1 Samuel 22:20-23
The core of the salvation that we spoke of in the reading is centred in one Person, and that Person is the Lord Jesus. I want to say a little about the safe place that can be found in Christ where He is, and where He might lead. Particularly in mind is that comment of David’s, “Abide with me, fear not; . . . for with me thou art in safe keeping.” I would like to begin with looking afresh at the place of safety that the soul can find when it flees to Christ.
When the Lord Jesus was here, He invited persons to come to Him and find a place of safety and a place of refuge. How many took up that invitation, and found just as He said! The poor, the captives, the blind, the crushed (Luke 4:18) – not one of them was ever turned away! All found, just as He said, a place of safety and refuge in Him.
Think of the children coming to Him and being taken into His arms and blessed (Mark 10:16), and the outcasts of society being made welcome and made well. And even when He comes to Jerusalem and has to say of it, “The city that kills the prophets and stones those that are sent unto her,” you can see His yearnings that they would come to Him and find the safety and refuge that He offered: “How often would I have gathered thy children as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matthew 23:37). Luke presents Him weeping over Jerusalem, just giving us an insight into His feelings that they were missing the opportunity of the divine visitation (Luke 19:41‑44).
The Lord Jesus has gone on high, and He is still inviting persons to come to Him and find this place of safety and refuge. How wonderful! He says to persons, “Come to Me” (Matthew 11:28). And just as many came to the Lord Jesus when He was here, so He would invite you to come to Him today and find rest for your soul, to find that you can be safe in nearness to Him. He will not turn you away (John 6:37).
And so, even though He has gone on high, there is no difference in His appeal, in His desire, that you might find Him as a place of safety.
When He was here, the disciples found Him just like that. They found, despite the weakness of their faith, despite the disappointments, despite the discouragements, that there was always a resort in Christ that they could turn to. And so it is for us today: there is a resort in Him, whether for a sinner fleeing for refuge to Him, or for a believer who has been discouraged; we can find that He is available, His presence is available, as a place of calm and safety.
What a matter it is when a person realises that they are a sinner and discovers there is Someone they can flee to! And that person is the Saviour, the Lord Jesus. What a thrill to find there is Someone Who can meet the need of the sinner! This whole idea of fleeing for refuge is an urgent matter. It cannot brook delay. The word is, “Behold, now is the well-accepted time; behold, now the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). And that offer of salvation is open tonight, and it is centred in a glorious Person.
As many here would know, the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews compares and contrasts what existed under the systems set up under Moses and what has been established in Christianity, centred in Christ. And the analogy in this section I have read in Hebrews 6 brings us back to when the children of Israel crossed the Jordan into Canaan. And one of the instructions they were given was to appoint six cities of refuge: three on the Canaan side of the Jordan, and three on the wilderness side of the Jordan (Numbers 35:9-29). And the person who without intent slew another Israelite – that is, who slew him accidentally – could flee to any one of these cities, and, having made his case to the elders, could find a place of safety within that city of refuge. That was a provision of God’s grace for His people of old. And I understand that any one who found himself in such a situation could find one of the cities not more than 45 miles from where they were. Still, that was a long way if you were fleeing on foot with a pursuer after you!
But there was another condition for their benefiting from the city of refuge, and that was that they had to remain there until the death of the high priest. If they so much as ventured out of that city, the avenger of blood could seize them and put them to death. So there were conditions. How far greater is the offer in this dispensation! Not 45 miles to travel for refuge; not even one mile! But, by faith, you can pin your faith in Christ where He is, just where you are sitting on your seat, and, having that “anchor of the soul” firmly in Christ where He is, find that you are secure – that anchor is “secure and firm.” By simple faith, you and I can have that anchor cable fixed on Christ where He is. I think that is lovely!
And that anchor will never drag. The weary seaman longs for the safe haven where, in the midst of the storm, he can drop the anchor and be safe until the storm is past. But the anchor cable that fixes on Christ where He is, for the believer, is certain safety. Let the storms come, let the circumstances of life come as they will, let the pressures come; but the cable of faith that fixes me to that anchor, where Christ is, remains, in the language of this Scripture, secure and firm.
Think of the pressures that come on Christian life, the sorrows: sorrows of bereavement, sorrows of ill health, employment problems, pressures in many different ways. Paul, in Romans 8, homes in on some of these things: tribulation, famine, and so on. You know, there are some dear believers in this world today who are facing these things. But the anchor cable of faith cannot be severed by these things at all. It is firm and secure.
Paul, in that chapter – in Romans 8 – goes on to speak of that whole list of things that he is persuaded can never separate him – not even death – and he finishes, “Nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
So the Christian’s position is firm and secure, as fastened by faith to Christ where He is.
Where is He? Again, there is the analogy in the Old Testament. As you go back there, you find that only Aaron once a year – the high priest – could go inside the veil, and that “with blood not his own” (Hebrews 9:25); it was the blood of an animal. He went in there, but people could never approach. What a contrast the writer paints here, where Christ is, inside the veil! And where He is, is the place which will be the believer’s portion for all eternity. How wonderful that is!
Aaron was there as representing the people. He represented them as under instruction. But here in this Scripture it says, “And entering into that within the veil, where Jesus is entered as Forerunner for us.” Yes, Aaron was the people’s representative, but he was never the forerunner. But because Jesus is our Forerunner, it gives me the assurance that where He is, I shall be, and that for all eternity. Oh, the wonder of it, that the anchor of faith is secure and firm where Christ is!
The storms of life can be ferocious, but in no way will they ever sever that link of faith with Christ. If you are looking for a place of safety, dear friend, a place of refuge, the greatest place of safety in the whole universe is to be found where Jesus is. That can be your portion, your place of safety, right here and now, by simply putting your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The word in 1 Samuel is, “Abide with me, fear not; . . . for with me thou art in safe keeping.” What I want to speak of in connection with this Scripture is to find the safekeeping of the presence of Christ while we are in testimony. Life is real. Life is not just sitting in a company that are all friendly all the time. In life we face difficulties, we face problems, we face discouragements. And, as we face these situations, the word, not of David but of the Lord Jesus, to each one of us would be, ‘Abide with Me, do not be discouraged, for with Me thou art in safe keeping.’
Who was saying this? David, who was hounded and harried by a chasing Saul and his army. If Saul could do anything to find him and destroy him, he would do so. How could it be safekeeping in such a situation? Ah, but God was with David. And One greater than David would appeal to us as we face the problems of life and the difficulties that we encounter in the testimony here, and He would encourage us to abide with Him – would say, “With Me thou art in safe keeping.”
When He was here, as we have said already, the disciples found great safety in the presence of Christ. They found opposition, they found hostility all around. They must have been disturbed many a time. But retiring into His presence, they found a place of safety. Indeed, at one of the most critical points in the Lord Jesus’s pathway here, when the band came to take Him in the garden, He could say, “If therefore ye seek Me, let these go away” (John 18:8). Ah, what love, what care He had for these sheep of His flock! And when He spoke to His Father, He said to Him, “Those whom Thou hast given Me, I have not lost one of them,” save “the son of perdition” (John 18:9; 17:12). What a Shepherd of the sheep the Lord Jesus is, and He still acts with that Shepherd’s love and care towards us all even now!
But will we take up the invitation and abide with Him? The background to this Scripture is very sad. The Lord refers to it in the Gospels: the time when David and those with him hungered, and they went to Ahimelech the priest in their hunger, and they were given some of the bread that was not normally partaken of; and there in the presence of Ahimelech was this man Doeg the Edomite. And, of course, he went in his treachery and betrayed Ahimelech and the priests to Saul, and the result was that through Saul’s commandment these priests were all slain. That was the background to this Scripture. One of the priests found a way of escape, and came to David. Treachery is the order of the day. We live in difficult days, dear brethren. Even in a country that is professedly Christian, God’s word is disregarded; the fear of God is receding, day in, day out. That is the spirit of treachery – that is what it is.
But there is a way of escape, and that way of escape leads to Christ. The writer to the Hebrews speaks of it, later on; he speaks about the Lord Jesus, Who “suffered without the gate,” and he says, “Let us go forth to Him without the camp” (Hebrews 13:12‑13). Outside the camp, let us find Him. Let the attraction in our Christian life be Christ! It is not, in a sense, a company: the attraction for the believer must be Christ, to find Him where He is. And that is the attraction here: “Abide with me, fear not; . . . for with me thou art in safe keeping.”
It is a time of reproach, and a time of difficulty. It was mentioned in the reading about Moses “esteeming the reproach of the Christ” (Hebrews 11:26). If we seek Christ in the day of His reproach, it must involve that we share in the reproach of Christ. Here was a man who was prepared to share in the reproach of David. Are we prepared to share in the reproach of Christ?
It may mean difficulty at school, at college. It may mean having to say no at times. It may mean difficulty in employment. But if the attraction for us is Christ and our fidelity is to Him, He will see us through: “Abide with me, . . . for with me thou art in safe keeping.”
As I read this Scripture, I think of those women standing by the Cross in John’s Gospel. How ferocious the opposition was at the Cross of Christ! And these women took their stand by the Cross of Christ to share in the reproach of Christ. I wonder how prepared I am to take my share in the suffering of Jesus Christ. That was Paul’s word to Timothy, “Take thy share in suffering as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3).
So, despite the problems, despite the difficulties, let us respond to this invitation, “Abide with me.”
John gives us a different setting. He speaks of abiding in Christ and bearing fruit (John 15:4‑5). I think here in Samuel the idea is more the public side. So take your stand, dear young one, alongside Christ in reproach, “Abide with me,” in the surety that His hand will be over you for safe keeping.
Paul, when he is virtually at the end of his life, speaks of the time when all forsook him, but he says, “The Lord stood with me” (2 Timothy 4:16‑17). That is the other side: the Lord stood with him, kept him safe. Think of all that the apostle encountered in his Christian history – that list of things given in 2 Corinthians 11 (vv23‑27): the shipwrecks; the beatings; the distress; all the many tribulations that he had. And besides that, the care of all the assemblies pressing on him daily (vv28‑29). But he stayed with Christ. The Man that met him on the Damascus road meant so much to him that he had committed his life to Him, and from that standpoint the Lord’s hand was over him and he was in safe keeping. And so His hand will be over us as we commit our lives to Him.
I come to John’s Gospel. I was thinking about the safety to be found in the Christian company, where Christ is. Here it is the safety of the flock. In one sense the Lord Jesus came into the Jewish fold to lead persons out of the Jewish fold. It says that, basically: His sheep hear His voice, and He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out (v3; see also v16). Today He would give us an impression, in this little company here, of features of His flock: features of persons who are knit together as part of the flock of Christ.
In the previous chapter, the door of the synagogue was shut on the man who had been given his sight (vv22, 34). But in chapter 10 another Door opens, and that Door is Christ (v7). Is that not lovely? Despite the rejection of Christ in profession around, He is the Door, and He would seek to lead us along, as listening to His voice, into these pastures of safety – pastures where His love can be enjoyed. It says further down, about the pastures, “I am the Door: if any one enter in by Me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and shall go out and shall find pasture.” The Lord wants us to come, as this man in John 9 did, as responding to the voice of Christ, and to be led into the flock of Christ and find that He can lead us into these green pastures.
You can hardly read John 10, which gives us one of the most attractive presentations of the Lord Jesus as Shepherd, without thinking of that lovely psalm that we all know, Psalm 23: “Jehovah is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” You find there the Shepherd leading. You find Him taking us by still waters. Even when the enemy threatens, as he does in John 10, and the valley of the shadow of death, with its gloom, threatens, there is One Who never forsakes the sheep. He loves them, and He loves them to the end.
That is what He says here, “I am the good Shepherd. The good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” It is wonderful, the Shepherd love that never stopped short, but laid down His life for the sheep!
Well, He has got pastures in mind for us. No one else can lead us in these pastures. When I think of these pastures, I think of Paul’s word to the Philippian saints. As he comes to the end of the letter – and it is a lovely letter – he encourages them to “rejoice . . .: again I will say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). Then he speaks of these “whatsoever things”: “For the rest, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are noble, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are amiable, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue and if any praise, think on these things” (v8). I just see these as some of the pastures that the Shepherd would lead us into. They are all positive things.
When I suggest the Lord Jesus as a place of safety, it is not only in the connection of safety from enemies around, but also a place that is safe for souls to develop and grow in the knowledge of Himself. I think as you look at this Philippian letter – things that are true, that are noble, just, pure, lovable and of good report – what potential feeding there is so that souls can grow in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ!
Well, these are the kind of things that the Shepherd will lead us into. He is the good Shepherd Who lays down His life for the sheep.
We often think of the Shepherd as very attractive and very caring and loving. And that is true. But I read about an incident of a shepherd who was having trouble with one sheep, because it was always wandering away. Finally he took that sheep and broke one of its legs. Afterwards, that sheep never wandered away. Shepherd care involves feeding, but it involves discipline as well. It involves His hand sometimes handling us roughly, and sometimes handling us with tender care. But it is the Shepherd’s hand, let us never forget.
The circumstances of life are not always happy and joyful. There have been quite a number of bereavements rolled in amongst us lately. The Shepherd’s hand is in that as well. But it is all in view of caring for the sheep, drawing them closer to Himself so that they really get an impression of His love for the flock. And that is worked out in our local meetings, be they small in numbers or be they large, to bring about features of the flock of Christ. And above all, in these local meetings, we are to be led by the one Shepherd.
And so I commend this suggestion as to the place of safety to be found in Christ: individually, in testimony, but also within the flock of Christ. How tenderly He cares for the sheep!
It says further – we did not read it – “I am the good Shepherd; and I know those that are Mine, and am known of those that are Mine, as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep” (v14). It is to be a situation where persons grow in the knowledge of the Shepherd, but in the knowledge of the Father as well.
It is very striking that at the very close of John’s Gospel, the Lord takes up this matter of shepherding, not in the Shepherd Himself, but in Peter becoming a shepherd (John 21:15-17). Once a fisherman, turned into a shepherd! And it is very interesting that when He probes Peter, He does not ask him if he loves the sheep. He says, ‘Do you love Me?’ Let us take a lesson from that: love for the sheep can flow only from love for Christ Himself. There are further injunctions from the Scriptures about our being shepherds, but it all must flow from love for Christ Himself.
I just finish with this lovely reference in Hebrews 2: the Leader of our salvation. Who is this? This is the Lord Jesus. This is the One Who is presented in Hebrews 1 in all His greatness: the One Who is “established Heir of all things,” by Whom God made the worlds (v2). He is the effulgence of God’s glory, “the expression of His substance” (v3). As the writer pens this first chapter, stroke after stroke is penned in the light of the majesty and glory of Christ. And he comes to chapter 2, and we see the wonderful descent of this Person – “made”, as it says, “some little inferior to angels on account of the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour” (v9).
This Person, Who is the Leader of our salvation, made perfect through suffering, is the One to Whom majesty attaches. He is the One Who has taken His place at the right hand of the Greatness on high (ch 1:3). But He is the One Who has been to the lowest point of the suffering of death.
And what does it say here? “It became Him” – I think that is God – “for Whom are all things, and by Whom are all things.” Oh, the dignity, the majesty of God! I think this verse leads us back into the thoughts and purposes of God. “It became Him . . . in bringing many sons to glory.” How wonderful! We are going to glory, dear brethren; we are going to glory! That is when the fullness of salvation will be ours, and ours for all eternity. At the present time we have a link with the Lord Jesus as Saviour, but we face the rigours of life here below. But it says here, “In bringing many sons to glory.” That is an exalted statement! Think of it, that you, as having your faith in Christ, are one of these sons that are going to be brought to glory! “To make perfect the Leader of their salvation through sufferings.” The accomplishment of these great thoughts of God involved that the Leader of our salvation had to endure such suffering.
An old brother used to refer to this chapter, and he spoke of “the suffering of death” (v9), “the might of death” (v14) and the “fear of death” (v15). The suffering of death was His, the Lord Jesus’s. The might of death belonged to the devil. The fear of death belonged to the sinner. And Christ has gone in and borne the depth of the suffering of death that you and I might be fitted for the presence of God, brought to glory as sons of God.
Think of the triumph, literally, that is going to be for Christ when He comes for us and takes us to glory! Wonderful triumph! What a place of safety! We can find Him by faith now, within the veil. We can find Him in the place of testimony, and the safekeeping that He would afford. We can find Him within the flock, leading His sheep into these green pastures. But above all, what joy to find Him as the Leader of our salvation, Who is shortly to lead us to glory.
May the prospect fill our hearts, and may our hearts go out in a note of appreciation to the One Who has secured it all for our blessing and for the glory of God, for His name’s sake! Amen.
22 March 2014