“Instead of sifting, sorting, weeding, and thus in the process no doubt sullying further the whole pot, he ‘cast in.’ Here we have revealed to us a ‘secret’ of the principles of the workings and methods of God.”
I am indebted to two people for some things they have said to me, which has led to putting the following two thoughts together and producing this message. First, a quote from a book on Church history, which was sent to me in an email:
“The means adopted to counter these attacks and to preserve unity of doctrine affected the Church even more than the heresies themselves, for it was largely due to them that the Episcopal power and control grew up along with the clerical system which began so soon and so seriously to modify the character of the churches” (“The Pilgrim Church” by E.H.Broadbent; page 30 of current edition). (N.B. You can read a review of this book on this web site – The Pilgrim Church – book review)
Second, a spiritual lesson expounded to me by a friend from the following passage of Scripture:
“And Elisha came again to Gilgal: and there was a dearth in the land; and the sons of the prophets were sitting before him: and he said unto his servant, Set on the great pot, and seethe pottage for the sons of the prophets. And one went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild vine, and gathered thereof wild gourds his lap full, and came and shred them into the pot of pottage: for they knew them not. So they poured out for the men to eat. And it came to pass, as they were eating of the pottage, that they cried out, and said, O thou man of God, there is death in the pot. And they could not eat thereof. But he said, Then bring meal. And he cast it into the pot; and he said, Pour out for the people, that they may eat. And there was no harm in the pot.” (2Kings 4:38-41)
So how is it that these two things have become linked together for me?
1.We see man’s method of dealing with ‘unholy leaven’.
2.We see God’s method of dealing with it.
Let’s start with the first one…
1. Man’s best efforts
Among many other things the Pilgrim Church is a book that unfolds to us the ‘real’ picture of a Church that rapidly declined into apostasy and heresy before ever it left its infant stages. An immature view of this will lead us to believe that the way that these things happen is – along comes some real mean and selfish people and try their utmost to persuade, pervert and subvert the churches. No doubt there are some who have, and who do, come as ravening wolves into the midst of God’s flock. However, there are also much more subtle lines of approach on which the enemy of God’s Word attempts to come. Especially when a situation is relatively strong for God, the devil can’t be quite so brazen in His approach. So how did he manage to draw so much of what is called the Church into practises that bind and strangle the life out of a company of believers? Let’s read the quote again:
“The means adopted to counter these attacks and to preserve unity of doctrine affected the Church even more than the heresies themselves, for it was largely due to them that the Episcopal power and control grew up along with the clerical system which began so soon and so seriously to modify the character of the churches”
Men with good intentions try to come up with a solution to a problem. The reasoning goes like this: “We are suffering from such a problem at the moment here, this and that is happening, and this and that is being said by someone. We must put a stop to this before the rot sets in, how can we best counter this?” Another well meaning brother replies: “I know, if we say that this or that must be done in this manner, or if we make it a requirement that everyone must sign this declaration, this will not allow any room for this person or this situation to continue this way.” How nice! How sincere! How wise!
How wise? I’ll tell you. The devil has just succeeded in moving you off of the ground of the Word of Almighty God, onto the ground of corrupt human reasoning! How is it that a Christian can be so soon removed from trusting in the power of our omnipotent God and return once again to ‘the arm of the flesh’. “Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3)
Man’s reasoning says: “The solution to our problem is, we add another rule.” I am not suggesting for one solitary moment that we do not apply discipline in accordance with Scriptural instructions but it is not man’s job to either add, or remove, one jot or tittle from God’s word. Whenever a church finds itself under attack in any form its only recourse of action apart from employing the plainly stated actions mentioned in Scripture is to cry unto the living God. HE will deal with the heretics and the adversaries in HIS good time and in HIS good way. If it does not appear that God is speaking at all into the situation then perhaps instead of summoning a meeting in order to discuss the ‘problem’ we should rather be looking to address the ‘spiritual temperature’ of the church, and especially those in authority there. When Ananias and Sapphira agreed together to try and deceive the Lord (how foolish!) Peter and the others did not respond with a new set of rules for those wishing to donate to the Lord’s ministry. On the contrary, God took the situation in hand and they were dealt with severely by Him. The spiritual temperature was hot!
Of course, not every opposition to God’s word may be dealt with quite so severely, but where there is genuine spiritual authority in a church we can with boldness and confidence commit wrong doers and their doctrines to the Lord and HE will address them. I have not one shadow of doubt that even in the most extreme of cases it would be by far preferable to see a ‘work’ for God come to an end rather than step outside of the New Testament teachings in order to try and rectify the problem ourselves. This approach is of course anathema to many leaders whose philosophy has been: “this church/work/ministry must stay together at any cost.” Yes, and the price has been steadily paid. Compromise and coldness to the Word of God!
2. God’s supernatural method
Now we come to the second element of this article – our quotation above from 2 Kings (4:38-41). What a quaint, and perhaps strange little tale this seems to be at first reading. I am indebted to a brother whom the Lord used to quicken to me an invaluable spiritual lesson from this story.
If you or I, in our natural state (lacking wisdom from God), were called upon to deal with this situation (poison in the pot) no doubt our method would be the following: First, we would have an inquiry into who was responsible for gathering the poisonous gourds. Second, we may then want to know, who had the oversight of the pot and why did they allow the gourds to contaminate this precious meal in a time of famine. Thirdly, it would now be time to employ the most obvious method of trying to save the food. So we roll up our sleeves, plunge in our hands up to our elbows and start sifting through the pot examining all the various elements of the stew. We would make our best and most well meaning attempt to rid the pot of the poison and save the day. All in a days work for a spiritual superhero!
But… what saith the prophet of God? “But he said, Then bring meal. And he cast it into the pot;” It seems that under divine guidance Elisha had a solution to the problem, which was quite the reverse. Instead of sifting, sorting, weeding, and thus in the process no doubt sullying further the whole meal he “cast in.” Here we have revealed to us a ‘secret’ of the principles of the workings and methods of God. Yes, of course we find in Scripture that there is a time to “pluck up” and “break down” etc. As was mentioned in part 1, there are disciplines in accordance with the plainly stated principles of Scripture. But in this latter instance we see another way in which God heals, purifies and brings health to the situation. He simply says “cast in” – “meal.” The ‘meal’ is of course of the kind that was ground and made into bread. The meal is the Word of God, the Bread of life, which ministers wholeness, healing, and everlasting life. Hallelujah!
If we can fill a hungry soul with the Bread of Life then he’ll less likely feel either the need or the appetite to then imbibe anything else. This is a wonderful spiritual lesson – Christian living isn’t all about stopping this and cutting off that from people’s lives. Thou shalt not, Thou shalt not etc. No, we have something much more wonderful than that. We have been granted the Bread of Life. Eat, eat and eat again and you’ll be so filled that there simply won’t be room for the other. Eat for yourself first, and then minister it to others. How many times did Jesus tell Peter to ‘feed’ His sheep? You do not have to be a ‘specialist’ to do this. All Christians, in our measure, are ministers of the New Covenant.
Of course, this life giving, medicinal food is only profitable to the soul who loves the Lord and is able to eat it. We must ‘cast in the meal’ for the benefit of truth loving people of God. As for those who oppose sound truth, sound teaching and sound living – GOD will deal with them – provided that we just keep faithful to Him and His Word. Don’t be overly concerned about the opposers of truth. Most definitely do not try to counteract their actions and words by trying to pull up every ‘tare’, or inventing a new (however well-meaning) rule for the church. The church has ALL that it requires (in the sense of written instruction) preserved in Scripture. May God give us wisdom and maturity to know when is the time to ‘pluck up’ and ‘break down’ and when to simply ‘cast in the meal’.