For different people that will mean different things. For some it will mean gong back a bit, being taken back over the road traversed in order to get back to God's starting place, to the end that they might have a greater fullness of the Lord and be released from the present limitation. That necessitates humility of spirit. It means that we shall have to let go a great deal of our assumed spiritual position; that we shall have to have our ideas about things very greatly changed. We have the generally accepted ideas, and conceptions, and definitions of spiritual things and work, the work of the Lord, ministry, and all such things, and now that system of thought and ideas is going to be ruled out, and we are going back to the beginning to discover that ministry is not the professional sort of thing that we had imagined it to be. Ministry from God's standpoint is simply the outworking of what God has been doing inwardly, the fruit of spiritual history. Our ideas have to be entirely transformed, turned upside down, and we have to come back to God's standpoint. Some of us know what all this implies. For years we had a certain idea of what ministry was, and then we had to come to the place whee we started all over again with God's idea of ministry; but it has been worth while. We regard ourselves as such fools now for having thought that what we formerly cherished was God's idea of ministry. Oh, blessed be God. He has met us at a point and caused us to traverse the past backward and come right to the beginning of ministry all over again on a different level, from a different standpoint, with a different idea. What a different ministry!
We use ministry as an illustration of what we mean in the application of this law. When we get into the hands of the Lord we recognize that He has a starting place, and He never leaves His position or His ground to come to find us where we are and to take us up for His service at that point, but we always have to come back to His starting place. It is one tremendous act, one deep act with God, one acceptance, perhaps in an agony - for it may well be we would never come to the point of acceptance save through an agony, the agony, maybe, of despair over our own spiritual lives, or despair as to our own present service, work, ministry - and we come to the place where there is an end, and where a new beginning has to be. We are confronted with the challenge as to whether we are going to let the Lord order everything according to His mind, and as we accept God's starting point in one ful-orbed acceptance, though we may have been in things for many years, all kinds of changes now begin to come about: changes of ideas, changes of conceptions, changes of mind, changes of manner, changes of activity. Things are changed, but they are changed from limitation to fullness, from earthly bondage to heavenly liberty; we have found God's starting place to heavenly fullness.
Let us remember, then, that God has a starting place. He will not leave it to come to any self-chosen point of ours, but He will require that we come to His, and that we accept by faith all that that means, and then allow Him to work the principle out and yield ourselves to it as it works out progressively.
The Divine Treasure In the Earthen Vessel
Now we are able to come to Elijah as representing God's starting point for heavenly fullness, and we will consider for a moment or two the man himself. Read through the life of Elijah again. It is one of the fullest lives, yet so far as narratives are concerned packed into the shortest compass. You are surprised, when you remember the significance of Elijah, the tremendous place that he occupies, how quickly his story is told. You are through the story in almost two verses. Yet what a life! As you read it through, one thing that should impress you is the amount there is in it that speaks of human weakness and dependence. That is rather changing the point of view, for when we think of Elijah we always think of power, of wrath, of something terrific; we almost feel that we are in the presence of an earthquake. Yet if you read the story again you will be impressed with how much there is that indicates weakness and dependence.
Take the name of this man - Elijah! It means "Jehovah my strength." That brings you at once to an utter position, Jehovah my strength! You can almost hear an echo of the words in this case of the Apostle Paul when he said: "... I live; and yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me: and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God ..." Jehovah my strength!
Then as you touch his life at different points, you see hallmarks of weakness and dependence. God with him to the brook Cherith. "Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there." What a position for a mighty man of God, a position of weakness, dependence. The very fact that God commanded ravens to feed him showed how dependent he was upon God, because ravens are not given to feeding other people, it is not their disposition; it requires some sovereign act of God to make a raven look after someone else. If there is one outstanding characteristic about a raven it is "myself first!" So the very power of God was necessary there to transcend this course of nature, and it was doubly so in that any creature should be the means of sustaining this prophet, this man of God.
Then the Lord let the brook dry up, and on its drying up He said: "Arise, get thee to Zarephath ... I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee." A widow woman! And when Elijah arrived at Zarephath what a state of things he found. The woman was on her last morsel, in a state of weakness, and her resources exhausted. What dependence upon God! What a state of weakness in himself!
Or pass on to that later point in his career, to the incident at Horeb, in which there occur the words for which we have such a liking, "... a still small voice" (the sound of gentle stillness). Elijah came to Horeb and entered into a cave. The Lord passed by, and there was a mighty earthquake, thunder and lightening, and a whirlwind, so that the very mount must have rocked and the rocks well-nigh split. There was a terrific sense of power, force, energy, and might. But God was not in the earthquake, God was not in the whirlwind. There followed a sound of gentle stillness, a still small voice, and God was in that. There was tumult in Elijah, resultant from Jezebel's threat and Elijah's fear. That tumult in Elijah seemed to be shouting for some mighty manifestation of power which should defeat Jezebel, cheat Jezebel,from her object and save the Lord's servant from her clutches. He was seeking escape from Jezebel, from her threat, and what he needed, he felt, was some mighty exercise of power to deliver him. But the Lord was not in the earthquake, the Lord was not in the whirlwind, He was in the still small voice, the sound of gentle stillness. But what came out of the sound of gentle stillness? "Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, thou shalt anoint Hazael to be king over Syria: and Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room." What was the outcome? Ahab was overthrown, and Jezebel was destroyed. All that came out of a sound of gentle stillness. The weakness of God is greater than men. Very eloquently God was saying, 'This whole thing is in My hand. Who is Jezebel? Who is Ahab? My little finger is more than their combined might! A sound of gentle stillness can produce something that will bring Ahab's career to a very speedy end and Jezebel to a very humiliating one. It is a mighty lesson. It does not require God to come in an earthquake and a whirlwind to deal with a situation like that. Elijah, what are you doing here? Have you forgotten what your name is? Have you forgotten that in your weakness I have again and again made My strength perfect? My weakness is greater than all the combined force of the enemy. Elijah's life is gathered up from the standpoint of the man himself in one great reality, namely, that it is God, NOT the man. God's weakness associated with a man is more than all the strength of men against that man.
(continued with # 4)