The first part of this week’s meditation is related to a thought that my mind has been mulling over since it was first triggered some days ago by a passage in one of Spurgeon’s daily reading books. The same verse occurred in Diana’s Thought for the Week (2 September). Here is the verse, along with the one that follows:
Command the people of Israel to bring you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to keep the lamps burning continually. The lampstand will stand in the Tabernacle, in front of the inner curtain that shields the Ark of the Covenant. Aaron and his sons must keep the lamps burning in the Lord’s presence all night. This is a permanent law for the people of Israel, and it must be observed from generation to generation. (Exodus 27:20–21)
In the book of Revelation you read that Christ walked among his candlesticks. The candlestick represents the church of Jesus Christ, in other words our lives. We are meant to be burning all the time: that is, alive in God. We’re not to be like the foolish bridesmaids who, when they heard the sound of the bridegroom coming, had then to go and try to buy oil for the lamps, and it was too late. So we can have the oil of the Holy Spirit – the presence of God, the presence of Christ – burning in us all the time. The oil that was used for the candlestick was a special oil in that it was only pure olive oil that was beaten that could be used.
And that immediately makes us think of Gethsemane, because gethsemane is the name for an oil press. There were many olive trees there, the descendants of which, I think, can still be seen. When Christ went into that garden on the night of His agony He knelt amongst the olive trees. (Evidently that is the origin of Christians kneeling to pray rather than standing, because Christ knelt there.) We follow Christ in there as far as we can, just to see what was transacted that night. We know that He was like an olive that was crushed by a heavy millstone to let the oils out. Christ was crushed there to such an agony that He became prostrate. In that garden there was a tremendous transaction between God and His world, because Christ was representing mankind, but He was perfect in the flesh, and He was the perfect Son of God. There the damage that was done in Eden is reversed, and where man had taken his own way and separated himself from God in Eden, now the Lord Jesus Christ, I think in a desperate aloneness of spirit, is prostrate there in Gethsemane, and wins for us a place of obedience, the place where perfect Man yields to the will of perfect God. The oil of the Holy Spirit, the oil of His own being, is available now for you and for me. And what does keep us alive, spiritually alive? It is being in the near presence of Christ. It’s living very close to Him that keeps the vision burning in us. He is the vision. And it’s looking at Him that keeps our spirits burning and not just fading out, and the oil going.
But Gethsemane is not necessarily the most attractive place for us. We probably want often to be at a distance like the disciples, or a bit nearer like the privileged three, but not too close – whereas I think that now our invitation is to come right up to where Christ is, each in our own calling. We can’t suffer as He did, but He calls us back into fellowship with Him, He who said: Come and follow Me (the subject of last week’s meditation and the Sunday School verse as well). There are places to which we are very willing to follow Christ. But when we see Him going near Calvary and Gethsemane – well, Calvary, yes, the place where we’re forgiven; but Gethsemane, where basically we have to yield our will to Him: that’s where there can be a clash of our will and His will, until we withdraw our eyes from ourselves and our own circumstances and we see that lonely figure, God represented in His dear Son, separate from all humanity, with an aloneness that He invites us now to come near to. We come in the aloneness of our spirits, but we find there is One there, that we need never be lonely again.
As we draw near and want to come nearer to that Christ, then our wills do begin to yield to His in the deepest parts of our being. But what we find is the olive oil - the oil of the Spirit, which shows us something of the Godhead, and it brings to our spirits a peculiar sweetness that we find nowhere else. We discover that the place of abiding is there by that One who yielded up His will, the will of the perfect manhood, to the will of God. There is no peace like that peace that comes and abides in our inner spirit and brings us into a place of rest in God, the peace that comes when we follow Him even a little way. We find ourselves within the shades of Gethsemane, and we find His shadow is actually sweet to us. There are hours in life when that is the place to go, until we learn to come not out again from our place of rest in God. He and we are reconciled. We dispute no more with Him, and we fight no more with Him, but we become as yielded lives.
All roads that have been and must be
Pass somewhere through Gethsemane.
There is always an answer in God. He is always a place for us to rest our foot: it’s where He is. He leads us to places of great joy. He leads us to be free as the eagle soaring into the upward air, and he leads us over mountains of separation where our feet are as sure as a hind’s foot. But He leads us betimes to these sacred places apart with Him: Gethsemane and Calvary. And there we find Him – Blessed Saviour.
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