Daniel 2: 40-43
Daniel 6: 4-10
Joshua 2: 1, 6, 8-14
1 Samuel 16: 11-‘sheep’
1 Samuel 17: 14-15
The children of Israel were brought back out of Babylonish captivity and eventually came under the Roman yoke, the kingdom strong as iron. The latter part of that kingdom will be mixed with iron and miry clay. Malachi has been referred to already, where persons are seen as having a desire for God, and, in some sense, with a desire to enter into God’s feelings about all that had happened to Israel. Therefore, a remnant was identified as meeting the Lord’s approval. At the end of Malachi, those who spoke often to one another were taken account of, and a book was written with their names in it, chap 3: 16. Some 400 years afterwards, the Messiah came to Israel and there were children of Judah morally descendant from that company in Malachi.
The children of Israel had been corrupted, and God judged them, delivering them into captivity, and a remnant eventually came out of captivity. A remnant was in the land but under Roman rule at the advent of Christ. This Roman kingdom would re-emerge and be mixed with iron and miry clay. While the latter form of that kingdom was not ushered in at that time - nor is it official at the present time - the precursors of it are before us in our day.
So, Israel were under the Roman yoke, the fourth kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar’s vision and dream, the fourth kingdom of Daniel the prophet’s interpretation, and there was to be an extension of that. You think of the remnant in Malachi 3 - how attractive! - and then of the unbelief among those of Judah who had returned and were in the land when the Lord came; and yet there were those in the hill country referred to in the beginning of Luke, a very attractive company. Some were identified: Simeon, Anna, Mary, Elizabeth. You see in them the spirit of a remnant continued although the public and official side of the profession was in unbelief. It accepted Roman rule, so much so that they said they would not have this Man to rule or reign over them, Luke 19:14. Those in the profession rejected Christ so as not to lose their public place.
Now I would simply like to bring this down to the present day. The extension of the Roman yoke will be upon this poor world very soon. There will be full blown apostasy in the profession, and the great house will take the place of anything that was here of the house of God in vitality, because the church will be gone. I presume all the church buildings will be here, all the activities religiously continuing. They will usurp the only Man that has place with God; it will be apostasy, full blown - not just the principle of it, which proceeds now as persons turn away from the love of the truth. The trinity of evil will come to light (Rev 13), and God will have to come in again and do "his strange work", Isa 28: 21. He will judge the whole thing. He will have literally spued out the profession, the true church having been caught up: the profession of God will still remain for severe judgment.
Now I ask a simple question. This kingdom, a revival of the Roman Empire, made of iron and miry clay - some strength, some weakness, and its ten kings, and so on, is that what will be in evidence when the Lord Jesus comes to establish His kingdom? It will be so, and the kingdom He establishes will not in any way be vulnerable to what man sets up for himself here, which will come under the Lord’s hand for judgment. The point I am trying to make, beloved, is that unbelief characterises the profession in general. Not that the profession of God is given up now: you may talk - or I may talk - with persons who will speak to you about God; that is good as far as this goes, but God is not necessarily the test now. The Man is the test. It is the Man at God’s right hand whom He has made strong for Himself (and what He has here of heavenly character after Himself) that is the test. God deserves to have obedience from His people because the Man has entered there, and has established Christianity from there. But this kingdom of iron and miry clay will come to light and unbelief will be publicly exposed because the true church will be gone. They will not have the Lord Jesus to reign over them when He comes at His second advent, any more than the first. I am speaking of the profession largely rejecting the heavenly Man now - professing to know God, and in the profession as carrying the name of Christ. The profession (spoken of as a mystery, Babylon, Rev 17: 5) is joined to the world but separately judged by God by using the Beast and the kingdom of ten horns for that purpose; and comes in for the most severe judgment of all in the book of Revelation.
But what I wanted to get to was Daniel’s exercise. He knew things. The assembly is to know things; it comes in for the secret things of God. It knows the One who is "the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end", Rev 21: 6. And the assembly is to know things as He knows things, in its measure as a creature vessel. So we know what is coming, and we should know where we are, and this kind of exercise would revive us as to the Man at God’s right hand. That is the present test, and it was the test when He came in the first time. It will be the test when He comes the second time but He will come in power and great glory to establish His kingdom. This kingdom of iron and miry clay will come down. All that man has built up religiously, economically and politically will all come down and there will be one Man left, and He will reign in righteousness. The judgment of the sheep and the goats will occur and there will be those who pass into eternal life in an earthly way, Matt 25: 1-46.
It is very solemn as we deal with God’s matters. Daniel knew that; he went through great exercise in order to arrive at something in his own soul. His interpretation of the dream resulted in the conversion of the man God set up as head of the Gentiles during the captivity of the children of Israel. Nebuchadnezzar was converted because of Daniel’s witness, and no doubt the witness of those who were companying with him, a remnant in captive conditions, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. God came in for them and sustained them in separation, but then we read in chapter 6 of those who did not desire the testimony of Daniel and the things that he was involved with, and they sought through envy, jealousy and deception - the enemy’s work - to set Daniel down. We must have grace and wisdom to know how to go through the captivity, because the public matter has been judged morally already by God Himself and we are to feel that. Daniel felt it; he felt the captivity. He learned certain things by books as to what was going to occur, but he sought God’s help to know how to go through the captivity. This is the value of the book of Daniel, young persons, because Daniel entered the captivity as a young man, a boy. He committed himself to the Lord in certain matters so that he could keep himself pure, chap 1. I often say that to one and another, "Keep thyself pure", 1 Tim 5: 22. "Keep thyself pure" means we are learning something of what the Lord Jesus went through at Calvary by judging ourselves. Also, do not allow mixed thoughts and motives about things that belong to God, and holy things, where He requires our obedience to be maintained testimonially and for us to go through the captivity in a right way, although without a captive’s baggage. Daniel did it - and we can as well.
But as was said, there were those who sought to do him harm. They did not come up with the same scheme they came up with initially and that Nebuchadnezzar approved, which was that if no one fell down to worship the image, they would be cast into the fiery furnace, chap 3: 6. His companions suffered this, but a fourth, one "like a son of God", stood with them, v 25. They survived the captivity - and we need survival skills like they had and count on the Son of God. You and I should survive the captivity. By captivity I am talking about Paul’s ministry not known in its vitality in the profession. The mystery is unknown except some doctrinal view only perhaps. We are not to have captive baggage and by that I mean we are not to bring anything in from the area of profession which has set up another kind of man, although professing to know God and a historical Jesus generally. We are not to bring things from that area into our meetings, beloved. It is an exercise with me to use a sharp knife on myself, or I will bring something of human sentiment, emotion or what is earthly religious into the heavenly environment of God’s house here.
So, we have to know how in wisdom to go through the captivity, in faithfulness to God. One thing that can be said about Daniel, among other things, is that he was a faithful man, and he had no support, presumably no outward support. Everything was against him. I would just say this to the young persons that everything is against the testimony of Christ. Everything is against Christ testimonially, just as it was against Him personally. "He would not walk in Judea" (John 7: 1), for example, because of unbelief, because of resistance, because of hatred of that kind of Man, the only Man attractive to heaven. Where was Judea? It was in the profession. There is no difference between Christ testimonially and Christ personally, except He is unique and He is the one blessed, perfect Man at God’s right hand - a divine Person in manhood.
What is being brought through in testimony is a vessel, and persons in that vessel like Christ, and nothing else will be brought through. There are persons here who live for Christ, who seek to know the Father’s will, whose one motive is to do God’s will. Even in mixed conditions, this is possible - just as it was with Daniel in doing God’s will in captivity.
They sought to destroy Daniel. No, they did not use the same tactic as with those who went into the furnace. They said, ‘let us just give this thirty days’, because they knew Daniel was a faithful man, and they intended to trap him in his faithfulness and turn the king against him; so they convinced Darius. Well, Daniel continued with no outward public support to do just as he had done aforetime. Jerusalem lay in ruins then, and the professing church lies in ruins publicly now. That is the condition of the church publicly today, dear friends; it is in ruins. Did that stop Daniel from praying as he always had? With his window open, on his knees three times a day, he "prayed and gave thanks before his God as he did aforetime". "His window being open in his upper chamber" has in mind an elevated area linking with Christ in heaven typically. His body on earth is in the elevated area of the testimony during the Spirit’s day. It is a day to be open towards Jerusalem, as concerned about its heavenly prosperity and the truth of the assembly as the divine centre here. We cannot cling to any ecclesiastical time, structure or set of rules, but we can cling to what Jerusalem is for God, what it is to Christ’s heart; and that, beloved, would help us to keep ourselves from sectarian tendencies and know how to go through the captivity. If we see the assembly rightly, we would see it as Christ sees it, and what it is to His own affections. We may pray three times a day, or more, and even though Jerusalem outwardly is in ruins, it is still the divine centre in Christ’s view and as in His heart. Christians are scattered here and there, great huge millions of dollars spent on buildings and so on, yet what is suggested in Jerusalem is what it is in the divine mind, and it always will be, even in remnant days and remnant testimony, the day of small things in which we find ourselves currently. It is a wonderful thing to pray, to have the thoughts and feelings of Christ concerning what is His, and in that way remain in communion with Him about what is precious to His heart.
This brings us to consider Rahab, and in thinking of these three personalities, beloved, there are features of Christ coming out in each and available for our exercise as well. Features of Christ testimonially came out in these beloved ones who, in varied circumstances, found their way in communion with heaven. Also, in thinking about these three personalities, I thought that manhood seen in them is characterised by first love and first works. Daniel did just as he always had done - first works based on first love. He did not let that drop, and even though he knew that perhaps it might have cost him his life, it did not matter to him. He was going on as he always had. Well, Rahab is like many others, not raised in a Christian household but retrieved for the special things that God has only for His people - only for His people. Jericho was a great matter and is a great matter for us. It stands athwart our enjoyment of the land. It is going to block you, young brother and young sister, just as it attempts to block me and all interested persons. Jericho is insubjection to God and His Christ in the profession. It is every man doing that which is right in his own eyes in the religious sphere - that is Jericho, and those walls have to come down with me first. Faith is to be actively tested in this exercise. The children of Israel were in the process of bringing those walls down: it took movement, faith and continual exercise. They go and spy out the land and here is this dear heart, a sinner saved by grace, who wants to help. Why? Because she has been convicted and wants to commit herself to support the movements of the testimony. She is convinced that what the people of God had and were going in for was right and good; she wanted it for herself and for her loved ones. She had heard about it; she lays hold of it. She heard how God had delivered the children of Israel out of Egypt. Egypt is where man’s resources are, religiously, economically and politically; very great resources. She had heard how they were brought out of that influence and she wanted to know the same God they knew; she desired the same deliverance they had experienced, and she wanted to be saved for the land. Crossing the Red sea affected her; she was convicted to repentance, and desired to turn toward God and be with those who had been delivered, and to seek help for herself. She would do anything, she would be a traitor, she would overthrow the world, as young persons and older persons must do, overthrow that world system of things, religiously and morally. The sin system is characterised by man in the flesh, giving the lead religiously and every other way. Young persons and older persons, we have to overcome that area of things, reckoning ourselves dead unto sin and alive unto God to acquire any territory for ourselves morally. That is, we are seeing ourselves now as God is seeing us. Well, this is all by report for her. Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God, and she wanted that kind of deliverance. The efficacy of the death and resurrection of Christ in type is what she wanted. Do you want that? Do you want present salvation from self and the world? The efficacy of the death and resurrection of Christ are toward you. That is what the scripture says, "towards all and upon all those who believe", Rom 3: 22. Not only that but she had heard how they had overcome Sihon and Og. In the power of the Spirit, young brother and sister, older one too, we are to overcome all against us; and this is our charge presently for the journey through the wilderness. We need the blessed Spirit of God to subdue the flesh in ourselves so that we do not have a religious bent of mind, so we do not do our own will in holy things - plausible as our feelings might seem in a natural or religious sense. We are set for the will of God. Sihon and Og would represent self in some way, considering for self. While Daniel did not have support publicly, although a remnant was with him in the captivity, this dear sister had the support of the fellowship, and she is able for it too. She is able for it, to the extent that she is mentioned in the genealogy in Matthew 1: 5. A book was written about that remnant in Malachi 3, their names were recorded; your name is recorded as a lover and sufferer for Christ during His rejection publicly, including the rejection of that kind of Man in the profession generally. What is being added to that book in connection with divine things? Features of Christ seen in persons with real genuine exercise to go through the captivity for God in faithfulness and to be with His people in their movements testimonially; who seek to understand the depth and come into the gain of the work of Christ at Calvary, and His present position at God’s right hand. It brings us into the wilderness where these tests occurred, but then links on with the blessed Spirit and overcoming self in some way whatever it is, self consideration, self gratification, and so on. What first works characterised the remnant seen in connection with Rahab’s exercises? She overthrew the world, the Jericho world. She was not insubject in the profession, she was subject to what she heard, and interested in the truth; she was with those who were going on in conflict, and going into the land.
I come to David and I would just say that David had the support of heaven. The reason is that, while David is pre-eminently a type of the Man who has taken us up into His affections and for our consideration and care for our souls, he has concern for His sheep in their movements testimonially. Christ is the Good Shepherd of the sheep, set to bring us to know the Father as He knows Him. You can take that work up too and have the support of heaven in it. If you care for the saints and protect the saints in the truth, if you consider for them, it can be said of you similarly, “Are these all the young men?”. Young men what are you doing? What is your occupation? Young sister? “Behold he is feeding the sheep”. Was he going after Saul in the sin system? I use this carefully; God gave Saul every opportunity to succeed. He could not; he could never overcome the Philistine; he continually reverted to his feeling of self and his position among the saints. But David had the right occupation so that he could overcome the Philistine. It says, "David went and returned from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Bethlehem". The house of bread - which "Bethlehem" means - is involved in that kind of thing; the assembly is where properly He feeds His flock.
I will conclude with a final thought about David. His first works had the support of heaven. We know he, David, failed, and I would just ask a simple question in closing. If you trace it through, what is the one thing that led to David’s failure? It is when he left this exercise of feeding and caring for the sheep and became occupied with himself. When he thought about himself, when he got weary with the way, when he would not go out where the kings were to go out, he lost the sense of the royal priesthood; and he fell into sin, terrible sin! His failure is linked with failure to occupy his time before God, when he chose to consider himself and not the saints, what they need, and the care and protection and help they need. That kind of occupation with the saints linked him with heaven, and it would link us with the Man there (the object of this kind of life given up for the good of the sheep of God’s pasture), who is the Chief Shepherd, the great Shepherd of the sheep. If you and I do that, pray about it in leaving these meetings, have some exercise to enter into it through prayer, we will have the support of heaven, the support of the fellowship, and be able without support from the public sphere of profession. May God bless the word.
14th August 2010