This post first appeared on the New Foundation Fellowship website.
I keep coming back to Moses, so much started there. God had established his covenant with Abraham, renewed it through Isaac and Jacob (or Israel). The descendants of Israel, slaves in Egypt, were being subjected to infanticide. Baby Moses caught the attention of Pharaoh’s daughter, who adopted him. As an adult, Moses killed an Egyptian who was abusing one of the Israelites, and had to flee Egypt.
For 40 years Moses lived the life of a shepherd. Then he encountered that burning bush that wouldn’t burn up. At the nadir of Moses’ influence with Pharaoh, God sent him to procure the release of the Israelites. This would not be accomplished through any political maneuvering or military advantage. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my breath, by my word, will this be accomplished,” in effect said God to Moses.
I have written about the holy ground. (See Shoes.) Not only do we encounter the holy ground at the burning bush, we encounter the God who speaks. And we, creature, encountering the voice of Creator are obligated to make some response. When Moses asked the voice that spoke to him out of the burning bush, “Who are you?” God answered, “I am the God of Abraham.”
It is not significant that Abraham had a God; everyone did. What stands out is that the God of Abraham spoke to Abraham telling him to forsake his homeland, his culture, his cultural religion, his father’s house and to follow wherever the voice of God should direct him. Listening became paramount. “I am the God of Abraham” is the God to whom we must give our full attention.
Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt. They camped at Mount Horeb, where the people encounter the voice of God.
“We have seen this day that God speaks to man and yet he lives,” said the Israelites to Moses. They then ask, “Now therefore why should we die? for this great fire will consume us: if we hear the voice of the Lord our God any more, then we shall die.” (See Deut. 5:24-25) The people told Moses, “You listen to the voice of God and then tell us.” But God was not willing to leave things there. His work with the Iraelites was to bring them to know and understand “that man shall not live by bread alone. But by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God shall man live.” (See Deut. 8:3)
This is the current situation. Man is always inventing something new to remove us at least one step from the voice of God. But this “new” is nothing but what was old. John Greenleaf Whittier captured the cyclical nature of history in his poem “The Brewing of Soma.” He wrote:
And yet the past comes round again,
And new doth old fulfill;
In sensual transports wild as vain
We brew in many a Christian fane
The heathen Soma still!
So what is the significance of living in the presence of the God of Abraham, the God who speaks?
- This is the end of the subservient god. In the kingdom of God all is done by and through the voice of Christ, not by the might and wisdom
- This is the end of the priest craft and the priest class. Under the Old Covenant, the priests were to preserve the people’s knowledge. Under the new covenant we are commanded to hear the voice of Christ who is the treasure of wisdom and knowledge of God.
- This is the end of all techniques and disciplines employed to access God. These only isolate us from the voice of God while giving us a false sense of accomplishment. The light that enlightens everyone has come into the world. Walking in the light is neither discipline nor technique.
- This is the end of all systems of religion. We have come to Christ who is the functional head of his body, rather than a mere figurehead.
Lets look particularly at the pastoral system that under girds most of Christendom. Many will quote Paul’s statement to the Ephesians in defense of such systems:
And his [Christ’s] gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the equipment of the saints, for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles. (See Eph. 4:11-16)
I grew up in this system and have had ample opportunity to study its workings. During 36 years of personal involvement, I can’t think of an instance where the “body of Christ” attained the “measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,” (even after a long succession of pastors who claimed this state was their goal). As I look at the record of what was accomplished by the first generation of Friends, I find that where people were faithful to waiting upon the teaching of Christ and walked in obedience to that inward teaching they did not fail to attain the state Paul described above. A striking distinction!
How did they achieve this? George Fox explained:
And therefore you that the Lord hath gathered, and sought and searched out, who have been scattered in this cloudy dark day…the Lord is known to feed you atop of the mountains with his heavenly bread, and he hath set one shepherd over you, (the heavenly man) who lives for ever, who is the shepherd over all the living, that are made alive by him…so Christ…is their shepherd, to feed them with life, and with the springs of life, and is the bishop of their souls, that doth oversee them…It is a glorious pasture, to be fed…in the life, in the pastures of life, by the living shepherd, and to be overseen by the living bishop, and to be sanctified, and to be presented to God by the living priest, and to be counselled by the living counsellor to an everlasting inheritance, and to a kingdom, and to a world, that hath no end, by an everlasting priest, that sanctifies and offers you to God without spot or wrinkle, a perfect offering, who sprinkles your consciences and hearts with his blood, that you may serve the living God, and not the dead works among the dead.
This is what God has set up to restore mankind into his image, which is what Paul was writing about. All the systems of religion, including the systems of the Christian religion obstruct, circumvent, and lead away from God’s work. Fox continued,
And now you having an everlasting preacher, whom God hath anointed to preach, and an everlasting minister, that ministers grace, and life, and salvation, and truth to you; an everlasting prophet that God hath raised up, who is to be heard; all the living hear him, but the dead talk but of his fame. So none can silence or stop the mouth of them whom he opens, or take away your shepherd, your bishop, your minister, your preacher, your prophet, your counsellor, &c. And therefore let him have your ears, hearken to him, let him be set up in your hearts, who was set up from everlasting to everlasting by the Father, whom all the righteous witness, Christ Jesus…Abraham saw Christ’s day, and did rejoice; but thousands now come to enjoy the day that Abraham saw…And so you that are heirs of Christ, the heavenly man, and are come to possess him, (whom he hath made alive,) stand fast, now is your time to stand; stand in the life, which was before death, or the king of it was; stand in the light, which was before darkness, or the prince of it was; and stand in the power of God, which was before the devil was; and sit down in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, who was set up from everlasting to everlasting. (Works of Fox, Vol. VIII:25-27)
All people are brought to the burning bush. Some respond as firefighters seeking to quench the flame. Some are collectors of curiosities. Some are “Soma seekers.” Some just ignore the bush. But those who take off their shoes to stand on the holy ground and will ask the voice speaking to them out of the bush,”Who are you?” these come to stand in the life of Christ, to stand in the light, to stand in the power of God, and to sit down in the heavenly places in Christ. Here the path they begin to walk on diverges from all man-made systems, disciplines, and techniques.