by T. Austin-Sparks
Reading: 1 Sam. 15:1-3; 22-23; 16:7.
There are few more solemn and terrible chapters in the whole Bible than 1 Samuel 15, and I confess to something almost like a dread in my heart as I am so definitely led to speak again from this chapter, a chapter which seems to me to gather up everything, and to bring it to a very direct and definite application. It really is a challenge as to what things are going to be, how things are going to be, whether we are going with the Lord or not. It is a matter of the heart; "the Lord looks on the heart".
I want to repeat that with a certain emphasis, "the Lord looks on the heart". By that I mean that it is not the result of our look at our own heart; that may be an altogether misleading thing. "The heart", says the Word of God, "is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" Only the Lord, but the Lord, will help us to know our hearts by certain tests which He will apply, into which He will lead us, and the result of those tests will disclose what the Lord knows about our hearts. And, when all has been said and done, the issue is the heart relationship to the Lord. It is that which matters, and it is that which settles everything. The heart relationship is proved and established through certain tests which the Lord applies.
Having said that, we must first of all consider the Lord's own requirement. The Lord's requirement is a heart that is utter towards Himself. "I have found David... a man after Mine own heart" (Acts 13:22). What a thing to say, when it is previously recorded that "the Lord looks on the heart"! What a verdict! "The Lord looks on the heart"; "I have found David... a man after Mine own heart."
Now, I want you first of all to see the significance of the first part of chapter 15. "The Lord sent me to anoint thee" (v.1). "Go and smite Amalek and utterly destroy all" (v.3). The anointing with the Holy Spirit carries with it a comprehensive, all-inclusive demand toward the Lord. That demand is that our whole life, in every detail, shall be governed by the Holy Spirit, shall be a walk in the Spirit, shall be actuated by the Spirit, and that means, as we have been seeing in other connections, just the opposite of being governed by fleshly considerations or carnal elements.
"The Lord sent me to anoint thee."The questions which arise are: will you follow out the implications of being anointed with the Spirit? Will you deal thoroughly and utterly with all that which is not of the Spirit, but which is of the flesh? We saw in our previous meditation that Amalek is the flesh used by the devil, and it is that which steps across the path of spiritual progress towards God's full inheritance. "I have marked that which Amalek did to Israel, how he set himself against him in the way, when he came up out of Egypt" (v.2). He set himself in the way; he stood in the way. That which always stands in the way of progress towards God's full purpose and end is the flesh. It is always stepping across the path; it is always getting in the way; it is always actively and militantly opposed to spiritual growth, and the two things can never abide together - an anointing and an Amalek.
The preserving of Amalek nullifies the anointing. It is a very clear issue. "The Lord sent me to anoint thee; now therefore, because of the anointing, the inevitable, the essential, the indispensable outcome of the anointing is the utter destruction of Amalek, of that which is carnal as energised and actuated by Satan's power." It is a question of life in the Spirit or life in the flesh, and these two cannot be reconciled. They are inimical, there is enmity always between the Spirit and the flesh, the flesh and the Spirit.
This is one of the great distinguishing features between Saul and David. David's utterness for God meant that the anointing abode upon him and all the purpose of God in him was fulfilled. Saul, on the other hand, though anointed, did not follow out the meaning of the anointing, and the anointing departed from him, and the purpose of God was never realised.
We see what God wants, what God's standard is, what He is seeking. We see the nature of an instrument that will serve God in relation to bringing His testimony right through to its final establishment in the temple, in the heavenly kingdom. That is David. Saul loses the testimony every time. The testimony goes out with Saul; he cannot keep it, he cannot preserve it, he cannot advance it. The testimony is not operating in power where he is, because he is not really one in heart with the testimony, though he may think he is and may protest that he is. Those protestations of Saul's are terrible things: "I have performed the commandment of the Lord" (v.13). "What meaneth then this bleating?" (v.14). Having the situation brought home to him with circumstantial evidence, he still protests, "But I have performed the commandment". Stubbornness is the word, there is a stubbornness which makes us think that we are altogether other than we are, and makes us believe that we are right, quite right, when in the sight of God, we are as utterly wrong as we can be.
Here is what God is after: utterness, life in the Spirit, and uncompromising antagonism towards that enemy of spiritual progress: the flesh, Amalek, the self-life, the carnal nature. Now the test to find out the true heart condition: "Go and smite Amalek and utterly destroy". That phrase, "utterly destroy", occurs eight times in this chapter. The Lord does not leave us in any doubt as to what He means. The Lord's meaning is perfectly clear and emphatic. If it had been said only once, well then, there might have been some reason to believe it was not such an utter requirement, though for the Lord to say it once ought to be enough. But here - eight times! There is no doubt about the Lord's mind in this matter. We have every ground for knowing what the Lord wants. Utterly destroy! How did Saul get round that? Just the way in which this deceitful heart gets round the most emphatic things the Lord has said!
First of all, he put his own judgment over against what God had precisely said - his own judgment, his own carnal judgment. As we have pointed out before, he drew a distinction between what could be destroyed, and quite obviously to be destroyed, that which was not worth keeping; and that which was "good" and should be preserved - discriminating between good and bad - carnality, flesh. His judgment said, "This can and should be destroyed; this should be preserved". Now we want to get close to this matter.
It is never, never a question of what we think about what God has said. It is what God has said. I do feel that we need to take note of this. There is nothing in all God's universe that is a justifiable reason for going round anything that the Lord has stated; that is the point. If there is something which the Lord has said, said precisely; if there is that in God's Word which is something that the Lord requires, which the Lord has laid down as a law, as a principle, as a truth; if there is something there which is said to us that we are to observe and to do; if there is something there which is God's expressed mind about things in any realm, then beloved, there is nothing, nothing before God which can excuse us, which can justify us in going round that, in offering something as a substitute for it.
This is solemn; this is very, very important. God never presents two demands which conflict with each other. If His statement is made, then there is nothing whatever that we can find or produce which justifies us in ignoring that statement. Now, that covers a very wide area and includes countless things. It is not my thought to try to touch points of application; I should miss those that matter where you are concerned, if I tried. But I enunciate the principle; this is the law.
So often we have met this very thing. Here is a statement in God's Word that is as clear as anything can be for anybody who has honest eyes, and yet people are going round, doing just the opposite, and seeking to justify their opposite conduct and action by something in the Word of God, or by some private "revelation" that the Lord has given to them. The Lord has told them! The Lord has shown them! The Lord has spoken to them! They know the Lord's mind and the Lord's will for them and it is all as glaringly contrary to what God has laid down as anything could be. That is Saul bringing in his own religious, mark you: his religious, carnal judgment upon the Word of God. It was religious: it was all in relation to sacrifice, to serving the Lord, but it was still carnal. He put his own judgment on the Word of God instead of taking the Word as it stood precisely: "Utterly destroy". The Lord's position over that is, "When I say 'utterly', I mean 'utterly'. When I say 'destroy', I mean 'destroy'." There is no justification for anything of ourselves coming in and usurping the place of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
Now I expect you are thinking that I am very severe and this is strong. Well, it is alright, the Lord knows what He is doing. I have cried to the Lord about this word and I cannot get away from it, so I must leave the consequences with Him. If you do not at the moment see the Lord's meaning for you, well, trust the Lord about it, that He has got a meaning in bringing these meditations to a close on this note.
Now, this other thing running with that: "The people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God" (v.15). Saul betrays himself in his very phraseology, but we will leave that just now. What is Samuel's rejoinder? "Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams" (v.22). What do you see in that? I will tell you what I see, and you can judge whether it is right. I see this, that there are many who are quite willing to offer a lot of things to the Lord, a lot of service, and even to suffer for the Lord, and yet for it all to be a substitute for obedience. It is just possible to do that, and there are those who are suffering, as they think, for the Lord, and the Lord cannot accept that suffering because His Word is being ignored or violated or set aside somewhere. There is service for the Lord, but it is not acceptable service because behind that, somewhere in the life, there is a reservation of obedience! We cannot get over the Lord like that; we cannot make good with the Lord in that way. There is no substitute for implicit obedience; there is no alternative for doing what the Lord has made known as His will, none whatever.
The Lord tests the heart as to whether the heart is a heart wholly for Him along the line of most utter obedience to His stated will in His Word. He tests the heart by a challenge as to whether we will set aside our own judgment, our own idea of what it means to be for the Lord, and test everything by God's Word. Yes, to be for the Lord, all for the Lord, to love the Lord, to serve the Lord, to suffer for the Lord - that may be our own verdict upon our own heart. We may say of ourselves, "I am all for the Lord, my heart is towards the Lord, I would do anything for the Lord, make any sacrifice, I have suffered and am suffering for the Lord" - we might say that as the verdict upon our own knowledge of our own hearts, and still, as the Lord looks on the heart, it may not be what He is after. His verdict may be, "Yes, all that, but really your heart is not as I want it. Will you let go your own judgment, your own mind, your own ideas about what I want, and will you come to what I say? Look into My Word and see exactly and precisely what I have stated as My will." That is the test.
The test comes along the line of how much we are willing to part with our position and take God's position; even our own religious position, our own position of devotion to the Lord, as we would call it, and find out whether it is what the Lord has really said. To be completely and wholly governed by God's Word is essential to being according to God's heart and being an instrument which really does further the testimony of the Lord.
Now, you suffer all that, and ask the Lord about it. I could turn you to many things which are definite statements in the Word of God about this, as to what God's mind is - there they are. They have to do with every phase of our lives. They touch upon our business in this world; they touch upon our business relationships - servants and masters, masters and servants; they touch upon our domestic relationships - parents and children, children and parents, husbands and wives, wives and husbands. They touch upon our vocation in creation, as to what a man's vocation is and what a woman's vocation is; they touch upon the assembly and its order and relationships. The Word of God touches everything.
Now then, let us get down to it. What does the Word of God say on these matters; not my judgment, but what does God's Word say? If I am called to be a father, I have got to know what the Word of God says about fathers and look to it, or else responsibility comes back upon me and the Lord cannot stand by me. So it is, you see, with a mother, with a woman, and with all.
I have come down to very practical matters. Of course, it reaches out to every realm, but I am trying to help you to see what this means, and you must not violate the Word of God by getting out into another realm and trying to justify it by some special revelation that has come to you, some special vision. If that violates the Word of God, it is wrong, and it is not a revelation from God - never. When we come right into line with God's will and God's Word, with the anointing in all its glorious Divine meaning, the anointing goes on with us, and there is spiritual growth and there is value to the Lord's testimony.
Now to close. The issue, and this, so far as Saul and what Saul represents is concerned, is the most terrible part of it all. I would gladly leave this out. This putting of something - even for the Lord, mark you - in the way of the Word, of the Lord, led to a terrible consequence in Saul's life. To begin with, it meant that the Lord had to stand back and leave him to himself. Well, that is enough, surely, and that is terrible. The attitude of the Lord was, "I cannot go on with you", and terrible as it was, that was not all. He became open and exposed to evil powers and (in an awful alternative to the anointing, to the Holy Spirit) evil spirits. "Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as idolatry and teraphim" (v.23). Where the Lord does not get His way, the enemy will get his. The consequence will be, on the one hand, no going on with the Lord in the life, with His purpose; on the other hand: deception - the play of other powers. Now, that is almost too terrible to contemplate, and I said I would gladly not touch that side of Saul.
But beloved, for us in general, I feel that what the Lord wants to say to us is this: that where His highest and fullest interests are in view, and where His testimony is really at stake, there is no room for anything but perfect utterness for God. And utterness means that there shall be no listening to anything of the flesh, no substituting of anything for what God has said, no getting round with any argument what God has made known to us as His will. God is calling for a heart that is really wholly towards Him, and proved so by willingness to take the knife against ourselves, in every way to give Him full place. That is a man after God's own heart. That is the instrument that really serves Him in fulness.
We are anointed; if we are the Lord's, we have received the Spirit. The anointing that we have received is with us with this object: that we shall walk and live and move wholly according to the Spirit and utterly set aside the life of the flesh. For the anointing, remember, is never for us in some private way, never given to us just that we might have the Spirit, that we might be possessed of the Spirit. The receiving of the Spirit, or the giving of the Spirit to us by the Lord, is never an end in itself.
Anointing always has to do with God's testimony. Now, test that statement by the Word of God. In the Old Testament and in the New Testament, it is always related to the Lord's testimony, and the Lord's testimony can never be advanced if there is an Amalek strutting across the path, if the flesh is there. The anointing is intended to deal with that in the interests of the progress of the testimony of the Lord in us, through us: in the church, by the church. There is a little phrase in the Old Testament which speaks of the anointing of the shield for battle. That is tremendous when you see the meaning of it. There is a militant savour about the anointing. There is that bound up with the anointing which means war, "I will have war with Amalek for ever, said God. The Lord, has anointed thee: now go, utterly destroy Amalek!"
The anointing demands, on one hand, that everything that is not of the Spirit of God is dealt with, and that means on the other hand, that our lives in everything are governed by what the Lord has said. The issues are simple, but they are very, very searching and exacting. Now, this is what consecration means. We always relate consecration with the Holy Spirit. Consecration is this negatively: destroy Amalek. Positively: be wholly governed by the Word of God; no arguing, no reasoning, no substituting, no hedging.
What has God said? I am quite sure you are willing to ask the Lord just in what way His Word may affect you. If you do not see it at the moment, you will not turn it aside. No one, I am sure, will in the presence of such a word, fail to say, "Lord, is that for me? I do not see it, but if it is, show me, I am ready to see it. I cannot see it, but I am ready." No one will put it away, I am sure. The consequences are far, far too serious. "To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." "The Lord looks on the heart."