Ezra 3: 1, 2
Nehemiah 2: 17-20
Revelation 3: 10-13
What has impressed me, dear brethren, is that week by week, as we come to the prayer meeting - and it is a wonderful thing to come together to pray with others who have priestly feelings - brothers frequently give God thanks for recovery, and pray that the recovery which has been set on may continue. It is wonderful to realise that we are in times of recovery. The history of the testimony has been one of departure and recovery, departure and recovery. That was so in the history of the children of Israel, and would be confirmed in the early chapters of Judges. Because of their unfaithfulness and waywardness, God gave them up. And then when they repented, God raised up a saviour, or a judge, and God was with the judge. It was a time of recovery, and the recovery resulted in great spiritual prosperity. Sadly, in the history of the children of Israel, it was not maintained; it was not sustained. There have been many recoveries in the history of the testimony. My desire for myself and for all the dear brethren is that we might be maintained in the brightness of recovery to the truth.
The time of which we have read in the two books of Ezra and Nehemiah was a very dark time in the history of the children of Israel. Because of their unfaithfulness, the people had been carried off into Babylon. God’s judicial dealings were apparent, and they had been carried off into Babylon. And yet out of that situation, God brings about recovery. It was a wonderful matter. And there is recovery going on at the present time. We thank God for His grace that has given us a part in such a glorious system of things. Ezra, we have been taught, speaks of the sovereignty of God. God had done something Himself. He had raised up Cyrus, a most unlikely person to set on a recovery among the people of Israel. Cyrus was a great earthly potentate, but God had his eye and His hand upon him. If you read chapter 45 of Isaiah you will get some idea of the place that this gentile monarch had in the divine programme. That chapter was written and Cyrus was named in it a long time before he was born. God, in His mind, goes a long way upstream with a view to effecting recovery in the hearts and souls and lives of His people. Where we read, it says, “And when the seventh month came, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered together as one man to Jerusalem”. That is a wonderful thing - they were united as one man in their desire to have part in this wonderful recovery.
Then it says, “Then stood up Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and his brethren, and built the altar of the God of Israel”. In this recovery in Ezra, we begin with the altar. This is the altar of burnt offering. I believe that God always begins at the top. Spiritual persons under the direction of God would begin at the top. The burnt offering would relate to God’s appreciation of Christ. And I believe that, if recovery is to be set on and maintained, it is only as we are occupied with God’s thoughts as to Christ. We often speak about searching out the Father’s thoughts as to the Son - it is a wonderful occupation. As we relate ourselves to the blessed Holy Spirit we get some appreciation and some impression of the greatness of the Father’s thoughts as to the Son, God’s thoughts as to Christ. The Spirit has come from a glorified Christ. “But when he is come, the Spirit of truth, he shall guide you into all the truth: for he shall not speak from himself; but whatsoever he shall hear he shall speak; and he will announce to you what is coming”, John 16: 13. The Spirit comes out from that sphere of love and glory and would reveal to us the greatness of the Father’s thoughts as to Christ. That is a wonderful occupation. I feel tested as to how much I can say about the Father’s thoughts as to Christ, and no doubt we all do. But as we give the Spirit of God scope and give Him sway in our lives He would give us some appreciation of the Father’s thoughts as to the Son.
If Ezra speaks of the sovereignty of God, Nehemiah speaks of the faithfulness of man. It is a necessity, if recovery is to be maintained, that we are faithful to the Lord and faithful to the truth - to the truth of Christ and the assembly. So in Nehemiah, we have the wall. It is like a reassertion of divine principles. Let us never lose sight, beloved, of the need to maintain divine principles. The principles of separation have never, ever been given up. Let us maintain them, beloved brethren, in all their integrity, so that there may be a greater and more glorious answer to the heart of God and to the heart of Christ. Where we read it says, “Ye see the distress that we are in, that Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire. Come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach”. Nehemiah had in mind the house; he had in mind, you might say, the worship of God, the area where the Father dwells and where the service of God could go on. How important it is to have a view of that! It has to be maintained in all its glory and integrity, so he says, “Come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach”. There is a need to maintain the wall, dear brethren; there is a need to maintain what is due to God. There is a need to uphold in their integrity the greatness of assembly principles so that what is for the heart of Christ might be maintained. “They said, Let us rise up and build. And they strengthened their hands for the good work.” Oh, beloved brethren, there is a good work going on at the present time. It requires strength, it requires power; and the power is there, resident in the blessed Holy Spirit. But it requires the saints. We have been set together so that the wall might be maintained, so that the truth of separation might be maintained. Let us hold to it, dear brethren.
Later it says, in chapter 4, “And it came to pass that when Sanballat heard that we built the wall, he was angry and very indignant, and mocked the Jews. And he spoke before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, What do these feeble Jews? shall they be permitted to go on? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, when they are burned? And Tobijah the Ammonite was by him, and he said, Even that which they build, if a fox went up, it would break down their stone wall”, v 1-3. There are people in Christendom who have no appreciation of the principles of separation, but let us maintain them, and maintain them in their fullness, in order that there might be something secured for the heart of the blessed God. “Even that which they build, if a fox went up, it would break down their stone wall.” Think of the awfulness of that being said, dear brethren - “if a fox went up, it would break down their stone wall”. Let us be on our guard against this nocturnal creature which works in a clandestine way, with a view to the destruction of what is for the pleasure of the heart of God. The foxes, in the sense in which we are speaking, are attacking the walls at the present time. The foxes are always attacking the walls; and the enemy is constantly attacking the principles of separation and if he is successful in breaking down the wall, his progeny will attack and spoil the vineyards (Song of Songs 2: 15) and the service of God will be hindered. Let us be on our guard in view of the glory of God.
I read in Revelation 3 because it brings it down to our own time. Philadelphia is a very attractive presentation of the truth of the assembly in days of public departure and breakdown. We know that Ephesus was the acme of Paul’s presentation of the truth, but there had been departure. But Paul says “there will come in amongst you after my departure grievous wolves, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves shall rise up men speaking perverted things to draw away the disciples after them”, Acts 20: 29. That is what rose up from Christendom, from the public profession; and there is much rising in public profession at the present time that causes your heart to mourn and to grieve as to how low things are becoming publicly. Let us be on our guard to maintain the truth in all its integrity. Then the address to Philadelphia goes on, “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee out of the hour of trial, which is about to come upon the whole habitable world, to try them that dwell upon the earth”. This is written to an assembly that speaks of brotherly love. Let us maintain love in its fullness among us.
It also says “I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an opened door, which no one can shut, because thou hast a little power, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.” Think of the integrity of these dear saints in this local assembly. I believe that it is really a presentation of what is normal in Christianity in the closing days of the assembly’s history here. You might ask ‘What is there to overcome in Philadelphia?’. There is a need for every one of us to overcome in order that what Philadelphia speaks of may be maintained, in all its purity and greatness. “He that overcomes, him will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more at all out; and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven, from my God, and my new name.” I love these references to “My God”. That is Christ’s God. In Ezra we were occupied with God’s thoughts about Christ; here we have Christ’s thoughts in relation to God. The Spirit would help us to penetrate into that realm, to understand Christ’s thoughts in relation to God. He says, “I ascend to my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God”, John 20: 17. He would take us into an area where not only can we see a demonstration of the Father’s thoughts for the Son, but we can see a demonstration of the Son’s thoughts for His Father, the Son’s thoughts for His God. “He that has an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies.”
Beloved, the Lord is saying wonderful things to the assembly at the present time. Let us guard it, let us cherish it, more and more, so that there may be more in our hearts individually, locally, assembly-wise for the heart of Christ and for the heart of the blessed God, for His Name’s sake.
9th June 2009