Power For Service
“Thus saith the Lord of hosts, If thou wilt walk in my way, and if thou wilt keep my charge, then thou shalt also judge my house, and shalt also keep my court; and I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by.”—Zechariah 3:7
The Revised Version of the last phrase reads thus: I will keep thee a place of access among those that stand by.”
How we need to grow in the understanding of the Word of God! The real Christian life, the Christ-like life, is that which is grasping constantly, day by day, by the aid of the Holy Spirit, the teaching of Scripture. All the qualities of Christian living—grace, humility, love, patience—are not the outcome of self-discipline, but of a life that is becoming like the Lord Jesus because it is lived in His presence. There is no substitute for that.
How quickly the months and years slip by! And as they do, I wonder if it can be said of your life and mine that there is a continuous development and growth in Christian character in such a way that other people become increasingly convinced that we have been with Jesus? We should seek that above everything else, and hungrily feed on His Word for food for our souls. For if there is not this hunger for growth in Christian living, no hunger for the Word of God, there will be no development in Christian character, and then inevitably there is decline, backsliding, and spiritual shipwreck. As believers it is either onward or backward; none of us is ever stationary in our relationship with God.
In the early part of this chapter Joshua, the priest is standing before the angel of the Lord, clothed in filthy garments, and Satan, at His right hand, is accusing him. The angel of the Lord intervenes and rebukes the adversary, and clothes Joshua in a change of raiment. What a wonderful picture of the child of God, conscious of his unfitness and unworthiness to serve the Lord Jesus, and at the same time being accused by the adversary, yet wonderfully delivered by our great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who ever liveth to make intercession for us! We are not only delivered from the accusation of the devil, but also cleansed from all defilement.
This, however, is not by any means all the truth of this portion of God’s Word. The life that is cleansed from sin and delivered from the accusation of the enemy has to be lived in a world that is opposed to all real Christian standards. If the Christian way is humility, the way of the world is pride. If the way of the Christian is love, the world’s way is jealousy. If the Christian way is self-abasement, the world’s way is self-aggrandizement. The world is quite happy to have a bit of religion, [which] adds a sort of respectable veneer over the otherwise ugly picture of life lived in this world without God. The great question is, in a world which is, and always has been, fully opposed to real Christian living and the principles of Christ-like character, how the child of God can really live, and what are his resources for living this life? What is the secret of power for His servant? He is cleansed from sin, praise the Lord! He is delivered from the accusations of the devil, Hallelujah! But how can he live that life seven days a week down here, in a world that is utterly opposed to every principle in which he believes?
The second portion of this chapter has, I believe, the clue to the answer to that question: “For the Lord of hosts says, If thou wilt walk in My ways, and if thou wilt keep My charge, then thou shalt also judge My house, and shalt also keep My courts…” Here is the offer of service to the cleansed sinner followed by a very wonderful promise: “I will give thee a place of access among those that stand by.”
A Promise That God Gives To Us
“I will give thee a place of access among those that stand by.” In other words, God’s provision for your life and mine, as we live seven days a week in an unfriendly world and in difficult circumstances, is of a free, unrestrained, unhindered approach to His very heart. The early part of this chapter pictured the accusation of the enemy against us, and the defense of the Saviour for us at the throne of God, and here God promises to His believing child a place of access among those that stand by at all times.
In Old Testament days the right of access into the presence of God, into the very holiest of all, was reserved for the high priest and then only on the day of atonement when he entered there to present an offering for his own sin and the sin of the people. But the promise here is of full free access within the veil for every redeemed man and woman. This is the promise of God to every forgiven soul, to all who are justified by Him through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. That means to say, that no matter how occupied the child of God may be with all the distractions and duties and demands of daily life, deep down his life is knit to the very life of God. His roots have struck the fountain of life and are tapping the real source of power. His is living with the Lord and in the Lord.
That is the true measure of the believer’s experience in a world that is absolutely opposed to Christian principles, and he can only grow if his roots are deeply laid in God Himself. That is the only standard by which the life of the Christian can be judged. For example, this was supremely true in the life of our wonderful Lord Jesus. It was said of Him in John 3:13, “He…came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.” He came down from heaven, but even in His coming down, in His heart and spirit He was in heaven. He was living in ordinary circumstances, yet rooted in the very heart of God.
It is tremendously important that as believers we grasp this truth in our hearts, that God’s provision for us to live in a hostile world is not a whirl of activity but a place of stillness. So often we say of another Christian, “You know, he is a wonderful Christian; he is always so busy in the Master’s work!” We are inclined to judge the quality of a man’s life by activity, but that is entirely false. God judges by his stillness, not by his activity. I do not mean laziness, of course, nor am I talking about a man just sitting back and doing nothing. But I am saying that God does not look primarily at the busyness of our Christian life, which is absolutely valueless in itself unless all our activities are springing out of the dynamic life that is rooted so deep in God that in the midst of all the pressure there is stillness.
“My Saviour, Thou has offered rest:
Oh, give it then to me;
The rest of ceasing from myself,
To find my all in Thee.”
So wrote Bishop Handley Moule, knowing that in stillness, calm and peace is depth, and the depth of our experience is governed entirely by the depth of the roots of our lives in God. He knows that if the life He has cleansed, delivered, renewed, restored and brought back to a right relationship with Himself is to be triumphant down here in this sinful world, it must drive its roots deep into the stillness of His presence.
Therefore the provision of the Lord for all our service and practical daily living is not to offer us primarily a sphere of testimony, but “access among those that stand by” at the throne. As Paul says, “We have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand” (Romans 5:2). That means I can make every desire a prayer; that I can refer all my needs, big and little, to the infinite supply of the grace of God; that I have to connect all that I do with His will and with His glory. This is God’s infinite promise.
A Privilege That We Must Accept
Would you agree with me when I say there is no greater sin than that of living below an ideal which is opened up for us in the Word of God, and which God’s promises make available? If He flings wide open the door that leads into the secret place of His presence, what could be more insulting and indicate more clearly the alienation of our hearts, the enmity of our wills, if we do not avail ourselves of the privilege? May I lovingly ask you how often you have availed yourself of the privilege of access to the heart of God this week? Is it so infrequent that in the court of heaven there must be a query concerning your submission to the King of kings? No wonder our lives are so impoverished and our service so ineffective if we seek to live the Christian life amidst a hostile world simply by engaging in a round of activity. If you take away the busy round of so-called Christian activity from some believers they just go to pieces. Place them in circumstances where they have no opportunity to serve the Lord—if they are laid aside in hospital, or if some situation comes to them and for a while they are bereft of every apparent opportunity to serve—they are down in the depths with nothing to hold on to, all because they have not known in the activity of life what it means to have a place of stillness near the heart of God. When you find believers with frayed and uncertain tempers, living in nervy and feverish haste, it speaks of a life that is being lived on the surface only.
You may be thinking that I am referring to something that is reserved for us when we get to heaven. Nothing will ever begin in heaven. There we reap what we have sown. If we have not learned the way into the presence of God, and have never taken possession of this promise and used it in this life, and entered into the presence of God by virtue of the blood, believe me, the moment of death will not be the moment that ushers us into the presence of God in glory. We don’t begin anything there. We must learn in some measure while here on Earth what it is to live with our lives rooted in the Lord Jesus. We have no right to judge the reality of another man’s testimony simply by his activity. The only true Judge judges the quality of our lives by our intimacy with Himself, for it is out of such a life of stillness, peace and depth that service and testimony become imbued with His power.
A Price That Has To Be Paid
If this is God’s promise, how can it become our treasured possession? “If thou wilt walk in my way, I will give thee a place of access.” Apparently this blessing of access into the very heart of God is dependent on obedience. Now that is exactly where we trip up time and time again because we say, “Lord, if that is the condition, I just cannot obey. It is absolutely hopeless, for I try to obey Thy word, and find myself helpless to do it. If this is the condition of the enjoyment of peace, I just give up all hope.”
It is true the blessing of stillness and quietness in the heart of God is dependent on obedience, but in Old Testament days it was demanded by law, while now it is inspired by love. In this chapter we see how, in the amazing wonder of God’s grace and in the great plan of the Gospel, He has made it possible for us to live in all the enjoyment of this privilege.
A price has to be paid for this, for God says, in effect, “I will not give access into My presence to anyone until they have learned to walk in My ways.” Absolute obedience is the condition of perpetual access to the presence of God.
I discover, however, that a price has already been paid: “I will bring forth My servant the BRANCH” (Zechariah 3:8). “For behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua (the picture of the believer);…I will engrave the graving thereof,…and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day” (v. 9). The Lord is speaking to His children whom He has clothed with a change of raiment, for whom He has answered all the accusations of the devil, and presented before the throne, yet they say, “If this is the source of power to live as a child of God in Chicago, then I am beaten, for I cannot obey!” The Lord says in reply, “You cannot, but I will bring forth My servant the Branch, and He will obey My law in your behalf.” And so the Lord Jesus came to this Earth to live His life as God would have us live ours. He laid aside His glory to become God’s servant, and He completely fulfilled God’s law, for He walked His way in absolute dependence upon the Father.
I cannot fulfill God’s law, but He is opening now this tremendous possibility that He does not expect me to do it. He has given me the law not to make me good, but to show me I am bad. He has also given me Someone called here “His servant the Branch,” Who lived His life in absolute submission for my sake. Here is the amazing grace of God that one Person of the Trinity should step out of eternity into time for our sakes, and obey God Who is Himself God! The One before Whom all the angels have worshipped eternally should humble Himself and step aside from all that glory, and for the sake of an unworthy wretch like me He should obey where once He was worshipped!
God calls Him “My servant,” but notice this, He is also a stone, an engraved stone (v. 9). The high priest of Old Testament times bore the names of the twelve tribes of Israel on his breastplate before the Lord continually. That is all the high priest was capable of doing, having the names of the people on his heart and taking them constantly into the presence of the Lord and seeking for them the mercy and patience of God.
This Stone, this Servant of Jehovah, bears the names of His people on His heart before the throne of God. He will remove their iniquity and sin in one day. Now, I am fully aware that this chapter, spoken primarily to the Jewish nation, anticipates a day when every living Jew will be converted in a day. The nation that has rebelled against God, which has in the New Testament such a wonderful future, will be restored to the land in disobedience and unbelief, but one day then will look upon Him Whom they have pierced, and in that day they will be saved. However, I am not doing injustice to the truth in applying this to my own life, for if I can get a promise out of the Book that is for me, I want it! And I take it, as I hope you do to your own heart, as my own when He says, “I will remove all their iniquity in one day.”
Here is the provision for power for daily living, because, if there is one thing that keeps a man away from the presence of God it is the knowledge that he is a sinner. It is the sense that he is sinful, and is therefore almost afraid of the place of quietness.
Ponder on the sinfulness, guilt, disobedience, rejection of the people of God as revealed in the Old Testament, and then see the promise here, “I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.” The Old Testament priest could only bear the names of the guilty people before the Lord, but His servant the Branch—Whom God has sent forth into this world, and Who has completely obeyed and fulfilled the law on our behalf—is in heaven today, and He bears our names engraved upon those nail-pierced hands, upon His brow, upon His heart.
He has done something else the Old Testament priest could never do: He has removed all our iniquity in one day! That means that the punishment of our sin has gone because of the blood He has shed. The guilt of our sin has gone, because there could be no guilt if there is no punishment. The defilement of our sin has gone, because He has completely obeyed the law. The dominion of sin is removed because He gives us access into His very presence. The obedience which He fulfilled on our behalf may, by the power of His indwelling life, become part of our character seven days a week.
What a Gospel we have to proclaim! Now we have boldness to come into the holiest of all by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, Who has torn aside the veil. “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (Hebrews 10:19–22).
“Jesus! I am resting, resting
In the joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
Of Thy loving heart.”