"Trained" and "Armed."

Genesis 45:14-18.

When by any special assault of the enemy he succeeds in turning aside from the right path any of God's people, and they fall into his hand, there is a special lesson to be learnt by those who are preserved - a lesson directly for them, and from God Himself. Up to that time God has been dealing in admonition and warning with those now gone astray, who, refusing to hear any of His counsel, are finally allowed of Him to fall into the snare of the enemy, and God's dealing with them is thereafter after another sort and manner entirely. But for those who are left, with whom the warnings and admonitions and love of His heart and hand are thenceforward occupied, it is for them to profit withal by what has passed, and what they have seen as to the enemy, and as to the points whereby their brethren have fallen, an easy prey to him.

Any deliberate course of self-will must end for any of us in the discipline of His hand. This is true for an individual as well as for the Church. We cannot too often be reminded of this. He is a "jealous God," and "what a man soweth, that shall he also reap." We are HIS, and "love is strong as death, jealousy cruel as the grave." (Cant. 8) He will share it with none; and surely we love to think of Him thus! "My beloved is mine;" and if a believer, I can say also, weak, worthless as I am, "I am His;" for He says so. The heart delights to ponder on it, and will throughout all eternity; for love is exclusive. But let us remember the cost - not now the cost to Him, the cross was the measure of that; but what is involved as to us - the cost to us. After all it is but the giving up (is it gladly?) of what Paul designates as "dross and dung." (Phil. 3) It is the counting up in the light of eternity of all that we have and all that we are on earth, according to the direction which He gives us in Luke 14:25-35.

Mark then, in Gen. 14:14-18, the moral of the lesson which was proposed, and which is sufficiently simple for any babe in Christ to understand, though we shall see the same principle is true also in other instances. None can encounter the enemy without defeat except the trained and armed man. "Abram armed his trained servants," and conquered the enemy. We are expected not to be overcome, but to be "overcomers" (Rev. 2:3), whatever the power, and malice, and subtlety of the enemy may be, in a warfare not now natural; for "we wrestle not against flesh and blood," but against spiritual wickedness, "wicked spirits in high places."

Had Abram engaged in conflict with the enemy without having ready servants trained to bear arms, the probability is that he and they too would have been overcome. But they were both trained and also armed. The first supposes a lengthened and varied disciplinary exercise in the house, the last the suited weapons of offence and defence for the occasion. All of these Lot was deficient in. At ease and settled here, he dreamt of no enemy, and so was taken unawares, and found defenceless. The discipline of Abram's house, may we not say, was unknown in the house of Lot, and mark the sure result.

No, my brother in the Lord, you are never to relax; never to forget, on the one hand, your pilgrim and stranger calling, nor, on the other, the discipline of your own house in accordance with the fact that the enemy is around. The time is coming when this day-drill and the armour of defence against him, so necessary to you now, and the given resistless sword of offence, will both be laid aside; but it is not yet. You are "called to be a soldier;" but what is an untrained soldier, and one without armour, without arms?

I believe then the especial want of Christians in the present day is to be trained and "armed," and more especially so in reference to our own recent trials God would bring this, I believe, before us. The training, the armour, the arms, then what are they for us? And. I ask my own heart, as I see some have been carried away by the enemy, Do I possess these? And I ask, Have you this daily discipline and arms, so that you are not in danger of being also presently carried away by some other similar device of the same enemy? This is the question for us. We must see to it that we are armed. For, need. I ask, was Lot? Need I say that all Christians are not? The Ephesians are exhorted to take the whole armour of God by the apostle Paul, and the saints also to arm by the apostle Peter: "Forasmuch as Christ also hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind." (1 Peter 4) And wherefore these exhortations, if all are already thus armed? And this brings before us the key to the whole matter? One has trodden this earth before us to whom Peter refers, and never did the enemy for a moment get an advantage over Him, or turn Him aside from aright path. We are to be armed with the same mind. What mind that was, seen so unfalteringly in Him, Phil. 2. unfolds to us. He would obey, and He would serve. He would only do the will of God, and this necessitates in all of us a continued path of going down. Remember that it is only in your going down that you can follow Him, or that God can be exalted; for the old man and the new cannot be exalted together. Only in the giving up of my will am I like Christ, nor like Him wholly even then; for He did God's will, and both must be there if I am fully to follow Him; that is, if I am to be armed at this special moment both to recover my brother, or to be myself preserved from joining him, and sharing with him in his captivity.

What was it in our beloved brethren that turned them aside? Where did the enemy get an advantage over them? Was it worldliness, or pride, or envy, or the ten thousand other snares he employs? These are questions difficult to answer, but questions which we must answer if we are to profit by the discipline of God's hand at this moment; for you do not arm against a danger you are ignorant of, and remember we are not armed if these things are allowed in us, and, alas! we too may then be carried away captive by the same enemy at any moment.

I pause, before looking at one or two passages of Scripture, to reply to a remark I have heard. It is this: "But was not the professing Church carried away by the enemy soon after the apostles?" I admit it. And was not Lot similarly carried away a captive to his own will, and so in the hands of the enemy (though doubtless unknown to himself) long before the occasion we have read together in chap. 14? He made a deliberate choice of what was easiest to nature in chap. 13. But there came a special time of trial to Lot and his house which brought it all out, and it was not the first; and so God does allow these special trials to come, when the enemy puts forth a special effort, and through one of these trials He has seen fit in His wisdom (and for our blessing, if we take heed thereto) recently to pass us. May God enable us to profit by this moment, and may its lessons never be lost upon us!

Allow me now to show you a similar instruction from the book of Judges. Israel is in an evil state, under the oppression of Midian and Amalek. Gideon (chap. 6), by whom God would help them, must be himself, and his house also, in a moral condition suited to God, and in contrast with that of the people; that is, he must himself be trained and armed. His father and his father's house had fallen under the enemy, and were worshippers of Baal. First he humbles himself and takes the place of being "least in his father's house," then erects an altar to the true God, then throws down his father's altar of Baal, and cuts down the grove that was by it, offering sacrifice to God alone; and only after all this does God use him to overcome the host of Midian (chap. 7) Others may be found in the Old Testament; but to come to the New, a similar line of truth is found in Paul's address to the elders at Ephesus. (Acts 20) About to be taken from them, when they would have no longer his counsel to guide them, his advice to them is, "Take heed unto yourselves." They must discipline themselves, and thus be trained, and he would arm them in view of those solemn times of difficulty which he saw approaching for the Church, when they would have to stand alone against the enemy; and it is thus also that he addresses Timothy. (2 Tim.)

Nothing is more touching than this tender solicitude of an aged servant of the Lord for those he is leaving behind; for it is God's continuous care for the Church and those who are His. Putting off the armour himself (" I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith "), who is there that cannot see that he is putting it, in the second epistle, upon Timothy? He says there must be self-restraint and endurance. "No man that warreth entangleth himself" (the opposite of conflict here is self-entanglement in the world). "Hold fast the form of sound words." "Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord." "Study to show thyself approved unto God." "Flee also youthful lusts." "Follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart." "Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned." "From some turn away." "Preach the Word; be instant in season, out of season. Watch thou in all things." These are passages that form a continual training or drill which clearly show the object of the apostle in this epistle, of which every word is (perhaps now more than at any other moment) especially valuable to us. But it is also the arming of the man of God by one who knew well the subtle power of the enemy, and the value and necessity of such armour. Nor without it can any man of God "be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." Of 110,000 men that marched through the wilderness "able to go to war" of the two and a half tribes (Num. 26), only "about forty thousand prepared" (armed) "for war passed over before the Lord to battle, to the plains of Jericho." (Joshua 4)

In short, then, the lesson for the present moment that is pressed upon us, in view of what we have recently passed through, is very simple. The Lord Jesus has gone through this scene before us, triumphantly "spoiling" the house of the enemy, and delivering his captives out of his hand. Do you desire from this moment to start afresh, and to go through this world like CHRIST? Would you follow Him? Then you must be like Him, and both trained and armed. Whatever others may do, you must crush, by the power of the Spirit, as taught in the Word, every movement of your own will that rises up in opposition to your calling as a Christian. You must suffer. You must be "trained" and "armed" in yourself at home. Without these things you are only providing the enemy with a means and a weapon against you, which sooner or later be assured that he will use. May we then see to it that we are both "trained" and "armed" for this moment, that the Lord may not only use us, but also continue to preserve us; to the glory and praise of His holy name. For the battle is not over yet, and to any who would boast, say, "Let not him that girdeth on his harness boast himself as he that putteth it off." (1 Kings 20) H. C. Anstey.

If the children of God make any affiance with the world, and thus pursue a line of conduct opposed to their true character, they must find disappointment.

We always carry a little of the world with us, when, being children of God, we have mingled with it.

When Israel was a slave, God became his Redeemer; when he dwelt in tents, God abode in one also; when in conflict, God presented Himself as Captain of the Lord's host; when settled in peace, God establishes Himself in the house of His glory Christ also, since we were born of woman, is born of a woman; since His people were under the law, is born under the law; and now that He will have a heavenly people, He is on high for us.

The cross has come in and closed the history of man as a lost sinner, and begun the history of the accepted man - that is, of Christ.

God is light, and the Church is the perfect prism, in which the light of God brings out in detail all the beauties of His glory.

Just as every poor sinner has been driven out of the earthly paradise, because sin is complete in the first Adam, so am I taken out of this world into the heavenly paradise in the last Adam, because righteousness is complete.