"... reaching forth unto those things which are before ...
toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus
(Philippians 3:13-14)

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Vol. 11, No. 1, Jan. - Feb. 1982 EDITOR: Mr. Harry Foster

[Greetings] 1
Incentives To Building 1
Lessons In Leadership (4) 5
"Go In This Thy Might" 10
Notes On 2 Corinthians (8) 13
Recovering The Lost Glory 17
Inspired Parentheses (34) ibc



Loving greetings in Christ for the New Year of 1982! Not by any human contrivance but by God's providential overruling, it so happens that we begin with two messages about David. They may well present a striking contrast, but since both are wholly Scriptural, they should bring a spiritual profit. The truth is, of course, that we can be helped by reading of the failures of God's servants as well as of their successes. That is why the Bible is so frank in its history. We must not applaud one aspect and reject another, but listen to all God has to say, and thank Him whose Spirit has caused it all to be written down so that we may have guidance and help in our walk and work during the New Year which lies before us. -- The Editor



(Two crises in King David's life)

Alan L. Barrow

1. Disappointment. 2 Samuel 7

IN this chapter we, find David established as king In Jerusalem. His conquests are over. He has dealt with those who might challenge his position and settled the military problems on his borders. The Ark has been brought back.

The king now had respite and could settle down. As he said to Nathan: "See now, I dwell in an house of cedar". He had lived a very rough life up to this point; what with looking after sheep and then being chased around by Saul, home had been rather a remote concept for a long period. Now, however, he had his opportunity; he could relax and let things slide. God had given him comfort and stability, not something he had hitherto been familiar with. He could enjoy life in his house of cedar, which was the result of a special importation of material, rather equivalent to our modern Scandinavian decor. Now therefore he could relax and enjoy it all.

This must correspond to the situation of many Christians today or which will later face others in the years to come. We have been able to get over our privations, beyond our student penury, past the weekly pruning of the budget and the 'Do it yourself' way of life. All this produces our modern houses of cedar, which include luxurious chairs for reclining at ease, so much so that when the evening comes round for our church Prayer Meeting, we are sorely tempted to give it a miss while we relax in our modern house of cedar. It may not be a matter of the formal call of a Prayer Meeting, but a personal call for someone who needs help. How tempted we are to yield to comforts!

David had sorted this matter out. His house of cedar was not something which made him less inclined to serve the Lord, but that which urged him on to greater service. We, too, must get our own position clear. There was nothing wrong in his possessions. Materialism is not a matter of what we possess but of allowing earthly things to take precedence over spiritual values. In David's case, he had the wealth, the comfort, the best of all that was available, but in no way could he be described as materialistic. All that he had made him the more concerned for the glory of God. If I have so much blessing given to me, he reasoned, then how can I be content to see the Ark of God just surrounded by curtains in its tent? I have a house of cedar with its walls, and God's Ark only has curtains. That is not right. I must do something about that. In David's case, his material benefits were not a drag on his keenness for divine things but rather a spur to greater concern.

How happy Nathan the prophet must have been when he was consulted over this matter; how happy to have such a king and not one like Saul -- a materialist if ever there was one. He responded warmly, "Go, do all that is in thine heart; for the Lord is with thee". Yes, that is a good idea! It will be great for you to carry on with this project of providing a house for God, where His Ark can be suitably settled. But -- as we read -- he had to have second thoughts. The Word of the Lord came to him to countermand this idea. In a sense, it was a right idea and David could be commended for it, but the timing was wrong and so was the sense of who should undertake the task. At this point Nathan needed correction, so the Word of the Lord came to him. [1/2]

I wonder if you have ever had this sort of experience. A matter has arisen which, after a superficial discussion, you have decided is a good thing, but afterwards you have to view it in a different light. You have second thoughts and, more than second thoughts, you have light from the Word of God. So the whole aspect of the matter is changed. You felt that you should do it, and now you find that it is not on. I am afraid that the natural reaction is to express your dismay in forthright terms, and even to enjoy doing so, but afterwards you remember that "the wrath of man does not work the righteousness of God", so you have to re-think the whole matter and adjust your attitude. It is in this way that we grow spiritually, in this way that Christ establishes His rule in our hearts and minds.

Nathan was ready to accept this check. He did not respond to the temptation which might have come to him to feel foolish at changing from enthusiastic support to definite negation, and so keep quiet. No, he was a prophet of the Lord and as such knew how important and vital a thing it is to pay heed to God's Word. So he gave his message to David. There is no way of telling how he felt as he did so, but I imagine that it was by no means as straightforward as it may seem. While we have very high ideas about David, he was after all a despotic eastern ruler. Read the next Chapter and see now he sorted out the Moabites by lining them up in three rows, killing two and leaving the third, just to exert his authority. We sometimes are inclined to look at these Old Testament characters in our own terms and so miss the remarkable nature of the actions of men who had such true relationships with God. Nathan's action could have been highly dangerous. David was a despotic monarch, with total powers. Having decided to do something for God he might take it very badly to be forbidden to carry out his idea, especially as it was such a good one. The tremendous drive of self-righteousness is the most difficult to cope with in human relationships; it is a risky thing to confront such a man and tell him he is wrong, however much you may compensate with some spiritual promises, as Nathan did. So far as Nathan knew, the king might react with pique and even rage. The message could only be accepted by a man with some spiritual concept of it, who would be humble enough to accept correction. It probably seemed to David that this was obviously a good thing for God, and also would reflect not a little credit on him, and now he was being told that it was not to happen.

Nathan's fears were groundless. We know what David did. We are told that "Then went king David in and sat before the Lord" (v.18). His best intentions had been thwarted. What did King David do when he was treated in this way? "He sat before the Lord." That is a tremendous verse when taken in its context. It is the last thing that a man governed by what was personal and fleshly would do. It is a tremendous lesson to us all, that in a moment of extreme frustration and disappointment, a man should go quietly and sit before the Lord. He did not stand, as he would have done for prayer. He did not prostrate himself to plead that the decision be altered. He quietly reflected on God's message and recalled God's mercies. If all of us, when our good ideas are turned down, will act like this, we will find it a source of great strength.

In modern society it seems almost impossible to have such quiet meditation in God's presence. Any spare moments we have tend to be filled with listening to radio or watching T.V. It seems to me that if we are going to set apart time for God we must be prepared to forego this or that favourite programme. It is difficult. One has to go against the tide and to recognise that we are going against the tide if we are really to go in and sit before the Lord, as David did.

As we have said, he was assured that although he was on the right line, the timing was wrong. But then there was much more to think about. God had said that He had managed without a house until now. This was no problem. He hadn't asked anybody to build Him a house. He continued by reminding David how he had been taken from his shepherd task and worked upon to be prepared for his kingly service, and went on: "I will make thee a great name ... I will appoint a place for my people, Israel ... Moreover the Lord telleth thee that the Lord will make thee an house" (vv.6-11).

What a wonderful reply, coming partly as a correction to David but also as an encouragement. An important point to notice is that the gracious reply involved tremendous promises not only for David but for all God's people. It is as though God said 'You will not build the house, but a house will be built and My real purpose is concerning the building of a house on a different level, not just an edifice but a people'. The word [2/3] can either mean a house or a household, as the New Testament clearly reveals when it speaks of God's redeemed people being fitly framed together to make a habitation for Himself by the Spirit. Several times over the Lord emphasised to David that this house will be eternal -- "for ever".

Overwhelmed by God's grace, David could only enquire "Who am I? What is my house?" He sat long enough in the Lord's presence to get the right perspective. And as he did so, he broke into spontaneous worship: "Thou art great, O Lord God; for there is none like thee ... Let thy name be magnified for ever" (vv.20-26). All this came out of an experience when he could have been so disappointed as to rage at Nathan and could have defied God saying, 'I am going to do it my way, and I am going to be the one to do it'. There was so much that he might well have said if he had not gone in to sit before the Lord, but as he did that he was filled with wonder at God's grace and responded in terms of God's purpose. He appreciated God's perspective, and when a man does that he cannot but worship.

This is how David met his disappointment. It would be great to have a church of people like that, those who could change a situation which might easily provoke confusion and argument into spiritual profit and overflowing worship. We ought to be like it, for we are involved in the building of that true and lasting temple which David faintly glimpsed.

In God's reply, He started talking of the kingdom which would be established for ever (vv.13 and 16). Part of verse 14 is quoted in Hebrews 1 as one of the supporting quotes concerning Christ, the Son over His house. We see, then, that God's message looked beyond Solomon and the earthly temple which he would build, to the eternal house of God in Christ which is to be constituted by the people of God, with the Lord Jesus as the foundation stone. So far as David was concerned, his zeal was to be channelled to that; he was to get into the mainstream of God's purposes for His Son. The lessons we are learning are to be connected with our relationship with one another in this eternal house, we are "fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief corner stone; in whom every building, fitly framed together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom we are builded together for a habitation of God in the Spirit" (Ephesians 2:19-22).

With this in mind we note a few points from David's experience:

1. God has His eternal house in view. He is not primarily concerned with our building programmes, but is intent on having redeemed lives built up into His true house. Like David, we must recognise that spiritual values are what matter; we must be ready to be corrected and even disappointed while we learn to see in God's perspective. We have a tremendous destiny ahead of us, and will find that which becomes a home for us is more truly a Home for God.

2. We are called to this very task. God has taken us from our own environment and is working on us to make us suitable for this great purpose of His. This is certainly a New Testament thought, for we are constantly reminded of the supreme purpose which God had in putting us into Christ.

3. We must approach this whole matter in a positive way. As we shall see, David was not content with meditation and worship. He rose up from his sitting before the Lord and moved on into the future without losing sight of this divine purpose.

2. Triumph. 1 Chronicles 28 and 29

At the end of his life David revealed how wholeheartedly he had learned the lesson of his disappointment. He was not allowed to do what he so wanted to do. He accepted that decision in a right spirit. Now we are to see that he did all that he could do. Alas, that so many who wish to do a certain thing and are not allowed to do it, react by taking offence and do nothing at all. I sit on a number of appointment interviews and find that very often the main concern of those who have to make the decision is coloured by the need for soothing the resentment of those who are not appointed. The Board reason that if they appoint one man, they fear the bad reactions and withdrawal from co-operation of another. Sometimes they even try to make a join appointment, for a non-co-operative colleague is a major problem. It seems that it is almost a fact of human nature that the person not given the job may opt out of all help in the matter.

David was not like that. If he were not allowed to build the temple, he would at least do everything he could to assist the appointed builder. [3/4] He admitted that Solomon was still young and inexperienced (29:1) but he would not allow him to be despised or ruled out for that reason. He did not say to this inexperienced young man, 'Well, if I can't do it, you certainly can't!' No, he set out to strengthen and encourage this young and inexperienced new king. He spoke to the whole people so that all would know that Solomon had his complete backing in the great work which was to be undertaken. What was more, he handed over to Solomon the massive dossier which contained all the plans. He had received them and pondered over them, but he made no attempt to hold them in a selfish way but gave to Solomon the most detailed description of all the materials and weights, in a genuine attempt to facilitate a work which had been withheld from him, to his great disappointment. He could not do the building, but he did what he could.

We should focus on what we can do and not sulk about the things which we cannot do. Often people get ideas of what they would like to do and feel that it would be good to do, but when they find that they are not allowed to do it, they lose all interest in the enterprise. It is possible to spend all one's time complaining about what one would have done if only it had been allowed and never do anything positive. Focus not on what you cannot do but on what you can do.

David reported that he had prepared with all his might for this house of God, specifying all the materials and then adding: "Moreover also, because I have set my affection to the house of my God, seeing that I have a treasure of mine own gold and silver, I give it ... over and above all that I have prepared for the holy house" (29:3).

And then, more than all the rest and including all, he prayed for Solomon: "Grant unto Solomon my son a perfect heart ..." (29:19). The man who could have harboured resentment at being excluded gives a perfect example of total commitment in his wholehearted encouragement, planning, provision and prayer for this house of God. His example inspired the rest, for we are told that "the people rejoiced, for that they offered willingly, because with a perfect heart they offered willingly to the Lord" (29:9). They caught the spirit which was being shown by this king who ungrudgingly put all he could into the matter over which he had personally been thwarted and spurned. Such a spirit is contagious, a willing heart and a ready mind, and these are the contributions which all God's people should bring to the fulfilling of His eternal purpose in Christ. It is clear from the last verse of chapter 28 that everybody was to have a part in this great work. It is even more certain that in the building of God's spiritual house in Christ, every believer is called to have a part. There are too many disgruntled, depressed and even bitter individuals in the Church today. God points us all to the example of David that we might likewise be ready of mind and willing of heart in His service, completely repudiating any ego-centric feelings in the matter.

Twice over David exhorted Solomon to "Be strong and do it" (28:10 and 20). Even if you are young and inexperienced, get on and do it. You may feel yourself to be inadequate, but "do it". Most of us will be prepared to admit that in this great task of spiritual building we are very inexperienced. We are conscious of inadequacy; we feel that we do not have what it takes. Well, Solomon may have felt the same, but he was told to plunge right in, for God's moment had come and now was the time to act. Let us note some of the reasons which David gave him, to back this exhortation:

i. God knows you. "The Lord searcheth all hearts" (28:9). God not only knows your heart and thoughts, He knows your inexperience and youth. You do not have to pretend with Him, to try to put on any sort of act and you cannot invent any legitimate excuse. The God who knows you thoroughly says, "Be strong and do it".

ii. God has chosen you. You are the man. (28:10) David said this partly to encourage Solomon and partly to defend him in front of the whole people. Now the New Testament shows us that every one of us in Christ is "chosen". "Take heed now, for the Lord hath chosen thee." We agree that this was true of Solomon and in our own day we look at certain Christians and agree that it is true of them, but we must pay attention to the fact that we have not chosen the Lord, He has chosen us. "So be strong, and do it!"

iii. The complete plans are provided. "Then David gave to Solomon his son the pattern" (28:11). He did not have to puzzle or improvise, the plans were clear and complete. How much more true is this of us. There is a wonderful plan of God, worked out in detail, and our part is to [4/5] look for it and fit in with it. Thank God, we have our Master-Builder with His master-plan. Ours to obey Him and adjust to His will in all things.

iv. The materials are all supplied. The list is full and generous, as we see by 29:2. We are involved in that for which God has made His full preparation. Everything necessary for our spiritual life and work is available freely to those who ask and receive.

v. You will not be alone. "There shall be with you in all manner of work every willing man that hath skill" (28:21). This is no lonely task. We are united to one another in the fellowship of the Spirit and can gain confidence and strength from our fellow builders. Best of all "the Lord my God is with thee; he will not fail thee nor forsake thee, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord be finished". You may be young and inexperienced, aware of how easily you could blunder or fail, but get on and do it, for the Lord is with you. Did not our Lord Jesus encourage us all in the same way, saying "I will build my church" (Matthew 16:18).

The incident closes with a tremendous burst of worship, as David blesses the Lord. This is not just a list of people and materials or technical instructions for a job, so David passes from the administrative section into a great spate of worship: "Thine O Lord, is the greatness, and the power and the glory, and the victory and the majesty ..." (29:11). He was not on an ego-trip, boasting that he is the man who is going to do it and even claiming that he had originated it or provided for it. No, all he could say of himself is "Who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer willingly after this sort?" It is grace alone. He goes on to declare: "for all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee" (29:14). And then, out of worship, comes earnest prayer. Offering true adoration, confessing his own lowly position, he is now able to intercede on behalf of all the building people. This matter was not to be confined to technique, but to be expressed in worship.

We now come to the beginning of a new year. We too are faced with the challenge and the opportunity of building for God. Have we the willing heart and the ready mind for such a project? Do we share concern for the building of Christ's body, His temple? Are we ready to put aside all excuses and self-interest? Can we hear God saying to us, "Who then is willing?" and "Be strong and do it!" It is great David's greater Son who asks: "Who then offereth willingly to consecrate himself this day unto the Lord?"



J. Alec Motyer


DAVID was the man "after God's heart" who "served God's purpose in his own generation". He was a wonderful person, capable of marvellous faith and generosity of spirit. In this study, however, we are considering qualities necessary for leadership, and in this respect we seem to learn more from David's failures than from his successes. The spiritual truth we are noting is that government begins at home, and we will have some sad things to say about this very great king.

Leadership is a Gift of God's Grace

"Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed David in the midst of his brethren, and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward" (1 Samuel 16:13). There are three men in the New Testament of whom it says that they were "full of the Spirit". It says of many that they were filled with the Spirit, but only of three does it say that they were "full of the Spirit". And there are three men in the Old Testament of whom we are told that they enjoyed the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit upon them. David is one of the three. Through Samuel's ministry he received this secret anointing by which he knew a coming of the Holy Spirit which remained real from that day forward.

Yet, as the story develops, there are a whole series of surprises, so much so that at times it must have been hard to believe that God really was with him. At the first, things all went his way. We have the beginning of the story concerning Goliath (1 Samuel 17) when he suddenly [5/6] burst out from the secrecy of the anointing into the public arena, capturing the people's imagination and almost at once becoming a popular leader. We read, for example, that after this incident, the women turned to one another in their dances and said: "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands" (18:7). So the little lad from Bethlehem who had been keeping sheep, now suddenly became the popular hero and the cameras all turned on him. And they did not turn on him in vain, for he maintained his status as a popular leader, worthy of acclaim, of whom we read: "the princes of the Philistines went forth, and it came to pass, as often as they went forth that David was more successful than all the servants of Saul, so that his name was much prized" (18:30).

It would be so easy for us to say, There it is, you see, now that the Spirit of God has come upon him, he is straight away on the road to the throne. Well, as a matter of fact, he is not! Now another feature of the story of David takes over and, from now onward for a good while, that story will be dominated by the verb "to flee". It comes into David's story: "David fled and escaped at night" (19:10). The popular acclaim that came to David had its darker side, the enmity and jealousy of Saul, who was sadly sinking deeper and deeper into the dementia which marred the second half of his reign. He turned on David and tried to spear him, and David fled -- that was the first of many fleeings. "David fled and escaped to Samuel" (19:18); "David fled ... and went to Jonathan" (20:1); "David fled ... and went to Achish" (21:10); "David ... escaped to the cave of Adullam" (22:1). In this latter case the verb "to flee" is not used but it is clearly in the same sequence. It appears then that, far from being on his way to the throne, David was increasingly on his road away from the throne, increasingly at a distance from that to which God had called him and for which God had anointed him. But worse is to follow.

He was then rejected by the people whose idol he had been. They had sung his praises and prized his name, but when David asked, "Will the men of Keilah deliver me up into the hand of Saul?", the Lord replied, "They will deliver you up" (23:12). We might blame these people for treachery towards David, but we must remember that actually they were only being loyal to Saul who to them was the Lord's anointed. The men of Keilah were unashamedly on the side of their king, and they turned against David.

This backing away from David was shared by the Ziphites: "The Ziphites came to Saul in Gibeah saying, Does not David hide himself with us in the strongholds of the woods in the hill of Hachilah ...?" (23:19). David was losing popular acclaim; he was being rejected by the people. The rejection continued: "The Ziphites came to Saul at Gibeah ..." (26:1). When David himself reported progress on this front of popular acclaim, he stated what was now his public image: "They have driven me out this day, that I should not cleave unto the inheritance of the Lord, saying, Go, serve other gods ..." (26:19). David had become an outlaw in the eyes of the people.

Even that is not the end of the story, for the next element in his story is a tragic lapse of faith on his own part, which caused him to go into a self-imposed exile. "David said in his heart, I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul; there is nothing better for me than that I should escape into the land of the Philistines" (27:1). It was as if he had, so to speak, lost caste in his own estimation so he imposed on himself exile from the territory of the people of God and joined himself to the Philistines.

He yet had to learn a further lesson of bitterness, for there came a day when even the Philistines did not want him. Achish, king of Gath, who seemed genuinely attached to David, had very sadly to send him away: "Wherefore now, rise up early in the morning with the servants of thy lord that are come with thee, and as soon as ye be up early in the morning and have light, depart" (29:10). Not even the Philistines wanted him! Even so, the story of the downward path of the Spirit-filled man has not ended.

David and his men came to Ziklag. Ziklag was David's personal possession: it was home. "... the Amalekites had made a raid upon the south and upon Ziklag, and had smitten Ziklag and burnt it with fire, and taken captive the women and all that were therein, both small and great; they slew not any but carried them off and went away ... David's two wives were taken captive, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess and Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite. And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him ..." (30:1-6). David came back there and found a heap of ashes, and then the men who had been willing to share his exile turned against him, so that he [6/7] had nothing. He had lost his contact with the court; he had lost favour with the people of God; he had lost the only home he had known; he had lost the company of his two wives; and he had lost the goodwill of those who, up to that point, had given him unswerving loyalty. David was stripped to the bone.

He recovered all, and when he had returned from the slaughter of the Amalekites he remained in Ziklag. He was in Ziklag when the news came to him that Saul had died (2 Samuel 1:1-2). It was then that he "enquired of the Lord, Shall I go up to any of the cities of Judah? and the Lord said to him, Go up! And David said, Whither shall I go up? and He said, Unto Hebron ..." (2:1). But he had to get down into the ashes before he could get up to the throne. He sang of this in Psalm 113:7: "He lifts the poor out of the ash-heap that he may set him with princes."

The Bible always insists that leadership is a gift of God. It is a gift of God and it is a gift of grace. Over and over again the Scriptures face us with this situation, insisting on the subjugation of those who are going to be trusted with positions of leadership. The Bible insists on their casting down. It insists upon their subordination. It insists that they will be tempered by adversity, before they can possibly become leaders after God's own heart. Of the three great leaders, Moses, Joshua and David, only Joshua was spared these preliminary humiliations and, as we have already seen in our previous study, the probable reason was that there was no need to cast Joshua down -- he was down already. Moses and David however, men of towering gifts of leadership, strong natural leaders if ever there were such, had first to be undone. God said to them, "No! Leadership is not on those terms. Leadership is a matter of grace. It is not based on talent but on grace." From then on, every time David looked at his throne, he must have remembered the ashes of Ziklag. He knew that he owed everything not to his own gifts or talent or energy, but only to the sheer unmerited grace of God who had reduced him to zero. But when David had nothing, then God gave him everything.

The other side of that same principle is almost equally important. It is this, that the secret anointing is always fulfilled. God always stands by His purposes. David was anointed secretly in the midst of his brethren and nothing went right. God, however, had not lost His grip upon David, nor had He departed from His purposes for David. He pursued those purposes and brought David into the appointed glory. But the way was long. To human eyes, the way was tortuous. The setbacks were abundant, but in the end the anointing prevailed and God did what He had said He would do.

Leadership Calls for Devotion to Duty

Now as we continue to study the story of David, we find that although leadership is a gift of God's grace, the whole matter is so sensitive and delicate that it can be lost by neglect of duty. That which is given can also be lost. It is not an inalienable right. The sad truth is that David, the anointed king, ended as an elderly pawn to be managed by intriguers within the palace; he ended as what is now called a 'toothless tiger'. It is not just that he held on to leadership long past retiring age -- there is more to it than that. There was a turning point in the leadership of David. Before that point, his leadership was never in dispute, but after it his leadership was never without dispute. His decline was not simply the accompaniment of senior citizenship: it had its point of origin, from which so much began to go wrong.

I think that if we read the story with open eyes, we find that there were three significant points in the story of David's leadership. They were all the same, namely, first, second and third neglectings of duty. The first neglect of duty, which was the most significant of all, is found in 2 Samuel 11:1, where we read that "It came to pass, at the return of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab ...". David the king did not go; he sent Joab. The narrative proceeds to open up the inner side of that neglected duty: "It came to pass at eventide that David rose off his bed" (11:2). That was at the time when most people think of going to bed. "He walked upon the roof of his house", and from the roof he saw a woman bathing. Nobody asked him to stay and look! Here, then, we have neglected duty, a pampered body and an unguarded eye. That is how it all started. Consequently when, just a little later on, there was trouble in David's house and Absalom's beautiful sister, Tamar, was raped by her half-brother, Amnon, and the wilful but gorgeous young Absalom took the law into his own hands and murdered Amnon, David was powerless. His hands were tied; he could do nothing about it. Look at the totally inadequate reaction of the man who was king: "When David heard of all [7/8] these things, he was very cross!" (13:21). How could he be anything else or do anything else, unless he himself was willing to appear before his own family as only and wholly a sinner saved by grace? How could he be anything more than just "cross" with Amnon for a sexual offence unless he was willing to be seen in his own true colours within his own household?

So this initial neglect of duty began to inhibit the reality of David's leadership, and the inhibition began at home. Furthermore he seems to have had a strain of being morbidly sensitive to criticism -- a fault which we should all watch most carefully. Look at 2 Samuel 6:23. David had been leading the Ark into the city and really 'going to town' in religious devotion and enjoyment as he danced before the Ark. He did this beyond the point where his wife, Michal, thought that he was behaving in a decent fashion. As she watched the procession passing the palace, in what seems to me a perfectly proper wifely action, she had a word with her husband afterwards. She said: "How glorious was the king of Israel today who exposed himself in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants as one of the emptyheads". Michal was bound to be sensitive on a point like that. It was her father, Saul, who lay naked for a day and a night in a fit of religious fervour. It was part of Saul's unstable temperament that he was inclined to take religious zeal beyond the point where it was either sensible or proper. There was that time when he imposed a ban on the people eating so that they were too weak to overcome the Philistines. Knowing how her father had exposed himself, do you wonder that Michal was anxious when she saw the merest suggestion of this same impropriety in the case of David? But David couldn't take it. You must not criticise the king! So "Michal, the daughter of Saul, had no child unto the day of her death". Was that the result of mean touchiness of the man whose leadership was beginning to fall to pieces?

The second neglect of duty comes by implication in the account of Absalom's rebellion. "On this manner did Absalom to all Israel that came to the king for justice. So Absalom stole the hearts of the sons of Israel ..." (15:6). Surely he could not have done so unless he had a just complaint to make. The king was a Judaite ruler, but seems to have neglected his duty by failing in the larger and less congenial part of his work, and devoting himself to that which was dearer to his heart and closer to his hand. So this neglect of the wider concerns of his kingdom was the second neglect of duty. It was wrong of Absalom to steal away the hearts of the men of Israel, but it could not have been a push-over if there had not been reality in what he complained about. So it is, that one neglect at home leads to another and a larger neglect.

I would like to call your attention to a curious feature of the story of the numbering of the people in 2 Samuel 24. The Bible never stops to explain to us why this was such a sinful thing to do, but it had to do with military pride. Kings are always prone to believe that the effectiveness and glory of their monarchy is commensurate with their weapons and troops but, as you know, the Lord is always against that sort of security for His people. The immediate point, though, is the way in which David reacted to the threatened divine judgment upon the people as a result of his sin of numbering them. When Gad brought him God's message, he replied to the prophet: "I am in a great straight. Let us fall now into the hand of the Lord, for His compassions are great. Let me not fall into the hand of man" (24:14). One of the choices that was given to the king was whether he would be put to the discomfort of fleeing before the face of his enemies. "Much better", he said, "that the whole people should fall under the judging hand of God than that I should be put to the discomfort of running away before my enemies!" It seems, as you trace this story of neglect of duty, that the common denominator is self -- self-centredness, self-concern, self-indulgence. It was at that point that David's leadership fractured.

The frightening feature of self-interest, self-concern and self-indulgence is that it can become a habit so that on our death-bed and in our moment of dying we are nothing more or nothing less than we have been in our lifetime. This is evident in the story of Samson, and David's story suggests this truth in an unparalleled degree, I think, as compared with any other servant of God in the Bible. In the sombre death-bed scene in 1 Kings 2, we read of how David bequeathed his last will and testament to Solomon, and it was mixed up with injuries, real or imagined, which he left Solomon to deal with. It seems like the ultimate end of this same process which has accustomed a man to looking after himself and thinking about himself. It is as though because he had left duties undone, he enjoined Solomon to do what he had failed to do. "You deal with [8/9] Joab, the son of Zeruiah," he said. "When Shimei, the son of Gera, cursed me, I let him off. You deal with him." In this process he seems to have been utterly forgetful that Joab and Shimei, whom he was consigning to death, both had reason to look to David for protection, Joab because of a lifetime of devotion and Shimei because he had the royal pardon.

Leadership Requires Balance

The true leader must walk along the knife-edge between abdicating authority and behaving as an autocrat. He must be balanced between abdication and autocracy. David, I suppose, had the most amazing powers of natural leadership. While admiring the magnificence of the man of God, we nevertheless need to learn from his strange lack of balance. For example, in the case of Joab, he allowed others to dominate his policy and did nothing about it, weakly exclaiming: "Let it fall upon the head of Joab and upon all his father's house" (2 Samuel 3:29). Abner had come to Joab [actually, Abner came to David (see 2 Samuel 3:20-21)] to arrange a deal whereby David could become king of the whole nation instead of the remnant of the monarchy of Saul still holding the titular realm of the northern kingdom. David had arranged his deal but Joab, a very forthright military man, saw, or thought he saw, that this was not the right procedure. Joab arranged for Abner to be brought back, quietly took him into a side room in the gate and stabbed him to death. And all David could do was to pray about it! "Let it fall on the head of Joab," he said, and then, "Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel? And I am this day weak, though anointed king; and these men the sons of Zeruiah are too hard for me!" Absolute nonsense! David could have dealt with Joab there and then. He had the power and he had the right, but he abdicated instead of acting.

Take another example of his lack of balance. It is set in the background of David's greatness, but as we are thinking only of leadership in this study, we can learn how not to proceed. He was on his way out of Jerusalem because of Absalom's rebellion, and there are rich elements of greatness in David's actions. It was a marvellous stroke of policy to withdraw from Jerusalem and save the city of God from siege and famine and assault and death. Incidentally it was a marvellous act of leadership to pick his battleground, going where he knew himself to be at his best and leaving Absalom to follow him and be at a disadvantage. His failure arose out of what seemed a small personal matter with Ziba.

That crafty servant of Mephibosheth came to meet him with animals and food. "The king said to Ziba, What do you mean by all these? And Ziba said, The asses are for the king's household to ride on; and the bread and the summer fruit for the young men to eat; and the wine, that such as be faint in the wilderness may drink." And the king said, "Where is your master's son?" meaning Mephibosheth, the lame boy, Jonathan's son. "And Ziba said, Behold he abideth at Jerusalem ...". "Then the king said to Ziba, Behold all that pertaineth unto Mephibosheth is thine" (16:1-4).

Now whatever made him say that? It is an extraordinary thing that people who will not make entirely obvious decisions, make entirely unobvious decisions. It is a feature of life that those who shrink from clear decisiveness will also make hasty rash decisions. It was as though David felt it was a chance to express his authority -- he was going to settle this matter once for all. "Ziba, it is all yours." We pass over the story of David's great victory and find him on his way back. Mephibosheth, the son of Saul, came down to meet the king (19:24). "He had neither dressed his feet, nor trimmed his beard, nor washed his clothes from the day that the king departed until the day he came back in peace. And it came to pass, when he was come to Jerusalem to meet the king, that the king said, Why did you not go with me, Mephibosheth? And he answered, My lord, O king, my servant deceived me: for I said, I will saddle an ass and ride thereon, and go with the king, because thy servant is lame. And he hath slandered thy servant unto my lord the king: but my lord the king is as an angel of God. Do therefore what is good in thine own eyes."

Well "my lord the king" may have been as an angel of God, but he was now in a real spot. He had already prejudged and decided this matter: he had given all the land away to Ziba. Now what was he going to do? Was he going to ask forgiveness and confess his blunder? Did he offer to enquire into a story which did not tally with what had provoked his decision? No, "the king said unto him, Why do you speak to me any more of these matters?" (19:29). "I have made up my mind -- you and Ziba can divide the land." It is a leadership peril, the peril of becoming the person with all the answers, the person with the immediate nod, the person who always [9/10] knows what to do -- the answer machine. True leadership is somewhere between the two: it is neither abdication nor autocracy -- it is a knife-edge.

The leader should covet stability and consistency. David was a wonderful man, but you could never tell exactly what he was going to do next. At Ziklag he had triumphed, and indeed he had an almost unfathomable capacity for rising to the occasion sometimes. "But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God" (1 Samuel 30:6). This is super. There in the ashes of Ziklag, having lost home, family and the loyalty of his men, he triumphed by strengthening himself in his God. But why did he not rise to the occasion in chapter 27? Look at him now -- "I know that I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul" (27:1). David, why can't you strengthen yourself in the Lord your God? Perhaps it was because he had become tired of the long slog. He could rise magnificently to a crisis, but he could be eroded simply by the on-going process of life. We marvel at his mighty moments of faith, but we must pray to have the stability which is always the same on every occasion.

David was capable of marvellous generosity of spirit. Look at his words in 2 Samuel 1 which report his beautiful lament over the death of Saul and Jonathan. Nobody was ever more generous, more noble-hearted about an erstwhile enemy than David was that day. The passage bears reading and rereading and reading yet again, for it gives us the perfect Biblical example of the way to think in a situation of enmity. But he who was capable of incredible generosity of spirit, was also capable of incredible pettiness. We have already referred to the incident with Michal (2 Samuel 6:23). David only had her back with him as a pawn in a political battle, to assist him in his arrangements with Abner and the house of Saul. She had become happily married to Palti the son of Laish, and she wept all the way back when she was forced to return to Saul. And now, when he has her back, she is condemned to perpetual widowhood. "Michal, the daughter of Saul, had no child unto the day of her death." It seems that David could never forgive that reproof of hers: he could not rise above the level of criticism.

These, then, are lessons and warnings in the matter of leadership. David is one of the most complex characters in the Bible and, if we take his story as a whole, we find him among the most loveable. It is easy to see why he was the object of such devoted love and why his memory shone brighter and ever brighter through the years. But we must not forget to learn from the way in which he failed to govern. He failed to govern his kingdom and he failed to govern his family because he could not govern himself. All of us do well to realise our personal needs in this matter. We must never be content with only the great moments of our spiritual experience, but must covet that stability and consistency which mark true leadership.



Harry Foster

"Therefore on that day he called him Jerubbaal ...
Then all the Midianites ... assembled themselves ...
But the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon;"
Judges 6:32-34

GOD'S command to Gideon was: "Go in this thy might" (Judges 6:14). No-one could have been more surprised than Gideon to hear himself addressed in this way, for he clearly was quite unaware of the fact that he had any might in which to go. And, of course, it is true that in himself he had none. This is in keeping with the other personalities who emerged in those long years of Israel's weakness and confusion when they had no king. The judges who were so greatly used of God from time to time were people who suffered from severe handicaps. They were weak in themselves, like Gideon. They were despised by their fellows, like Jephtha. They were ignoble, like Samson. Indeed their list sounds rather like the description of the Corinthians: they were [10/11] "foolish", the "weak", the "base" and the "despised"; they were "the things that are not". But they were chosen by God (1 Corinthians 1:27-18).

Notice the word "chosen". It was not chance that God had no better instruments. He is not described as having to make the best of poor material because there was nothing else available. No, He chose them because He needed people like that. Gideon's story is a wonderful illustration of the fact that the condition for divine power is human weakness. God found Gideon weak, and He took care to keep him weak. Yet at the same time He told him to go in his might. The reality of that God-given might is quite spectacular. The man who knows that he is without strength to do God's service; the man who sees what strength he thought he had being taken away; the man who nevertheless goes forward in faith; this is the man whom God can use. There are three significant words in the verses quoted above: "Therefore", "Then" and "But".


This first word refers to the breaking down of Baal's altar. When God calls us to venture out in faith, there is often some practical matter which must be dealt with straight away. Gideon was told to throw down his father's altar to Baal. It may well have been the most difficult action which Gideon ever performed, for God has a way of confronting us with a major test at the very beginning of our service for Him. And it was in his own home.

The title 'Baal' simply means lord or master. In Gideon's home there was a shrine to another god, to one who was a rival to the allegiance which should have been reserved alone for Jehovah. Gideon had raised his own private altar, and called it Jehovah-shalom (v.24), but what value can our private altar have if it is contradicted in the eyes of men by subservience to rival claims; He was told, therefore, to erect a public altar "on the top of this stronghold ..." (v.26). The challenge was so great that he was afraid to do it by daytime, so he did it by night. This is in keeping with what we know of the man and of the whole book of Judges, but we need not be too concerned with how or when he did it so long as we realise that faith involves obedience. Gideon might have been what we call a coward (who of us isn't?), but having heard the Lord's voice, he obeyed. "Therefore" all the rest of the victory was made possible.

When the new day dawned, everybody concerned knew what Gideon had done, they knew that here was a man who was deliberately rejecting all other governments but that of Jehovah. Gideon may well have been tempted to by-pass this matter and get on with the task of delivering Israel. Suppose that he had done so, and suppose that the Lord had overlooked his fault and still sent Gideon on to battle and to victory. When it was all over, there would have been a question as to whether Baal or even Gideon himself might have some of the glory. The Lord will not give His glory to any other. Gideon understood this and "therefore ...".

His neighbours wanted the deliverance, but they wanted the grove and the altar of Baal as well. This is always true of human nature. Utterness of committal to the Lord is not a popular matter, so that the man who rejects human ability or human fame, to venture all on the sufficiency of the Lord, is bound to be misunderstood. It is no small thing to make firewood of what has previously been esteemed and to lay everything on the altar of the Lord.


Gideon's first act of obedience brought him a wonderful proof of the faithfulness of God. He did not die. He knew the joy of total committal to the Lord. But what then? Popularity? Comfort and ease? No, for committal to God is no story-book experience of that but rather of further conflict. "Then" -- that is, as soon as he had acquired his new name of victory -- "the Midianites and the Amalekites and the children of the east assembled themselves together". Later on we are told that these hordes "lay along in the valley like locusts for multitude; and their camels were without number ..." (7:12).

It is a spiritual fact that as soon as any man or group of men do what Gideon did, they may expect a big reaction from the kingdom of darkness. In the New Testament language what Gideon had done was to deny himself and take up his cross. This is the only way to spiritual power but it is bound to provoke serious opposition.

Gideon's hostile neighbours now seem as nothing compared with this vast army of enemies. Our deliverances too often do not provide an [11/12] afterwards of ease, but rather still greater testing. This is a most important truth; but the testing is for further and greater victories. Therefore we must not question, doubt or withdraw. We may wonder what is wrong. Well, nothing is wrong. This threat from the enemy is the most logical and necessary part of a movement forward in faith. The Bible gives many instances of similar experiences to this of Gideon's which is introduced by the word "Then".


Following the "therefore" and the "then", we now come to the "But" of God's answer. This is the might in which Gideon was to go forward: "But the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon". At first this may have seemed a very small and inadequate answer to such a gigantic problem, yet the rest of the dramatic story of deliverance and victory was all consequent upon this one simple action by God. He clothed Himself with Gideon (v.34 m.). This was the means by which Gideon was enabled to go forth in his "might". There does not seem to have been any very striking change in the man himself. He appeared to be just as timorous as ever, so much so that one almost loses patience with him in his hesitation and continual request to God for signs and confirmations. It is good to notice that the Lord did not lose patience with him. He gave the requested sign. In response to Gideon's doubts, He gave yet a further sign. And then He added one last and unasked for sign of confirmation in order to encourage His faint-hearted servant. This is typical of our gracious and patient Lord.

Gideon had little enough reason for feeling mighty. A good proportion of the first crowd which rallied to him was thankful enough to be excused and allowed to go home away from the battle. A further substantial number, who were ready to stay on, were judged unsuitable and so had to be rejected. If it had been Gideon's own might which was called for, then this group was pitifully small, but the might was God's rather than his, so he had to be content with the assurance that three hundred were quite sufficient for God.

So victory came, though the means served to stress Gideon's lack of might rather than any special prowess of his. And even after the first resounding triumph, when he was pursuing the foe, nobody would help him because nobody thought that he had a chance of full victory. "Faint but pursuing" (8:4) was the phrase used to describe him. It is an honourable phrase which we might well seek to merit in our own life for God, but it is hardly suggestive of overwhelming might or competence. It is always on the basis of human weakness that the Lord most wonderfully demonstrates His might.

This is our might too -- to know that we are in God's hands and that the issue is His concern.

There are times when all seems impossible -- "But God ...". In this case it is definitely attributed to the Spirit of God and the method of His expression of His victorious power is that He clothed Himself with Gideon. This is very striking. It does not say that Gideon was clothed with the Spirit, but puts it the other way round. If a man clothe himself with a coat, he takes the coat with him wherever he goes, making it a part of his own movements and activities. Very often we would like to use the Holy Spirit in this way, to 'put Him on', as it were, and so to be able to associate Him with our own movements and actions. It was precisely the reverse in Gideon's case: the Lord was the Owner of the clothing while he, Gideon, was but the garment. This is the divine way. The Lord will provide the life. He only needs us as members through whom to operate and express Himself. So it is that we are told to present our members as instruments (or weapons) of righteousness (Romans 6:13).

Gideon illustrates for us the Lord's method of dealing with difficulties, not by removing them but by rising up in new power in our lives as we have to face them. His answer to the foe's "Then" is the "But" of divine power which is more than its match. "When the enemy comes in like a flood, then the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him" (Isaiah 59:19).

This is not only a truth for great leaders, but equally for each single believer. There are reasons for supposing that when Paul wrote to the Corinthians, his mind often reverted to the book of Judges. He wrote of the treasure in earthen vessels, which is surely a reference to the manner by which Gideon defeated the Midianites. He may well have been thinking of the second sign with the fleece when he wrote: "So then death worketh in us, but life in you" (2 Corinthians 4:12). It may well be, then, that his reference to God's use of the weak, foolish and base things made [12/13] at the beginning of the first Letter indicates that any Corinthian believer, yes, and any believer of our time too, can put himself in the place of such as Gideon.

God does not command us to go forward in the spiritual conflict in any might of our own. When He spoke those words to Gideon, He knew, even better than the speaker did, of what poor material he was made. "It cannot be I," the chosen man said, "for I belong to the poorest family and I am least in that family." But it was he. The Lord had given a different slant on him when originally He appeared and said to him: "The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour" (16:12), and that was because the Lord looks on us not as we are in ourselves but in what His grace can make us. Peter is so called, not because there is anything rocklike in him but because of God's ability to transform him. We are told that we are "more than conquerors" not because there is any hope of victory in us as we are in ourselves, but because that is what God does with those who are "in Christ".

As we have already quoted, God deliberately chose people like the Corinthians. He did not just tolerate them. He did not have to put up with them because the mighty and noble refused to let Him use them. No, we are all "chosen" in Christ because God's strength is made perfect in human weakness. If, like Gideon, we feel that God is so strangely reducing even the strength that we thought we had, or if it can be said of us in our circumstances that we are "faint but pursuing", then let us not lose heart but take courage from the story of Gideon; let us build our private altar of Jehovah-shalom, the Lord our Peace, and let us believe that even to such as us the Lord is saying: "Go, in this thy might". We may confidently expect the Spirit to rise up within us and be our sufficiency.

And let us not forget to follow Gideon's example in refusing to take any glory for ourselves. When he was offered a throne, he made the truly spiritual reply: "I will not rule over you, neither shall my sons rule over you; the Lord shall rule over you" (8:23). To Him be all the glory!



Poul Madsen

7:5 - 9:15

7:5-16. Joyful Relief

PAUL was no insensitive superman, unaffected by prosperity and adversity. Always rejoicing in the midst of trials, he now recounts how glad he was when Titus came with encouraging news from Corinth. He was greatly cheered.

The apostle had already told of how he found no relief in his spirit on not meeting Titus in Troas (2:13), and having moved into Macedonia, he has to confess that "even when we were come ... our flesh had no relief ..." (v.5). In this case we do not perceive any difference between "spirit" and "flesh", especially as in the latter case he refers to "fears within". It was Paul, the whole man, who so suffered.

He speaks now of God comforting the lowly, suggesting that he felt humbled at the apparent lack of success in his work. Titus had shared the same anxiety, but was relieved at what he found in Corinth. When he made his report of the success of the gospel there, Paul was naturally comforted and thankful. All was well in Corinth, and Paul was greatly comforted at this news, for he had written them a severe letter and was seemingly troubled at the thought that it might have been so severe as to inflict lasting damage on their relationship -- "I did regret it". Now he is relieved and no longer troubled by questions, for he hears that the temporary sorrow caused by it had produced repentance (vv.8-9). Now he can rejoice, for he knows that his letter had had its intended positive effect: the Corinthians had repented.

In the New Testament "repentance" is used in several ways. Often Paul used the word concerning the first act of believing in Christ. In this case, however, the Corinthians were already believers. In the book of Revelation, believers are called to repentance because they have left the way of truth and are solemnly urged to return to the truth and to their first love. In this case, the sorrow caused by Paul's letter was so genuine that the Corinthians did not mobilise their [13/15] defences, but changed their attitude -- theirs was a godly sorrow. Godly grief is a grief which listens to God's speaking and is governed by humility and a desire for truth. The sorrow of the world is different: it opens the door to self-pity and defiance. Paul himself was always sorrowful, but in a godly way, so he never yielded to bitterness and his grief drew him closer and closer to his Lord and Master, the Man of sorrows.

Since Paul declares that in everything they approved themselves to be pure in the matter (v.11), it seems clear that they had not done wrong themselves, but had neglected to right a wrong by opposing the one who had. The wrong-doer cannot be the man mentioned in 1 Corinthians 5:1, for he should be "delivered unto Satan". It can hardly have been any other Corinthian, since Paul declared them to be "pure in the matter". It is most likely that some person from outside had visited Corinth, opposing Paul's authority and wronging him or one of his closest fellow-workers. Possibly this refers to Timothy or another colleague whom Paul describes as "him that suffered the wrong" (v.12). It is, of course, possible that Paul was referring to himself, using the third person to keep in the background. In any case it would appear that the Corinthians did not themselves wrong the apostle, but they ought to have defended him and silenced the accusing visitor.

Paul's severe letter was not concerned with the wrong-doer nor with the one wronged (whether himself or one of his colleagues), but was written for the sake of the church of God. The local church had been in danger of harm, and in comparison with this, the two visitors (wrong-doer and wronged) were of very little importance. It would be good if visiting preachers were always governed by a similar concern.

The Corinthians could not fail Paul's interests (which quite simply were the gospel) without themselves being harmed. He therefore urged them to care for his interests "in the sight of God" (v.12). This they had done, causing Paul to be overjoyed, especially because his praise of the Corinthians to Titus had been vindicated. Although Paul had been distressed and anxious about them, he had praised them to Titus, not letting himself forget their good points and not allowing these to be eclipsed by their failures. He regarded them as fundamentally sound and loyal. The praise which he spoke of to Titus was not cheap and superficial, for Paul was a stickler for the truth (v.14). So he and Titus shared great joy. To the warm-hearted apostle, all seemed well at Corinth now, and he confessed, "I can trust you in everything" (v.16 Danish).

8:1 - 9:2. Christian Giving

Now Paul could open up the matter of the collection for the saints in Jerusalem. At that period (the mid-fifties), the collection occupied a great deal of the apostle's attention (Romans 15:26 and 1 Corinthians 16:1-4). His basis of argument was that it is a grace of God to be allowed to have a share in such giving. The word "grace" appears again in these chapters (8:1, 4, 6, 7, 9, 19 and 9:8, 14). When the grace of God works in people, it causes them to give -- sometimes even beyond their power. Such was the case with the churches in Macedonia (that is, Philippi, Thessalonica and Berea). Humanly speaking they had barely enough to manage themselves; how could they have anything left to give to others? Tribulation and deep poverty might naturally make people close-fisted, but these churches changed the natural order in a burst of rich generosity. The equation is not:

Tribulation + deep poverty = meanness

but it is:

Tribulation + deep poverty = riches of liberality.

This wonder was due to the grace of God, given to these churches but presumably available to any other churches also. Grace enabled them to (1) stand the test of affliction and (2) give beyond their power. These two belong together. If they had not stood the test, their faith would have suffered and so they could not have given so generously. The lack of willingness to give in some Western churches is due to lack of faith and a superficial knowledge of God's grace.

Giving beyond their power is like the widow's mite (Luke 21:1-4). Giving from abundance is giving according to our ability, whereas giving from our poverty is giving beyond our power. The former is within natural capability and therefore does not require grace. Wherever grace operates, either in the spiritual realm or the material, it never just supplements what man can do but accomplishes what is impossible to flesh and blood.

The Macedonians did not have to be exhorted to give, for they regarded giving as a gracious privilege and even begged to be allowed to do it. What is more, they gave themselves unreservedly to the Lord and to Paul also, in that they were [14/15] one with him in the collection for the church at Jerusalem. During the visit of Titus, the collection of gifts had begun at Corinth. He was now to return there to complete the matter but, before dealing with the practical arrangements, Paul had it on his heart to urge the Corinthians to follow the example of the Macedonians. By God's grace the Corinthians had much spiritual wealth (v.7), so that surely the riches of grace which was theirs should enable them to be rich in their giving to the saints. This latter grace was not less valuable than speaking in tongues or prophecy which they valued so highly.

Love which does not show itself in practical action is not genuine. The Macedonians' love was an inspiring example, but there is an even better one: "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, although he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that you through his poverty might become rich" (v.9). Paul presses the argument as closely as possibly by reminding them that Christ became poor "for your sakes". Furthermore he points out that the result of Christ's Self-giving is that we are now rich. Salvation does not impart material wealth to us, but it does -- or should -- give us a generous heart. Paul himself was poor, yet he made many rich (6:10).

Giving to the needy saints is not an isolated good work of more or less importance; it is a basic part of the Christian's experience of redemption. Without the Saviour's death for them, they would not have been rich enough in zeal and love to be able to give. On the other hand, if they refrained from giving, they would limit the working of grace in their own lives. So Paul continues: "This is expedient for you" (v.10). If they did not carry through their earlier decision to give, they would be harmed spiritually. I fear that many Christians suffer from such self-inflicted penury. If the Corinthians did not complete their original purpose, their failure would be all the worse for, "already a year ago you did not only think that you would like to do something, but in addition that something should be done about it now" (v.10 Danish). They must avoid the disgrace of the son who never fulfilled his promise (Matthew 21:28-32). It is not the size of the gift that makes it acceptable, but the readiness, or willingness, as before God (v.12).

Now Paul returns to the practical rules which should govern their giving. Titus, who shared their concern, and an unnamed brother who was well-esteemed everywhere and commissioned by Paul to accompany the group, would take part in the ministry for the glory of God which was so near to Paul's own heart. He was determined that others should accompany him in his handling of the gift so that no possible scandal might arise. It was -- and is -- important not only to have things honourable in the sight of the Lord, but seen to be so by men. The church can always be sure that sooner or later attention will be directed to its financial affairs. Nothing can damage its testimony more than the suspicion that money has been mishandled. Not even the apostle Paul must travel alone to take the gift to Jerusalem. He, of course, would never appropriate a farthing of it for himself but, if outsiders raised any questions, it would not be enough to affirm that he was an honest and trustworthy man, if there were no formal proof to confirm this. In his insistence on this matter, Paul was only emphasising a Biblical principle of good repute before men as well as before God (Proverbs 3:4).

Returning to the constitution of the group, Paul enlarges on Titus and on another brother. Titus was in a closer relationship with Paul than they. As Timothy and Silvanus, he was a "partner" and a "fellow-worker", not only in a particular task like the collection, but in all his extensive apostolic work. The other two were "messengers of the churches", whose task was not what we understand by the word "apostolic", but simply a commission to deal with this money matter. Even that however, was far from unimportant, for it concerned the glory of Christ (v.23).

9:3-15. God's Giving

These emissaries had been assured by Paul that the Corinthians were eager to give, so the apostle asks that the gift might be ready when they came, and not seem in any way to be grudging or extorted. Reluctant giving would not only be a shame but a contradiction of what they knew of a generous God (v.5).

In making the comparison between sowing and reaping sparingly and sowing and reaping bountifully, Paul is not, of course, suggesting that we give in order to get back in return, for that would not be giving but bargaining. No, rather does he imply that when we give from the heart, glad and grateful for the grace which permits us to do so, we reap God's blessing on our whole life; as [15/16] the inner man is refreshed and material needs attended to by our faithful God. The more our hearts are 'Macedonian', that is, overflowing with joy, the more will we be constrained to give, and it is the cheerful giver whom God loves (v.7).

The book of Proverbs is the background for Paul's argument which is thoroughly Biblical, evangelical and practical. "There is that scattereth, and increaseth yet more; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth only to want. The liberal soul shall be made fat; and he that watereth shall be watered also himself" (Proverbs 11:24-25). It is indeed true that God is love and loves all, regardless of whether they are miserly or generous. We cannot buy God's love by our giving. Nevertheless, when the apostle emphasises that God loves the cheerful giver, he does so to stress the fatherly feelings of God who loves to see His children acting like their heavenly Father who gives so freely. Basically all evangelical generosity of heart and joy in giving springs from knowledge of God and confidence in Him.

"God is able to make all grace abound unto you; that you, having always all sufficiency in everything, may abound ..." (v.8). Notice that Paul affirms that we always have all sufficiency in everything, so that we may abound. In other words, he states that as God's children we are never unable to give generously. Is that true? The Macedonians would answer, 'Yes, it is true', but so many modem Christians would answer, 'Unfortunately just at present we cannot afford to give generously'. Paul did not say that of course the Macedonians would have to wait for God to improve their circumstances before they could give, but that even in the midst of their tribulation and beset as they were by deep poverty, they gave liberally. It is really a question of whether you believe God or accept human standards. The Macedonians, acting in the spirit of verse 8, based their giving not on visible circumstances but on the promises of God.

The Bible gives other examples of those who, while seeming to have nothing, were able to prove God's faithfulness in this way. The poor widow of Zarephath had only a handful of meal in the barrel and a little oil in the cruse. It was not enough to keep her alive with her boy, but when the prophet said to her, "Fear not ... make me thereof a little cake first ... and afterward make for thee and thy son", she obeyed him, and the meal and the oil never failed. She had abundance for every good work, but only because she had faith in the word of the Lord through Elijah (1 Kings 17:7-24). Paul himself was a living example of his own words in verse 8; for though he possessed nothing yet he always had abundance for every good work and made many rich.

Having said all this, though, we could well ask why the saints in Jerusalem were so needy. Did not the verse apply to them also? Really this question is irrelevant, for the man who believes it knows that the Word of God is spoken to him for himself, not necessarily about others; he cannot evade its implications by pushing it on to them. God's Word also says: "Bear ye one another's burdens". We must obey that and not try to justify disobedience by saying that the Bible has already declared that by God's grace they already have sufficiency in everything. It is for us to answer, 'Yes, Lord, and we thank You that You give us so richly that we can bear our brothers' burdens'.

"He ... shall supply and multiply your seed for sowing, and increase the fruits of your righteousness: you being enriched in everything unto all liberality, which worketh through us thanksgiving to God" (vv.10-11). When the Corinthians make use of their confidence in the Lord to give to the poor in Jerusalem, their righteousness will bear rich fruits to God's glory and they themselves will be all the richer for it. The apostle is describing a mysterious law of life in God. Faith's willingness to give, even out of poverty, seems to start a mechanism which enables further giving, so that life becomes one big succession of givings. It was Jesus who said that "it is more blessed to give than to receive". If, when we give, we do not count on economic security but on God, we can give with joy which we would never have if we put our own security first. Few things have damaged the Church's testimony more than the fact that in practice many Christians rely more on money than on God.

In verses 12 to 14 Paul describes how the righteousness of the Corinthians would bear rich fruit. The first obvious fruit is that the need of the poor brothers would be met. That is a big thing in itself. But this would lead to their offering thanks and praise to God, and as they thanked Him for those who had given this practical proof of their obedience to the gospel, a sense of solidarity would arise between the Gentile givers and the Jewish saints. Such an [16/17] establishment of fellowship between Jew and Gentile had been a great concern to the apostle. He was the apostle to the Gentiles and it had been almost impossibly hard for him to get the Christian Jews of Jerusalem to accept the Gentile Christians as co-members of the Church without their being circumcised. He hoped that perhaps the collection might help to overcome such prejudices, for it must surely be an undeniable expression of the fact that they loved Christ and showed this by loving their Jewish brothers. Perhaps the gift would melt their hearts and break down their reserves, so that they would long for the Corinthians and pray for them "by reason of the exceeding grace of God" in them, grace which had given the Corinthians joy in forgetting themselves and ministering to those in need.

The chapter ends with a further and final stress on praise: "Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift" (v.15). It is as though the apostle gets carried away by this whole idea of thanksgiving and invites the Corinthians to join with him for the comprehensive generosity of God to them all. It is a great cause for praise that the wonderful salvation of God has this as one of its primary fruits, the privilege and joy of giving.

(To be continued)


Harry Foster

"She named the child Ichabod, saying, The
glory is departed from Israel;
" 1 Samuel 4:21

"the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for
the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord.
" 1 Kings 8:11

THE glory departed, but in God's good time the glory returned in an even fuller measure. More than any other, Samuel was the human instrument of this great recovery. This is not actually stated in the Scriptures but it is a most striking fact that although Samuel himself died in the twenty-fifth chapter of the first book which bears his name, almost the whole of this intervening period is governed by the name Samuel, for very soon after the end of the Second Book of Samuel, the record under the title of "Kings" introduces Solomon and his temple.

"Ichabod!" The dying widow spoke a good deal of truth when she lamented the glory that had gone, but she did not speak the whole truth, for she did not know it all. She did not know that the Ark was more than a material emblem, that the Lord's name was associated with it, and that He would be very jealous concerning it. Although from Israel's point of view it had gone, and they had lost the glory, the Lord was well able to look after His own testimony -- well able. The subsequent chapter immediately gives the story of God's reaction at this challenge to His holy name.

If the Ark was taken into the house of Dagon, so much the worse for Dagon; it was the god and not the Lord God who would suffer. And if it were taken from there to Ashdod, the people there found God's hand heavy upon them. So, mingled with the regret with which we read the sad word "Ichabod", there could be the conviction that God is still on His throne and He is very jealous for the honour of His great name, and well able to look after His own interests, even when His people fail Him. He cannot fail, for He is God!

Perhaps Eli's dying daughter-in-law forgot that one of the most precious parts of the Ark was the Mercy Seat. Not only was the Lord competent to safeguard His own interests, but He was also able to bring back the glory to a sinful and unworthy people. Indeed He brought the Ark back quicker than they might have thought possible; it needed no army, no human efforts, no striving from Israel's side -- God did it all. His enemies were glad to be rid of it; they themselves sent it back. Thank God for the Mercy Seat. Thank God that even a people who had thrown away all hopes of being useful to God and all rights of having His glorious presence among them, were not cast off. God does not cast off His people whom He foreknew. Grace brought the Ark back. [17/18]

Another point which the widow of Phinehas ignored was that, before ever these last tragic moments of crisis came, the Lord had been preparing His chosen servant who, in due course, would take responsibility concerning God's glory among His people. Samuel was around; he lived in her house. She must have seen him and known him, but she probably never gave another thought to Samuel for he was so small and insignificant. Had she considered him she would doubtless feel that he had nothing to do with the matter, but he had everything to do with it. The wonder of God's wisdom is that He not only is well able to care for His own interests and gracious towards His people but that, in secret, He makes His own preparations and produces the instrument which can serve Him.

"Ichabod!" I have been meditating upon the reason, the explanation of this catastrophe. Those who know the story will immediately attribute it to the breakdown and failure in the house of Eli. This is partly true, but I suggest that this was only the end of a long process -- just the last stage of what had been wrong with the people of God for many years. When Joshua's days were finished, Israel passed into a period in which there was no God-given leadership. Those who are familiar with the book Judges will know that the key-phrase in that dark story of the hundreds of years of tragedy among God's people is that "there was no king in Israel"; they lacked leadership. But is this all? I have also observed that, with the closing chapters of the book of Joshua, the priesthood seems to have gone into total eclipse. There was no ministry of intercession. In the whole of the book of Judges there is no mention of priests, except in a most depraved and perverted form. When we pass from that book into 1 Samuel, we very soon read: "and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, priests unto the Lord, were there" (1:3). The glory departed because the ministry of intercession had ceased. Even in those brighter periods in the book of Judges when, for the time being, leaders did arise and for a little while brought relief and triumph to the people of God, even then there is no mention of this essential, basic, though often hidden, task of serving the interests of God in the ministry of intercession.

"Ichabod" -- the glory had departed. We do not need to dwell on the particular tragedy of Eli and his household, for it all fits into this one suggestion which I have put before you, namely, that when there is no vital priestly ministry among God's people, there can be no glory. Happily we can now consider the positive aspect. The glory did come back. It came back in very great fullness. And if we look behind the sovereignty and the grace of God -- and how we praise His name for both -- we find this figure of Samuel, not born into a priestly family but a most effective priestly instrument.

It may be remarked that the glory was a long time coming back, even though the Ark was recovered. That is true. But Samuel's life was a long one. The thrilling fact is that the glory did come back, and if we are called to exercise patience, let us be reminded that patience is the very essence of priestly service. Persistence, continuance -- these have always been the secrets of lives which have had influence upon the whole course of the history of God's people. I do not think that it is any exaggeration to say that here, in the person of Samuel, was the man who, under God, was responsible for the fact that the lost glory was fully recovered.

What then can we learn from Samuel?

1. The Value of Simplicity

In the first place we learn from him the value of simplicity. Samuel was not a priest; he had no official place in the priestly order. He was a Levite but, even so, his father seems not to have been engaged in any Levitical tasks. He was just an ordinary boy in an ordinary family. Yet nobody can call Samuel 'ordinary', for he had such a miraculous entrance into the world. God brought him in.

There is not much power in any ministry of intercession unless there is behind the instrument the fact that God brought him in. That, surely, was the strength that held him throughout those long years, the knowledge that it was no natural contrivance and no personal decision, but an act of God that brought him in. Every prayer ministry must begin like that, and can only be maintained on that basis.

Lest, however, we should build up grandiose ideas on this phrase 'an act of God', let us consider his history more closely. We find that as he came to the house of the Lord it is stated, "the child was young" (1:24) and again, "But Samuel ministered before the Lord, being a child" (2:18). There is something very simple about the person divinely apprehended for holy service. The record goes on to say, "Moreover his mother made him a little robe" (2:19). No wonder that the widow of Phinehas overlooked him; he was so small and [18/19] so insignificant that he would not appear to have anything to do with God's glory. Yet it is so often the simple, the insignificant and even the despised that serve God best in the place of prayer. One of those Scriptural 'buts' that are so precious is here linked with this lad: "And the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord; for men abhorred the offering of the Lord. But Samuel ministered before the Lord, being a child."

Just a child, in all his weakness and inadequacy, to face a flood of evil and hopelessness; yet he stood his ground, he stayed there with the Lord, and in the end the glory came back. We need not be ashamed of our simplicity; nor of our conscious inadequacy. God is always looking for someone little enough, simple enough, humble enough, to be ready to His hand. In Samuel He was able to find just what He wanted.

2. The Value of Teachableness

He was young and small, but he was ready to learn. Listen again to the prayer, the first prayer, of this man of prayer: "Speak; for thy servant heareth". That is the secret of true intercessory ministry -- an open ear to the Lord. What we say to Him may follow and be prompted by what He says to us, but the initiative must come from God's side.

Here, then, was one ready to be taught. As he grew up (and great emphasis is laid upon the fact of this growing up, 2:26 and 3:19) this is what is said of him: "The Lord appeared again in Shiloh; for the Lord revealed himself to Samuel" (3:21). You notice how it is put. Not, 'Prayer became mighty in Shiloh because there was a man who dedicated himself to a prayer ministry', but in Shiloh a man learned to listen to the Lord. God found someone simple enough, humble enough to pay attention to His voice. Everything else grew out of that.

All through his life Samuel lived on that basis. The time came when the people demanded a king, and to Samuel that signified that he himself was being set aside, so naturally he felt very sore. He grieved but, being the man he was, "he prayed" (8:6), and the Lord told him: "Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee". Then comes the remarkable feature in that it was the rejected Samuel who went to meet Saul, anointed him and brought him to the kingdom. It took a willing and obedient spirit to do that. In the end, the whole enterprise proved a failure, and the time came for the true king to be appointed and for this purpose Samuel, now an old man, experienced and mature in the ways of the Lord, was sent to the family at Bethlehem. We notice, though, that for all his experience, he was still liable to make a mistake, so that when he saw the eldest son of Jesse he said, "Surely the Lord's anointed is before him" (16:6), but he did not act precipitately, for he was sensitive enough to register God's check. In spite of all his years and all his experience, he was able to adjust and listen as the Lord admonished him, "Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have rejected him; for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man (even a godly man) looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart" (v.7). Compare Samuel with old Eli with his rigid, heavy condition. Samuel was now old, but he retained his childlike willingness to be taught. He could still say, "Speak, for thy servant heareth". That is why the Lord could continue to use him.

When Hannah first took him to Shiloh, I wonder whether she realised the kind of conditions to which she was committing her tender son. I doubt it. If she did, she had remarkable faith. But in any case it was all right. The God of miracles who had given her the youngster, wrought another miracle in allowing him to be exposed to such evil corruption and yet be quite untouched by it. It needed a miracle for the lad to be kept pure under those circumstances, in that atmosphere. In the work of intercession we all need the divine miracle of a humble and pure spirit.

3. The Value of Disinterestedness

Towards the end of his life, Samuel was able to appear before the people and challenge them as to whether or not he had ever, in any matter, sought his own interests; and the whole people gave their agreement to the claim that nothing like that could ever be said of Samuel. God and men agreed that the guilelessness which had marked him as a boy had persisted all through his life. The aged Samuel was a man who had always been characterised by self-sacrifice in concern for God's people and God's glory. At one time the people appealed to him to be sure to pray for them even when they knew that they no longer deserved his prayers. He made the noble answer: "As for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you" (12:23). [19/20]

He felt acutely Israel's rejection of him when they clamoured for a king, but he watched faithfully over their interests to the last. When Saul turned against him, driving him away from the court by his wilful disobedience, Samuel mourned over the divinely discredited king without bitterness or reminders of his original misgivings. For his part he never thought in terms of an alternative king, but went quietly to his home in Ramah, not to sulk but to pray. This was so much the case that there came a time when the Lord had gently to chide him for his procedure. Earlier on we had been told that when he made his home in Ramah he built an altar there. The name Ramah, is said to mean 'Heights'. The man who rises to heights of unselfishness and ministers at his altar in his own home is the very man whom the Lord could use to bring back the lost glory. What Israel owed, what David owed, what the glory of God owed to the man who lived in the heights, lived by the altar and held on for God!

4. The Costliness of Intercession

When Samuel was commanded by God to seek out and anoint the new king David, his spontaneous reply to God was: "How can I go? If Saul hear it, he will kill me" (16:2). In spite of that, though, he did go, and the Lord preserved him. This sense of peril, however, is a salutary reminder to us that an intercessor must always be prepared to pay the price of his calling. There is another example of this truth. When David's life was in danger, having only just escaped from Saul's murderous attack, he hurried off to Samuel in Ramah and there opened his heart to the old seer. The two of them moved off to Naioth, Samuel sharing with David the perils of Saul's fury. When Saul knew of this he sent his assassins after them. Once again, the Lord preserved His servant and gave through him and on his behalf an extraordinary demonstration of the power of the Spirit (19:20-24). The story is a thrilling one, but I only mention it here to keep us from imagining that a ministry of intercession provided a quiet and sheltered experience. Far from it -- it places us in the forefront of the conflict.

I do not believe that it really was the spirit of Samuel whom the witch of En-dor made to appear to Saul on that last desperate interview before his death. No one is 'an old man' after he has passed beyond time and space into eternity. But at least it is interesting that the apparition was reported to have asked: "Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up?" (28:15). One thing is certain, and that is that the Samuel who prayed so much about Saul and his kingdom had to suffer constant trouble and disquiet because of him. Intercession is a costly activity.

Costly, but most effective. As I have already remarked, the Scripture record from Eli to Solomon is all made under the general title of Samuel. It appears that originally it consisted of just one book whereas we have First and Second Samuel, but over all is this one name, which itself speaks of God's answering prayer. Above all others, this man was the human agent for the change from Ichabod to the glory-filled temple.

5. The Enduring Element in Intercession

So far as Samuel's earthly history is concerned, it ended when he died and was lamented by all Israel (28:3). But prayers go on, even after the one who made them is no longer alive. Since my own bereavement I have seen some wonderful answers to the prayers which my glorified wife prayed when she was here in our home. Her prayers have lived on, though she has left us. And so did Samuel's prayers live on. The real king was enthroned and brought something of God's glory back to Israel's history and then through his son, Solomon, there came the day when the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord. I can only hope that the Lord saw fit to give Samuel news of that great event there in the pure glory of His presence. In any case prayer is the one activity which can go on working even after we have left this life. I do not mean that people actually pray in heaven (though our great Intercessor certainly does), but rather that what is yet unanswered in our own lifetime is still made effective by our eternal God who will not fail nor be discouraged when His praying servants can no longer pray. So let us keep up our prayer ministry.

This whole message can be especially meaningful to those who may be in despair about some situation in a life, a work or a fellowship where the glory is seeming to depart or to have departed. Beloved friends, let us not be content with feebly murmuring "Ichabod", but let us get to our Ramah and our altar and pray on until that lost glory is recovered and even surpasses what was before. "It came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord." Let us never weary or despair in our work of intercession. [20/ibc]


[Inside back cover]


"(for they indeed have been made priests without an oath, but he
with an oath by him that saith of him, The Lord sware and will
not repent himself, Thou art a priest for ever
)" Hebrews 7:21

A BRIEF parenthesis in verse 19 reminds us that the law made nothing perfect. In this following parenthesis we are told how God, who is the God of perfection, has remedied that deficiency in accordance with a mighty oath by which He has committed Himself to the task of producing perfection in our case. God's oath had nothing to do with any change of the law, which is itself perfect, but everything to do with this priestly Son of His.

PERFECTION is quite beyond fallen man. If he is ever to attain to it, there must be a Priest, a divinely appointed Helper to make it possible. God has solemnly sworn that such a One would be provided. Christ Jesus is not only perfect Himself but He undertakes to communicate God's perfection to us sinful men so that, by reason of His sacrificial priesthood, we may eternally "stand perfect and complete in all the will of God" (Colossians 4:12).

IT might be imagined that when all the redeemed are saved to sin no more, the need for priesthood would cease. This is not so. This Priest, irrevocably so constituted by God's most solemn oath, will never relinquish that feature of His activities. He is our Priest "for ever".

TWO thoughts emerge from this fact. Firstly that if for one second the blood of Christ could lose its power, even Heaven itself could not support us -- we would sink into perdition. Thank God that this can never happen. His priesthood is eternal, and so then is our secure bliss.

IT also suggests that even in our eternal state of glorification, we will still need a sympathetic helping Hand to keep us in the will of God. Praise Him, we shall have it. None of us can picture the eternal state: we must wait until we are there to understand it. A few things, however, we can appreciate, and one of these is that never for one moment will we be separated from our beloved Lord but we will for ever enjoy His gracious shepherd care. The matter is settled and incapable of change. God Himself offers us every assurance that we will always have His Melchizedek to be our High Priest.

WHEN men are entrusted with an office, they have to take great care to try to live up to it. Our High Priest is not like this, for His office and His ministry are just expressions of His character. He has always been what He is now, and He always will be the same. So God's oath and Christ's character gives us complete confidence and double assurance that we are destined to live in the enjoyment of perfect love "unto the ages of the ages".


[Back cover]

Joshua 1:8

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