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"Asked of God"
Chapter 1. We have all been brought up with a fair idea of our duty to God and man. That is the burden of "the Law." We have made sporadic efforts to regulate a few of the outstanding defects in our character, fulfilling the spirit of Joshua and Judges. This beginning in the work of regeneration, however, has only opened our eyes to the task of bringing order out of chaos. "There is no king in Israel," no final authority, no organized self-government within enforcing the law in relation to the causes of all our troubles. The love of the law exists (Elkanah), and a few definite proposals for reform (Peninnah’s children), which are somewhat overrated as cure-alls. But we have not reached the root of the problem. The life of religion is sadly corrupted (Eli’s sons are a discredit to the nation), and we have not recovered from our apostasy, or failure to stand for the right when under fire (the Philistines forced Dan to abandon their allotted home in the land). The situation is very disquieting. We feel it acutely, and pray that by God’s grace (Hannah), we may know the truth that will make us free. The church as an institution is apathetic, and misunderstands our concern (Eli thought Hannah was drunk). The Lord knows and answers prayer. Hannah called her child Samuel because, as she said, "I have asked him of the Lord." When the conception from the Lord has been born and weaned, it is dedicated to the service of the Lord.
2, 3. By the grace of God we are convinced that we have the remedy for the disorganized state of society. Hannah’s song gives thanks for the hope centered in the ministration of her son. The old order will work out its own destruction, and a new order will be set up under the ministry of Samuel. So Samuel "grew, and the Lord was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet to the Lord." When facing life’s problems at the beginning of the regenerate life, not knowing what best to do, the Lord is present and enlightens conscience to meet the approaching course in human affairs from day to day. We come under the guidance of the Lord when asked in sincerity. "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (Psalm 119:105). Samuel opened the door of the house of the Lord, and rekindled the lamp of God in the temple daily.
Belief without Action
4. Eli and his sons perished when the Philistines defeated Israel, and captured the ark of the covenant, "the glory of Israel." We suffer a sore humiliation when we mark how we take pride in our knowledge of the teachings of religion, but fail in the practice of them. We procrastinate, we place our trust in faith alone, and fail to "humble ourselves to walk with God."
5. What is the result? The ark of the covenant was placed in the house of Dagon. These two could not be together in the same house. Dagon went to pieces before the ark, leaving only the stump, the tail of a fish, where the legs of the man ought to have been. The commandments condemn the worship of learning without living. To know the way and not walk therein results in the defilement of character and our environment. The Philistines were plagued with hemorrhoids and mice.
Note: Dr. A. H. Sayce, Assyriologist, says that Dagon is not the fish god, but the god of agriculture. If this be correct, it only shifts the representation from the sea to the land. The stump, "Dagon," takes the place of the legs of a man, be it a fish’s tail or a corn stalk.
6. What can be done to heal the plague? Golden images of the hemorrhoids and mice were placed in a new cart drawn by milch kine that had never been under the yoke. Our longing to be rid of the wrong in our nature, and to "walk in the law of the Lord"—both new to us—must be placed at the disposal of the Spirit of the Lord, and the Covenant is again on its way to its rightful place in our hearts. Lowing in protest against leaving their young, the kine proceeded on their way. How hard it is to bend our wills to the Divine Will, when we have even partially given way to the habit of indolence and indifference to our obligations to God! Our repentance (the trespass offering borne in the new cart) is a painful experience. It is also attended with danger. It is folly to peer into the ways of Providence in the permission of evil. "No man can see God and live." The law in man’s keeping is hidden in a casket. It is enough that we obey the plain obvious meaning that appears to us in the letter to start with, without further question. "The secret things belong unto the Lord our God; but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law" (Deuteronomy 29:29).
7. The ark of the covenant remained at Kirjath Jearim twenty years. We hear no more of the tabernacle at Shiloh. Israel was in the power, or dread fear, of the Philistines. Our unwillingness to take any further decisive steps in changing our old bad habits of life is very decided. We are consequently in a most unhappy frame of mind. Meanwhile we proceed to strengthen our judgments in our daily contacts with others, but go no further. Samuel judged Israel in Bethel, Gilgal, Mizpeh and Ramah. This is a preparation for what is to follow.
Back to the Commandments
8. Under the leadership of Joshua and the twelve judges Israel gained a firm foothold in their lost inheritance, until the Philistines dislodged Dan, put an end to the house of Eli, and captured the ark of the covenant. The priestly rule of Samuel, the heart rent in penance, brought the commandments again into the field of action. But this broken and contrite heart, while insufficient to lead us out of all our troubles, is a necessary precursor to the formation and the development of the kingdom now to follow, from start to finish. The priest appoints and consecrates the king, and then passes into the background, while the king occupies the foreground (Arcana Coelestia #8770). Love is ever the power behind the throne to marshal all the resources in man to establish the reign of law—God’s law—in the world.
9. We now enter a third phase of the regenerate life, the reign of law. Worship in the tabernacle—the symbol of the home life in tents in most ancient times—has ended. Worship in the temple—symbol of home life in cities in ancient times—is about to take its place. We face disorder in the world, and ask the question: Why so much crime, poverty, hunger, dirt, unemployment, sickness, and so on? Why? Saul is in search of his father’s asses, and seeks the help of the seer, Samuel, for an answer. For us it means that we desire to know the reason, and what the Church has to say about it. Samuel told Saul to forget about the asses, which had been found. Something more important is required of him. The church calls first for action in protecting the innocent, and caring for those who are in trouble. First aid requires administration of the law, the letter of the law, which Saul represents.
The Letter of the Law
10. Saul was anointed king for his commanding physical appearance. "He was higher than any of the people from his shoulders and upward." This is conformable to his representation, the majesty of the law. Those who administer the letter of the law have little or no concern with the causes of the world’s disorders. Causation belongs to the realm of the spirit. This is the significance of the testimony of the two at the tomb of the mother of Joseph and Benjamin. The gift of the three "going up to God to Bethel" specifies the contribution of religion to the administration of the letter of the law which Saul represents. This relates to the needs of the body, and not of the spirit. The paramount service of the letter of the law to man lies in restraining evil protecting the innocent, and providing for the unfortunate. The courts of law, and even the army, have an important function in upholding human rights that cannot be gainsaid, and we rightfully look to them for the preservation of order in society. King Saul ranks among the prophets, or those who speak for God. Some doubt the efficacy of force, others reject it, or oppose it, but common sense recognizes the authority of the letter of the law. "God save the king."
11. The breakdown of the law today is very general, and is due for the most part to the violation of the law by groups more than by individuals. Of course there are always leaders in the group—the corporation, trust, merger, machine, party, or gang in business, or in politics, but these leaders gain their power through the willing compliance and cooperation of good-natured partners and associates who are too weak to resist group pressure, and lend aid in violation of the law to the great injury of others. This common evil of giving consent to evildoing under group pressure is represented by the Ammonites invading Jabesh Gilead, threatening to sack the city, and putting out the right eyes of its inhabitants. The name of their king, Nahash, meaning "serpent," betokens the subtlety of the temptation that destroys the power of seeing the wrong by which they profit at the expense of their neighbor. The injustice calls for redress at the hands of the body politic. Saul hewed a yoke of oxen and sent the pieces to the tribes with a call to arms. The battle routed the enemy so that of the remnant that escaped death not two were left together. The expose, or trial, broke down the defense so completely that there was not a single argument left to palliate the offense.
12. Samuel’s testimony to his integrity, and his reminder of the Lord’s favors to his people, present the selfless side of our nature, thankful for all life’s blessings. The people said Amen to all that Samuel had to say. In contrast to this, however, there appears a selfish and worldly disposition badly in need of discipline. In proof! Stop just a moment, count again your blessings (wheat harvest time), and hear with awe a voice smiting conscience on account of the abuse of many of God’s blessings. You resolve to do better. Life ahead will be harder for you. The thunder and rain called forth by Samuel disclosed the sin of the people in asking for a king. The king will lay down the law to be obeyed, and overcome sin. The heart is still the prime mover within all. Samuel promises to pray for the people, and teach them the good and right way. "But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king." Disloyalty to the truth as God gives us to see it will end the kingdom.
The Spirit in the Letter
13. The letter of the law is most effective in dealing with external evils in violation of it. Saul alone completely vanquished the Ammonites on the farther side of Jordan. He was, however, unable alone to defeat the enemy in the land. Jonathan, his son, now appears on the scene. He represents the letter of the law through which the spirit shines. The letter without the spirit bears the peremptory command "Thou shalt not." The spirit is transparent in the letter when we hear the words of Jesus, "I will have mercy, and not sacrifice." Christianity is more than a mode of worship, or a profession of faith. It is a mode of living with mercy as the heart and soul of it. This may be applied in interpreting the picture of Jonathan smiting the Philistine garrison. Saul took credit for it, and offered a sacrifice in the absence of Samuel, to placate the Lord, for the people had scattered through fear of the Philistines. Faith in God requires immediate conflict with evil when it puts in an appearance. When confronted by evil, however, we are inclined to evade responsibility. We substitute ritual for action, a creed for a living faith. We may sharpen our profession of faith, yet do nothing further about it.
14. Jonathan smote the Philistine garrison a second time, after the invitation to "come up, and we will show you a thing." Pride in what we know is a sure sign of weakness. The battle was on. Saul participated, and decreed that no one should eat till the enemy had been fully beaten. Jonathan tasted honey, and was enlightened. Saul thought the victory incomplete, and adhered to the letter of his edict. Jonathan must die. Saul could not see above and beyond the sacrifice. The people saw the unmercifulness of it, and saved Jonathan. This marks the transition from loyalty to the letter of the law to a higher type of loyalty to the spirit of the law. We cannot wholly set aside the letter of the law yet in dealing with a number of human frailties of an external order. Saul vexed other enemies on the other side of the Jordan.
15. Then Samuel commissioned Saul to exterminate the Amalekites, even the babes and sucklings. Saul obeyed orders, but spared the best of the flocks, and cattle, and Agag, the king, not out of mercy, but for self-exaltation. The people were sacrificing in honor of the victory, when Samuel appeared. How searching the words— "When thou wast little in thine own sight, the Lord anointed thee king over Israel. To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." No compromise can be made with a spirit of evildoing that assails us when tired and discouraged, and attacks in the rear, and not in full view. We may compromise with expediency, but not with principle. Agag, the king, was hewed to pieces by Samuel before the Lord in Gilgal.
The Spirit of the Law
16. The letter of the law is altogether inadequate to meet the evils in the heart. The priest Samuel was sent to Bethlehem to anoint a king to take Saul’s place. Samuel was impressed with the stately appearance of Jesse’s seven stalwart boys. The dignity and power in the letter of the law holds the field. We still believe that the best defense is to prepare for war in time of peace. "The Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." Jesse’s youngest boy, David, then with the sheep, was the Lord’s choice. The shepherd king represented the Good Shepherd, the King of Love. The kingdom of God shall be established among men through the operation of the law of love—to love others as ourselves, which is the essence of the law and the prophets. David’s name—"the beloved"— prefigures the character of the Lord Jesus Christ. "This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him" (Matthew 17:5). David was also from Bethlehem in the land of Judah— "the house of bread"—out of which came the "Governor that shall feed (or rule) my people Israel" (Micah 5:2, Matthew 2:6). Every man who attempts to set things right in his household, or in the world, by force is only making more trouble for himself and others. The distress and depression, the aftermath of futile efforts to carry out this policy, are dispelled by the Psalms of David, notably the Psalm of the Good Shepherd. But the relief thus afforded is only temporary awaiting a complete change of heart.
17. A growing knowledge of the practical meaning of the law enables us to analyze the failings in others. We despise them. Our pride, however, blinds us to similar failings in ourselves. We defy anyone to convict us of the sins we place at other people’s doors. We claim innocence even in God’s sight. No argument from the letter of the law can humble our pride. David discarded Saul’s armor and sword as unproven. They would be useless to David in meeting the giant. The proud warrior was laid low by one of five pebbles from the brook, and the giant decapitated by his own sword. A simple truth learned in childhood—one in five—driven home, is sufficient to put an end to conceit, and open the heart to correction by truth formerly accepted in theory, but despised in practice. Every youth learns in one way or another that conceit—his ingrained belief that "he knows it all"—is debasing. "Whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased" (Matthew 23:12). To see this at all times when pride blinds him to his faults, condemn self in humility, is the spiritual equivalent of the stone that smote Goliath. The power of the law of love to humble one’s pride is comparatively simple to anyone who has curbed an incorrigible temper, or a coarse disposition, because they are unmanly. David rescued the kid out of the mouth of the lion and the bear. In this chapter we have the first intimation of the conflict between the letter and the spirit. David’s three big brothers followed Saul. Eliab was incensed at David’s presumptuousness in accepting Goliath’s challenge. They who fight to uphold the authority of the letter of the law are impatient with those who believe in "the spirit which giveth life" (2 Corinthians 3:6). The power of the spirit in the letter is felt when pride is humbled, and is then beyond question.
The Letter Versus the Spirit
18. Saul, and Jonathan and David were all at one in the same house after the victory. But Jonathan, feeling in closest sympathy with David, and recognizing him as his superior, gave him all the insignia of his right to succeed his father on the throne of Israel. This magnanimity implies the recognition or, rather, the acknowledgment of the supremacy of the law of love in establishing God’s kingdom on earth. This acknowledgment, however, is not firmly established in the heart without many a challenge. Jealousy and fear turned Saul against David. The chorus of maidens ascribed greater prowess to David than to Saul. The church proclaims the overruling power of love. The literalist denies it. He protests that the proponent of love makes loud professions, but does nothing about them. Saul tried to kill David, and plotted to place him in the hands of the Philistines. David, however, proved superior to the test, and accepted Saul’s daughter as his wife. The uncircumcised Philistines represent those who talk much about faith, but lack charity. David’s gift of foreskins as a dowry for Michal proves the power of the letter of the Word to purify one’s nature of unclean thoughts and feelings when motivated by the right spirit. In this way we become wedded to the literal sense of the Scriptures, with its plain and wholesome lessons of life.
Autocracy Challenges Democracy
19. The conflict between the letter and the spirit continues. It appears, for example, in autocracy versus democracy. A government may be democratic in name, but largely autocratic in spirit; and vice versa. The issue exists in every form of government. It is only a question of degree. Many people mistake the name for the reality, but there are despots in every republic, and freedom-lovers in every autocracy. The tendency in despotism is always to destroy freedom, or the love of freedom, which is heaven-born. Saul sought David’s life, and Jonathan could not change his father’s purpose. Michal, however, contrived David’s escape through deception, placing the image on the bed, when David had gone. What the church teaches in relation to the spiritual life is a dead letter, a lifeless image of the living content of the Word, to the autocrat. The prophetic utterances of the Book of Life are vocal only to those who yearn for newness of life. It is true that "every man possesses the ability to understand the secrets of wisdom like angels themselves" (Divine Providence #222). Saul and his messengers turn prophets when in the presence of David and the priest, Samuel, on the hilltop—up where the sun shines. The literalist can talk the language of the spirit when exalted through sympathetic touch with the spiritually minded, but not from experience, which is the spiritual sense of the Word itself. It is one thing to know the spiritual sense, and another to be in it.
20. We are continually criticizing people and existing conditions. That is Saul’s place, to lay down the letter of the law. But there may be rancor in our criticism. David’s place is to lay down the law for the spirit. The rancor in criticism is destructive of the love of the neighbor. David’s life is at stake. The Lord says, "Agree with thine adversary quickly while thou art in the way with him" (Matthew 5:25). The application of these words to the case is transparent. That is Jonathan, the mediator’s part. We are learning an elementary lesson in how to live in the world. "The field is the world" (Matthew 13:38). The three, Saul, Jonathan and David, ought to be together. We must admit inability to control our feelings. Then the best policy is to keep out of other people’s way "in the field" of action as much as possible, until we have regained our poise and goodwill. Arguments for this course of action are like Jonathan’s arrows telling David to get away from the field. It is sound policy to be silent while adjusting feelings that have dynamite in them.
"Love Your Enemies"
21. To set the heart straight is a difficult task. David is king by Divine right, but not yet by the consent of the people. Love ought to rule in the heart, but the heart is antagonistic. We cannot love those who do wrong, particularly those who wrong us, or those whom we love. What then shall we do? David asks for five cakes of the showbread on the Sabbath day, and receives them from Ahimelech, the priest. We were taught in childhood that the Lord loves everyone, both the evil and the good, and that his mercy endureth forever. He is always the same. This is the spiritual equivalent of the five cakes of the "continual bread," the reminder of "the Lord’s love toward the universal human race." In a tense moment of religious emotionalism we feel ready to forgive, and to forget; we are prepared to return good for evil. Worldly wisdom characterizes this as idiotic. Fortunately the cynic does not take us seriously. David escaped from Achish by feigning madness.
22. Feigned madness! A wise fool! To love our enemies! To forgive seventy times seven! We are in serious doubt, and see dimly how to get out of our dilemma. David hid himself in the cave of Adullam, and there formed the nucleus of his army, composed of his brethren, and the distressed and discontented; four hundred in all, the symbol of the soul’s struggle to see right, and be right. Our old feeling of bitterness returns. Unlimited forgiveness favors the policy of laissez faire. Must we leave others free to wrong us or our loved ones without protest, or resistance? Surely not. Saul orders the extermination of the priests who supported David’s cause. It were folly to rely upon the power of love to control lawlessness. Away with the agency that upholds this idea. Down with the church! Even the letter of the law does not permit such an extreme. Saul’s guard refused to obey orders to slay the Lord’s priests. Nevertheless many people are easily influenced by fear to side with a dictator, or autocrat. To them the teachings of the church mean nothing. Doeg, the Edomite, killed the priests, and sacked their city, Nob. Thank God the church is indestructible. Abiathar escaped, and placed himself under the protection of David.
Force Silences Reason
23. A national sequence to this is an attack on reason through pride. The Philistines rob the threshing floors at Keilah. The use of reason to get at the substance of things is spiritual threshing. This power can always be kept safe when the heart is right. David saved the people of Keilah by order from the Lord. The literalists try to disprove the power of the spirit to deal with social or personal disorders. They plan to discredit completely the rule of the spirit of love, by intimidating reason. The sight of the red flag silences argument, whether it be really red, or any other color. Call it red: that is enough. It is then useless to persist. Discretion is the better part of valor. It is always better to withhold reasons for inaction when they would be misinterpreted to the hurt of a good cause. David retired "to the wilderness of Ziph in a wood." It is not at all clear what to do in the circumstances. "Jonathan strengthened his hand in God." Saul pursued David, a rock separated them, and Saul was about to circumvent it, when news of an invasion of the Philistines relieved the situation. The spirit of the Gospel—resist not evil, turn the other cheek, love your enemies, sacrifice life as a ransom for others—seems the height of folly to solve the world problems to the literalist, or advocate of law enforcement. The autocrat is intolerant of delay in settling disputes. Yet every now and again the autocrat faces failure. His theories will not achieve the expected result. The situation grows worse rather than better, until he reaches an impasse, and is forced to admit bankruptcy. He does not know what to do. The Philistine is on the warpath, and David further removed from the center of things.
Correction in Lovingkindness
24. The contest between the letter and the spirit is long and tedious for everyone. The next picture of David’s grief in cutting off the skirt of Saul’s robe in the dark cave, when Saul was in his power, presents a very common phase of the experience. The robes of judges and kings are insignia of the authority of the law with which they are invested. To cut the border of the robe implies a curtailment of their authority. We may often be right in our criticism, or condemnation of others, but the criticism loses its force when tinged with contempt or hatred. The moment we are conscious of that fact, we rue it bitterly. The word is needed; Saul’s kingship must be sustained. Its power for good, however, is dependent upon the spirit within. The Lord spoke with authority, and not as the Scribes and Pharisees. His voice is the voice of love, even when it cuts to the quick. To judge justly, to criticize in mercy, to correct in lovingkindness, is not attained in a day.
25. David is king, but Saul is still on the throne. We believe in the law of love, believe that our actions should be determined by equal consideration of the rights of others. But the iron rule, the law of necessity, still governs our judgments. We seek to correct injustice by summary procedure, and not by the slower and more arduous method of saving. We know it too, and suffer on that account. The fruits of righteousness are ripening, and losing a little of their acidity. Samuel the priest died and was buried in Ramah, "a height," in the lot of Ephraim. "And David arose, and went down to the wilderness in Paran." ("God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.") And David sent ten young men to Nabal, who was then shearing his sheep, to receive a gift for the protection David had afforded him and his shepherds in the past. All this implies a marked change of state in meeting life’s problems. The priest’s death and burial signify the awakening of the love of saving, which opens the eyes to new ways of establishing the brotherhood of man on earth (Arcana Coelestia #4110). The intellect regards the schemes as folly. Nabal—"the fool"—refused to help David. But a sympathetic heart grasps the situation better than the mind. Abigail met David’s needs, and became his wife after the death of Nabal. By way of illustration: The nations believe military strength is the only guarantee of their security. Any attempt to induce them to repudiate that fallacy, get together, rely on brotherly love, and trust one another, would be regarded as idle talk. Yet, somehow, sometime, men and women must act on this principle in answer to their prayer "Thy kingdom come." That is our firm belief. But who will first set the example? Who first give in? Who follow in the train of Him who gave his life a ransom for many? What is our next step? Where is the Lord’s footprint?
Legitimate Law Enforcement
26. The love of our neighbor requires us to uphold the authority of the courts, and of the army, and of the police so long as they are needed to preserve order. David insisted that no hand dare touch the "Lord’s anointed." The day will come when the abuse of force will call for judgment, and change. David took Saul’s spear and cruse of water from him when in a deep sleep, and when Saul awoke, he confessed that David had spared his life, and that he had erred greatly. This presents the tacit admission that law enforcement (the spear), and the lessons drawn from the letter of the Word (the cruse of water), at variance with the spirit of the Word, are attended by abuses and heresies that defy correction by the letter of the law. The recognition of this in experience opens the way further, but not completely, to the supremacy of the law of love. Saul is still on the throne, and David forced to retire to Philistia.
27. We are as yet tyros in applying the law of love to life. We must study the Word more closely to get its bearing upon the problems on hand. Achish gave David a city in Philistia, Ziklag, which then passed into the hands of the kings of Judah. We reclaim certain discarded teachings of the past, place them in a new setting, and then test them out in life’s crucible, and prove their efficacy. From Ziklag David smote several of the nations that were of old "the inhabitants of the land." He concealed his exploits from Achish. Apathy discredits the importance of the spiritual life. Unseen efforts to remove the inner causes of disorder appear to accomplish nothing, and justly merit the contempt of the self-righteous! All of which strengthens apathy, or the inclination to let well enough alone. Achish imagined David would be his servant forever.
Insufficiency of the Letter
28. David’s victories, however, mark a distinct step toward the open acknowledgment of him as the king of Israel. Their significance to us gives proof of the complete insufficiency of the letter of the law to solve life’s problems. This is clearly indicated by the sequence of events. "Man is led and taught by the Lord from heaven by means of the Word" (Divine Providence #154). Those who are in the literal sense are blind to the internal sense. Only those who put love first and faith second see the inner meaning, because that inner meaning is the life of charity, or love to the neighbor. "This is the law and the prophets." Saul saw the handwriting on the wall. Neither urim nor thummim—the flash of light from the stones in the ephod—nor dreams, nor prophets, could bring the answer to his problem. He resorted to what he well knew was an illegitimate method of gaining enlightenment and direction. From that source he learned the inevitable. Even the letter of the Word made the lesson inescapable: "Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my father which is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21). They who hear and do build upon the rock, the acknowledgment of the Lord in newness of life, the life of charity. To these alone the inner meaning of the Word is an open book.
29. In the conflict that follows, Saul on the throne represents the supremacy of force in suppressing evil to restore order, the Philistines represent the claim of infallibility of our own opinions, and David, anointed but not regnant, represents the supremacy of the law of love. David is back of the Philistines in its advance against Saul. Neighborly love supports the argument against the attempt to establish Might as Right. Achish recognizes the sovereignty of David. "I know that thou art good in my sight, as an angel of God," he said. Nevertheless, David is incompetent as yet to deal with the spirit of absolutism. Further experience is necessary to teach us the inefficiency of this spirit to cope with human wrongs.
30. Meanwhile the Amalekites, taking advantage of David’s absence, attacked Ziklag, and carried off the women, including David’s wives. The Amalekites represent our indisposition to study the Word and work out its meaning in relation to the problem on hand—in this instance, the use of force or moral suasion, might or right, militarism or pacifism, in trying human relationships. Mother church is weak, and negligent of her duty to warn the people of the wrongs from which they suffer. David’s victory over the Amalekites with the aid of the Egyptian, "servant to an Amalekite," and rescue of his wives, implies an awakened conscience conversant with all the facts of the situation. Those who fought and those who "tarried by the stuff" shared alike in the spoil. They who are sympathetic with the cause, but too fainthearted to fight, share the benefits of the progressive life equally with those who bear the brunt of the conflict, benefits which extend far and wide throughout all the community, each participating according to his receptibility. "Other men labored, and ye are entered into their labors" (John 4:38).
31. The supremacy of the law of love in action throughout the church supercedes the authority of the letter of the law in the regenerate life. The letter of the law is proven inadequate to redeem society. Saul and his armor bearer fell upon their own swords, and Jonathan was slain by the Philistines. Imperialism effectuates its own ruin. Even where the spirit of the Word shines through the letter, that is not enough to save humanity. "The testimony of Jesus" throughout all prophecy is necessary to that great far-off event. As might be expected, they who regard civilization as purely cultural noise abroad the pretensions and the failure of religion, and contemptuously discredit its power to preserve the peace of the world. The Philistines impaled the headless body of Saul on the walls of Bethshan—"the house of security." On the other hand, they who have experienced the protection of the law know otherwise. The men of Jabesh Gilead buried the bones of Saul and his sons under a tree at Jabesh. And later, David reburied the bones of Saul and Jonathan in the sepulcher of Kish. Force has a rightful and necessary place in the social order to restrain criminality and protect the innocent. And it may be added that self-compulsion in obedience to the letter of the law is conformable to the spirit of the kingdom, but the "self" in the compulsion must be the "unself," or "as of one’s self," to give it the quality that is everlasting.
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