by T. Austin-Sparks
"Then answered one of the young men, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, that is skilful in playing, and a mighty man of valour, and a man of war" (1 Sam. 16:18).
David's Triumphs the Inheritance of Solomon
That is the first intimation of David's life in relation to warfare, and what a life of warfare it was! Let us be reminded that what is standing over the whole of our consideration is how God comes into His inheritance. The apostle Paul said that he prayed on one occasion for the church that by the Holy Spirit it might have illumination and revelation as to God's inheritance in the saints. I think that is what we are in today, we are in that prayer; I trust in the answer to that prayer, having illumination as to God's inheritance in the saints, God's getting to Himself glory by way of sons and sonship. As we have seen, the culmination, consummation, and inclusiveness of David's life was found in Solomon his son, and in Solomon, the son, the kingdom of glory came in. The Lord, in figure at least, came into His inheritance. But we must remember that Solomon's great, glorious kingdom and reign, with all that is said about his magnificence, wealth, and his wisdom, all rested upon the universal victory of David. You know that to be so.
You look at such passages as that in 2 Samuel 8. We are arriving now at Solomon, it will not be long before he takes David's place on the throne, "And after this it came to pass, that David smote the Philistines, and subdued them: and David took the bridle of the mother city out of the hand of the Philistines. And he smote Moab... and the Moabites became servants to David" (2 Sam. 8:1,2). We will not read the whole chapter because it is all like that, David bringing under every kingdom and every king. And then you pass to 2 Chronicles 9:26, and you have, as to Solomon, "And he ruled over all the kings from the River even unto the land of the Philistines, and to the border of Egypt." The universal triumphs of David became the inheritance of Solomon, of the son.
It is quite impossible to fail to make the swift transition from David and Solomon to the greater Son of David, the Lord Jesus and how the church comes in as the vessel of the fulness of glory. "Unto Him be the glory in the church" on the ground of Christ's universal victory so that eventually that sonship in which the glory of God is secured and displayed rests upon Christ's victory in every realm. This is a clear foreshadowing. If we want that stated precisely we have to come again to a passage which is almost too familiar, Heb. 2:5: "For not unto angels did He subject the world to come, whereof we speak. But one hath somewhere testified, saying, What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? Or the son of man, that Thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: Thou didst put all things in subjection under His feet." You know how the passage goes on. "We see not yet all things subjected to Him. But we behold Him who hath been made a little lower than the angels, even Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour" (v. 8,9). And then the Word goes on "For both He that sanctifieth and they that are sanctified are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will declare Thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the congregation will I sing Thy praise." And further, "Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers ('partners' is the real word) in a heavenly calling..." (Heb. 3:1). The heavenly calling, the dominion in Christ, with Christ, over the whole world. It is a tremendous thought that sons are called to something higher than the vocation of angels. "Know ye not that we shall judge angels?" (1 Cor. 6:3), says the apostle. "Know ye not that the saints shall judge the world?" (v. 2). It is tremendous. This is the calling of sons in Christ.
But the realisation of this dominion, this heavenly calling, is not without warfare. It is not just going to happen. It is the occasion of a terrific warfare, and that warfare is not just something that goes on. Do not get the abstract mental conception of there being a war on and somehow or other we have got something to do with it, and we call ourselves soldiers and sing hymns about it. It is something very much more than that, as many of you know. It is not something just objective and abstract. It is something which involves us and demands of us a very real training in understanding, in knowledge, in tactics, and in everything that has to do with war. If it is sons who are to inherit with Christ, we know well by now that sonship is an ultimate thought. It is the issue of some process, and so, as we are being trained as sons, we are being trained in war, for that is a way of the inheritance of sons. It is warfare.
Now, it says here that David was a man of war. Weigh the words well - a man of war. His manhood was such. That was what David was. It was not something that he took on and assumed. He was that, he was a fighter - not that he loved a fight for fighting's sake, not that he was trained in a military school and therefore it had become a kind of second nature to him to fight. That was not true, and it was certainly not true that he had a great deal of superfluous energy for which he found relief in a fight. There are a lot of people like that and they think they are good fighters. That is not the basis of this thing at all. I am not saying these things just for something to say. They lie behind this whole matter of warfare. You may not, by nature, be a fighter. You may have no natural inclination for fighting, no appetite for a fight, and certainly you may not feel qualified and trained for it. You are not exempt on any of those grounds. You are, whether you like it or not, involved in warfare; it is a part of your calling. Your destiny and your inheritance lie along this line. So we have to look deeper to see what it was that made David a man of war, because if we can put our finger upon that, we shall see exactly what will make us warriors. It will be exactly the same thing in us as in him.
David's Jealousy for the Rights of God
What was it really that made David a man of war? In the first place, quite clearly, it was indignation for the rights of God and for the rights of God's people; a real sense of personal responsibility for the interests of God in His people. That is how it worked out in the first place in very simple forms. That sense of responsibility showed itself in battle. It showed itself in secret, and remember what we said earlier about this, because all the fighting is not done in public. We do not begin to be fighters in public. We are that, and therefore it goes on when no one is watching. I am referring to his encounters with the lion and the bear. David, away there in the seclusion and isolation of the fields of Bethlehem, where no eye was upon him as far as he knew, where no one could take account of his procedure and therefore no one would have been able to spread abroad a tale of his cowardice, by this sense of responsibility took on a lion and a bear for the sake of a lamb. I take it that his father Jesse was a man of some large competence and possessions. He sent very bountiful gifts to his other sons in the army, and what is one lamb? The lion could have that! But no, it was a lamb, and it belonged to his father and it belonged to his flock and it was a part of his responsibility. His responsibility came down to a single lamb. And that sense of responsibility for a very small thing led him out to something which involved his whole life, for, as we said before, it is no small thing to take on a lion. Neither is it a small thing to take on a bear. This tremendous undertaking, involving so much risk, so much courage, was brought right down to a very small question. "He that is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much" (Luke 16:10). That is the story of David's life: faithful for a little lamb, and you shall be trusted with a whole nation.
But to go back. It was there behind the scenes that David was led out and exercised by this sense of responsibility. It was that that made him the man of war. No, let us repeat, not because he liked fighting, nor because he was so despised, nor for any other reason. But you see it when he came out to his first big fight, with the giant. It was this indignation for God's rights and God's rights in His people. The man is just stirred to his depths by this thing. "Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?" (1 Sam. 17:26). Indignation. How his soul was stirred by this sense of responsibility. This is what makes warriors. In proportion to that consciousness and that sense, we shall fight the Lord's battles or we shall not fight them. We can hear those words of another great warrior: "Knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel" (Phil. 1:16). Paul and David were jealous over God's interests.
Faithfulness in Small Things
Now let me first of all repeat: it begins often in very small ways. If you are looking for and waiting for great opportunities, waiting for the day of a great work to do for the Lord, what you call your "life work", and you are thinking in terms of something big, let me tell you that there is a law established by God, and you will not be able to get out of it. You may put yourself into something that you think big, and you may create for yourself something that you think big, and organise a big movement and be the centre of it. In the long run it may be that that, after all, in its intrinsic value was very small. Not all that looks so big, immense, and extensive, is counting in that intrinsic way. Oh yes, after a year or two or a time, so much of it has fallen away and cannot be found. God's principle holds. It is one of the laws that He has established. Like all the laws of nature, you can observe them or you can violate them, and you do not get away with it. You just cannot hoodwink God, even in the laws of nature, so do not deceive yourself if you are expecting or looking for some large sphere and opportunity of service. Do remember this law: it will come by way of faithfulness in the small things. It may be a very small thing, a very menial thing, it may be just one lamb, and you might be disposed to undervalue, underrate it, despise it, and think that it does not represent enough to justify all your life and energy and thought. But David put his life into the saving of that lamb, and if he was the sensible man that we are going to see that he was, he did not do this presumptuously or rashly. He knew what he was doing, and it was a life for a life with him, and there would have been no more afterwards, no more life for a young man. He put it all into this little thing, and our whole life may hang upon some small thing, our whole life of service for God may be bound up with faithfulness in something very small, something that we might easily despise and think it is not worth our while. That is very searching, but it is very true, and the Lord has brought some of us down there. He will not let us get on and away until this thing has been the scene and the occasion of a complete and utter abandonment to the Lord on that.
But this works out in so many ways. Do not get the objective picture. It comes very near home - a sense of responsibility for the Lord's interests. What a lot of ground that covers. Take the matter of the fellowship of the Lord's people. Has not the Lord got a tremendous interest bound up with the fellowship of His people, the relatedness of His children, their oneness? That represents a tremendous thing for the Lord. You see, all Calvary was focussed upon that thing, because disintegration, disruption, and the breakup of human relationships was the result of Satan's work, and the Son of man was manifested to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). The wonderful thing is, immediately Calvary is over, you find that a scattered and disintegrated company is in one Man; the mighty victory of the Cross. Be tremendously jealous over this matter of fellowship, of relatedness, and take responsibility. That is real warrior spirit. That is entering into the fight.
When I see people in a corner talking under their breath about things or people in the fellowship, and as I sense something that is not happy, not good, something that they would not like to say openly and be heard saying, I say those are people who are never going to count in the great issue. This is detracting from the glory of God, this is taking something from the Lord. Be careful what you lend your ears to. Be careful if there is something of a grievance, a disaffection, because that can lead to an undoing of things, a letting down of things, a bringing in of something, such as some root of bitterness. Though you may understand that that person has a lot on their side, be careful. You are in danger of opening the door to the devil if you take it on in sympathy, listen to it, and take sides against someone else. This is a battle with the powers of evil, this matter of fellowship.
We have got to take responsibility for the Body of Christ and fight its battles. We could pursue that in many directions and many connections. But you see the point from what I have said. The enemy is always trying to bring in his victory and the defeat of Christ along the line of whisperings, mutterings, murmurings and complainings. The church at Corinth, as we have said before, had no glory in it, no song, no joy, for this very reason. And so the apostle, writing, brought in Israel's calamitous end in the wilderness, "They were overthrown in the wilderness... neither murmur ye, as some of them murmured" (1 Cor. 10:5,10). Murmuring, that is all. They lost the inheritance, and the Lord lost His inheritance, by murmuring. Beware of your murmuring. You may think there is something to murmur about, but the enemy would like to get us murmuring, complaining, criticising. The point is, 'Now then, what is going to be the issue of this? Is this going to work out for the glory of God? Is this going to bring the inheritance in to the Lord? Is this the way of sonship, or is this something else?' It becomes a matter of personal responsibility for all, this is the testimony of Jesus. We like that phrase, 'the testimony', and we use it. But what is the testimony? Is it some conception of truth, some system of interpretation of Christianity, some wonderful vision in the abstract? No! The testimony is what Jesus fought for and battled through to in His cross. We are brought into that battle which involves jealousy for the true nature of the Lord's interests.
I have spoken about Corinthians. I pass in mind to Galatians. You know that the Galatian letter sets forth the pulling of things down out of the heavenlies onto the earth, out of the spiritual into the temporal, out of the eternal into the merely now. Paul was the man of the heavenly vision. With that vision he had gone to Galatia. Those believers had come into their relationship with Christ on heavenly ground, and the Judaizers had followed up and pulled them out of their heavenly position, brought them down to mere ordinances and rites and Old Testament legality, and Paul is on the warpath. If ever Paul's soul was stirred to battle, it was over the Galatian situation. His jealousy came to white heat. I am not exaggerating. As he repeats twice, "Though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema. As we have said before, so say I now again... let him be anathema." That is his jealousy at white heat for the true, spiritual, heavenly nature of things as opposed to religion that is merely traditional and formal. It is a battle. What a battle it was for Paul!
Warriorship Demands Utter Selflessness
Such warriorship, to be such a man of war, makes one inclusive demand. It demands utter selflessness. If you are going to think about your own skin, interests, future, position, and anything that has to do with you, you will not tackle a lion or a bear, and you will certainly not tackle Galatia. The utter selflessness of this man! How all self-interest and consideration was swamped and overwhelmed by this concern and jealousy for the Lord. We have got to be in this with our lives.
I cannot help quoting again and again those things which seem to me to get so much to the point. Yesterday I cited Paul in this way. "As always, so now... Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether by life, or by death" (Phil. 1:20). 'I am all in this. If I perish, I perish, but here goes, I am in it; this one thing I do...'. Dear friends, spiritual warfare, prompted by this sense of responsibility, does demand an utter selflessness. A person who has a personal interest of any kind will find themselves entirely incapable, and all others will find them entirely incapable, of effecting anything in spiritual warfare. They are of the divided heart. They have got something else that is keeping them out of the war. They may think they are in it and they may have a go at it, but nothing comes of it. They may use the language, the phraseology of war, and so on, but nothing happens. They are beating the air. The same is true of anybody who has a personal problem.
If you have a personal problem of a spiritual character, you are out of the fight. Oh, how the devil loves to bring in personal, spiritual problems, and I think he does it most with people who are the most dangerous people to his kingdom. If only that man or that woman could get away from their own spiritual problem, how they would count for the Lord, how they would register. They would mean something tremendous; but they are all tied up, locked up, by this personal spiritual problem. It may be as to their acceptance with the Lord, as to the Lord's attitude to them, it may be anything like that. You may make tremendous attempts at fighting, but until you have settled that spiritual problem, you will effect nothing in the battle. The enemy has caused us to be flung into the vortex of a great difficulty, perplexity and problem, dominated by a big 'Why' where the Lord is concerned. Those have been the times when we could not fight, when we effected nothing. It will always be like that. We have to get over our problems, to get clear of these spiritual matters, if we are going to count.
Warriorship Begins with Worship
This is all in such accurate sequence. David's warfare as a man of valour and a man of war began with his worship. The singing part came first. And true singing, the right kind of singing, if it is singing that is from the heart, means that we are beautifully free from ourselves. That is what singing ought to mean. It does not always mean that, but that is what it ought to mean. We sing because we are delivered from ourselves. Worship comes first, and what does worship mean? Well, it is all the Lord, not myself, not my problem, my circumstances, my difficulty, it is the Lord; my heart is towards the Lord. When it is like that, we can be fighters, and only if it is like that shall we really be fighters. So it comes back to a very practical point.
Very often the first battle and the first phase of the warfare and of every fresh battle and every fresh skirmish, is the battle in our own hearts to let go to the Lord. It is probably the most difficult battle you and I and all Christian people have to fight, to know how to let go to the Lord. We will hold on, we have got our teeth in and we are not letting this thing go, we are not giving this thing up. We believe with all our might that this is the will of God and this is what the Lord means, but you know, there is that in the Word of God which shows us that we are not to personally hold on to the things of the Lord.
Abraham and Isaac are the great outstanding illustration in the Old Testament. God gave Isaac when he was utterly impossible. By a miracle, a mighty intervention, Isaac was given to Abraham and then the Lord said, 'Take him and offer him.' What a problem for Abraham! If he had liked to have had a problem, if he wanted to have a problem, he had got one, and that could have been nursed for ever and paralysed him completely. He went through on the great fighting art of letting go to God. It is a tremendous thing to be able to let go to God, even to hand back to the Lord what He has given you, what you believe to be of Him, to say, 'Now, Lord, I let go, I am not going to have my own way about this, I hand this back to You; if You want this, then You see to it that it is established, that it is done; I have no question whatever about it that it was of You, but I just hand it over to You.'
There is such a lot of personal holding on, even to the things of the Lord, and making them ours, our bit of work, our sphere, our line of things. Oh, this personal jealousy for what we call the interests of the Lord, but after all we have turned His interests to our own. Have you learned the mighty victory of letting go to God? It means handing it all up, standing back, being in that detached position where you are quite ready that it shall never come back if the Lord does not want it, but if it is to be of the Lord He shall do it, and you will not. That makes warriors.
You find that not once nor twice you have to fight that battle, but you learn life lessons along that line. You come to the place where you say, 'I know, I have learned that to hold on is to lose, to hold on is defeat, to hold on myself with my own strength of will, mastery and determination is to be put out of the fight, to be rendered useless. And the days and the weeks and the months and the years are passing by, and the real work of the Lord is not being done because I have held this so much to myself, even the thing which I believed to be of God.' That is a lesson that you must learn: how to let go to the Lord. I would like to pursue that thought through David's life, because it came out more than once, how, when it was in his power to do something he stood back, and said, 'I am not putting my hand on that; I am leaving that to the Lord.' A man of war. Along that line you attain to the glory in sonship. That is the way.
We just touch on these things, briefly and imperfectly and incompletely. Remember, the way of sonship, God's inheritance, is the way of a grim and terrific warfare, but it comes down to light on what we may call small practical matters in life. It involves us in the whole question of our zeal and our sense of responsibility. Oh, may I make that appeal? May I stress that? Do ask the Lord to give you an adequate, sufficient sense of responsibility for His interests, that you become responsible people and you are not going to have anything that militates against the interests of the Lord.
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