Lyle Schulz - The People of God

My thoughts have been in the book of Numbers and chapters 23 and 24. In this part of the Bible, we have the story of Baalam being hired by the king of Moab to curse Israel and he took him to four vantage points. He gave him a view of God’s people from four different angles and every time, instead of cursing them, he saw something very wonderful as he looked on God’s children. So we are going to discuss some of those things he saw, this morning.


It is good when we look at things from more than one angle. When the children of Israel were encamped in the wilderness with that Tabernacle, if you had approached that camp when you were still a long way off, one of the first things you would see is the smoke rising from the Altar. And you would be very conscious that, amongst the Lord’s people, there is sacrifice. I sometimes tell of my sister. She had several little children and they were playing meeting one day and my sister was around the corner, listening. Each one gave their little testimonies and when it was time for the youngest one, she got up and all she said was, “Sacrifice, sacrifice, sacrifice,” and she sat down. That little girl wasn’t very old and she had gone to meetings all her life and already her little human nature had perceived that, "If I walk in this way that mother and dad are showing us, it is going to mean sacrifice." That is one of the first things we see when we look on God’s people. Sadly, many people see, from a distance, the smoke rising from the altar and don’t come any nearer. They don’t give themselves an opportunity to look at this from another angle. Thankfully, that little girl did. She grew up and she saw the beauty of God’s way. She finally was moved to make her choice and she now has a little family of her own and now if we were to ask her to give her testimony using only one word I think what she would say today is, "Privilege, privilege, privilege." It is not sacrifice but it is privilege. If you go to see a house and you just drive by the front you can’t say, “I saw Mr Jones’ house.” You can’t truthfully say that but all you can say is that, “I saw the front of Mr Jones’ house,” and that is all. You have to look at it from the side and the back and you have to go inside and only then you may be able to say, “Yes, I have seen Mr Jones’ house.” That’s the way it is with the way of God. That’s the way it is with the world, too.


There are some angles at which we seldom look at the world. This morning I want to tell a little story that involves our sister Louisa here. I told a little bit about how the gospel came to their country, and to their part, the other day. While we were having that mission, some of our friends came for the weekend. Louisa lived with her family then, near to the beach. So we went to the beach for the afternoon and Louisa started making a sand castle out of the sand. She was very good at it and she worked hard at this sand castle. It was coming on very nicely and it looked good. It had a little moat around it and it looked good. But the tide was rising and we didn’t realise that and just as she was about to give the finishing touches on her little castle, an extra big wave broke on the shore. The water came rushing up the sand and Louisa threw her little arms around her sand castle hoping to save it, but you can’t keep the tide away. The water came up over her arms, over her castle and stopped there for a while. We watched it all melting away and when the water had receded, all that was left was a little mound in the sand. Those of us that looked on that day, received quite a lesson and the thought just came to me, “Well, that’s life.” Isn’t it? So many spend a whole lifetime working on a sand castle, working on something that we know very well isn’t going to stand for very long. We know that someday that big wave of death is going to come. Nobody can stop it, we can’t keep it away. For so many in the world, when it is all over, the only thing that is left is that little mound out in the cemetery, that little place where their body lies. There is so much more to life than that and God would like us to look at what He is offering us, from every angle.

 

So it speaks of this man going up to a certain mountain and looking over God’s people, here in the 23rd chapter of Numbers. He said quite a few nice things but in the 9th verse he says, “From the top of the rocks, I see Him and from the hills, I behold Him. Lo, the people shall dwell alone and shall not be reckoned among the nations,” and so on. Do you know what he saw? He saw that God’s people were a unique, separated, chosen people. He saw that they were a separated people. These were not just another nation of people among a whole lot of nations of people. Those that see God’s children as they really are, they understand that this is not just another denomination among the many denominations in the world but that this is a separated, chosen people. That is a privilege that you and I have, of being a part of this separated, chosen people. We had a brother in the USA who often spoke about the, "Duty of separation and the Beauty of separation.” Indeed it is the duty, of each one of God’s children, to keep themselves separated from the evil, defiling world. It is our duty to do that and that is how we can stand as lights in this world.


I hesitate to tell this story because it is a story from Ireland and I may not have all the details right, but I’m going to tell it anyway, because of the lesson that there is behind it for me. There is a brother worker that has a testimony something like this. I heard it several years ago. He had studied and intended to be a Catholic priest. After studying along that line, he became disillusioned and he left that and to make a living he started out selling encyclopaedias. That brought him to different schools where he could try to sell these books. He came to one school and amongst the staff there, he saw a very special young lady who was different from all the others, dressed modestly. He so much wanted to go and talk to her and find out a little about her background but he was too shy to do that and he let that opportunity pass. He went to another school a little time later and he saw another one, just like that first one. Once again, he let that pass and then he came to a third one and he decided that he would not let this opportunity pass again. He went up to her and he said, “I was at such and such a school and I saw somebody that you might know.” Sure enough, she knew and that got them into a conversation and eventually, he started going to meetings and eventually, he decided. Later, he eventually went into the work and you can imagine what those three girls felt like in the convention when he got up to speak for the first time, just like our sister did last night. Would they not be grateful that they had kept themselves separate from the world? It is our DUTY to keep separate because that is the way that we can be a light to the world and that we can show to the world that we have got something that the world does not have. There is a beauty in separation, too, and don’t ever forget that.


I was telling them at the last convention about a wedding amongst our friends in India. There was an outsider that happened to be there and after, they were all gathered together there just the way they would to go to a Sunday morning meeting. Normally in that country, a wedding is a time when you put on all the jewellery you’ve got and all the make-up you’ve got and all the best clothes you’ve got and everyone is vying with one another in that way. Well, this stranger walked in and looked over our people and do you know what he said? He said, “I see a beauty amongst these people that is far more appealing than the artificial beauty that they create by make-up and jewellery.” There is definitely a beauty in keeping separate and I hope that none of you would ever feel ashamed to be different from the wicked, evil world because that is what makes you the light of the world.

 

We are going to speak about the second one mentioned last so we will jump over that and go to the 24th chapter of Numbers just for a little while. In verse 3, this man again looked from another direction, from another angle, upon God’s people and it says in verse 5, "How goodly are thy tents, oh, Jacob, and thy tabernacles, oh, Israel. As the valleys are spread forth, as gardens by the riverside and the trees of lignaloes which the Lord hath planted and as cedar trees beside the waters." He said other things but we will just dwell for a little while on this. He looked down on that camp and he saw the order of how the dwelling places of God’s people was and he said, “How goodly are thy tents, oh, Jacob, and thy tabernacles, oh, Israel.” He was looking at them from this angle, the angle of what this does for peoples’ homes and for peoples’ families. If you can look at what the work of God can do in a person’s home and for a person’s family, that is a beautiful, beautiful sight. Good to see the order and the discipline that comes into a Godly home.


When I was in Indonesia, they told me about one of the friends there who got talking with a stranger there one day. He was kind of scoffing at her for believing the Bible and he said, “You don’t really believe all these miracles that you read in the Bible, do you? Have you ever seen water turned into wine?” She said, “No, but I have seen something far greater. I have seen wine turned into food for my children and clothes for my children.” She went on and told about how her husband started by just having a few drinks with his friends and he got into the grips of this alcohol problem and it got to where almost every penny that he earned, was going into feeding that terrible habit. They didn’t even have enough food in the house to properly feed their children. They didn’t have money for their clothes and then she told about how the gospel came and how her husband grasped at that like a man grasping desperately at a straw. Then she told of the wonderful change that came into his life and the change that came into their home. That man didn’t have anything more to say. That is a little picture of the order and the beauty that can come into a home that is brought under the control of God. There is a wonderful order that God has given us in the Bible.


Husbands love your wives just in the same way that Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it. Did you ever think how He did that? Did He wait until we just did everything that He wanted us to do almost perfectly, before He started to love us? No, He loved us when we were yet sinners and He loved us to this extent that He gave Himself for us. How did He get us into this? Did He get a stick and try to beat us into shape and bring us into line in that way? Hymn 27 tells us how it was done. We came to the place where we could say from our hearts, “I cannot help but love Him, because He first loved me.” So it is good for the husbands to remember that. “Husbands love your wives and wives be in subjection to your husbands and children obey your parents in the Lord.” If you see a home that has that kind of an order, you will see a beauty there that is lacking in most of the homes out in the world. There is beauty in separation and there is beauty in the discipline and control that God can bring into a home.


Before I go any further, I should just mention for you young people, going back to being separated. I always like to sing that hymn they way we do and I love that part that the young people sing. "One poor life, small the offering at best. Yet, the world and the flesh often call." You young people know that call and we older people do, too, because we have all been there. The call of the world and the call of the flesh - it calls with many an appealing role and many dazzling sights. There are many things to enjoy going down that road but never forget this, "It is a DEAD END ROAD." We might go out there and enjoy some of the things that the rest of God’s people will never enjoy but remember that at the end there will be a remorse, there will be sorrow, there will be a regret that the Lord’s people will never, never experience either. The world and the flesh are calling us down a dead end road. Then it says, "This my answer shall be to each test, 'I’ll not serve God with less than my all.'” That is the answer to the test every time and if you can make that your purpose for this coming year as you go out and try to live separate from the world and from what the world is. Every time a test comes up, you just remember that little part of that verse. "This my answer shall be to EACH test, 'I’ll not serve God with less than my all.'"

 

Okay, we have looked at two of them and we will go to the third one and go to the 24th of Numbers. It starts in verse 15 but we won’t read it all but verse 17 goes like this, "I shall see Him but not now. I shall behold Him but not nigh. There shall come a star out of Jacob and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel and shall destroy the corners of Moab and smite the children of Seth and so on.You will notice that the STAR is in capital letters and the SCEPTRE is also in capital letters. What was this man seeing? He saw that these are the people that will one day present Christ to the world. It is a privilege that God’s own people and God’s people alone, have. It wasn’t altogether something that was going to happen in the future as there were men right there in the camp that day that were presenting Christ in their age. People like Moses and Joshua, who lived in such a way that the Christ nature could be seen. All through the ages of the Old Testament, there always seemed to be someone who was giving a clear picture of what Jesus is, and was going to be to them. Think of the story of Joseph’s life. We won’t go into it but there are so many aspects of what he went through and how he faced it that are such a clear picture of Jesus. No other nation in the world was presenting pictures of Jesus all through the pages of the Old Testament. Until Jesus came, they were the only people that were doing that.


There is something in the second last chapter of Revelation that I would like to share with you because it means so much to me. In verse 9, John heard this message, “You come hither and I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife." Then in verse 10, it says that he was carried away in the spirit to a great and a high mountain and He didn’t show him a beautiful woman. It says, "He showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven." That was the Lamb’s wife. That’s where His heart was. Those were the people that He loved more than any people in all the world, just like a husband loves his wife. It was the new Jerusalem. The point that I want to bring out is this. Around that city, there was a wall and there were 12 gates in the wall and there was a name on every gate. Do you know what that was? It was the names of the 12 tribes of Israel. Because there were 12 gates, there were also 12 portions of wall in between them and there was a foundation to those portions of the wall and there were names on them. Do you know what those names were? It was the names of the 12 Apostles. The picture I get is this - here is a wall and gates surrounding this beautiful city that you and I so much want to have a part in when we leave this life and go on to the next. There is no person that is ever going to enter there that is not going to acknowledge the very special place that the Jewish nation plays in God’s plan of Salvation. They have given us two of the most precious gifts known to man. They have given us this book and they have given us our Saviour. Whole nations of people are excluded and are excluding themselves from the possibility of ever having a part in God’s eternal plan, because they can’t accept the special place that that nation has in God’s plan of salvation. Then the other, the Apostles, representing the New Testament ministry that Jesus Himself established. 99% of all the people that call themselves Christians disqualify themselves from ever having a part in that city, because they refuse to accept the place that the New Testament ministry that Jesus established, has in His plan of salvation. That is what surrounds that city and you and I have the very special privilege. We are not going to write another book and give another Bible to the world but there is that saying, “Your life might be the only Bible that the world will ever read.” You and I have this privilege, of presenting to the world, God’s word, in the way that we live and presenting to the world, God’s Son in the spirit that we show and the reactions that we have to all the experiences of life.

 

We want to go now to that one that we skipped earlier on. Back in chapter 23 and verse 21. He was looking again at God’s people from a different angle and this is what he said speaking of God, "He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob neither hath He seen perverseness in Israel. The Lord his God is with him and the shout of a king is among them." We are not going to mention too much about that last part but just that first part, "He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath He seen perverseness in Israel." How can that be? You and I read the story of the children of Israel and we see iniquity there. We see rebellion there and we see so much that should not have been there but as this man looked, he saw that God did not see iniquity in Israel nor perverseness in Jacob. What was he seeing? He was seeing that God has made provision, a special provision for the sins of these people. That is a provision that God, and only God, gives to His chosen people. Did you know that if you take a red-tinted glass and look through it at something red, that it appears to be white? Did you know that? Remember that in Isaiah, in the 1st chapter it says, "'Come let us reason together,' saith the Lord. 'Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white a snow and though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.'" Then He said, "If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good of the land." What was he telling them? That God was able to make sins that were as red as crimson as white as snow, because He looks at them through the blood of His Son. through the sacrifice that His Son has made. By doing that, those sins can be blotted out of His sight.


I sometimes tell this story about this little boy whose father had passed away and it was coming up to his mother’s birthday. This little boy just longed to be able to get a present for his mother that could bring some comfort to her. Something like his daddy used to do when he was alive. So he picked up his piggy bank and he went down to the shop and he looked around and found just exactly what he wanted. He knew that his mother would really be pleased if he would get this. So he went and he told the shopkeeper, “This is the situation and I have chosen this gift and brought my money.” So he took the screw out of his piggy bank and he poured it all out on the counter. So the man started counting and in counting. It was not enough, not nearly enough. When he got to the end, he kind of hesitated and the little boy sensed that there was something not right. He looked up with is big eyes and the tears starting to flow and he said, “Isn’t it enough?” That man looked at that little pile of coins and he looked again at that little boy and he said, “Yes, it is enough.” So he took the very best wrapping paper that he had and with a very nice ribbon, he wrapped it all up carefully and lovingly for that little fellow and sent him away.  Then he reached into his own pocket and he paid what the little boy couldn’t pay. That just gives me a little picture of what has happened and what this table here before us represents today. We have a hymn that says, “Dear Lord, an offering I would bring, to Thee my Prophet, Priest and King, though small and mean the gift may be”… it is all I have. We can’t give any more and it is till not enough.


Over in Micah, there are a few questions asked in the 6th chapter and the 6th verse, "Wherewith shall I come before the Lord and bow myself? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old?" Would that be enough? No, that’s not enough. Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams or ten thousands of rivers of oil? Could that be enough? No, that’s not enough. "Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" We heard already that a human sacrifice could not possibly pay the price. That’s not enough. God looks down and when He sees that we empty our piggy bank, it might not be very much but if we’re willing to give it all, He says, “Yes, that’s enough.” He paid the rest through the sacrifice of His Son.


I like that 8th verse, "He hath showed thee, oh, man, what is good and what doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with thy God." If you go somewhere and you see someone who has taken a lot of trouble to make something and he has got it in mind what he wants to do with it and has got a plan for it. Then if you snatch it out of his hand and go away with it, is that just? That is not just. He made it and it is his and it is his to use as he wants to use it. Or if you see someone that has paid quite a price for something with the intention of using it in their house and if you came and grab it away, is that just? No, we would never do that naturally but we are doing it over and over again with the thing that God made with a very special thought in His mind for which He wanted to use it - this life of ours. Not only did He make it but He has bought it and it belongs to Him. He has plans for it and He wants to use it and He has things that He needs to do, using that life. That is what He requires, if we would just be just and hand it over. Then to love mercy, not just to love everybody being merciful to us so much, we all just love that, but to love to be merciful to others because we need it so much ourselves. Then just to carry on walking humbly with our God. If we are willing for that, then even though small and mean the gift is, God looks down and He says, “That’s enough.” The price, the REAL price, what really had to be paid, has been paid by our Master.

 

These are a few thoughts that I have enjoyed and hope it will help us to appreciate the fact that God has chosen us and called us and given us a place amongst His people. Given us the privilege of being separated and under His discipline and control and that we can show to the world the living Christ in our lives and also given us the privilege of having our iniquities and our sins forgiven because of being willing to give our best.