Godís Inheritance of Glory in Sons
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 8 - "A Man of Good Presence"

This message is one of a series for the purpose of speaking to the people of God about His thoughts for them. This time I attempt to interweave the message to Christians with the gospel to the unsaved, or I turn aside for that purpose in particular at some point. I am going on, of course, with the message of the conference, but perhaps this will prove to be the most extraordinary text ever taken for the gospel. We find it in that very same verse of 1 Samuel 16. I am going to skip one clause and hold that over till later and take the one which follows it. The verse as a whole reads like this, "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, and prudent in speech, and a comely person; and the Lord is with him" (v. 18). For now, I am leaving the phrase "and prudent in speech", and taking the next: "a comely person". I am quite sure you have never heard the gospel preached on that! It is, however, a very unfortunate translation. It would be more accurately translated, and indeed I think quite accurately translated, "a person of good presence" - a description of David. This verse contains the many-sided introduction of this young man David, and it is impressive and remarkable to note how every one of these clauses, or these descriptions, worked out to be true to the full in the whole life of David.

God's Ideal for Man

"A comely man" or "a man of good presence". From one standpoint the whole Bible turns upon a man. It begins with "Let us make man." This psalmist, David, gives utterance to those wonderful words which had a range so far beyond his own consciousness when he uttered them, as in Psalm 8 - "What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that Thou visitest him? For Thou hast made him but little lower than the angels, and crownest him with glory and honour. Thou makest him to have dominion over the works of Thy hands" (v. 4-6). We saw earlier how those words proved to be prophetic, a pointer to the Lord Jesus. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews attaches them to Christ, to those sons being brought to glory, partners in that heavenly calling, to have the throne of glory with Him, to reign with Him. The whole course of God's activities through the ages is to secure sons for glory, and to train them as sons for the purposes of reigning in glory and manifesting His glory in the ages to come. He is securing those sons by new birth, bringing men and women into that new life in Christ which Christ called being "born again", or "born from above". Securing them, He institutes a lifelong process of forming them as sons. The apostle calls that conforming them to the image of His Son, and all with the view to bringing them to full stature, the full measure, of Christ.

So God has no place for dwarfs. God has no place for deformed people. God has no place for people with a blemish or an eccentricity. Of course, I am not speaking naturally, I am speaking in spiritual terms. What God has in view is perfect men and women, perfect in the sense that there is no arrest about their development, there is no deformity in their lives, their characters, their make-up, there is no blemish upon them to mar their beauty and their glory. There is nothing about them eccentric and singular, as making them something that is not normal. God's idea of a normal man and woman is that they should be whole, complete. Now, that is what He is working towards, that is what is in His mind whenever He gets hold of a life. His intention is to make that man and that woman complete, whole, perfect, so that ultimately His own glory can shine out through such.

Man As He Is Apart from God

Man by nature is anything but that. The Bible gives us a terrible picture of man. You will not believe it, because you will not see your own likeness as you look at it, but there it is. The Bible's picture and view of man is of something which has been arrested in its growth, stunted in its development, something which is twisted and deformed, something which, on top of that, is blind, and further it is palsied, lame, deaf, deceived, and devil-dominated. You do not believe that of yourself, but that is God's picture of man by nature. You say, 'Not any one of those things is true of man really - that he is stunted and arrested in his development' the Bible says he is. There may be kinds of development in human life, but history shows (and the longer we live we come to prove) that there is a terrible throw-back to the barbarous side of human nature in spite of all its civilisation, education, science and so-called progress. It throws back continually to the most ghastly and awful things conceivable; what man can do to man in a day like this. He is arrested in some part of his being. Somehow in his nature he is still dwarfed and stunted.

Now, how can we prove that? On what ground? Well, it is very simple. I might take you onto a ladder that is going to reach up very high to some steeple, some very high place, and as you begin to go up, your knees begin to tremble and your hands begin to get very wobbly and unsteady, and I say to you, 'You are like a man with a palsy, you are all shaky, you are not steady, you had better come down.' And I take you down and do something to you, do something in you, and then say, 'Now then, up again' and you go - no trembling, no shaking, no feebleness, straight, strong, up to the top. You come down and you say, 'Before that happened to me, I was like a man with a palsy, I could not walk straight, I could not walk steady, I would not have believed I was such a hopeless kind of creature until I became something else.'

Take the blind. I may take you into some place, take you in again and again, and you come out, but after you have been in and out for a long time, one day, I take you in and I say, 'Have you ever seen this?' You look and then I begin to describe in such a way that you are able to see that. You say, 'I never saw that before. Until you did that something to me which gave me the opening of my eyes, I was a blind man.' And so you could go on over this matter of being stunted and dwarfed.

Christians know quite well what I am talking about, how limited we were, how tied up, how little we were, and then something happened, and we look back and say, 'Was it ever possible that I should have been such a little, contemptible, small thing as I was? Somehow or other, I have been tremendously enlarged. I only began to grow at that time.' You see what I mean. Something happens, and it is true, whether you feel a dwarf or not, by nature you are. Something has come in to arrest your development, and you will never develop in that inward way unless that mighty something happens. There is no evolution in that realm. You just do not grow up into all God's thought naturally. Something has to happen to release you from an arrest.

And it is true in all these other things. Christians know what it is to be able to hear what they never could hear before, to see what they never could see before, to come into a life of fulness of which they had no conception before, to be able to walk and to do what was utterly impossible before. What has happened?

The Lord Jesus Makes Man Whole

Do you know the meaning of that word 'salvation'? Just making whole. The Lord Jesus came into this world and as He passed down the way, here is a blind man, and there is a deaf man, and there is a palsied man, and there is a lame man, and there is a devil-ridden man, and every other kind is in that way, and as He passed on He left them all whole men; they were saved. The effect of Jesus Christ is to save in this sense of making men whole.

A Man After God's Own Heart

Now you come back to David. David was said to be a man after God's own heart. He answered to God's idea, not perfectly, but in some very real respects, those which matter most to God, which to God are features and characteristic of a son, of sonship. What were the things in David that answered to God's heart? In other words, what were some of the marks of David's greatness so that it was said of him that he was a man of good presence, a man who could be looked upon and admired, looked upon with great respect and admiration, so that from God's standpoint it could be said, 'That is a man indeed'. What were some of the marks of that greatness of spiritual stature which characterised David?

The Quality of Meekness

I will tell you what God regards as marks of greatness, what in God's presence is something acceptable, what it is that makes a man or a woman of 'good presence'. The first outstanding thing, I think probably the most outstanding thing about David, was his meekness. Many of you here who know your Bibles know what a tremendous store God lays by meekness, what a first and high place God gives to meekness. "To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit" (Isa. 66:2). Meekness, but what does that mean? Well, it just means self-emptiness, and self-emptiness by being emptied. By nature we are not empty, we have to be emptied. One of the things which God attends to very carefully to get to sonship is our emptying. Take comfort and encouragement from that, for it is on the way to the glory to be emptied. The great Son of God went that way. The apostle says, "He emptied Himself... Wherefore also God highly exalted Him" (Phil. 2:7,9).

The way to the exaltation is the way of the emptying. We cannot empty ourselves, but when we come to the Lord He begins this terrible process of emptying us of ourselves to make room for Himself, and that emptiness of self is the essence of meekness. David never claimed to be as good as the other man. He always thought himself to be the worst of men. Read his psalms. There are psalms in which David gives expression to his own conception of himself which are abject and miserable. His meekness was like that. He always regarded himself as being poorer stuff than other men, never as good as the other man. That was his meekness. God looks in that direction and says, 'That is a man after My heart.'

Oh, you know quite well that when God was here in the flesh in the Person of His Son, the one thing which caused Him to express loathing, was self-righteousness, self-sufficiency, and pride. The most scathing or injuring things that ever passed the lips of the Son of God were directed towards that kind of thing where men were making a great deal of themselves and parading before others their own goodness and righteousness and importance; the value of themselves in their own eyes. The Lord Jesus put that sort of thing in a very great contrast. There went a Pharisee and a publican up to the temple to pray. The Pharisee, ostensibly talking to God but really talking over his shoulder to the poor publican, said, "God, I thank Thee, that..." and the one thing about that man was "I" - in the presence of God! The Lord Jesus said the other man dared not even lift his eyes to heaven, and said, "God, be Thou merciful to me a sinner." The Lord Jesus said that that was the man that went to his home justified. This was a very strong way of putting His seal upon self-emptiness, meekness. It is the direction in which God looks. David was like that.

His meekness worked out in many other ways; among them, see how he suffered intensely when he went wrong. Never for a moment did he excuse himself. Never for a moment did he blame someone else. Never for a moment did he justify himself, but condemned himself outright. Some of these psalms are really psalms from a broken heart because it has failed God. David sinned, yes, David sinned. But if ever a man suffered agonies for his sin, David did, and if ever a man was filled to overflowing with the consciousness of the utter mercy of God to a sinner, that man was David, and that is his meekness. Anything but meekness always finds some excuse or some scapegoat, someone to blame, or makes less of it than it is, but meekness goes down on its face in broken-heartedness over all failure, because it knows that it hurts God.

See again how he suffered reproach without vindictiveness. It is a mark of meekness to suffer wholly unjustly, to be cruelly treated, viciously assailed, robbed and deprived of everything in this life, home and family and everything else. See how he suffers it without any vindictiveness. There is no revenge about David. Here is this man Saul occupying the place of the throne and seeking to make David's life an utter martyrdom, and on his trail to kill him, and that went on, not for a little while, but for years. And more than once that man Saul was put into David's hands. He just caught him, so to speak, red-handed. His own friends said, 'Look here, now is your chance to rid yourself of this life enemy, to finish the whole thing', and mark you, they said, 'The Lord has put him into your hand, you can do this with a good conscience, surely the Lord has brought this about.' But no, David said, "The Lord forbid that I should put forth my hand against the Lord's anointed" (1 Sam. 26:11), and let him go, not once. And then at length the Lord did the thing. In battle Saul died a terrible death on the high field, and what did David do? Did he gloat, did he sigh a sigh of relief, did he say, 'Thank the Lord he is dead and out of the way, I will never again be bothered by him'? One of the most heartrending, heart-touching things in the whole Bible is David's lament over Saul, his most beautiful words of genuine grief over Saul and over Jonathan his son. And that was not all.

We know the story of Jonathan and David's attachment, but Jonathan did take sides with his father, and go into battle with him to the end. That may have been very noble, but you know, a little man would have been piqued over Jonathan. If David had been a little man like some people, he would have had a grudge against Jonathan. He would have said: 'He had a chance of standing by me. He knew quite well what his father was after, to take my life, but he stayed with his father.' He might have felt very sore about that, but here when Jonathan and his father Saul are slain in battle, what did David do afterwards? He searches the country and says, "Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan's sake?" (2 Sam. 9:1). 'Find me anybody, if I can do them a good turn for Jonathan's sake.' There was no sign of pique or ill-feeling about that, was there? He is a big man, yes, a man of presence indeed. This is meekness. There was nothing small, contemptible or mean about him.

Wealth Accumulated for the House of God

Another thing that made David great (in this connection I prefer the word 'big') and made him a big man in the right, true sense, is the way in which he accumulated wealth for the house of God. I shall probably touch upon that again later, but there is one aspect of that that I will mention now. We have already hinted at it - how David took hold of every experience of suffering and sorrow, and wrung out of it something for God and God's people. Did he go into a deep and dark experience? He has taken hold of that deep and dark experience and given something to all the generations to follow for their enrichment. Whatever it was, David's attitude was: 'There is something in this that I can turn to account for the generations to come to the glory of God, for the good of God's people.' That is how we came by our Psalter. You know that is not the little person's way of looking at their troubles.

Troubles usually turn us in on ourselves and tie us up and lock us up in ourselves. We begin to develop that awful disease of self-pity, for that is what it is. It is a malignant disease. We draw a little fence round ourselves and live within that little world of our own trouble, and we get more and more sour. That is how little people react in their troubles. But here is a man who knew something, perhaps only a faint taste, but to him it was an awful thing, of what the great Son of God knew on the cross when He cried as in the words of Psalm 22 - "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" Just a taste of a sense of forsakenness. It was not real forsakenness, as the rest of the psalm shows. A little later on David came back from that, and simply said that the Lord had not left him, but it seemed like it; but for all time and for all posterity out of that deep and terrible experience of seeming forsakenness of God, David has given a heritage to the people of God and to the glory of God.

The point is that his attitude towards suffering was this: there is something in this that can work out for the good of God's people and the glory of God. To take an attitude like that towards adversity and suffering requires character; it is bigness.

A Unifying Passion

One other thing I would point out about David as a feature of his spiritual and moral greatness, was how he was dominated by a single unifying passion. His whole being was unified by this passion. Just look at those words of his in Psalm 69:6-8: "Let not them that wait for Thee be put to shame through me, O Lord God of hosts: let not those that seek Thee be brought to dishonour through me, O God of Israel. Because for Thy sake I have borne reproach; shame hath covered my face. I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother's children. For the zeal of Thy house hath eaten me up." What is all the trouble about? Why all this suffering, reproach, and ostracism? "The zeal of Thy house hath eaten me up." And you know that those words were taken up as a prophecy and applied to the Lord Jesus. They saw Him go into the temple court. Finding there the merchants making merchandise of holy things in the precincts of the house of God, His jealousy for His Father's honour roused Him, and He made a whip of cords, and went in and drove them all out, and overturned their tables and said, "Take these things hence; make not My Father's house a house of merchandise" (John 2:16), and those looking on caught up this word from Psalm 69. It says, "His disciples remembered that it was written, Zeal for Thy house shall eat me up" (v. 17). What does that represent? Well, a unifying passion, His whole life gathered into one object: the glory of His Father, the glory of God, causing Him to be watchful and alert for anything that would bring dishonour to His Father. It says that He went in and looked round and then He went away, and then He came back. He had been on the alert, He had been watchful, taking account, taking in the situation. He came back to deal with it. Watchfulness concerning anything that would bring dishonour to His Father, a mighty concern for His Father's honour and glory, and then a tremendous courage to carry out His concern and His watchfulness into effect.

David was like that. I cannot turn you to the large amount that there is in the books of Samuel and of Chronicles about David's concern for the house of God. We shall touch on that again probably. But there it was, one unifying passion. His life was a unity, his life was a singleness of motive and object, and that made him great, and it always does. It is a mark of greatness. This is spiritual quality, making a man of presence.

The Power of the Indwelling Spirit

But, having said it all, we need to be helped there, and so we take another picture, or two other pictures, twin pictures, the negative and the positive. Look into your gospels and see the picture of the disciples of our Lord there. In the gospels they are little men. If there is anything that marks littleness, it is jealousy. A big person knows no jealousy or envying. Rivalry, trying to outdo one another, to get the advantage of one another, is a mark of littleness. There is pride, and a tremendous amount of self-sufficiency. They are little men in the gospels. I am sorry to have to say that about disciples of the Lord, but there they are. But see them after the Holy Spirit had come and taken possession of them. Now there is no trace of any of those things. All jealousy, envy, rivalry and pride has gone. They are different men. They were cringing little men before, cowards, and afraid, running for their lives. See them now! They stand up before rulers; they now have the spirit of courage, boldness. They are not intimidated by all the threats. They are on top of the situation, they are big men now.

What has done it? The same thing as will do it with you and with me. Just exactly the same mighty power is for us as they came to know: the Spirit of the Lord, the Holy Spirit, coming to indwell, deals with all our littleness. A Spirit-possessed, a Spirit-indwelt, Spirit-governed man or woman will not remain indefinitely small. If we are small, if there is jealousy, envy, pride, rivalry, cowardice, if there is anything like this that speaks of little spiritual stature, and that goes on too long, it declares that you and I, if we are like that, are knowing all too little about life in the Spirit. It just happens. You do not have to do anything about it. When the Spirit of Christ comes in, it changes, it releases. It cuts that hold to limitation, and you begin to grow and be enlarged and become something, while not of self-importance - no, never - you become something to be reckoned with.

Now, whatever we are by nature, we may be little, we may be all that I have said by nature, we may literally be poor specimens of humanity, but remember when the Holy Spirit gets into a life, the least one becomes significant, the least one takes on a new meaning. It is the wonder of the gospel, it is the wonder of salvation. It makes us whole. It is the wonder of what Christ does in a life. It lifts it right out of its insignificance and begins to make it something that matters, a man or a woman of presence.

You know that when you meet a person in whom Christ is really having His way, whatever they may be naturally - unlearned, uneducated, untrained or everything else at a disadvantage - you meet someone who counts and in heaven's eyes counts more than all the noble of this world. That is the way in which God comes into His glory. God does not get any glory out of our littleness, however it is expressed, out of our jealousies and rivalries and envies, all that sort of thing. When we grow spiritually and leave those childish things behind, then the glory of God begins to be seen in us. When we are fully grown at last, sons of the living God in full realisation, there will be a fulness of glory.

You know what the last picture of the Bible is, it is the City of God, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven. You know that all that is in that book of the Revelation is symbolic, and that City is a type or a symbol of the people of God, the church, this sonship in full realisation. But you notice two things about it: it is very big, it is immense, and it is very magnificent, it is very beautiful. And the beautiful thing about it is this, that on the foundations of its marvellous wall are written the names of the twelve apostles - those men who once quarrelled, who entered into those rivalries, envied one another, tried to outdo one another, those men who forsook Him and fled and ran for their lives. Here are their names on the most costly things. Look again at those foundations. Look at that wall, the foundations of which are adorned with precious stones, and the names of these men. What God has wrought! What God can do! This is not just imaginary now, this is not some beautiful idea. It is what God is working for with you and with me, to bring in the preciousness of His Son in terms of sonship, by our enlargement, our spiritual enlargement.


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