We continue under our general title of "The Bible and the
Revelation of God in Christ", and now we come to the second
section, the historical books, in which, as we have seen, the
predominant element is that of kingship.
We have been very much occupied with the fact that this
revelation of God in Christ is always in relation to Life. So in
this chapter we shall be seeing that Life is by way of His
Lordship. The battle of the ages, as we have pointed out, is that
between Life and death; not life and death as just a physical
matter; neither is it merely a matter of perpetuation or cessation
of being. This whole question of Life and death is a spiritual
one, and goes far beyond, far deeper, than merely temporal or
What we have been seeing is that the Bible covers the history of
man and the world in relation to spiritual issues, or, if you
like, to spiritual Life, and that the Bible is a unity by reason
of a Person. In the Old Testament, that Person is present in
prefiguration, prevision and prediction; in the New Testament in
Person, then in corporate expression in His Body, the church; and
finally in administration as revealed in the Revelation. That
Person, the Lord Jesus, Who unifies the whole in Himself in every
one of these connections and phases, governs in terms of Life or
death. That is, He is present with that issue always. Wherever you
find anything that indicates the Lord Jesus in any part of the
Scripture, you will find that it is associated with the question
of Life or death; Life, on the one hand, provided there is accord
with Him in the specific expression of His presence at that time,
or death if there is that which is not in accord with Him. That,
of course, covers an immense amount of ground, an enormous number
of details, but that is the issue everywhere, from Genesis to
Now we come to this second part of the Bible to see Christ as
represented in this way in the historical books, that is, from
Joshua to Esther, twelve books, and we make a hurried survey of
this section and take up a few of the spiritual lessons which we
find here in this particular revelation of Christ.
"In the Heavenlies"
We begin with the book of Joshua. Most of us have some idea of
the content of the book, that it is the book of the entering in
and taking possession of the land, and it is mainly gathered into
three sections. Firstly, the conquest of the land, and then the
settlement in the land, and finally, the farewell of Joshua.
But what does this represent and set forth as to Christ and the
issue of Life and death? Well, Joshua, of course, corresponds to
that position in the New Testament in which we find the Lord Jesus
and the church which is His Body on the other side of Jordan, that
is, "in the heavenlies", to use Paul's phrase; in the
heavenlies in Christ. That phrase touches both sides: Christ in
the heavenlies and the church as seen there in the heavenlies in
Him, and that heavenly position of the Lord Jesus means four
things. Firstly, it is His position in type.
You remember at the time of His birth when He was sought by Herod
and they went down into Egypt, a fragment of prophecy was cited as
being, or about to be, fulfilled in that. "That it might be
fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet,
saying, Out of Egypt did I call My son" (Matt. 2:15).
You will remember that the challenge of the Lord through Moses to
Pharaoh was "Let My son go that he may serve Me" (Ex.
4:23). "Israel is My son, even my first-born" (Ex. 4:22). "Thou
hast refused to let him go: behold, I will slay thy son, thy
first born". Now, you have the two things brought together
clearly; Christ, as taken up in the prophecy, and its fulfilment.
"Out of Egypt have I called My son"; and Israel in the
place of sonship typically being brought out of Egypt. It is a
principle that is here in the type, that is, the coming out of
Egypt represents the utter separation from the world unto God.
That is exactly the place, representatively and in type, that the
Lord Jesus took at the Jordan, this same Jordan over which Israel
has now passed in the book of Joshua. At the Jordan He typically
took the position of an utter separation from the world unto God,
and it was because of that position taken that He was assailed
immediately in the wilderness by the adversary. First of all,
Christ called out of Egypt, that is, separated unto God from the
world and this kingdom of the prince of this world. Out of Egypt -
that is the first thing in relation to a heavenly position. It is
Then, secondly, in the wilderness. The wilderness for forty years
was the place of testing as to the position taken. Those years
were a searching, a trying, by fiery ordeal as to whether the
position taken would be maintained at all costs. It was a heavenly
position. Now the probation begins, for forty is always the number
of probation. So Israel in the wilderness is, in principle, the
same as Christ during forty days, being tempted of the devil in
the wilderness, tested as to the position taken. Anyone who really
does take a spiritual position with God will not long escape a
severe test as to the position taken. We cannot move with God in
mere doctrine and theory. If we are moving in a living way with
God, we are going to find that every step taken is tested out as
to whether it is a thing done inwardly or merely outwardly.
Thirdly, there is the Jordan, and we know that it represents the
cross. Out, tested, now the Jordan, the cross, the establishing in
an inward way of that which has been taken and tested. It is
something more than the Red Sea, which was the objective side of
things. This is the subjective, this is something done inwardly as
well as outwardly. It is the establishment of the course taken and
over which we have been truly tried.
Then, fourthly, the land, in the heavenlies in Christ.
Here is Christ, then, in four phases or features of the heavenly
position. Out completely unto God; tested as to that; and, as we
indicated or hinted, the testing in the wilderness was, "Will you
in any way compromise with this world, can you be got back on to
the old ground?" The devil showed Him all the kingdoms of the
world, and the glory of them, and said, "All these things will
I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me" (Matt.
4:9). That is what he was after all the time, to get Him in some
way to act apart from that utterness of abandonment to God. "If
thou be the Son...". It was the assault upon that
relationship in its utterest meaning. Can He be brought back on to
the old - Egypt - in principle? If so, He is in the power of the
prince of this world. That was the bid that was being made and it
was all a question of Life and death.
The Heavenly Lordship
Secondly, the heavenly Lordship. We find in this book of Joshua
they are over in the land and one of the first things that arises
is the absolute sovereignty of the Lord. You remember the incident
when Joshua saw a man standing with his sword drawn and Joshua
went up to him and said, "'Art thou for us, or for
our adversaries?' And he said, 'Nay; but as prince of the host of
Jehovah am I now come.' And Joshua fell on his face and worshipped
and said 'What says my lord unto his servant?'" (Joshua
5:13-15). Joshua surrendered the Lordship to this One, and that is
the way of Life.
And here is Christ in the heavenlies, in the first place, in the
position of absolute Lord. We know that from the New Testament
But then, on the other hand, it is the church, the people of God,
brought entirely under that Lordship, in subjection, submission,
capitulating to His Lordship. That is the way of life in Christ.
Life in measure depends entirely upon the degree of the absolute
Lordship of Christ. He has been made Lord, but it is not just the
despotic, the official position; He is the Prince of Life. What
God has done with Christ in exalting Him has been to make Him the
Lord of Life, the Mediator of Life, the Prince of Life, vested Him
with the power of Life. What He said in the days of His flesh was
made true, He was speaking prospectively - "As the Father has
life in Himself, even so gave he to the Son also to have life in
Himself" (John 5:26), and that became fully true on His
exaltation. That is simple enough and we know it, and Life depends
entirely upon the degree in which Christ is Lord, and that means
far more than Christians have recognized. They call Him Lord, they
sing of Him as Lord, they speak of Him as Lord, but oh, in how
many things is His absolute Lordship challenged! There is dispute
over His Lordship over many things in the life. The release of
Life in greater measure is so often bound up with the winning of
some battle where the Lord's Lordship is disputed and challenged.
A Heavenly Power
Thirdly, in this heavenly position, it is a heavenly power. Very
often we have heard it said that Joshua is a type of the Holy
Spirit. I think that is not quite correct, that is doubtful. I
think that Joshua is more a type of the energy of the Holy Spirit.
To use Paul's phrase again - "the power that works in us"
(Eph. 3:20). We are "in the heavenlies" - that is an
Ephesian phrase. "According to the power that works in us"
is an Ephesian phrase, and the history of things in the book of
Joshua is clearly the history of a Divine energy working through a
man. Joshua was filled with the Spirit, for Moses had laid his
hands upon him (Deut. 34:9). It is the energy and power of the
Spirit here, and that, of course is obviously the next thing in
the matter of Life. Life, fulness of Life, depends upon the energy
of the Holy Spirit in us, the power of the Holy Spirit, the
activity of the Spirit. We must get our position first, and then
in that position there must be the absolute Lordship, and then
there must be the operation of the Spirit of God within as the
Divine energy of everything.
A Heavenly Inheritance
Finally, it is a heavenly inheritance. Here we come more into the
Colossian letter where "it pleased the Father that in Him
should all the fullness dwell" and "in Him ye are made
full" (Col. 1:19, 2:10). It is the riches of Christ, the
land, the inheritance; God's fulness vested in His Son, and Life
is bound up with that. For the people here, it was a matter of
progressing in the fulness which was there. That was the way of
Life for them, and the way of Life for God's people is always this
continuous progress in the way of the fulness of Christ, not just
being saved and staying there all your life rejoicing in the fact
that you are saved, but going on. There is a boundlessness, a
fulness, in Christ, which, however long we might live here, we
shall never exhaust, and Christ can be and should be more
wonderful, more full, more unspeakable as the years go on. He is
all God's fulness, and Life is a matter of progressive development
in Christ, ever increasing in the knowledge of Him, knowing what
Well here, you see, we have Christ in the position, in Lordship,
in the power of the Spirit, in possession of the fulness, the
inheritance, and in those ways He is the Prince of Life. We derive
Life from coming into the good of that as the Lord's people.
The Way of Death
We pass on to the book of Judges. The first part is occupied with
how things begin to shape with the death and after the death of
Joshua, and then the large section from verse 7 of chapter 3 to
the end of chapter 16 is occupied with the Judges and all the
declensions; a sevenfold declension. It is interesting to note
that, while there are twelve Judges over this period, only seven
of them are really given any importance. Of five of them you
simply know their name and that is all. Seven alone are in
relation to the sevenfold declension. You know what we have been
saying about the sevens in the Word of God. In the previous
chapters we thought of the seven great typical men of the
Pentateuch representing seven aspects of Life as set over against
the course of death; the seven feasts of the Lord, and so on. Here
you have seven declensions and, over against them, seven
interventions of God through seven outstanding Judges; they occupy
a large section. Then a short closing section has some very
unhappy, unpleasant incidents to record.
All we need to say about this book is that it is a tremendous
demonstration setting forth an exhibition of the course of death
by reason of the opposite to what you have in the book of Joshua.
In the book of Joshua you have Life, it is a living book, a living
story, and it is by reason of these things that we have mentioned
- heavenly position, Lordship, power and inheritance. In the book
of Judges you may say that it is more death than Life. It is a
terrible story. These bright patches... how short-lived they are!
Death seems to be in a place of mastery and it is because things
are just exactly the opposite. They have lost the heavenly
position, they have lost the heavenly Lordship. "In those days
there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right
in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25). They lost the Kingship,
they lost the heavenly power. It is a state of weakness, and, as
you notice in Judges, it is a steady decline; the beginnings are
higher than the end.
Samson seems to come down to the deepest depths of shame. They
have lost the heavenly power. And they have lost the inheritance.
The enemy is in the land in possession. They even have to go to
the enemy if they want to sharpen an instrument of agriculture
because the enemy had taken all their means of sharpening
instruments lest they should make weapons of war. It is a lost
heavenly position with weakness, defeat and bondage as the
pre-eminent condition, and the Lord here is only seen to be acting
in a sovereign way. In Joshua, in principle in the type, the Lord
is not acting just in a sovereign way. He is acting by an inward
energy because the people themselves are in harmony with Him. In
Judges He is acting outwardly in a sovereign way, faithful in
Himself, but not now as within the people.
What a lot of history there is in that fact. How often it has
been like that, I wonder whether it is not very largely like that
in our own time. The Lord is doing things, we say He acts
sovereignly, we are glad to note sovereign acts of God even for
our nation, Dunkirk, and so on. But is it because the Lord is in
heart fellowship with people, and people are in heart fellowship
with Him? Is it by reason of His inward working? No, it is not; He
is a merciful and gracious sovereign and He is acting sovereignly,
but He has not got what He really wants - conditions which make it
possible for Him to do this thing as in and as through His people.
Well, Judges is simply an emphasis upon the fact that if we lose
the heavenly position, it is death. The positive is emphasized by
Life in Relation to Lordship
Then we come to that little book of Ruth, and what a jump it is
in the light of this whole history, this whole issue of Life and
death. You know the story. There is a man and his wife, Elimelech
and Naomi, in the land, proprietors in the land. Famine comes, the
land dies, the land falls into this state of death and the man
goes and takes his wife into a foreign land, into the land of
Moab. There they live; his sons marry women of that land. Then
Elimelech dies, the two sons die. Death, you see, has broken right
Then Naomi decides, in her sorrow and loss, to return to her own
land. The challenge is presented to the two daughters-in-law. One
decides to stay in her own country; the other, Ruth, determines
not to leave her mother-in-law but to return with her. "Entreat
me not to leave thee... whither thou goest, I will go". They
return, a sorrowful couple whom death has robbed of everything
precious. They wear the veil of death as they return. They come
back; then there is romance - Boaz and his field, the inheritance
that has gone into death is recovered, resurrection sets in. The
recovery from death of the lost inheritance; the recovery from
death of the relationship - Ruth and Boaz are married, and then
the child is born to them, and one of the last views you get of
that beautiful story is the elderly mother-in-law, the old widow,
holding a new born baby in her arms, and with that baby is bound
up a new history of kingship.
Here is a woman who, in herself and on her side, represents what
death does, and in the arms of that very death, that woman, is a
new life, the symbol of resurrection, life from the dead... and
with that life from the dead the Christ is bound up. Obed, Jesse,
David, Jesus Christ of the seed of David, all in that little life
from the dead. There is the picture of the widow who has known all
about death and in the very arms of that living grave, shall we
say, there is the resurrection out from the dead, out from the
grave, resurrection Life - and the King is coming. It is a
beautiful picture all in this setting, this great issue of Life
and death, and for this part of the book, it is Life in relation
to Lordship again.
A Spiritual Instrument
We pass on to Samuel. The first part of the book of 1 Samuel, the
book of transition, is occupied with Samuel and the spiritual and
the soul travail of his mother, his birth, the crisis in the
nation, the terrible story of Eli and his sons, then the ark going
into captivity and Samuel's judgeship for twenty years. Then in
the second section Saul is brought in, and in the third section
David is introduced. In the second book of Samuel, David begins to
rise on the fall of Saul, comes into the kingship, firstly over
Judah and then over the whole nation. The second part of 2 Samuel
is occupied with David's fall, his sin, the punishment of his sin
in his family and in his throne, and his restoration. The third
part of the book brings in the government of God and closing
scenes in David's life.
Here, then, we have some more intimations of the way of Life, for
we are still concerned with this matter of kingship, and what
arises in these books is the question of kingship, and we have a
divided dominion. We have Saul - "Make us a king to judge us
like all the nations" (1 Sam. 8:5) - man's choice of a king.
On the other hand, David, God's choice.
Let us remember that that phrase we know so well - "A man
after my heart" (Acts 13:22) and (1 Sam. 13:14) is not
literally translated in that book. Infidels have been very pleased
to get hold of that and say, "Look at David, a man after God's own
heart! - and yet...! That is the kind of God He is!" But literally
the words are 'the man of God's choice', not "a man
after God's own heart", although in many things he was. This
sets him over against Saul as the man of man's choice.
These two represent two spiritual factors; one is the carnal and
the other is the spiritual. There is no doubt about that. All that
you see and read and observe about Saul is his carnality, and,
whatever you have to say about David on certain points and at
certain times, this man has his heart set upon God. He is in heart
a spiritual man. But here you have the historic conflict between
the flesh and the spirit, the carnal and the spiritual, and while
this is an undecided issue, everything is in a state of unrest, in
a state of defeat, just as things were then in the days of Saul.
While Saul was king officially, there was dividedness in Israel,
no one was wholly satisfied. When David came on the scene, before
ever he was in any way king officially or recognized, there was a
going out of heart to him and so at once the nation was divided.
It was a terrible time for the nation.
Saul must be put out of the way by God, the flesh cut off. It is
interesting, by the way, to note that Saul's downfall was because
he spared the Amalekites and God demanded that they should be
slain, and that Saul lost his life at the hands of an Amalekite;
it is usually like that. We compromise with something and that
very thing is our undoing. We have a reservation because of some
personal interest, something that we want to preserve, and that
thing we do preserve, but it is our undoing. That is always the
course of the flesh. Give the flesh one little bit of
consideration and that bit of flesh that you consider will be your
undoing, rob you of your crown, of your glory. That is Saul. He
must go as the carnal life, and the man of God's choice is coming.
It is again the way of Life by reason of the man of God's choice
having undivided dominion. We cannot lay too much stress upon this
truth, that Life for individuals and Life for the church, for the
people of God, is bound up with this whole question of the
absolute sovereignty of the Lord Jesus.
But here, in this scene, while this controversy is going on, we
have the very beautiful story of Samuel. I think Samuel is one of
the finest characters of the Old Testament. But as we look to see
what he really signifies, we find a principle of tremendous value.
It is something which God always seeks to have in a day when there
is dividedness amongst His people in this way, where the flesh is
having too much place and His Son is not having His right place,
where things are in this state that they were in in the days of
Saul and David and Samuel. What does he signify and represent? Do
you not think it is very clear that he represents a spiritual
vessel in which all the thoughts of God are found holding the
situation in an uncertain day? Samuel embodies prophet, priest and
king. Those are the three great thoughts of God, the great
provisions of God as the way of Life - prophet, priest and king.
We saw in our study of the Pentateuch how the priestly function
is the way of Life; redemption and Life, Life because of
righteousness. The priest has to do with that, and Samuel
functioned in the priestly office. Prophet? - undoubtedly, a seer;
and king - in principle, he was the last of the judges. He
embodies all the highest thoughts of God, and is a spiritual man,
a spiritual vessel who is walking with God, and he is the
intermediary in a day like this. It seems to me that that is what
God seeks to have for Himself.
Who shall say that we are not very much in a state similar to
that which is found here in the days of Saul and David? It is a
state before it is all established, in a time when Christ has not
an absolute place in His church, amongst His people. Therefore we
have a state of weakness, uncertainty; all those unhappy
conditions spiritually that exist because of this. In a state like
that the Lord needs a company of His people to function in the
position that Samuel held, to hold things for God's full thought,
to stand in the gap for God. It seems to me, if not always,
perhaps always, He has so often had that in a day of declension -
a spiritual company embodying His fuller thought to hold the
situation during transition. That is Samuel in brief.
The Power of His Resurrection
Let us pass on to Kings. 1 Kings is the book of disruption. We
begin with the passing of David, the rebellion of Adonijah, the
crowning of Solomon, David's last charge and his death. Solomon
then comes in in the second section of 1 Kings. In the first
place, Solomon in all his glory, and then the glory faded and gone
and Solomon in shame. This is followed by the third section of the
book, the division of the nation, ten tribes called Israel
henceforth, two tribes called Judah, and their respective kings,
beginning with Jeroboam and Rehoboam, and then one king following
another in quick succession, usually by the tragic death of his
predecessor, often by assassination. Then on to the scene comes
that great figure, Elijah. We know how his life heads up in Ahab
and Mount Carmel.
We pass over to 2 Kings. Things are going from bad to worse in
corruption, and Elisha appears on the scene. Deep corruption
follows Israel in this history, broken with some bright spots as
in the case of Hezekiah and Josiah, but all too short. At length
the nation goes into captivity; first Israel, then, several years
after, Judah. It is the way of death. Note the relationship
between the Sabbaths and the seventy years. That was the issue God
raised. "Because of My Sabbaths".
They went into captivity for seventy years; that is seven
multiplied by ten; ten is the number of responsibility. God is
exacting His Sabbaths to a full degree, making them know their
responsibility for His Sabbaths. The principle of the Sabbath is
this, that God has come to the end of all His works in His Son,
Jesus Christ, and the Sabbath is no longer a day, but a Person.
Christ is God's Sabbath, and in principle God was holding them
responsible for His Son Who at every point they had ignored; the
seventh day, the seventh week, the seventh month, the seventh
year, and the seven weeks of years - God's Sabbaths, in every way
violated. Now they go into captivity because of the Sabbaths. The
way of death is the way of either the ignoring or the violating of
the great truth that Christ has consummated God's work of new
creation. Ignore that and there is no way of Life at all.
Well, here arises the big battle for Life again in the midst of
this situation. Elijah sets forth the assault of death. Few men in
the Bible set forth the assault of death more than does Elijah.
You find him all the time pursued by death, assailed by death,
dealing with death or death dogging his steps. Sometimes he is
fleeing for his life. The king will send three bands of soldiers
to take his life.
But then there comes his successor, Elisha, and it is interesting
again. Elisha has to do with seven forms of death, and in them all
he overcomes and those forms of death are very instructive.
First of all there are the waters of Jericho. The sons of the
prophets came to him about the waters of Jericho, and said, "The
situation of this city is pleasant... but the water is bad and
the land miscarries" ("casts its fruit" A.R.V.
margin); nothing comes to maturity - and that is always a mark of
the curse. The thing proceeds so far and fades out. The whole
creation is subjected to vanity, just going so far and then not
being able to go through to perfection. And, as you remember,
Elisha cast salt from a new cruse into the waters and they were
healed. The curse is dealt with by the power of resurrection Life.
It is Life triumphant over death as death is working by the curse.
The Lord Jesus was made a curse for us, but by the power of an
incorruptible Life - that is the salt - He destroyed the power of
death in the curse.
Next, the widow's oil. Remember it is death again. The question
was this - "My husband is dead, the creditors are come to take
away my son to be their bond slave". And Elisha said, "What hast
thou in the house?" And the widow's little oil was multiplied.
Bond slaves through death; what is it in principle other than
bondage to the law? The law has stretched out to lay its hand on
things through death. Death has entered and the law has entered to
lay hold and to bring into bondage, and Elisha, in multiplying the
oil, exercises the power of Life which destroys bondage to the law
and sets it aside, meets the law, fully satisfies it, sets it
aside, destroys its claims. It is Life.
That is what the Lord Jesus has done by His resurrection. He has
delivered us from bondage to the law by satisfying it wholly and
putting it out of the way.
Thirdly, the Shunammite's son who died; given by God, then dying
and raised from the dead. Here is Life in terms of sonship in the
power of resurrection. Jesus, Paul says, was declared, set forth,
attested; the Son of God with power, or in power, by the
resurrection of the dead (Rom. 1:4). There is something in the
power of resurrection which is the quality of sonship. Sonship is
the possession of resurrection Life in Christ.
Then the fourth thing, the pottage; the sons of the prophets
gathered together and Elisha with them and they went out to gather
for their meal and one gathered something wild and they cried out
"O man of God, there is death in the pot" (2 Kings 4:40).
And Elisha said, "Bring in meal", and he cast it into the
pot. We cannot stay to talk about the meal as a type, but what we
have is the principle that my life has got to be pure, that is, it
has got to be in the Spirit if it is to be maintained. If you
bring in foreign or strange elements, things unknown, poisonous
things and introduce them into your life, death ensues. It is a
matter here of Life in the Spirit, in the purity of the Spirit,
without any admixture of old nature, foreign nature. Those wild
gourds are the fruit of the curse. All wild life of that kind is
the result of the curse and death. That has got to be overcome.
But for the sons of the Lord's prophets, there must be nothing
like that, nothing wild, foreign or strange.
The next thing, Naaman, the Syrian, the leper. "Go, wash in
Jordan seven times" - and I see in this the utter setting
aside of the whole body of the flesh; seven times - a perfect
spiritual order, the whole body of the flesh set aside as the only
way of Life.
Next, the axe-head which came off, went to the bottom, was
raised, made to float, and we are now in service, building the
house, doing the work of the Lord. It is a habitation for the
people of God, and Elisha brings something in that connection as
from the dead, operating again in the power of resurrection,
saying to us that the Lord's servants must be on resurrection
ground, in the power of His own risen Life and not in the energy
of nature, not even to work for God as out from ourselves. As Paul
said, whom I... "serve in the newness of spirit" (Rom.
7:6), that is, newness of Life, resurrection Life.
Finally, Elisha dies and his burial takes place nearby. Some men
are killed and then the enemy appears and the burying party picks
up a corpse and throws it into the sepulchre, the grave of Elisha,
and it comes to life. When he touches the bones of the prophet, he
comes to life. And here is, not Life as triumphant over
death, but Life triumphant in death. The consummation of
the saint's life is that in relation to Christ we ought none of us
really to die. When we die, it ought not to be a scene of death;
even if we die, go by way of the grave, not caught up to meet the
Lord in the air, there is the power of His resurrection there to
turn the scene of death into Life. Elisha all the way through is
setting forth this mighty power of Life triumphant in the presence