April 24, 2015
When we paused in this discussion last week, we were talking about the presence of the Lord as it manifested in the cloud. This is a discussion that could take us way off track if we followed the rabbit trail, but I'm really just wanting to draw some illustrations for you to help in understanding what Jesus means when He speaks of "the pure in heart."
Picking up from last week, the cloud was darkness to the Egyptians, but it was light to the camp of Israel. Consider the cloud in the way that it rested in the temple on the day that Solomon dedicated it to the Lord.
I Kings 8:10-13: And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the LORD, So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of the LORD.
Then spake Solomon, The LORD said that he would dwell in the thick darkness. I have surely built thee an house to dwell in, a settled place for thee to abide in forever.
Drawing from the illustrations and the pictures drawn in these particular passages (and there are many others we could add), this thick, dark cloud appears that way to those people who do NOT dwell in His presence. He obscures, He hides Himself from the world at large — a world steeped in sin and rebellion against Him.
By the same token, to those who — as Paul described David — are in pursuit of His presence, those who have allowed their hearts to be purified by fire, who do not suffer from guilt and condemnation, dwell in light. When Moses and the Elders ate and drank with the Lord, they didn’t eat and drink in pitch blackness; they enjoyed the presence of the Lord in absolute light. Remember when Moses came down out of the mount with the Ten Commandments? His face shone with such a brightness that they had to cover him with a veil.
Let me pause in this discussion for a minute to share with you a personal experience.
Many years ago, when I had my first experience of going to Heaven, those of you who remember my sharing will recall that the first part of my first experience — after being lifted out of the bed through the ceiling and traveling above the earth — was to travel through our Solar system and out into the Universe.
Obviously it was breathtaking and my attention was at first focused on the sights of our Solar system, seeing the planets, the moons, the stars, etc., and then through the Universe, seeing the galaxies, and all the various phenomenal formations which came as a result of the Word, “Light Be!” that came forth from the Lord.
Here’s where things became relevant to what we’re discussing today. Traveling through the Universe at ever-increasing acceleration was not unlike what we see in Star Trek or Star Wars, going through hyperspace. Everything began to blur as streaks of light.
Suddenly the streaks of light were gone. There were no more stars, no more galaxies, no more formations. We were plunged into a total, thick darkness. No matter which way my eyes turned, it was a darkness that was totally impenetrable.
Let me give you an example.
Close your eyes. What do you see? It’s dark — even black — but there is still a sense of light. Even if you walk into a closet and shut the door, once your eyes adjust to the darkness, you can still see things. That kind of darkness can be penetrated. It isn’t so thick you can slice it with a knife.
Getting back to my experience in the midst of that darkness, that wasn’t the end of it!
This is a strange way to describe the darkness, but there was light, and plenty of it! The light was in Jesus, Himself! All I could see in that place of pitch darkness was the Lord Jesus Christ, and in Him was all the light.
John put it this way as he opened up his gospel:
John 1:4-5: In Him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
Let’s amplify this so you get a better sense of what John sees and writes.
In Him was God’s [kind of] life, and that life was the same fire and luminous brightness manifesting in men (and women) [— those men and women whose lives are purified by Him].
And that fiery light manifested in the midst of men (and women) whose lives were filled with the obscure darkness which comes of the ignorance of divine things with its associated wickedness, and that spiritual darkness was incapable of apprehending, perceiving and possessing. (John 1:4-5, RAC Translation and Amplification)
Now do you see (pun intended) what I’m talking about? The light that radiated from Jesus as I stood next to Him and held His hand was literally the light of His presence — His Glory! It’s the same light that made it possible for Moses and the 70 Elders to eat and drink in that thick cloud with the Lord, and be totally cut off from Israel’s sight.
Getting back to my own experience, after some indistinguishable period of time, we were suddenly standing at the gates of Heaven. Again, Heaven appeared to me as total light. I could look behind me or from side to side, and Heaven was the only place of light in the midst of this thick darkness.
I know that we have really taken this discussion down a long rabbit trail, but we really are still talking about “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
When we begin to realize that the very first of the Seven Spirits of God is the Spirit of Judgment and Burning, applying the concept of the heart — the thoughts, purposes, motives and intents — being purified by fire really begins to become clear.
Once we take a look at the way Isaiah puts this in context, a whole lot of what we’ve been discussing falls into place.
Isaiah 4:4-6, NASB: When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and purged the bloodshed of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and the spirit of burning,
Then the LORD will create over the whole area of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, even smoke, and the brightness of a flaming fire by night; for over all, the glory will be a canopy.
There will be a shelter (Hebrew: sukkah: dwelling place) to give shade from the heat by day, and refuge and protection from the storm and the rain.
Once again, “Blessed and highly favored by the King [of Kings] are those whose thoughts, motives, purposes and intents have been purified by fire, who are unstained with any guilt, for God will allow and permit them to see Him — and more than that, to see into and know His heart [His heart’s desires and purposes].”
This is really where we are headed as a people. The title of this series is, SUPERNATURAL MATURITY. In truth, it is being like Jesus. Jesus KNEW the heart of Father! He KNEW with the very breath of His existence exactly what Father desired. He KNEW the plans and purposes for a divine family — a family who would truly be like Him, function with His DNA at the core of their very existence, and represent who and all that He is! So, what does Isaiah say?
FIRST of all he says that the filth has to be washed away (strange term, “washed away”, isn’t it?) by the Spirit of Judgment and Burning. That’s the purification of our beings, the purifying of our thoughts, our motives, even our thinking processes and modes of operation.
THEN, he says that God will create over us (Isaiah uses the term, “Mount Zion” to describe a holy people. He also uses it to distinguish between the Bride and believers in general.) that dark cloud of His presence as a means of distinguishing His people from the rest of the world.
But he doesn’t leave it there. He draws upon the illustration of the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night that moved with Israel throughout their 40 years in the wilderness, to contrast God’s defense of us as His people.
NEXT, Isaiah says that the Glory of the Lord will be like a canopy — an invisible force shield — to protect against all the forces of the Enemy.
Remember where all of this started? The purification of our hearts, our thoughts, our minds, our agenda!
NOW, he says that the Lord will sukkah — tabernacle — with us. He will be a covering and provision for us in the midst of waste and desolation. [The Hebrew word, choreb, is the word otherwise translated “heat,” and otherwise describes drought or utter dryness.]
If the Lord is “tabernacling” with us, then we can have absolute confidence, hope and trust. That’s the Hebrew word, machseh, translated “shelter” or “refuge.”
Lastly, the presence of the Lord dwelling with us (and IN us) gives us protection (covert, KJV) — and a hiding place where we are sheltered in the midst of every storm, every troubling event, every disaster, every breakdown, every unexpected time of need.
At age six, our family decided to go camping and berry-picking on Anvil Mountain, which is just a few miles out of Nome, Alaska. Dad pitched an old, army-style tent for our camping and created a bonfire perhaps ten feet in front of the tent where Mom could make coffee and fix our meals.
After a day of camping and berry-picking, Mom had just finished cleaning up the pots and pans used for making our supper. It was late summer and starting to get dark outside so we set up a makeshift table between our sleeping cots to play a few games of Checkers before going to sleep. In the midst of one of our games, Dad looked outside and stiffened up suddenly.
He told us to be quiet and reached for his Remington 30-06 rifle. Loading a few shells into it, he stood it up next to the tent flap and pointed out of the tent to a pair of wolves standing roughly a hundred feet away. We prayed and asked for the angel of the Lord to stand guard and went to sleep. In the morning, there was a set of tracks in a circle about fifty feet out from the tent. The wolves never approached.
Some of you have heard me share an event that took place in Barrow, Alaska in 1980 when I was standing in a construction shack with one of the elders in our fellowship. We had been reviewing some blueprints for the construction of a new worship center. No electricity had been run yet to the construction site, so we were taking advantage of a good-sized window by the drafting table.
Without any warning, Holy Spirit suddenly picked both of us up physically and spread us apart by perhaps 12 inches; and at that moment the window exploded as a bullet passed between us. A sniper standing on the roadway perhaps 300 feet away had tried to take me out. The Lord didn’t allow it, and when I opened the door and hollered at the guy with the rifle, he turned and ran. In each of these instances, the Lord was “a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all, the glory was a defence.”
These illustrations may seem a bit disconnected from our original theme of "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God," but when you realize that God's initial purpose in this is for us to not simply see His form and shape but to KNOW His heart and His heart's desire, things begin to fall into place.
Let me wrap up today with an amplified translation of something that Paul wrote to the Philippian Ekklesia.
The KJV reads like this:
Philippians 3:10-14: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
I won't try to amplify this whole passage here because it would take up more space than I want to in this Coffee Break, but let me just deal with the last part of it.
My brothers and sisters, in taking inventory of myself and where I have come to in my growth and relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, I do not consider that I have yet possessed that place where I am yet completed and finished, but this one sole consideration grips my thoughts and objective: I purpose to forget the past, I purpose to lay aside my failures (as well as the mental reasonings and prior experiences) and stretch forth with my whole being to that goal which lies before me; I eagerly pursue [without mental reservation] with my entire being that goal where the high prize above all prizes and rewards awaits: being so ONE with Jesus Christ that His nature is my nature, His thoughts are my thoughts, His purposes are my purposes, and I am a part of His bridal company -- His Counterpart and Other Self! (Philippians 3:13-14, RAC Translation and Amplification)
There is so much is what Paul is saying here that it is almost difficult to properly express it, but if there ever was a picture of being "pure in heart," he has articulated it!
More next week.
I remind those of you in need of ministry that our Healing Prayer Call takes place on Mondays at 7:00 PM Eastern (4:00 PM Pacific). Once again, the number to call for healing is (805) 399-1000. Then enter the access code: 124763#.
Also want to let you know that our Sunday worship gatherings are available by conference call – usually at about 10:45AM Pacific. That conference number is (559) 726-1300, and the access code is 308640#.
Blessings on you!
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