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A Magazine for all Christians · Nº 40 · July - August 2006

 

The history of the restoration, in the New Testament just as in the Old, is watered with the tears of the restorers.

The tears of the restoration

Gonzalo Sepúlveda

Beloved brothers, yesterday we shared about the glory of the New Jerusalem. How difficult it is to describe such beauty! We receive great consolation in knowing that that is where we are heading. What a wonderful destiny we have! Today we are here in the limitations of flesh and blood in the midst of a world that is under the power of the evil one. But the day is coming in which we will no longer be in this tired tent, fragil and prone to sickness but in one that is similar to the body of His glory and for eternity we will reign with the Lord.

Our topic is the restoration. Restoration supposes that there was a falling away from grace, a captivity, a very great failiure. Therefore its necessary that there come about a movement that restores, and as has been said before, God must take the initiative.

The captivity of the Old Testament people

'She weepeth sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks' (Lam 1:2). This is the condition of Jerusalem in the days of Jeremiah. The prophet weeps bitterly while he prays and writes. These are the tears during the time of the falling away.

'How is the gold become dim! how is the most pure gold changed! The stones of the sanctuary are poured out at the head of every street. The precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold, How are they esteemed as earthen pitchers, the work of the hands of the potter!' (Lam 4:1-2). 'The elders have ceased from the gate, the young men from their music. The joy of our heart hath ceased; our dance is turned into mourning. The crown is fallen from our head: woe unto us, for we have sinned!'
(Lam 5:14-16). 'Thou, Jehovah, dwellest for ever; thy throne is from generation to generation'. (Lam 5:19). 'Turn thou us unto thee, Jehovah, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old'. (Lam 5:21). With great pain, the prophet marks out the terrible condition of the people of Israel in those days. However, the Babylonian captivity to which they were taken would not last forever. The period set was seventy years. (Jer. 25:11).

Let us see the tears of the restoration in the prophet Daniel: "In the first year of Darius son of Ahasuerus… I Daniel searched intently in the books the number of the years which was revealed as the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet for the completion of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years." Daniel studies the Scriptures, and he discovers that the time has been completed! And so he pours himself out in prayer and supplication: "So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed and said, 'Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances.... So now, our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his supplications, and for Your sake, O Lord, let Your face shine on Your desolate sanctuary.…" (Dan. 9:3-5, 17).

God found in Daniel a servant who pours himself out before him, and quickly an angel from heaven comes to console him. For there to be restoration at this time, there must be Daniels who move the heavens with their prayers!

The answer to this prayer can be found in the book of Ezra: "And in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of Jehovah by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, Jehovah stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, and he made a proclamation throughout his kingdom, and also in writing, saying, 'Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth has Jehovah the God of the heavens given to me, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whosoever there is among you of all his people, his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of Jehovah the God of Israel -- he is God -- which is at Jerusalem. And whosoever remains in any place where he sojourns, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, besides the voluntary offering for the house of God which is at Jerusalem.'" (Ezra 1:1-4).

Oh, brothers and sisters, the answer from heaven provided all the things that were needed. A powerful king, Cyrus of Persia, was the instrument of God. What good news! "Whosoever remains...". Many Jews woke up at this announcement, and they quickly made the preparations and many returned to Jerusalem.

Restoration tears

In the book of Ezra 3:12 the spirit of those days of restoration of the house of God is described: "But many of the priests and Levites and chief fathers, the ancient men that had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice, when the foundation of this house was laid in their sight; and many shouted aloud for joy. And the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people; for the people shouted with a great shout, and the noise was heard afar off."(Ezr 3:12-13)

The youngest sang. They saw the present victory. They were happy for what was happening; they sang and they danced. But there were some old men, of eighty or more years of age. They had suffered the whole sad exile into captivity, they had cried along with Jeremiah the Lamentations of chapter 5 (Lam 5). Although they could have remained comfortable in Babylon, they preferred to undertake the entire journey to return, they heard their God! They who had hung their harps in the willows because they could not sing songs of the Lord in a strange land (psalm 137), had waited seventy years to take down the harps: "There we will render worship, in the place that our God has chosen. Let us go!". And with great hardship they arrived, and when they saw that they were laying the foundations of the house, they tried to sing, but they were not able to. In that moment, they could only cry, and they cried loudly.

Surely, they thought: "By our strength, we could never have done this. We only contribute sins, we only contribute carnality and idolatry, and in this way we hindered the purpose of the Lord. But God in His infinite mercy recovers us, He brings us back to His house". And now, when they see the foundations, they cry and pour themselves out before the Lord.

Do we want restoration? Restoration is with tears. There are tears while the house of God is being built, because something has been seen of the glory of the first house, and of its later ruin. The characteristic of those godly Jews, was that "they had seen the first house". They would never conform to a Babylonian substitute. Many of them died without consolation, and this generation of the days of Ezra and Nehemiah experienced the grace of seeing in their days the restoration of the testimony of the Lord on the earth.

We are blessed if our spiritual eyes have been opened "to see the house of God", that is to say the church, the Lord's testimony on the earth today, which most definitely isn't a building in a certain geographical place. The Scriptures don't show us an organization of human design, but a living organism, formed by redeemed men and women that live Christ's life, in communion with one another, under the government of the Holy Spirit.

Today we are seeing a bit more clearly what is brotherly love, the centrality of Jesus Christ, Christ's life formed inside us, and we are seeing a little more clearly something of the glory of God amid His house. Let us bless the Lord, because it has not been by our strength, nor through our ability, but through the infinite faithfulness, mercy and grace of our God. To him be the honor, the glory and all the praise!

More tears

There are more tears. There are tears in Daniel chapter 9; there are tears in Ezra chapter 9 and also in Nehemiah chapter 9. Why does Ezra cry? "And when I heard this thing, I rent my mantle and my garment, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down overwhelmed. Then were assembled to me every one that trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the unfaithfulness of those that had been carried away" (Ezra 9:3-4).

What spiritual perception Ezra has! He knows precisely at what point they are at. "We should still be captive, because we deserve it. God has raised up a remnant, and we are here by His mercy restoring all things".

However, in full restoration, sins were also committed. Let us understand this: there were sins that caused the captivity (days of Jeremiah). But the sins that Ezra confesses here, are sins in full restoration! What would the Lord want to say to us through this?

Allow me to say something to you: the sins that are committed in this time, after all that we have seen, are more serious, because our responsibility is greater today. The closer we are to the Lord, the sins of the children of God appear to be even more serious.

Let us look at Ezra 10:1. "And while Ezra prayed, and made confession, weeping and falling down before the house of God, there were gathered to him out of Israel a very great congregation of men and women and children; for the people wept very much. ". Can we see the unity of the church here? When Ezra cries, when he asks for forgiveness, he isn't alone. Daniel was alone; but Ezra is accompanied. The restoration has advanced. In terms of the new covenant we can say that "the body is taking form". Today, God is gathering broken-hearted men and women.

Not only the men but the women are also included, and the children. May the children learn from the failures of the older ones, and together let us prostrate ourselves before the Lord and weep, sanctifying Him.

God looked with pleasure upon His people humbling themselves. The Lord was pleased with a crying out like that of Daniel and Ezra, and of that entire multitude that cried bitterly. Then the restoration advanced ahead. God moved again, and finally the objective of the children of the captivity was achieved. These are the tears of the restoration.

Paul's tears

Lets go now to the New Testament. Paul gathers together the elders of the churches of Miletus and Ephesus. " And when they were come to him, he said to them, Ye know how I was with you all the time from the first day that I arrived in Asia, serving the Lord with all lowliness, and tears, and temptations, which happened to me through the plots of the Jews... Wherefore watch, remembering that for three years, night and day, I ceased not admonishing each one [of you] with tears" (Acts 20:18-19, 31). Why does the apostle cry? In him the prophetic word is fulfilled: " They that sow in tears shall reap with rejoicing: He goeth forth and weepeth, bearing seed for scattering; he cometh again with rejoicing, bearing his sheaves" (Ps. 126:5-6).

The apostle served with humility and with tears; and when he admonished, he did it with tears. It is a dramatic story. " Take heed therefore to yourselves, and to all the flock, wherein the Holy Spirit has set you as overseers, to shepherd the assembly of God, which he has purchased with the blood of his own. For I know this, that there will come in amongst you after my departure grievous wolves, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves shall rise up men speaking perverted things to draw away the disciples after them" (Acts 20:28-30).

Let us see these two aspects that made the apostle cry. The first one is: "grievous wolves will enter amid you". Those that enter. " O senseless Galatians, who has bewitched you; to whom, as before your very eyes, Jesus Christ has been portrayed, crucified among you?" (Gal. 3:1).

Here there is a cry in the apostle's heart: Somebody came, and mesmerized the brothers, and led them away from legitimate devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ. Somebody led them away from grace, from faith, from the Spirit; and made them return to the flesh, to external things.

We are witnesses of this misfortune. Some, promising freedom, have led our brothers and sisters into slavery once again, and in these days, with tears, we have received some dear brothers and sisters that have come escaping from servants who controlled them.

Christ formed in us

"They are not rightly zealous after you, but desire to shut you out from us , that ye may be zealous after them... My children, of whom I again travail in birth until Christ shall have been formed in you" (Gal. 4:17, 19).

Brothers and sisters, the tears in Paul's service were because Christ had still not been formed; therefore, the flesh was still active and somebody had entered in to captivate, to confuse the brothers and sisters with fleeting emotions. But he cries again, he cries until Christ is formed in the heart of the brethren. These are the tears that we will have to cry once more.
" for many walk of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ" (Php. 3:18).

Here they are no longer people that entered from outside, but rather they were raised up from within. This is the second reason for which Paul poured out his tears in Mileto.

Who are the enemies of Christ's cross? They are not people in the world, they are brothers and sisters. These are those brothers that always cause divisions and tensions; they are those that resist authority, and many times they themselves are authoritarian. When hearing them speak, the Holy Spirit gives us testimony of their lack of brokeness. They display "the old man", we feel the weight of a great ego, and Christ's life is still contained, without expression. Do we understand this?

Brothers and sisters, when division wants to threaten the church, then it will be made known who is who in the house of God, then it will be made known who are the friends of Christ's cross and who are on the wrong side; who are those that have advanced to some degree in the restoration of the testimony of the Lord. There are still tears to cry, and may the Lord help us because the flesh is still present.

Peter's tears

There is another cry that we should have very much in mind: "And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, who had said to him, Before the cock crow thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went forth without, and wept bitterly." (Matthew 26:75).

Why does Peter cry here? Didn't he have a revelation of Christ? Wasn't he already a son of God? He wasn't crying over what we usually call sin. He had said some moments before: "Although all may be offended at you, I will never be offended at you". He had a feeling of superiority over his brothers and sisters, he had a high concept of himself, and when it was put to the test, it failed resoundingly.

The main problems that we have in advancing in the restoration of the testimony of the Lord, are not moral weaknesses. Because, when somebody commits a sin, shameful though it is, he will be humbled in recognizing it. But the biggest problem that we have is the high concept of ourselves that remains in us, it is the confidence in the flesh, what we consider to be "good" in ourselves: "I won't deny you", Peter said, contradicting his Lord.

Then, the Lord Jesus keeps silent, knowing what awaits his chosen vessel. He didn't do anything to stop Peter from denying him. He could have ordered John, or Matthew or one of the others: "take care of Peter and make sure that he doesn't enter the courtyard of Caiaphas, because there he will deny me. Stop him, take him to Bethany, hide him in the house of Martha and Mary!". No, the Lord allowed him to fail.

In that hour, Peter knew who he really was. What shame, what tremendous pain! He had just begun to really know himself. There he suffered the defeat of his best human attributes: his bravery, his courage, his high concept of himself, his feeling of superiority over his brothers and sisters. However, these tears were those that marked his true restoration.

I am afraid that for many of us the Lord won't get rid of these shameful experiences, until we realize how dangerous we are in ourselves. Because a servant that loses his trust in his flesh, will become meek, and maleable in the hands of the Lord.
How difficult it is to deal with a brother who has a hard character; with a man firm in his positions, polemic, argumentative, determined, full of judgements. He believes, rather, he presumes that his ideas, suggestions and opinions, are the best, and he fights to make them prevail. How do we deal with him? When a man has not cried bitterly, he exhibits his own security, very sure of himself. How do we deal with him? There remains no another alternative than that the Lord deals with him. The Lord has to break us.

They are not moral problems that slow down the work of restoration or the unity of the church. They are man's rigid positions, the strengths of the flesh, self-righteousness. That is the biggest problem for the restoration. But, as God has intended that we shine as lights, he has fixed His eyes on you and on me (Ps. 32:8-9), and what He has purposed to do, He will carry it on to completion.

I don't know what means God will use with you or with me. I have suffered some of these things, I don't know how many I have still to go through. But it is a necessary crisis, brothers and sisters. If God is going to gain something in us, He has to deal with that hardness, with those rigid stances, with that lack of renewing in the understanding, with that desire to always do things the same way. That is empty religiosity, after all. The Lord has to break all that down.

He will have to take us to the point where we know our shameful condition and let us weep over our wretchedness That bitter cry will be the beginning of true restoration. After that healthy crisis, we will cry bitterly, and we will put ourselves on God's side, against our flesh. This is a symptom of maturity in the sons of God.

After experiencing these pains, something of that natural arrogance, something of that repellent self-sufficiency, will begin to die. May the Lord permit that we fall to our knees, because when that begins to die, then you begin to see something of Christ's sweetness, something of the grace, of the gentleness of Christ's character. Blessed be the name of the Lord!

Tears in Revelation

"And I heard a loud voice out of the heaven, saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he shall tabernacle with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, their God. And he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes..." (Rev. 21:3-4).

Then comes the description of the glorious celestial city, the groom, the wife of the Lamb. Who will be there? Those that shed tears.

Oh brothers and sisters: Jeremiah, Daniel and Ezra wept over the sin of the Lord's people. And they were not alone-many drew near to weep before the Lord. And when they were laying the foundations, they wept.

And when Paul served the Lord, he did it with tears, because of the enemies of the cross of Christ. Many had the doctrine of the cross, but not the reality, and they caused divisions and strife among the people, and Paul wept for that reason, and admonished them with tears.

The Lord needs brokenhearted people. Those that never weep (we aren't talking about a mere emotion), are unable to build the house of God, and to lead the saints to the desired maturity. If they are not dealt with by the Lord they can even end up mistreating the sheep. God will work with broken men.

The gentle fruit

What was Peter like before he cried bitterly? How do we see him later on, in Pentecost? They seem to be two different men. How much good those bitter tears did for Peter! They marked out for him the direction of true service in the Spirit.

The Lord will do us a favor if he knocks us down! The Lord is doing me the biggest favor if He breaks the hardness of my soul that keeps the life of Christ captive.

The way to restoration is a road marked with tears. If we want to present ourselves before the Lord with sheaves, let us not only hope for meetings with lots of joyful noise and dancing. Paul says: "I complete in my flesh what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for his body that is the church". There are afflictions, because there is still a lot of flesh present. May the Lord remove that. The day that the Lord leaves you silent, the day that He breaks you, He will be doing you a great favor.

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