There are many activities that fall into the group of what may be called, “General Ministry.” Such activities include things like:
General giving to the Lord,
To all such activities all the children of the Lord are called, and no further revelation is needed in order that such work be done. No believer should wait for further revelation before he joins the rest of the church in carrying out such ministry. All should join in without further questions.
However, there can be a special ministry to which the Lord calls people as individuals or as groups of individuals. To such ministry the Lord says: “You, brother so and so, I want you to carry out the following work for me. ”When God gives a particular work to a particular individual or a particular group of individuals, there you have a distinctive ministry.
REVELATION: A PREREQUISITE FOR DISTINCTIVE MINISTRY
Revelation is a prerequisite for ministry. A distinctive ministry depends on a distinctive revelation from the Lord. For such revelation, there has to be:
A GIVEN SITUATION
In Exodus 1:8-14, the Bible says,
“Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war befall us, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” Therefore, they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens; and they built for Pharaoh store-cities, Pithom and Raamses. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel. So they made the people of Israel serve with rigour, and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field; in all their work they made them serve with rigour.”
“In the course of those many days the king of Egypt died. And the people of Israel groaned under their bondage, and cried out for help, and their cry under bondage came up to God” (Exodus 2: 23).
This was a given situation, a specific situation. There was a suffering people who were in such a great need that something specific had to be done for them. That is the first prerequisite for special ministry.
GOD MUST BECOME ONE WITH THE GIVEN SITUATION
A situation may exist and be quite terrible. However, if God does not become one with it by identifying Himself with it, no one can carry out a special ministry in that situation and yet satisfy the heart of God. So, a distinctive ministry is not just a personal response to a necessary situation. It is not a person looking around and saying to himself, “There is need here. What can I do about it? I will do this and that and, hopefully, God will bless my efforts.”
The children of Israel were suffering in bondage. That could have gone on for hundreds of years without God identifying Himself with their situation. He would then have done nothing for them. However, God did become one with the given situation. How did He become one with that situation? He said,
“I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters; I know their sufferings” (Exodus 3:7).
God saw, heard, and knew their suffering.
God must see the situation in a special, distinctive way. He must hear the cry in a distinctive way, and He must decide to know their suffering in a distinctive way. We insist that God must be fully involved. He was involved with the Christ on the cross. The Bible says,
“in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19).
He was not aloof. He is not aloof. His being suffers as His people suffer. Do you know that there can be no groan or tear or heartache for the cause of the Gospel without which God groans, sheds tears, and has heartaches twice as much? The Lord of heaven is involved. He is the God who feels with His people. No one can effectively carry out a distinctive ministry and by so doing satisfy the heart of God, if God was not totally involved with the pain and the agony of the people. Is that perhaps the reason why so much that passes for ministry today does not satisfy the heart of God?
GOD MUST DECIDE TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THE SITUATION
The Lord, having seen the situation and having become one with it, decided to do something about it. He said,
“I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8).
God said, “I have come down.” Eternal Glory came down to meet a human need. God is involved. He comes down and takes the move to do something about totally hopeless and helpless situations. He said He had come down to accomplish three things:
to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians,
to bring them out of that land.
to bring them to a good and broad land flowing with milk and honey.
God had three goals in mind as His answer for the given situation. The distinctive ministry involved in that situation had to do with accomplishing part or all of those goals. Having set those goals and having come down to accomplish them, it was impossible that He should fail to do so. God never changes His mind about His purposes. He goes right ahead, regardless of opposition from the wicked one, and does that which He sets out to do.
GOD MUST DECIDE THE TIME WHEN HE WANTS IT DONE
God, having decided to do something about the situation, had to face the matter of time. When must it be done? We have already discussed this at length in our study of what constitutes a work of God. We shall only add a few brief comments here. God said:
“And now . . .” (Exodus 3:9).
God had been hearing their cry long before, but at a particular point in time, His time was fully come and when He heard their cry this time, He decided to do something about it at once. God waited for that time. Even in Gospel business, this matter of God’s time, God’s right time, the fullness of God’s time, is of utmost importance. If a person is forced to make a premature commitment to the Lord Jesus, it may lead to a premature spiritual baby, and most of them die or are sickly all their spiritual lives. On the other hand, we know that too much delay can lead to a stillbirth. We know of people who died without making the right commitment to the Saviour because they kept pushing the decision into the future until it was too late. God always acts on time. He is never late.
GOD APPOINTS A PERSON THROUGH WHOM TO CARRY OUT HIS PURPOSE
When God’s time fully comes, He appoints a person through whom He will work. God’s appointments are according to His eternal purpose. God’s eternal purpose is that there might be a Body, a bride for His eternal Son ” a Body that conforms to the Head. So, all of God’s purposes relate ultimately to the Church. His appointments are not emergency operations. About Jeremiah He said,
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5).
About Isaiah it was said, “The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name” (Isaiah 49:1). Paul said,
“But when he who had set me apart before I was born and had called me through his grace was pleased to reveal his Son to me –” (Galatians 1: 15).
So God called each of these people individually. He also called them to specific ministries. Jeremiah was appointed a prophet to the nations and given clear specifications about his ministry. The Lord said to him, “Do not say, ‘l am only a youth,’ for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Be not afraid of them for I am with you to deliver you …”
Then the Lord put forth his hand and touched my mouth and the Lord said to me,
“Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant” (Jeremiah 1:9-10).
Isaiah was appointed and commissioned. The Bible says:
“He made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me away”(Isaiah 49:2).
Paul was appointed and told:
“I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and bear witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from the people and from the Gentiles” to whom I send you to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:16-18).
God appointed each of these to a specific ministry right before they were born. Of course, if they had failed Him, He would have cast them away, but by His grace they did not fail Him.
Before you became a biological reality in your mother’s womb, God already had a particular ministry prepared for you. This is God’s perfect will for you.
GOD REVEALS HIMSELF TO THE ONE APPOINTED
When God appoints a person to carry out a certain distinctive ministry, the first thing that He does is not to give that ministry to the person. That one must know God. He must have God revealed to him at the personal level. Not until God has been thus revealed to him can God reveal the ministry to which He is calling him. We insist that this personal revelation of God must precede the revelation of ministry. There are, unfortunately, those who think that they have been sent out by a God they do not know to carry out some special work for Him. This is total folly.
Paul said: “When it pleased Him to reveal His Son to me in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles…” First of all, a revelation of the Son to him; and secondly, his preaching Him among the Gentiles.
The twelve apostles were called to be with Him so that they might know Him; and only secondarily, to be sent out to preach, heal, and deliver (Mark 3:14-15). The seven sons of Sceva did not know Him, but they tried to minister in His name and incurred upon themselves the wrath of demons to whom they were not equal (Acts 19:13-17).
Moses was God’s chosen vessel for the deliverance of Israel out of the hand of the Egyptians, out of Egypt and their transfer into the Promised Land. We shall look at the call of God on him, the revelation of God to him and the commissioning of him by the Lord in some detail.