Joshua was called as a young man to face very great responsibilities and undertakings, in the ridding and clearing of that country of those ten kingdoms, getting that people in - such a people - he knew them! - to possess the land, and all that was bound up with it. And no wonder the Lord had to repeat one word to Joshua continually, to get him on the move. "Be of good courage"; be strong and of good courage"; "only be of good courage ... only be strong" (Joshua 1:6, 7, 9). How did the Lord give to Joshua the basis? He 'lifted up his eyes' and saw the 'Captain of the host of the Lord' (Joshua 5:13-14). From that time it was all right; he could go on and go through.
Isaiah was a young man in a very, very difficult day, one of those very cloudy days in Israel's history. He was taking up his great prophetic ministry in the face of great difficulties and threatening problems. How did he get through? "I saw the Lord, high and lifted up," he said (Isaiah 6:1). That is the answer.
Think of Paul - did ever a man have to face greater difficulties, oppositions and antagonisms and sufferings and perils, more than that man? How did he get through? He saw the Lord, or the Lord appeared to him. He saw the greatness of Jesus Christ.
Stephen triumphed as he saw "the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God" (Acts 7:56). So we could go on.
Some thirty years later, the Lord's people had come to a point where there was going to be a devastating blow struck at their corporate life. It was just on the point of that final siege of Jerusalem, when everything was going to be shattered and scattered; a great earth-shaking was about to take place; all that the Lord Jesus Himself had foreshadowed, "...not one stone left upon another ...," and all those other terrible things, were all about to take place within a very little time. How were the believers going to get through?
The Lord took up a man - we do not know now exactly who it was; some say one and some say another - but He took up a man to write what we call "The Letter to the Hebrews," and he begins with an almost matchless unveiling of the greatness of Jesus Christ! The Lord was saying through that letter: If only you can get that as your foundation, you will go through it all. You will not go back as you are being tempted to do, as perhaps you are contemplating doing. If only you see how great your Lord is, you will go on. So He laid the foundation for survival of faith - for that is the issue; you know how it all comes up in the eleventh chapter - the survival of faith, on the ground of an apprehension of the greatness of Christ.
And then we come to this book of the Revelation, and again we are in the presence of these things: on the one side, spiritual declension, failure, breakdown, loss; on the other side, suffering, growing suffering, terrible afflictions for the Church. How will the one be remedied and recovery take place? What is the key to a renewing of spiritual life when it has reached a low ebb? How shall they go on through the tribulation and the tribulations, and come out in victory in the City of God? The Lord's only answer, His one answer, which has always been successful, and is the only one which will be successful in any situation of need, is a new unveiling of the greatness of the Lord Jesus.
But oh, these are but words! When we have said these things - and we would all agree that they are true - we are still so helpless, because it is the thing that matters - not talking about it! If only, by the Holy Spirit - and there is no other way, no other means - we could catch a new glimpse of His greatness, how many problems that would solve, questions that would answer, needs that would meet! How overwhelming it would be! - and when I say "overwhelming" I mean, how much would be overwhelmed! A mighty tidal wave, making these rocks, upon which we threaten to founder, as nothing; they are sunk beneath it, disappear from view.
Now this is not just language. Look - who is writing this? It is the Apostle John. The Apostle John? Yes, that man who walked with Jesus of Nazareth, listened to Him, watched Him at work, and, at supper, and at other times, sat next to Him, and put his head upon His shoulder - the most familiar picture of a man alongside of a Man, in close, devoted, affectionate association. John always called himself "the disciple whom Jesus loved": it showed that there was a sacred, holy familiarity between John and Jesus, marked by very human terms and language.
(continued with # 3)