"What meaneth … this bleating of the sheep … and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?"

1 Samuel 15.

H. C. Anstey.

Christian Friend vol. 17, 1890, p. 189.

It is important to remember that we "are not under the law, but under grace." Israel was under grace when Amalek came and fought against them. (Exodus 17.) They had not yet placed themselves under the responsibility of keeping the law, and thus made themselves dependent for blessing on their own obedience.

Now, though we are "not under the law, but under grace," the flesh is not changed. The old nature remains, and Amalek (a type of Satan) can still use it. The Lord had in grace given them water, a supply for the desert, in verse 6, as He has also in perfect grace given to us the Holy Spirit. Amalek opposes at once this state of things. The people overcame by the intercession of Moses, as we overcome by the intercession of Christ; but the Lord swears that He "will have war with Amalek" - that is, with Satan - "from generation to generation." Only Moses' hands were heavy, and he had to be sustained, and the victory was ebbing and flowing. Christ is never thus; and hence the Christian dependent on Him can always say, "We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us." (Rom. 8:37.)

All our troubles, individual trials as well as conflicts in the Church, come through the flesh. Satan would be no trial to us, did not the flesh exist, on which he can and does act. I ought to treat the promptings of the flesh in me as Satan (Amalek), God's enemy and mine. It was thus the Lord treated it in Peter. Apparently affection, or pity, or amiability; yet the Lord says, "Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men." (Matthew 16.)

Do we thus treat the suggestions of the flesh? Alas! no; and hence "this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear." Amalek is spared, for the flesh is spared; and the disturbed and disturbing clang of voices in the camp comes from that which is spared, and which ought to be judged. Ah! but you say, Is there nothing good in me? One has said, "I know that in me (that is, in my flesh), dwelleth no good thing." But we are ready to respond, "I do not know it. Is not my morality, or my industry, or my religion to be of some account?" Saul thought so. He thought there was a best and a worst side to be considered, as you do; and while he would not defend the worst, he pleaded for and spared the best. Do you think Satan has a best side in the eyes of God? The flesh came from Satan, not from God. But "Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good." Why? "To sacrifice unto the Lord thy God," he says to Samuel, "in Gilgal." Yet God had said, "Go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have." Something "good" from this flesh of mine for God! Something I can excuse. A corner in my heart on which I write, "This is reserved from judgment" This thing is not, in God's account, wholly gone in the cross! Alas! it is easy to write and exhort. But what are we going to do? What am I sparing which you know nothing about? What are you allowing which I know nothing of? We are hindering if we are not helping the peace of the whole company.

And to spare the flesh, though only in its best form, is to spare "Agag the king of the Amalekites." Ah! you had no thought of sparing him - God's great enemy - when you pitied yourself, and allowed the flesh, in its politest and gentlest form, a little space. Is it any wonder that there is a disturbed clang of voices in the camp, where God dwells among His people? or that there should be confusion in your own soul? Ishmael is allowed a place in that house, and there is no quiet or peace known in it. "As then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now."

Do you not hear "this bleating of the sheep … and the lowing of the oxen"? What means it in your own heart? What means it among God's people? May we be willing to take the true place of owning that we have ministered to this state of things, and judge ourselves in His presence who smites us, but only that He may heal us; that in private and in ways unknown to each other the flesh has been spared, and hence the multitude of voices filling the air. God cannot accept that which we spare. The word to us is, "Thou hast rejected the word of the Lord." Oh, may the Lord give us to be simple, and to be real in private and individually, as to these things! H. C. A.