THREE RIVER CROSSINGS
2 Samuel 19:11-15,31-40
PJW What we have read here this afternoon are Scriptures about three river crossings. Now, the Christian life, as we know, is a journey, an experience. There are stages of growth in the Christian life, and I thought we could firstly look at the meaning of these three river crossings, and then see something else about them.
As we know, in Exodus, the Red Sea is a type of the death of the Lord Jesus, as being our deliverance from this world and the god of this world. When we come to the Jordan we see another aspect of the death of the Lord Jesus, and we can talk about that as well.
But there are two other things that I thought of: we could not only reiterate what they mean, but ask ourserves what they are for. Why was Israel led out? It was not just to cross the Red Sea and end up in the wilderness, but the whole purpose was that God should be served. The tabernacle was to be set up to that end. Why did they cross the Jordan? Well, it was not just that they might conquer the land of Canaan for itself, but that they might come into the good of the land.
When we come to the last Scripture, the king had been in rejection, but here he was coming into his own sphere again. What I have really been thinking of is Barzillai, who was a very interesting man. He had done so much for the Lord and yet, at the end of his years, he grew faint-hearted. He was not really at his spiritual height. That is a challenge to every one of us. We may have gone through so much and learned so much, but are we able to keep going to the end? What he missed was very great. The Lord is faithful, of course, and someone else comes into the blessing.
I thought we could look at those things, but also see something else – in each type the Lord Jesus is magnified. It says in Exodus that when they had gone through the Red Sea, “the people feared Jehovah, and believed in Jehovah, and in Moses His bondman” (v31). There was a greater honour given to the Lord Jesus, as seen typically in Moses.
When we come to Joshua 3, the Lord says, “This day will I begin to magnify thee in the sight of all Israel” (v7). However, we find that when we get to chapter 4 it says, “On that day Jehovah magnified Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they feared him, as they had feared Moses” (v14). Again, there was something worked out with them so that they had, in type, a greater appreciation of the Lord Jesus.
When we come to 2 Samuel, we see that Barzillai had been so faithful to the Lord, but he just did not feel able, at the end of his life, to really go through, to pursue right to the very end. How easy it is to flag! He was not spiritually sensitive – he could not hear the singing – but he missed the opportunity of being in full engagement with the king. That is our privilege, of going over with the King!
I just wonder if we can get some help on these three river crossings.
MJC Yes, the thought is that God is to have a people for Himself. As we come into the gain of the blessing of God in the gospel, the Lord becomes magnified to our heart, does He not? Is that what these things suggest?
PJW God did a wonderful thing! Even on a physical level the parting of the Red Sea was a wonderful act, but it really opened up a way for them to serve God. “Let My people go that they may serve Me” (Ex 7:16 etc.). Israel had already been redeemed at this point. This is not the salvation of our souls here; this is our practical salvation.
MJC The people of God could not serve God in Egypt. The believer cannot serve God in the world. He needs to be delivered from it.
PJW Notice that there was a separation even before they had crossed the Red Sea, so that as soon as the blood had gone on the door-posts and the lintels there was a marked difference between the redeemed and those who were not redeemed. From that very point they are marked as separate. And so it is with every believer: as soon as they come under the shelter of the blood, they are marked out as different from the world.
PKL I am interested that you say they were redeemed before this point. This is followed by deliverance from the world, as you said. The serpent of brass (Num 21:9) is deliverance from sin in the flesh, is it? And then the Jordan is the final coming into the full blessing of what God has for us. We do not have to take 40 years to get there, but some of us take longer!
PJW It was never God’s purpose that it should take 40 years. We know that in His ways it was allowed, but those 40 years were not entirely wasted because the tabernacle was set up, the law was given, and then grace was given too. (In the second tablets of stone there was a demonstration of God’s grace.) And then this wonderful system of praise and service towards God was set up in the wilderness. So, although God’s intention is that we should get into the land, we are enabled to serve God in the wilderness – which is what the world has become to us.
TRP The Red Sea, after they crossed over, lay between them and Egypt, and there was no going back. Have we really to face that in our souls?
PJW Well, it is a constant challenge. In actuality they all went over. As we will see later on, when we come to the second and the third river crossings, there were those who were hesitant. But here they all had to go that way and, as you say, there was no going back. The narrative makes it very clear that the waters came back and the Egyptians were dead. They were seen no more, according to verse 13. That is how God sees it. It is a question of whether I have come into the realisation of that, that Satan is defeated and the world is defeated. It may not seem like it but it is a fact.
TRP I think our problem is that we might still have the taste for Egypt in our hearts – the leeks and the garlic (Num 11:5).
PJW That is very interesting, because when we come on to the third Scripture we find someone who had lost his taste; he was not able to distinguish. But, as you say rightly, they were still hankering. You wonder why, when they had such marvellous power shown to them. It is a marvel to me: we have seen the power of God, we have been saved entirely by His grace, we have experienced such wonderful things, and yet we still like to go back.
BS They turned back in their heart and they longed for the old things. In fact, they longed for the flesh-pots (Ex 16:3), they wanted to go back to what was worldly.
PJW And yet it says very plainly that the Egyptians were dead on the sea-shore; they were completely destroyed. Testing comes in. God always tests His work. If God has worked in my soul and brought me into a great deliverance, that work is always tested.
MJC Their feet had got further than their hearts. They had got across the Red Sea and they had got into the wilderness, but with some of them their hearts had not gone with them. Caleb and Joshua’s hearts had! I suppose really the exercise for us is that we should be wholly outside of the world system. Not only in our feet, in our separation, but also in our hearts.
PJW Well, I was encouraged by the hymn that was given out at the beginning: ‘Called from above’ (Hymn 383). God had called Abraham out, and he was going to become the father of many. That calling was being answered here. They should not remain in Egypt. Again, it was allowed in God’s ways that they wished to return. God’s purposes are never going to be thwarted. The result was that, even in the wilderness, God was served. But they went through many painful experiences on the way!
MJC So the passage we are considering at the moment is followed by singing.
PJW Well, I did not go on to that. But when we get to 2 Samuel 19, we find a man who at the end of his life did not appreciate the singing. It is always a happy thing to be able to sing of our salvation. People that are in the good of deliverance are able to sing. As we know, there are two songs here: Moses sings, and then there is Miriam. One is not quite as full as the other. The first one is a fuller thought. But I think we should be able to be in the spirit of thankfulness. Are we actually thankful for our deliverance? The world has always been against the believer; today, especially, everything is militating against the believer.
Interestingly, it says in Hebrews that it was by faith that they crossed the Red Sea (Heb 11:29). John writes of our victory over the world, and says that it is gained by our faith (1 John 5:4). It was by faith that they did this. If you read the record here you could hardly credit that they had much faith, but they did believe the prophet. Moses here was a prophet, and they did believe in him. That is what impressed me: they “believed in Jehovah, and in Moses His bondman.”
PJC The word that Moses gave to them would have given them that confidence in God, because he said, “The Egyptians whom ye have seen to-day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. Jehovah will fight for you, and ye shall be still” (vv13‑14). I was thinking that all the work was done by the Lord, in type. Our faith needs to be fully in Him, and that is what brings out the thankful song that we referred to just now: it is the realisation that He has done it all.
PJW Again, the hymn that we sang at the outset ended,
The crown of bliss will be
To share Thy joy while owing all to Thee.
It just impressed me that at the end of this passage, “the people feared Jehovah, and believed in Jehovah, and in Moses His bondman.” If we have a real appreciation of what we have been delivered from and what we have been brought into, then our appreciation of the Lord Jesus should grow, should it not?
JMW It says in this Scripture, “The waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left” (v22). The waters were still there – in sight. At the Jordan it seems that they were not in sight – they had gone. What do we learn from that, please?
PJW Well, the world is ever near, but they got through on dry ground. There was complete salvation, but the world is never far away. When we come to the Jordan, if you look it up, you will find that the city Adam was about 20 miles upstream. It was a long way away, as you say. The death of Christ is so effective that it completely conquers all that stood in the way. His death removes it entirely. We need to think about that. We must never underestimate what happened when Jesus went into death.
TRP It was a very narrow pathway that they had to traverse through the sea, with the water on one side and the other. What do you say as to that?
PJW “Narrow the gate and straitened the way that leads to life” (Matt 7:14). They could not turn round and they could not go to the left or to the right. They had to follow Moses. Picture it in your mind – as they went forward the enemy was behind and the water on either side. Moses was going straight and they followed him. We need to have a healthy fear of the world, because it is a great enemy. If we see, in type, the Lord Jesus going on ahead, we follow Him by faith and we shall get through on dry land.
DJB What, exactly, is the connection between the death of Christ and deliverance from the world? I think we see readily enough the connection between the death of Christ and the forgiveness of our sins, but just how does it deliver us from the world?
PJW Jesus died to everything here. He was not of this world. It says, “He came out from God and was going to God” (John 13:3). He came here in order that we might be redeemed and brought back to God. Just as the Lord Jesus did not belong on the earth, neither do His people. We see that all that attaches to us here has gone in the death of Christ. Paul gives us some help on that in 1 Corinthians: “All were baptised unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (1 Cor 10:2). We see the way that Jesus went and we are identified with it. Is that correct?
DJB I think that helps us. I just thought of the beginning of the Epistle to the Galatians, “Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave Himself for our sins, so that He should deliver us out of the present evil world” (Gal 1:3‑4). But at the end of the epistle Paul expresses something very personal, “The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal 6:14). There are two sides to that: the world to me, and I to the world.
PJW Yes, you can see that the Lord Jesus was in the world but not of it. But the wonderful thing is that all that attaches to us naturally went with Him at the cross. This is why we are no longer our own, we belong to Him. The world as a system is alien to the believer. We are not our own, we “have been bought with a price” (1 Cor 6:19‑20).
PKL The Scripture you referred to in Corinthians says they “all were baptised unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” They actually went through the experience, and that is what baptism should be for us. It is a physical thing, but we need to come into the good of it. Is that not really what being dead to the world is – coming into the good of our baptism?
PJW I read a remark recently that sometimes the Lord’s people get a bit hung up on the water. But the point is, it is more than just the water; that is just a symbol. The fact really is that we have died with Christ. It is the experience of realising that all that attaches to us naturally has gone. Well, it is an age-old question, but it is a real exercise as to whether we have come into the gain of that.
TJK Is it significant that the Angel – the Lord Jesus, I suppose – moved from being in front to being behind (v19)? Between them and the enemy: between them and the world?
PJW We are not on our own. The people were led out: they followed Moses. As we have said, it was a narrow way. But sometimes we need some help, and the Lord is there to give us impetus. How often, maybe, I want to go back to the world! The Lord would just speak to me or ‘nudge’ me, if you will pardon the expression, in the right direction.
BED “Fear not: stand still, and see the salvation of Jehovah, which He will work for you to-day” (v13). I was thinking of ‘today.’ Each of us should arrive at something today.
PJW This was actually going to happen, and it did. One thing I thought about these crossings is that they actually happened! In our Christian experience we can look back to the time when we were saved and, in one sense, you cannot repeat that. We may come on to that a bit more when we consider the Jordan. But then we have to make it good in our own hearts. That is where we need to apply it.
MJC Do you think we need to see, too, leading up to this moment, the fact that they had experienced in their own lives the bondage of the world? They were slaves in Egypt. They had been made to realise the awfulness of the power of the enemy over them in the world. They had been made to cry to God to deliver them. So they were ready to come out. They wanted to be out and we see, in all of this, the protection of the hand of God over them to get them out.
PJW The people of God, here, had short memories. But then, as Christians we sometimes have very short memories, for example of what God has done for us. How often in the New Testament and in the Psalms, in fact all through the Scriptures, the crossing of the Red Sea is referred to! In the prophets and in the Psalms the people of God are being reminded constantly of what God did for them. But is that not like us? How often do we need reminding? And what actually happened? We cannot go back, in one sense. They could not go back, it was one‑way. But they had to be brought back, time and time again, to what actually happened.
TRP Do we need to remember that the world – in all its glory, all its power and all its wealth – could only provide the Son of God with a wooden cross and some nails?
PJW It says, “Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified” (Rev 11:8). I think we need to be reminded of that. I need to be reminded of it, constantly, because the world is attractive.
MSB These rivers speak of death, do they not? The Red Sea is the Lord’s death for us; the Jordan our death with Him. Have you some thoughts as to that?
PJW That is just it. If I want a reminder, there is that little piece of a hymn (415):
‘For me, Lord Jesus, Thou hast died,’
– that is crossing the Red Sea –
‘And I have died with Thee;’
– that is the Jordan.
We need to go on in our Christian experience; perhaps we ought to go on to the next river. Here they had come to the end of their wilderness journeyings. God’s purpose was that they should come into the land. This was from right back in Abraham’s time: “The land that … I will give … thee” (Gen 13:15,17). We must never forget the purpose of God. So they get as far as the Jordan and there is this great barrier. What are the people going to do? But, just as at the Red Sea, God makes a way through, this time with the Ark. It is the Ark that goes through and they follow it.
MJC So what does that suggest to us?
PJW The Ark stood in the middle of the Jordan. Now, the Ark is a type of the Lord Jesus. In the Jordan, the Ark is a picture of the death of the Lord Jesus as completely vanquishing the power of death and the power of sin so that I am free to go into the land.
MJC Does that explain to us a little why the waters here were cut off a long way back, whereas it was a narrow path with a wall of water on either side through the Red Sea?
PJW I have gleaned help from others but basically, if the waters represent death, which they do, then the power of God is displayed and we see that the Ark was full of power, in that sense, and it dispelled every vestige of the power of Satan. Death is the last enemy (1 Cor 15:26). Death is Satan’s final weapon in his armoury. But, in the Person of the Lord Jesus, death is completely annulled. No one died like Jesus. The psalmist says that we have passed through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4). We just go through the shadow of it, but the Lord Jesus died like no other. He went into the depths and He really died. The believer, as trusting in Him, goes through the shadow of it. But, in the Ark, we see that there is complete victory.
DWB Is that why the 2000 cubits (ch3:4) have to be recognised?
PJW I think there were two reasons for it. One is that there was a distance, a reverential distance, for the Person and the work and the death of the Lord Jesus are unique, unlike any other, and there is that which He did that we can just stand back and see. The other is that, in terms of our salvation and our deliverance, we cannot enter with Him at that moment. He said, “Where I go ye cannot come,” but “thou shalt follow Me after” (John 13:33,36). There is the side that, when the Lord Jesus died, He went alone. No one could come near Him at that point. But as He went into death and came out victorious, then I am free to be identified with Him. I was reading Hebrews, and the Red Sea is mentioned – we have spoken about that – but the Jordan is not there. Can you tell us why that is?
MJC I wonder if it is because we cross the Red Sea by faith, but the Jordan by attraction to Christ. What do you think?
PJW Our victory over the world – our deliverance from it – is by faith. John makes that clear. We have quoted, “This is the victory which has gotten the victory over the world, our faith.” When it comes to our possession of heavenly places, which is what the Jordan was for, it is that we should go into the land. We do not go into the land by faith. Hebrews 11 is the faith chapter. We do not get into our possessions by faith: it is all in the Person of the Lord Jesus and that is why it is the Ark that is central in Joshua 3.
JMW It is attraction and affection, is it not?
PJW And identification with the Lord Jesus. There are the stones, which we have not said anything about, and these are another subject altogether. The taking out of the stones from that very place where the Ark stood, and then the placing of other stones in that spot – those two sets of stones remind us of our union with the Lord Jesus. Our blessing can only be effected as we understand that not only did Jesus die, but we died with Him, and then we are raised with Him into newness of life. So those stones that were taken out of the Jordan were never to see the water again.
DJB Could you say some more to set these Scriptures in their Christian context? As we have said, historically, the Red Sea and the Jordan are separated by 40 years, and other experiences come in between. I feel for myself that I get a little experience of the Red Sea and a little of the Jordan and a little of the brazen serpent and they are all, if they are, forming me alongside one another. Can you help us about setting these things together?
PJW Historically these did happen in a chronological order and there is a sense in which the Christian, as newly converted, has to go through certain soul exercises. But we do find, as you rightly say, that things crop up again and again. You can get to be 100 and they still crop up. These things do need to be tackled. But I think God’s intention is that we should get help along the way. There should be a time in our Christian experience when we have dealt with the world, and there should be a time in our Christian experience when we have realised that all that we are has gone and that we have been buried with Christ in baptism – that is the teaching of Romans – and then raised with Him in newness of life. It is a good thing if we can actually look back and see that. That, of course, is where Christians over the years have got into a terrible muddle with Romans, whether or not you need to go through these experiences, and all that sort of thing. To me it is plain: these things have happened. For the Christian, the Lord Jesus has died and I have died with Him, and that has happened; it is a fact. But then, Paul says we need to reckon these things (Rom 6:11), and that is where we need to continue day by day. By the Spirit’s power we need to reckon these things. But perhaps you can help us?
DJB I am very happy with what you say. Just for the encouragement of everyone, it is important to see that all the Scriptures are worth having, and we need to keep coming back to them all and seeing the measure in which they have become true – not only for us, but true of us.
PJW There is no singing here. There is singing at the Red Sea, and I am sure there was singing in Jerusalem, when we get to the next passage. But I think that, if we really understood the experiences of deliverance from the world by the death of Jesus and then being united with Him in His death, our praise would be sweeter and the service of God would be richer.
DWB We have been taught that the Red Sea and the Jordan coalesce at the supper.
PJW Well, like a lot of spiritual truths, that is for our education. It is all about the death and burial and resurrection of Jesus.
DWB The Jordan is not crossed under command, it is crossed by attraction. “When ye see the Ark … then remove from your place, and go after it” (ch3:3).
PJW That is why I read the portion about the 2½ tribes. In Exodus they all went through, the whole lot of them. When we get to the Jordan there were 2½ tribes that went back: they decided that they wanted to be on the world’s side. ‘Who is on the Lord’s side?’ the hymn says. There were 2½ tribes who were more comfortable on the other side of the Jordan. I read a remark recently: the 12 stones were put in there, that is, including Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh – the whole thought was in mind. It is God’s intention that every believer should come into the joys of full possession of the land. In the 12 stones that was so, they were represented. When they were putting those 12 stones there, they must have been thinking, ‘Well, not everyone is going to actually enjoy this.’ But that is the sad fact, that there are believers today who do not want to go in for the heavenly possessions that they are entitled to.
BS Nothing was to be left behind in Egypt, the young ones were to go as well. The stones were there to remind them of what they had gone through. We want to be able to help one another in these things. Some have more experience than others.
PJW And the experiences of both the Red Sea and the Jordan were to be told to the coming generations. It is interesting, I was looking at it the other day – even before these things happened there were instructions about what to do afterwards, so that there is no excuse. They are set down so that we can teach our children, and it is a challenge to me, what I can say about the death of the Lord Jesus and what it means.
BS When it comes to persons in the world, we are to remember that we have been strangers in Egypt.
PJW Paul says, “And these things were some of you” (1 Cor 6:11). We must never forget the pit from which we have been dug.
MSB How do the Red Sea and the Jordan coalesce at the supper?
PJW I am sure it is worth an enquiry. All I can say is that they all speak of the Lord Jesus and His death. If we had more appreciation of what He did and what it effected for God and for me, then it would initiate a greater response. If I am living close to the world, then I cannot enjoy the Lord’s supper properly. If I am still hanging on to a bit of me, I am not going to really understand my freedom in Christ. What do you say?
MSB It is a genuine enquiry, I think we could get some help together to understand this and the teaching of how these things do coalesce.
PJW When I see the loaf on the table, what do I think of? It is not just remembering what He did. He said, “This do in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19). Well, where is He? He is not here, He is on high. So, really, all of this, the Red Sea and the Jordan, was to remove me from where I am to where I should be. In the supper we are really linking on with something that is outside this world altogether.
DWB By love constrained, Thy death we deem
Our point of severance from this scene
That is the Red Sea, but we do not stay there, we cross the Jordan to where Christ is. That should be a conscious experience.
PJW That is what I think it is, a journey. Our brother here was saying, and we know practically what he means, that these things come up all the time. But there should be a progression in the believer’s soul where he has to deal with the world. Young believers face it in a particular way, if they are saved, if they come into blessing early on; maybe someone comes into faith at a later date; but there comes a point when they have to deal with the world. You cannot be a Christian and not deal with the world. So that has to be a point in your soul history. And then there has to come a further point when you realise that, actually, not only have you been saved from the world, you have been saved to something. You have been saved for glory.
BED Another Man in another world.
PJW I know that the Ark is a picture of the death of the Lord Jesus, and its power to vanquish death and all that that speaks of, but Joshua here is a type of the Lord Jesus too. It just struck me, as I said at the outset, that, as it says of Moses, it says of Joshua, “Jehovah magnified Joshua in the sight of all Israel.” Well, we need to understand what deliverance from the world is; we need to understand what happened when Jesus died and what happened when I died with Him, which is the teaching of Romans. (How constantly we need to read Romans!) If we really understand these things then we will have a greater appreciation of the heavenly Joshua.
JPW Please tell us what you think of John’s Epistle, “Hereby we have known love.” It says, “We know that we have passed from death to life … Hereby we have known love, because He has laid down His life for us” (1 John 3:14,16).
PJW Love lies behind everything, here. When the Lord Jesus went into death it was love, primarily for His God and Father, that took Him that way. He went there in love for His people, not for the world in a sense. It was for His own people. I read a remark the other day saying that even Christians get muddled about whom Jesus died for. He died for His own. His death was sufficient for every man, we know that. The whole question of sin was settled. But I can only be united to Christ because I belong to Him.
TRP One thing that stands out, to me, in this crossing is the glory of the Ark. One other reason for the 2000 cubits was that every man, woman and child would be able to see the glory of God’s Ark. Have I a sense in my soul of the glory of God’s Ark, in death, to bring me into the inheritance?
PJW That is right. Someone has referred to the brazen serpent. That was lifted up so that everybody could see it. But I am sure you are right, everyone would have been able to see the Ark. They would have had to pass by it. You could not get into the land apart from going by the Ark. You will never get into the blessings of heavenly places except by Christ. You have to go that way.
MJC So do you think that as we come together to remember the Lord, we see, and we think about, One Who has died not only to deliver us from the world, but to bring us into the place where He is? “I go to prepare you a place … that where I am ye also may be” (John 14:2‑3). That, really, is the whole of the purpose of the death of Christ, is it not? It is not just to deliver me from the world, but it is to bring me into relationship with Himself the other side of death, where He now is.
PJW I remember a preaching by E A Wade many years ago in Putney, and it struck me, as a young boy – “out of,” “in to.” We are delivered for a reason. We should be concerned with the Lord Jesus. Interestingly, if we are in the gain of that, we can live victoriously even now, because “even as He is, we also are in this world” (1 John 4:17) – the world which we have been delivered from. If we have a link with the Man Who is in heaven, we can go through in triumph.
Perhaps we ought to go on to the third crossing. David had been in rejection. There had been a lot of sorrowful exercises, but now he is being brought back. Even the Lord’s people are a bit slothful. “Why are ye the last” – Judah, his own brethren – “Why are ye the last to bring the king back?” (v11). It is a question. Maybe we should ask that of ourselves. Why are we the last to bring back the King? But they were rallied, and that is what we seek to do, to rally the brethren, to kindle their desires to David. It does say, “He bowed the heart of all the men of Judah as of one man” (v14). They come to the Jordan to bring the king back to where he belongs. Where does Jesus belong? He belongs amongst His own in Jerusalem, which is a type of the assembly.
MJC Coming back to Hebrews again, “Ye have come to Mount Zion” (ch12:22), and the thought there is of the place where God is.
PJW David had been in rejection, and now the tables were turning, they were going to bring the king back. He had been rejected and his loyal followers had gone over the river. Now the god of this world, the usurper – Absalom was the usurper – had been defeated, and the rightful heir was coming back into his own place. The brethren came with him to conduct him over the Jordan.
But there was one man who just gave up. Now, I have read various commentaries about Barzillai. A lot of commentaries (not, maybe, amongst the ones that we are more familiar with) will say what a good man Barzillai was: he died in dignity, and all that sort of thing. Yes, he was a faithful man. If you read the chapters before, he provided for the Lord. There has been many a faithful Christian who has provided for the Lord over many years. It says in the Scriptures, “God is not unrighteous to forget your work, and the love which ye have shewn to His name, having ministered to the saints, and still ministering. But we desire earnestly that each one of you shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end” (Heb 6:10‑11). That just sums up Barzillai. He had been very faithful.
But just at the very end he said, ‘Well, I have had enough now, I want to go back to my own place.’ I read about this a few months ago, and I thought, ‘That is a challenge to me.’ Here is the Lord Jesus coming into His rightful place. The Lord Jesus is not King to us, exactly. He is earth’s rejected King. He is our Head, our Sovereign. He is our Lord, and He is coming into His own, amongst His own in Jerusalem. But there is one dear man here who says, ‘I am not really up to this.’ He says, “Can I discern between good and bad? can thy servant taste what I eat and what I drink? can I hear any more the voice of singing men and singing women?” (v35). He says, ‘I will go a little way over the Jordan, and then I will go back to my own people.’ Well, that is a challenge for me!
MJC He had his eye on himself, not on David.
PJW David had said, “I will maintain thee with me in Jerusalem” (v33). The Lord Jesus will never let us down, and it is always better to be with Him. Mary chose the good part – she sat at the feet of Jesus (Luke 10:39,42). Barzillai had the chance to be at the feet of Jesus, typically speaking, but he decided he had had enough and he would turn back across the river, back to his own land. Well, that is a challenge for us.
MLF It says in Revelation, “He that overcomes, him will I make a pillar in the temple of My God” (Rev 3:12).
PJW I would like to know more about overcoming. That was a message at the end of the Scriptures. There is a message for each church. What do you think a pillar is?
MLF It is something that supports the whole, is it not – the structure?
PJW Someone who is reliable. Barzillai was very faithful and very reliable just until the end, but then he gave up. The Lord is faithful, as I said before, He is not unrighteous, and David kisses and blesses Barzillai (v39). There is a lesson in that too. We come across believers who may not be in their brightest days. But the Lord does not chastise him – he kisses him and says, ‘Well, someone else can have the blessing.’ That is very gracious of the Lord, and we just need to bear that in mind in our dealings with one another. But Barzillai lost out, and David did as well.
PKL I cannot recall David asking anyone to go with him into rejection, but here he asks someone to accompany him in his glory, returning to his kingdom. It is up to individual exercise whether we are prepared to be identified with the Lord in His rejection. This man was. But the Lord would invite us to enjoy the spoils that He has won.
PJW Barzillai had this wonderful offer of going back with David and being at his table. Mephibosheth knew what it was to sit at the king’s table (2 Sam 9:13); Barzillai could have done the same thing, but he had lost spiritual sensitivity and vigour. This has nothing to do with age, really. For those who have been on the pathway some time, the challenge is whether we are prepared to go all the way to be with the King.
TRP What is the answer to discouragement? Many of us get very discouraged by the weakness and brokenness of things today. How are we to be helped out of that?
PJW The only thing I can say is that the Lord Jesus still says to us, “I will maintain thee.” He is able to do it. We cannot do it on our own, but only if we go over with the King and abide with Him. At the beginning of John’s Gospel the disciples said, “Where abidest Thou?” “He says to them, Come and see” (John 1:38‑39).
TRP Do you think what we had last week would help: that in our discouragement if we just cry to the Lord, ‘Lord, help me,’ we will find that He is there and He will put out His hand and He will draw us into the boat?
PJW We can depend upon Him. He is utterly dependable. Mephibosheth had desires after the king, and they never left him. I might be weak, but if I have the desire, the Lord will maintain me.
DJB The Lord said to Philadelphia, “Thou hast a little power” (Rev 3:8). It would be good for the Lord’s people to use such power as they have.
PJW And our “strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9 KJV). And “the Spirit joins also its help to our weakness” (Rom 8:26). But there is no weakness with the Lord. I am sure that Barzillai would have enjoyed far more being with the king. Whatever our circumstances might be, the natural – we all know what it is – gets in the way. There were two things here that marked Barzillai. One was that he thought he was past it, things got too much. And the second was that he was thinking naturally. That is a great problem for believers, but the answer is, ‘Go with the King.’ Cross over. Launch out, and He will maintain you.
BS The Lord Jesus prepared that place and it is prepared already.
PJW That is right. There is enough there for everybody if they go in for it: the King’s table.
DWB Where it is to be found is the question.
PJW Do you mean practically?
DWB I was thinking of what David says, “I will maintain thee with me in Jerusalem.” It is where assembly truth is treasured and enjoyed that these things can be entered into.
PJW I think that is the only sphere where the Lord Jesus is properly appreciated: in the assembly. The world certainly does not, and those that just profess will not have an idea, but all true believers form part of the assembly; that is the sphere where He is appreciated.
MJC It is borne out by Mephibosheth in verse 30, “Let him even take all, since my lord the king is come again in peace to his own house.” All Mephibosheth cared about was that David should be rightly exalted. And that really should be our desire; we should desire the truth of the assembly as the sphere where Christ is rightly exalted.
PJW That was my thought, besides the truths that we have rehearsed this afternoon: that through all these things that we have learned, the Lord Jesus might be magnified. The people believed in Moses, they magnified Joshua, and then the king was held in honour. The king was not honoured on the other side of the Jordan, he was honoured where he rightfully should be, at Jerusalem where his place was.
MJC Barzillai really represents us as living in our families, because he wanted to die in his own city. Mephibosheth did not care where he died – what he wanted was to be living where David was living.
PJW That was Ruth’s committal, “Where thou diest will I die, and there will I be buried” (Ruth 1:17). That is the spirit of it, being united to Christ, being identified with Him. So we are identified with Him in His death, which is what we have been looking at this afternoon. But then we are to be identified with Him in newness of life where He is now, as the Head of His assembly, as the pre-eminent One.
DWB Ittai, I suppose, is the answer: “Ittai answered the king and said, As Jehovah liveth, and as my lord the king liveth, surely in what place my lord the king shall be, whether in death or life, even there also will thy servant be” (2 Samuel 15:21). He was prepared to follow David into rejection, and he was there amongst the king’s mighty men when he came into his own.
PJW That is good.
JMW Caleb was 85 (Josh 14:10). Barzillai is 80 (v32). Caleb is the overcomer, the example for us.
PJW All these things are for our instruction. Do we have a greater appreciation of the Lord Jesus as a result of all of this, a greater desire to be with Him where He is? The Lord’s desire is “that where I am they also may be” (John 17:24). But we can know something of that now in the power of the Spirit.
14 March 2009