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MINISTRY TO THE LORD
“Having . . . boldness to enter into the Holiest by the Blood of Jesus” (Heb. 10 v19).
“As they ministered TO THE LORD, and fasted”, is the record given of that gathering of Christians in the early Church, when “the Holy Ghost said, separate Me Barnabas and Saul for the work where unto I have called them” (Acts 13 v2). It is this waiting upon God until God speaks that we twentieth century Christians know so little about.
We know much of: Ministry to the ‘people’; Ministry to the ‘house’ (Ezek. 44 v11), but little, oh so little, of that persistent waiting before God until we forget our ‘necessary food’, until, like Moses, it can be said, “He heard the voice of One speaking unto him from off the mercy seat” (Num. 7 v89).
If the workers of to-day thus gathered together to seek the mind of the Spirit of God, how different would the work be; and how quiet and restful would preparation for any meeting be, sure of its being in God’s hands. There would be no making of programmes and plans without certainty of their being “according to the patters”. Oh that God’s people might know the ministry to the Lord that will bring the personal direction of the Holy Spirit to those who seek and wait for it. Let us turn to Ezekiel 44 for a Spirit-given picture of this ministry in the “inner court” and its conditions and results.
1. The souls who may not enter the “inner court”. Note first in verses 9-14 those who might not enter in person, although permitted to minister to “house” and “people” (v11). “Levites” (v10) separated unto the service of God, yet, strange to say, “Levites” with “idols” in heart and life. “Levites”, yet following afar off (v10). “Levites”, yet “uncircumcised in heart” (v9), not cleansed from the love and desire of sin. “Levites”, yet “uncircumcised in flesh” (v9), which spiritually means that the knife had never yet been applied to the earthly, carnal life. “Levites”, yet unable to stand alone with God when the tide of worldliness or popular opinion would bid them compromise (v10).
What a picture of many Christians to-day. “Workers though they be, they may not, cannot, “do the office of a priest” (v13) and minister unto the Lord “in the most holy place”. Busy, energetic, devoted, active in ministry to the “people” and “house”, “they shall not come near unto Me” saith the Lord.
"Workers”, with idols in their hearts. “Workers”, seeing afar off. “Workers”, under the power of besetting sin. “Workers”, in the energy of the carnal life. “Workers”, yet compromising with the world and fearing to stand alone with God.
2. The souls who may enter the “inner court”. Contrast in verse 15 the Levites who were priests. Not only set apart for service, but cleansed, clothed and anointed for ministry in the inner court. Of these anointed ones who had been faithful when Israel went astray from the Lord, God says: “They shall: Come near Me; Minister unto Me; Stand before Me; Offer unto Me” (v15).
They shall “enter into My Sanctuary . . . they shall come near to My table to minister unto Me”. And how are these cleansed, anointed ones to approach their God? Clothed (head and body) with linen garments (v17-18). “Fine linen is the righteousness of saints” (Rev. 19 v8). “My comeliness . . . upon thee” (Ezek. 16 v14). “Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 13 v14). Clothed with Christ Himself they enter in.
“No wool shall come upon them, while they minister . . . within” (v17). Wool, typifying the carnal, earthly, natural life. This must be reckoned crucified upon the Cross, that the soul may enter clothed in the divine life of the Risen Lord.
3. The outward life of those who minister “within”. The ministry to the Lord means a hidden life. “When they go forth . . . to the people, they shall put off their garments wherein they ministered” (v19). To outside people an ordinary life, in ordinary clothes, with ordinary language. No outside labelling of inside privileges! No peculiarity to call attention. Surely this at least is one thought given us in verses 19 and 20! Have we not missed God’s pattern of the hidden life, and lived far too much “to be seen of men”, oft-times calling it “testimony”? Is there not the same thought in Matt. 6 v17-18? “When thou fastest, anoint thine head that thou appear not unto men to fast”. Was not this the life of Jesus? Was there aught “peculiar” about Him but His humility, His calm, His words of grace, His life of ministry to others?
Again, in verse 21 we read, “Neither shall any priest drink wine, when they enter into the inner court”. No fleshly excitement or stimulus can be permitted there. “In the MOST HOLY place” there can be nought but the deep hush and calm of the Eternal God. The Lord Jesus moved among men with calm dignity. “Recollected in God”, the old saints would call it. Never hurried, even when the crowd would have hurried Him along. He had time always to do the “next thing” in His Father’s Will.
In order to “minister to the Lord” we see also that God demands the utmost purity in all the lawful relationships of life (v22), whilst ever and always needing the shelter of the blood sprinkled upon the mercy-seat. Cleansed, clothed, anointed, stilled, obedient. “In the day that he goeth in to the sanctuary . . . he shall offer his sin-offering, saith the Lord” (v27). “Having therefore brethren, boldness to enter into the Holiest by the blood of Jesus . . . let us draw near (Heb. 10 v19-22).
4. The results of the ministry in the “inner court”.
a) GOD IS ALL IN ALL. “I am their inheritance”. “No possession in Israel”. “I am their possession” (v28).
Nothing now but GOD. Lawful things, yes, even things given of God, “let go” for GOD Himself. Others in Israel may lawfully have these things, but those who enter “within” and minister in the inner court, find God their All in all. “No possession in Israel” (not Egypt, the world, but Israel). Others might glory in what they had from God, these glory in having all in God Himself. “I am . . . thy exceeding great reward” (Gen. 15 v1).
b) KNOWING THE MIND OF GOD. “They shall teach My people the difference between the holy and profane” (v23), the difference between what is of God and what is not. The delicate intuitive knowledge of the will of God referred to in 1 John 5 v20, descriptive of the Lord Jesus in Isaiah 11 v3. “Quick of scent in the fear of the Lord”. In the light of the Shekinah alone can many things be discerned. Things that differ in God’s sight, yet look alike outside the Most Holy Place. Surely in these last days, when Satan is transforming himself into an angel of light, we need this clear vision to discover his counterfeits and his devices.
c) POWER TO CAUSE OTHERS TO DISCERN. “They shall teach My people . . . and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean” (v23). Someone once said, ‘the Spirit in you makes Christ real to yourself, the Spirit upon you makes Him real to others”. This is just the effect of the life in the inner court. How many who know much of the Spirit labour in vain to make others ‘see what they see’. A deeper revelation of God’s purpose for His children, not only God in them, but they “hidden with Christ in God” and made real in the Holy Spirit, would enable them to “cause them to discern”.
d) THE MIND OF CHRIST MANIFESTED. “In controversy they shall stand in judgment” (v24). “Without partiality” (James 3 v17) they see from God’s standpoint; they are not influenced in dealing with difficulties by fleshly bias or fleshly prejudices. All prejudice and partiality is left outside the “inner court”. “As I hear, I judge”, said the Lord Jesus, “and My judgment is just because I seek not Mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent Me” (John 5 v30). Feeding upon the food provided by God (v29-30), beholding the glory, and being “changed . . . from glory to glory . . . by the Spirit of the Lord”, is it any wonder it is said of these, who thus “minister to the Lord” in “the most holy place”, that they “cause the blessing to rest in thine house”(v30) ?
Two Aspects of the Cross
It is because the children of God do not apprehend the two aspects of crucifixion with Christ that they fail to realise abundant life in practical experience. The objective, or the finished work of Christ in His death and resurrection is the basis of the subjective work of the Holy Spirit in us. Objectively the death of Christ was not only a propitiation for sin, but was, in the purpose of God, the death of all for whom He died. In our position before God we who are believers, are in Him, the Cleft Rock, planted into His death. The Holy One became a curse for the accursed ones, that the accursed Adam-life might be nailed to the Cross with the Substitute, the Lamb of God.
Subjectively it is the work of the Spirit of God to apply to us the power of Christ’s death and resurrection; to bring us inwardly into correspondence with our ‘position’ in Christ crucified, buried, risen and ascended in the Redeemer. The ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ aspects must both be made real to the soul by the power of the Holy Spirit, if “life out of death” is to be known in practical reality.
On our part, if we have been brought by the mercy of God to truly hate ourselves, our ‘own life’ (Luke 14 v26) as well as our sins, and to recognise that all is accursed, being heartily willing to renounce all that we ourselves have, we may turn to Calvary, and see that in Christ we are delivered, being dead to that wherein we were held (Rom. 7 v6).
In dependence upon the Divine Spirit, we may appropriate the death of Christ as our death, and count upon the immediate inflow of the life of the Risen Lord, to possess us to the fullest capacity of the earthen vessel. From this point, the faith position that we have been crucified with Christ, we may expect the Holy Spirit to bear witness, and “make to die the doings of the body” in ever-deepening power. The Eternal Spirit, charged with the work of applying to us the death, and of communicating the resurrection life of Christ, will cause us always to bear about the dying of Jesus. Thus shall be manifested in our mortal flesh the life also of Jesus, and in the power of that endless life we shall be energised to labour according to His working, working in us mightily.