Eli.One of the most saddening pictures which tends to captivate our attention is found in 1 Samuel, where we find the priestly leader of God’s people, Eli, almost without vision. Doubtlessly he represented a nation that had long since lost its sense of discernment, together with its spiritual aptitude to distinguish God’s overwhelming desire to receive the unadulterated worship of a separated people. In his position, Eli should, without question, have had a sensitivity to the real spiritual needs of the people, but he allowed himself to get into a position of divine rejection. It seems as if his own family had by their attitude confiscated all his moral strength, resulting in the judicial removal of the man with the highest honour in the nation, 1 Sam. 2. 12-17, 29.
Israel’s condition, both morally and spiritually reflected in Eli’s personality, had suffered a definite decline and decadence; in the words of Scripture, “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes”, Jud. 21. 25. The result was that anarchy and immorality had penetrated into the life of the nation which was intended to be sanctified amongst the nations.
In our present environment detailed in 2 Timothy 3. 1-5, it goes without saying that the Lord would certainly desire that the saints should have a crystal-clear view of their mission in the world. On one occasion, the Lord invited His disciples to “Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest”, John 4. 35. At the time the disciples were a little preoccupied with the material things of life, and yet they were confronted with the challenge to pay less attention to the mundane things and to concentrate more upon the increasing needs of a lost humanity fast hurrying on its way to an eternal hell. The question which emanates from the text to our hearts is, Do we really care? Or do we have an armchair philosophy which has been carefully and subtly prepared to exempt us from being actively involved, with materialism having a dulling effect upon the spiritual conscience? Very soon we would find that lethargy and indolence are the fruits that are produced.
If this is the case, we need, as in 1 Samuel, divine intervention. We should be careful to make this a top priority in our prayers, that the Lord of the harvest will open our eyes to the real need of the nations, and to give us spiritual strength to find the centre of His will for our own lives.
To look at this question from another perspective, there is a constant spiritual battle being fought in the heavenlies, Eph. 6. 12, and it is the design and most surely the desire of the devil that we should be more concerned with our own material well-being and worldly advancement, without any extra effort on our part to extend the kingdom of God’s dear Son.
Elisha.It is interesting to note that in Elisha’s prayer, 2 Kings 6. 17, we are confronted with a vision of the powerful potentialities that are at the disposal of all the servants of God. Elisha’s servant saw in an instant of time the hosts of the Lord; what a divine defence! The voice of the man of God echoes across the centuries, “Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see”. Elder brethren in assemblies should ensure that this is really their prayer for the young men of today, that the celestial Surgeon should operate on the eyes of those who have no vision. The wise man said, “Where there is no vision, the people perish”, Prov. 29. 18. Too often we forget the magnitude and the might of God’s militia, Heb. 1. 14; may we grasp Paul’s words to a suffering Roman assembly, “If God be for us, who can be against us?”, Rom. 8. 31
Two on the Emmaus Road.What brought untold mental suffering to the two men of the road to Emmaus was the fact that their hopes were pinned upon a temporal material kingdom, resulting, in due course, from the liberation of the Jews from the Roman yoke. In Luke 24. 13-21 we find them, disappointed, dejected and totally disanimated. To make matters worse, they were on a downward road, leaving the field of battle, Jerusalem, and the rejected company. Under these conditions, the great Sympathiser joined in their conversation and went with them, but “their eyes were holden that they should not know him’, v. 16. They were in evident need of a clear and concise exposition of the Scriptures. It should never cease to amaze us that the presence of the patient, listening Christ is always available; He demonstrates His omnipresence by accompanying the downcast-especially those that have the inclination to depart from the assembled company amongst whom they were once so active and happy.
It seems evident that the lack of vision of these two men was inseparably linked to their condition of heart, which needed the reviving and heart-warming word of truth. How often in conferences and meetings the scourge is used to try to drive the sheep back into the fold, in place of the shepherd’s rod and staff. Of necessity we must be impressed by the manner in which the Lord treated this problem of weakness and departure. He did not cut them off, leaving them in isolation. Rather, He gave them a heart-warming revelation of the truths of Scripture, showing them the divine mission committed to His own blessed Person. Should it not have a warming effect on our own hearts as well? What a change as He broke the bread, “And their eyes were opened, and they knew him’, Luke 24. 31.
What a wonderful change in their lives had been wrought! At that advanced hour, the uphill road back to Jerusalem, with perhaps thieves and dangers on every hand, was no obstacle, as long as they could get back to the fellowship. Imagine the excitement as they opened the disciples’ door, and as they related their heart-warming and eye-opening experience. If we were really honest before the Lord, we would recognize that we lack this enthusiasm and disposition, which once characterized the local assemblies.
Laodicea.Sometimes, the material blessings from the Lord to His people have taken His place in many lives, and have robbed the Lord of the harvest of valuable labourers, as well as innumerable hours of service. It seems that the church in Laodicea falls into this category and perhaps catastrophe, as they let their possessions and riches dissolve the value and discernment of spiritual things.
The attitude of life and of the Laodiceans’ laxity was most evident in their declaration that the assembly was “rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing”, Rev. 3. 17. May the Lord save us from such nauseating statements, for we will never cease to be a needy people, dependent upon the Risen Lord for guidance, strength and divine direction as we cross this wilderness waste. This Luke warmness, alas, is also associated with the lack of vision, a blindness that the Lord has utterly rejected. Hence the Lord’s counsel: “anoint thine eyes with eye salve, that thou mayest see”, v. 18. The eye salve of God’s Word is the only way in which we can recover our perspective of the great need that surrounds us, a perspective that would eventually give us more of an aptitude for His service.
By the Sea of Tiberias.When the Lord gave His post-resurrection command to the disciples, they were clearly appointed to go to the mountain, Matt. 28. 16. But at one stage, they went down to the sea, John 21. 1. It would seem that Peter’s influence had dominated the thinking and behaviour of the other disciples; thus there was a great waste of time and talents during the night, v. 3. This lack of productive service reminds us of the Lord’s weighty words, “without me ye can do nothing”, John 15. 5. May the Lord help us to learn this invaluable lesson-that we really do need His presence and power if we are to bring the fish to the shore; He is the only One that gives the increase.
Before realizing this, the morning mist of the Galilean shore had somewhat dimmed their vision: “the disciples knew not that it was Jesus”; it was necessary for the Sun of righteousness to enlighten their minds. Peter, who had really been the inspiration of the weary night’s fishing, had cast himself into the sea upon hearing John say, “It is the Lord".
In Conclusion: we end on a consoling note. The time which remains is so very short; the coming of Christ is imminent, and there is so much that we have left undone. Many have passed through this vale of tears-they see the empty chair, and suffer the silence at home because the voice of a loved one has ceased. But, brethren and sisters, it is only for a little while; much sooner than we expect, and our eyes will be beholding the King in His glory. John no doubt felt the great lack of fellowship with his brethren because of his forced banishment into exile, yet he wrote, “we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is”, 1 John 3.2. There will be no vision like this one! What a marvellous perspective the Lord has graciously given to each one of us. Let the words of Paul comfort our hearts as we face the thick of the battle in the homeland or on the foreign field: “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us”, Rom. 8. 18. May this anticipation engrave itself on our hearts as we wait expectantly for the parousia. Maran-atha, the Lord is coming!