The School of God: 2

“And David said unto Saul, I cannot go with these, for I have not proved them.” David feared not to go, the Lord being with him, as Saul had said; but he could not go with these also. Faith never trusts in part to the Lord, and in part to man. David had no helmet of brass, no coat of mail, when he slew the lion and the bear; then he went, the Lord alone being his strength. And, as he says, “The Lord delivered him.” Just as Paul has said, “No man stood with me......but the Lord stood with me..... and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.” In like manner had David proved the faithful arm of the Lord, but Saul’s armor he had never proved.
But how often have we clothed, ourselves, or allowed ourselves to be clothed, in such encumbrances, without detecting at once, as David did, their unfitness, and casting them from us? Have we not often worn them complacently; yea, gone forth to fight in them? Have we not often acted as though God's work needed help by this or that form of human power; as though what was begun in the Spirit could be made perfect by the flesh? And therefore we have had to learn our folly and unbelief in our discomfiture and loss. But it was not so with David here. He instantly detects that the wrought and polished armor of Saul befits not the soldier of faith. The word of Saul was good, but that word was belied by such arming as this. And I believe that those with whom God deals much in secret will be like David here; they will quickly, intuitively as it were, discern and reject the advances of the flesh. They will thus distinguish between the precious and the vile. There will be an acuteness of spiritual sense (Phil. 1:99And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; (Philippians 1:9)) in such, which is acquired nowhere bet in direct communion with God. And hence, when out among the snares and wiles of the foe, if a film pass for a moment over the eye of their faith, and so a false object attract them, its falseness will be felt even when not seen. Thus is it here with, David. He stands a moment, indeed, to put on the whole armor of Saul; but just when Saul must have thought him armed for the battle, David feels himself fettered and burdened! The world's most skilful aids are faith's surest hindrances.
“And David put them off him.” Thus does faith strip itself of all carnal weapons. For faith stands entirely in the power of God. Now our learning this is, often the hardest part, of our lesson—that which we most slowly learn, and soonest forget. But if we knew more of secret dealing with God, we should more speedily rid ourselves of all carnal weapons. The soul which, like David, has been much exercised in secret before God knows the utter worthlessness of everything but God's own strength. And having thus learned this blessed lesson, it readily casts off those things which the flesh so esteems as aids, and feels itself set free by their loss. How far more blessed this way of learning the flesh, and denying it, than any other! But for want of such direct living before God, we have to learn this in painful discipline, and after many failures: and it is the hardest part of our discipline, to be stripped of those things which by habit and education we have all thought necessary; to stand aloof from modes of action, in which, after the manner of Saul, the name of the Lord and human authority or human wisdom are combined. Such combinations, often called judicious and useful, are most delusive and dangerous. How do we see the apostle rejoicing to count all those things, esteemed by men, loss for the sake of Christ! Why was this not a hard thing to him? How could he thus thoroughly renounce, and put from him, these things? He had learned to “rejoice in Christ Jesus:” to be “strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.”
Remember therefore, beloved, that he who has much to do with God in secret cannot use the carnal weapons. And surely this should show us the importance of coming forth from the presence of the Living God into all our service; that we may be thus prepared to detect and to mortify all the pretensions and advances of the flesh. For it is sad indeed, through want of this, to see a saint trying to fight in the Lord's name, but clothed in the world's armor. Thus the world obtains a place in the church. Its principles and its powers are recognized in the very place where God has written, “Love not the world;” “All that is in the world is not of the Father;” “The friendship of the world is enmity with God!”
This is often done in controversy. Argument is met by argument, instead of the simple use of the word of the Lord; Saul's helmet of brass and coat of mail, instead of the sling and the stone and the arm of faith, are opposed to Goliath's brass and mail. How often does the Lord vindicate His own word, when used in faith, carrying it with divine power to the heart! And low often does He humble us, by showing us how little our strong arguments avail save it be to stir up heats and strife! The Lord in all this make us more simple.
But David goes not forth unarmed to the fight, though he casts from him the armor of Saul. He took his staff, the five smooth stones in his shepherd's scrip, and his sling; thus armed he drew nigh to the Philistine (ver. 40): Thus he strips himself of one sort of armor, only to array himself in another. But what simple armor is this! If David overcomes Goliath with this, surely the victory must be the Lord's. This armor was never wrought by art and man's device: the running brook had given these stones their smoothness. But faith is always thus armed. The armor of faith therefore is always weak and foolish in the eyes of men. God's mightiest victories have been won by instrumentality which man has most despised. The foolishness of preaching (a foolish thing in itself, and a foolish subject, Christ crucified) man treats with disdain; yet it is “the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Preaching has ever been as foolish as David's sling. But what we want is much more of such simplicity, remembering that we have the truth of God to address to men's consciences. We have weapons “mighty through God,” if we had only simple faith to trust to them alone, rejecting the armor of human energy, wisdom, and authority.
“And the Philistine came on, and drew near unto David” (ver. 41). And, disdaining David and his army, Goliath says, “Am I a dog that thou comest to me with staves?” Remember this, beloved, that the flesh always thinks itself insulted, because our weapons are not such as itself uses. The flesh likes to see sword opposed to sword, helmet against helmet; the flesh loves its own. But David said, “Thou comest to me with a sword and with a spear, and with a shield; but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of Hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.” Thus David puts the question on its true basis. It is now a question simply between the Lord of Hosts and the Philistine. David puts David quite out of question, and brings God Himself in, as the antagonist of Goliath. Thus should it always be with us. What are we? What is the foe? It matters not what we are, or what is the power of the foe; it signifies not however mighty the One, or weak the other: will not God vindicate His own name? David came in the name of the Lord of Hosts; and will not God be jealous of His own name? Will He allow the Philistine to triumph over that? Never! Here then is the might of faith. Faith always brings in Omnipotence. “If God be for us, who can be against us?” is over the word of faith.
Now David could never have stood thus at this hour, if he had not learned God as his God in secret: therefore could he say, “Let no man's heart fail him:” and therefore could he thus meet Goliath. The name of the Lord must be our strength against every evil, whether without or within. Suppose the worst kind of evil, sin by a saint (and I trust that we all know that sin in a saint is far worse than sin in another), and what is our refuge? “For thy name's sake, O Lord, pardon mine iniquity, for it is great.” You have only to put God in remembrance of His Own name, and He will be jealous for that name. Thus faith can always use the name of the Lord as its strength against every foe. So that, instead of there being pride in David's heart here, he was shrinking himself into nothing, and making God everything. His most confident words are his, most humble ones. And is it not the name of Jesus that we have to set against everything? Against every trial, every anxiety, every enemy? Is it not this which God is teaching many souls in secret now? Leading them into a sense of pollution and weakness they never knew before; into trial they never knew before; in order that they may know the value of what they have in the cross? Not as though they had not got everything, but to prove this in them and unite them. Thus many are proving experimentally what redemption is, by being made to feel the necessity of such an Almighty friend as. God. God is thus in secret now instructing many souls in the value of the cross. And why? In order that they may be strong in the conflict.
And living before God in secret will ever make us act, if I may so speak, on the aggressive. This is remarkable in David. He says (ver. 46, 48), “This day will the Lord deliver thee into my hand; and I will smite thee and take thy head from thee, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel! And David hasted and ran toward the army, to meet the Philistine.” David tarried not, faltered not: but instantly used his simple arms and smote his foe to the earth (ver. 49). So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone and smote the Philistine and slew him; and there was no sword in the hand of David” (ver. 50, 51).
It was not then that David merely waited to be attacked, but he hasted and ran to meet the Philistine. The confession of the name of the Lord proceeds most powerfully from as, when we have learned in secret the value of that name. Then grace and wisdom are often given, even to act aggressively against evil. But surely, we have learned how much grace, how much of Christ, it really requires to stand in testimony against evil! How do we fail in this for lack of more cultivated communion with God! Mark how calmly and deliberately, though instantly, David took the stone; there was no show of effort; it was done just as though he had been in the wilderness with no eye upon him but God's. And the Lord directed that stone, just as He had enabled him to overcome both the and the bear! Thus David prevailed; and thus does faith ever prevail.
I believe that at this present moment, there is much opportunity for such service of faith; but power for it must be sought, by secret living before God. Then whatsoever service our hand finds to do, the shall be enabled to do it in God's strength. If a saint be greatly blessed of the Lord in public, we may be sure God has been dealing with him in secret, in a way which we had not supposed. But how often after a Christian has been signally used in service, do we see him failing in some comparatively little matter! Such failure too often comes from forgetfulness of that injunction, “Pray to thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.”
J. L. H.
(Concluded from p. 230.)
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