David Serving His Generation

Acts 13:36
It is truly wonderful to mark the controlling power of God over agents the most unconscious and unwilling, so as to render them subservient to the effectuating His own counsel: " howbeit he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so." (Isa. 10:77Howbeit he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so; but it is in his heart to destroy and cut off nations not a few. (Isaiah 10:7).) But it is equally important to see, when God has, from time to time, raised up special instruments for the work He has to be done, such instruments have ever manifested that both the wisdom and power they have is derived from God. So long as they have acted in their proper sphere they have succeeded: because they have acted in faith. " The Lord of hosts is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working." Such considerations give great present calmness to the believer: God has given to us " the spirit of a sound mind." We know that God has a counsel, and it shall stand, although He bringeth the counsel of the heathen to naught; we need not feel ourselves as though God could not carry out His own counsel without our plans or assistance. " Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being His counselor hath taught Him? With whom took He counsel, and who instructed Him,.... and taught him knowledge, and showed to Him the way of understanding?" In the rich grace wherein God has abounded toward us in redemption, He has " abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence." He has left no contingency to be provided for by the wisdom and prudence of His saints: their power of serving Him is faith. Hence, says the apostle, whom his adversaries would charge with acting from policy, " Our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world." But it is one of the results of the fall that man affects creative power and rejoices in the works of his hands; but that which he makes is like himself, even without continuance. He may strive to perpetuate that which he vainly conceives he has originated: but, " the Lord knoweth the thoughts of man that they are vanity." That can only stand which God both originates and perpetuates. On this point as well as others touching the pretensions of man, God will come to an issue with man. To those who know redemption, the issue has been already joined, and the result is, that no flesh can glory in His presence; but he that glorieth can only glory in the Lord: " Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever." He alone can " bear the glory," who is able to say, " I am the first and the last," " the Alpha and the Omega," "the Beginning and the End." The essential glory of His Person is the security for effectuating His work. All real subordinate ministry flows directly from Him. " Hs ascended up on high... and He gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers," and He still gives them, according to His own sovereign will. He has not left the ministry for the building up of His body to depend upon succession, as the Aaronic priesthood; or on the schools of philosophy, as in ancient times; or on universities or academies, as in our day; or on popular choice; but directly on Himself. In giving such gifts of ministry He has not given to them the responsibility of devising means to perpetuate His work: He works in them, and " with them; " and they only work healthfully as they hang upon Him, and fill up that place in the body which He has assigned to them for its present service. Hence in their ministerial capacity, as well as their capacity as Christians, they alone " stand by faith."
The analogy afforded by the history of Israel is very striking. After the death of Joshua, God was pleased to act by the extraordinary ministry of Judges, for four hundred years. " Nevertheless the Lord raised up judges which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them; and yet they would not hearken unto their judges, but they went a whoring after other Gods, and bowed themselves unto them; they turned quickly out of the way which their fathers walked in, obeying the commandments of the Lord, but they did not so. And when the Lord raised them up judges, then the Lord was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for it repented the Lord because of their groanings, by reason of them that oppressed them, and vexed them. And it came to pass when the judge was dead, that they returned and corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them, and to bow down unto them; they ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way." When the men of Israel would have perpetuated their blessing after their own thoughts, in the case of Gideon one of their judges, Gideon refused their offer. " Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son and thy son's son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian. And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall rule over you." Gideon had fulfilled his mission, and served his generation. God had wrought by Gideon to bring Israel to depend on Himself, and Gideon sought to answer the same end. On the other hand, the prominent failure of Samuel, otherwise so remarkably blameless, was the attempt to perpetuate his own mission in his sons: " And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment." This led to the people's desire for a king:
" Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations." Samuel may have seen more distinctly than Gideon that such a request was the rejection of Jehovah Himself as their King; yet he had vainly thought to perpetuate good government through his sons, whom God had not called to that ministry.
Among many instructions afforded us in God answering the desire of the people for a king, in giving them Saul, and then removing him, according to the word of the prophet Hosea: " I gave thee a king in mine anger, and took him away in my wrath— "the important truth, that perpetuation of blessing rests alone with God, is sufficiently apparent. So that even when God Himself " raised up unto them David to be their king, to whom also He gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after my own heart, which shall fulfill all my will," the highest honor which God put upon David was to be a type of His own Seed, in Whom alone blessing can possibly be perpetuated—" Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever." It is in this order that the Holy Ghost Him, self leads our thoughts by the apostle (Acts 13), abruptly turning from David to David's Seed: " Of this man's seed hath God according to His promise raised unto Israel a Savior, JESUS." But David served his own generation, and in doing so did that which he sought to do in another way, even serve posterity. This is an important principle, that in serving our generation, doing our appointed service in God's way, and in His time, we do really secure the very thing which we attempt to secure by providing for the future by means of our own devising. In trying to act for posterity we retrograde, and oppose a barrier to others carrying on the work which God may have assigned to us to commence.
Most blessedly did David serve his generation, when the Lord took him as He said, "From the sheepcote, from following the sheep, to be ruler over My people, over Israel: and I was with thee withersoever thou wentest, and have cut off all thine enemies out of thy sight, and have made thee a great name, like unto the name of the great men that are in the earth." It was the time of David's " trouble," but it was also the time of his real greatness, and of his most important service to his generation: David then magnified the Lord, and the Lord magnified David in the sight of all Israel. Walking before the Lord, David could afford to appear vile in the eyes of Michal, and of all who despised him. No two things are morally more opposite, than the Lord making an individual great, and the same person whom the Lord has magnified acting the great man himself. Here truly is found the need of " hinds' feet " to tread upon our " high places." The Lord magnified Moses by His promise, " Certainly I will be with thee." " And the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, and in the sight of Pharaoh's servants, and in the sight of the people." The Lord would not allow any insult to be put on His chosen servant, but promptly resented it: see Num. 12 Only once did this chosen servant magnify himself, and it is " written for our admonition. "And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice..... And the Lord snake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed Me not, to sanctify Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them."
David had most blessedly served his generation, " when the Lord had given him rest round about from all his enemies." At this time, " when the king sat in his house," the thought came into his heart that it was not suitable for the ark of the Lord to dwell in curtains, whilst he was dwelling in a house of cedar. David knew well the value of the presence of the Lord, and he sought to secure it in a way which seemed right in his own eyes, and which commended itself also to the judgment of Nathan the prophet. But " who hath known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him? " The man after God's own heart, and an inspired prophet, are alike destitute of true counsel when not walking by faith under the immediate guidance of the Spirit of truth. The thought of David was a pious thought, it was the expression of that desire of the renewed heart for rest, without conflict, in the immediate presence of God.
Forasmuch as it was in thine heart to build an house for My name, thou didst well that it was in thine heart: notwithstanding thou shalt not build the house." Zeal without knowledge, and piety apart from actual dependence on God, have proved alike dangerous to the truth of God: it has pleased God to show that He of His own grace delights to " provide some better thing for us," than we should choose for ourselves. Had David been allowed to act under the impulse of his own heart, and to build the house which his son built, what a loser had David been: every quickened soul is almost unconsciously drawn to David, and as unconsciously little interested in Solomon. David " in his troubles " finds truer sympathy in our hearts than Solomon in " all his glory." Had David, according to his desire, acted for another generation, instead of serving God in his own, we are all able to see what he would have lost. Nathan now instructed in the mind of the Lord, is sent to David with the message of the Lord. The first great truth announced is, that the will, even of the saint, is not to take the lead in the things of God; if permitted, the result would be " will-worship," one of the most fearful evils in the Church of God. It is our part to " prove what is that good and perfect and acceptable will of God." So long as God is pleased to " walk in a tent and in a tabernacle," it is not for any one to build Him a house. Solomon, according to the promise of God to David, his father, did build a house for the Lord; the house was filled with the glory of the Lord, and called by His name; but in due course it became the subject of prophetic denunciation (Jer. 7:11-1411Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, even I have seen it, saith the Lord. 12But go ye now unto my place which was in Shiloh, where I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel. 13And now, because ye have done all these works, saith the Lord, and I spake unto you, rising up early and speaking, but ye heard not; and I called you, but ye answered not; 14Therefore will I do unto this house, which is called by my name, wherein ye trust, and unto the place which I gave to you and to your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh. (Jeremiah 7:11‑14)): its history, with brief gleams of relief, is the history of Israel's abomination, till at last the Lord Himself suddenly comes to His temple and finds it a den of thieves, and utterly repudiates it; it is no longer a house which He could own as His, " Behold your house is left unto you desolate. (Matt. 23:3838Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. (Matthew 23:38).)
The next thing announced by Nathan was the determinate counsel of the Lord, in His own time and way, to give settled rest to His people Israel, according to and far beyond their heart's desire: " Moreover I will appoint a place for My people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and move no more; neither shall the children of wickedness afflict them any more." This is the happy theme of many a prophecy, the cheering close to many a heavy burden, " Jehovah-shammah (Ezek. 48:3535It was round about eighteen thousand measures: and the name of the city from that day shall be, The Lord is there. (Ezekiel 48:35); Jer. 3:16-1816And it shall come to pass, when ye be multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, saith the Lord, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the Lord: neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done any more. 17At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart. 18In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given for an inheritance unto your fathers. (Jeremiah 3:16‑18); Obad. 1:2121And saviours shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the Lord's. (Obadiah 21); Luke 1:32, 3332He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. (Luke 1:32‑33)).
But the most blessed part of the announcement still remains to be noticed: " Also the Lord telleth thee that Re will make thee an house." David would have been content to have built a house for the Lord, but the Lord's thoughts were higher, even for the Lord to build a house for David. This was the word of recovery to David's soul. It brought him before the Lord. He reviews all the gracious dealings of the Lord with him, and becomes suitably impressed with a sense of his own insignificance, " Who am I, O Lord God? " Such was not the thought in David's mind when he sat in his own house; he then looked from himself, but now from the Lord to himself. It is this which ever checks the thought of the consequence of our own service, as well as the attempt of doing that which the Lord has not called us to do: " By the grace of God I am what I am; I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." It is equally a sin to run without being sent, and not to come to the help of the Lord against the mighty when He calls. The Lord can do without us, but we cannot do without Him: if He be pleased to use us, sufficient is the honor of being the servants of such a Master, but we only really serve Him as we do the work of our own generation. The moment we cease to serve by faith, we regard the sphere of service as our own, forgetting that the husbandry and building on which we are occupied is not ours, but belongs to Him whom we serve. Needful is it also in contemplating any service, to retrace the way the Lord has led us " hitherto." But all is " small " now in David's estimation compared with the promise of the Lord making him a house: David's work of making a house for the Lord is now superseded by the happier thought of God making him a house. If we would happily and healthfully serve our generation, it must be by giving to the Lord His due pre-eminence in service as well as in everything else: I am among you as He that serveth ' (Luke 22:2727For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth. (Luke 22:27)); and He still serves at the right hand of God, making intercession for us.
" And this was yet a small thing in Thy sight, O Lord God, but Thou halt spoken also of Thy servant's house for a great while to come. And is this the manner of man, O Lord God?" The manner of man is to rejoice in the work of his hands: he seeks to achieve something great to make himself a name. His work often survives him; but in process of time it falls to decay, to add to the monuments of the vanity of man by the very means he seeks to secure his greatness. But " whatsoever God doeth, it shall be forever: nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it; and God doeth it, that men should fear before Him " (Eccl. 3:1414I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him. (Ecclesiastes 3:14)). David served his generation and fell asleep, but the promise of God to David, when He was disappointing his desire to build a house for the Lord, became the sustainment of faith throughout Israel's dreary history, and will be again, when faith shall be revived in Israel. The multitude looked to the temple; faith in the godly remnant regarded the promise to David. God brought judgment on Israel for their confidence in the house, but He showed mercy for David's sake. David's disappointment has, in the result, proved to be his service to his posterity. Is the house of David threatened with extermination by the confederacy of Israel and Syria in the days of king Ahaz? " It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass." God had made David a house, and this confederacy shall only tend to prove its stability: " Hear ye now, O house of David, Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also? Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel," David's Son and David's Lord. (Isa. 7:7, 13, 147Thus saith the Lord God, It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass. (Isaiah 7:7)
13And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also? 14Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:13‑14)
.) Is Hezekiah sorely beset by the armies of the king of Assyria; the cry of Hezekiah to the Lord is answered in mercy, " For I will defend this city to save it for My own sake, and for My servant David's sake." It had not been said in vain, " Also the Lord saith, I will make thee a house!" Do the people go into captivity and emerge from it only to be " servants ' in their own land unto the kings whom the Lord had set over them because of their sins; how cheering must have been the angelic announcement, " He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest, and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David." What a meaning in the words, " I will make thee an house!" " Is not this the Son of David? " and, " O Son of David have mercy on us!" were the expressions of faith during our Lord's own personal ministry. And if either ourselves or Israel look for security of blessing, we are led back to David's disappointment in his service to God (Acts 13:32-3432And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, 33God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. 34And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David. (Acts 13:32‑34)). And David still lives in our memories in Him who, in His closing words of " The Scripture of truth," announces the fulfillment of all the ancient promises to Israel in announcing Himself, " I am the Root and the Offspring of David." (Rev. 22:1616I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. (Revelation 22:16).)
But how entirely did David's disappointment in his contemplated service turn to the stability of his own soul in the sure grace and faithfulness of God. " Solomon built Him an house," and after accomplishing the " magnifical' " work, he leaves, as it were, his last words for our instruction: " All is vanity and vexation of spirit."
"What hath a man of all his labor, and of the vexation of his heart wherein he hath labored under the sun " But how different " the last words of David," the lesson he teaches is not only happier but deeper: " Although my house be not so with God, yet hath He made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire.” These are last words indeed, and such will ever be the train of thought of those who serve their generation. Instead of rejoicing in any result of their own service, there will be rather the looking for the only satisfying result, that which the Lord Himself will introduce: our expectations may be disappointed, but there is no disappointment to him whose expectation is from the Lord.
If a present palpable result be the object we propose to ourselves, we are likely to be disappointed; but if it be the honor of Christ, and there be no present result answering the desire of our heart, whilst deeply humbled under the sense of our own imperfection, we may take comfort from the language of the only perfect Servant, " I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for naught, and in vain: yet surely my judgment is with the Lord, and my work with my God " (Isa. 49:44Then I said, I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain: yet surely my judgment is with the Lord, and my work with my God. (Isaiah 49:4)).
"It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto Thy name, O most High ... . For Thou, Lord, halt made me glad through Thy work: I will triumph in the works of Thy hands. O Lord, how great are Thy works, and Thy thoughts are very deep 1 (Psa. 92:1, 4, 51<<A Psalm or Song for the sabbath day.>> It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto thy name, O most High: (Psalm 92:1)
4For thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy work: I will triumph in the works of thy hands. 5O Lord, how great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep. (Psalm 92:4‑5)
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