Christian Warfare: February 2012

Table of Contents

1. Christian Warfare
2. The Lord’s Host
3. The Soldier of Christ
4. Conflict or Compromise
5. Trained and Armed
6. Abigail  -  Grace for the Conflict
7. Lessons in Defeat
8. Christian Warfare
9. Our Warfare
10. Courage
11. We Rest on Thee

Christian Warfare

Christians are called to be soldiers and must engage in spiritual warfare. We have to fight for every inch of heavenly ground. What the Canaanites were to Israel, the wicked spirits in the heavenlies are to us. We are not called to fight for eternal life; we have that as God’s free gift, before we begin. We are not called to fight for salvation; we are saved before we enter upon the conflict. It is most needful to know what it is that we have to fight for and whom we are to fight with. The object for which we fight is to make good, maintain and carry out practically our heavenly position and character in the circumstances of daily life. And as our spiritual foes during this present time are permitted to occupy the heavenlies, “we wrestle not against flesh and blood” — as Israel had to do in Canaan — “but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against wicked spirits in the heavenlies.”
In Ephesians 6 a Christian warrior is seen putting on his armor. The inward man is to be governed by “truth,” the outward conduct characterized by real, practical “righteousness,” the moral habits and ways marked by the sweet “peace” of the gospel, the whole man covered by the impenetrable shield of “faith,” the seat of the understanding guarded by the full assurance of “salvation,” and the heart continually sustained and strengthened by persevering prayer and supplication and led forth in earnest intercession for all saints.
C. H. Mackintosh, adapted

The Lord’s Host

It might seem a little strange that conflict has such a prominent place given to it in the Epistle to the Ephesians. We find here the fullest revelation of our position and the walk of the Christian, but here also we are especially found to be in conflict, and we are called to put on “the whole armor of God.” Indeed, we never get into such a conflict as this until we know our privileges. In Galatians we have conflict, but not the privileges of the church, for the flesh is not the same thing as wicked spirits. But take the saints out of the world, make them vessels meet for the Master’s service, and that is the very reason they get into the conflict. If we have got hold of the place of privilege in which we stand, we must get into the conflict. If you cross the Jordan, you must meet the Canaanite and the Perizzite. We all know something of wilderness exercise—discovering what is in our hearts — but it is when we have got into the land that we get into the conflict.
We have “died with Him,” which is just what Jordan is a picture of, and we are “made to sit together in heavenly places with Christ.” It is the place of every Christian, but many do not realize it. Many are questioning whether they are not yet in Egypt and are looking at the blood. But in the Red Sea I get the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; the judgment which has fallen upon the Egyptians has saved me. Just as I (and every poor sinner in Adam) was driven out of an earthly paradise because of sin, so I am raised up and put into a heavenly paradise because of righteousness. Passing through the wilderness we have exercises of heart, but then we come to Jordan, we pass death, so to speak, and the land is ours; we eat the old corn of the land.
The Wilderness and the Land
You get the two places—the wilderness and the land — all through this epistle. He sets us there in our place (of course we are here in our bodies), but you come to this fact: The enemy is here. We have our place in Him, but His enemies are not yet put under His feet. The effect is to put us into conflict. You will hear people talk of Jordan being death and Canaan being heaven, but, in reality, what characterizes the land is conflict.
Those who enter the land are so completely the Lord’s that He uses them for conflict against His enemies. How can they fight the Lord’s battles if they are in the flesh? So if we are to have success in these battles, we must be practically dead. The Apostle fought them by keeping all that was of Paul completely down, so that nothing of Paul appeared. He always bore about in his body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in his mortal body. A man that is dead and risen again has nothing to do with this world. Associated with the Lord in those heavenly places, we are the witness and testimony of what He is there.
Our State and Activity
In looking at these parts of the armor, we get first the subjective parts — that is to say, our state comes first, and then comes the activity. There is no divine activity until God has been divinely active with us. Christ comes and brings all that is divine and heavenly in a man right into contact with all that is wrong in man. The truth of God now revealed in the New Testament is brought right into men’s hearts, and when it is effectually applied I get the girdle of truth about my loins; my heart is entirely subject to a heavenly word. Whenever I get into this state, there is conflict, but now my condition is the effect of truth; the affections are right, for my heart is in the truth.
The Pieces of Armor
“Having on the breastplate of righteousness” is practical; it is not righteousness with God. But if I am going to preach Christ and one can say of me, “Why, here is a man preaching who is worse than his neighbors,” Satan will take hold of it immediately. We must have on the breastplate of righteousness; the soul and walk must be right.
Next, my feet are to be “shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” Selfishness is a contending thing; it says, I must maintain my rights. But the Christian carries peace, because he has peace within; he carries through the world the spirit and character of Christ. Because He had His loins girt about with truth perfectly and had on the breastplate of righteousness perfectly, He could walk through this world in perfect peace. We too can walk untouched through everything that man can bring against us, if our feet are shod.
When the heart is right in the first three pieces, we can take up “the shield of faith.” There is blessed confidence in God. Satan may do what he can; he may lurk in secret places, but he cannot break through my shield of faith. He has done his best to seduce and to dismay, but Christ in His standing for us has completely overcome him. The command is, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you,” not overcome him. If he is once honestly resisted, he has met Christ in us, and at once he runs away. He never can get through confidence in God, for the shield of faith is up, and he can do nothing.
Now comes the “helmet of salvation.” It is the defensive armor that comes first and the state of the soul. Many a one has gotten into activity without knowing himself, but with this “helmet of salvation” on, he can hold his head up, he knows that salvation is his, and that on to the glory is his portion. He is a man in Christ (all that is a settled thing), and now he takes “the sword of the Spirit”; he can set about the fight. The first great thing, if we are to be active in the service of the Lord, is that we are to be perfectly right with the Lord. It is the man who has the secret of the Lord in power in his own soul who can go out in service. He will not be distracted with other thoughts; he has the secret of the Lord.
“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.” These two always run together. Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His words: the word of God and prayer. The moment I understand that the conflict is against Satan and his wiles, I find that half the battle has to be carried on with God. We find the Lord Himself in Gethsemane earnestly praying, and when the conflict came, He was perfectly calm. Peter, who was sleeping, cursed and swore he did not know Him. True earnestness and supplication come from our being involved in God’s interests in the world.
The blessed Lord went down to where we were — was made sin for us in the lower parts of the earth, with all Satan’s power against Him. Having ascended up on high, He takes us so entirely out of the hands of the enemy that He sets us in a place where we have the same interests as Christ — a most blessed place, if only we have the power to hold it. But the more we are in the forefront of the battle, the more we are exposed to the fiery darts, and no place calls for more dependence on Christ than when we are exposed in this way. This leads us to constant, unceasing dependence and prayer, not only for ourselves, but for all saints. If I am walking with God, I will not only pray for myself, but will be in continued intercession for all saints.
When I have passed the Jordan and the reproach of this world is rolled away, I can be in the Lord’s host. In this position, it is not learning or human wisdom, but rather the wiles of Satan that we have to fear. The moment we get out of the conscious presence of God we are in danger. But with the armor of God, we can count on God and not only walk safely, but ever be gaining ground on Satan.
J. N. Darby, adapted

The Soldier of Christ

The establishment of the Christian in grace is necessary before he can be an effective soldier of Christ. God’s work for the believer must be rested in and His work in him must be unhindered before the soldier of Christ is fit to fight for Him. A child of God, doubting his sonship or engaged in spiritual struggles with himself cannot be an effective soldier of Christ. He may wear the uniform, but he is unable to take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, and wield it in the might of the Lord, for as long as “I” is the burden of the soul, offensive warfare is impossible. One who is struggling with himself saying, “What I would, that do I not,” “but the evil which I would not, that I do,” is not standing in Christian liberty and is unprepared for spiritual conflict.
Moreover, if Christian liberty is known as a matter of faith through grace, there must be holy living in order to maintain spiritual conflict. A right state before God is requisite, as well as faith in our being blessed in Christ. Subjection to God and obedience to the Scriptures are necessities for true Christian warfare. We must walk with God if we are going to wage war for God. Suppose the Spirit who indwells us is striving with us because our ways are not pleasing to God, could we be truly contending for God at such a moment? Impossible. There may be a semblance of true conflict in such a case, but it will be but the semblance. Being a Christian soldier demands both that we have faith in what God has wrought for us and that we yield to His ways of working in us.
Soldiers of Christ, stir up the soul to courage! Christian courage has an impact on adversaries as nothing else does. Christian courage is the firstborn son of faith. Also, let us stir up our souls to endure hardness. Warriors do not fight upon featherbeds, nor are they stretched at ease in arm chairs; the Christian soldier must expect hardship. Moreover, he must not entangle himself with the affairs of this life, but please Him who has called him to be a soldier. Life’s duties must be honorably performed, but we are forbidden to entangle ourselves with them. There are many “indispensables,” as they are called, which are really entanglements and which a Christian, zealous for Christ, learns to discard. He cannot afford to be occupied with them during the few hours of active service he is called to on earth. Like the athlete, he lays aside every weight. Weights and entanglements are sore hindrances to Christian service. Anything that keeps the mind busy, to the exclusion of Christ’s interests, should be suspected.
The Front Line
In Christian conflict, the armed men proceed in the front; the others in the gathering make up the rear. God has always His front-rank men — men able to use the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God — men who expose themselves to Satan’s attacks.
A good soldier loves his profession, and a true Christian soldier loves Christian warfare; it is his joy, his delight, to take pleasure in hardships and weariness. He enjoys what featherbed Christians regard as self-inflicted penance, or as unnecessary trouble. Forward, ever forward, is his cry. It is no burden to him, but rather his happy service, to spend and to be spent for his Lord; it is heavenly rapture to him when sinners are made captive for Christ, when Satan-bound souls are loosed and pass from death unto life, from the power of Satan to God. Idleness and ease are a distress to the one who is driven by eternal prospects, energized by the Holy Spirit, and constrained by Christ’s love. “Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” is his reply to the countless efforts to damp his ardor and to quench his zeal. Eternity, eternity, he whispers to himself, when his weary body almost resents carrying out the orders of his soul. Such a spirit marks the front-rank men. May God bring Christ’s soldiers to the front, and, especially, may the young Christian who reads this page be fired up by the prospects of eternity and be filled with holy zeal the entire period of his short life below.
Expectation is the offspring of faith; small expectations are born of small faith, but when God is before the soul, expectation of blessing exists, and results follow. We do not say immediate results are always visible, but working for God without expecting Him to bless is like sowing seed without looking for the harvest, or firing at a fortress without hoping to hit it.
An army without faith in its leaders is sure to be discomfited. Christian soldiers without faith in their Lord do not strike good blows. Alas for the pointless, aimless, self-satisfied routine which goes by the name of fighting for God! Such parade duty is not real warfare. The untutored eye may consider both very much alike; however, when men fall down wounded and cry for mercy, we know it is not the effect of mere human energy, but the work of God the Holy Spirit.
The notes of our trumpets of jubilee, like those of Israel, are few and simple: Christ is coming! Christ is coming! But they are notes of joy uttered from the heart by true souls who long for the Lord and His return. Even though there are great walls of infidelity and superstition of men of this world who boast of this world’s improvements and development, Christ is coming! Let reasoners say, Since the fathers fell asleep all things continue as they were. The answer of the Christian, to all the arguments of unbelief, is, with notes of love and joy, Christ is coming!
The power of Satan cannot be overcome save in divinely given strength, and whatever the zeal and the fervor of God’s saints, prayer is their constant need. “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance” (Eph. 6:18) is what God enjoins upon the soldier of Christ.
The shout of victory will soon be heard! The Lord will give the word, and then the defenses of evil will fall before Him. When men shall say, “Peace and safety,” then sudden destruction will come upon them. In the prospect of that day, let every man go up straight before Him, for there is too much of following leaders and too little of simple obedience to the Lord among the soldiers of Jesus Christ. Men crowd on one another’s steps, and the nobleness of individuality is lacking, few daring to brave the sneer of being peculiar in doing each his own duty in obedience to the word of the Lord.
H. F. Witherby, adapted

Conflict or Compromise

Right from the time that sin entered this world, those who have wanted to live for God’s glory have had to face opposition and conflict. Abel’s sacrifice excited the hatred of his brother Cain; later, faithful men like Noah and Abraham found themselves at variance with the world around them. Scripture notes that when the occasion demanded, Abraham’s servants were already “trained and armed” (Gen. 14:14). When Israel entered the land of Canaan, they had to engage in conflict, if they were to possess and enjoy the land.
The Lord Jesus came into this world as “the Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6), but when He was rejected, He said to His followers, “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division” (Luke 12:51). In Christianity, under the full light of the revelation of God in Christ, we are not called to physical warfare, for “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal” (2 Cor. 10:4). Rather, we are called to a spiritual warfare, a warfare which is just as real and just as deadly as physical combat. If we are going to walk with God and obey the injunction to “hold that fast which thou hast” (Rev. 3:11), then Christian warfare will be inevitable.
The Conflict
True Christian conflict is brought before us in Ephesians, where the believer is exhorted to “put on the whole armor of God,” in order to be able to withstand “principalities and powers,” “the universal lords of this darkness,” and “spiritual power of wickedness in the heavenlies” (Eph. 6:12 JND). This refers to Satan and his hosts, who seek to rob the believer of his joy in Christ, of the enjoyment of his heavenly blessings, and also of his ability to be a testimony for Christ in this world.
While this warfare is a necessary part of the Christian life, it is often either avoided or perhaps carried out in the wrong way. On the one hand, because some dear believers have not practiced self-judgment properly in their private lives, such things as unjudged sin, wrong attitudes and a difficult personality may cause them to defend the truth of God in a wrong spirit. Such warfare may use fleshly means, and the result is to turn hearts away from the truth rather than to commend it. Such believers may be in the right position, but their condition is wrong.
Peace at Any Price
Others, having seen such a wrong spirit in warfare, may go to the opposite extreme and want “peace at any price,” even if it is at the expense of truth. Since contending “for the faith once delivered to the saints” is hard work and sometimes uncomfortable, some would rather avoid it. Others may take a similar attitude, excusing themselves by saying that Christianity should be characterized by love, not conflict. Still others would allow conflict with the world, but object to any disagreement with fellow Christians, except in extreme circumstances. In these last days, it is also easy to fear defeat, as we see the collective testimony growing weaker and a general giving up of what was once held dear.
We see this warfare illustrated for us in Luke 14:31-32, where one king with only 10,000 men is faced with the prospect of doing battle against another king with 20,000. As Scripture points out, it might well be prudent for the king with only 10,000 to sue for peace, rather than risk defeat at the hands of the enemy. If the king with 10,000 represents the believer, then surely the king with 20,000 is Satan, and many dear Christians are prompted to make peace with him when they perceive that he is too strong for them. However, it is easy to see that any peace under such circumstances would certainly favor Satan rather than the believer, and it is in this way that he often gets us to compromise.
What, then, is the answer? Must Christian warfare be avoided, or must it be carried out in human energy? The answer is found in the Word of God, which encourages us to go on to victory. We read in 2 Timothy 1:7 that “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” Also, in Ephesians 6:10, we are told to “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.” The battle is the Lord’s, and in His strength we can gain the victory. We cannot go out in our own strength; if we try to do so, we will find ourselves defeated, like Israel at Ai (Josh. 7:1-4). It is only in complete dependence on the Lord and in renouncing all human means that we can draw on His power. But in His strength, victory is assured, no matter what the power of the enemy might be.
Individual and Collective Warfare
This brings us to a consideration of individual and collective warfare, and also private and public conflict. We notice in Ephesians 6 that most of the armor of God is defensive. This part of the armor must be put on privately and as individuals. It must be put on every day, and we must be careful to put on the whole armor of God. We read in Romans 8:7 (JND) that “the mind of the flesh is enmity against God,” and we find that we must be continually “casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God” (2 Cor. 10:5). It is only with the whole armor of God that we can do this. We cannot allow in our lives what is inconsistent with the light we have received, and the moment we do so, we give Satan an advantage over us. But with the whole armor in place, we do not need to succumb to “the wiles of the devil” (Eph. 6:11).
When we have put on the armor of God individually and taken up Christian warfare in our private lives, the result will be seen publicly, and we will be able effectively to wield “the sword of the Spirit.” But while it is the Word of God which we hold in our hands, it is the sword of the Spirit; it is not ours to use in human energy. Rather, it is the Word of God which we have read, digested, and walked in; this is our sword. What we may know intellectually as head knowledge cannot be used by the Spirit; God’s Word must be a living reality in our lives. What a need there is today for those who will engage in Christian warfare privately, as David did with the lion and bear, and who will then be able to win great victories publicly, as David did with Goliath! In each case the power was the same, for it came from the Lord; it did not matter whether it was a lion, a bear or Goliath. If we are willing to engage in private warfare, we will have His strength to face public conflict.
The Collective Testimony
But there is a need for collective warfare too, and this is often neglected. The sin of one man was enough to occasion Israel’s defeat at the hands of Ai, for the Lord could say, “Israel hath sinned” (Josh. 7:11). So also today, the sin of one may well affect a whole company of believers. We do not read exactly of collective conflict in Scripture, but we know that Satan is attacking the collective testimony as never before. While Satan surely does not know when the Lord is coming for His own, yet he doubtless realizes in these last days that “he hath but a short time” (Rev. 12:12). If believers seek, as individuals, to enjoy their heavenly blessings and to live for God’s glory in this world, they will be a special object of Satan’s fury. So it will be also when believers seek to express the whole truth of God in a collective way and to exhibit the precious truth of the one body.
We have already mentioned the sad difficulties that Satan has brought in among God’s people down through the ages. These difficulties are allowed of the Lord, for our state collectively is only a reflection of what we are as individuals. Sometimes we may blame others for the collective failure, when we should be examining our own hearts as to how faithfully we have put on the whole armor of God and how diligent we have been in preparing for warfare. In 2 Chronicles 14 we read of Asa, who used the ten quiet years to accomplish two important things: He removed all the trappings of idolatry in the land, and he built fortifications. He also made sure that his army was well prepared for war. As a result, when war did come, he was ready, and in relying on the Lord, he achieved one of the greatest victories in the Old Testament. So we as believers should use times of peace and quiet in our lives to deal with those things which are not consistent with communion with the Lord and to build ourselves up in the things of the Lord, in preparation for the warfare that will surely come. All too often we are complacent, and thus we find ourselves unprepared when conflict begins.
In summary, then, let us remember that conflict in the Christian life is inevitable, if we are to live for God’s glory in a world of sin and Satan. Let us remember that individual, private warfare is most important and that all public and collective victory ultimately rests on this. Let us be willing to face the enemy, even in these last days, and not compromise in order to have an easier path. At the end of his life, Paul could say, “I have combated the good combat.  ...  I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7 JND). There is no reason why we cannot do this too, for the Lord is the same.
W. J. Prost

Trained and Armed

“Abram armed his trained servants” and conquered the enemy. I believe there is a special need for Christians in the present day to be “trained” and “armed.” What is the training, and what are the arms for us? I ask my own heart, as I see some that have been carried away by the enemy, “Am I well armed?” And I ask, Are you disciplined and armed, so that you are not in danger of being carried away by some device of the enemy? This is the question for us. We must see to it that we are armed; Lot was not, and many Christians are not. The Ephesians were exhorted by the Apostle Paul to take the whole armor of God. Peter also warns the saints, “Forasmuch as Christ also hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind” (1 Peter 4:1). And why do we need these exhortations, if we are already armed? The answer brings before us the key to the whole matter. The One who trod this earth before us, to whom Peter refers, is the Lord. Never did the enemy get an advantage over Him or turn Him aside from a right path. We are to be armed with the same mind. What mind was in Him? Philippians 2 reveals it to us. He would obey, and He would serve; He would do only the will of God. Only by giving up my will can I be like Christ, for Christ did God’s will. Both obedience and submission must be true of us if we are fully to follow Him.
Lot is an example of one who was carried away a captive to his own will, and thus he was in the hands of the enemy (though doubtless unknown to himself) long before the occasion of Genesis 14. He made a deliberate choice of what was easiest to nature in chapter 13. But there came a special time of trial to Lot and his house which brought it all out. God allows such special trials to come, for our profit.
The Apostle Arming Timothy
It is very touching to notice the tender solicitude of the Apostle Paul, the aged servant of the Lord, toward those he was leaving behind. He was putting off the armor himself. He said, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” He was training and putting the armor on Timothy. He says there must be self-restraint and endurance. “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life.” We must not stop fighting; giving up in this conflict will cause us to become entangled 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.” Concerning others, he said, “From such 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. He is arming the man of God as one who knew well the subtle power of the enemy and the value and necessity of such armor. Without this armor no one can be a man of God, “throughly furnished unto all good works.”
Like the Lord Jesus
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 to go through this world like Christ? Then you must be like Him. 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.” Without these things you are only providing the enemy with a means and a weapon against you, which sooner or later he will use. But inasmuch as we are like Christ, He will not only use us, but also continue to preserve us, to the glory and praise of His holy name. But the battle is not over yet, and “let not him that girdeth on his harness boast himself as he that putteth it off” (1 Kings 20:11).
The Christian Friend

Abigail  -  Grace for the Conflict

It is needful that the soul be established in grace in order to have practical communion with the mind of God, while the conflict remains between the flesh and the Spirit. Satan seeks to hide the simplicity of this grace.
We read of the Apostle Paul saying, “By the grace of God I am what I am: and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Cor. 15:10). The Lord desires that we should abundantly serve Him in the midst of Satan’s world — having, it may be, to conflict not only with evil in ourselves, but with evil in others. Nothing but His grace can enable us to do this; it is as much the “grace of God” that has given us to serve and the “grace of God” that strengthens for service as it was the “grace of God” that saved us in the beginning.
David was like many of us when anything comes upon us unexpectedly; he was unprepared to meet in steadfastness of grace that which God allowed in his path. No doubt he considered the slight and dishonor put upon him by Nabal “most uncalled for,” “most unjust.” But he was wrongly roused. How often this is the case with the saints of God! They dwell on circumstances, instead of turning from circumstances to God and then acting amidst them according to Him. They say, How unkind! How unjust! Thus the place of grace is lost. Day by day a thousand things act on our spirits in one way or another, which are calculated to produce trying and painful effects. Now, if these be met in fellowship with God, they afford an occasion for bringing forth blessed fruit, but if not, we ourselves become contaminated and have to confess sin, so that instead of, as the hymn says, “Satan trembling and fleeing from us in every conflict,” he often thus gains advantage over us. It is a blessed thing to be able to praise God for having enabled us practically to triumph and overcome, and this we should seek to attain. The Apostle Paul could say, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith,” and “none of these things move me.” We can always praise God for what He is in Himself and for what He has made us in Christ, but we might also praise Him for our own practical victory over Satan and over the world.
In considering David, we see he was in danger, not only of not overcoming, but of being overcome and falling into deep sin. He did not act, as the servant of God, bearing meekly Nabal’s taunts and cutting reproach. It was in the spirit of his wounded pride.
There was one, however, in the house of Nabal, of altogether a different character to Nabal; one who belonged to the Lord — a woman of faith. Abigail was able to discern in David, though he was outcast and a needy wanderer, the anointed one of the God of Israel. She saw him as the one whom God was about to bring to greatness, as the chosen head of His people. Abigail was able to look on the path of David with the eye of faith and see the hour of his glory. Now this shows that her soul was deeply taught of God.
Abigail, in her place of quiet retirement, stood much more in the place of communion with the truth than David. She was able to check the wrong feeling of even the man of faith. While David was lost, as it were, in the mist of his own thoughts, Abigail brought in the clear light of the truth to bear on his actions. And David owned and thanked God for her counsel. “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, which sent thee this day to meet me: and blessed be thy advice, and blessed be thou, which hast kept me this day from coming to shed blood, and from avenging myself with mine own hand” (1 Sam. 25:32-33). These were the words of David, when aware of the sin in which his pride had set him.
Observe the teaching of God; Abigail took the blessed place of intercession. David, in his wrath, was just about to give the blow, to avenge himself with his own hand, instead of leaving the case in the hand of God. Now this would have taken away one of the most blessed features in the character of David — leaving all things to God. In Abigail’s words we see the strong power of faith. She said, “The soul of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of life with the Lord thy God; and the souls of thine enemies, them shall He sling out, as out of the middle of a sling. And it shall come to pass, when the Lord shall have done to my lord according to all the good that He hath spoken concerning thee, and shall have appointed thee ruler over Israel, that this shall be no grief unto thee, nor offence of heart unto my lord, either that thou hast shed blood causeless, or that my lord hath avenged himself: but when the Lord shall have dealt well with my lord, then remember thine handmaid” (vss. 29-31).
If David had looked forward to the time of his glory, he would never have thought of raising his hand to give the blow. The place of faith is always to look beyond present circumstances, on to the time of the end; then we begin to see and judge of things according to God. Thus it was with Abigail. And when we realize our association with God and the appointed end of glory, we shall act as she did. In the most trying things which happen to us, if we can by faith associate ourselves with God, if we can see Him with us as our friend, the One who has said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, saith the Lord,” we shall never feel disposed to avenge ourselves or think of anything, save intercession, as it regards those who may have grieved and wronged us. The present actions of God are in grace and mercy. We should rather seek to bring down and subdue and melt. “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” There is nothing so suitable now as taking the place of grace and desiring to bring under its power whatever meets us individually.
The Christian Friend, adapted

Lessons in Defeat

 Defeat in Christian warfare is often the result of absence of care in the hour of success. In Joshua 7, practical considerations essential to Christian warfare open up to us. The conduct of Israel before Jericho teaches what the behavior of the soldiers of Jesus Christ should be in the world, while the lessons of Ai show what Christian conflict too frequently is, in its actual workings. Before victory, among God’s people there is invariably dependence on God and prayerful following of His Word. But such are our hearts that, in the very victory God gives us, we are apt to begin to trust in self. This absence of care in the hour of success leads to defeats.
The Defeat at Ai
In God’s history of events before Ai, God points out the evil hidden in the midst of Israel long before they discovered its presence. Had they been walking humbly, they would have sought God before the battle, and He would have indicated that evil was among them. But their pride prevented dependence on God. No evil can be hidden in our individual hearts or among a company of God’s people of which He is ignorant. No deception, no lie, is compatible with God’s presence or with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and if we do not feel the evil among us, we are not in communion with God. In the absence of this godly state of soul, God allows the evil to develop, for He never alters His principles of government because of His grace. Eventually, in their misery, His people at length are so humiliated that they are forced to humble themselves. Then, once more, the watchful and prayerful spirit is found, and God again allows victory.
Israel looked at Ai as contemptible and went ahead, not knowing that their sin had separated them from God. In defeat their courage, built on self-confidence, broke down completely: “The hearts of the people melted and became as water.”
Despair in Defeat
Self-confidence in battle leads to despair after defeat, while those who draw upon divine resources strengthen themselves in God in the day of trouble. Adversity and anguish in natural things bring out real moral greatness in men; so in divine things the really great spirit is manifest when everything seems to be adverse. David, in his dark hour, encouraged himself in the Lord his God. Joshua seems almost to blame God for the defeat, for usually the last place we are apt to search for the cause of our defeat is the state of our own souls.
When Joshua had reached the very depth of his lamentation, he addressed the name of Jehovah, saying, “What wilt Thou do unto Thy great name?” This question called forth the answer of Jehovah as to the cause of Israel’s trouble. To all appearances the defeat denied the greatness of the name of their God, but to spiritual understanding the truth is evident that the honor of the name of the Lord demands purity in His people.
The spirit which chafes under defeat will not recognize the cause of defeat — “Israel hath sinned.” God allows the Amorite, against whom we contend, to smite us when we trifle with sin, and in this way He allows Satan to sift His saints. If evil is allowed among God’s people and pride in their hearts, we need not be surprised that, when striving with spiritual wickedness in heavenly places, Satan becomes God’s sword against His own people.
Corporate Responsibility
The corporate responsibility of the nation is here shown unmistakably. Likewise, Christian corporate responsibility cannot be ignored, for we are not isolated units in the army of God. The acts of one affect others. In Achan they had not only sinned; they had transgressed a plain command. Achan was a prince in Israel, and it is often through the leaders, and not through the rank and file of God’s army, that sin and sorrow are introduced. He coveted the garment of Shinar, the silver, and the wedge of gold, and he hid them in his tent; thus were found in the midst of Israel the very things God commanded not to be touched.
Longings after the goodly Babylonish garment, after self-glorification, and thereby robbing God of His glory, are all too common. Too many soldiers of the Lord in heaven have this buried in their tents, but God sees us as we really are. The greater the profession of holiness and separation to God a Christian makes, the more urgent upon him is God’s demand for practical resemblance to Jesus our Lord. If we recognize our blessings in the heavenly places in Christ and if we assert that we are dead and risen with Christ as to the world, all the more terrible will be our reaping day, should we do the very things our doctrines deny. God acted in a similar way in the early days of Christianity, in bringing to light the secret sin of Ananias and Sapphira.
Sanctify Yourselves
In the solemn lessons to be gathered from this scene, let us not neglect these words of the Lord to defeated Israel: “Sanctify yourselves.” Their own hands were to cast out the sin from their midst, before they could again wield the sword. The casting out of the evil was the only way whereby God would again be among them. Most Christians who have lived to mid-life have seen men, once valiant for God and used by Him, lying under His stern hand of government, unused and disowned, because they have not heeded His word, “Sanctify yourselves.”
In his energy, “Joshua rose up early in the morning,” and the transgressor was in due course manifested. Where men are honest in their desire to clear themselves from iniquity, God will enable them to discover the sin, and, more than this, the force of God’s presence draws out from man the confession of sin. If the root is not discovered, the reason is that God is staying His hand because of the carnal state of His people. It is impossible to be before God and not to be absolutely truthful. Where the saints of God are truly before His face, hidden evils among God’s people are exposed, confessed and cast out.
As all Israel was involved in the dishonor done to Jehovah by Achan, so all Israel joined hands in clearing their camp. Then we read, “Wherefore the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor [trouble], unto this day” (Josh. 7:26). But this same valley is mentioned in Hosea 2:15, “I will give her  ...  the valley of Achor for a door of hope,” and the valley of Achor is the door of hope for God’s people still. Through that valley, where stands the witness of iniquity cast out and the memory of our shame, remains to this day the pathway to blessing. Weeping over our pride and putting away from us our sins always lead to renewed victories. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
H. F. Witherby, adapted

Christian Warfare

When we allow ourselves to be cast down by the state of the church and its prevailing evil, we are apt to think that it is no longer any use to fight and that our part should be exclusively that of the 7000 hidden ones who had not bowed the knee to Baal (1 Kings 19). This is a serious mistake. There are Elijahs in days of ruin, and conflict is more than ever needed. Christian warfare is not, it is true, waged against flesh and blood, as with Israel, but against wicked spirits in the heavenly places (Eph. 6:12 JND). This satanic power is always at work to hinder our taking possession of heavenly things and to bring the people of God into bondage. We fight then either to conquer or to deliver. In Joshua and Ephesians the conflict is to put us in possession of our privileges; in Judges and 2 Timothy the warfare is more especially for the deliverance of the people of God. “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ,” says the Apostle to his faithful disciple (2 Tim. 2:3). “Endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist,” he says further on, adding, “I have fought a good fight” (2 Tim. 4:5,7).
What goodness it is on God’s part, in a day of universal weakness, to have allowed the enemy to continue, that we might learn what warfare is! Christian conflict will never cease on earth, but the Lord says, “Put your trust in Me; I have set before you an open door, and I will recompense the overcomer.” May God give us to take to heart the deliverance of His people, in seeking to reach souls by the gospel and in setting them free from their chains of bondage by the two-edged sword of the Spirit.
H. L. Rossier

Our Warfare

What is the difference between the fighting in the wilderness and the fighting in Canaan, as applied to us?
In the wilderness I say I am going on to rest, to Canaan, or to occupy heavenly ground. Here I have to meet Amalek and Balaam, who seek to stop me in my pilgrim course, the one by active opposition and the other by seduction.
In Canaan I say that I “am come” (Deut. 26:3) into the blessing, and I take the ground and character (the armor) of a heavenly man on earth. Then I have to meet all the power of the devil, who will contest this matter with me. I have to meet his wiles or his darts, but then it is as “strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.” It is not a question of my ability to meet the enemy. The conflict in heavenly places (which we should know now) is between Christ and Satan. I am there for Christ. In the wilderness the struggle is with Satan using the flesh; in the land, the flesh is ignored. It does not cross Jordan.
H. C. A.


Many have not the courage to go on in God’s warfare, because they hold on to something which is inconsistent with the light they have received. Perhaps, alas! they lose the light which they have not acted up to, and Satan is able to bring their mind under the darkness of his good reasons for staying where they are without conquering more territory from him.
J. N. Darby

We Rest on Thee

We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender;
We go not forth alone against the foe;
Strong in Thy strength, safe in Thy keeping
We rest on Thee, and in Thy name we go.
Yea, in Thy name, O Captain of salvation!
In Thy dear name, all other names above;
Jesus our Righteousness, our sure Foundation,
Our Prince of glory, with His heart of love.
We go in faith, our own great weakness
And needing more each day Thy grace to
Yet from our hearts a song of triumph pealing;
We rest on Thee, and in Thy name we go.
We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender:
Thine is the battle; Thine shall be the praise
When reigning with Thee in that glorious
Victors, we rest with Thee, through endless
E. G. Cherry