The Cherubim in Relation to Life and Service
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 1 - The Significance of Praise

Reading: 2 Chron. 20:1-25.

"Whoso offereth the sacrifice of thanksgiving glorifieth me; and to him that ordereth his way aright will I show the salvation of God." Psalm 50:23.

One word which has been strongly and repeatedly coming to my heart for some time is concerning the Lord cooperating with the praises of His people. The passage in 2 Chronicles 20:22, "And when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set liers-in-wait against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir", is a magnificent commentary upon the phrase in Psalm 50: "Whoso offereth the sacrifice of thanksgiving glorifieth me; and prepareth a way that I may show him the salvation of God (ASV margin)." Great was the showing of His salvation on the basis of their praises.

The Ministry of Praise

As I have been thinking about this matter, it has dawned upon me how large a place praise has in the Word of God. My mind went back to the first mention of praise, and then slowly worked on, seeing the development, until the time of David when praise came to its fullest form of expression. 

David received the pattern of the temple and all its service and ministry by revelation of the Spirit, and then put the whole thing into operation, or into order, and as a great part thereof instituted a very extensive and comprehensive ministry of praise. As you know, his singing ministry was spread over no fewer than four thousand people to form his choir. In twenty-four courses of ministry, under the government of chosen leaders in twenty-four courses, the four thousand singers and players maintained the ministry of praise in the midst of the Lord's people continually. 

I paused there, as I saw praise developed to such a full expression, and noted that this came about under David. David represented sovereignty as sovereignty had never before been known in Israel; the full expression of kingship, sovereign government, and authority to be passed out into the world through sonship (for it was not Solomon who ordered or governed the ministry; it was David and Solomon only took it up to express what David had brought into being). Solomon represents sonship, David represents kingship and government. 

This ministry of praise, reaching its fullest expression in David, naturally carries one's mind on to the Lord Jesus, and the real basis upon which praise is brought in among the Lord's people, the fact that He is in the place of supreme authority. He is Lord of all. When that is established a ministry of praise ought to come in. But when we come to this chapter in 2 Chronicles we seem even to advance beyond David in the application of the matter. Here this ministry which David established and brought into being in an ordered way, is taken up and used as an instrument by which faith expresses itself. 

Praise before Victory 

There are many instances in the Word of God of congregational singing after a great deliverance. "Then sang Moses and the children of Israel" (Ex. 15:1). That was on the other side of the Red Sea. It is quite good and quite right to praise the Lord for all deliverances and victories entered into. Deborah sang a great song too but it was on the far side of the battle, when the victory was possessed. Elizabeth sang a song, but it was in possession of the blessing. There are many like that, and one does not mean to take any of the value from the praise by putting it that way, but here you have something which is on a higher level. Here is praise before the battle, here is thanksgiving before entering into possession, here is taking the position and declaring oneself before ever coming to the enjoyment of the issue as a literally possessed thing. So David's great choir was sent in front of the army and became the symbol of faith, taking victory in advance of the conflict. 

That seems to be a ground in which the Lord particularly delights. The issue was no small issue. One thing was that the victory was possessed without fighting, without a casualty. Further, the spoil was so great that they did not know how to cope with it. This is being more than a conqueror. This is superlative victory.

It seems to me that that is a position which the Lord aims at having in His people. It is true to the experience of not a few that the Lord has often brought them to the place where He stands back while they cry for help. He does not come in to deliver when they are pleading for sovereign acts. He waits until they have come out of any realm whatsoever of despair or fear or question or doubt, and have come to a place where, although they do not possess the answer literally, in their hearts they are perfectly at rest about the whole thing. It is settled that the Lord is in possession of the situation, and they are one with Him in the issue. When the Lord has got us there, so often the thing just happens. We were anticipating some terrific ordeal, or expecting some mighty manifestation of God's power, and the whole of that big battle, the clash of which we were expecting in an objective way, has transpired within our own hearts, and it is all over. It is as though it were all done, and then other things simply fit in. There is no great ordeal. The thing happens, it comes to pass. Or, if there is something further to be done, it is not the ordeal we were fearing, it is not the tremendously trying experience we were expecting. The Lord seeks to have the victory in our hearts before ever He does anything on the outside; to have us in the place where, so far as the issue is concerned, we are ready to give thanks to the Lord. It seems to be a law of God's dealings with us. Of course, it contains at its very heart the greatest thing of all. 

Here are these people, Ammon, Moab, Mount Seir, a great multitude; the Lord's people confronted with what is naturally overwhelming. As Jehoshaphat says, "we have no might against this great company that cometh against us". Naturally they stood no chance. Whatever the case may be, that is how it is; the odds from the natural standpoint are all on the side of the enemy, and the Lord's people are completely at a disadvantage, at a discount. The situation all seems to say that that which is against us is bound to gain the day. Facing such a situation, whatever it may be, if those concerned can be brought to the place where they sing and give praise, what has happened? Undoubtedly the Lord has been put above all that is against. The Lord has been given a place which is a far greater one than all that opposes. Surely that must be the position, the meaning of it. It is but a declaration that while all this is against us, and we do not stand a chance in ourselves, the Lord is more than all. That is what it amounts to when we sing and praise in the face of such tremendous odds. On that ground the Lord will cooperate. The Lord waits for this. "Do you believe that I am able to do this? Do you believe that I am more than all these?" Yes, I believe - timidly, still fearfully, still apprehensively, wondering how the thing will go? Or exultantly, triumphantly, to the point of a song of praise? It seems to me that the Lord often waits for that song; not a feigned song, like the boy going home in the dark, who sings to keep himself from being afraid, but really the song of faith. The Lord comes in on that ground. We have found it so more than once, and to that position the Lord seeks to get His people. We are waiting for the Lord to do something, and the Lord perhaps is waiting for us to believe that it is all done. "Before they call, I will answer"; but that faith which carries us to the other side of the conflict must be put into expression. 

It is necessary for us to remember that sovereign acts of the Lord do not necessarily carry with them moral values for us. Supposing you are in a great difficulty, and you have no way of getting out whatsoever, and you cry to the Lord, and say, Lord, get me out of this difficulty! And the Lord says, "Alright, My child, I am here, and will deliver you", and then He simply, as it were, reaches down His hand and takes you out of your difficulty. What is your moral gain? Supposing you are in another difficulty, and the same thing happens again, and you are getting into difficulties every day and all the time the Lord is coming and taking you out of your difficulty. What is your moral or spiritual gain? Nil! And do you think the Lord is satisfied with that? That may be all right for infants. We might treat our little child like that. Yet I think we might have a reservation, we might want to see something more developing in them than that they only look to us for help when they find themselves in difficulty. We would like them to learn something. We would like them to increase in intelligence, in understanding. A spoiled child is a very unpleasant child. No one has very much respect for a spoiled child; it is a very spoiled child who in every difficulty simply turns with a whine to its parent to help him. The Lord does not want spoiled children, and He does not want us to continue to be infants unduly. Therefore He does not act sovereignly because He is desirous of increasing spiritual and moral value. The Lord's sovereign acts are not withheld from His people, but very often they are delayed because His people have not reached a certain place of spiritual and moral ascendancy. 

Do you not think it was real gain to those three men in Babylon that the Lord did not keep them out of the fire, but saved them in it? I am sure it was a great gain to them. It was a sovereign act, but it was not a sovereign act to keep them from going into the fire. There were far bigger issues at stake than just acting to keep them out. We so often come to the place where we appeal to the Lord to do something! We cannot understand why it is that the Lord does not do something. The Lord is able, He can, it is in His power to do it - why does He not do it? Very often we have a controversy with the Lord, perhaps a quarrel with the Lord. We may even reproach the Lord that He does not step right into that thing and act sovereignly, and do it. 

It represents a very real spiritual increase if before ever there is a sovereign act of God we have come to the place of victory. That is, "our God... is able to deliver... but if not..." The alternative to that would be: "Our God is able to deliver! We believe He is able to deliver! If He does not deliver I do not know what we shall do about it! I do not know what we shall do about Him! I do not know whether I shall be able to believe in Him any more! I have trusted Him to deliver me, and He has not delivered me! I do not know whether I have not misplaced my faith!" The Lord reads us through and through, and knows us. We know ourselves sometimes a little better than we will let on; that is, we try to make ourselves believe that we are in a position that we are not really in. The Lord knows us better than we know ourselves behind all our subterfuges, all our make-believe, and He knows when the last element of putting Him to the test has gone. "Thou shalt not make trial of the Lord thy God" (Matt. 4:7), "Ye shall not make trial of the Lord your God, as ye tempted Him" (Deut. 6:16). The Lord knows when the last element of making trial of Him has gone, and we have got right over, and now whichever way it goes we trust the Lord, whichever way it goes the Lord is right. When we really do get there the Holy Spirit spontaneously rises up in our hearts with divine approval. It is not just reaction. The Holy Spirit rises up and gives the sense of rest, and that the Lord is satisfied, and we are now in peace, the quarrel is over, the inward conflict is at an end, we are spiritually in victory. Then the Lord has a way made to do anything He wants to do.

While we are fighting to have our own way, while we are quarrelling with the Lord, while we are questioning, while we are apprehensive and fearful, the Lord can do nothing. When we get through to the place where, although the literal expression of victory still lies ahead, nevertheless in our hearts we are through with the battle, then the Lord has a way for doing anything He wants to do, to show the salvation of God. The Lord is Lord. The Lord is on the throne. The Lord is Victor.

That is the meaning of praise in this passage. Real, genuine praise springs from a heart at rest in God, which trusts the Lord, believes Him, gives Him His place above all things and all others. It is praise on the ground of Sovereignty, Kingship, Lordship. 

There seems to be a tremendous power in the right kind of praise. There are great issues bound up with it. Here in history is an illustration of a spiritual truth. A mighty, terrible army, overwhelmingly too large for the people of God, simply brought to nothing and compelled to yield up all their spoil to the Lord's people, on the ground that the Lord's people, before ever the battle was entered into, got through in praise. There is something there that you and I have to learn. 

We must have dealings with the Lord on the matter, to be enabled, counting upon Him and His strength, to face things in a spirit of praise; not waiting until we are on the other side to praise the Lord for the deliverance, but to praise ahead, and to prepare a way for the Lord by offering the sacrifice of thanksgiving. The Lord enable us to get to such a place of triumph! 

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