2 Kings 4: 8-11
Luke 22: 7-20
Acts 1: 10-14; 20: 7-12
These scriptures refer to the upper chamber or upper room. You could hardly call this first one a luxury apartment; indeed it was rather basic. It was provided by a wealthy woman and her husband, and no doubt they could have provided some more comforts but as well as being wealthy the woman was spiritual and she knew what was suitable for the man of God.
I want to give this an application to the homes of the brethren, but would hasten to say, before I am misunderstood, that I am not advocating that our homes should be austere. I am not suggesting ascetic living which is practised by some monastic orders who say that by austere living and harsh treatment of the body that you can nullify the flesh - that only gives the flesh something to glory in. I do not want the brethren to think that I am finding any fault with having your homes comfortably furnished. In fact, more than that, I would say it is due to the testimony that it should be so. The homes of the saints should indeed be homely.
What I do want to suggest is that the thought of the upper chamber alludes to a spiritual dimension in the believer’s home. It is said to be upper which suggests to me that it is something that is elevated above the ordinary domestic run of things. We all know what that is - to cook, clean, and so on, perhaps bring up a family. All these things carried out in the fear of God are pleasing to God, but are not in themselves spiritual. There are doubtless many worldly homes where they are well ordered and well disciplined, but there is nothing spiritual in them. This is what makes the believer’s home different, the spiritual dimension.
As well as being “upper”, it is also said to be small, which I think comports well with the current time of the testimony in which we are. Not only has there been breakdown in Christendom but there has been breakdown among those who had part in the recovery too and we have had our part in that, some of us more than others. We do not have anything to be proud of. Proverbs speaks about certain things which are “little upon the earth” (chap 30: 24) but they are “exceeding wise” and now it surely is wise to be very humble. You could hardly imagine the man of God going to preach in a cathedral or anywhere like that; they would not let him anyway. Mr Darby remarked that Paul would not be allowed to preach in such a place because he was not an ordained minister, Collected Writings vol 14 p293.
This is a small upper chamber. It is said to have walls, or be upon the wall. That means separation.
I want to say a simple word to the children. You know what a wall is; you probably have one round your garden. A wall does two things, it keeps out things you do not want in, and it protects the things which are inside. You might have some nice flowerbeds and finely mown lawns, and you do not want rubbish floating in and spoiling it. The wall keeps the nasty things out and protects the good things inside. To be practical, when you are at school or perhaps at work, your companions speak to one another about what films they were watching last night, what place of entertainment they had been to - do you feel a little bit left out? I will tell you why you do not have these things; it is because your parents have built a wall, and it is not a wall made of bricks. It is a moral wall. The things that we are talking about that other children have in their homes, or places they go to, they would not do you any good; they would do you harm. That is why your parents want to keep them out, and by the same token the wall is there to protect you. We have a sister and when she was at school the teacher said of her, 'She is the most deprived little girl I know, and yet she is the happiest‘. What a testimony! I can assure you, dear young ones, that all these things which you might feel deprived about are not going to do you any good at all. Joy, happiness and satisfaction is in the home of the believer, where the Lord Jesus is know and honoured. That is what I mean by a wall.
As to the actual furniture, there is a bed. A bed is for rest and that is a very important thing in a believer’s home, that there is a restful condition. We live busy lives these days and, just being practical about this, I believe that Satan, the enemy of our souls, is seeking to trespass on our time. I feel for the young brothers and sisters going to work early in the morning, coming home late, perhaps bringing work home with them. The devil will keep you going, keep you occupied with secular things so that there is not time for rest. Rest is very important. Even in the Lord’s work we can become so much governed by activity that you do not have time to recharge. The Lord said one time when the disciples were so busy healing people that they did not have leisure even to eat, “Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place and rest a little”, Mark 6: 31. He also said, “Come to me, all ye who labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest to your souls”, Matt 11: 28, 29. It is a very important thing that there is an atmosphere at home where you can relax in a spiritual sense and enjoy the sanctified atmosphere of a believer's home.
Then there is the table. This suggests two things, one is fellowship, and the other is food. It is a very important thing to have the brethren in your home in the enjoyment of Christian fellowship. This is a feature which is happily present amongst us, and may it continue because it is for the preservation of the family in these days. Then there is the food as well. The head of the house has a certain responsibility in reading the scriptures, teaching his family, and seeing to it that there is food on the table.
Then there is the seat. I suggest the seat has something to do with contemplation. There was a time in the history of king David when he had a huge disappointment, the biggest disappointment of his life. For all his life he had had desires to find a resting place for the ark and build a house that would be suitable. God had given him rest from all his enemies round about him and he said, 'Now I will get to building this house'. He said to the prophet Nathan that he would like to do this, and he told David to go ahead. Then in the night God spoke to Nathan, and said, 'You will have to say “No” to David'. What a blow it must have been. But was he resentful? No, he went in and sat before Jehovah. To go in and sit like that means that you are going to be there for quite some time. Then He spoke to Jehovah, meekly accepting of His will. He spoke of the way he had been preserved, how his house would be preserved for a long time to come, and some of his suggestions look on to Christ, 2 Sam 7: 5, 18, 19.
Reading helps too. It is a good thing to read, to concentrate your mind on what is good. There is plenty to read of what is good. You do not need to go outside of the ministry of the recovery, something that the Lord has honoured for nearly two hundred years now. It is good to go over the scriptures in the presence of the Lord. This kind of satisfaction can be found in a believer’s home.
The next thing is the lampstand. We were speaking earlier about the times in Egypt when there was darkness, thick darkness, but there is light in the dwellings of the people of God. I would like to make sure that the lamp in my home is shining. We find from the reading of the scriptures and prayers, and fellowship that you have with the saints, that there is light flooding into the believer’s home. It is the spiritual dimension in the believer’s home.
Whenever the man of God came along the place was ready for him, no special preparation needed; when he comes he will have this place. He may come any time. I would like to think that your home and mine would be open to the brethren at all times. No special cleaning up to be done, nothing to be put out of sight - always have an open door.
This was a small upper room; but in Luke 22 there is a large one. In the passage where we read the Lord Jesus is about to face death with all the sufferings that that involved. The abandonment lay before Him, the awfulness of the cross. How it must have borne in upon His spirit and yet in His tender consideration for His own, He institutes the Supper. You might say that it was the passover I read about, and that is true, but this is the passover being brought to an end as an ordinance. We know it has a moral bearing, but as an ordinance it is finished. People speak about the last Supper, but it is not the last Supper, it is the first Supper really; it is the last passover. The Lord partook of the passover here; He did not partake of the Supper. He said to them “With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer. For I say unto you, that I will not eat any more at all of it until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God”. A day is coming when God’s relations with Israel will be restored, but for the present dispensation, the passover is finished. Paul speaks of it in 1 Corinthians 5, “so that let us celebrate the feast … with unleavened bread of sincerity and truth”, v 8. That is to say that the passover has a moral bearing now, but no longer is an ordinance. So, when Paul gives you the Supper in 1 Corinthians 11, from verse 20, it is separated from chapter 5 because the passover is viewed now in a moral sense. What I am suggesting here is that the Lord is seeking to release His own from the narrow constraints of Judaism, and to open them up into the expansive and glorious realm of Christianity. The Spirit was going to come, and what a wonderful thing it would be. Here the Lord says, 'I have finished with this passover and I am leaving you with the Supper. He did not partake of it Himself; it says He “gave it to them”. That was because it was something that belonged to the time of His absence. We break bread in the time of the Lord’s absence; so He did not partake of it, He gave it to them. That required a large upper room - wider and wider. In Ezekiel’s vision of the temple, is says, “there was an enlarging … increasing upward”, Ezek 41: 7. This we see also in 1 Kings 6: 6. As I understand it, there were three levels. At the ground level there were cells for the priests where they washed and ate of the offerings. The actual floor space was somewhat limited where the service of God was carried on. On the second level there were fewer cells, but there was more space, and on the top level there were no cells at all, it was all open. That is enlarging upward. As the saints become more spiritual there will become less need for the side of what is priestly and more scope for sonship where the service of God carries on in all its glory. Think of that, “increasing upward”, how vast it is, the glory of Christianity, superseding all that had been before. So the Lord said, “With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer”, then He says, 'I am giving you the Supper in an upper room where there is scope for what is heavenly, what belongs to the assembly'.
When you come to Acts 1 the Lord had suffered, He had been into death, accomplished the great work of redemption, all is now complete and now He is taken up into heaven, “And as they were gazing into heaven, as he was going, behold, also two men stood by them in white clothing, who also said, Men of Galilee, why do ye stand looking into heaven?”. They said, 'Why are you doing that, because things are going to happen down here now?' Gazing up into heaven, as emphasised in that context, was not going to do any good; the Lord had gone away, left them. This was the time of His absence, it was the time for the assembly. This upper room I suppose is the same room that we have in the next chapter when the Holy Spirit came. What a wonderful opening up of things in glory in the assembly!
What I wanted to draw attention to was, “they went up to the upper chamber, where were staying both Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew ...”, they were staying there. I do not know how that would have worked out practically, but if you take scripture as it is set out, the Holy Spirit of God gave us the wording, these persons were staying. Are we all staying? There was a time when many of the disciples turned back, Jesus said to His own, “Will ye also go away?”, John 6: 67. I believe the Lord would raise that question today. ”Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast words of life eternal; and we have believed and known that thou art the holy one of God”, v 68, 69. May every one of us have that firm resolve in our hearts to stay in this large upper room where the very best and greatest things can be enjoyed and entered into. Who would want to go away from all of that wealth and glory, all that belongs to the assembly? This was just about to be clothed with power from high. I think it is the same room in chapter 2; it is the same room because it says they were staying there. It was to this environment that the Holy Spirit came, to this place, the large upper room. I would like to leave that challenge to everyone of us - are you going to stay?
In chapter 20 we have the final touch. Paul’s ministry has come out at its height. Perhaps there was need in this gathering to have a long discourse, but the reason they came together was to break bread. There is no word of the passover here, “the first day of the week, we being assembled to break bread”. “There were many lights in the upper room”, what a wonderful sphere it was to be in. But there was this young man who was sitting by the window, which is always rather a hazardous place to be because there are things you can see out of the window which would distract. Perhaps he was not listening to what Paul was saying, and then he fell asleep and fell down. In 2 Kings 1 we read about someone who fell down, the king “Ahaziah fell down through the lattice in his upper chamber which was in Samaria, and was sick; and he sent messengers and said to them, Go, inquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover from this disease”, v 2. He did not get better, the word that he got from Jehovah’s prophet was “thou ... shalt certainly die”, v 4. I think this is a solemn example of one who, having had the greatest light in the upper chamber, fell down. In principle it is apostasy but at the very least it is a sin unto death because there was no resolving of it before he died. It is a solemn consideration that those who have the greatest light also have the greatest responsibility.
The young man in the Acts fell down from the third story as well but there was recovery for him. I suppose he was not so responsible, he was just a young lad. Ahaziah was a king, king of Israel, thoroughly responsible; so it was a very solemn thing which happened to him. This young man was taken up dead. It does not say they thought he was dead, it says, “was taken up dead”. That is to say that he was a write off. The brethren had said, 'He is dead'; Paul says, “Be not troubled, for his life is in him”, there is recovery for him. So “Paul descending fell upon him, and enfolding him in his arms, said, Be not troubled for his life is in him. And having gone up, and having broken the bread, and eaten, and having long spoken until daybreak ...”. This boy was taken back up to the very place from which he had fallen. They did not put him in the basement or anything like that; he was taken back up into the full joy of happy fellowship amongst the people of God. There was great joy - “they brought away the boy alive, and were no little comforted”. What a comfort it is to see recovery taking place, and remember that recovery is not to anything secondary, it is to the very highest level of Christianity, because that is what you have in Acts 20, Paul’s ministry as it came out at Ephesus. But there is one sobering thing about that too because Ephesus did not maintain that level and the Lord does say to that assembly in Revelation, “Remember therefore whence thou art fallen” (Rev 2: 5), but in saying that He has in mind full restoration.
I just trust that what has been said may have some bearing practically because we live in difficult days, there is no denying that, and I believe the Lord would have us to be sustained, to continue to commit ourselves. Even if we have failed, recovery is possible, and it is recovery to the best place.
May He bless the word.