by T. Austin-Sparks
We go on from our last meditation and we come to David. Little can be said at this point about David. There must be much left over until other things have been considered, but we will just say a word or two about him on the way.
First of all, as we remarked earlier, David was raised up of God, prepared of God, anointed of God, for the specific object of bringing the testimony at last to its resting-place as established in the Kingdom and in the House of God. David came in through Samuel as the fruit of Samuel's prayer, or the fruit of Samuel's life with God, and we must not regard these as two things; they are only two aspects of one thing. Samuel is not one instrument and David another; they are one instrument, on one side of which there is this tremendous prayer fellowship with God, and on the other side the working out of God's purpose, the fighting through of God's interests, so that, in principle, both Samuel and David are the man-child in representation. It was a day when God's full thought was not to be found in expression. David came in in relation to the true and full thought of God, in a day of the false and imperfect expression of God's mind.
There is one thing that is basic to the value and significance of David's instrumentality, and that is a history with God in secret. What comes out in a later time shows that, away with the sheep, away from the public eye, away in the secret place with God alone, David was learning by going through experiences which brought him into a very valuable knowledge of the Lord. This was behind the scenes, and any instrument that is going to relate in any particular way to the interests of God will require to have a life which is away from the public eye in the secret place with God, where deep lasting lessons are being learned. Too much of our Christian life is public to be vital. The most vital elements in our Christian life are those which come out of the hidden, secret history with God in testing and trial.
David was hidden, David was circumcised in heart, and those are very important factors in such a ministry as he was raised up to fulfill. He is the only man in the Bible who is said to have been a man after God's own heart. Perhaps we should be wrong in saying that he was the only man who was after God's own heart, but I want to underline that because of that very important matter to which we have referred in our previous meditation; he was a man after God's own heart. You notice that that is said twice in the Scripture about him. You have it in 1 Samuel 13:14 and in Acts 13:22.
God's reactions are ever by way of bringing in a man, and in saying that, I do not mean bringing in an individual, the bringing in of a member of the masculine order. That is not the point, but man according to God's heart. God has a mind about man, He has His own idea and conception and thought concerning man. There is, in the mind of God, a special kind of man who expresses Divine thoughts. God has ever reacted in bringing in such a man, a man according to God's mind. That man is God's instrument of reaction to a wrong state of things.
Saul was a man. God did not bring in Saul. He was not God's mind. David was a man after God's heart, and if you take the principle, you can trace it right the way through. That is true of the Lord Jesus Himself, the Man Christ Jesus, of whom it may be said more than of any other creature who has ever been, "after God's own heart"; "in whom is My delight"; "in whom I am well-pleased". That is true of God's 'type' instruments in the old dispensation, whether it be an individual or whether it be a people, for Israel at the beginning of its history was brought in as God's Son. God spoke of Israel as "My son" - "let My son go." It was the collective in the singular, a nation son, a collective man, God's instrument among the nations by which He was going to react to the conditions in the world. And when you come to the antitype of that, you find it in Ephesians 2:15, in the familiar words, "that He might create in Himself of the two one new man". That is the church, God's reaction again, or reactionary instrument.
Passing on to Ephesians 4:24, we have these words, "Put on the new man". That phrase and the word there are very interesting, because there we have the peculiar word for something which never was before. Sometimes you have the word "new" connected with man as in Colossians, which just signifies something fresh, refreshed, something that has been, but has been renewed. But here you have the ultimate word which means something that never was before, the new man. In the church you have something that never was before, something brought in by God as altogether different from anything else, and therein is the secret of its power. It is that which is brought in when things are spiritually other than they ought to be and that takes the governing place.
Saul was man's idea, not God's; man's choice, not God's. Saul answered to every natural desire and inclination of man's mind. Stature - head and shoulders above everyone else in Israel. That is an ideal, that is a natural ideal; something big, something imposing, something presentable in itself, something to glory in, something to take account of, something to be seen, something that has status. Evidently, Saul came of a family where things were affluent; his father had servants and asses; he had status. That is a natural ideal, that is a fleshly ideal. And so Saul answered to the natural man in every way.
Then Saul was ostensibly concerned for the testimony. Outwardly it would appear that he was devoted to the interests of the Lord. Perhaps in his way, being what he was, he was devoted to the Lord's testimony, wanting to fight the Lord's battles, to serve the Lord's interests, and so we say ostensibly, and perhaps, as far as he knew his own heart, being what it was - sincerely. He was concerned about the testimony.
Then God in sovereignty recognised him - in sovereignty. Remember there is always a great difference between what God sovereignly does and what God would do if He had His own way; always a lot of difference. God can do a lot of things in sovereignty, because He is God. That is, He can overrule things sovereignly. He can use the devil himself sovereignly. He can take up anything and sovereignly make it serve His ends. God in sovereignty can do many things. But what God does sovereignly because He is sovereign Lord over all, is altogether different from what God would choose to do if He had His full way. So sovereignly, Saul was recognised by God, and given every facility, given the anointing, blessed and used, all in the sovereignty of God.
But God is working very deeply. If it were not a wrong word to use of God, I would say, very subtly. There is another side to this altogether. Both by reason of that Divine, sovereign recognition, and blessing, and facilitating, and using, and apart from it, Saul was being tested, and mark you, there are few things more testing to us than the blessing of God. There are few things more calculated to find us out than Divine blessing. More men have broken down and eventually been set aside and rejected by the blessing of God, than by anything else. Get that! Oh, how dangerous is blessing when it is public blessing! It finds us out, and Saul was being tested. God was letting him have much, but with this object and this usefulness, and there you get to the heart of things in the first book of Samuel. It is what we have often called the altogether "otherness" of that which is instrumental in God's hands in the fulfilling of His purpose and reaching His end and bringing His testimony to consummation. There is a sense in which both Samuel and David were something other, altogether other, than the rest; apart from, a sense in which they were unique. It is quite patent with Samuel by an act of God.
When you look into the matter of the choice of David, you have something that was not counted amongst men, he was left out, not regarded as counting; from the outside brought in, not reckoned amongst those who amongst men, did count; something apart.
Well now, before we can do very much more with David, we have to go over to Saul and the Philistines. I have a feeling that this will get us nearer to the Lord's object in this present time than perhaps anything else.
Saul and the Philistines
I confess to have had considerable difficulty with Saul. Samuel had some difficulty and David also, and I think the Lord did as well, but I do not mean that. Saul represents a problem, does he not? You see, he came in on the ground of the definite rejection of God being their King. He was never God's directive will. The people chose him in rebellion against God, and they were told, very frankly, that it was sin; they were doing wrong, and they were warned. All that and much more on that side, and yet God takes account of him, directs Samuel to him in a remarkable way and tells Samuel to anoint him. Samuel anoints him and kisses him; the Spirit of the Lord comes upon Saul; he prophesies; the blessing of the Lord rests upon him at times for victory in battle. What a problem! What a contradiction! Two things which it is exceedingly difficult to reconcile. However, there is an explanation. Let us quietly work our way to that explanation and analyse Saul.
First of all, Saul represents that which comes into power when there is a weak spiritual condition among the Lord's people. We do not need a very profound or comprehensive grasp of history to recognise that such a thing has often happened. When the spiritual level has been low, life has been weak and shallow, when there has been declension and departure, things have been brought in which have taken the place of control and government, but were never intended by God. We can put our finger upon many such things. We shall touch always in mind to prove him, and eventually to drag out the truth, to bring it to the light for the people to see their mistake, and in order to show what He, the Lord, must have as other than this. That is why we cannot go on with David yet. We have got to get Saul dealt with and out of the way before we can see God's full thought, His own full will as over against His sovereign will. Tested - tested on the two points that are always the crucial points in God's dealings with anyone: faith and obedience. And the way in which God gets at the faith test is along the line of the patience test always, and it was just there Saul could not be patient, he could not trust enough to wait, to be patient. It was on that point that his collapse, his crash came because his faith would not allow him to wait, he acted in disobedience, self-will. He was tested there.
Now you see what stands in contrast to the man-child, the Divinely conceived instrument. To understand David you must go over to Saul; to understand Saul you must pass over to the Philistines.
What are they, or what do they represent? They represent power, glory and the vaunting of the uncircumcised flesh in association with what is of God. They are in the land, and they have given their name to the land, for Palestine is only Philistia, the land of the Philistines. They have given their name to that which belongs to God, the inheritance of God's people. They are associating their name with what is God's, and you find them all the time impinging upon that which is of God: the testimony, the ark - the uncircumcised flesh associated with what is of God, seeking power and glory and vaunting itself in the presence of and over the things of the Lord, to bring the things of the Lord to serve its own glory. That is the uncircumcised flesh.
The Philistines were always seeking to probe and to possess the secret of spiritual power without the secret of spiritual power - death to self. Remember Samson. What is the secret of his power? What is the secret of his strength? They said, "Let us get hold of it. What is the secret of Israel's ascendancy? It is the ark; let us get hold of it." You see, it is to be possessed of the secret of power without coming by God's way of power: death to self, death to the flesh, the circumcision of Christ, the putting away of the whole body of the flesh. That death, that circumcision, is the secret of spiritual power in the testimony. The Philistines sought to have the power, the secret, without the circumcision. They are always called the uncircumcised Philistines.
Oh, but there is something more than that! The ultimate object of the Philistines was to bring glory to their own god, and so to exult over the Lord. You know how that was so on at least two outstanding occasions. In the case of Samson, we read in Judges 16:23, "And the lords of the Philistines gathered them together to offer a great sacrifice unto Dagon their god, and to rejoice; for they said, Our god hath delivered Samson our enemy into our hand." Then in the instance in the book which is before us, 1 Samuel 5:2, "The Philistines took the ark of God, and brought it into the house of Dagon, and set it by Dagon." The issue of all Philistine principles and elements is glory to the god of this world; it is taking glory from God and bringing it to self.
Exactly the opposite is the issue and effect of the man-child. Its purpose is to shame the other god and bring him down in utter abasement to the exaltation of God's Man, God's Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
You see the end in view, which is the principle of antichrist, sitting in the temple of God, being worshipped as God, exalting and opposing himself against all that is called God. And so we are not surprised to find that this Philistine idea is headed up into one representative, a monstrosity named Goliath. This one, inclusive representation of all the Philistine ideas and principles, comes out and challenges the Lord in His people, to take the power, the glory, the majesty and the honour from Jehovah. Now I have said enough for the moment about the Philistines. Now let us return to Saul, to understand Saul a little better.
The deepest secret in Saul's life, and in his failure and rejection, is a link-in principle with the Philistines. I know Saul outwardly fought against the Philistines. I know that outwardly Saul and the Philistines were enemies. But that is just the cleverness of Satan - that he so often has gained the advantage and won in the fight because he has subtly introduced his own principle somewhere into and among the Lord's own people, yet they do not recognise it, they are not alive to it. Well, we have plenty of data for that in the Word of God and in this very connection.
Let us think back to Samson. What was Samson's undoing? Well, we say the Philistines. Yes, but the Philistines had absolutely no power over Samson until a Philistine element got inside Samson - Delilah. A political emissary of the Philistines offered a great reward to discover Samson's secret and betray it, and Samson, because of an infatuation, opened himself to the Philistines, and when he was inwardly opened to the Philistines, he was helpless outwardly against them. Oh, what Paul calls the wiles of the devil! Unconscious of it no doubt, the same thing holds true in the case of Saul.
You find in Saul Philistine elements, elements of uncircumcised flesh. Again and again they show themselves. When he and David came back from a victorious battle with the Philistines, the women came out and began to sing: "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands." And Saul said, "Do you hear what they sing? They credit me with thousands, but they credit David with ten thousands" and from that day Saul had his eye on David to kill him. What is the crucified attitude in such a situation? What is an uncircumcised heart attitude in such a situation? Well, praise the Lord for victory - it does not matter by whom. It is not a matter of who gets the glory among us; the glory is for the Lord. Oh, but Saul was jealous for himself, his own glory, his own reputation; there is a Philistine element, uncircumcised flesh, and so we could go on analysing this. It is an unpleasant business, but it is very important. It is right up-to-date. Saul's final undoing was because the Philistines had their advantage by reason of their own elements being in Saul's own heart.
On one occasion Mr. Spurgeon represented a young man taking up Ephesians 6 and putting on the whole armour of God: the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, shoes, shield and sword, and then coming out with all his enthusiasm and saying, "Now, where is the devil? Let me find the devil; I will account for the devil!" And Mr. Spurgeon said, "Look out, young man, he is inside the armour!" Somewhere in Saul there was an uncircumcised heart, and therefore he could not be a man of faith, for the flesh knows nothing of faith. He could not be a man of patience, for the flesh knows nothing of patience. He was not a man of utterness for God; personal elements and interests loomed too large - envy, pride, reputation. Oh, right up to the end, that last terrible appeal to Samuel, and Samuel had pronounced his final rejection: "Yet honour me now, I pray thee, before the elders of my people"! (1 Sam. 15:30).
Now you are saying, "What does all this mean? What has this to do with us?" Oh, if we could but see it, we would see it has a lot to do with us! It has a great deal to do with the recovering and preserving and the carrying forward of the testimony of Jesus in fulness. This cannot take place where there are Philistine elements. All such elements have to be stripped off of the Lord's people if they are going to come to the place of the Lord's thought for them. And this will certainly be true, carried out to a finesse in the case of the man-child, the overcomer, that representative company approximating wholly to God's thought in relation to His purpose concerning His Son. It is very clear in the case of the Lord Jesus that this was utterly true. You can find no Philistine elements in Him. "The prince of this world cometh, and he hath nothing in Me" (John 14:30). "Nothing, no foothold; no element of his own upon which he can encamp; nothing in Me that corresponds to his mind to give him an advantage".
Beloved, to be an instrument in fellowship with God's Son for the consummating of His testimony, there has to be a very deep correspondence with Him in that way - no Philistine element, an utterly circumcised heart.
But, we ask, what is it that corresponds to Saul today? I am only going to speak briefly of two things. I am very reluctant to do so. It is going to make trouble I know, but it is perfectly clear, and we had better face it, and the sooner all the people of God face it, the better.
During our previous meditation, speaking about the great movement of the past hundred years in relation to the deepening of the spiritual life, we said that rather than growing less because the spiritual life was being improved by it, the movement was growing and increasing, which seems to indicate that the remedy is not curing the trouble. More and more meetings are being held and movements organised for the deepening of the spiritual life, and my remark was that it seems to me very clear that it is not just a better state, a higher level of spiritual life that is needed; it is coming into line with God's ultimate purpose and His full purpose. Therefore the key to the situation is a knowledge of what God is really after in fulness and how He will reach His end.
So what is it that corresponds to Saul today? Firstly, the governing system of man-made and man-constituted organised Christianity. That corresponds to Saul. It came in when the spiritual level dropped, when spiritual declension set in after the first high tide of apostolic ministry, Holy Spirit days. There came a point in time at which things dropped out of that heavenly, spiritual, utterly-of-God realm of things, and came down onto the lower earth-level. The door was opened wide for all kinds of things to come in or to be brought in as alternative to what had been, as made necessary because the other was no longer there. So Christianity became an organised thing with men occupying positions of importance.
The system of Christianity today is not the heavenly, Holy Spirit system of the New Testament. It is man-constituted, man-run, man-governed; it is all man. I am speaking of the whole, that is, in general terms. It is an imitation of the world. When the people got down to that low spiritual level, they said, "Make us a king like unto the nations!" And this is the world's way and means of doing business, "If you have brains, status, business acumen and money, and an interest in the Kingdom of God, you are the people we want to run this thing". This is exactly the level on which the world does its business. Natural resources, natural ability and that kind of thing, is in the place of government today. Oh, the tragedy of it, that it works out in exactly the same way as things worked out between Saul and David. That which God is after, that which represents God's thought, is persecuted, driven out and given no place, regarded with jealousy and suspicion as a thing to be got rid of and destroyed. That is Saul and David, and it is like this today.
Yes, like Saul, outwardly interested in the things of God, sincerely so in its own realm, and yet lacking a circumcised heart which cuts off the whole body of flesh and sets the world entirely aside in all its elements. It is something not wholly of the Spirit of God, and therefore it will give no place to God's full thought. It is an obstruction to what God is after. These are strong words. Before God can ever get His full thought among His people, He has got to set aside a great deal that holds the governing place, the place of official control among His people - the Saul line of things.
Test it. What did we say about Saul? Well, bigness. How does the situation today in organised Christianity stand up to that test? Is not bigness the dominating idea? Something that you can see, something that you can present, something that you can glory in and boast about, something that is handsome and fine from the world's standpoint, something great. Organised Christianity has no place for anything that is small and mean and without honour among men. Oh, what a revelation of David, when you come to consider David, but we must not go through with that now. You see, the ruling idea is bigness, 'imposingness'. That is a Philistine idea. After all, that is a Goliath principle, and as such is set over against the testimony of the Lord. Well, that is a terrible thing to say, but not only is a higher spiritual level needed or what we may call the deepening of the spiritual life, but a change of principle. That is what is needed. Well, that corresponds to Saul.
There is another thing which corresponds to Saul today. It is those who take up the testimony with natural acumen and energy of the soul, which is very easy to do. You may have a brain that is very quick to grasp, to see through. Almost before the thing is said, you have got it, you could finish the sentence yourself. Or, as it is presented, you find tremendous response to it, perhaps because of the presentation of it, the ideas that it raises in the mind, the visions it conjures up, and you respond to the testimony. In that enthusiasm, acumen, and energy of the soul, you take up the testimony of the Lord, the testimony in truth and the testimony in service, and you go away with it. You have got it! You talk about it, you work upon it and with it, you reproduce, you retail it, perhaps from a notebook. You mean it.
Perhaps you are honest - according to what you are in the realm in which you live: sincere. It is not that you are playing false, but this thing is for the Lord and not by the Lord, and the result is that you get something, and you get some people who have come into the testimony in mind, in emotion, in action, but never through death, burial and resurrection and the deep circumcision of the heart. And there are a lot like that. What is going to happen? Oh, they are going to be tested, right in the realm of those very things. God is going to test and find out and manifest. The tragedy of that situation is the tragedy of Saul. It will not stand up to the test, it cannot go through to the end; it will be found out.
Oh, the testing of faith, and if the thing is not part of us through and through, we will not stand, we shall find we shall come to the place where we say it is something we have taken on, it is not ourselves in very deed! Faith will be tested. The result? The work, the edifice that we have built will crash, we shall die in battle, with shame. Remember that if Satan cannot get us to fight deliberately and definitely on his side against the testimony, he will seek to get us to betray the testimony by having something of himself inside of us. You understand that that is what Saul did.
Well, how necessary it is then for us to recognise that this is all in contrast to that which God is seeking to have. This stands in such strong contrast with David. We are not going on further with David now, but you can see that the instrument, the man-child instrument and vessel, has to be circumcised in heart, that is, all the body of the flesh has to be dealt with and put aside in the death of Christ. It must be. We must not use truth, revelation, or the knowledge that has been brought to us in ministry for our own gratification, to give us influence with, and power over others, or to make our ministry something. There must be nothing like that. We must not be out to build up some thing that can be taken account of by man. We must be absolutely willing to go on with God in secret, in hiddenness, in rejection, for His testimony's sake. That is the man-child.
Now, my closing word is this. David was not allowed to put his hand on Saul. On one occasion, David cut off the skirt of Saul's garment when he was asleep. He had Saul at his mercy, but spared his life, and just took that bit of his garment to show what he could have done. It says, "And David's heart smote him" because he lifted up his hand against Saul. And David said, "The Lord forbid that I should do this thing unto... the Lord's anointed, to stretch forth my hand against him". David was not allowed to turn his hand against Saul, and as with David, so with us. If we are going to be related to God for His full purpose concerning the testimony of Jesus, we are not allowed to put our hand upon these people or these things which are the Lord's people and which the Lord has used and blessed.
Let me put that in this way. I may believe in the depths of my heart that organised Christianity and the present system of things is a Philistine idea, and is not in the mind of God, but I am not allowed of the Lord to make it my business to go out to smash that up. God has used it; God has blessed it - sovereignly, and He is doing it. That is not my business. I am not allowed to turn upon children of God who have only a mental apprehension of things of greater fulness. It is not my business to turn my hand upon them and begin to slay or destroy them. No, they are God's children.
But as with David, so with us. We may turn the full strength of our Divinely given power and testimony against the Philistine principle. You see the difference. Oh, when it comes to the Philistines themselves and Goliath - no compromise! The thing itself, the principle, the spiritual thing in its nakedness, must go to the sword. Those caught in it who are, nevertheless, the Lord's people, are not the object of our slaying; not at all. We must not touch them. I do not regard it as my commission to denounce the Lord's people in that realm of things, neither do I regard it as my business to begin to try and break up and bring to an end the system of things as such. It is my business to expose the spiritual principles which lead to the undoing and the destruction of the testimony of Jesus. That is, ours is a spiritual ministry or, with a final word which I think is consummate, our wrestling is not with flesh and blood, be it systems or people, but it is with principalities and powers, the world-rulers of this darkness, spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenlies. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God. I wonder if you can see that? Now you see how necessary it is to say that. Our business is a constructive spiritual one which itself will expose what is false, and I trust lead to the deliverance of many of the Lord's people therefrom.
The testimony of Jesus is that which governs everything. It is a man-child, a vessel brought into a peculiar spiritual condition, position and relationship with God for His testimony's sake. Antichrist is a principle at work; later it will manifest itself in some abnormal form of expression, a monstrosity, but it has worked through the ages as a principle, subtly insinuating itself, undermining, seeking to set aside the glory of God in Jesus Christ.
The Lord give us understanding and bring His Word home to our own hearts with practical application and challenge!