1 Samuel 20:35-42
2 Samuel 19:31-40
I have been concerned that we might get further gain from considering the Lord Jesus as our Teacher. At the beginning of the Acts this same servant, Luke, said that he put this Gospel together “concerning all things which Jesus began both to do and to teach.” There was clearly a great emphasis in his mind, led of the Holy Spirit, to set out the teaching the Lord Jesus gave when He was here. And things are not easy in the companies of the saints either. We are in fewness of number and some localities struggle to maintain the meetings. Young ones may feel that there is not much company for them, and that the outlook is not particularly bright. You might say, ‘Well, what can I do about it? Just be discouraged and give up?’ No! What is needed today is hearts that are truly beating for Jesus. That is why I have read of these persons.
Of course, there is no point in my speaking to you tonight about being wholly for Jesus if you have never come to Him and acknowledged Him as your Saviour. So perhaps we can just start there tonight. If there are any here in this room tonight who have not found Jesus as their own personal Saviour, tonight is a wonderful opportunity. He is available tonight for whosoever will. Oh, my friend, tonight, if you have not come to the feet of Jesus as a needy sinner and found Him as the One Who can meet your need, may tonight be that moment! It will be the most wonderful moment in your life!
If we want to speak of being wholehearted, or wholly committed, there is no greater place, no greater example, no greater model to look at than the Lord Jesus Himself. He is the One Who was wholly committed in every aspect. Think of the type of Him seen in the Hebrew servant who said, “I love my master, my wife, and my children, I will not go free” (Ex 21:5). Think of how wholly committed Jesus was to the will of His God and Father: “Lo, I come (in the roll of the book it is written of Me) to do, O God, Thy will” (Heb 10:7) – the absolute commitment of Jesus to His Father’s will!
Think of His love for His assembly, His commitment to that vessel! The merchant seeking a beautiful pearl sold all whatsoever he had that he might obtain it for himself. Think of that pearl of greatest value! Think of the commitment of Jesus to the assembly as well as to every one of us individually! He has gone into the very depths of Calvary’s suffering and shame for you and for me, so that He might secure you for wonderful blessing. What a Saviour Jesus is! Is He not worthy of our wholehearted commitment?
You might think, ‘Well, if that is your subject, why have you read of these instances in the Scriptures?’ I have selected these because we learn by contrast. In every one of these persons that I have read about there is a coming short.
I have noticed in recent times that we often make excuses for these persons. We feel, as we look at them, that we can see in them the weakness and the failure that we can see in ourselves. But I do not think that the Holy Spirit has put these things in the Scripture that we might find an excuse for our own weakness. I think they are put there that we might learn by these experiences, so that we might not be marked by the same shortcomings.
I began by reading of Jonathan. Jonathan is a most attractive character. I love Jonathan, he just appeals to me! His loyalty to David and his undoubted love for David shine out, and he is a fine warrior, too! I think he is one of the most attractive characters in the Scriptures. He comes on the scene when David has returned from the slaying of Goliath. It says, “The soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul” (1 Sam 18:1). How he loved him! It is just like a believer first coming to Christ, and finding the One Who has taken on the enemy and defeated his power. That is what Goliath speaks of – the devil holding that great power of death.
It says in Hebrews of Jesus that “through death He might annul him who has the might of death, that is, the devil; and might set free all those who through fear of death through the whole of their life were subject to bondage” (Heb 2:14‑15). That is what you see in Goliath: he is the one who held men in bondage; the devil holds souls in bondage tonight. Jonathan saw David for the first time in that light, and how he appealed to him! It says, “The soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.”
It is just like the believer first coming to Jesus. May we be restored to that first love that we had for Christ – that moment when we first saw Him as the One Who had met our every need and rolled away the burden of our sins! Oh that our hearts may be stirred up to that fresh love for Him as the One Who has done everything for us!
The history goes on, and we see that David is brought into Saul’s army and becomes a great man. It is not long before Saul becomes bitter against David. It says that he became his enemy continually. It is just a picture to us of how the world, and particularly the religious world, has no room for Christ. It says, “Saul was David’s enemy continually” (1 Sam 18:29), and it is not long before David has to flee. Think of that: Saul hated David and he wanted to be done with him! But Jonathan shines in Saul’s household.
There he is, David has had to flee and Jonathan is in the house of the enemies of David, but when the moment comes, Jonathan is faithful; he stands up for the name of David. Think of that; what a challenge that is to us! In the place of the enemies of Jesus, are we faithful to Him? Do we confess that precious name? Does He mean so much to us that we are prepared, in the presence of the enemies of Jesus our Lord and King, to stand up and say ‘He is my Lord, He is my Saviour?’ May we be challenged as to this, and encouraged that we might be a faithful witness to Christ! How many times I have been challenged, and I should have spoken for Jesus, but have not! May it never happen again! May we purpose in our hearts, just like Daniel of old, to be so committed to Him that we are prepared to stand up for Him in a scene where He is hated and rejected and cast out!
Well, the history goes on further, and it comes to this moment when Jonathan finally realises that there is no room in Saul’s house for David (1 Sam 20:33). It is a crisis moment in Jonathan’s life. He is brought to this point, and what is he going to do? Well, he has spoken to David and they have made this agreement. Most of us know the story, no doubt. They have come to this agreement where, if Jonathan shoots the arrows beyond the lad, then this is the message, that David must flee for his life. Jonathan has come to this moment realising that David is rejected and cast out, and what is he going to do? What position is he going to take up? His love for David shows again here, how much he loved him, how much he cared about David. What is he going to do, when David goes into rejection? That is the challenge for us tonight. We live in a world where the Lord Jesus is cast out. He is not wanted. What are we going to do? What pathway are we going to follow?
What a moment this was in Jonathan’s history, and what a sad outcome there was! It says, “Jonathan said to David, Go in peace.” They kissed one another, wept with one another. How much he loved David, but he was not prepared to make this final step and take on the reproach with David. What about us tonight? Are we prepared, like Moses of old – what does it say of him in Hebrews? “By faith Moses, when he had become great, refused to be called son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction along with the people of God than to have the temporary pleasure of sin; esteeming the reproach of the Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt” (Heb 11:24‑26).
Well, Jonathan came to this moment; the reproach of David was there, the reproach of Christ was there, and what was Jonathan going to do? Was he going to take his place along with the rejected David, the one he loved? Sadly, he does not; he takes a backward step. It says, “Jonathan went into the city.” How sad that is! He went back to that which was natural to him. He went back to the city where he had a place, where he was still a prince – a place in this world, and a place in Saul’s house. Solemn, is it not? Saul’s house! Saul was an enemy of David. Jonathan went back to the place of the enemies of his king. How sad that was!
We read on a little further, and Jonathan has one more interview with David. I think that is very lovely, you know. It is almost as if he is given one final opportunity to go on with David as David goes into rejection. But what does it say there? “Jonathan went to his house” (1 Sam 23:18), and he never sees David again! How much he loved him, but sadly, the next that we see of Jonathan is that he is found slain on Mount Gilboa in company with the enemies of David (1 Sam 31:2,6). What a sad end to Jonathan’s history! One that started so brightly, and yet a man whose life is lost to the testimony.
The Lord Jesus had a word about this: “He that finds his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake shall find it” (Matt 10:39). Jonathan lost his life in the testimony. How sad it was! His love did not go unnoticed. David’s lament, the song of the bow, is very wonderful (2 Sam 1:17‑18,26). How much he appreciated Jonathan, and later on we have Mephibosheth coming into blessing (2 Sam 9:1,6‑7). How wonderful it was that David did not forget the love that Jonathan had for him! But Jonathan fell short. Oh, may we not fall short from following the reproach of Jesus, our rejected Lord, our rejected King!
Well, we might move on to Martha. “It came to pass as they went that He entered into a certain village.” This home in Bethany was very attractive to the Lord Jesus. I suppose we might say it was the one place on this earth where the Lord Jesus could really feel at home – Martha’s house. What a lovely place it was! The Lord Jesus felt at home there. Why? Because He was loved. They all loved Him in this household. He had the first place in their affections. I think it is very attractive, the household of Martha of Bethany. They loved Jesus.
He loved them, of course. It says, “Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus” (John 11:5). He loved that household; in that household there was true affection for Jesus. How they loved Him there, what an attractive place it was! We might take the challenge home to ourselves. What are our houses like? Are they places where the Lord Jesus has the first place? Is He that unseen guest at every occasion? Is He the One Who has the first place in the hearts of those in the house? It is a challenge to us, is it not? Or is He just an irregular visitor? What a test to us – our houses, are they places that are wholly held for the Lord Jesus? What would He find if He came in there? What would He find in our households? Are they places that are filled with the things of this scene? This world is a place that has cast out Jesus. What about our households? Are they filled with everything that relates to this world? Or are they places that are set for the Lord Jesus and for His testimony?
What a household this was! Jesus comes, and it says, “Martha … received Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also, having sat down at the feet of Jesus was listening to His word.” It is wonderful to see that when the Lord Jesus came to this household, He felt at home. You can see Him sitting down there, and Mary sits down at the feet of Jesus, listening to His word. What a place that was, at the feet of Jesus! I believe she had some impression of where those feet had brought Jesus, and where they were taking Him. I believe she had a deep impression of that, and indeed, when it comes to the scene in John 12, it is Mary that anoints the feet of Jesus. The one who had sat at His feet, she anointed His feet. What a deep impression she had of where the feet of Jesus were going for her! How she loved to sit there!
It says she sat there and was listening, listening to His word. It does not tell us what the Lord Jesus was saying to her. What the Lord Jesus had to say must have been very attractive. One thing He came for was to reveal the Father. I wonder what things He was saying to Mary. It was not a secret just for Mary, it was available for all in that household. But all did not get the blessing. It tells us that Martha was distracted – she “was distracted with much serving.”
We often feel sorry for Martha. Here she was, she had held that household for the Lord, and she had this great Visitor in her house, and she wanted to put on a lovely meal for Him – of course she did. She was much concerned to do the best for Jesus. And here the Lord had come to her house, and possibly at least a dozen other visitors. You can understand that she was distracted; of course we can understand that. But I think we just ought to take note of the fact that the Lord Jesus Himself rebukes Martha. It is not any of His disciples, it is not anyone else, it is the Lord Jesus Himself – very gently, yes, very gently, but He has a rebuke for Martha! He says to her, “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things; but there is need of one;” that was to be sitting at the feet of Jesus.
It says that “Martha was distracted with much serving, and coming up she said, Lord, dost Thou not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?” There are two things I am thinking of in relation to this. One is that she was distracted with much serving. It is very fine to be occupied in the Lord’s service. One of our local brothers often reminds us that one of the first things Saul said on his conversion was, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6 AV). Service for the Lord is very important. There is a sense every one of us should have something to do for the Lord Jesus and take it up rightly with Him.
Martha was serving the Lord, but she was distracted with that service – so much so that she missed out on the greatest thing, which was to be sitting at His feet. That is a challenge to us. We need to be careful, in relation to service, that our service does not take over from the most important matter, which is communion with the Lord Jesus personally. We must have that first, otherwise our service will not have its right value.
So it says, “Martha was distracted with much serving,” so much so that she almost chides the Lord. She says, “Lord, dost Thou not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?” It is beautiful to see how the Lord Jesus sets everything right. “Martha, Martha” – how much affection Jesus had for her! We see later on, when we come to John 12, that everything is put in order. What a lovely scene that is – six days before the Passover Jesus comes again to this loving household and it says, “There therefore they made Him a supper” (v2). It is very attractive – it is not just Martha, it is all of them engaged in this: they made Him a supper. Everything is in order in the household there. Martha served, no problem there! Lazarus was sitting at the table. Mary comes and anoints the feet of Jesus and wipes them with the hairs of her head – how precious! – and the house is filled with the odour of the ointment. How lovely to see how everything is adjusted by the Lord! What skill the Lord had! He adjusts Martha that the household might be such a place where Mary is able to pour out that lovely ointment upon the feet of Jesus. What a result there was from it!
The other thing I was thinking as to Martha was that she was very busy. It says that she was distracted with much serving. The Lord Jesus says, “Thou art careful and troubled about many things.” Careful and troubled about many things! The Lord Jesus tells a parable as to the seed. He speaks about that which fell amongst the thorns. He speaks of the cares of this life, the deceitfulness of riches. Thorns spring up and the seed becomes unfruitful (Mark 4:18‑19). In a sense this is what had happened with Martha. She was so busy that she became distracted.
I am concerned because we live in a very busy world. People say how busy life is. That awful expression we so often hear – ‘24/7!’ Something going on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The devil would like to occupy persons 24 hours a day, 7 days a week! He seeks to occupy sinners so that they might not have time to think about their souls, to think about eternity, to think about the greatest issues. He occupies their minds to distract them.
The same can be true of believers. We can become so busy, so taken up with life and the cares of life, that we do not have time to sit at the feet of Jesus. The devil would love to occupy us. He loves to rob God! He loves to rob the believer also from enjoying the Lord. We need to be challenged that we are not so busy that we do not have time for the most precious things.
Everything in relation to this earth is going to come to an end. I would like to say a word especially to the young ones here, setting out on your pathways here, making decisions about your future life. We hear a lot said about careers. It always concerns me a little when I hear believers use that expression – a ‘career.’ Because, rightly, a believer has only one career, and that is to be here in the will of God. They will tell you, you must take this path and you will climb the ladder and you will get to this point, get a great place, a great job, and all the rest of it. The believer has one career, and it is to be here for the will of God. What a test that is!
Think of the apostle Paul, Saul as he was. He had a grand change of career! There he was, very well educated, and with a great place in the Jewish system. What an important man he was! He was going right to the top! And then he had an interview with Jesus. It is wonderful to think of that. What a career change he had! He could say, “I count also all things to be loss on account of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil 3:8). There was a man wholeheartedly committed to the will of God!
Let us not be so taken up, so busy with things here, that we do not have time to sit at the feet of Jesus and hear His voice. What a precious thing that is: Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus!
Well, I just turn then to Barzillai. It is very striking that it says of Barzillai that he was very aged. I have the utmost respect for our older brethren. They have been through many years in the testimony, and have much experience gained with the Lord. This is very valuable. We can learn from them. I say to my younger brethren, it is good to speak with the older brethren. Speak to them about the exercises they have passed through in the pathway and learn from them, gain from them. Very valuable lessons can be learned from speaking with the older brethren. We are privileged where I am local to have some older ones we can speak to and learn from. Some of these lessons are very important to learn.
Well, Barzillai was another one who fell short. He came on the scene when David had to flee from Absalom. The usurper was on the throne. It is a picture to us of the present day. David is our King, our Lord. Think of the one who is the prince of this world at the present time, the devil – he is the prince of this world.
David had to flee from Jerusalem and go into the wilderness. There he was in that environment, and Barzillai really shines. He is a man of great resources. He comes with two others and they brought food, drink, refreshments and beds, it says (2 Sam 17:27‑29). All these things they brought for David and his men, for their feeding, for their refreshment, for their comfort and for their rest. He is able to provide for them. It is a great thing to put what we have at the disposal of the Lord. That really is what Barzillai did. He was a great man, he had great resources, but he put them at the disposal of the Lord and of His people. What a good thing that is!
What we have to remember is that what we have is not our own anyway. We are only stewards of what the Lord has given us. It is good to put what we have at the Lord’s disposal.
Time goes on and Absalom is defeated. The time comes for David to return. It says, “And Barzillai the Gileadite came down from Rogelim, and went over the Jordan with the king, to conduct him over the Jordan.” How Barzillai appreciated David! How he loved him! He must have done to have provided for him as he did, and to have been prepared to do so in the circumstances of David’s rejection.
He was rejoicing at seeing that David was to return into his kingdom. It says he came down to conduct him over the Jordan. It goes on, “Barzillai was very aged, eighty years old.” We cannot help contrasting him with Caleb. We read of Caleb speaking with Joshua; “I am this day eighty-five years old” (Josh 14:10). His strength was the same that day as when he went as a spy from the wilderness. There was a man who was maintained in spiritual energy. And why was it? It says, “Because he wholly followed Jehovah the God of Israel” (Josh 14:14). There was a man who was wholehearted, and as such, at eighty-five years old, he had as much energy as he did when he was forty. It is wonderful to be spiritually maintained in that way.
“Barzillai … had maintained the king while he abode at Mahanaim.” And then the king has something to say to Barzillai. He has a wonderful proposal to make to him: he says, “Pass thou over with me, and I will maintain thee with me in Jerusalem.” What an invitation! ‘Come with me,’ David says, ‘come and enjoy all the resources that I have.’
But Barzillai says, “Can I discern between good and bad? can thy servant taste what I eat and what I drink?” He had lost his taste – in type, taste for the things of the Lord. How sad it is that one in old age had lost his taste for the things of the Lord! Barzillai speaks to us of one who lived on the east side of the Jordan. All that he had, and all of his life, was in relation to the things of this earth.
So he says, “Let thy servant … turn back … that I may die in mine own city.” What an outlook! His outlook was death. That is not the outlook of the believer. ‘The sky, not the grave, is our goal’ (Hymn 238). How much he was missing out on! He says, “That I may die in mine own city, by the grave of my father and of my mother.” What was important to him was everything related to this earth. Everything related to this scene is going to end in death. David had much greater things to suggest to him. ‘Come over with me,’ he says. ‘Come over into the land where I am, that you may enjoy my company.’ That is the invitation of the Lord Jesus. He wants us to go over into the land where He is, to enjoy His company. He has all the resources of heaven available to Him. Think of that!
Barzillai says, “Why should thy servant be yet a burden to my lord the king?” Could he be a burden to one so great as David? Could that be so? Could we be a burden to the Lord? No! He has the most wonderful blessings that He wants to bestow upon us. He wants us to come over and enjoy what He has in His heart for us. May we be encouraged, then, that we might not fall short in relation to this – that we might be prepared to go over the Jordan, into the land the other side of death, where Jesus is, to enjoy His company and the things that He would have us to enjoy.
One good thing is, of course, that Chimham came into blessing. It is lovely to think of this. Chimham really represents the next generation. Some think that he was Barzillai’s son or grandson. I do not know whether that is true or not. But it is good to see that the next generation is brought into blessing.
That is a great concern for us in the present day. Those of us that are older are thinking of the next generation. Are we prepared for the continuance of things? Are we concerned for it? Sometimes you go to a meeting and it is a bit dead; you think, ‘Well, there is not much life here.’ And, perhaps, we just get the impression that some of the older ones are prepared to keep things going just long enough to see out their days and it does not matter what happens after that. That should not be the attitude of the believer. We need to be concerned for the next generation, that they might come into the blessings that we profess to enjoy.
The greatest way to encourage the younger ones to take up the things that we hold precious is by example – to show that we are in the current enjoyment of them ourselves. That is what will encourage young ones to go in for the things of the Lord – if they can see their older brethren really delighting in, and wholeheartedly committed to, the things of the Lord Jesus. May we be encouraged in it, and be concerned to inspire the younger ones into these things that we hold very precious!
It says, “And all the people went over the Jordan; and the king went over; and the king kissed Barzillai.” How much David appreciated Barzillai! It is good to see, as you come into Kings, that David instructs Solomon to show kindness to the children of Barzillai (1 Kings 2:7). He says, “Let them be of those that eat at thy table.” David never forgot the commitment that had been shown by Barzillai. How he appreciated it! Yes, he was saddened that Barzillai never went over and enjoyed what he had in his heart for him. Nevertheless, what he had done for him was appreciated. It is good to remember that. Anything by way of commitment to Christ is appreciated by Him and will not be forgotten. Oh, is He not worthy of our wholehearted commitment and devotion?
I have read of Jonathan; I suppose he represents the younger element. I read of Martha and Mary, who represent the women. I have read of an old saint as well. It is open to all of us from the youngest to the oldest, brothers and sisters alike, to be wholeheartedly committed to the Lord Jesus. Now is the day of opportunity. He is coming back very soon. Today is the day when we can here be faithful to Him. The opportunity will be over when we get into His presence. Today is the day of opportunity to be true to the Lord Jesus.
I am reminded of a missionary who went to the Indians in Central America. He said, ‘He is no fool who gives up that which he cannot keep for that which he cannot lose.’ The things of Jesus are very precious and last for eternity. Are they not worth going in for wholeheartedly?
May we be challenged and encouraged to be in these things wholeheartedly, for His name’s sake!
16 November 2013