by T. Austin-Sparks
Reading: 1 Samuel 16:1, 6-13; 17:4,11,17,31; 1 Cor. 1:26-30.
We have come now to a more serious consideration of David and the significance of David as an instrument and God's reaction to the course taken by His people in their spiritual weakness. Saul has failed, and his setting aside definitely has been pronounced. David is brought in by God in relation to His full thought, His whole thought, regarding the testimony of Jesus. But there are one or two things which should be noticed.
Firstly, that which has been rejected by God and quite definitely so, may go on for some considerable time holding the ground, but it is doomed. On the other hand, that which is God's full thought may be driven out, excluded and persecuted by the false thing for a long time, but it is destined to govern. Nothing can ultimately defeat that. But the history of that duration of government on the part of that which is not according to God's mind and the history of that rejection of what God has appointed, is full of revelation and wonderful meaning. Something of that meaning will occupy us at this time, for in the meantime it becomes very necessary for us to know what it is that is in God's eye, and what are its characteristics; that which David really represents.
To begin with, there will be nothing about this thing which God Himself has chosen, has appointed, has secured, that will be a response to man's expectation. Ask the Lord to enable you to grasp these things that we are saying, for we are dealing with principles that do not change from age to age; they are the same in all ages. While this book of Samuel is a book of history, within the history there are principles which are not merely history. They are principles which govern the testimony of Jesus right to the end.
Let me repeat. In the instrumentality which God Himself chooses and constitutes in relation to His testimony, the testimony of Jesus in fulness, there will be nothing which is an immediate response to man's expectation. All the tenets of men as to fitness, or qualification, or justification, will be upset and perhaps be scandalised. In this matter before us, the contrast with human choice will be most marked and manifest. That is, David as over against all his brethren, the other sons of Jesse, but even more as over against Saul, man's choice. You can follow the working out of that principle all the way through the Word of God.
A little later in the life of David himself, you will find that another effort is made, still on the principle of antichrist, to drive out that which God had brought in - David. This time it will be by Absalom, and the secret of Absalom's strength and influence is that he is so commendable as a man to the natural taste, desire, and preference of the people. He is so beautiful; he looks so fine. He immediately secures that response which is based upon what a man is according to human standards, and there you have the principle of antichrist at work.
As with David, so it will always be, that the values of God's instrumentalities chosen for His deepest purposes, so far as the instrument is concerned, are heart values; that is, spiritual values. Even a godly man like Samuel will need a special dispensation of grace to deliver him from human judgment in this matter, "Surely the Lord's anointed is before Him." That was taking the man at his face value. The Lord had to check that impulse. It is, again, a very dangerous thing. "Look not on his countenance... the Lord sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart." The values of God's instruments are always heart values. They are spiritual values, and what is the Lord looking for in the heart?
When the Lord sees a man after His own heart, a man that satisfies His own heart, what does the Lord look for in the heart? Well, in the case of David the thing is quite patent, for a basic and governing factor in David's life was his absolute dependence upon the Lord. That is only one way of saying that he gave the Lord the unconditional and unlimited place, so that everything could be of the Lord, "That no flesh should glory before God. But of Him are ye...". That is the principle, perfect dependence upon the Lord, and that is the thing which so clearly marks David. It is to have that dependence perfected in a people, that the Lord works and takes such pains, because it means so much to Him. Where He has that inwrought, there He has an instrument which is going to serve His ends in the fullest way, and be of the most vital value to the testimony of Jesus. That kind of dependence upon God is produced through the line of testing and secret experiences, as we see in the case of David.
One or two things may be noted here. David was chosen and anointed, but immediately upon the choosing and anointing, he went back to the ordinary sphere of life to prove the power of the anointing. I believe that the incidents of the lion and the bear about which David told Saul, occurred after the anointing, the choosing. David went back to his sheep. He was now, in the virtue of the anointing, the king; as truly before God as ever he would be. In the mind and will of God that was his position, secured beyond any question or reservation, but he immediately goes back to the sheep, and in that ordinary sphere of life, he proved God, proved the anointing, while being tested. A king, the greatest of the kings of Israel, qualified, tested, proved, by looking after a few sheep, and meeting lions and bears and wild beasts. You expect something more dignified for a king's qualification. No, this is the ordinary sphere, the everyday order, things common to anybody in that sphere of life. No special kind of testing and qualifying, but proving God right there where he had been all along.
I want the young people to get hold of that. There is all the peril of the other Philistine line of things - it is always the Philistines - the idea that to be the Lord's servant means that you must leave at once the ordinary sphere of life and come out in public and take up things in a public way. You prove your anointing just back there where no one else knows anything about it, no one sees. It is between you and the Lord. You are proving God in secret, in the ordinary difficulties of your ordinary life and vocation.
Note the weapons used by David against Goliath were those proved in ordinary life. There was no mere official or professional equipment for David. Saul put his suit of armour on him. What did he say? "I have not proved them." That is saying in another way, "I want that which I have proved, that is the only thing for me!" Oh, to be clad in a suit of Saul's armour makes you a professional soldier at once; it puts you into an official position. Oh, that is a Philistine snare! Goliath comes out in that way, but he cannot meet Goliath on that ground. No, that which has been proved by trust in the Lord, in the ordinary and the secret sphere of daily life, that which we know wrought in our secret experience with God, is that which will be effectual against the greatest giant, the whole Philistine system of trust in the flesh.
There is no virtue in office. A position into which we may be placed carries no power with it that is spiritual power. If we do not have spiritual virtue and power before we get the position, God have mercy upon us, especially in this matter of dealing with that which is opposing the testimony of Jesus. You want something more than office, more than position; you need to have a background knowledge of the Lord proved, you need to have learned how to meet the enemy in secret before ever you can meet him in public.
That which David is to encounter is wholly carnal on the face of it, but it is also energised by spiritual evil. Back of Goliath is Dagon, back of the Philistines is Dagon, and this thing which on the face of it is all carnal, has spiritual energies behind it. Flesh and blood - yes, but energised by spiritual forces. David cannot just meet the thing on the face of it. He must be sufficient for what is energising behind. That is, he must have the secret of a superior power over the spiritual energy that is maintaining this carnal system which is opposing the Lord's testimony all the time. It is spiritual power, and we never come to spiritual power by public displays. We come to spiritual power by the secret proving of God. The destruction of the carnal must be by a superior spiritual position, and that means that there must be no carnal element about God's instruments - no carnal element.
We have turned to the letter to the Corinthians, and it seems to me that that letter is parallel to what we have in this first book of Samuel. Organised Christianity today is an expansion of the first letter to the Corinthians: sectarianism, worldly-mindedness among the Lord's people; that is First Corinthians. The natural man handling the things of God; that is First Corinthians. Disorder, or no order at all among the Lord's people, and much more that is in that letter, is, speaking generally, the state of things in Christendom today. And that Philistine element, as we have seen in our previous meditation, has got in by way of a Saul, a ruling thing among the Lord's people, to hold the office, have the official position. Although it is outwardly and ostensibly against the world, against the Philistines, right there at its very heart the Philistines have a footing because of the carnality which is represented by that which governs, by Saul, and that is why the people in the days of Saul could not overthrow the Philistines.
In order that the Lord may change the situation and get through to the better position, the fuller expression of His thought, He must have an instrument that is altogether other than both the Philistines and Saul, and that is an instrument which is wholly separated from the flesh, the life of nature, and knows only its resources in God, and we find that in David. David was despised of men, but chosen of God. "Ye see your calling, brethren... not many wise (according to the world), not many mighty, not many noble." "God has chosen the foolish... the weak... the despised... things which are not". That is the story of David and Goliath - again, very clearly something despised.
If this message is the Lord's message to us, as it would be to all His people, I am quite sure that He is seeking for Himself a vessel in this time of declension when that which is not true to His thought holds the ground, when the system in Christendom is so contrary to what God intended, when there has come in something which God did not bring in. If this message is to you, you will often be oppressed, as you look at yourself and those round about you, because of the apparent futility and impossibility of such an instrument accomplishing such a work. You will often be inclined to say, "Oh, that the Lord would bring people of greater stature into the testimony!" Yes, that is the temptation, and it will often be almost a matter of offence, a stumbling stone, that it is so much otherwise. "Not many..." almost I would go further and say, "Not any wise, not any mighty, not any noble" - at any rate, not many; but plenty of foolish, weak, despised people, things that are not.
Now you may ask: what is the hope? What is the prospect? Is it not vain to contemplate such a tremendous thing as the changing of the situation, the bringing through of that transition to God's fuller thought? Remember what we have said, that this whole movement sprang out of Samuel, whose significance is that of prayer. You may not, in a great public way, go out to assail this Goliath. You may never figure very largely in the public ministry, but remember David was the fruit of Samuel's intercession, and Samuel is as much responsible and accountable for all that followed in the life of David as David was himself.
Even David, as we have seen, secretly resorted to Samuel in the day when his heart was overwhelmed, and Samuel became his support, and it is just there that the prevailing may be done. There may be the public side, that ministry which is more outward, but how it depends upon that tremendous prayer backing of the Samuel instrument! I want to say to you that that is the ministry which counts behind everything, and that can be carried out by anyone. You do not need special qualifications for prayer; any child of God, however simple and weak, can know the Holy Spirit for a ministry of intercession. If only you would be content with that! If only you would recognise that when all other ministries or forms of ministry have been taken into account, that is the one that goes to the root of everything - a prayer ministry! Then you would have the secret of the man-child, the secret of that which prevails for the testimony of Jesus. Do remember it is there.
David, we were saying, was despised of men, but chosen of God. David's way had to be a very lonely way. It is always a lonely path to have to stand against and apart from the man-made order of things which holds the field and is in the governing place. When you are standing for something more of God and you see that that whole order of things is shot through and through with Philistine principles, it is a lonely way to stand apart from that. You have got to accept that. Paul is a great and outstanding illustration of that. Withal, Paul was a very lonely man, and his loneliness was due to the fact that he had gone further than the majority in God's heavenly thought, so that, kindly disposed as they may have been, they were not able to follow him all the way.
Even the beloved Peter, while calling Paul "beloved brother Paul", will find that he cannot understand all that Paul is after. "In which there are some things hard to be understood". And so Paul was alone. It will be like that if you are going right on with God. And this is the instrument God seeks to possess. There is the other, God-blessed, God-used as we have seen, but it is never going to realise for God all that His heart is set upon. A situation arises like this, that, while the Saul order-of-things is the big one, the extensive one, the governing one so far as things here are concerned, God has something else running alongside of that, which is despised by the Saul order-of-things. Sometimes it is even fought against, persecuted, but God in the fulness of His thought is with this something else, not with the big thing. He is blessing and using in a sovereign way, but you will not find God with Saul; you will find God with David. You will not find God in the palace, you will find God in the cave of Adullam. You will not find God with the ruling power religiously, you will find God with that which is despised, set at naught.
Very strongly in my own heart I am convinced that the Lord would have a people take account of this word, for it is just the situation today, as it was then. With all that is being done extensively and intensively, the situation is not getting better. More and more efforts have to be put forth, greater and greater have to be the movements, the machinery, and the resources poured in, but really at heart the thing is not being changed. There may seem to be at times some result, but it passes with the effort, and really proves to have been only something which was associated with the special effort.
The tragedy, to my mind, is this: that all that is not clearing up evils, but producing another evil. That other evil is that multitudes of the Lord's people have to live on special efforts, and if there are not special meetings and conventions, they cannot get on without them. They have one and they think that that means something, and then it passes and their thoughts are upon the next one, or where is another one. It is another evil. It is not getting to the heart of things.
No, it is not what God is after, just to improve a spiritual condition. God is after the change of principle, the change of objective; not just improvement, but something altogether other. So the Saul line of things is beyond remedy. God must bring in something else, which is wholly according to His mind.
I do feel that this does represent the two things going on in the earth; yes, which have always gone on in the earth. On the one hand, that which, because of the spiritual decline, has come in to govern, produced by man, man-constituted, man-run, man-energised. On the other hand, God always moving again and yet again, alongside of that with something which is other. These two things have always been apart. The one is destined to fail of God's full purpose, the other is chosen of God to reach it, and the challenge to our own hearts will be as to whether we are in God's full thought or something else. It is not a question as to whether we are where the Lord is blessing and using; it is rather whether we are where God has concentrated His attention, where He has His eye, where He is because it relates to the fulness of His purpose. That is the question for us.
Oh, may the Lord work in us by His grace to constitute us according to the man-child which is to come, though persecuted, despised, set aside, and not even accepted by the mass of the Lord's people, and especially by the official classes of the Lord's people, which is nevertheless destined to come to the throne, and to be the means of the casting down of that other kingdom of antichrist. The Lord work in us accordingly!