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Thursday, December 11, 2014

God's Reactions to Man's Defections # 5

The New Cruse

2 Kings 2:19-22; Acts 1:2; Mark 9:50

When the above passages are read together it will be seen that they are bound by a common tie; namely, salt, and what it signifies. Throughout the Scriptures salt stands for recovery, preservation, and permanence. 

In the first passage mentioned, we have the waters of Jericho lacking in some constituent, which resulted in the miscarriage of the trees; the fruit falling before it ripened. Nothing reached its intended end; nothing fulfilled its promise. All fell short of its design. Thus the labor proved in vain, and all the toil ended in heartbreaking disappointment. There was the field, there were the trees, there was water, there were laborers, there was much energy, there were good motives. But nothing got fully and finally through; it all stopped short somewhere. There was no maturity, satisfaction, and full justification of all the expenditure and effort. Some essential property was absent, and this absence made all else futile as to the ultimate issue. How different from the "tree planted by the streams of water, that bringeth forth its fruit in its season", mentioned in Psalm 1:3!

Now, while it is the "salt" that is the vital and most important thing, it is rather of the cruse that we shall speak for a moment. Acts 2 undoubtedly brings the salt into view, but Acts 1 precedes that. Our attention is first drawn to Elisha's request for a new cruse. (In this passage, the "cruse" probably meant a small pan or dish; the word is related to the "pans" of 2 Chronicles 35:13. In other Old Testament passages, a flask is probably intended.) Why use a vessel at all? Why not take a handful? And then, why a NEW cruse? Why will not any cruse do. Well, that is just the point. For work like this a vessel must be specially prepared and set apart. What is the nature of the work to be done? What is the condition needing to be dealt with? At rock bottom it is the loss and absence of a distinctive "something." It is deficiency in respect of a certain distinctiveness. Everything is there but "that".

The modern spiritual counterpart of this is that things have degenerated into indefiniteness, vagueness, uncertainty, ambiguity, as to the real meaning, life, and purpose spiritually. The original meaning of things is no longer there. Things said and done do not mean what they did at first? Terms have come to be applied to, and be used of that which is not permissible in the realm of their original Divine employment. There is a difference of meaning, and the tragedy is that so many have gone on with the form and fail to see that the power is not there.

If we take the Book of Acts as the model, and the Epistles as revealing the truth intended by the Lord to be the abiding basis of that which sprang into being in Acts, we cannot fail to be impressed with the presence of a certain something which made everything at that time very much alive and superlative. Whether in respect of what was individual and personal, in salvation, service, and suffering, or of what was corporate, in fellowship and practice, there is only one phrase that expresses the effect of that great something: it is Resurrection Life. There is hardly a chapter in this book but - when you have read it - provokes the spontaneous ejaculation: "That is life!"

Now, without further delay, what was it that produced this atmosphere and spirit of life? What was it that made everything so wonderful to those concerned? There is only one answer. It was -

The Lord Jesus Himself

The Lord Jesus had been glorified, and the Holy Spirit had come as the Spirit of the glorified Lord to glorify Him on the earth (John 16).

Was it the matter of salvation? Well, it was not salvation as such. It was not just being saved, either from something or unto something, but it was the Saviour. The message of salvation was all focused in Who the Lord Jesus was. Look at the preaching. "They ceased not ... to preach Jesus as the Christ" (Acts 5:42). Find a discourse anywhere in the Acts which 'got through', and you will see that it is - not a treatise on Evangelical Theology - but a presentation of the glorified Lord Jesus. If it was Christ crucified, it was Christ not dead but risen and glorified. Look at the address at Pentecost (Acts 2:32-33, 36). See the words to the lame man and the subsequent address in the Temple (chapter 3). Listen to the words addresses to the Council in chapter 4. Whether it be to individuals or to companies, it is always the Lord Jesus Who is in full view.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 6)

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