The Life of the Spirit
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 4 - The Spirit, the Throne, and Amalek

Reading: Exodus 17:1-16.

You will notice that there is a marginal alternative rendering to that last verse - "because there is a hand against the throne of the Lord"; literally, "a hand is lifted up upon the throne of Jah". It is in that more literal translation, that alternative rendering of the verse, that we shall find the ground of our meditation for a little while. "A hand is lifted up upon the throne", "there is a hand against the throne".

We have already seen that Joshua introduces in a peculiar way the Life of the Spirit, and I think we are familiar with the idea that Amalek represents the strength of the flesh. The Word of the Lord in its accumulative indication and teaching makes it plain that the Lord has a particular object and purpose for a people whom He has foreknown and chosen and foreordained in Christ, a people of all the peoples which have occupied, and will occupy, this earth. That particular people, that elect, has been singled out in the counsels of God for a purpose of peculiar meaning and value, and with them in that purpose of God is bound up His thought of government and dominion. They are to be a people related very specifically and immediately to His throne and by them it is His intention to administer in the ages to come. That is what we understand to be the calling and destiny of people called "the church". They are in the line of the throne by eternal election.

We are also made perfectly aware that that is not just something which will follow automatically as an item in a programme, but while it is governed by Divine plan and purpose, it is also governed by spiritual condition on their part - two things which so often seem to be contradictory and irreconcilable; nevertheless they are there. Divine intention nevertheless requires a condition.

Now, the Old Testament, of course, brings this into view in a typical way and earthly things are made to indicate heavenly; that is, Israel is a type of this heavenly truth; Israel, chosen out from all the other peoples of the earth by Divine election, called into a relationship with God to be disciplined and schooled in order to occupy a pre-eminent place among the peoples of the earth in government, setting forth in an earthly way this higher and greater truth that there is a people gathered out of all the nations for His Name, to be a heavenly people; not to govern just on the earth, but to reign with Him over the earth in a heavenly way in the ages to come. That is the spiritual side of this whole matter.

The Spirit and the Throne

Now, the throne, then, is in view. The way of the throne is shown by the Word of God to be solely the way of the Spirit. It is by the Spirit. Everywhere you will find that these two things go together. The Spirit always has the throne in view; the throne can only be reached by the energy and life of the Spirit.

You can see that in many illustrative ways in the Old Testament and in many direct indications and statements in the New. The anointing in the Old Testament was always ultimately related to the throne. You find that that anointing was always intended to work out in some way at the throne, to find its ultimate issue there. The anointing of the Spirit brought the throne into view. Even if prophets were anointed, the anointing has to do with the absolute sovereignty of God, and those very prophets themselves were occupied with the matter of government for God and of God, and their ministry in some way directly affected the throne. Their anointing was for that. The kings were anointed to be kings. It was by the anointing that they came to the throne. The anointing secured their kingship if it was a true anointing.

You can see that in the case of the most outstanding instance - David who is anointed as a youth and then everything conspires to withstand his progress to the throne; all forces of men and devils combine to see that that throne is never secured unto David, but he comes to the throne in spite of everything, and that which brings him to the throne is the fact of the anointing. You cannot set that aside. That is God committing Himself to this matter, and the anointing is God committing Himself in the matter of bringing ultimately to the place of His intention, the place of dominion.

I wish we fully recognized the significance of the gift of the Holy Spirit, really what the Holy Spirit has in view. We have tried to use the Holy Spirit. Very often we have sought to have the Holy Spirit more fully and powerfully in order that we might come to a place where we have influence and we can use the Holy Spirit in some way and achieve our ends by means of the Holy Spirit. We need to recognize that the very gift of the Holy Spirit by God is pre-eminently and fundamentally with the intention of bringing a people to the throne, to spiritual ascendancy and dominion, and then all that is required is to be utterly submissive to the Spirit, yielded to the Spirit, and the end is as sure as God's throne is; we shall be there, we shall arrive. It would make a lot of difference in our apprehension of what a life in the Spirit means.

Well, that is God's thought, and it is everywhere written in the Old Testament in the types, and in the New Testament it is perfectly clear. The Lord Jesus is anointed; the heavens open, the Spirit descends in dove-like form and settles upon Him. He is anointed with the Spirit. The apostle said later, "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost" (Acts 10:38, KJV). Well, immediately the throne is in view, the dominion over the kingdoms of this world. Satan recognizes the implications of that anointing. Satan knows quite well it is the kingdoms of this world that are now the great issue. It is not long before that matter comes right out into the light.

He takes it by stages. If he can realize his end, that is, defeat the Lord Jesus on lesser ground by smaller means, he will, and so he takes the matter of making the stones into bread. Then the demonstration by casting Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, and so on. But in the end he comes right out with what he has got up his sleeve, all his cards are on the table, and it is as much as to say, "Let us get to this whole issue, what it amounts to - the kingdoms of this world, and the glory of them". That is the issue and it is dragged out, and it is the anointing which has precipitated this matter, it is the throne which is in view.

And that is the thing which lies behind all the rest of the New Testament. The Spirit coming brings that throne at once into very clear definition and then it is a question of whether the Spirit is going to be absolute Lord, or the flesh is going to have the upper hand.

A Hand Against the Throne

Well, with the throne in view for the Spirit, Amalek also comes on the scene at that point. Amalek, speaking of the flesh, the natural life, the self-life, is still there present with the people of God. It is the flesh in the wilderness in Amalek, and this matter of Amalek or the flesh raises the big question. It is raised in this form - If you are going on in the Spirit, if yours is going to be life in and by the Spirit, you are most certainly and positively coming to God's appointed end, to reach that which is meant by the throne. I will not stay to define that. Let us get rid of all mental pictures about literal thrones. Let us remember that we are dealing with something that is essentially spiritual, and I think we know enough, both by reason of our spiritual instruction and enlightenment, and by reason of the history of this world that is now being made so forcefully, what the power of spiritual forces is; that is the power of spiritual nature, the power of spiritual character. We know that ultimately the ascendancy is going to be with that which is pure and that which is holy and that which is true, that the conflict is now between the lie and the truth for the dominion of this world; between the evil and the holy. These forces are at work and it is with these spiritual things that the destiny of this world rests. When we speak of the throne, we are not thinking of any particular material object called a throne. We are thinking of that position and that condition of spiritual life with which God invests the right of government for His coming kingdom. His kingdom must be a kingdom of righteousness, truth, holiness, purity and light, and the government will be vested in those who have become a vessel of light and life and truth in a peculiar way.

Now, if you are going on in the Life of the Spirit, you are going to come to that which is meant by the throne: the government, the dominion, the ascendancy with God for administering the kingdoms of this world in the coming ages. You are going to come there by a life in the Spirit, but that which is all the time challenging that course and that Life is the presence of the flesh, the old nature, the natural life. It is there all the time and it represents a continuous challenge, not just to our spiritual life and our walk with God, not just to our pure condition as something in itself, but a constant challenge to that end of the walk with God: that throne, that dominion. And every bit of yielding to the natural life means a retarding of the progress towards the throne, an interruption of the course towards that dominion, and there it is all the time. And the enemy moves in through the flesh against the throne. Amalek is represented as being a hand against the throne; that is, the flesh is Satan's hand against the throne. Satan's hand is against the throne, but his hand takes the form of the natural life of the child of God. It is against the throne.

God's Attitude to Amalek

So we find that God is shown to have no compromise whatsoever with Amalek. His attitude is one of utterest utterness against Amalek, "The Lord will have war with Amalek for ever." The Lord will "blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven." That is the Lord's attitude towards the life of nature, not because it is just the life of nature in its human weakness and imperfection, but because it is something against the throne, because it is something which is reaching out to frustrate the very destiny of the saints in the eternal counsels of God. It is quite an impossible thing for me, of course, to comprehend the life of the flesh. We have to learn for ourselves what that is, what the life of nature means. Under the Spirit of God we shall learn what it is, but it is too great a thing, too vast and comprehensive a thing for any man to state that that is the flesh. If we went on and enumerated a few thousand items of the flesh, we would just be found in something unmentioned, caught in some point which had been overlooked. There is no end to this thing. So we leave the definition of the flesh. It is this whole life of nature about which we are learning so much; that is, it is all that which is not of the Spirit.

Now, may I pause here to put something in by way of parenthesis. It would be just what the enemy would love to do, to take hold of what I have just been saying about this matter of the flesh life and nature, and frame it into a great means and instrument of introspective occupation. He can achieve the very end we are seeking to frustrate by doing that. I want to lay very special emphasis upon this. Be very, very guarded against an ultra-subjectivity in spiritual things. Even an occupation with the crucifying of your own flesh, the subjective side of the work of the cross, can become an instrument of Satan's paralyzing of the progress of the saints. Be on your guard against that. You may think that that is surely impossible. If you are sufficiently concerned about the crucifixion of your flesh, the putting to death of your own nature, you are surely taking the most direct and immediate way of cutting Satan out. Not at all! Satan, if he cannot come in at the front door will come in the back door, and I have seen many of the Lord's people just tied up in awful paralysis by being unduly occupied with the subjective meaning of the Cross. The way to the throne is the way of the Spirit. Live in the Spirit and the Spirit will teach you what has got to be dealt with. He will make known to you what is flesh and keep you alive to the hindrances and to the enemy. Keep on the positive side, on the Life side of the Cross, the side of the Spirit, and you will be saved, and do not all the time be digging down into those abysmal depths of your own sinful nature and trying to deal with your own nature. Not at all - that is the way of death and darkness, the way of bondage. While the subjective work of the Cross remains a necessary, essential thing, let us remember that we cannot make good the work of the Cross by any amount of occupation with it. It is only the Spirit of God that can do that.

Well, let us continue. If Amalek gets a look-in, that is, if we yield to Amalek, if we give place to Amalek, then the throne is suspended so far as our spiritual attainment is concerned. Thus we find the Lord so utterly uncompromising in the matter of Amalek, and this works out wherever Amalek comes up.

Take two or three occasions. Of course, here is Joshua. If he represents the man of the Spirit, you can see what the Spirit's attitude is towards Amalek. Well, Joshua had no compromise with Amalek on that day. He did a thorough work because they are carrying out the mind of the Lord over this life of nature.

But passing on, Amalek comes up again on more than one occasion. What about Saul? Do we realize Saul lost his throne and crown because of compromise over Amalek? The Lord through Samuel commanded the utter destruction and Saul spared, compromised. He lost his throne, the hand was against the throne. Saul is a man who inwardly in his heart has some kind of alliance with Amalek. We have seen that in his life again and again. He is not a man of the Spirit. He is a man who is influenced by his own interests: how things affect him, his own judgments. The Lord says one thing; his judgment is better than the Lord's on that and he acts accordingly. The Lord requires something; he thinks the Lord's requirements are a bit too extreme and so he holds back from the utterness of the Lord's requirements. He is not a man of the Spirit at all. He is a man influenced by nature. There are lots of nice things about him. We are not dealing with what is naturally good and naturally legitimate. We are dealing with what the Lord says about things, and a man of the Spirit is a man who is governed by what the Lord says, not by his own judgments on things. Let us be careful.

Come back to Joshua again, the man of the Spirit. You notice what Joshua 1:8 says about this, Joshua is very emphatic: "This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth." There is a tremendous emphasis upon this book of the law and all around it is this - "I will be with thee, I am with thee to deliver thee, be strong and of a good courage", and so on. But right at the heart is this, as though it were a condition: you have got to abide by what the Lord has said and never for a moment yield to your own judgment if your judgment would set aside what the Lord has said. We want to be very careful. Is it written? Is it in the Word of God? Then God forbid that any of us should say it does not mean that or that it is too extreme... the Lord cannot mean that. No, it is there and the throne for us hangs upon whether we subject our own judgment to the judgment of God in all matters. If our judgment comes up, Amalek is in view and the hand is against the throne. Remember that. It is just a word of warning by the way. We have got to be very careful how we deal with the things that the Lord has said, how we bypass some things the Lord has said or put on blinkers where they are concerned. Saul did that and lost the throne and it was Amalek.

Then you notice that when Saul had lost his throne, his crown, his life, David is just in the offing, a true man of the Spirit. You close the first book of Samuel with the terrible story of the death of Saul and Jonathan, and then 2 Samuel 1 sees David coming to the fore and an Amalekite approaching and with what does the Amalekite approach? The Amalekite comes forward with the crown and the bracelet he has taken from the body of the slain Saul and offers them to David. The flesh comes forward to offer the man of the Spirit the throne, and what does the man of the Spirit say? He says exactly as the Lord Jesus said to Satan - "I will have the throne by the anointing, I will not have it at your hands, not at the hands of the flesh. This vile world is no friend to help me on to God; I am not dependent upon any fleshly means to bring me to the throne; I come by the anointing!" And David dealt with the Amalekite there and then because his hand was against the throne while offering the very crown. You see how subtle it is. And very often Satan will come along the line of the flesh in such a form as to seem to be facilitating the realisation of the Divine purposes, and the snare is this: that there is no such thing as facilitating Divine purposes by fleshly means. Many of the Lord's people have been caught there. They have seen that perhaps something for God and of God can be realized if only they compromised in this way or that, or if they accepted a certain suggested offer of advancement, it could get them in the direction that really their hearts are set upon - the throne. But the thing offered, the method suggested, has got something of nature, the flesh, or this world in it, and what has really happened has been that that thing which was offered, has brought absolute arrest and complication, and it has been far more difficult to get out of that. It has become a curse.

Apply it again in the case of the Lord Jesus in the wilderness with Satan. Do you think that Christ would have gained the kingdoms of this world and the glory thereof in the way in which God intended if He had accepted the bribe of Satan? Of course He would not. The whole end of God would have been defeated and that was what Satan was after.

So the Amalekite came with the crown and the bracelet and the man of the Spirit said, "You are an Amalekite and that is enough for me; whatever may be your offer, whatever may be your fair speech, however you may seem to be wanting to advance my interests towards the throne, you are an Amalekite and I know what the Lord has said about Amalek. The Lord has sworn to have war with Amalek forever; I am having no dealings with Amalek on any ground whatever!" And he refused the crown and the bracelet at the hand of an Amalekite. The man of the Spirit refuses compromise with the flesh for any purpose whatsoever.

Is this not the very thing that comes up with Mordecai? Haman the Agagite - Agag was only the alternative name of the kings of the Amalekites - Agag and Amalek are the same and Mordecai recognizes Haman as an Agagite, an Amalekite. And although Mordecai is in the place of disadvantage, set at nought and for the time being Haman is in the place of power and influence, Mordecai is going to have no truck with Haman, no compromise with Haman even to the very end. And did it not prove that Haman was the hand against the throne of God, against the very life of God's people? Was he not plotting the destruction of the Jews, the blotting of them out from the earth? Yes, it is like that. "The mind of the flesh is death" (Rom. 8:6). Mordecai is the man of the Spirit and the "mind of the Spirit is life" and in the end that triumphed because of no compromise, no acceptance.

Well, the principle is there, so clearly illustrated again and again in many ways, leading right up to our Lord Himself; Satan tempting through the flesh to bring Him down on to the ground of nature and to rob Him of the throne.

All this, then, is one strong argument and appeal for a people wholly seeking to walk with God, wholly following the Lord, living a life in and by the Spirit: having no place for nature, but always having the sword drawn out against it, against all those appeals and arguments of the natural life, not compromising at all with Amalek, but like Joshua recognizing the Lord's attitude towards that whole realm of things and going right on wholly and utterly with Him in the Spirit.

Well, it is a restatement of truth, and the very statement of truth ought to influence us, ought to affect us, ought to make us aware of the tremendous forces that there are at work in the way of reaching God's end.

But let us finish with the positive note and emphasis again. We have received the Spirit as an earnest of our inheritance, and if you and I have received the Spirit, if the Spirit has become the sovereign Lord in our hearts, then we have the basis of ultimate and continual victory, the very means of growing ascendancy and of final union with our Lord in His throne. The Spirit is in us for that very purpose, and the one thing that you and I have to learn - not an easy lesson, we learn it by many failures, we learn it slowly - is that we cannot afford to listen to the dictates of our own natural interests. We must give our ear wholly and continually to what the Spirit is saying, to the whisperings and urgings of the Holy Spirit, the influence of the Spirit in us and over us in an inward way. I am quite sure that you all know in some measure what the sovereignty of the Spirit means in your life in different ways.

What is the meaning of the Holy Spirit being grieved? We know when the Spirit is grieved. What is the meaning of that grieving, that registration of Divine disappointment, Divine sorrow, Divine displeasure? It simply means that the Lord sees that the great end for which He has called us, for which He has given us His Spirit, is standing to be brought under arrest, into suspense. The great end is being put back by this thing over which He is grieving. The Spirit is with us with that great end of the throne always in view and anything that comes between us and that end grieves the Spirit and we know it. That is the meaning of it.

So may we more and more learn to be yielded to the Spirit, understanding the Spirit, and wholly submissive to the dictates and government of the Spirit of God in us. That is the way of victory and of final reigning with our Lord.


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