Three Men

An Address on Devotedness to Christ

"What think ye of Christ is the test
  To try both your state and your scheme,
You cannot be right in the rest
  Unless you think rightly of Him."

David, the son of Jesse, was chosen of God to be the saviour, shepherd and king of His ancient people Israel, and in these respects he foreshadowed our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the only Saviour of men, and the coming King. Being God's chosen man, it followed that all in Israel who were subject to God would think well of him and yield him obedience, indeed, he became the test in his day as to how far every man understood the thoughts and ways of God. There were three men — Saul, Jonathan, and Mephibosheth — who were brought into direct contact with him, and the way they treated David is illustrative of the way men are treating our Lord Jesus Christ in our day; and this is the subject of my address.

David was not the man whom Israel would have chosen, for he was but a shepherd-lad, without any pretension to greatness. They chose Saul because of his outward appearance, and even Samuel, the prophet of God, would have repeated their mistake, when sent to the house of Jesse, by pouring the anointing oil upon the head of Eliab, because of the beauty of his countenance and the height of his stature. But "the Lord seeth not as man seeth: for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh at the heart" (1 Sam. 16:7).

To the natural eye there was "no beauty" in Jesus, and so "He was despised and rejected of men," but He was infinitely lovely and lovable in the eyes of God, for He loved the Lord His God with all His heart, and the heart is the mainspring of every action.

Yes, Jesus was the Man after God's own heart, His Anointed, who fulfilled all His will.

Israel discovered in the day of their distress that God's chosen man was the only one who could deliver them. When the great Goliath threatened them, and Saul and Eliab trembled before him in their helplessness, they had need to look elsewhere for salvation. It was then that David appeared, and girded with the strength of the God of Israel he overthrew the giant and set the people free. Then they proved what was stated of the shepherd-lad at his anointing, that he was "goodly to look to."

The enthralling story of David's victory is recorded in 1 Samuel 17, and shows us, in figure, the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ over our mighty foe, the Devil — a victory told in the words of Hebrews 2:14-15, "Forasmuch then as the children were partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage."

How complete was David's victory, and how glorious; yet how surprising to both Philistine and Israelite, for Goliath was a man of war, invincible as he thought, and armed to the teeth, while David was a stripling, with no other weapons than five smooth stones and a simple sling. But by these was that huge mass of boasting flesh brought to the dust, and there, "by his own sword," was the giant spoiled of his head, so that even the most fearful and timid in Israel might join in the glad shouts that rang out triumphantly from the heights of Pasdammin. The Lord was crucified in weakness; He went out against the powers of darkness and the Devil on our behalf, and as He hung rejected and gibbeted upon a malefactor's cross it seemed as though He had met with utter and irretrievable defeat But it was —

"By weakness and defeat
  He won the meed and crown;
Trod all our foes beneath His feet
  By being trodden down."

And by His death, death's dominion has been overthrown, and the Devil's power annulled, and this so completely that our risen Lord can say, "Fear not: I am the first and the last: I am He that liveth, and was dead and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and death" (Rev. 1:17-18)

"Triumphant saints no honour claim,
The conquest was His own."

Saul

After the overthrow of the giant, David got a measure of recognition in Israel, for we are told in 1 Samuel 18 that "he was accepted in the sight of all the people" (v. 5), the women sang his praises (v. 7), all Israel loved him (v. 16); and "his name was much set by" (v. 30). But Saul stood out in base and brutal contrast to the rest of Israel; there sprung up in His heart a bitter and undying hatred towards the people's deliverer, he eyed David with jealous eye, and sought to destroy him (vv. 9-10). Saul represents the unconverted man, the man in the flesh. We read a great deal about the flesh in the New Testament. It is that evil principle within the heart of men that shuts out God and Christ, and will always make SELF the supreme object of the life in opposition to Christ. The flesh will have religion, and meetings, and sometimes tolerate Christians, but it will not have Christ. When He came into the world it betrayed Him for the price of a slave; spat upon His sacred cheek; and nailed Him to a cross. It has not changed in the course of the centuries, and the Christ of God is still rejected and hated by it. The unconverted man in this gathering is in the flesh, he has no love for our Lord Jesus Christ, and his position is terrible, for the Scripture saith, "If any man love not our Lord Jesus Christ let him be anathema maranatha" (1 Cor. 16:22).

Indifference to Christ and His rights may seem a small matter to some; and they may be surprised that it should call down the anathemas of almighty God upon them, nevertheless it does; and the justice of it will be evident to you, I believe, if you see its baseness illustrated in Saul's attitude towards David. Israel owed everything to David, for the Philistine threatened not only to seize their lands and wealth, but to make every one of them — men, women, and children — their absolute slaves. And Saul could not deliver them, nor Jonathan, nor Abner, and the people were at their wits' end. It was then that David appeared, and taking his life in his hand, he overthrew the great foe and delivered the people from his power. David was undoubtedly the one man in the realm whose right it was to reign, and Saul's conscience told him so, but in his selfish pride he refused to surrender to David. Saul was first in his own thoughts, and he hated David because he knew that David ought to be. Yet David did not suffer in the fight that he waged for Israel; protected by the mighty hand of Jehovah he came through it without a scar. How different it was with our Lord Jesus Christ when He came to deliver men; His visage was so marred more than any man's, and His form than the sons of men. His hands and feet were pierced and nailed to the tree, every sorrow found its centre in Him, and He drank to the dregs the bitterness of death. He has won an everlasting deliverance for sinful men at great cost to Himself — a deliverance from Satan's power, from the fear of death, and from eternal hell; and the preaching of the wonderful love that made Him do it should have prostrated the whole race at His feet. How base is that ingratitude that refuses to love Him! How sinful that selfishness that will not yield homage to Him! How terrible the pride that will not have the blessing through Christ crucified! God has blessing, great and free, for all, through the death of Christ, but none shall have the blessing apart from surrender to Christ; and this is just and right. To refuse to yield to Christ and to love Him is rebellion against God, and this must bring down the righteous wrath of God upon the offender.

Alas! "All of self, and none of Thee," is the answer that thousands are giving to the claims of Christ.

Jonathan

Saul hated David, but Jonathan loved him as his own soul; and no wonder, for he had watched the fight in the field of Elah, and as he saw David go forth against the enemy he could say, he has undertaken that conflict for me; and when the victory was completed, he could say, he has destroyed the foe for me. He had also beheld him in the tent of the king with the head of Goliath in his hand, and there David won his heart, so that he stripped himself and everything that distinguished him, and made a full surrender to him. David was victor in the battlefield; he was also victor in the tent of the king; the trophy of his first victory was the head of Goliath; the trophy of the second was the heart of Jonathan. Have we known an epoch like that in our lives? Has the Lord Jesus captivated us? Do we love Him and have we made a full surrender to Him? Four lines from Charlotte Elliot's sweet hymn express this surrender perfectly:

"Just as I am, Thy love I own
Has broken every barrier down;
Now to be Thine, yea, THINE ALONE,
  Oh Lamb of God, I come."

How beautiful was the devotion of Jonathan to David! And we learn how greatly David prized it by his touching lament at Jonathan's death: "I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been to me: thy love was wonderful, passing the love of women" (2 Sam. 1:26). Yet Jonathan was slain in Saul's company by the hands of the Philistines, and he did not see the glorious kingdom of his well-loved friend. I have often wondered why this was; why the one who shone like the rising of a brilliant star in his love to David at Elah should have set in darkness at Gilboa. I believe I have found the reason in 1 Samuel 23:16-18.

We have a heart-moving scene there. David and Jonathan met in the wood, as they had met before in chapter 21:41-42, and there they bade each other a last farewell; and Jonathan, moved by love to his friend, and the knowledge that God was with him, renounced all claim to the throne in the words "THOU SHALT BE KING . . . AND I SHALL BE NEXT." It was there that the strength of Jonathan's devotion declared itself; it was there also that he betrayed its weakness. David first, but "I NEXT." Oh, why did he not put a full point after he had declared that the kingdom was David's, and been silent as to himself! Why did he not leave the appointment of his place to his king? for surely the king alone had the right to say who should be next unto him. It was the introduction of the capital "I" — his thought for himself — that was the undoing of Jonathan. This carried him back to his father's court, where his friend was hated, and where in former days he had been persecuted for his friend's sake. How different his history might have been if he had said: "David, thou shalt be king, and I will share thy rejection until thy rights are publicly owned; whither thou goest I will go. I am wholly thine, command me as thou wilt." It would have meant for the time being the cave, and the mountain-side, and the scorn of all time-servers instead of popularity and the palace of the king. But it would also have meant a place of honour in the kingdom of David instead of ignominy and death at the hands of the uncircumcised Philistines.

How solemn is the lesson that this story teaches. It is possible to begin well and yet to fail in that full-hearted response to the Lord's love which alone is right and pleasing to God; it is possible for thought for self to come in and to make us careful for our own ease and safety, and, as we often falsely judge, our own present advantage.

The believer is not in the flesh, but in the Spirit (Rom. 8:9), but the flesh is still in the believer, and whenever it is consulted, or allowed to control us, it will find room for self, and in so far as it does this our lives are not wholly for Christ.

David in his rejection prefigured Christ in His rejection; and be it clearly understood that Christ as just as much rejected now as when men cried, "Away with Him." His rights are not acknowledged, the world does not put its crowns upon His brow, men do not want His interference in their affairs, and those who truly follow Him must heed the words of the One whom they follow: "If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept My sayings they will keep yours also" (John 15:19-20).

This is our life, and the treasure we have found in His love should make us welcome it.

"Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands our soul, our life, our all."

And "if we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him."

But I must add here, that all who love the Lord will see His glory, and in the day when He reigns they shall be with Him, and He will remember every pulsation of love to Himself, and every act of faithfulness to Him, and this should constrain us, as well as His love to us, to live wholly for Him, and to refuse all the clamouring of self and the flesh for a place.

Mephibosheth

The good start in devotion to David that Jonathan made was carried on and seen in perfection in his son Mephibosheth. He does not appear to have been a brilliant man, and, crippled as he was, he could be of no use in the field of battle to a warrior king, but he appreciated the kindness of David, and was devoted to his person. It is not necessary that we should be brilliant, or great, or learned; what our Lord looks for is the response of faithful love to Himself; this He will prize above all the service we may be able to render to Him. The love of Mephibosheth to David comes out beautifully at the time of David's exile from Jerusalem because of the rebellion of Absalom (2 Sam. 19). He would have gone with the king and shared the hardship and sorrow of that exile, but he could not. It was his lot to remain behind in a city that held high festival because the usurper was in power. But he would not join in the revelry of guilty Jerusalem, he held himself in strict separation from it all, and mourned for the absent king. He "neither dressed his feet, nor trimmed his beard, nor washed his clothes, from the day the king departed until the day he came again in peace" (v. 24).

Do we realize, O Christians! that the true King is rejected by this world, and that the Devil is the god and prince of it? This the Scriptures teach most plainly, and since this is true, must not our life be one of separation from it? If we are rightly devoted to the person of Christ, we shall feel that this is so, and there will be a great moral gulf between us and the world.

"Its grand fête days
And fashions and ways
Are all but perishing things."

But not only because of this, but because it is a world under the guidance of the arch-enemy of Christ, for its god and prince is the Devil (see John 12:31; 16:11; 2 Cor. 4:4). We must, in consequence, go through it as Christian and Faithful went through Vanity Fair in John Bunyan's book, and hold ourselves in separation from it as Mephibosheth held himself in separation from the ways of Jerusalem. You may be sure that we shall not be miserable if we do so, for we have the Holy Ghost dwelling within, and He can lead our thoughts to where Christ is enthroned in highest glory, with the result that we shall rejoice in the Lord alway, and again rejoice.

It is interesting to read what Mephibosheth said to David on the monarch's return to his throne. He did not claim any place for himself; instead, he tells the king that all his father's house "were dead men" before him; and a dead man has no place or standing whatever, he has no claims; and this, so it seems to me, is what this son of Jonathan meant. But if he could claim no place in the king's palace because of what he was, yet he could cast himself upon David's good favour, as he did when he said "My lord the king is as an angel of God: do therefore what is good in thine eyes."

He could also boast in David's grace to him, for he says, though having no claim upon David's goodness: "yet didst thou set thy servant among them that did eat at thine own table."

Here he struck the right note, and if we tune our boasting to the same key we shall do well. We had no claim upon the grace of God, for we were dead in trespasses and sins — all dead men before Him; but He has saved us, and set us among those that eat at His table, and we owe it all to Christ, our Lord and Saviour; we cannot boast in ourselves, but we may glory in the grace of God. "Him that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord."

Moreover, Mephibosheth declined to put in a claim for any possession in the land, for when the question arose as to Ziba his servant sharing the land that formerly belonged to him, he said, "Yea, let him take all, forasmuch as my lord the king is come again in peace to his own house."

It was as though he said "I want nothing for myself; the king has come into his own, he has got his rights, and in this is my joy full." If our thoughts towards the Lord are of this sort, then are they pleasing to God; it was thus that John the Baptist thought towards Him when he said: "This my joy, therefore, is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30).

We are looking for the time when He shall come into His rights, when the long years of His rejection shall cease, when, in the very land where He was crucified He shall be exalted, and when every knee shall bow before Him. It shall be true then, as we sing sometimes —

"The floods have lifted up their voice
  The King hath come to His own — His own!
The little hills and vales rejoice,
  His right it is to take the crown.

Now Zion's hill, with glory crowned,
  Uplifts her head with joy once more,
And Zion's King, once scorned, disowned,
  Extends His rule from shore to shore.

Sing for the land her Lord regains!
Sing for the Son of David reigns
And living streams o'erflow her plains
  Thus shall it be when the King comes!"

Glorious and happy day will this be for all those who love Him.

But how stand we in this matter? Let us put the treatment that David received from these three men together and test ourselves as to our attitude to the Lord Himself.
SAUL — Saul everything, David nothing.
JONATHAN — David first, Jonathan second.
MEPHIBOSHETH — David everything, Mephibosheth nothing.
In one of these classes we stand. Lord —

"Take Thou our hearts, and let them be
For ever closed to all but Thee;
Thy willing servants, let us wear
The seal of love for ever there."