"Amenability to the Will of God" - JT, Sr.
AMENABILITY TO THE WILL OF GOD
2 KINGS2:19-22; 6:5-7; 4:38-41
It is the word “cast” in these scriptures that led me to read them, to link them together — the salt cast into the source of the waters, the stick cast into the Jordan, and the meal cast into the pot of pottage, alluding evidently to the amenability of instruments of correction and adjustment to the will of anotherto the will of God.
Whatever is “cast” is amenable to the action or will of another. The best example, perhaps, which we have of this is in Exodus 15, where Israel having crossed the sea, could not, as thirsty, drink of he waters of Marah — they were bitter, brackish waters, meaning that death is bitter. The Lord “tasted” death, He knows its bitterness, and if we are to be brought into accord with Him in our constitutional fibre there is to be the tasting of what He tasted-- he tasting of death. So it is said, “Jehovah shewed him [Moses] wood”, Exod. 15:25. Moses had to be shown it, and he cast it into the waters, alluding obviously to the amenableness of Christ to the will of Another. It is a great principle introduced by Christ, which is to pervade the people of God —that we are to be amenable to the will of another; another’s will is to be submitted to. We are not to be self-willed, for self-willed persons are useless, or worse, in the things of God. Christ was amenable to the divine will—”not my will”, He said, “but thine”, namely, the Father’s will. That is the great principle which the Lord exemplified and stressed; it has come down to us, and aside from it there is no possibility of anyone having part in the testimony of God, or in the assembly. Self-will is abominable to God; it is as iniquity and idolatry (1 Samuel 15 :23).
Israel had to learn at the very outset of entering the wilderness, that if Christ tasted death in all its bitterness, they were not to be immune; we cannot be like Him save on that line. Moses casts in the wood. The passage does not say that God had told him to do that, but he did it. The people had believed in the Lord and in His servant Moses. That is, if the principle divinely set up is to be carried down, those in the lead are to exemplify it. Moses brought out the thought of what appears to be impossible to us, that is, the tasting of death here, for in truth it is that. Death is death, but the believer’s taste is altered. The casting in of the wood conveyed something that is to be received into the soul, the principle that I am amenable to the will of another — the will of God, and it may be expressed through the brethren. If adjustment is to take place I must be amenable to the will of God, whether directly or through the saints. So that as the waters became sweet and Israel drank, there was a statute and an ordinance made for them; the principle was legalised, so that it is imperative, and no longer optional. Moses casts the wood into the waters and there is an immediate change.
I wish to carry the thought to the second book of Kings; second books always bring in subsequent truth to what has been asserted. Elijah comes into the second book; he stamps the first book from chapter 17 onwards. One principle which comes into the first book of Kings is what a man is, and it is carried into the second book. We do not know who Elijah’s father was, nor any of his relatives; we are only told that he was of the inhabitants of Gilead; that is all! It was no question of his ancestry or history or any official status, but of what the man was. He says to Ahab, “There shall not be dew nor rain these years, except by my word”. What a man is, is of great importance today. In connection withIn connection with Elijah, one man falls (2 Kings 1:2). The official man fell, the king of Israel fell through a lattice; that is the position now. Great Babylon is fallen. The spiritual understand that; God has finished with the whole public system. Then another man goes up to heaven. The days were coming when Elijah must be received up into heaven. This foreshadows the present time. “It came to pass when Jehovah would take up Elijah into the heavens by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal”, 2 Kings 2:1. As one man fell, another man is taken up by God into heaven. Christ has been taken up, we know. He has been received into heaven, received up in glory: and the time is come for the assembly to be translated too. So that it is falling on the one hand, and ascending on the other. That is the position of this book.
Elisha represents what is in this book in power, He understands he could not carry on at all without that — a double portion of the spirit of Elijah is his request; nothing less. That is what is needed, for we must have a standard that is according to God. We are not to compare ourselves with ourselves, that is deterioration, we must have the divine standard. Elisha asks for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. We are enjoined to ask. The Lord says, “How much rather shall the Father who is of heaven give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” Luke 11:13. You see the need, and the standard that God has set, and you do not want to be, at least, in principle, anything below that. The point is to get the idea of ascension — going up! The king of Israel had fallen — he had no option. Elijah said to Elisha, “If thou see me when I am taken from thee”, 2 Kings 2:10, and the word to the disciples was, “This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven”, Acts 1:11. The significance of His going up is brought down to us by the Spirit, and we are to understand it. Elisha got what he asked for, and hence the great power which marked his ministry.
My first point now is the passage in the second chapter where the ]and is described as barren (2 Kings 2:19). The situation of the city is good, but that in itself does not suffice. The land is barren, and the waters naught. It looks as if the men said, We are just resigned to these sorrowful conditions. What can the man of God do? First, they have to provide a new cruse. If there is to be anything done at all in a needy locality, the brethren there must be brought into it. Do not, therefore, settle down and fold your arms and say, This is the position, nothing can be done. Bring a new cruse and put salt therein. No old vessels, no old methods, it is the new divine way that is effective. Many brethren are using old ones, but we are in a dispensation which is characterised by things being new, it is stamped with the word new — newness of life, newness of spirit, the renewing of the mind, the new man and so on. I am not to be taken up with the things of the day (not that I ignore them), my mind is to be applied to the things of God. The principle of what is new must stamp the position; particularly the manner of serving God is to be different. Possibly the men at Jericho had never before had anything like this suggested to them. It is a new thing that is needed here, the old ways will not do at all. They were to put salt into the cruse — not salt that had “lost its savour”, but what would make others savoury. We ourselves are to be new in principle.
Elisha goes forth to the source of the waters and casts the salt in there. That is, it is the will of another — Elisha’s will, and he is representative of God. This matter must come under the power and will of the Spirit of God. It is no patent medicine, it is the source that is wrong, and it is corrected. Every one of us has to observe this principle — to deal with sin as it works at the root. It is needful to go back habitually as far as we can in our spiritual history, and see how things have been from the outset. In this way we maintain a healthy state before God; we maintain as a state the mind of the Spirit, which is life and peace. The woman in Luke 13 had been bound for eighteen years, she had ceased to be of any use in the service of God. The Lord in healing her referred to the evil from the outset. You may say your early days were much brighter, but what has happened if things are not what they used to be? Elisha settles the matter here. He says it is the source of the matter that is wrong. Thus what is new is employed, involving spiritual power, and the waters are healed. We have to get at the root of matter~ — why is there so much barrenness? The remedy is in - the recognition of the will of Another and getting at the source of things. The three passages I read furnish a thread which runs through this book, and, in fact, runs through the history of :he testimony.
The next point is in chapter 6. It is a question of service; but first, service carried on with borrowed things. The brothers that are engaged in it are sons of the prophets, very uncertain sometimes, but here they make a good suggestion, not like the others who made suggestion to Elisha that misled him (chap. 2:15-18). Here Elisha accepts what is said, “the place where we dwell before thee is too strait for us. Let us go, we pray thee, to the Jordan, and take thence every man a beam, and let us make us a place there, where we may dwell”, 2 Kings 6:2. They did not want to move without the prophet, they were making a suggestion which was commendable, and he answered, “Go”. They were not acting lawlessly. There is no thought of getting rid of the prophet, so one says, “Consent, I pray thee, to go with thy servants”. They would have him with them, and he said, “I will go”. This is a happy state of things, so far, there is no thought of self-will. It is a suggestion which arose out of the sense of limitation, and they move in the right direction, they move towards death — towards Jordan. The prophet agrees to go, it is not on his own initiative, but on theirs. Every spiritual brother, however distinguished he may be, will gladly take on a spiritual suggestion; so Elisha went with them.
When they come to the Jordan they cut down wood. If brethren are dwelling in the vicinity of Jordan and are accepting death in a general way, it is well to let them proceed, on right lines, of course. So they cut down wood, but presently the axe-head falls into the water. Now the underlying condition has been exposed. I am now speaking of what interferes with the testimony in a place, although marked generally by exercise, as we say, and energy. In this instance the Spirit of God would bring out the defect that was there, so, as a man was felling a beam, the axe-head fell into the water. The instrument was not properly put together; how could it be? It was borrowed. The suggestion is, that the worker is the handle, and the borrowed thing is the axe-head or “iron”. They do not fit, evidently the handle was too small. You are dealing with something that is greater than you are, as was said, “Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?” Job 38:2.
The axe-head was iron. It fell into the water and sank. This brought out the fact that it was borrowed; that is, such workers as these sons of the prophets represent are not in the habit of getting things from the Lord directly. The man who used the instrument evidently did not tell the prophet before that it was borrowed. The prophet did not need to borrow, he had plenty. He used the mantle of Elijah to cross the river, but he did not use it as Elijah did. It is well enough to use what you get from another, but use it as it should be used by you. Are you equal to the thing? Elisha was equal to what he used; in using Elijah’s mantle he said, “Where is Jehovah, the God of Elijah?” and divided the Jordan. Elijah had “wrapped it together” and smitten the waters, not calling on Jehovah; Elisha did not wrap it together, but smote the waters, saying, “Where is Jehovah, the God of Elijah?” Ministry is given to be used intelligently, according to our measure, as Elisha did with Elijah’s mantle. This man does not say, Where is the God of the man whose axe-head I am using, and hence the great sorrow. He says, “Alas, master, and it was borrowed!” He was using the axe-head as if it were his own, but it was not, and now he owns this. The preventive is that I am amenable to the will of another, to the will of God, that is my lesson in all this.
Elisha cut down a stick — it is a smaller thought: they were felling beams. We do not want to be too big in our minds. “Who hath despised the day of small things?” The Lord does not. He is with us as we work in a seemly way, but this brother working with borrowed tools is not to be thrown aside; God is going to make him better. The man acknowledges the fact of the borrowed tool and Elisha says, “Where fell it?” — and he showed him the place. You have to put your finger on the thing; you have not spoken of this matter, and God is bringing it to light. The iron went to the bottom. Elisha “cut down a stick, and cast it in thither; and the iron did swim. How impressive and assuring that was! This brother was felling a beam; a brother standing by might rightly say, Perhaps you were going beyond your measure. We are to work according to our measure, “as God has dealt to each a measure of faith”. Now as the result of Elisha’s service, the iron is swimming; it is superior to the current, there is a miracle, it is the power of God. It may be there is a brother in this town needing to be saved from the current of things. Many a man is superior to the religious current who is not free from the business current, and is carried along in this sense with the world. This axe-head was brought up from the depths of Jordan by the power of God; typically it is life from among the dead. We see here that God comes in when everything seems lost. Now we are going to get service on the principle of life, and not on borrowed principles.
In chapter 4 we have the sons of the prophets, but there is a dearth in the land. Elisha goes to Gilgal, which is more than Jordan, Gilgal is where Jordan is understood. It is not simply that we talk of the abolition of death, but it is understood. Elisha had been there before in the company of Elijah. It is in the company of Christ that we truly learn what a thing is. Now there is dearth, and he is concerned about food — food for the sons of the prophets. Food for the brethren must be provided. The Lord says, “Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?” Luke 12 :42. How much the Lord thinks of a person who feeds His people! Elisha says, “Set on the great pot, and seethe pottage for the sons of the prophets”, 2 Kings 4:38. He is concerned about that. The sons of the prophets point to a generation that has come down from spiritual men. They may be spiritual or they may not be, they have to be watched. Elisha was concerned that they should be fed, so he directs his servant to “set on the great pot”, and one went into the field to gather herbs, we are told, and he gathered wild gourds. If we are to have pure, wholesome food we must not be speculative in our ministry; and, as hearing, we must prove all things and hold fast what is good. Here they did not know what the things gathered and put into the pot were; but they were “wild colocynths”. Many such things are current, things given out which have not been tested by the Scriptures. You may say, That is nice, I have never heard it before, but it may not be right, it has not been tested out. We are to be marked by love of the truth. This man “found a wild vine, and gathered from it his lap full of wild colocynths, and came and shred them into the pot of pottage”. That is not what is marked by intelligence and love of the truth. What was furnished was “wild”. It was poisonous and no one knew, so the error was very serious, but fortunately someone cried out that there was “death in the pot”.
They cried, “Man of God, there is death in the pot”. They had recourse to the right man. Elisha represents the Spirit of Christ in these matters. It was he who suggested that the food should be there, but someone went out into the field and gathered a lapful of something poisonous which he shred into the pot. You can see that it was an error, but he was not under control. However, in the presence of the danger they knew where to turn. This is most important. They address Elisha as “Man of God”. How great the advantage in such circumstances if there is one! Nothing is said to the offender, but to Elisha, the right man, as I said, the man who knew what to do. The poison is there, and the poison must be dealt with. It is more difficult to deal with the poison than with the man who introduces it; it is easier to deal with a teacher than with his false teaching — the teaching soon spreads. Elisha met the evil here by meal. It was brought. In such cases the brethren are brought into the thing. In chapter 2, as we have seen, the people supplied the salt. Those responsible are to have something in such difficulties. Here Elisha says “Bring meal” — setting forth the Lord Jesus in His perfect humanity. How subject He was! Indeed we may see that the Lord had recourse to the Scriptures, and in infinite accuracy, bases what He was saying at times on the Scriptures, although He was the Author of them. He wrote them by the Spirit, He would lead the way for us, and show how the Scriptures are to govern all that is presented as food or instruction. “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them”, Isa. 8:20. So that the meal would be the Lord Himself, what He is in character as Man. Christ must be introduced according to what He is personally and characteristically —so that the saints should have wholesome food. The meal cast into the pot brings in the thought of being amenable to the will ‘of another; it is a type of Christ. When the meal was introduced, they poured out and “there was no harm in the pot”.
I have ventured to bring these three points before you, as applying to local positions, and there is hardly a locality that they do not refer to. Generally speaking, the soil is extremely hard everywhere and becoming harder. The way consequent difficulties are to be met is by submission, the principle of yielding to the will of another — and we shall see results. The hardness of the soil will give way; the ministers and the ministry will grow better, and the food will be produced which will build up our constitutions for those exigencies with which we have to contend.
From JT, Sr. New Series volume 45 – an Address given in Sligo, April 27, 1938