By Titus Chu
“How lovely are Your dwelling places,
O Lord of hosts! My soul longed and even yearned
for the courts of the Lord;
My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.
The bird also has found a house,
And the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young,
Even Your altars, O Lord of hosts,
My King and my God.
How blessed are those who dwell in Your house!
They are ever praising You. Selah.
How blessed is the man whose strength is in You,
In whose heart are the highways to Zion!
Passing through the valley of Baca they make it a spring;
The early rain also covers it with blessings.
They go from strength to strength,
Every one of them appears before God in Zion.”
In this Psalm, the swallow makes her nest between the two altars in the tabernacle, that is, between the bronze altar in the outer court and the golden incense altar in the holy place. The bronze altar represents the place where we, as New Testament priests, labor with people and help them come to God. The golden incense altar is where the priest stands before God Himself, who dwells in the Holy of Holies.
The swallow represents the common people, meaning that everyone can find a home here. Between these two altars is the laver, the shewbread table, and the golden lampstand. To live between these altars means that we experience the reality of each of these items. This is to “go from strength to strength” until we at last “appear before God in Zion” at the golden incense altar. After spending time in God’s presence, the priest can return again to the bronze altar to serve others in a renewed way.
No matter what problems we see before us, we who labor for the Lord should always be hopeful. I have fought for the Lord’s interest over sixty years and can tell you that nothing begins easily. But if the Lord is in it, we should not be afraid. If we pursue faithfully, after a few years, by the Lord’s mercy, we will break through and something real will be produced.
Some of us began to fight for the Lords testimony in China about eight years ago. Since then, the Lord has raised up hundreds of churches there. We don’t keep statistics, but one Chinese government official mentioned that according to their records, we have forty to fifty thousand meeting with us. Their numbers are always pretty accurate because they are always getting reports. How quickly the Lord moves if we are faithful.
The Need for Twenty
Now I come to our situation in this area around the Great Lakes. I believe we have around 3,000 meeting together, including English speaking, Spanish speaking, and Chinese speaking. We are in need for the Lord to do something new among us and I believe He wants to do this, but we are His limitation. Many among us are too young spiritually to do much, and many are too old, no longer very flexible in their practice. Others are too bright, thinking they know what to do even though they have never raised anything up. They hear the words of the experienced ones and interpret them according to their own thought.
As I considered this situation in prayer, the Lord gave me an encouraging word. He told me that we don’t need that many. We only need twenty. The Lord seemed very specific. If these twenty are clear, and they each attract a team of ten desirous ones to be with them, so much can happen.
Progressing to the Golden Incense Altar
It seems the best most of us can do is to put ourselves on the bronze altar and then try to do something for God. We do not even have the concept that we should progress to the incense altar to appear before Him. We have no idea what the real experiences of the laver, the shewbread table, and the golden lampstand are. The holy place is foreign to us. As long as we can preach the gospel and get some saved, we are happy.
It scares me to see a church where everyone is so busy but no one seems to have adequate time before the Lord. The psalmist said, “They go from strength to strength, every one of them appears before God in Zion” (Psa. 84:7). If everyone is so busy doing this and going there, it will become their termination. We must know how to progress from the bronze altar in the outer court into the holy place to stand before God at the golden incense altar. It makes no difference how big our work is if we never enter the holy place to spend time before God.
If a brother who is in the outer court is invited to visit a church, he may spend a good deal of time in advance preparing his message. When he arrives, he will give his message no matter who is sitting before Him, because that is all he has. When he is done, everyone will tell him that his message was very good, and he will go home feeling his mission was accomplished. But the fact is that his visit had no effect on anyone. No change occurred. When I go to a place, I often have prepared nothing, but have spent much time before the Lord. Once there, I read the faces of those before me and speak what the Lord gives me. I have seen much happen as a result. Of course I have many years at the incense altar to back me up.
I gave myself to the Lord when I was very young. Because I was in the church life, I always had a group of brothers with me to go from strength to strength. Yet each one of us had to take the time to appear before the Lord ourselves. Here we enjoyed the Lord as the shewbread and let Him shine on us as the golden lampstand. Only after spending time before the Lord at the golden incense altar did we began to serve. This was the source of our labor in the gospel and among the saints, and remains so with me to this day.
Dropping What Is in Our Hands
We may be afraid to drop what is currently in our hands because it is a labor of love. But dropping it does not mean that it is gone forever. If what we have is of the Lord, He may very well send us back to it, but it will be a higher, fresher experience. It is like food. I like Chinese food, but sometimes grow tired of it. At such times it seems greasy, salty, and smelly. When I begin to think like that, I drop the Chinese food and seek out western food. It tastes so good! But before long I tire of western food and go back to eating Chinese. It is like a new beginning! Because I dropped it for a while, my experience of Chinese food is entirely renewed. It is the same with our service.
If we want to have a new way, the first thing we must do is to drop our burden. Then we must find others who are willing to do the same, and spend time together before the Lord. As a team we eventually may be led to pick up our burden again. This time our view, understanding, and exercise will be enlarged and refreshed. Our labor will come more out of life’s flow than from a desire for success. It is no longer that we must do whatever it takes to see results, but that results come simply because we are there.
We try too hard, and we hold on to what we have too tightly. We think if we let go everything will disappear. We may be caring for some gospel friends or for some young people, and we fear they will be lost if we let go. However if we cannot trust the Lord to keep them, we may actually damage them by our care. We shouldn’t give them up, but drop our care long enough to be before the Lord with others to make ourselves a little different. Then when we pick our care for them up again as a team, it will be much more of life, not of work.
Most cannot take this. Those who only desire to enjoy the sweet church life should do so in peace. But can we find twenty? Do we have twenty brothers and sisters who desire to go from strength to strength, each one appearing before God? Twenty who would like to revolutionize their church life by living at the golden incense altar? These twenty will each attract ten more who desire to be with them to reinvent their Christian life and church life. Because they know what they are doing and what they are for, everything will be fresh, vital, and far from ordinary.
Of course none of this is to take us out of the church life. Everything we do must be in fellowship with the leading ones and have their blessing. We must never lose our respect for the elders and those who shepherd us.
We shall see the practical side of this in the next message.