II Corinthians 1:9-10, "But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raised the dead, Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver; in Whom we trust, that He will yet deliver us." It is this thought of present deliverance that is on my mind this morning. It was apparent by your testimonies that convention began last night. We are becoming more aware the Wednesday evening meeting is wonderful preparation from the Thursday meeting. Your quietness as you come into the meeting helps it to stay on course. Your prayers keep it on course. Your testimonies do that also, and we will seek to do our part so that this convention will be what God intends it should be.
It is wonderful to come to a place like this, and some of you have been coming for many years. It seems so unnecessary in our land of liberty, but could you remember this morning our friends who do not have the privilege of fellowship, those who are isolated for so any months of the year. Sometimes they may get a convention and sometimes they don't. When they don't, God is able to make it up to them.
When we come to convention, we need a fresh understanding of just Who God is, and what He is like, Who His Son is, and what He is like. We need to get fresh understanding of the Holy Spirit's work today, that links us with the Father and Son in eternity, and links us with each other. We are thankful for its influence in the lives of His servants and in the lives of His people. It is the Spirit, really, that spells the difference between a body of believers in this family of God and every other body in the world. We just come to convention and get a fresh understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Between conventions a couple of weeks ago, we had the opportunity to go to a home and have two morning studies with those people. They happened to be studying in First Samuel. There is a chapter in that book that has appealed to me for a couple of years now. They weren't quite up to that chapter, and I didn't want to be over-persuasive, but I said, "What about I Samuel 7?" They misunderstood me and thought I said, "I Samuel at 7 o'clock in the morning." I didn't want to change their mind and we studied in Samuel 5 and 6, and still didn't get to chapter 7. We went to another home after the next convention, and they asked what chapter we would like to read with them; and I said, "How about I Samuel 7?" So, we got it that morning. I want to leave a few verses, or a few things or a few words, from this chapter with you at the beginning of our convention, because when you read this chapter, I suppose we could say it was like a convention in the Old Testament.
The one thing I'll mention first is the last part of verse 2, "All the house of Israel lamented after the Lord." I don't believe we all come limping to convention, but I know some of us do. I remember many times when that was my experience as I came to convention. I believe that in the heart of nearly every child of God who comes to a place like this, there is that spirit of mourning. One of the blesseds that Jesus mentioned in Matthew 5, the sermon on the mount, was, "Blessed are they that mourn." I've connected that blessing with this verse. "Blessed are they that mourn." "They lamented after the Lord." They realized they had done things amiss. There wasn't that same close association, that same nearness to the Lord, that spirit of mourning. Jesus said they would be comforted, and I hope every one of us this morning who has the spirit of mourning or lamenting will have the comfort God intends we should have.
We remember our first days, no doubt every one of us do, when deliverance came into our lives. I suppose it is an unforgettable experience. It is not like a popular missionary's wife, who said she could not remember when she was saved (so-called). She could not remember the day when she surrendered her heart and will to the Master. She cannot remember it, but I am sure every one of us remembers that day with gratitude. Someone said in their testimony this morning they remember the first servant they met, and through whom the message of deliverance came. It is a wonderful thing to rejoice over our first deliverance.
My mind goes back to a little Sunday Union Meeting in my experience. It was a little humble home that maybe many of you have heard me speak about in past conventions. It was a log home, with no foundations except maybe a flat rock here and there under the first log, and then banked up a little with some dirt. The bottom log had to be intact form one end to the other, and you had to step over that log getting into the house. It was so low, you had to duck under the top log to enter. I remember well that little union meeting where my Uncle Joe Kleven and Aunt Minnie, who happened to be Noreen Kleven's Uncle Joe and Aunt Minnie also, had the main part of the union meeting. When everyone else had given their testimonies, it was left open for others in the meeting to express a willingness for God to begin a work in their lives. My oldest brother, his wife, and I availed ourselves of that opportunity. That home is uninhabited now. I looked at it last fall, a year ago. I looked in the open window, to a floor that is nearly all broken up except for the floor joists, but we could pick out the very spot where we had sat side by side, and where we stood one by one and expressed our desire. The elder of that meeting, after it was over, a man of few words, came to us and said this, "I don't have much to say to you, but all I want to say is, 'Stick to it.'" In the nearly thirty years that the meeting was in that home, he had seen some come and some drop out. He had seen some children grow up and begin in this family of God, and then depart. These words of his were very, very meaningful to me, "Stick to it."
That was the beginning of our deliverance, and I didn't have much of a testimony at the time. I remember just a few months later, I was at Noreen's Grandpa's home where the convention was held. We had picked up some of the workers and took them to Sunday meeting in that home. One of the sister workers, on the way back, asked me a question about my testimony and my experience. She wondered if I had been religious or worldly, and I didn't know how to answer her. I didn't have much to say.
I feel so thankful for God's keeping power through the years when we knew so little, when I could count on the fingers of one hand the chapters of the Bible I had read before I decided. After a few weeks, I decided maybe we should be praying, but we didn't know how to pray. We didn't practice prayer in our family. Our mother had taught us a little rhyme. I remembered saying that when we were children, but now we were grown up. I was just two days from being twenty years old, and at this time when I began to think about praying I was already past my birthday. I didn't know how to pray and I didn't know what to pray. Can you picture a grown young man getting on his knees, 20 years of age, and saying these words, "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep; if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take?" I didn't know what else to pray.
I thank God for His keeping power through those years when we knew so little and when we understood so little. I go back over the years and think of the time God delivered me and set me free. I'm beginning to understand a little more as time passed what a marvelous deliverance it was at the first. I'm beginning to understand how wonderful it is that just that first deliverance is not the only time God will help His people, but that He is anxious to deliver, and deliver, and deliver. The day will come in your experience and mine, if we stick to it, when there will be that last deliverance. We will be delivered from this vile body. If it is before the Lord would come, our spirits will go to rest and wait with Christ until that Day comes. It is He Who hath delivered us from so great a death and doth deliver us, the One in Whom we trust that He will yet deliver us. He should not trust in ourselves, but in God.
So we have come with the spirit of mourning, something like that publican who couldn't so much as lift his head, in Luke 18. He could only say, "God be merciful to me, a sinner." I appreciate our brother's testimony that there is not a sign coming into this place where God meets with His people that says, "Just for the worthy." It is for the unworthy, and for those with the spirit of mourning. That poor man went down justified rather than the other one who felt himself worthy.
In I Samuel 7, it tells us about for things that are like ingredients to the recipe for deliverance. I would like to enlarge on these four things to help us appreciate present deliverance and present renewal and present restoration. In verse 3, there is #1, "Return unto the Lord with all your heart." #2, "Put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you." #3, "Prepare your hearts unto the Lord." #4, "Serve Him only, and He will deliver you out of the hands of the Philistines."
The Philistines were a perpetual enemy of God's people, and I suppose we have that same enemy today. They have often been likened to wandering thoughts, and I am satisfied this morning that there in our minds is where victory or defeat begins, and there in our minds is where the enemy wants to being about our defeat. It is wonderful to think about the possibility of subduing that enemy and knowing the power of God on our side to bring it into subjection, so that we would not come back again, because it did even in the time of the children of Israel: but it is wonderful when we can bring about a victory - when the Lord can do that in our lives.
I found a verse as I was preparing for this meeting. I don't think I can bring you the chapter now, but I found that a deceitful heart is what turns us away from this pathway. It is not that we want our hearts to be deceitful, but the Scripture teaches us this is the kind of heart we have. (Jeremiah 17:9) We are constantly having little conversations with ourselves. If you are like I am, you will find that in those conversations, we are constantly justifying ourselves. We are allowing this to be our course, or allowing this or that in our silent conversations with ourselves. That is where the deceitfulness of our heart enters this picture, and we find ourselves drifting form the presence of God. (#1) It was the deceitful heart that turned Him away. If we can just recognize that is the kind of heart we have, maybe it will help us have the spirit of mourning, and the attitude that would enable God to draw near to us again. We turn from God so often. "Our souls cleave to the dust," the Psalmist said. It is just by nature we are more inclined that way than we are towards God, and there is constant need for us to return to the Lord.
Moses gathered the children of Israel together shortly before he died, and he gave a little future history to those people. He told them what was going to happen in the days ahead. It is a marvelous group of chapters - Deuteronomy 28,29, and 30. They tell us the future happenings of the children of Israel. They were going to depart from the Lord, just like there is the tendency in our lives to depart. The wonderful thing is what when people were willing to return, the Lord would return to them. That is the point I would like to make from these verses.
Deuteronomy 30:1, "Thou shalt call them to mind wherever you are." I'll just put it that way. Wherever you have been driven - whatever position you find yourself in. "If you will just call to mind, and shall return to the Lord Thy God, and obey His voice according to all I command you this day, then the Lord Thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and gather thee from wherever you are." He will bring you back to Himself, so that the right relationship might exist again.
Do you remember the convention a few years ago when Joel stood in this Position, the first speaker of the convention, and told us a little story about a man and his wife? They had been married a number of years, and they were driving along in their automobile. They overtook another couple who were obviously not married very long. The couple in the car in front of them were sitting quite close together. As they drove down the highway in that position, the lady in the back car said to her husband, "Why can't we be like that?" The man behind the wheel said, "Well, I haven't moved." Isn't it wonderful to think that in this promise, if we will stop and think about it, no matter where we are and return, then He will draw near to us?
Verse 4, that is pretty far away. I don't know all of you, and more of you know me that I know you. There may be some be some in this meeting this morning who feel they are too far away. We have know some like that. I knew a lady one time who for years associated herself with God's people, but she couldn't take part in the meetings though she went to the meetings. She went faithfully with her husband and children, but she couldn't take part. She came faithfully to the gospel meetings, also.
We had a little gathering in her home one night, and everyone was so happy and rejoicing in the living room of that home. Suddenly, I noticed she wasn't there. I went to the kitchen and found her sitting beside the stove so forlorn. I asked her what was the trouble. She said, "If you only knew my life, you could understand how impossible it is for me to have a part in hearty fellowship with God's people. I'm what you could call a black sheep. I know this is God's way, and I love His servants and His people, but I just can't ever think about having a part in His family." She thought she was too far away. I was glad for the conversation that continued as she and I sat alone in that kitchen while the others were singing hymns and rejoicing in the other room. Finally I heard her ask, "How long are you going to have the meetings?" We said, "Until you are restored." I wish I could show you some of her letters now. She wasn't too far away. No one is beyond the love of Christ, and that woman rejoices in God's family today. "If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the Lord gather thee, and from thence will He fetch thee. He will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and you shall possess it, and He will do thee good." Isn't that wonderful?
I read Psalm 85 in connection with this. There are so many wonderful and positive things in that Psalm about God's attitude towards His people. It says He will speak peace to His people, and it ends up by telling us He will show us the path. It says, "Righteousness shall go before Him and shall set us in the way of His steps." It is wonderful to be back in line and rejoicing in the kingdom again.
I went from Deuteronomy 30 and past I Samuel 7 over into the story of Solomon after he had built the temple, and began to dedicate that temple. He prayed to God, and gave many different situations or conditions they find themselves in. It didn't seem to matter what it was. Most of them are very common to us today. If you just think about God and will return to Him He will hear. As we were singing in that hymn, He will hear from Heaven. He will restore and deliver us again; He will bring us back into hearty fellowship again. This is a wonderful thing.
You can read II Chronicles 6 and 7. II Chronicles 7 is just the answer to what Solomon was praying. There is a verse that we were asked to memorize some years ago, but I won't trust my memory this morning. II Chronicles 7:14, Solomon could say that blessed is the Lord that has never failed one of His promises to His people. We might encourage you to know that all you need to do is just return and humble yourselves and pray and seek His face. He will turn and return.
Psalm 80 was another Psalm I read in connection with this meeting. Three times in that Psalm the Psalmist asked the Lord to help him turn. He said, "Turn us again and we will be saved." (Jeremiah 31:18) He was asking for the help just to turn around. This last fall when I returned from the round of conventions away from our country, one of the brothers in that mission I helped with, spoke meeting after meeting on the word repent. He said, "This is what is meant, 'Stop and turn around.'" You are going in the wrong direction. As you read this, you will understand that is what it means. Verse 19, it is a wonderful attitude. So different form the self-righteous attitude of the Pharisee in Luke 18 whose prayers didn't even reach the sealing. He just prayed thus with himself. He was thanking God that he wasn't as other men were, and his spirit didn't allow the Lord to help him. Maybe that is enough about turning and returning. That is the first thing we need to do in getting back to God and getting restored and knowing fresh deliverance in our lives.
The next one is to put away the strange gods. We were hearing last night about strange gods. Really it is simple the thing or person that is taking the place in your life that God should have. That is all God is asking, that He should have first place in their lives. He had lost His place in their lives, the place that He should have had, and something else was taking its place. You know you can't be a vacuum. Did you ever try taking a vacuum bottle and punching a hole in it? It immediately fills up again, and we cannot remain a vacuum. Something has to fill our lives. If it isn't the Lord, it is something else or somebody else.
That reminds me of Uncle Jack Carroll's words - somebody or something must be first in every life. We ourselves are responsible for who that person, or that something, is going to be. That is very, very true, friend, so just put it away. God is going to make it very clear to you this morning, whether it is the clutter our sister talked about this morning, whether it is the plunder that Charlie Mitchell used to talk about, or whatever it is. He told about people even having to build another room on their house for their plunder. If could be place. You say, "Why place?" But you know some places can have first place in your life. Put these things away.
That happened in Jacob's experience when he had to go back to Bethel. He knew amongst his own family they had some gods, and they were taking the place the Lord should have in their lives. He wrestled all night with the angle, and he got the victory. Then he just stood before his family. This is something at times, it may be pretty difficult to do. (I believe it is more difficult to speak to one of your own kith and kin than anyone else. I have had that experience.) Jacob got the victory, and he said to his family, "Put away the strange gods from among you, and be clean, and change your garments;" and they did it, and they journeyed. There was progress because they put it away.
Back in the city of Saskatoon, there was a young couple who were not yet married, but they were going together. They were from the hippie world, the drug world, and the alcoholic world. They heard about the meetings in a very strange way, and they came because they were looking for something better. They wanted to have something different in their lives, and to make a long story short, they decided to serve the Lord. They went home from that very meeting and decided without one word ever being said to them, and they literally house cleaned. They not only cleaned up their lives from the drugs, from the smoking and the drinking; but they cleaned up their house from the clutter. I don't need to tell you that family is prospering. I don't need to tell you who is first in their lives. They rejoice in the family of God because they put the strange gods away.
Numbers 3, I wish I knew better by experience what this means, to prepare our hearts. I was thinking of Hezekiah who prepared his heart to seek the Lord, and he did that which was right. It tells one thing to me, and that is effort. I thought of Ezra who did the same. It says Ezra prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and not only to seek it, but do it; and not only to do it, but to teach it in all Israel. He prepared his heart to seek the Lord, and it was wonderful.
This man Hezekiah, who prepared his heart to seek the Lord and to do His will; when he had the authority, he cleaned things out. He put a lot of things away. He had the temple doors repaired, and he had the filth of the temple taken out and put away. They were preparing their hearts to seek the Lord, and it brought about that wonderful restoration and that wonderful relationship once again with God's people. I read also another verse where it said, "He prepared not his heart to seek the Lord," and his life ended in disaster. This is a vital ingredient, it is a vital thing for your life and mine. Turn and return, and put away the things that are occupying the place that God should have in your life, and prepare your heart to seek the Lord.
Then it says, "Serve Him, and serve Him only." We had some meetings last year that I called our extra-curricular meetings. They weren't a regular study meeting, they weren't a fellowship meeting, they weren't a gospel meeting; they were just extra-curricular meetings. In one of them, a brother mentioned that he used to read about the children of Israel in the Old Testament, and saw where, so often and repeatedly, they would resort to other gods or other things that occupied their lives. He wondered why until it suddenly dawned on him that was the prevailing thing around them. I got a little revelation last week when I was reading my Bible and thinking about those people Paul wrote to in Ephesus. He reminded them about where they once were before the gospel came to them, and he just said they walked according to the course of this world, and the margin says they walked according to the age. That is just as true today as I stand here. They walked according to the age.
Do you remember when we had the problem of long hair among the boys? It was just that they were walking according to the age. We do the thing that is prevalent around us. Do you remember when we had the problem of short skirts? It was walking according to the age. The enemy is very anxious to have that sort of thing creep into God's family, sort of drift in. It was because of the prevalence of idols all around God's people in the Old Testament days that they became idolaters - they walked according to the age.
Friends, it would be wonderful if we could give testimony by life as well as by lips that we serve God, and Him only. My mind went to Jesus in the wilderness of temptation, where the enemy said, "If you will bow down and worship me, all these things will be yours." Jesus said, "Get behind Me, Satan, for the scripture teaches thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve." I wonder how singular we are this morning? I wonder how purposeful we are in preparing our hearts to serve God? I wonder how willing we are to put away the things that He will make plain in these meetings, the things that need putting away? I wonder how anxious we are to return?
If we are, if these four things are our desire this morning, then we are going to have a grand deliverance. It you will read the rest of this chapter, you will find where fresh water was poured out of that place, a fresh sucking lamb was offered in sacrifice. It is like giving our lives afresh. You will see where the Lord discomfited the enemy. You will see where they experienced His help, and there was rejoicing because of it.
Every year, Samuel went back to that place to judge and guide God's people. It would be a wonderful thing to come back again to the same place, and remember how God helped us. I hope that might be our portion as we look into the rest of the meetings of this convention.