ONE NIGHT Zechariah was awakened out of his sleep by an angel. The angel portrayed before him a rather interesting combination of golden candlesticks, bowl, lamps, olive trees, and pipes. The profane reader of the fourth chapter of Zechariah would perhaps consider this a Rube Goldberg device, but the spiritually-minded can discover great significance in Zechariah's description of what he was shown.
I picture two olive trees from which two pipes lead to a beautiful golden bowl, which sits on top of a rather large branched candle stick. From the bowl seven separate pipes branch out to the arms of the candlestick that supports seven lamps. Zechariah describes the golden oil flowing through the two pipes into the bowl and continuing through the seven pipes to the seven lamps. This oil is not the kind of oil that the world presently is quarreling over but is a special kind of oil called in the Scriptures "golden oil."
When Zechariah saw all of this elaborate equipment with the oil running through it he asked the angel, What does all of this mean? The angel's reply is most significant. "This is the word of the Lord . . . saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts" (Zech. 4:6).
The two olive trees are the holy ones that stand in God's presence. From these the Holy Spirit is imparted to certain human beings on earth, human instrumentalities who are totally committed and consecrated to His service. The golden oil of the Holy Spirit imparts light and power to God's instrument, which in turn imparts light and love to others.
There is a question which faces all of us today, Can a man impart that which he himself has not received? Can an unlit candle produce light that will pierce the darkness?
Christ Lived the Truth
Some time ago two men were walking from Jerusalem to a little village called Emmaus. It was quite a walk about seven miles. Their journey took place shortly after the resurrection of their Master, Jesus. You remember how the Master turned the twosome into a threesome and they began to talk about recent events relative to the crucifixion. It is interesting to note that Roman politics, the then current economic situation, the overcrowded conditions in Jerusalem, the devaluation of the shekel, the high prices of food, the need of salary increases, or even the weather had no place in their thoughts or discussion. One thing monopolized their conversation. The trial and crucifixion of Jesus, who to them "was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people" (Luke 24:19).
After they had expressed their deep disappointment over Christ's death and His seeming failure to redeem Israel, the Master began talking. His first words were "O fools" or as the New English Bible says, "How dull you are." * Then He took the writings of Moses and expounded the prophecies, His own life and death and resurrection. Christ's prophetic dissertation was so powerful, so convincing, so persuasive, that in later conversation these two dis heartened disciples testified eloquently to each other in these words: "Did we not feel our hearts on fire as he talked with us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?" (Luke 24:32, N.E.B.).* That fire was seen in their subsequent action. They jumped up from the supper table that "same hour" and rushed seven miles back to Jerusalem to give their testimony to the other disciples. A fourteen-mile hike in one day is no small feat. Seven of those miles were walked in dejection. Seven were traveled in rejoicing.
Suppose Caiaphas was the one doing the expounding on this journey. Let's assume that he spoke the same words and used the same prophecies that Jesus used. Let us also assume that he interpreted these prophecies exactly as Christ did. Let us assume that he brought these men to exactly the same conclusion that Jesus brought them to that Christ indeed was the Messiah. Furthermore, let's assume that Caiaphas had no change of attitude and mind toward Christ while he was giving this Bible study, but he did it, and he did it well, because he was paid to do it.
If this had been the case, do you think these men's hearts would have caught on fire? Would they have rushed back to Jerusalem with the good news of the resurrection?
If our answer is Yes, then is it really necessary to have the golden oil in order to communicate the gospel? "Christ taught the truth because He was the truth. His own thought, His character, His life-experience, were embodied in His teaching. So with His servants: those who would teach the word are to make it their own by a personal experience. They must know what it is to have Christ made unto them wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption. . . . Every minister of Christ and every teacher should be able to say with the beloved John, 'The life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us.' 1 John 1:2." --Christ's Object Lessons, p. 43.
Does Character Have Any Effect?
Again, how far should we carry this point? Presumably most of us agree with this statement, but how important is it to us to be the truth? Often I ask myself, What kind of a communicator am I? When I speak publicly or privately, is the seed mine which I sow? When I speak, is there a life of consistent Christianity behind my words? If not, can the seed sown spring up and grow properly? Or does the seed sown by an unconverted sower fall only on stony or thorny or wayside soil? What do you think?
Does the character of the preacher have any effect on his listeners as to their response to the words they are hearing? Please understand that I am not trying to be mystical in my thinking. God forbid. But over the years I have given much thought to this point. I have often wondered if there is a quality in the spoken or written word originating from consecrated sources that is not in the spoken or written word originating from unconsecrated sources. Does God bless in a special way, but not necessarily with outward show, the work done by a consecrated person work that will stand for eternity?
During my college years I made friends with a certain young minister who confidentially told me one day that he was not living right. He went on to explain in detail some of his practices that gave unmistakable evidence that he was not a converted man. He admitted it, so I am not judging the man, merely giving his own testimony. He was holding meetings at the time of this conversation and people were being baptized. Then he said, "God works in spite of the instrument." That started me thinking. Does God really work this way? Is this a fairly common occurrence? Does the work accomplished by self-confessed evil doers and charlatans have only temporary and not eternal results? Perhaps a work that may result in fattening our statistics and make good reports in our union papers, but will pass away in the end? If we say that eternal good may be accomplished by workers who lack the golden oil, then what does Ellen White mean when she says, "Only the work accomplished with much prayer, and sanctified by the merit of Christ, will in the end prove to have been efficient for good" (The Desire of Ages, p. 362)?
Or consider this statement: "It is Cod alone who can give success either in preparing or in circulating our publications. . . . Humble, fervent prayer will do more to promote the circulation of our books than will all the expensive ornamentation in the world. God has great and grand resources for man to lay hold of, and in the most simple manner will be developed the working of the divine agencies. The divine Teacher says: 'My Spirit alone is competent to teach and to convict of sin. Externals make only a temporary impression upon the mind. I will enforce truth on the conscience, and men shall be My witnesses, throughout the world asserting My claims on man's time, his money, his intellect.' " --Testimonies, vol. 7, pp. 158, 159.
Can God Use Any Kind of Person?
The question is, Can God use any kind of a person to teach His truth? Can God use any kind of person to write His literature? Can God use any kind of person to witness for His love? Can a sacred work be performed by secular men? If we answer Yes, I ask again, Is it really necessary to have the golden oil to communicate the gospel?
How can we bring people face to face, mind to mind, heart to heart, with Christ unless we are possessed by the Holy Spirit? How can an evil individual speak good things that will really make an eternal impact on others?
Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, although associated with a man of God, apparently had not surrendered his life to the heavenly powers. You will recall he ended up a leper and probably died with this dread disease. It came upon him as a curse. His selfishness and greed for money got the best of him. One time Elisha responded to the urgent pleas of the Shunammite woman whose son had died. Elisha sent Gehazi with his staff to this poor woman's home, and gave him specific instructions not to speak to anyone on his journey. He told Gehazi to place his staff "upon the face of the child" (2 Kings 4:31). Gehazi followed Elisha's formula down to the last detail, but nothing happened. The Scriptures say that "there was neither voice, nor hearing" after Gehazi put the staff on his face. Is there a lesson in this for us? Elisha had the golden oil, poor Gehazi didn't. Isn't it the Person and the Power behind the individual who holds the staff that counts?
This is true even in musical presentations. The Lord gave us this counsel years ago. "In the meetings that are held, they are not to depend on worldly singers and theatrical display to awaken an interest. How can those who have no interest in the Word of God, who have never read His word with a sincere desire to under stand its truths, be expected to sing with the spirit and the under standing? How can their hearts be in harmony with the words of sacred song? How can the heavenly choir join in music that is only a form?" --Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 143.
Even in the field of instrumental music, does the music played by converted individuals have a spiritual quality that is nonexistent in the music played by unconverted individuals? We are told, "Display is not religion nor sanctification. There is nothing more offensive in God's sight than a display of instrumental music when those taking part are not consecrated, are not making melody in their hearts to the Lord. The offering most sweet and acceptable in God's sight is a heart made humble by self-denial, by lifting the cross and following Jesus." --Evangelism, p. 510.
During an Autumn Council several years ago, a young college woman walked out on the platform of the Takoma Park church and sat down beside a harp. It was special music time. Before she finished playing, the majority in that audience were gripped by the spirituality of the performance. The music was simple. Nothing overpowering or spectacular. The performer was dressed modestly. Some way, some how, the Spirit of God spoke through that girl and harp. I later found out who the girl was, and the testimony of those who knew her confirmed that she was a tremendous Christian and a wonderful influence in the school. Undoubtedly a person through whose life the golden oil flowed.
What About Money?
I have wondered about money" being wasted in our church. One day the thought struck me that any money secured or given by right motivation is never wasted. The widow's mite motivation ensures the money will be spent properly. If any money is wasted, it is only that money which is secured and given through wrong methods and motivations. Interesting thought, isn't it? In at least one instance Ellen White pointed out that some money given to the church has a curse on it. Speaking of donations received from those trafficking in liquor she said, "This very man may make large donations to the church; but will God accept of the money that is wrung from the family of the drunkard? It is stained with the blood of souls, and the curse of God is upon it. God says, 'For I the Lord love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt offering.' " --Temperance, p. 232.
From what has been said so far, I wouldn't be surprised if you were laboring under the impression that I think that any sermon, Bible study, radio program, special music, script, book, or whatever, produced or communicated by unconverted "servants of God," cannot possibly have any effect on individuals. Such is not the case. Jesus said He would use rocks as preachers if necessary. "A man may hear and acknowledge the whole truth, and yet know nothing of personal piety and true experimental religion. He may explain the way of salvation to others, and yet himself be a castaway. The truth is holy and powerful, and searches the intents and purposes of the heart. The importance and authority of the truth in the great plan of salvation originated in the divine Author, and are not rendered void or worthless because the instruments employed in their administration are unholy or unfaithful." --Evangelism, p. 682.
But I firmly believe that if every worker in this church, whether he be janitor, typesetter, president, evangelist, nurse, doctor, pastor, or layman, made it his or her first work to constantly receive fresh supplies of the golden oil and then go to work using sanctified brain cells and energy in thought and action to reach the world with the glorious gospel, we would see the might of the omnipotent God working in our behalf as we have never yet seen it! The church militant would be the church triumphant in a very, very short time.
What Is Success?
Often we ask, What is success? Success to my way of thinking is when the Lord comes This is the ultimate success! When the Spirit takes possession of us as workers, the work accomplished will be of such a quality and of such magnitude that we will be in the same position as the New Testament church. They started out with their statistical records—3,000 souls, 5,000 souls. Then things got out of hand. The Apostolic General Conference Communications Department put several notices in their TELL journal that read "And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women" (Acts 5:14). Another read, "And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith" (chap. 6:7). There are no more specific statistics relative to large numbers of baptisms in the book of Acts after these announcements. They refer to membership additions by simply using the term multitudes.
Why don't we give less emphasis to numbers and statistics and more emphasis to the golden oil and see what happens? Only the Holy Spirit can produce this kind of success. Until that day, those filled with the golden oil will seek the highest standard of performance. We talk about expertise, skill, professionalism—but does not the Holy Spirit inspire a man to reach for the highest level of performance? In no way does a spiritual endowment lower the standards.
Ours is a spiritual work, to be accomplished by spiritual men and women, using the finest means and methods for the purpose of preparing a people spiritually to live with Christ forever. If this is not true, then why should we not hire the top public relations people in the world, whether they be atheist or Shintoist? Why not hire the finest public speakers to stand in our pulpits—men who are technical experts at persuading people even though they be agnostics? Why not hire Nobel prize-winning scientists to teach in our schools, regardless of their beliefs and attitudes?
The wonderful thing about it all is that God takes common men and women and makes them uncommon through His Spirit. He takes fishermen and turns them into powerful witnesses for Him.
He takes men and women in this movement today and through His unlimited power uses them to carry His message of salvation to the lost multitudes.
"God's faithful messengers are to go steadily forward with their work. Clothed with the panoply of heaven, they are to advance fearlessly and victoriously, never ceasing their warfare until every soul within their reach shall have received the message of truth for this time."—Evangelism, pp. 705, 706.
* From The New English Bible. © The Delegates of the Oxford University Press and the Syndics of the Cambridge University Press 1970. Reprinted by permission.