By S. C. Payne, B.A., Felixstowe
The Spirit-drawn biographies of the Old Testament have a wonderful power to stir the imagination and move the heart, as we see in them the failures and the achievements of men “of like passions as we are.” In this respect the brief sketches of David’s mighty men are full of instruction for us in this the day of our Lord’s rejection.
The story begins in 1 Samuel 22. 1, 2, where the God-chosen king, the mighty conqueror of Goliath—foe of God’s people—becomes in his rejection, the centre of attraction to those “in distress, in debt, and discontented.” Five things about them we notice, viz.: They were
(1) Gathered to his Person. Impelled by a sense of their dire need, and drawn by a deep sense of David’s entire suitability to meet that need, they threw in their lot with him, staking their fortunes upon his ability. Have we not heard the Divine call, “Come ye after Me, and I will make you
(2) Submitted to his Lordship. They went down to Adullam, not to dictate, not to argue, but to obey. Recognizing the inherent royalty of the outcast David, they accepted his headship. Is not this at the heart of the gospel we preach? The grace of God demands His government, and the remission of sins calls for submission to the Saviour. Let us remember that the joyous “whosoever” of the gospel is balanced by the categorical “whatsoever He saith unto you, do it.”
(3) Partakers of his sufferings. Adullam was no abode of careless ease, but a stern fortress. Their life was one of strenuous campaigning, of enduring hardship, danger and loss. But, in it all, they had the joy of the company and the fellowship of the man who had won their loyalty. The Christian life is a call to “endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ,” “who endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself.” “Be ready to do without the comforts of life” (Basic English, 2 Tim. 2. 3), and, in these days of materialism and covetous discontent, we may well ask ourselves to what degree our personal loyalty to our Lord is thus reflected.
(4) Valiant in his Service. Men once miserable became mighty in association with their beloved leader. 2 Sam. 23 sets before us inspiring examples of three different aspects of Christian life and service:—
(a) Verse 8. “The Tachmonite that sat in the seat.” From him we learn the dignity of true Christian warfare. Power derives from position, and we shall best serve our Risen Lord if we learn the secret of rest in His accomplished victory. We have been “raised up together and made to sit together in the heavenly places in Christ.” In the enjoyment of that Divinely-given position we can, with quiet dignity and yet in all godly humility, go out to do service for Him without fret or fume.
(b) Verses 9, 10. Eleazer surely speaks of that note of defiance that should mark our activity as assemblies and individuals. “The men of Israel were gone away.” Others might desert, loyalty and zeal might grow cold, but he, in splendid challenge, “arose, and smote the Philistines until his hand was weary.” How great the need today in assemblies for those who, scorning an apologetic, retreating Christianity, will boldly “hold forth the Word of Life”! How we need in this age, when convictions are lacking and consciences sadly accommodating, to emulate the little company at Thessalonica “from whom sounded out the Word of the Lord.” What a delightful touch! “His hand was weary—his hand clave unto his sword.” Weary in the work, but not of it. Are we “cleaving with purpose of heart unto the Lord”? It has been said that the usefulness of a postage-stamp lies in its ability to stick to one thing till it gets there! May we so carry the battle into the enemy’s strongholds that the Lord may work a great victory through us, even as He did through this faithful warrior.
(c) Verses 11, 12. In Shammah we see an opposite but equally-vital feature of Christian service. His forte was defence, for “he stood in the midst of the ground, and defended it.” Here we have an instructive picture of a sorely-needed quality in our midst. There was “a piece of ground full of lentiles”—a little patch of fruitful ground.
Is this a true description of your assembly? Is it in real fact “God’s husbandry,” His tilled ground, where fruit is growing unto Him? If it is, be sure that there too the Philistines will be gathered together to spoil and to destroy that which is for God. “The people fled.” Then, as now, the “love of many waxed cold,” and upon this lone warrior fell the responsibility and the honour of standing firmly in the midst, and defending the field. What an untold asset to any assembly are the faithful few who are prepared to “hold fast the faithful word” and to defend the little piece of fruitful ground where God has placed them. Faithfulness at the prayer-meeting and the ministry-meeting, a kindly shepherd-care in visiting the flock and encouraging the young—these and a host of possibly inconspicuous tasks are the vital factors in a defence for which all may qualify. We may not feel fitted to “arise and smite the Philistines”; not for us the defiant sphere, the open air, the tract band, the public platform. But who of us cannot, in personal loyalty to our Lord, stand firm in the defence of the gospel, and by prayerful fellowship in the meetings protect and nurture the fruit for God that He has given us?
(5) Sharers in his Kingdom. 1 Chron. 11. 10. These selfsame men, with their varying but equally-valu-able records of service for David, “strengthened themselves with him in his kingdom, to make him king.” Let us not forget that all loyal service now, will have its recompense then. “If we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him.” In the ‘little while’ of His rejection may we seek to give Him our devotion, in the glad knowledge that “the Lamb shall overcome: for He is Lord of lords, and King of kings, and they that are with Him are called, and chosen, and faithful.”
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