The Testing of the Fire (continued)
Here in chapter twelve of Luke's Gospel we have it operating in one realm. We read those those terrible words: "Think ye that I am come to give peace in the earth? I tell you, nay; but rather division." The word in the old Authorized Version is "a sword." Division! It sounds terrible, and we are on very delicate ground; we have to be very careful. But He goes on to explain what He means by division: "There shall be from henceforth five in one household divided, three against two, and two against three." And then He gives examples of division in the family. Here the fire is at work in the realm of human relationships.
Now let me say here at once, in parenthesis, and with considerable emphasis, that this has nothing to do with outward divisions within the Church, divisions among those who are in Christ. That is not what the Lord is speaking about or pointing to. He is thinking in a totally different realm, in the spiritual realm. This division takes place entirely upon a spiritual basis. The divisions as we have them in the First Letter to the Corinthians are because of other things among believers that are not spiritual, but this is a spiritual division, essentially and basically.
Perhaps the classic illustration or example of this is the one that we have in the early part of the Old Testament, in the case of the Levites. You will call to mind how, when they had reached the wilderness, Moses was called up into the Mount. He was there so long that the people came - I think deliberately placed by God - under a very severe test, as to where their hearts really were: whether they were after their own interests or after God's, their own ends or His; whether their hearts were in this matter with the Lord, or whether their hearts were set upon their own gratification and pleasure. They were put to the severe test of that probationary period of the forty days and forty nights in which Moses was in the Mount, and they broke down under the test. When Moses came down, hearing the noise in the camp, you remember what had happened - the calf and the dancing. "These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt."
Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and cried: "Who is on the Lord's side?" "Whoso is on the Lord's side, let him come unto me." 'And all the sons of Levi went over to him. And he said, Gird every man his sword upon his side, and go in and out and slay every man his brother, every man his friend.' The sword, the fiery sword, has come into the realm of human relationships. It is finding out where the heart is, testing the heart; it is discriminating between motives, "the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12); and it is putting these people in the category to which they belong. Here are the Levites, who have been put to the test and have come through triumphantly; and for evermore they stand as representing the full, pure thought of God concerning His people. The point is that this work of judgment, of the fire, of the sword, came into the realm of human relationships, to find out the motives of the heart.
You can take that into Luke twelve. That is just what it means. The divisions, even within the family, the home, the household, will be made by the Holy Spirit on this matter of the relationship of the heart. We can see, as we read the story of Israel in the wilderness, that the heart of that nation, that generation, as the Psalmist said, "was not steadfast with God" (Psalm 78:8). In their heart they lusted after Egypt - the fleshpots of Egypt. Their heart was back there, even while they were in the wilderness; and that generation never entered the Land, because its heart was not with the Lord. It is a matter of inward division, a division in the heart.
(continued with # 18)