Hebrews 3: 14, 15
2 Kings 2: 1, 2, 4, 6-14
Daniel 3: 24, 25
John 17: 11, 12, 20-24
I want, beloved brethren, to say a word about being companions of the Christ. Recently we have sat under the sound of ministry which has reminded us of the testimony of the Christ being confirmed in us, and as I thought about that, I thought about this scripture because if the testimony of the Christ is to be confirmed in anybody, surely it is confirmed in the companions of the Christ. The thought of companionship is a very special idea. If you are a companion of someone, it means you think the same way as they think, you feel the same way as they feel, you have the same desires as they have; that is what true companionship is. The apostle is saying to the Hebrews: “For we are become companions of the Christ if indeed we hold the beginning of the assurance firm to the end”. Then he goes on to speak of the provocation in order to open up to them what he meant by saying, “hold the beginning of the assurance firm to the end”. You will remember that, when the twelve spies went into the land and probably about two million persons were waiting for them, only two of them came back with a good report. The other ten had to agree that what they said was right, but they were afraid, and all that unbelieving generation died in the wilderness. How God was provoked at that time, but through Moses’s intercession God did not bring in judgement immediately; nevertheless, His judgement was there, and there were all those persons whose bones were ultimately strewn in the wilderness; but there were two who were companions of the Christ. They held “the beginning of the assurance firm to the end”.
What was the beginning of the assurance? It was what they saw in the land. That was the beginning of the assurance held in their hearts. Going through the wilderness in suffering was surely worthwhile because of what they had experienced in the land. They had that assurance in their hearts and held it to the end; these were true companions of Moses, companions of the Christ. Well, every believer surely would want to be a companion of the Christ. Everyone that knows the Lord Jesus as their Saviour does not necessarily know what it is to be a companion of the Christ. What we had this afternoon about the place that God has with us, and the activity and energy of the Spirit within us, are the hallmark of persons who become companions of the Christ. Now you notice it says, “become”. The idea of becoming companions of the Christ is a process. You do not make companions overnight; it is a process. In the natural way of things, in our lives, companionship does not come immediately. You grow into companionship. You begin to see that this person is thinking the same way as you think, has the same likes as you have, has the same desires as you have, has the same outlook as you have, hates the same things as you hate, loves the same things as you love, and slowly but surely you become companions and you can talk to one another freely. Now, how do we become companions of the Christ? It is not that we make Christ our companion, but Christ makes us His companions if there is the basis for Him doing so.
That is why I read of Elijah‘s history with Elisha. Here is Elijah who is a type of Christ in this passage and Elisha, a type of us, journeying together. It says: “And it came to pass when Jehovah would take up Elijah into the heavens by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal“. Elisha appears to be in movement when Elijah joins him. He saw in Elisha a person that he would make his companion. But in the making of his companion he has to take Elisha a certain moral way, and the Lord Jesus in our lifetimes takes us a certain moral way if we are to become His companions. I want to say to every one here that sometimes when you are older and look back on your history, you can see certain landmarks in your life and you know that, at these landmarks, the Lord was speaking to you because He wanted you to become His companion. If you sidestepped the landmark and moved another way, then there was a longer or a shorter time when you had to come back to that landmark. The Lord had to speak to you again and draw to your attention what He had wanted to draw to your attention months or years before, so that you might become His companion. Would it not be wonderful to be a companion of Christ? Does that not attract you? Not just to know your sins forgiven, but to be a companion of Christ, and to know that He has wrought in your soul on this journey through life so that He might make you His companion.
So Elijah takes Elisha and they are as one moving on. You might say figuratively, ‘The Lord is moving on to glory’. Now the moment is coming when Elijah is to be taken from him. Gilgal is Elisha’s first staging post in his moral history so that he might become a companion of Elijah. These places that we read of here were not what they had been. You will find that in Christendom, in which we have our part, there are landmarks that are spoken of but they are not what they are meant to be. The beauty and the wonder and the glory and the moral worth of each of these places is not now in Christendom what they were meant to be. When Elijah would speak about Gilgal, he would speak about it as to what it was meant to be. He would remind Elisha that it was the place where the flesh had to be dealt with, Josh 5: 3. The stone-knives had to be used. There was the cutting off, and, beloved brethren, if we are going to be companions of the Christ, there has to be the use of the stone-knives so that whatever feature of the flesh is still evident has to be cut off. Nothing of that can go into the land. Circumcision had not taken place in the wilderness, and it had to be carried out immediately they were in the land so that they would be suitable for going in with Joshua. I think the Lord would say to us this evening that this is one of the first landmarks in our history if we are going to become companions of the Christ. Have we allowed the sharpness of the knife to sever from us what belongs to the flesh in whatever form it might take? This is something that has to be kept always before the soul, that the flesh is the flesh, and when it appears it has to be dealt with, and dealt with immediately.
When Elijah says he is sent to Bethel, then Elisha says: “As Jehovah liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee!” This is another landmark. If you are going to become a companion of the Christ, you have to understand something of Bethel. Bethel was the place where Jacob found on his moral road a ladder, and it was reaching to heaven. He recognised the place as the house of God, and heard the One standing at the top of the ladder saying, “I am Jehovah, the God of Abraham, thy father, and the God of Isaac” (Gen 28: 13), but Jacob considered it a dreadful place. The time came when Jacob had to come back a different man. After all those years when he had been away, pleasing himself, he had to come back and face what he should have faced at that time. There was the house of God but he was not equal to the place in which God was to find His delight. However, when he came back after wrestling with God, and having his name changed, he was equal to it; he could pour a drink offering on the pillar.
Then it says, “And Elijah said to him, Elisha, abide here, I pray thee; for Jehovah has sent me to Jericho”. Jericho was the place the children of Israel had to go around after they had crossed the Jordan. It stood athwart the entrance into the land, typical of man’s administration, standing in the way of the people of God going into the enjoyment of the land. It was the ark that went round. I can hear Elijah saying to Elisha, ‘What about the ark, how do you feel about the ark?’ The ark went round each day for six days, and seven times on the seventh day, then that shout and the walls of Jericho fell, Josh 6. The ark, Christ, the beauty of the ark, the wonder of that which was made of acacia-wood, overlaid with gold. It was small and yet what infinitude was in it; two and a half by one and a half by one and a half cubits, Exod 25: 10. It was not large to man, nothing ostentatious, but oh how precious to God! Elijah would say to him: ‘that is representative of the One that God finds infinite delight in’. It would be another landmark in Elisha’s history; get rid of the flesh, come to recognise the greatness of Bethel and what it is to God, and come to recognise the awfulness of man’s system that would stand athwart the entrance into the enjoyment of the land.
Then, they come to the Jordan. You can understand Elijah saying: ’Do you remember the Jordan, Elisha?’ Think of the ark going over the Jordan, typical of the way the Lord went into death, and think of all that He endured, Josh 3, 4. Then think of the way the twelve stones were put in the bed of the Jordan and another twelve stones taken up out of the bed of the Jordan and set up. There was One that overcame the power of death, One that went through. Who was He? It was the Christ. Do you want to be a companion of the Christ? He would say, ’You have to understand what it is to take your place going through the Jordan‘. The priests’ feet stood firm and the ark remained there, and the waters went back out of sight. Death could not stand: “What ailed thee … thou Jordan, that thou turnedst back?” Ps 114: 5. Elijah would be telling Elisha about that, and the Spirit of God is telling us about that; that if we are to be companions of the Christ, death has to come in on everything that would hinder our relationship with Him. No matter what there is about us, death has to be applied to it so that we can come out on the other side, glorious, able to enter into the land and take our place as His companions. When they came to the Jordan, Elijah took his mantle and smote the waters. What power there was with Elijah, and Elisha was learning from that too. If I am to be a companion of Christ’s, I have to understand these landmarks to which He is taking me. Here is the man that is on his way to heaven, Christ in type, and he is taking Elisha along with him on this way.
So then it says: “And it came to pass when they had gone over, that Elijah said to Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I am taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me. And he said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so to thee”. You can imagine Elisha saying to himself, ‘I want a double portion of his spirit. I want to be like this man who is a man of judgement on the one hand, but a man who is displaying grace on the other as he is showing me what all these places signify morally and spiritually‘. The double portion is what is characteristic of this dispensation in which we are. The Lord is here: “And behold, I am with you all the days” (Matt 28: 20), and the Spirit is here, that is double testimony that there is power here to see us through until the end. Then it says: “And it came to pass as they went on, and talked”. Now we are getting closer companionship. Elisha has answered to each of these landmarks and now Elijah can be free in his talking with him.
It does not say what they talked about but “they went on, and talked”. What companionship! To walk and talk with the Lord on the other side of Jordan will be no surprise. As has been said, ’The rapture will not be a surprise to those who are accustomed to walk and talk with Christ over Jordan’, JT vol 20 p220. Have you ever thought about that; do you think you will be surprised when you see the Lord? We often wonder what it will be like. Well, if you walk and talk with Him on the other side of the Jordan now, you will not be surprised. It is the Man that has been your meat and your drink in your lifetime here. How attractive! Now “Elijah went up by a whirlwind into the heavens“; what it must have been to Elisha to see Elijah go up! Would he be bereft of his companionship? No, when the Lord went up into heaven, He did not leave His disciples bereft; He says: “And I will beg the Father, and he will give you another Comforter“, John 14: 16. When the Spirit of God came, He brought all the wonder and perfection of Christ in glory with Him, so that the disciples retained in their hearts the glory of the Person who had been here and gone into death, and had risen again and had gone into heaven. The Spirit Himself was here to sustain them and to make them realise, understand and enjoy the companionship of the Lord Jesus.
I read in Daniel because there we find these three men who were in difficult circumstances. They had been faced with a problem. The king ordered that at the sound of the pipe and the sambuca and other musical instruments, the image that had been built would be bowed down to. This is the time we are in. Man has built up an organisation in this world that is called in Scripture “great Babylon”. He has set up this organisation, partly religious, partly commercial; and persons are expected to bow down to it. I would like to draw the young people’s attention to this. The sound of the music suggests that it is not only a command, although the command was in it. It was meant to be an attractive thing, attracting you naturally to bow down to this great edifice that man is building here in this scene which one day is going to fall. The crisis that is currently affecting the financial world is an indication of how quickly Babylon will fall. But in the meantime men are bowing down to it, they are spending all the hours of the day, every day of every week, bowing down before it. Beloved brethren, if you have gone by way of Gilgal and Bethel and Jericho and the Jordan, that music will have no appeal to you whatsoever. Your ears will be attuned to another kind of music, a heavenly music. Your ears will detect that this kind of music is not of God. It is not the music of heaven; there are no harps to be heard in this music. The bagpipe and these other kinds of instruments would arouse the flesh so that you might be completely overcome with the power of Babylon.
Oh, my beloved brother and sister, be able to detect the sound of this music. It may be that if you will not bow down, you will be put into the fiery furnace. How hot that was made, but how wonderful if you are a companion of the Christ, to find Him in the midst of the opposition, hatred and ridicule! These three men would not bow down, they would not answer to the music, they knew One who could play so eloquently on the harp. That was the music they answered to, but they were found in the fiery furnace. The king says, “Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said to the king, True, O king. He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of God”. These men had gone the same moral road as Elisha. Christ points out these essential parts of the moral road to you that have to be answered in your soul, and then answered in your walk. Such persons can take their place as being companions of the Christ. How He honours them by being in this fiery furnace with them. Think of the Lord of glory being with us, not only all the days, but in all the situations that we might find ourselves in through faithfulness to Him.
Well, that is companionship in times of great trial. I now want to finish with companionship in times of blessing. The Lord in John 17 is speaking to His Father and He says, “When I was with them I kept them in thy name; those thou hast given me I have guarded, and not one of them has perished”. He is saying that when things were happening that would have overcome them: “I have guarded, and not one of them has perished”. How wonderful! He says: “I have given them thy word, and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, as I am not of the world”, John 17: 14. Oh, beloved brother, beloved sister, could that be said of you or of me: “not of the world”? We sing that hymn: ‘Not of the world’ (Hymn 284). We sometimes sing it with zest, but is it true? Now, the companionship is getting closer: “that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me”. How wonderful that the Lord has persons that He claims to be His own, His companions and He uses them in a display of testimony: “that the world may believe that thou hast sent me”. Then He continues, “And the glory which thou hast given me I have given them”. What a glory! The glory of sonship. You see how companionship leads into the greatest blessing of all. It is not sonship by adoption by signing a paper. If you are an orphan in the world and you are adopted, someone signs a paper and that is the transaction done. No! It is a personal gift from the Lord Jesus to His companions. You will never forget that experience of having a sense that the Lord, in the glory of His sonship, wants you to share in the joy of that relationship as sons with the Father which you will value for all eternity.
In verse 23 He says: “I in them and thou in me, that they may be perfected into one and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and that thou hast loved them as thou hast loved me”. There is a Philadelphian touch about that: “thou hast loved them as thou hast loved me”. How wonderful to be taken, not now as companions, but as sons, into the presence of the Father. Then He goes on, “Father, as to those whom thou hast given me, I desire that where I am they also may be with me” (you see how near we are to Christ) “that they may behold my glory which thou hast given me, for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world“. Now we are in the area of purpose, and it is only sons that can appreciate and enjoy it. It is only sons that can behold His glory which He has been given. What a glory! We have known what it has been to be companions of the Christ in the testimonial position down here, but now He is taking us into the very innermost realm, the place where we behold His glory. The ark with the staves drawn out, never to move again. It has moved through the wilderness over the Jordan around Jericho into the land, into the oracle of the house, never to move again.
Do we realise that we are destined for a place in heaven that was prepared before the foundation of the world? What a marvel that each one of us has come by way of the redemptive work of Christ and the gift of the Spirit, come by way of the moral road that Elijah took Elisha, come by way of being companions of the Christ testimonially, then come into the enjoyment of the very closest relationship with Him as sons before the Father, and to have the Father‘s name made known. The Lord says: “And I have made known to them thy name, and will make it known“, v 26. He made it known when He said to Mary: “I ascend to my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God”, John 20: 17. Mary - what a companion she was of Christ, Mary of Magdala - one out of whom seven demons had gone! It was not that they were put out, they had to go, they could not stay. He gives her that message which comes right down to us, involving the full revelation of the name of His Father and our Father, His God and our God. How wonderful it is to have the testimony of the Christ confirmed in us who are the companions of the Christ, and as such to be taken into such a close relationship, the relationship of sonship! We are looking forward to the Lord’s Day, if in the meantime the Lord has not come for us. How we long that He will come for us! Do we? That is one of the most demanding questions that I know. Do we want the Lord to come for us? Well, if He does not come for us and we come together again tomorrow morning, what a joy will be ours to behold His glory and to be with Him for the Father’s pleasure!
May it be so for His Name’s sake!
10th November 2007