Trust in God’s Economy: Part 1–The Word

One of the most special subjects, tender to my heart, is God’s decision to trust us. I realized the other day that God’s ability to trust me with anything has been the cornerstone to the formation of my conscience. There was a time when I was a little boy, I lied to my parents about cleaning my room, and I had promised God that I would tell them before I went to bed. I had gone to bed, but could not bear the simple thought of breaking a promise to God: not because I was scared God would do something to me, but just because it was fundamentally wrong. I said, “I made a promise to God, and I am NOT going to break that promise.”

But some people say, God trusting us? God shouldn’t trust us, we’re totally treacherous.” Yes, but if you read the Old Testament, God tested how much he could trust his blessing to his people, and use them by various ways to show that they were fully devoted to him: Abraham being the prototype. For example, why else would God have asked Abraham to make the sacrifice that He himself would one day make? (Genesis 22)

Plus, consider that every time God speaks to an individual, or gives a person a commandment, it is an act of trust: prove your worth to me, and my worth to you by your ability to follow this simple task. If a person obeys God’s voice, then they are proven to be trustworthy. And the Word of God will always do more than just test a man’s actions; “The Word of the Lord is living and active sharper than any two edged sword piercing to the division of soul and spirit and joints and marrow, and it discerns the thoughts of the mind and the intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

Ultimately God’s Word reveals something about a person whenever it comes. If a person hears his word and obeys it, he is worthy of trust with more of His Word. But if he hears his word and does not do it, he has proven himself to be fruitless, defective, and useless to the Master.

This is plain to see in Parables of Jesus, but it still seems to deal on the level of “professional trustworthiness” if you will: Can Jesus trust me with greater tasks in his business? This of course, is a true Dimension to God’s trustworthiness. After all “He who is faithful with little, will be faithful with much.” But there’s another very, very sweet and for me a tearful realization that there is something more special kind of trust to have with God.

For the devious are an abomination to the Lord; But He is intimate with the upright.~Proverbs 3:23

Intimacy: a closeness of sharing one’s very self: this is a privilege for the upright. Trust in God’s economy is for those who walk without “deviation” who are whole-hearted, trustworthy, simply devoted–in a word– faithful. This trust in God’s economy is a currency often neglected in the Church. This is not just “I know God.” or “I have a relationship with Jesus.” kind of intimacy. This is a privilege of getting to “see God.” that is a blessing for the pure in heart (Matthew 5:8). Not all self-proclaimed Christians can claim this privilege. It takes a degree of sacrifice that nominal Christianity cannot afford. It takes, to use a Biblical type, Abram’s leaving his home and his family at the call of God, it takes Abram’s separation from Lot, it takes a denial of worldly reward, it takes a disowning of one’s own failed creations, it takes the total surrender of every preciously irreplaceable gift of God– it is the desire to know Him no matter how hard, or how good the cost. This progression brings about the reward of which the Prophet wrote in Jeremiah:

Thus says the Lord, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord.” ~Jeremiah 9:23-24

Such a special gift of intimacy with God, of which one may humbly boast, comes by showing one’s trustworthiness, not just in obedience, but also in devoted affectionate love to the One who is truly worthy of it. Indeed, the warning is there for those who choose not to pursue this:

“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “that I will punish all who are circumcised and yet uncircumcised—Egypt and Judah, and Edom and the sons of Ammon, and Moab and all those inhabiting the desert who clip the hair on their temples; for all the nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised of heart.” ~Jeremiah 9:25-26

My encouragement: pursue intimacy with God at any cost. No matter what you have done, if your heart within you is moved to pursue this closeness with God, it is His drawing you, and He will by no means cast you out.

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Exodus 40: The Tabernacle and the Glory

Exodus 40:33–Thus Moses finished the work.

Explanation: In this passage, the LORD, Yahweh, God of Israel speaks to Moses and tells him, “Arrange everything in the Tabernacle just as I have instructed.” Vss. 1-15. Then in vss. 16-33 Moses does what the LORD says. Vs. 33 says, “Thus Moses Finished the work.” The amount of detail that went into Exodus 25-31 where the Tabernacle instructions are given, and then from Exodus 35-39 where the instructions are carried out sounds redundant in that they are so similar. And once “Moses had finished the work” then the glory of God filled the Tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting.

Principalization: There is a pattern to the spiritual principle of life which seems evident in multiple Scriptures– a natural order in which God works.

  • In Genesis 2:7– When God made man, it said, he formed man out of the dust, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. And Man became a living soul.
  • In Genesis 7:1-15– Noah did everything according to what God commanded, And in vs. 16, Yahweh closed the door of the ark behind him.
  • In Genesis 14 and 15, it was after Abraham refused the reward of Sodom that God deepened His covenant relationship with him.
  • In Joshua 1-6, God’s directions were followed precisely, and God miraculously brought down the walls of Jericho.
  • In 1 Chronicles 28:11-19, the Temple instruction was passed from David to Solomon, and once the temple is completed in 2 Chronicles 7 the Glory of God comes down.

The order that seems to be shown in these passages is this:

  1. God gives a commandment.
  2. His servant obeys.
  3. His servant finishes the work.
  4. God’s glory and power show forth.

If there is any lack of even one of these first three elements the fourth cannot be. A complete obedience to the God who commands is the prerequisite for God’s glory and power showing forth.

Interrogation: In light of this pattern– First all on earth must be arranged; then Heaven comes down, the question I posit here is the same question Phineas’ wife asked in 1 Samuel 4:21 when she named her son after she heard the Ark of the Covenant was taken and Eli the High priest died:

Where is the glory?

In Exodus 40:38 the writer said, “Throughout all their journeys, the cloud of the LORD as on the tabernacle by day, and there was fire by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel.”  If we are in a time of spiritual day, where is the cloud? If we are in a time of spiritual night, where is the fire?

If Jesus came to be Immanuel, God with us, and promised that he would never leave us or forsake us, where is the presence of God which shattered fortified walls? Where is the breath of life in the body of Christ? Where is the power from on high with which the first church was clothed in the upper room at Pentecost? Where are the tongues of flame that melted all languages barriers back into one people like before Babylon?

When I as a citizen of America attend the local assemblies here in my hometown of Ocala, FL my answer is this:

Wherever it is, it is not here.

My father once told me there is a very fine distinction between faith and presumption. I believe that in these passages I recognize that the difference between faith and presumption in the following stories:

In 1 Samuel, King Saul lost God’s precious anointing for Kingship, because he disobeyed God. Samuel rebuked him and said, “Has Yahweh as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of Yahweh? Behold to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For Rebellion is as the sin of divination, and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry.” Saul lacked faithful obedience.

In Isaiah 1, The Kingdom of Israel was mocking God by worshiping Him while living a disobedient life. God’s response was, “I hate your worship! Clean up yourselves!” and he gave them the key to their redemption in vs. 27. “Zion will be redeemed with Justice, and her repentant ones with righteousness.” What the people lacked in societal obedience, the Lord would restore them through their obedience.

In Matthew 9, Jesus ate with the tax collectors and sinners, and the Pharisees said, “How dare you?” But Jesus said, “Go learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.'” He then goes on to work Miraculous wonders in the community by raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead. What Jesus did have was the obedience, relationship, and love of His father.

From these examples, I can see that the difference between presumption and faith is something that combines righteousness, justice, love, and obedience together:

Humble devotion to God.

Exhortation: I weep with Paul as he recounts the scriptures, “There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God.” Who has a heart after God? Who seeks Him, and Him alone? Who wishes only to know Him, yea still to be known by Him? Such a man will pursue The Lord with prayer. Such a man will refuse the bribe of the rich, such a man will despise public fame. Such a man will hate any allegiance or alliance with Evil. Such a man will often walk alone, yet not alone. Such a man will be poor in worldly esteem, but in Christ will know true contentment. God is looking for just one man who will seek Him. One man who will stay with Him. One man who will obey, who will follow, who will weep with Him, and rejoice with Him. One man who will do as he sees his father doing. One man. That’s all He needs. With such a man, the glory of God will rest in his heart, like a seed in the earth. With such a man, the power of God will work in his weakness. With such a man, the holy Spirit will smell of God on him, and he will be that aroma of life to life, and death to death.

Where is the glory? The hope of it is Christ in you.

 

Humility and Pride

I would like to introduce a way of thinking about the human composition. I understand that to discuss humanity is a grand subject unworthy of such oversimplification, but I hope you will forgive the philosophical implications of this picture. I’d like to view the soul, the heart, the mind, and the body at four levels. The deepest level is the soul and that is the essence of who we are, where the spirit lives and moves in and out. The second level up is the heart, where it is deeper than thoughts, though the thoughts can try to express it, it is the place where all stored information from the mind resides sub-consciously and cultivates emotion and mood and temper. The next level up is the mind, where thoughts are understood in a conscious sense, information is taken in and formed together into the simplest and most complex interpretations, often in an environment created by the heart, which assumes it’s stance of being at the soul and spiritual level. The Top level is the surface where the body is, where our mouths intake food and output words. Where our mouths breathe, and where our hearts pump life, and where our minds control us consciously and unconsciously to act. So there you have this pattern: four levels. Topmost is body, second is mind, third is heart, and fourth is soul.

Two other features of this pattern, I give you: The Spirit moves through all of them. The spirit moves through the body as energy to act, it moves through the mind as inspiration, it moves through the heart as emotion, it moves through the soul as the life principle that animates the whole  being. The Will is also something that moves and, if you will directs, the spirit where it decides to go. It is an elevator that reaches down to the level of the soul. It reflects the state of being just as it also reflects the state of the heart, and of the mind, and is visible in the human body.

These attributes, these building blocks can be seen as making up the human person. Now, I’m sure we can all think of other attributes that could be added to this basic 6 part composition, but I want to make a point about pride and humility.

C.S. Lewis is quoted to believe that the fundamental sin at the root of all other sins is Pride. I was in Starbucks talking with my wife and the man who was best man at my wedding, and he said, “I’ve always wanted to understand that emotion better.” “Pride? An emotion?” I said to him. I understood that pride is a matter of the heart, but it goes deeper than the heart in this word picture above us. Sometimes it’s frustrating when different cultures put the seat of the emotions at different places. In English it’s in the chest, in Hebrew it’s in your intestines, where will you put it next?

The point that my friend was bringing up, and I think it’s a valid one, is that pride is something deeper than the thought, and I agree with him. He and I are likely descended from the kings of Ireland and Scotland respectively, which doesn’t seem to matter to me all that much, since we are all descendant from the first King, Adam, but anyhow. Pride is a fundamental problem of sin. And even if you’re a King, or a knave, a prince or a pauper, a scoundrel or a scholar, you still can let pride rule your heart, because it is seated deeper than your emotions.

That’s exactly the point I want to make here. Pride is central. You can Stand haughtily like you’re high and mighty, that doesn’t make you proud. You can think grandiose thoughts of yourself that doesn’t make you proud. You can feel about yourself a sense of self-sufficiency in appreciation or deprecation of yourself, that doesn’t make you proud. All of those are symptoms of your pride. Your pride is at the level of your soul. It’s the impulse we have to crawl off the altar upon which we offer our bodies as a living sacrifice. It’s the living principle of self-serving that naturally refuses the submission of the will to God. Pride is more formidable than any other state of being except one. Pride is more sturdy than confidence, more insistent than anger, more devious than mistrust. It twists the noble sword of truth into a dagger of division. It kindles a flame on the tongue that ignites the course of our lives according to our own being, rather than based on God’s own being. The Lust of the Flesh, the Lust of the Eyes, and the Pride of Life. These three, but the deepest of these is Pride. Lust of the flesh and lust of eyes are like two greedy hands feeding this impudent self-destroyer at the core of each of our very beings.

Pride is the opposite of humility, but even if humility is not grasped at the deepest level, pride can swing humility by the tail. Humility is pride’s sack-cloth it wears whenever it feels the need of ingratiating that part of all human beings where God intended for us to reserve our devotion and fealty to Him. Pride needs only an inch, and he can live in out-right rebellion against God. All Satan, the Proud One, needs in us, is the tiniest ledge—the smallest shadow he can hide in, and he will succeed in marring the glorious image of a holy God stamped on each one of us.

As I sat there with my friend talking about how Pride can be beaten. I wrote down this phrase on my phone when I went to use the bathroom: “Perhaps the will is the only vehicle that can deliver the nuclear blow of humility to the deeply subconscious and central issue of pride.” If the Will is like the Spirit and it can be like an elevator to all four levels of a person’s being (assuming again, my word picture is a good one) Can Humility be a choice of the Will?

Well let’s think for a moment. The Will is like the steering wheel for our whole life. If we don’t have much strength of will, it simply means we do not have much grip on the steering wheel, but we each and all have one. The Will is the place of decision. The Will Moves with resolve in action, in mental affirmation, in heart solemnization and soul “becoming.” The Will can deliver true humility to that deepest level.

Now, some of you, who I’m sure have already thought this out, may say to me, “Ah ha . . . but if you by your own will choose humility at the level of your soul, aren’t you able to take pride in that?” Well, I suppose so, if that’s what you were deciding. It’s not a serpent eating it’s tale though. It’s not a never ending cycle. All the soul needs is to choose to love God. How do I know?

Because in Numbers chapter 21, the people were complaining out of pride, so God sent serpents among them. By the way, He says in Deuteronomy that this whole time He has them in the wilderness is to test what is in their hearts. Deuteronomy 8:2, says, “You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.” So what is he doing here in Numbers 21? He sends the serpents among them to test them, to humble them, to see if they had a heart to keep His commandments. And what was the test? All they had to do was look at the serpent that was lifted up. That’s all they had to do. “Look!” Look! It is perhaps the most profound and simple movement of the body, but that’s not what saves a person. It is perhaps the most passive thing a mind can do to take in the information of a snake on the pole, but that’s not what saves a person. It’s perhaps the slightest nudge inside a person’s emotions against the organ of their acceptance, but that is not what saves a person. What saves a person, is the disposition, the humility to seek to see their salvation from the same hand of the one who afflicted them for example. It is the humility to seek salvation in God, not claim it for yourself. Humility gives it’s life at every level. Pride keeps back some part of it for himself.

To write about Pride is to do it an injustice. It doesn’t deserve this much attention, but because he has already done so much damage, I don’t need to convince you that it exists. You may need some convincing that it is in you. I know I did. I have a healthy dose of the most unhealthy disease every man suffers from.

So how do we choose humility? What hope can we take that Pride is not incurable? Fear God is the beginning of wisdom. Fear God is to depart from Evil. Fear God keeps us from evil. Fear God is man’s all. Fear God is the antidote for pride. At least it abates it for a time, the way light abates a shadow. But should that flame ever flicker and die down, the shadows of pride will enshroud the soul evermore until the day when the Devil and all his works are totally and completely cast down. Fear God is the beginning.

This is an attitude of the Will, to transfer this Fear of God to all levels of our humanity. At the surface it is seen in obedience to God, and physical posture of submission before Him, and words which reverence Him. Fear God at the level of the mind is occupying every thought with him, seeking him and knowing Him. At the heart level, it is loving Him, and rejoicing in Him; thanking Him. To Fear God is for that fantastic word –which post-modern Christianity has all but retired—piety to permeate every part and parcel of us until we are no longer parts but we are one whole living in the Fear of God.

If any of you would give objection to this saying, “There is no need to fear God now that we have the Cross and Jesus Christ.” Or say, “’There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out all fear,’ doesn’t the Bible say?” Of course you are right, except that you must examine more closely the meaning of Love as it is shown in the person of Jesus Christ. The attitude toward God, the soul’s position before God, the heart’s emotion toward God, the mind’s thoughts of God, the body’s posture toward God as seen in Jesus Christ was never irreverent or flippant. This lack of reverence we have for God is the very smell of Pride in a human soul that rises before the God who smells what is in secret, and cannot stand it. If Love be without reverence, it is not love, just like if love be without truth, it is not love.

So Pride versus humility. I am convinced that the answer to beating pride at that deepest level is from the deepest part of us, we decide to humbly and totally submit and fear the Holy God who fashioned us and created us in His image to rule and bless and fill the earth.

One way to test whether we know the fear of God, is if our hearts can feel the terror dripping from these words of the author of Hebrews 10:, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” If you do not feel the dread of this truth in your heart, you do not yet fear God. The emotions are not everything. They are a good thermometer. How hot is your heart at the knowledge and obedience of God?

As Paul said to his Philipian beloved church, I iterate, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” When Adam sinned, he sinned by mouth, by mind, by heart, and by soul. And when Jesus had the opportunity, “he did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped. But he emptied himself.” This is our example for how to repent from our Pride. “And he took on the form of a servant.” The answer is to be a servant who is “obedient to the point of death even death on a cross.” This is the Salvation of the human soul, seen in Jesus’ humility and humanity, which we too are called to have the same mind. And this is how we as God’s servants, can know true humility when we smell it.

I close with this for now: pride and humility are like the odors of our soul. Pride is the smell of rotting flesh. Humility is the warmth of justice submitted to God as good. You can see the body, you can hear the mind, you can feel the heart, but you can smell the soul. And humility is the only perfume that is acceptable in God’s nostrils.