Matthew 11: 25-30
John 1: 29-39
Numbers 21: 14-20
RG What is in mind in suggesting these scriptures is the matter of response. It is evident from the very beginning of Scripture that God looked for a response to His activities. God was sufficient in Himself in dwelling in unapproachable light, in conditions of deity. He came forth from that and brought in the creation in order that He might display Himself in it. What He was looking for was an answer to His activities in love. Early in Genesis it says, “they heard the voice of Jehovah Elohim, walking in the garden in the cool of the day”, chap 3: 8. He was looking for the company and the fellowship of His creature. Many other instances could be quoted. We have the reference in the time of Moses when God says, “Come up to me into the mountain, and be there”, Exod 24: 12. That is, God was looking for the companionship of Moses.
I suggested this scripture in Matthew which says, “Jesus answering said, I praise thee, Father, Lord of the heaven and of the earth”. This was something that God had not had before. The Father was receiving praise from His own Son, here as Man. As always, we are safe when we take account of what divine Persons do and how they do it; they would set it forward as an example. In one sense we have begun at the top, first of all as to the Father, and then in John as to the Lord Jesus, the Son, and finally the Holy Spirit. That is not quite the order that we proceed with when we gather to remember the Lord. Bearing that in mind I think it would be helpful if we consider together firstly what approach to the Father involves. It is not simply a matter of the Lord saying, “I praise thee, Father, Lord of the heaven and the earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to babes”; there are volumes in what the Lord says.
In John’s gospel we have the movements of the Lord Jesus. His movements are drawn attention to, and eventually they provoke the question: “Rabbi (which, being interpreted, signifies Teacher), where abidest thou?”. Hearts were touched and attracted and “He says to them, Come and see”. I think we had some impression of that this morning, seeing the Lord and seeing the conditions in which He dwells; He would have us to be with Him. Even in Laodicea, where things are very weak and poor, He says to anyone who opens the door, “I will come in unto him and sup with him”, Rev 3: 20. That is that He comes into our circumstances and then He says, “and he with me”. The Lord is really seeking that we should be with Him in conditions that are suitable.
In the reference in Numbers to the Holy Spirit I was struck recently by the fact that there was a spontaneous rising up in the hearts of the people. God had done certain things and made certain provisions but the time comes when they say,
“Rise up, well! sing unto it”.
There is an answer there for the blessed Holy Spirit. I hope we will get help together as considering these things.
HTF I am interested in your word, spontaneous. I was looking at the scripture in Matthew 11 which always impresses me because of the setting. It is remarkable that everyone had turned away, and everyone had rejected Him, but spontaneously there, “Jesus answering said …”, in a perfect example of response to His Father, and therefore an example for us.
RG I am glad you bring that side in. I did not want to read all about Tyre and Sidon and Capernaum. Just at this point, “At that time”; the difficulties would be pressing on His spirit but for the moment He left these aside. He spoke to the Father about what He was doing and what He was securing. I think we get help on these lines as we come together on Lord’s day morning. We do at other times too of course; the sphere of eternal life is opened to us as we gather. It is a sphere where the curse is lifted; there is no more doubt or fear in our mind.
JAS Does a sense of restfulness and known relationship help in this matter of spontaneous response?
RG Yes, it does. I used to wonder as a young person at the emphasis that was placed on the matter of assembling. Assembling involves that we come together with a specific object in mind as led by the Spirit. We are led so that we are suitable as we come together to enter into these restful conditions.
JAS I am sure from reading this that the Lord can retire from the surroundings and simply dwell in the enjoyment of the Father’s presence. His heart is set free in response.
RG I think that is important and I say without in any sense being gloomy or anticipating difficulties that I think we are going to need that more and more. It is not that we carelessly turn our backs on responsibilities. There is a sphere into which we can retire and be with the Lord and before the Father in conditions which please Him, hence we are free.
DHM A hymn puts it very attractively:
At home in Thy presence,
Responsive and free
RG That is good; it exactly sums it up. If we had an audience with the Queen or the Prime Minister we would not be at ease at all, we would be on edge. When we are in the Father’s house as clothed in the worth of Christ, led by Christ, strengthened by the Holy Spirit; we are at home and can be restful.
PM Over against the negative side the Lord Jesus speaks to the Father of what the Father is doing. There was what man had not done, but He speaks of what the Father is doing. I was thinking of the reference, “they went both of them together” (Gen 22: 6), suggesting a relationship in which divine Persons shared with one Another what they were doing Themselves. Is that right?
RG Yes; that is helpful. I have felt more and more recently that if we are going to take on the truth and the light of Christianity, which we have done through grace and mercy, really we must see things exemplified as between divine Persons. That is where we learn and what you quote is a very helpful example; two going on together.
RWF We have used the word 'spontaneous'; Mr Raven connected it with fruit, which implies maturity, vol 20 p188. The Lord Jesus had full knowledge of the Father. There was that which was fully present in the Lord Jesus in His knowledge of the Father. I wondered whether as we are occupied with the Lord we as babes begin to develop, to grow, to mature and to be fruitful.
RG I think that is helpful. The world has its own spontaneity, outbursts of merriment or whatever it happens to be. Spontaneity in divine things involves that divine Persons are free with us. Their spirits are free, the Holy Spirit is free with us and what you say about maturity is good. The brethren are going through a great deal. There is hardly a household, perhaps not a household that is not carrying some exercise or exercises and you might say that is just the way life is; no it is not. That is the way God is working with us. He leads us through these exercises but, shows us Himself in them.
RWF Yes; I wondered if it is an important service of the Spirit that we do keep the end in view.
RG Yes, it is; I do feel that we have not fully grasped all that is in mind in the gift of the Holy Spirit, and in His service He is God. We have one reference to “the love of the Spirit”, in Romans 15: 30. What do we know about the love of the Spirit? We know about the Father’s love and His care. We know about the Lord’s love, but the love of the Spirit is a very significant matter.
RWF Yes; in Romans 8 we have “the Spirit joins also its help to our weakness”, v 26. That depth of feeling that we are to develop is a part of normal Christian growth. It is a result of the service of the Spirit.
RG That is an important section of scripture. What we have to make clear is that we are not talking about imaginative theories. We do not imagine things. You say the Lord comes in amongst us. Does He really? I believe it is so, by the Spirit. Faith would enter into that. We are not giving ourselves to our own imaginations, but rather seeking to taste and touch what is truly spiritual.
HTF I was thinking of the reference to depth of feeling. In these few words the Lord says, “Yea, Father”. There was a depth of feeling expressed in a few words, and again He is the perfect example, would you say?
RG I am glad you mention that. It is not merely an acceptance of the Father’s will; it is that, but there is more to it. “Yea, Father” involves the understanding of, and sympathy with, what the Father is doing. We find when we are engaged in response to divine Persons it is a time when our hearts are flowing out to them. There is also the return. I believe the Lord would teach us. It has often been said and rightly so that the Supper and the service of God are not the time for ministry, but it is a time to listen and gather up impressions.
PM I have often felt that I have learnt more at the Supper than in any other occasion.
RWF In the tabernacle system there was what was offered for God, and you get the idea from that of what is food for God. Then there was the priest’s portion; is that what you are thinking of?
RG Yes, indeed; we have just been reading about the tabernacle in our local readings. It is remarkable; the provision for the people is full, but it is very clear when you come to the assembling of the tabernacle that God is in mind. God is first, we are blessed on account of being there, but God is the object.
PM In the service of praise we are occupied only with what is normal and perfect. The divine standard is there, the shekel of the sanctuary, and unless I touch that I will not be able to move in the sphere of testimony rightly representative of God.
RG That is very important. I do not want to lay undue emphasis on any part of the service, but I believe the Supper and the service of God are indispensable. What we touch is normal but, what is normal is a very elevated and dignified thought.
PHH Does the invitation of the Lord here, “Come to me, all ye who labour”, and what He says, “ye shall find rest to your souls; for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light”, have in view what you are speaking about? That the spirits of the saints might be restful in His presence as supported by Him and at liberty is true normality.
RG Yes, I think so; we need a touch as to what is normal. We get so many other things pressing on our minds and hearts. There is time when we can just be with Christ; be with the Lord, and be for Him, and see things as He sees them. It is tremendously strengthening; and what was said about testimony is important because it bears also on the preaching of the gospel.
PEH To go back to your earlier comment about the response, spiritual response is evidence of spiritual life. That would result in spiritual activity towards divine Persons.
RG That is helpful. There are times when the Lord has to stimulate spiritual response. We get touches of it in Song of Songs; He says, “Let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice”, chap 2: 14. It is like an appeal. What you say is perhaps in a sense greater in that spiritual life comes out into expression without prompting. We could go back to this word ‘spontaneous’.
DHM Do you feel that we should value more the privilege that we have from when the Lord comes in amongst us until after we have worshipped Him? We are really in association with Him right through. Although we can experience the Lord in an occasion like this it is not in the distinctive way that we experience Him in the Supper. I wondered if perhaps we should appreciate the unique character of that opportunity.
RG That is right, and what I have to remind myself of too is that, while we address the Lord in praise after the breaking of bread and the thought of His brethren comes into our minds and hearts and then the matter of the assembly, we do not lift these things up and then lay them down. They are cumulative, so that we carry forward the greatness of these things as we go on into the service of God.
DHM It is an ascending service, and cumulative in that sense, and we are built up in these things as well.
HTF Does that closely link with the service of the “minister of the holy places”, Heb 8: 2? I would like to know a little more about it. If we are sensitive as the service of God proceeds, then it would engender liberty in our spirits.
RG Yes, it would; the tabernacle helps us, and the teaching as to the house; Solomon’s temple. There are times when the matter is proceeding but God finds such delight in what is going on that He in a sense takes possession of it and glory shines; we too get touches of that.
PM Does the reference in Ephesians, “For through him”, that is Christ, “we have both access by one Spirit to the Father” (chap 2: 18) involve union with Christ? It is not exactly with Christ, but it is “through” Christ. We are in union with that blessed Man. As you said, we do not lay down one phase of the service; we carry the experience of it, and as united to Him we are led and brought into the Father’s presence.
RG That is most helpful. When we do come to the matter of addressing the Father, it is in one sense a very simple situation. There are no moral questions, nothing left to burden our minds. There is God known as Father and His sons before Him; it is wonderfully restful.
AGS Do you think in this section the Lord was thinking of what He was going to secure responsively from the company? It is interesting that later on in Matthew, after the Lord introduces the Supper, “having sung a hymn, they went to the mount of Olives”, chap 26: 30.
RG When divine Persons are working with us we tend to think of the immediate circumstances. When the Lord is working with us He is working in the context of eternity. What He is doing, and what He is leading us in, has in view that something will be formed that will appear in glory.
AGS I am sure of that; when John goes up and enters in, there is a whole scene of response. It is at this moment that the Spirit of God as moving in that scene secures something, in the scene where Christ was disowned, that is responsive at the present time.
RG I think we should see the value of the present time. You might say it is a time of difficulty; yes, it is in some ways, and we look forward to the time when we are blessedly released to be with Christ forever. That will be a wonderful time but we should not forget that the Lord is doing things now amongst the saints that He will not add to in eternity. We will not keep on growing forever; we will come to our measure. This is the time when we reach our measure as under the Lord’s hand and the work of the Spirit.
AGS Could you say something as to, “And having sung a hymn”? That is something that embraces all the saints as together; it is a moment to pour out in our affections. They sang a hymn when they went to the mount of Olives; how beautiful it would have been to hear the Lord leading the singing.
RG I think in a general sense singing a hymn at the beginning of a meeting is very important because it would unite the brethren in their spirits. I have come from my problems; you have come from yours. Singing a hymn together in the Spirit unites us and really makes way for the Holy Spirit. Then there is the prayer which would have an element of the anointing; it really sets the gathering up in dignity.
WMcC I was thinking of the hymn:
And a song is sweetly thrilling
Every heart within the shrine:
Music which God’s ear is filling,
Notes which could be only Thine.
RG Yes; we are in the Father’s presence. What we see, or what we appreciate by the Spirit, is the interchange of affection between divine Persons, and that is a wonderful thing. Do you think that is right?
WMcC Yes; it amalgamates the service, the whole of God’s thoughts, together.
RG That is a fine thing, and you can understand why the apostle speaks about singing with your hearts, Eph 5: 19. You can sing with your mouth and not really be in sympathy with your brethren. I might be out at odds with them, but singing in your hearts involves that we are together.
RDW “It is the Spirit quickens, the flesh profits nothing”, John 6: 63. I was thinking of the hymn:
Where deceiver ne’er can enter,
Nothing else can enter that sphere. Everything is in operation; love, grace and praise.
RG I think what you say is valuable. We might speak of eternal life as something objective or abstract; I think we get touches of it in our spirit, and we find there is no more curse: it has been met and dealt with. We are in the realm of what is new, and nothing can befoul that. We need touches of that in our spirits to help us to go on.
RWF Is it right to understand that in the realm of what is normal, a fresh view of the glory draws a fresh burst of praise?
RG Yes, that is important because when we say that nothing will be added in eternity in the sense of stature or growth that is true, but it does not mean that we will not get fresh impressions of His glory and His Person. We will never exhaust that.
RWF “All things have been delivered to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son but the Father” - there is what is impenetrable with Christ Himself - “nor does any one know the Father, but the Son, and he to whom the Son may be pleased to reveal him”. That should stir a desire on our part that we might learn more from Christ as to the Father’s glory, varied glories; there is an infinitude of them. There is always scope for what is fresh. Do you think our desire should be that in listening to Christ, and having our eye upon Him, He might disclose something more that is fresh?
RG I do think that; if I were a member of the Church of England I would have the Book of Common Prayer, and I would have all the prayers and so on that I needed, but that is not living Christianity. I am not decrying what godly men have written. I leave that; what you are talking about is living Christianity which yields fresh impressions.
RWF It is very much what the apostle Paul was speaking about in 2 Corinthians, as occupied with the Lord, as “we … are transformed according to the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Lord the Spirit”, chap 3: 18.
RG If we really have an impression of what the glory of God is, it transforms us. It has been said that it is not a transient change. “From glory to glory …”: you do not go back from that. If something that is of God is planted in your heart by the Spirit it is forever.
PM The Lord Jesus said to the Father, “I desire that where I am they also may be with me, that they may behold my glory which thou hast given me, for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world”, John 17: 24. The Spirit is opening on to our view the affections and relationships between divine Persons which we do not have a part in; we behold them, and they have a moral and spiritual effect on us.
RG We are not entering into what is imaginative; what we are saying is based on Scripture and is maintained by the Holy Spirit. When Moses alone had to do with God and became in a right sense familiar with Him, he said, “Let me, I pray thee, see thy glory”, Exod 33: 18. That was an entirely right request. God had to say he would not see it fully, but it is right to desire to see glory.
CCDR Relationships to divine Persons are very wonderful. I was thinking of this reference, “Jesus answering”; do you think this is some communication from the Father which Jesus is answering? It struck me as it was read, “Jesus answering said, I praise thee, Father, Lord of the heaven and of the earth”. That was an answer to a communication which, although not written, is a communication between the Father and the Lord.
RG What you say is right; I believe the Lord was always in communion with His Father. I know that as Man it says, “He wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear”, Isa 50: 4. That relationship as Man was taken up, but in John 8 He says, “I am not alone, but I and the Father …”, v 16. That is a very precious thing, and makes the matter of forsaking a very real matter.
We should look at John’s gospel. We know the Holy Spirit had not come yet, but John the baptist had something to say about the Lord which was true. He says, “A man comes after me”. It is remarkable here that we have the Lord spoken of, and the Holy Spirit. “I beheld the Spirit descending as a dove from heaven, and it abode upon Him”. Whilst we maintain the distinctiveness of divine Persons as revealed, when we are thinking of One, the Others should not be far from our minds; “all the fulness of the Godhead was pleased to dwell” (Col 1: 19) in Christ.
JAS We find one divine Person delights to call attention to another. There is the side that we are not to appear before them empty. Calling attention of One to the Other brings forth that which is deposited within us in freshness.
RG Yes, it does, and it is something to note too that divine Persons are scrupulously careful to observe the rights of each Other. The Lord spoke very carefully about His Father, what He had, and what His rights were. He does not overlook the fact of their equality. He does not set that aside but He speaks too of the Holy Spirit very carefully. It is something to observe, the preciousness of these relationships
PM Is it affecting that the Father spoke to John the baptist about the Spirit and about the Lord Jesus; “he who sent me to baptise with water, he said to me”?
RG Yes; it would impress us afresh with how much divine Persons are committed to this present dispensation. There is a revelation of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. A suffering path was in view; all three divine Persons were working together in relation to it.
PM When we come to the Spirit’s descending in Acts the Lord Jesus says, “whom the Father will send in my name”, John 14: 26. Divine Persons are working together, but here the Spirit is not said to be sent. It seems to be His own action; the Spirit descended. It is a wonderful distinction of Christ; the Spirit could not stay away.
RG The Spirit could not stay away. What we have here is divine affection working and working together. Have you any thought about John seeing the Spirit; “Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and abiding on him”?
PM It says that “the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily form as a dove”, Luke 3: 22. It is not as parted tongues as of fire, Acts 2: 3. I wondered if it was to give John an impression of the complacency of one divine Person with another, and complacency with a divine Person who was here in manhood.
RG It demonstrates clearly to us the place that the Holy Spirit had in the present economy. He was acting by Himself, acting in relation to Christ.
JAS Grace and activity are seen in divine Persons. The Spirit particularly in this matter moves in a way that John the baptist could apprehend.
RG Yes that is good; it is grace. Why should divine Persons condescend to show the arrangements that they have made in their relationships with one another? They do condescend to let us see these things, and this is one of the examples of divine Persons’ relationships with one Another. It really is the fabric of Christianity.
TI Is it quite a thing if we can say, “behold”? The Lord has been revealed in a different way and the saints are freshly stimulated.
RG Do you think it is a bit like our own spiritual history; what comes to us does not come all at once. We are not fit for it, but things are revealed to us as we are led, on the line of faith and desire.
RWMcC I was thinking about what you said about divine Persons and what has been revealed. It is because it is in the heart of God to reveal it.
RG Things are revealed because it is in the heart of God to reveal them; I believe that is right. When Philip said, “shew us the Father and it suffices us. Jesus says to him, Am I so long a time with you, and thou hast not known me, Philip? He that has seen me has seen the Father”, John 14: 9. The revelation is full.
This passage in Numbers 21 was the scripture used to bring in rightly the teaching as to addressing the Holy Spirit. The truth was not recovered exactly; it was always there. We were recovered to it.
PM Is this view typically of the Spirit without necessarily emphasising His service. The word is,
Rise up, well! sing unto it.
I would like help as to response to the Spirit because of who He is. I often speak to Him because of what He does, but He is greater than what He does.
RG That is a helpful line of enquiry. I sometimes wonder if the expression which we have referred to as to bodily form is intended to give us an impression of the distinctiveness of the Person; He is a Person in His own right. I share your exercise that I would like to know more of particularly. It is Romans where Paul appeals to them, “because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit”, chap 5: 5. It seems to be something that they recognised.
RWF Does the reference to the lawgiver help in that regard?
Well which princes digged, which the nobles of the people hollowed out at
the word of the lawgiver.
We are accustomed to think of the Spirit making Christ known, but there seems to be a touch here that Christ would draw attention to the Spirit.
RG I would like help myself as to the way in which we reverence the Holy Spirit, and the place He has. He has His place in the service of God, and I am not suggesting that should be altered or adjusted. In one sense He is with us at every step. Say more about this:
Well which princes digged,
which the nobles of the people hollowed out
at the word of the lawgiver
RWF In reading this passage my mind often goes to the labour of the apostles, particularly the apostle Paul, drawing attention one way or another, one point or another, to the Spirit. There is a suggestion of what has been secured in the time of recovery. You referred to that in the conflict as to response to the Spirit. The well is hollowed out; perhaps the earth had fallen in somewhat among brethren but there were those who were active in digging, and noble in their activities, who disclosed as a result of labour what was really there.
RG That is interesting -
nobles of the people hollowed out at
the word of the lawgiver, with their staves.
That is not what we would choose normally as our means to hollow anything out or to dig a well. It seems to be something that was recovered as a matter of process.
RWF It is part of what we would call authoritative ministry.
RG Yes, it was much opposed. It has evidently been of God.
RWMcC It is the overcomer that hears what the Spirit says, Rev 3. Do you think that is involved in the hollowing out?
RG Yes, that helps. The authoritative movements of the Holy Spirit as in, “Separate me now Barnabas and Saul” (Acts 13: 2), were mentioned yesterday. I have the feeling that the place the Spirit has with us is very important, in the light of the coming of the Lord and the place that the assembly has; “the Spirit and the bride say, Come”, Rev 22: 17. You cannot say there is equality, because the Spirit is a divine Person, but there is a certain equivalence there.
PEH Hollowing out normally refers to capacity; you hollow something out to bring about capacity. I wondered if in this setting the more we dig the greater access we have to that capacity.
RG I am sure you are right. It is interesting that in Galatians, where things are going so sadly wrong, one of the things the apostle insists on is making way for the Holy Spirit; “he that sows to the Spirit” (chap 6: 8); “let us walk also by the Spirit”, chap 5: 25. The activities of the Holy Spirit in a renewed way have to do with the recovery. It is not to displace the Lord at all. That could never be, but we should be more subject and sensitive.
PEH You point out that staves were not ideal implements for digging. Do you think we find that there are divine resources available so that the capacity that is seen in the Holy Spirit becomes more available to us?
RG That is a very current word; we do tend to turn to natural resources. Sowing to the Spirit and making way for the Spirit is a very healthy exercise.
PM This section is a little like Romans 8 because from here they look over from the top of Pisgah, and they journey now. The Spirit is leading, and has led, in the recovery. The whole scope of the purpose of God is on our view and we can have a backward look over the waste and see the way that God has brought us. We need the service of the Spirit to be able to do that rightly.
RG There was an effort to replace that leadership with a figurehead. I believe what the Lord has in mind is the leadership of the Spirit, what we speak of as inward leadership. I think we are getting to something of that now.
PM Yes, and we are at no disadvantage.
RG No, that is right. We cannot say we have no universal lead; we do: He is in heaven, and the Spirit is bringing to us what He says.
RWF We have spoken about capacity. There is capacity, and through labour, increased capacity, but it is to be filled, filled with the Spirit. There is a reference in Ephesians: “be filled with the Spirit” (chap 5: 18), which we might almost think when we are younger is unreachable and unrealisable. In the divine view, to be filled with the Spirit is normal.
RG The Spirit of God has not put things in the Scripture to tell us about what is impossible. When we are together in assembly, particularly the Supper and the service of God, it is possible just to get a touch of being filled with the Spirit. The sphere of eternal life is enjoyed; these things are open to us.
Grimsby - 12th July 2015