The Battle for the Throne

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 4 - The Special Vow

Reading: Leviticus 27; 2 Kings 9:1-7,16-20; 10:11,30.

The matter with which the Lord has been and is engaging us is that of the battle for the Throne, as being the fundamental and the final issue of the history of this world. All the Lord's people are bound up with that issue, and it relates to them immediately. While, as we shall see, it is all in Christ, yet it is a matter for the saints in Christ, the dominion of this universe as God's intention from the beginning.

Utterness for the Lord

Within that compass there is a specific word which is in a measure detached from the sequence of our meditations, but occupies a place perhaps of particular emphasis. It has come to me with very considerable force that the Lord would have a word said on utterness for the Lord. And in that connection the two passages of scripture - Leviticus 27 and 2 Kings 9 and 10 - are given. Reverting to the former (Leviticus 27) without staying for a detailed analysis or exposition, I will remind you of the three things contained therein. These three things represent three aspects of consecration. There is that aspect of consecration which has to do with the firstborn and the tithes. You will notice that certain quite definite and particular things were said in connection with the firstborn and the tithes, and that they stood in a sphere by themselves. The firstborn and tithes were the Lord's by right. They were a token and a testimony of and to the rights of God to have the first place in the life of His people, so that the firstborn was the Lord's, and the tithe, which was the first fruit, a tenth of all, and the first tenth, spoke of God having first place as His right in the life of His people. That is established, and nothing can touch that or interfere with it. There is no option about that. It is not optional whether the Lord has first place in your life and mine; He demands it, it is His right.

The second aspect was that of devoted things. The devoted things were those things which were set apart as being entirely beyond man's option or question or judgment, as settled by God, wholly and utterly for Himself, sometimes to be accepted by Him and sometimes to be completely destroyed out of His sight. All the cities of Canaan were devoted to the Lord, and had to be utterly destroyed. Achan took of the devoted thing and died. Now that law is written in this chapter in Leviticus. If a man interferes with the devoted thing the penalty is death. So that the devoted things were the Lord's by demand, and the firstborn and the tithes were the Lord's by right.

The Special Vow

The third thing in this chapter, and that with which the chapter commences and is mainly occupied, is special vows. It is that to which we are giving attention. There is no suggestion of right, and no suggestion of demand. Here, while the first and the second (the firstborn and tithes, and the devoted things) were legal, a matter of law, this question of special vows was voluntary. No order is made, it is simply "When a man makes a special vow..." Then certain provisions are made in connection with this special vow. Now I want it to be very clearly understood that this is dealing with the Lord's people as the Lord's people. This represents something within the company of the people of God. This has nothing whatever to do with salvation. Salvation is dealt with on an entirely different basis. In the matter of atonement every man had to bring his half shekel of silver, and the rich were not allowed to bring more and the poor were not allowed to bring less. Rich and poor were reduced to one level. There are no discriminations or distinctions or respectings of persons in the matter of atonement, we are all on a common level. Not one is better nor worse than the other, and the half shekel represents the common level of all men in sin, needing salvation through the precious Blood. That is one thing. This is quite another. This has to do with what goes on in the midst of the redeemed people of God.

Now we come to this special vow, and ask what it represents. It represents a peculiar and particular movement of the heart toward God. It speaks of a specific devotion to the Lord. No demand, no command, the law does not touch it, not even the law of being saved, but it is altogether a voluntary thing of spontaneous heart movement toward the Lord. It does not affect the matter of grace at all. It is not something which puts grace on one side and introduces merit. Nothing of merit is mentioned in the connection, so that it is not something in order to get some special favour, it is just a pure, an altogether pure, crystal clear outgoing of heart to the Lord, without any ulterior motive, and without any special demand as such from God's side. A special vow!

But it does have an effect, and the effect which it has is to bring the Lord into the life in a larger measure. Take the simple illustration of the chapter. A man is moved in love and devotion toward the Lord, and to put that inward heart movement into some tangible form of expression he will bring a field and dedicate that field to the Lord, and so now that field is the Lord's in a special way; that field belongs to the Lord, and everything that that field produces is for the Lord. Or it may be from his cattle. It might be one of the other things mentioned. But inasmuch as that has not been demanded, and inasmuch as he is not seeking something by way of reward from the Lord, do you not think that the Lord comes into the sphere of that man's life and interests in a new way; and the Lord, as it were, encamps upon that field, so that the opening of the heart is really opening the door for the Lord to have a larger place in the life? How can the Lord have a larger place in our lives? Along the line of what is signified by the special vow. We shall see as we go on what that means. The Lord comes in larger measure into the life in this way.

It has this effect. It brings life over on to the positive side. He is the Lord's, he belongs to the Lord, he is redeemed by precious Blood, he is serving the Lord. But this brings his whole life into the positive realm with the Lord, in a peculiar way. A man like this does not ask, how much must I do? Is that really necessary? Am I under an obligation to do that? Must I do that? While that may not be actually expressed in words, it is the state of the heart or mind of many of the Lord's children. They will argue, they will reason, Is that really necessary? Are we really expected to do that? Must we take such and such a course? Can we not be the Lord's and enjoy the Lord and do the Lord's work and be used of the Lord without that? That is the negative line! You may be the Lord's, there may be no question as to your belonging to the Lord and yet you are in that state of mind where you have got to have a real battle on this question and that question and some other question in order to get through to the will of God. That is all on the negative side. This special vow represents the positive side, where it is not, How much MUST we do? Can we serve the Lord and still do so-and-so, be in this and in that, and go here and go there? The question for the man whose heart is after this kind is: Cannot the Lord have very much more if we take this course and leave that and that, and count that out and forsake that and abandon that? If so, that is the course for me. It is positive all the time. That is the special vow. What is the motiving object? The Lord! You see, it is not special favour, blessing, what we can get in return for special devotion; and, on the other hand, it is not because it is demanded. It is just the Lord. There is no merit. It does not represent virtue, it is simply the Lord. Because the man's heart is going out wholly to the Lord he does not say, Just how far MUST I go? He says, just how far CAN I go? You see the difference. It makes a lot of difference, and you can always tell the difference between lives which are on the different sides of that line. On the one side it is urge, exhortation, admonition, nursing, encouraging, always having to watch susceptibilities. On the other hand they are going on, the Lord is their objective, and the heart is set upon Him, and they never raise the question as to whether it is a command. They see the Lord in their own hearts; He is the objective and they are running after Him.

Utterness, a Factor in Reigning

Now, coming to the thing that is being brought before us, let us notice that this is a principle which relates to the Throne. We are seeing that the goal which God has fixed for His people is the Throne. "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne." That always was the goal for the Lord's people in His will. There will be multitudes of His own people who will not reach it, but will be distanced from the Throne; saved, but not with Him in the Throne. It is conditional, but to reign with Him for ever and ever is our high calling, the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus. It is the Throne that is in view, and this principle of the special vow is the principle by which we shall come to the Throne. It relates to the Throne.

Hurriedly pass your eye over the history of Israel in relation to the Throne of Israel, and see how true in type and illustration this is. David stands almost in solitary isolation as Israel's king. Solomon ran a second, but did not finish the course. David did. He stumbled at times, but he finished the course. David therefore, stands alone as THE expression of God's thought as far as it can be found in sinful man - and we are only dealing with types, which altogether fall short of the Antitype. As far as it is possible in that realm, on that level, David represents God's thought of government, of kingship. It was not merit. In the great day of David's height of power and success the Lord came through the prophet and said to him: "I took thee from the sheep-fold, from following the sheep, that thou shouldest be prince over my people, over Israel." Reminded him of his humble origin and told him it was no merit, nothing to do with him, it was with God. But what did the Lord say, not to David but to someone else about him? "I have found me David, a man after my own heart, who shall do all my pleasure." You will see the difference. The firstborn and the tithes are God's rights, the devoted things are God's demands; the special vow is God's delight, God's pleasure.

Go through David's life as we have it in his Psalms, and what is the note that is constantly running throughout? It is the note of David's delight in the Lord. How he delights in his God! It is not the note of compulsion, and it is not the note of reward. It is the note of spontaneous outgoing of heart in worship to the Lord for His own sake. The Lord had captured the heart of David. That is why the Lord stood by David, even through his mistakes and his faults. "The Lord looketh on the heart." That was the word said to Samuel when selection was made amongst the sons of Jesse. What the Lord had seen as He looked into the heart of David was his delight in the Lord, and He chose him. A heart matter. David would not do because the Lord demanded, and David would not do because the Lord bribed him. David would do because he loved the Lord, and David's cry is: "Love the Lord all his people." But over against David, the majority of the nineteen kings of Israel, and then the nineteen kings of Judah, and what have you in contrast?

Take Saul. The heart of Saul found its final uncovering and was shown, displayed, disclosed in 1 Samuel 15, in the case of Amalek. "Go and smite Amalek and utterly destroy," said the Lord. "I have marked that which Amalek did to Israel... now go... and utterly destroy." You know what Saul did. He compromised, spared the best of the flocks and the herds, and when Samuel came Saul tried as we would say, to bluff Samuel: "Blessed be thou of the Lord: I have performed the commandment of the Lord." "What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears?" Betrayed, he must find some other way out. "The people spared the best of the sheep." Blaming it on to someone else. A guilty conscience must always find a scapegoat. Yes, but he lost his throne. Samuel said to him, "To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." "The Lord hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than you." You see, the throne, for its maintenance, demands a heart that is utter for God without compromise, without reservation, without excuse, without hedging, without trying to deceive God or man; a heart that is utter for God. We may deceive one another, we may tell one another that we belong to the Lord, and we are out for the Lord, and the Lord's best; but God knows our heart. God knows, and it is Him with whom we have to do. When we want to get certain things, realise certain desires of ours, we can make professions, and in so doing we may deceive men, but God knows.

Our calling, our high calling - not our salvation - our high calling for its realisation, attainment, demands the principle of the special vow; that is, a heart that delights in the Lord. In our passage in 2 Kings 9 we read about Jehu. Why did we read about Jehu? Not because Jehu is a perfect example, but he does introduce the principle. Where was Ahab before the Lord? What a poor specimen of a king; and because of the compromise of Ahab through his wife, Jezebel, by whom he was linked with the world (Jezebel, like all women in the Bible, represents a principle - and Jezebel represents the principle of a spiritual link with a world which is outside of God's covenant), Ahab had brought this awful state into Israel, and God's king was not possible of realisation. The throne was shaken, the government of God as expressed amongst His people was destroyed in its purity, its holiness, its completeness. How did the Lord react to the consequences of Ahab's compromising rule? Through an Elisha and a Jehu. While we grieve to note a breakdown at a point in Jehu's life, that he was one of those who did not follow through, we cannot read about Jehu without feeling that this man did things thoroughly. There is no compromise, at any rate, about Jehu. Jehu said, "Ahab served Baal a little; but Jehu shall serve him much," and do you know how he did it? He had all the prophets of Baal together in Baal's temple, and then shut the door, and that was the end of Baal's prophets. But you notice it is related to the throne, and the point is this, utterness for God is a law and principle of reigning with God. Jehu, at that time at least, represents an utterness of heart for the Lord. He was raised up and anointed in order to wipe out the stain and avenge the sins of Ahab, a very thorough work.

We could go over many of the other kings. Some of them reached a point of devotion to the Lord which was very excellent - Hezekiah and others. They did great things for the Lord, they brought back the Lord in a very large measure to His rightful place, they re-established the order of the Lord, and up to that point they represent the coming back of the government of God in a larger measure of purity and power, and that part of their lives was marked by Divine approval, but none of them went right through. Even those who went so far had this said of them: "...but he removed not the high places." There is just a stopping short, and there they broke down and so the full expression of Divine kingship was not given. If only they had gone all the way! But they did not go all the way, and therefore there was a limit put to the expression of Divine government.

I think I have said enough to at least illustrate the point. The Throne is in view; we are called to that; to reign with Him. The realisation of that is by the principle of the special vow, a heart wholly and utterly for the Lord. It is marvellous what you can do when your heart is in a thing. If your heart is not there you will have to be reasoned with, argued with, and you will have all sorts of problems and always be tied up in your problems; but once you get your heart over and say, it does not matter, be the mountains as high as heaven, I am going through with God; it is marvellous how you can solve your problems and get over your difficulties.

Now Paul was one of those we have had in the back of our minds. Look at Philippians 3:10: "That I may know him..." "I count all things but loss, as refuse, that I may be found in him." "I press toward the mark of the prize of the upward calling..." "If by any means I may attain unto the out-resurrection." What is this but a heart in the spirit of the special vow, a devotion to the Lord. "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings." Is there any ulterior motive? "...the fellowship of his sufferings, being made comformable unto his death." No, this is pure devotion to the Lord. It is true that the Throne is the goal and the prize, but it is the heart set upon the Lord. It is the overcomer. Now look at Leviticus 27. Is there any suggestion of merit there? Is there any suggestion of reward? What is it then? It is sheer delight in the Lord. Who is the overcomer in the book of the Revelation? He is the one who wipes out a "but," that is all. "I know thy works... thy labour and patience, and that thou canst not bear evil men..." Yes, that is all right, "but" you have got a reservation, and all that is good does not make it possible for Me to pass over that "but," and when you have pointed out all that is right, "...I have this against thee..." The overcomer says that "but" must go. He wipes out the "but". "To him that overcometh..." What? The "but"! The man whose heart is set for God's fullest satisfaction, who delights himself in the Lord. There is no question of merit, it is all grace, it is the Blood of Christ. We are not striving to get some special favour from God, we are pressing on because the grace of God is such a wonderful thing to us. It is all of grace, and no one knows better than the overcomers how much they are dependent upon the grace of God.

We must close by pointing out again the only thing that justifies all this. It is Christ. Leviticus 27 is simply a typical unveiling of the Lord Jesus. All those aspects are Christ. If it is the firstborn, it is Christ: "the Firstborn among many brethren." God's by right. If it is the firstfruits, it is Christ. Is it the devoted thing? Then, being made sin for us, He Who knew no sin must be destroyed from the presence of God. Is it a holy thing unto the Lord, then He will offer Himself without spot unto God, the whole burnt offering. Is it the special vow? "I delight always to do thy will, O God." That is going the second mile. Not the necessity merely of atonement, not the obligation to die: "I lay it down of myself." It is Christ, giving voluntarily to the will of God. How far we go with the Lord will declare how much of Christ we have in our hearts, how much the spirit of Christ is in us, which says "I delight."

May the Lord find us a people of the special vow. We may be challenged on this. Thank God that there are so many whose delight is in the Lord, and I do not want to be found driving you, but I do feel that we need just to have these matters brought to us, and to be shown the way by which the Lord is going to realise His fullest objective in the saints, to bring them to the Throne, that there may be found in their hearts the spirit of His Son in fullness, which says: "I delight," that makes a special vow, voluntarily; not by demand or command, or because God has the right to it, but because the heart is wholly set upon the Lord's pleasure. May that be the governing law of our lives.

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