2. The Erection of the Tabernacle
The second stage is at Sinai, and especially connected with the tabernacle. Here at Sinai a revelation has been of God's House, God's thought concerning His people, that they are to be not just a congregation but a family, not just a crowd but an ordered spiritual household. That revelation comes, and then the Lord calls all of them into fellowship and cooperation with Himself in constituting that. So that at Sinai you find all the people are called into fellowship and cooperation to provide the wherewithal for God's house, for the tabernacle. This thing has been laid upon them, and they go back to their tents to see what they can discover there in their own lives which can contribute towards this full thought of God for His house. Now the question is not just one of knowing how to live the Christian life, and finding that the Lord answers your prayers when you are in need. That is the infant stage. Now the question is one of cooperation with God in service. So they came to have a taste of the blessings of service, and the Lord blessed them in that work for Him. They were, the Word says again and again: "... of a willing heart", and they were having such a good time in the work of the Lord that at length they had brought more than enough, and they had to be restrained. The atmosphere is one of having great joy in the work of the Lord, in working together with God concerning His house. It is a taste of what it means to be in fellowship with God in a great purpose, a great work, a great divine thought, and to be in that and to know the joy of that.
3. Wandering in the Wilderness
Then there comes a third stage. That stage is from Sinai through the years of wandering in the wilderness. Whether it be actually or literally a long period or not, when you are in it, if it is only a day or two, it seems the longest. The very nature of it gives it a sense of eternity. The very meaning of it seems to make it never ending.
What is the meaning of this third stage? (Mark you, it is progress. It does not seem like it, but it is a phase of the progress, unfortunately necessary.) What is it? It is the period in which all that God cannot accept in His people is being brought out to the light. It is as though God had said: "You are Mine; I am with you; I am wanting to be your all; and I want to have you in the full, joyous fellowship with Me in My purpose. But, having given you a taste of that, having won your hearts for that, having given you a vision of that, having allowed you just to have some little experience of that, it is now necessary for Me to show you that to live in all the deep meaning of that continuously, there is something to be done. It is not living in the emotional, external, superficial pleasure of it, but the deep meaning of it, which is deeper than emotion." Then there is something to be done by way of getting rid of all that which belongs to you by nature. It will not do to take up the blessings of God in the flesh; it will not do to take up the work of God in the flesh. To get rid of the flesh God must expose the flesh to us, let us know what our own flesh is like. And so there comes that period which seems to be the longest of all, in which we are discovering that, after all, there is such a lot of evil in our own hearts, and a lot of that which is contrary to God. The fact that the Lord has blessed does not mean that the Lord now is not willing to bless and will not bless, either in spiritual experience between ourselves and the Lord, or in service, but it means that the Lord is seeking to make a way whereby all His purpose and thought for us can have the deepest root in us.
It is equally true in experience that when people begin to take hold of the blessings of the Lord, the answers to prayer that the Lord has given, and rejoice in them in the flesh and make a great thing of them, as though they were the supreme things, or when they begin to take hold of the work of the Lord and success of the work of the Lord, and make everything of the success, counting heads and so on, it is not long before the spiritual life shows itself to be very shallow. The disciples were in danger of something like that when they came back from their first taste of the work of the Lord apart from Him. They said: "Even the demons are subject unto us." This is a natural rejoicing in the blessings of the Lord, and the Lord said: "...rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you ..." In other words He was saying: Do not make a great deal of the success of your work; your glorying must be that your names are written in heaven.
(continued with # 3)