Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Judgment unto Victory

“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed…” Lam. 3:22

Truth in the inward parts of the Christian is a preserving/cleansing agent that is designed to halt and retard the effects of sin while the actual substance of sin is removed by the agency of death.  The fullness of this process will occur when our earthly and perishable body is replaced with our heavenly imperishable one.  An internal cleansing that reaches out further and further in concentric circles is therefore a form of mortifying our mortal bodies and making us externally useful today.  When we mortify our own flesh by His Spirit we perform our own judgment unto victory.  When our internal mainspring is sweetened by the cross of Christ it bleeds into every internal tributary and affects all of our sentiments, thinking, and ultimately all of our actions.  Death and life begin to flow through our veins together with an assurance that life will eventually swallow up death and remove its perpetual sting.  This idea of judgment and mercy running together—commingled in one stream—may seem counterintuitive and impossible to some (like juxtaposing the concepts of judgment and mercy), however, the blower that blows is controlled by the hand that heals and both the wind and the hand originate from God.  Let us therefore dig a little deeper that we might draw the purest draughts of mercy; a too shallow a well—a too shallow a view of God’s word and revelation—will, no doubt, result in mixture of silt/flesh and water/spirit.  A murky opaque flow of understanding has the one who tries to remove the stings of rebukes and offences before their poisons are denuded, diluted, and absorbed into life; eternal life emerges from natural death.     
“Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter waters?” –James 3:11.   Earlier in the book of James, the idea that “…mercy triumphs over judgment…” is made in light of those who are to be “…judged by the law of liberty (James , part and 12, part).”  Often, just before the well is tapped and made useful for constant sweet water, the murkiest sludge is extracted; likewise, judgment is darkest right before it is itself judged and  extracted from the stream of God.  God’s mercy will prevail; our wells will be re-dug and clarified.  The judgment is a judgment on our behalf; indeed, a judgment unto victory!  “A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory (Matthew ).”
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.   For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.  He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.  For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.  But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God (John -21, NASB, emphasis mine).”

There is enough room within the Promised Land to accommodate all His people.  Your ministry, my ministry and everyone else’s are provided for.  The enmity and strife that was created while we tried to re-dig our own wells of opportunity and outflow is coming to an end; the jostling at the borders of the land and the edges of the wells are simply the byproducts of a full survey of the land and a re-grooving of the threads of our augers.  Just as David once had to learn the proper way to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, so we, His church of this hour, are being taught how to manifest His presence within our congregations without confiscating others’ inheritances or killing our brethren in the process.  Many have dug to exhaustion helping others succeed in ministry; many have tended to other people’s vineyards while neglecting their own.  “Then Isaac dug again the wells of water which had been dug in the days of his father Abraham, for the Philistines had stopped them up after the death of Abraham; and he gave them the same names which his father had given them (Genesis 26:18).”  Isaac here represents us, the church of this hour, and Abraham represents our church of yesteryear.  We can never be perfected without learning and drawing from those saints that have gone before us; they are not complete without us, but neither are we complete without them.  Judgment unto victory here is the re-digging and relearning ancient paths and ways; of our groping along and digging up everything that worked in the past.  It is a tedious task fraught with peril; we uncover past heresies and truths mixed together without immediate distinction.  Abraham our father was a master well digger that was able to divine the path to springs of fresh water.  The Philistines have since blocked these wells with all kinds of rubbish and earth; it is left to us to unstop them.  We must not be proud and think like the world does; its incessant idea of progress means nothing in the constant world of morality.  An absolute is a centered thing that means any direction taken off its center is a regression; there is no progress against an absolute thing.  There can be no improvement upon “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever (Hebrews 13:8)” and the concept of “nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9, partial);” God and His works are a constant that defies the constraints of this world.  God and His ways are never progressive towards perfection because perfection has nothing to progress towards; any movement off the center of His will is therefore simply a regression.  Though we may dig our own wells from scratch tomorrow, we are in dire need of water and cannot afford to waste any more time; to re-dig the old tried and true ones first is the wisest course of action today.   
When Isaac was commanded by God to not return to Egypt during a time of famine in the land, he settled in Gerar (an oxymoron, because Gerar means “sojourn” or “to be a stranger”).  In other words, settle while in a state of exile or pilgrimage or “Occupy till I come” –Luke , partial.  Isaac’s first attempt to obey God’s word about remaining in Gerar resulted in digging a well at Esek, which means “contention.”  Then he ups and tries again at Sitnah, which means “enmity.”  Is warring and enemies our lot?  Will we ever reach pay-dirt?  Will we ever win?  Oh, up and try just one more time!  And Isaac does; at Rehoboth, which means “plenty of room.”  Indeed, “…At last the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land (Genesis 26:22, part).”  But, even after this, he ups and removes one more time to Beersheba, which means “well of the oath.”   It is from here that God speaks to Isaac –reaffirming the words he spoke to his father Abraham; likewise, His mandate to us is really only a reaffirmation of what He spoke to our forefathers.  Before we become arrogantly creative, therefore, let us become humbly dirty; our unique ministry can only be realized within the community of the common good.  Our way and ministry will never be entirely removed from those that have gone before us and those surrounding us now.  Let us humbly accentuate the past champions of our faith, uncovering the dust of time that obscures their value today; our judgment unto victory necessitates that we remain in proportion to our time and space and also the time and space of our fathers. 
Likewise, we would do well to look back over Scriptural history and study God’s eternal design and purpose regarding us today.  David, for instance, after being anointed King of Israel, was subsequently displaced from all his past life –even the quiet and unobtrusive life he had led as a shepherd.  He became a fugitive, and lived a life of which “the world was not worthy” of; “wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground,” he, nevertheless, “gained approval through” his “faith” tried (Hebrews -39, parts). In particular to our theme here, David was once placed in circumstances wherein he was used by God to fulfill the counsel of His will concerning the Amalekites and to execute His judgment upon Saul.   Saul, in direct disobedience to God’s command to destroy all of the Amalekites is about to be destroyed by God via the hand of the Philistines, yet the mouth of an Amalekite boasted to David that it was at his hand that Saul died.  God can never be outmaneuvered though; He brilliantly orchestrates the varied hearts of many, redirects their actions to perform His own will, and executes judgment against Saul while mercifully extricating David out from under Saul’s house and reign.  He does this in a most terrifying way; He uses that seemingly harsh principle of judgment unto victory.  He uses the very remnant of sin, the left-over Amalekites, to wreak havoc upon David and his men at Ziklag.  While David is inadvertently trying to align himself with the Philistines, God is orchestrating Saul’s death via the Philistines.  The Lord graciously blocked a movement by David that would have caused him to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time –allied with the Philistines against the anointed of the Lord, Saul.  Of course, the wrong place at the wrong time might very well have been the destiny of David if His God were not the Almighty.  But while David was out of step—aligning himself with enemies in the field and being ransacked at home—God was preparing the way for David to ascend the throne in fulfillment of His promise to him.  The possibility that it would ever occur—against the backdrop of the mayhem and chaos he was currently experiencing—must have seemed ridiculous to David.  The idea that all hope can be lost, however, is manmade; mercy triumphing over judgment is the essence of judgment unto victory and is God’s ways and means to accomplish His purposes with His people.
Saul, of course, was the people’s choice for a king; David, a man after God’s own heart, was the Lord’s choice and thus represented the Lord Himself.  The Amalekites mean “a people that licks up” or “exhausts;” they represent the stubbornness and intractableness of flesh –always warring against the spirit.  This antichrist spirit is fierce and knows that its time is short.  Indeed, it is the last hurrah for such malevolence.  Implicit in these words are some parallel considerations: “ ‘He will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One…But the court will sit for judgment, and his dominion will be taken away, annihilated and destroyed forever.  Then the sovereignty, the dominion and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him.’ At this point the revelation ended (Daniel -28, parts, emphasis mine).”   Note how the court of judgment was convened immediately after the saints had been worn out and how the forces that had kept the saints worn-out was destroyed and annihilated forever.  Thus the Amalekites have no jurisdiction; Saul, flesh and man’s religiosity must be entirely cut away; God is doing this today.
Just as it took two successful well diggings before an establishment of victory, so a third day experience might twice be needed to comprehend the full council of God.  Isaac found both water and peace at Rehoboth but he heard from God at Beersheba; his natural then spiritual needs had been met.  Likewise, David had two “third day” experiences at Ziklag; one establishing his natural provision, and the other, his spiritual.  In 1 Samuel chapter 30 we read how David had arrived from a near disaster of aligning himself against God’s purposes to an actual disaster of having had everything that he and his men owned removed from their city.  This occurred on the third day, and under the third day sky they went from inconsolable grief to recovering all; likewise, Christ –and all He promised –was seemingly lost even to the breaking of the third day.  Yet, Christ “‘…LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF CAPTIVES, AND HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN…’” when He arose from the dead (Ephesians 4:8, partial) –again:  judgment unto victory. When it was all said and done, David had recovered all –both the strong and the weak were made whole again; he also gained enough to give gifts to neighboring brethren out of a surplus.  Then, after this physical/natural recovery we see David back in Ziklag. “And it happened on the third day, that behold, a man came out of the camp from Saul…” (2 Samuel 1:2, partial).  From this man David learns about what had happened to Saul.  In fact, in an ironic twist, we learn that this man is an Amalekite; though the war Israel lost was to the Philistines, it was this undestroyed Amalekite that continued to haunt Israel by boasting that he had killed Saul.  David, however, refuses to be spooked by phantoms and destroys this lying Amalekite; the fact that David did so under the pretension that this Amalekite had actually killed Saul only glorifies a God who is never fooled.  Judgment unto condemnation was the fate of all the Amalekites; Saul’s failure to execute their condemnation did not stop God from executing it.  When David executed this Amalekite on this second “third day,” David secured the kingdom; a spiritual recovery followed the natural one.  So, it is from Ziklag, which means “outflowing of a fountain” that David begins to actually reign; the well had been dug and tapped and David is now really the King.  As surely as mercy transcends judgment, the burned out confines of yesterday’s disaster has become today’s fountain; a double portion or two “third days” merge and create resurrection life which is also judgment unto victory.