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Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Path to Fullness

We have summed it all up in one word, "zeal". Elijah had been very jealous for the Lord. It can at once be seen that this same zeal is a mark of Elisha, when we look at 2 Kings 2. "And Elijah said unto Elisha, "Tarry here, I pray thee; for Jehovah hath sent me as far as Bethel." And Elisha said, "As Jehovah liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee." "So they went down to Bethel". At Bethel, Elijah said the same thing to Elisha in relation to Jericho, and Elisha's reply was as before. They went on together therefore to Jericho, and there the same thing occurred again with reference to their proceeding to Jordan.

But we have not yet noted all, as they went, Elijah said to Elisha, "Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken from thee". Elisha, as though he had already calculated and preconsidered the matter, promptly answered, " I pray thee, let a double portion of they spirit be upon me." To this request Elijah in turn replied, "Thou hast asked a hard thing; nevertheless if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee." So they went through Jordan to the other side. Elijah was then caught up by the whirlwind into heaven, and in order that Elijah should know that he was there, Elisha cried, "My Father, my father, the chariots of Israel and the horsemen thereof." I am here! I want you to know that I am here! You tried to shake me off, but I am here! You have tested me as to whether I really meant business; you have tried me, to see if I would go all the way, and I am here! Very clearly do we there see the zeal of the Lord. There is a man who really gave diligence to make his calling and election sure. There was zeal to go on to God's full thought; not merely to go so far and then to stop; not to go but a third of the way, nor two thirds of the way, but the whole way. "As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee." Those are the words of a man consumed by the zeal of the Lord.l That is a good foundation for ministry, and on that ground Elisha entered into the enlargement, the heavenly fullness.

That is where we begin. We can put it in many ways. We may speak about zeal to go on. We may speak about utterness of devotion. We may speak of meaning business with God. In whatever way we express it, the thing itself is basic to God's heavenly fullness, and it will only be such individuals and such assemblies of God's people as are after this kind that will truly represent here on the earth what Christ is in heaven.

It is not, in the first place, a case of how much we see. We may be incapable of comprehending, apprehending, or understanding all the truth that we hear, all that is brought to us in the way of teaching. If we have though it to be necessary for us to understand everything before we can come into the Lord's fullness, we have made a mistake, because, in the first instance, it is not how much we see that is basic to heavenly fullness, it is how much we mean. God knows our meaning. God knows how utter we are. God knows exactly the measure of our abandonment to go on, and He takes us up on that ground. It is not the measure of our understanding of truth but the measure of our utterness for God that gives Him the opportunity of taking us on to increasing fullness in Christ.

Let us remember that God is toward us what we are toward Him. "With the pure Thou wilt show Thyself pure; and with the perverse Thou wilt show Thyself froward" (Psalm 18:26). If we are utter toward the Lord, the Lord will be utter toward us. If we are half-hearted toward Him, we shall find that the Lord Himself will be limited to our measure. He cannot be other with us; He cannot be more for us. He cannot show more to us, or lead us into more than we are really purposing by His grace to come into.

Thus in the case of Elisha, though it is his later life that represents heavenly fullness, he came to it as being a man who had always meant business with God. Our first glimpse of Elisha, before ever he came into association with Elijah, shows him to be such a man. Elijah was passing by, and he saw Elisha the son of Shaphat ploughing with twelve yoke of oxen. Here was a man who had all his resources in the field. He had brought out into action, into operation, all that he had at his command. He was putting everything into his business. Why should the Holy Spirit record that? Surely He is not interested in merely embellishing narratives with interesting details. This man was ploughing, and he was ploughing with twelve yoke of oxen. The Holy Spirit takes account of what sort of a man he is, and of whether he means business or not. Elisha was found to be such a man, a man of purpose who put all that he had into commission. God met him, and found that to be a suitable avenue for His self-expression in that man's life spiritually in service of another kind. So we first find this man ploughing with twelve yoke of oxen, and then later in another connection refusing to be turned aside, but persisting right up to the point where he could go no further. He was a man who went as far as he possibly could.

Zeal for the Lord, devotion, is a great factor. Elisha's reality was tested. The Lord always puts our declarations to the test. He subjects them to test after test, tries us by what we say, to see if we are really in earnest. Another rebuff comes, another set back, another check, another discouragement, another experience which seems to say that the Lord does not want us. It may be a strange way of putting things, but I believe that the Lord sometimes brings us to the place where we have to take the attitude that we will not put off by Him. Perhaps you do not understand that language. I can put it in another way. We sometimes have to come to the position where we say, Well, we are going on, whatever the appearances may be; and it may even seem that the Lord is discouraging us and working against us. The enemy may interpret things in that way, and, were we to yield to things as we find them, to the circumstances, to the experiences, we should simply give up and cease to go on. At such times we have to say in cold deliberateness, without anything to encourage, without any inspiration, without anything to at all to support us, We are going on! God allows us to come to positions like that, and tests us in that way. When the Lord gets men and women who, despite every kind of discouragement, every lack of encouragement, even from the Lord Himself for the time being, say, Well, in spite of all,we are going on, He has something there that gives Him an opportunity, and such lives will come into His greater fullnesses.

We mark then these things which lead to fullness. It is most interesting to note the inner history of the spiritual life that this story reveals, and the lessons are not difficult to read. When Elisha had been subjected to testing as to his reality, as to whether he were really in earnest, and had shown himself approved, then we are able to see that these occasions of his testing themselves represent the advancing stages of fullness toward final fullness. The very places mentioned in this journey indicate heavenly fullness. 

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 1 - "The Vital Reality and Meaning of the House of God")

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