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‘SONS OF THE CROSS’
By Mrs Jessie Penn-Lewis
“For the chief musician; set to the Gittith. A Psalm of the sons of Korah.”
In a sermon the Rev. C. H. Pridgeon, of Pittsburg, U.S.A., gives some most helpful renderings of these words in the title of Psalm 84. Speaking on the sixth verse of the Psalm, “Who passing through the Valley of Baca make it a well,” the preacher pointed out the suggestiveness of the title, “Upon Gittith,” in its meaning of ‘concerning the wine-presses’, this signifying that the psalm was probably sung at the time the wine was being pressed out of the grapes. The words, too, “A psalm for the sons of Korak,” are equally instructive, for “the word Korah is about equivalent to our word Calvary, the place of a skull. Spiritually, therefore, these ‘sons of Korah’ may be termed the ‘sons of the Cross’. Some of the ancients so read these words. . . .” Summarizing these points the psalm may, therefore, be said to be a psalm written for the use of the ‘sons of the Cross’, who are passing through the winepress in the Valley of Baca.
A psalm for the Valley of Baca! A psalm to sing in the wine-press! Only ‘sons of the Cross’ can sing in the winepress, for they know the secret of the ways of God, that out of death comes life; out of suffering, heavenly joy; out of nothingness, the very fulness of God. Therefore, they see not the winepress, and the cross, in their outward pain and loss, as men see them, but from the viewpoint of the “tabernacles of the Lord of Hosts”, from the sanctuary of the heart of God, and they can sing in the winepress when they see the wine of the life of heaven pressed out of them in life-blessing to the souls of men, and know that He Who trod the winepress alone for their sakes is satisfied.
A psalm to sing in the winepress! And what do they sing? “How lovely are Thy tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts”, “My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth, for the courts of the Lord.” When earth is darkest in the winepress, then heaven is opened, and God becomes all in all. And they sing, these sons of the Cross, of the blessedness of the one whose strength is in God, and not in circumstances, or earth-born helps and props. The Hebrew word means ‘might or endurance’. “Blessed is the man whose ‘might or power of endurance’ is in Thee!” “Behold, we count them happy which endure,” writes the apostle. “You have heard of the endurance of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord” (James 5 v11). Yes, happy Job, that he had strength to endure until the hour came when his captivity was turned, and he received of the Lord “twice as much as he had before”. For the “end of the Lord” is double for all the pain of the winepress, and the length of the time in the winepress valley is the measure of (1) the power of endurance which the soul has in God, and (2) the foreshadowing of the “double” which will come forth in winepress blessing to others.
And they sing; yes, they sing, these sons of the Cross, when they find that in the winepress their hearts have been “melted like wax in the midst” of them (Psalm 22 v14), like their Lord upon His Cross, and how in the melting the old limitations have passed away, and their once closed hearts have become “highways to Zion” for others seeking after God; no longer closed to the sorrows of others, shut up in narrow bounds of sympathy and love, but hearts enlarged and open to the needs of a dying world, for “whoso seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his heart of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” (1 John 3 v17).
Oh, the closed hearts among the people of̓ God! Oh, the high walls over which none can leap, surrounding their sympathy and love! It is worth the winepress to have the exterior of the “grape” bruised and broken, if thereby the “wine” of the love of God can be freed to pass out to a world needing more sympathy than preaching, more love than law. Blessed is he “in whose heart are the highways to Zion” for a needy world, a heart open for all in need of God, to enter, and march through it to Zion, even unto God.
But more than all, the “sons of the Cross” can sing in the winepress valley because there they find that they themselves have become a “place of springs” for the water of life to others. They have sought with earnest longings to be channels for “rivers of living water” to flow out to others, and they have “believed”, and “believed” according to the letter of the word (John 7 v38), but still these “rivers” did not flow. But at last the secret was revealed by the Providence of God. They found themselves one day in the winepress valley, and then the rivers flowed! It was an hour when all men seemed to trample with their feet these grapes in the winepress of God, when lo, a spring of divine love, pure as crystal and sweet with the sweetness of heaven, opened in their hearts to the trampling souls, and they knew that they were in the “place of springs”, the heart of God, the heart of God revealed in the heart of Christ upon the Cross of Calvary.
“If Thou art the Son of God, come down from the Cross,” they cried, “come down from the Cross.” Come out of the winepress! But, how then shall others be saved? How then shall the life of God be given to the souls of men? And even thus must the “sons of the Cross” follow the Lamb into the winepress of Calvary, if through them shall be given the “wine” of the life of Christ to a dying world.
The Psalmist speaks of only a “passing through” the winepress valley; and truth to tell it can be only a “passing through” from time to time, as the “sons of the Cross” press on in following the Lamb, but as the divine life is increasingly imparted, and divine strength is given, those who knowing the “place of springs” rejoice each time they are counted worthy to be given winepress joy, yes, the joy of the Lamb, Who on nearing His Cross could say to His little company of sorrowing friends, “My joy I give unto you”. The joy which was set before Him for which He could endure the Cross and despise the shame. The joy which can only be known in seeing Calvary from the heart of God; from the viewpoint of heaven.
These souls who thus know the winepress valley as a place of springs, go from “strength to strength” or (Hebrew) “force to force”, and “every one of them appeareth before God in Zion”. Yes, in New Testament language, every one of them emerge into that hidden life with Christ in God, for these are the “overcomers” who are “lifted above all” by the loss of all! From “force to force” they go, through the winepress valleys; more and more losing the earth-life as they are driven on out of extremity into resources which are to be found alone in God, more and more detached from all that earth holds dear to dwell in the heavens with the reigning Lord.
This conformity to the Son of God in His path of the Lamb is the purpose of the Pentecostal fulness of the Spirit rather than the “signs and wonders” which dazzle the eye of men. “Ye shall receive power to be martyrs”, was the promise of the Risen Lord to His disciples, and this surely means in one aspect that just as “through the Eternal Spirit” He offered Himself to God, so all His followers would need the power of the Holy Spirit to follow Him and be conformed to His image, the image of a Lamb.
There are two spheres of service which follow the knowledge of the fulness of the Holy Spirit, the one of mighty “works”, and the other of being a life-channel for the life of God to quicken other souls. The one is the result of “doing”, and the other of suffering. The one stage may be likened in the life of Christ to His mighty works after the baptism in Jordan, and the other as the result of His poured-out life at Calvary. The Cross may be the terminus in the experience of the believer, in the sense of death with Christ to sin and the world; but as that terminus attitude of death with Christ is maintained by faith and obedience, the believer is then led on by the Spirit into a fellowship with Christ’s death for life to others; and these are the “Sons of the Cross” who joyfully consent to enter into fellowship with their Lord, that His life in them may be poured forth in springs of life to needy souls.
It is of the deepest importance that we co-operate with the Spirit of God in the stage of the divine life which He has brought us into. It is possible to be turned back in our spiritual progress by seeking an experience which may look more advanced than the path indicated by the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 4 v10-12. The highest purpose of God in the believer is not to make him so much a powerfully used instrument, as to bring forth in him the fullest manifestation of Christ in every aspect of His character, and this can only be done in the winepress valley of fellowship with His sufferings. He was “crucified through weakness”, and there were no mighty signs and wonders wrought by Him to thrill the multitude at Calvary; but in His weakness and Lamb-silence in suffering and His poured-out life He did more for the world than when He healed the sick and cast out demons in Galilee. Oh that this pure and lovely pattern may be unveiled to the eager children of God at this time who are seeking intensely what they term God’s best, the pattern of the Christ in His Lamb-likeness conquering the hosts of darkness, not by fighting but by death. And this beautiful Lamb-likeness of the Lord Christ will not be wrought in us by “visions” of Calvary, nor by sudden and mystical experiences of entering into the sufferings of His Cross, but by the daily and hourly choosing of the will of God in the discipline of life. The “answering not again” when accused of many things; the hidden and silent path of sacrifice unknown to men; the doing good and suffering for it as evil-doers worthy of death.