a joy, what planning, what patience, what an amazing case: Cast your bread upon the waters and in due season it will come back. The father sowed, the son reaped; and of the father's sowing, much more was reaped. Suffering led to triumphs, and difficulties and even disasters to joys. Reality was not murdered; only the bodies of some who presented it were harmed. These ? They die anyway. Truth, it does not die; its centre and heart of expression is Christ, who was resurrected.
The pitter-patter of connected events is a beautiful tiding of good. It comes in the prophetic provision, as in Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15ff.: GO into all the world and PREACH the Gospel, TEACHING them to obey all things whatever I have commanded, and LO I am
W ITH YOU always, even to the end of the Age. Notice the "whatever" - no exceptions, no exemptions, but fidelity. God is God and man is man, and the concept of compromise is merely arrogance. There is the promise, and in such things as these is its fulfilment. In deliverances (cf. Ch. 11 Biblical Blessings) and in directions, in tireless re-equipment in spirit and soul, mind and strength, in means and in helps, the donations continue. Yet one of its major beauties is this: ALTHOUGH it is in substance predicted, in STYLE and MANNER of fulfilment it is delightfully original, as becomes the Author of originality in man, who made Him.
What is then the case ? It is not only to tragedy that this world is set; for many of its denizens, there is glory, and the pilgrimage is a place not of shame, even when slander and schism betray the Lord: it is rather a scene suffused with glory, blessings pitter-pattering down unseen by many, but despite their tenderness, felt by those for whose refreshment they are sent.
- Waterfalls are a natural expression of the divine liberality and power;
the seas of its scope;
- the space of its sublimity, the stars of its majesty,
the earth’s solitary suitability for rational life in flesh before God, of its profundity and particularity:
- but it is the wonder of His tender solicitude and paternal provisions for His children, His confidence to use them, His marvellous nearness as He does so
which more minutely manifest the love of His heart and the cordiality of His Spirit.
They come like rain upon the mown grass, dazzling with lights, delicate in suffusing of glowing, and comfortable for growth.
As to this, His love and light, it is His own specific personal will that it focus His eternal word, Jesus Christ, whose blessings are such as only God COULD make, and whose celestial peace is such simply because it is the very presence in blessing, of the almighty and entirely loving God. To know Him, is to know His peace; and if it is also to know His chastening and correction (Hebrews 12), that too is love; for who, that has love for life, would want to make error a way of life! One might as well seek to ride a bicycle on a cliff top, or a scooter on a railway line.
They who do not love life are already estranged from themselves, who life, from their Creator who constructed them and from their neighbours, whose lives occur nearby. It is rather like hating a view through a sooty window, or refusing to live in a mansion, because you confuse it with a dirty hovel.
The life of God has to be found; but to refuse it is pure malady of mind and confusion of heart: if such things, even in themselves as essence, could in ANY sense be called pure. Sin, it is purged - whatever it is that must go with it. As for the lovers of God in Christ, even though it be storms that rage, it is peace within; and even if pilgrimage means death, it is life; for the temporary is attestation; but the permanent is demonstration, in Christ. It is so in history, in prophecy, in life and in healing; in helps and in comfort, in logic and in love. It pitter-patters down like rain in season, mist in mornings and dappling lights in a forest.