Sifting and Setting Apart

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A number of times during the month of Elul, I have mentioned the subject of separation and differentiation – both of which are taking place among God’s people at this time. God Himself says He will come and separate between sheep and sheep. Separation occurs at the threshing floor and here is a short excerpt from ‘Moving from Preparation to Positioning – pt 2’, just to refresh your memory as to the reason for the process:

‘Jesus would cleanse His threshing floor. Cleansing a threshing floor happens after the threshing has happened. When the wheat grains have been separated from the chaff, the threshing floor looks very messy. One can’t tell easily who’s who in the zoo because it is all lying in a heap together. But when the winnowing process begins, instant separation occurs – and it is the power of the wind of the Spirit that does the separating. However, it is not only the wind that decides who is taken away and who remains to be put in the barn. It has to do with the weight or substance that is contained. Chaff has very little inner substance, it is dry and very light in the spirit. When it was closely attached to and surrounding the kernels of grain, it was seen as part of the valuable crop. But after threshing, detachment occurs and the grain stands alone, carrying the weight of true nourishment.’

Malachi 3 also describes the coming of the Lord to cleanse His priests, both as a fire and as a soap to wash garments. This weekend, the Lord took me to 1 Samuel 3. It describes very clearly the transition bridge between an unrighteous priesthood and a pure, holy priesthood. And there are a number of important points to note in the way it unfolded. When God has decided it is time to judge His house because of their lack of repentance and filthy practices, He first installs His pure priest into the environment of mixture and unrighteousness, in the form of Samuel, age 3. In fact, what is quite ironic is that in Eli’s encounter with Hannah in chapter 1, he triggers the conception of the one who would replace his family line by decreeing that the Lord would grant the petition of her heart!

It was common knowledge that the sons of Eli were wicked, base and worthless. They were chaff, no substance or nutritional value… They slept with women who came to worship, stole from the sacrifices more than their rightful portion and showed no conviction when rebuked by their father for their wicked ways. Samuel meanwhile ministered before the Lord, serving Eli and learning the menial tasks of temple life. Then God sent an unknown man with a word of judgement to Eli. Because of Eli’s neglect in the restraining of his sons, their lives would be taken.

1Sa 2:34  And this shall be a sign to you, which shall come upon your two sons, on Hophni and Phinehas; in one day both of them shall die. 1Sa 2:35  And I will raise up a faithful priest to Myself, one who shall do according to what is in My heart and in My mind. And I will build him a sure house, and he shall walk before My anointed forever.

Beloved, judgement must begin at the house of God. He is looking for faithful priests. Much opportunity has been given for repentance but in some sectors there has been no change. The story of Hophni and Phineas should fill us with the fear of the Lord. For many years they continued their wicked conduct and seemingly got away with it. Hophni means ‘fighter’ and Phineas means ‘mouth of a serpent’ – strange names for sons in a priestly line… but perhaps even in infancy they displayed unpleasant attributes. Nevertheless, it is a father’s duty to discipline his children and raise them to fear the Lord and it seems Eli failed to do this. By the time the prophetic judgement was delivered, Eli was losing his ability to see. What a prophetic picture of the state of the Church, going through the motions of serving God, but unable to access the spiritual realm and not possessing the courage to unequivocally demand a standard of righteousness in line with the Word from those who call themselves priests of the Lord. Hmmmm, sound familiar?

Such was the state of the priesthood… wicked behavior, rampant and unchecked and the loss of the ability to discern light from darkness. Not only this but no-one in the priesthood was really hearing from God – the word of the Lord was rare in those days. Sound familiar? Yet, in this deteriorating atmosphere, Samuel is already faithfully ministering to the Lord, no matter what others are doing. Samuel is unaware that his installation in the temple indicates the time of the judgement of God being executed is drawing very close. Here we have the threshing floor displayed; the separation between chaff and precious grain clearly evident. Now only the winnowing needs to take place… and remember, the prophetic word of warning threshes but the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord and the Spirit of Burning are involved in the winnowing. The precious grain is going to get shaken up a bit and that by the movement of the hand of God with His winnowing fork in His hand, but the chaff is about to be destroyed by the fire of judgement. Look at the following verses:

1Sa 3:2  And it came to pass at that time, when Eli was laid down in his place – now his eyes had begun to wax dim, that he could not see- 1Sa 3:3  and the lamp of God was not yet gone out, and Samuel was laid down to sleep in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was, 

Eli, the head of the priesthood that is about to be replaced is sleeping in his own bed and his sight is dim, but Samuel, the manchild, is resting by the ark of God. Such is the difference between the old guard and the new; the former pampers his own flesh and declines discipline – comfort is more important than the presence of God. No wonder God seldom spoke to them. The new order of priesthood, although not formally ordained and installed yet, is hungry for the presence of God and not even exhaustion will keep them from getting as close as they can to Him. No wonder God decided that it was time for a change of DNA in the priesthood. Hophni and Phineas’ children would not be allowed to follow in their father’s footsteps. God decrees that those who by their actions display they are sons of Belial must have their DNA removed from the gene pool of any future priesthood. Tremble with the fear of the Lord, priesthood of God. His winnowing fork is in His hand.

This is how the changing of the priesthood occurs: first, God stops talking to Eli. He will only hear from God through others. And then God begins to call the prepared manchild. Samuel has never even heard God’s voice and has to be coached by Eli in how to respond to the voice that calls his Name in the night. And the very first word he gets from God is a word of judgement against his mentor’s family. How is that for a test of the extent of the fear of the Lord in one’s heart? Yet, in spite of being afraid, Samuel delivers the message word for word in the morning light. And  it is clear he has not only heard but seen God, because he recounts the whole ‘vision’ 1 Sam 3:10, 15).  It is not a new word. Eli has heard these details before. This is how he knows the child heard God’s voice clearly. The Almighty is just reiterating the judgement He spoke some time before through the unknown prophet. This kind of judgement cannot be prayed away. You can call a massive prayer meeting but when the judgement is set, you are wasting your breath. The appointed day of execution of the decreed judgement will arrive. God will have a pure, faithful priesthood. The chaff is to be relegated to the everlasting burnings and the grain is stored in the barn.

Such is the sifting of the hearts of God’s priests in this month of Elul. How much spiritual weight do you carry within you. Is there sufficient measure of the manifestation of the DNA of Jesus within your vessel? Have you showed fruit of repentance? Do you walk according to His righteous standards or do you mouth all the right phrases but harbour thoughts of hatred and bitterness towards others deep within. Are you using and abusing other members of the Body of Christ, like Hophni and Phineas who forced their servants to participate in the stealing of the offerings? Does your way of conducting yourself cause others to stumble? Do you scoff at calls to repentance and continue parading around in your priestly garments, throwing your weight around in the circle of the saints, subjugating and forcing others to minister to your fleshly desires? You are sinning against the Lord first and foremost.  And you will not be able to claim ignorance when the judgement strikes unexpectedly. Judgement begins at the House of God and it is clear the world and its wicked ways is sorely in need of God’s hand of judgement but first, He deals with His Body and those who claim to be His priests, offering incense before Him and taking the tithes of the saints. And don’t assume that this sifting is only going to take place in the organized system. Right in the midst of those who call themselves the Bridal Company, God is going to separate between sheep and sheep! And the masqueraders are going to be obvious by the unfolding judgements. These are very serious days, saints. Cry out for the fear of the Lord to grip your heart.

Ananias and Sapphira dropped dead when rebuked for lying to the Holy Spirit but in this case, God operated differently.  Israel went into battle against the Philistines. The root of the Hebrew for ‘philistine’ means ‘to roll in the dust, to wallow’. Dust and mud always symbolize the flesh. So God’s people are rising up and going into battle against those wallowing in the sins of the flesh. I will leave your imagination to work out just what those sins could encompass. And most surprisingly for the Israelites, God does not give them victory over this fleshly crowd of barbarians. They are soundly routed. But what do they do next? Do they fall on their knees in repentance and call for a fast? No, they lean on their own understanding and decide to bring in the big guns – they are going to call for the ark of God to accompany them into the next round of the fight. So the two vile priests, Hophni and Phineas are summoned to cart the ark of God before the army of God’s people into battle. What presumption to sit the holy ark on the shoulders of such eminent sinners! It is no surprise that the two priests who wallowed in their sins of the flesh year after year without a twinge of conscience should be slaughtered by the very horde of barbarians who lived as they did in vile sexual escapades and unrighteousness. He who lives by the sword will die by the sword and it seems that he who indulges continually in the sins of the flesh will die looking into a mirror in the form of a horde who show them what they really look like to God.

As I type this, I cannot help but think of the mayhem and lawlessness rampaging the streets in America. Please, saints of God, do not be a part of rushing into battle with this movement, thinking that God is accompanying you and will give you victory. Presumption got Hophni and Phineas killed. This is the time for fasting and crying out to God to search our own hearts for any wicked way and then to avail ourselves of the Blood of the Lamb. Let the dead bury the dead. Do not get involved. Samuel was back at the temple, worshiping God, when the unrighteous priesthood, puffed up in their own self-importance strode into the thick of the battle. Be found worshiping at the altar in these days. Remember Revelation 11:

Rev 11:1  And a reed like a staff was given to me, and the angel stood, saying, Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar, and those worshiping in it. Rev 11:2  And cast aside the outside court of the temple, and do not measure it. For it was given to the nations, and they will trample the holy city forty two months. 

God is winnowing the priesthood. Those who have no spiritual weight, who honor Him with their lips but their hearts are far from Him have a decree of judgement hanging over their heads. It is time for a pure faithful priesthood to be brought forth and for the mixture in the House of God to be dealt with.

Today, Sept 14th is the anniversary of the first day of creation (Elul 25th). In these days, God surveys His church and the priesthood is without form and void. And darkness is upon the face of the deep. But the Holy Spirit is brooding over the waters and the situation is going to change. He has a manchild, a faithful pure priesthood faithfully worshiping at His altar. Seemingly insignificant, only performing menial tasks, opening the door, checking the lamps but hungry for His presence,  a vessel of light introduced into a dark place. And now God is going to separate light from darkness and call it what it is. He is going to separate between vessels carrying darkness and those who truly bear the light of Christ and the separation is permanent and clearly differentiated.  Those who are really sons of Belial, who only wear outward robes of Christianity, will amass together as part of the army of darkness, and God’s judgement on them is set. But those who are sons of light and sons of the Day will continue to fear God and worship Him ever more as they see the Day approaching.

1Th 5:2  For you yourselves know accurately that the day of the Lord comes like a thief in the night. 1Th 5:3  For when they shall say, Peace and safety! Then sudden destruction comes on them, as travail upon a woman with child. And they shall not escape. 1Th 5:4  But you, brothers, are not in darkness, that the Day should overtake you like a thief. 1Th 5:5  You are all the sons of light and the sons of the day. We are not of the night, or of darkness. 1Th 5:6  Therefore let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us watch and be sober. 1Th 5:7  For those sleeping sleep in the night, and those being drunken are drunken in the night. 1Th 5:8  But let us, who are of the day, be calm, having put on the breastplate of faith and love and the hope of salvation for a helmet. 1Th 5:9  For God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, 1Th 5:10  who died for us, so that whether we watch or sleep we should live together with Him.

The arrival of the child, Samuel, as a bondslave of the Lord, at the temple indicates the transition bridge of the change of priesthood has begun. Even as the sons of Belial continue their lawlessness as they parade as priests of God, demanding honor and more than their assigned portion, God is rolling out His plan for the cleansing of His House. Little Samuel, the one hungry for God’s presence, begins the recalibration of the priesthood to faithfulness and holiness (Let there be Light). In a single day, two generations of unrighteous priests are removed and new spiritual DNA has the floor in God’s House (and God separated the light from the darkness and there was evening and morning, a new day).

Samuel was 13 when he became the priest and prophet of the Lord and judged Israel – and every word he spoke was true; none of them fell to the ground because he shared the true words breathed by God, gathered in His presence. It may look outwardly like the state of God’s priesthood is going from bad to worse, but God’s manchild is already at the altar, already worshiping in a linen ephod and the time of the execution of the cleansing judgements is at the door…

(pt 2 to follow)

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