8      previous  -  next  -  BM Home  -  Full Page

Saul, part 8

Saul Sent to Destroy Amalek.

1 Samuel 15

Next to the blessing of possessing the Scriptures of the New Testament is that of being able rightly to interpret those of the Old; and next to the privilege of living under the Christian dispensation is that of being able to know the true nature of those which have been before it. By not accurately distinguishing between the nature of the Jewish and Christian dispensations, and the character of the Scriptures that belong to them, Christianity has, to a certain extent, imbibed the spirit and adopted the practice of Judaism. Assuming that the Israelites were the chosen and favoured people of God, what they did under the sanction of Divine authority is considered by some to have been agreeable to the Divine will, and may therefore be imitated with the Divine approbation. Others again have supposed that the Jewish Scriptures ceased with the Jewish dispensation, and have, therefore, no real authority with or value for Christians. The light which we now enjoy enables us to see that there is a great distinction and yet a perfect harmony between the Old and the New. The Jewish and Christian Scriptures are widely different in their outward literal form, but entirely at one in their inward spiritual essence. The two dispensations were dissimilar, but they are analogous. The Jewish Church was the type of which the Christian is the antitype. What was natural to the Jews is spiritual to Christians. Egypt was their world, the desert their cross, Canaan their heaven; prosperity was their happiness, and length of days their immortality. Their enemies were those who stood in the way of their temporal acquisitions, and their wars and their weapons were carnal. Translated into spiritual language, their history is a delineation of Christian experience. In this way we must read it, if we would see it to be Divinely conducted and spiritually instructive. The war of extermination waged against the seven nations of Canaan had no doubt a deep moral cause. For when nations become thoroughly corrupt, it is necessary for the welfare and even for the preservation of the race that they should be removed from the earth. But the history of the Jewish wars is only spiritually instructive when the nations with which they warred are regarded as representing the evil and false principles of our own corrupt selfhood, as opposed to the spiritual principles of goodness and truth, which constitute our new nature. Each of these nations represented some particular evil or false principle. Those which were represented by the Ammonites and the Philistines we have already considered. We now come to speak of another, one of a deeply malignant character.

Amalek was a fierce nation inhabiting a country on the borders of Canaan. They were the first to assail Israel after the passage of the Red Sea. On that occasion they did not attack the Israelites openly, but, watching their opportunity, assailed them when they were dispirited and feeble, after having suffered from extreme thirst. Yet we are to remember that the Israelites, when they sinned, were punished by a nation whose character corresponded to the evil from which they transgressed. When suffering from thirst, they had murmured almost to the denial of the Divine presence among them. There was, therefore, a representative affinity between murmuring Israel and avenging Amalek. As one of the few instances of particular explanation, by our great expositor, of the history of the three kings, is on the subject of the Amalekites, it may be usefully introduced here. "It may be expedient to show what sort of persons are in falsity grounded in interior evil which Amalek represents. Interior evil is that which lies inwardly concealed in man, stored up in his will, and hence in his thoughts, without any trace of it appearing outwardly, as in the actions, the speech, and the countenance. Those who are in such evil endeavour by every method and are to conceal and hide it under the appearance of honesty, justice, and neighbourly love; and still they think only of doing evil, and as far as they can they do it by means of others, taking care not to let it appear to be from themselves: they also disguise the evil itself, so that it may seem not to be evil. The great delight of their life is to devise such schemes, and to attempt them secretly. This is called interior evil. Those who are in this evil are called genii, and in the other life are entirely separate from those who are in exterior evil, and are called spirits. The evil genii have their hell behind man, that is, at his back, and are there in various caverns; but evil spirits have their hell before man, and also at his sides. Those genii in the grand man belong to the province of the cerebellum, and also to that part of the spinal marrow which sends out fibres and nerves to the involuntary parts. It may further be remarked that the falsity derived from this evil is not like the falsity derived from the evil of evil spirits, for in itself it is evil. Those who are in this evil do not assault the truths but the goods of faith; for they act by depraved affections, by which they pervert good thoughts, and this in an almost incomprehensible manner. Being of such a character, their hells are entirely separate from those of evil spirits, so much so that they have hardly any communication, and this with a view to their separation from the men of the spiritual Church; for if they were to flow in from their hells, the man of that Church would be utterly ruined, for they would act most secretly upon his conscience, and would pervert it by exciting depraved affections. These infernal genii never assault a man openly, or when he is able to resist them, but when he appears to be on the point of yielding they suddenly present themselves, and force him to fall absolutely. This is represented by Amalek invading; and afterwards, when the children of Israel opposed themselves to the Lord, and were afraid of the nations of Canaan, 'then also came down Amalek with the Canaanite from the mountain, and smote the children of Israel to Hormah' (Num 14:45). From all this may be manifest the character of those who are represented by Amalek, and why the judgement upon Amalek from the Lord was that there should be war with them perpetually, and that their memory should be blotted out from under heaven." This was the enemy that assailed Israel at Rephidem, when tempted to deny the presence and providential care of God. Such a temptation can only arise out of that state of the human heart which, when openly manifested, denies the Divine government in the world and in human affairs. This evil is the root of unbelief. We all have this root within us. Although we may shudder at the idea of denying God to be the Ruler of heaven and earth, we may feel and act so as to show that we have no true reliance on Divine Providence, which is the Divine government. This is the form which the evil takes among professing Christians. It is more insidious and more deceptive than a suggestion to make an open denial of God. It is a false principle grounded in interior evil, which Amalek represented. Such was the nature of the temptation which that of Israel at Rephidem typified. After the Amalekites had assailed Israel on that occasion, they were defeated by Joshua. It was then that the Divine judgement went forth against them: "I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. The Lord has sworn that He will have war with Amalek from generation to generation." This sentence Saul was now commissioned to execute. Samuel first reminds him that he is the Lord's anointed, and therefore ought to obey the voice of the Lord. Then he proceeds: "Thus says the Lord of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass." No immediate cause is here assigned for the issue of this terrible edict against the Amalekites; it is for a crime committed four hundred years before, still kept in the Divine remembrance. What are we to understand by the Divine remembrance? He with whom the past and the future are present does not call things to mind. Such expressions are to be understood of the Divine in relation to the states of men. The Lord remembers when His truth is brought to our remembrance. The Lord, when on earth, promised the Holy Spirit, which was to bring all things to their remembrance whatever He had said to them. But this promise meant, not only the recollection of past words but the reproduction of former states. The spiritual memory is not the memory of facts but of principles. That only is inscribed on the inner memory which has been received into the inner life; and spiritual remembrance is no other than the reproduction of previously acquired principles, with the effort to bring them forth from the inward into the outward life. Such an act and effort are to be understood by the Lord remembering what Amalek had done in the desert. The Amalekites had repeatedly assailed Israel and had repeatedly been defeated; but now the command was utterly to destroy them. This destruction was now to be attempted because the instrument for effecting it had been provided. A king represented truth derived from goodness, and this is the opposite of falsity derived from evil. No principle can be completely overcome but by its opposite. It is the presence of good and truth that brings their opposites to remembrance; for it is then that the opposite evil and falsity are excited by temptation, and the conflict takes place which should utterly destroy them. It is true that Saul did not fully execute his commission. This was to represent that truth Divine was not equal to this great enterprise. The Divine command, which represented the Divine will, was, however, partially fulfilled; and although Saul lost his crown on account of his shortcoming, what he did accomplish no doubt rendered the complete overthrow of the Amalekites more easy and certain under the reign and by the power of David. The particulars of Saul's conduct demand our attention.

When Saul received the message of the Lord through Samuel, he gathered the people together and numbered them in Telaim, two-hundred thousand footmen, and ten thousand men of Judah. The principles of truth and goodness, brought together, and arranged according to the laws of Divine order, are the men of Israel and Judah gathered and numbered in Telaim. Telaim is mentioned only twice, here and in Isaiah 40:11. Its meaning, taken in its connection there, will give us a good idea of its spiritual signification here. The word itself signifies young lambs. It occurs in that beautiful prophecy respecting the Lord's Advent: "O Zion, that bring good tidings, get you up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bring good tidings, lift up your voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say to the cities of Judah, Behold your God! Behold, the Lord God will come with strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him: behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him. He shall feed His flock like a shepherd; He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young" (Isa 40:9). Jehovah comes with strength, and His arm, which is His Humanity, rules for Him; and yet, while He comes as a strong man, to rule even in the midst of His enemies (Ps 110:2), He comes also as a shepherd, to gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom. So should those who go forth in the spiritual warfare. While they endeavour to scatter the wolves, they should be careful to gather the lambs. In the particular sense, the Christian should engage in conflict armed with the power of truth and influenced by the spirit of love. He should gather and number his forces in Telaim. As Telaim was in the land of Judah, it is symbolic of the innocence of wisdom.

When Saul with his army came to the valley where was a city of the Amalekites, he first gave warning to the Kenites, who were with them, to depart, that they might not be involved in the ruin which was threatened to the ancient enemy of Israel. The reason assigned for Saul's desire to spare them was that the Kenites had shown kindness to Israel when they came up out of Egypt. The Kenites are understood to be the same as the Midianites, of whom Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, was the priest (Judges 1:16), and who came to meet Moses in the wilderness (Exod 18i). As the Amalekites were the first of the nations to assail Israel after they entered the desert, the Kenites were the first to befriend them, and we find their coming mentioned immediately after the conflict with Amalek. Yet these two peoples are now found together; and but for the friendly warning of Saul, the Kenites would no doubt have shared in the destruction that overtook Amalek. A similar combination is mentioned in the Book of Judges in the time of Gideon. "The Midianites and the Amalekites and all the children of the east lay along in the valley like grasshoppers for multitude" (Judges 7:12). On that memorable occasion, this mighty host was overthrown by the three hundred that, when brought to a stream, lapped the water like a dog, affording an illustration of the fact that evil is overcome by appositions as well as by opposition, for the name Amalek means to lick up like a dog. The Kenites, considering them as the Midianites, represented those who have good natural dispositions, but do not concern themselves about truth. Why, then, should they be found among those who represent such as have a keen but perverted understanding? Because those who are in a state of simple goodness are most ready to yield to the ingenious reasonings and winning persuasions of the designing. They are capable of being led by the evil more easily than by the good; for the evil have the wisdom of the serpent without the harmlessness of the dove, and are unscrupulous in its use, while the good try not to persuade but to convince. But considering these two peoples as representing corresponding principles in the minds of those who are being regenerated; the Lord provides that in all possible cases where they are together they should not be mixed, so that in the day of conflict the good may not perish with the evil, and therefore the mind is instructed to distinguish and separate them. When the Kenites departed Saul fell upon the Amalekites, and smote them "from Havilah until you come to Shur, that is over against Egypt." The wilderness of Shur is memorable as the scene of Hagar's trial, when she fled from the face of her mistress; and the land now inhabited by the Amalekites is mentioned in Genesis 25:18 as that which her son Ishmael and his tribe possessed: " They dwelt from Havilah to Shur, as you come to Assyria." The situation of this country, in respect to Egypt and Assyria, marks its representative character as that which lies between science and reason. In the writings, science, knowledge, and reason form a graduated series. Science is of the memory, knowledge is of the thought, reason is of the understanding. That which lies between science and reason is knowledge; or, what is the same, that which lies between the memory and the understanding is thought. Havilah and Shur have a similar meaning to Egypt and Assyria, but only more limited, as what is particular in respect to what is general. To smite the Amalekites from Havilah to Shur is to execute the judgement of Divine Truth upon falsity grounded in interior evil, and to pursue it from its basis in the memory as science up to its seat in the understanding as reason.

But although the overthrow of Amalek was, in a general sense,. complete, the Divine purpose remained unaccomplished. " Saul and the people spared Agag the king, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fallings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly." In sparing some when he should have destroyed all, Saul was no doubt guilty of disobedience. Yet the sin does not seem so great as to have drawn down upon him so severe a punishment. Of course if we admit that sin does not necessarily consist in the nature of the act but in the transgression of the command, the sin is the same whatever the act may be. But this principle is not, we think, a sound one. It may be supported by the mere letter of the Word; as, for instance, by Adam eating the forbidden fruit, where there appears to be nothing evil but the act of disobedience. But all instances of this kind show that there is a deeper meaning than that which the letter expresses. The Divine Justice is too pure to make an act sinful which is not in its nature hurtful. Saul's sin would not have been so severely censured and so heavily punished if it had not involved and represented a spiritual act that entails eternal consequences. The saving of Agag alive, and the sparing of the best of the flock and of the herd, which shared not in the guilt or moral corruption of their owners, had nothing of the character of evil in itself, unless it may have proceeded from covetousness; and their destruction would never have been commanded but for the purpose of conveying a spiritual truth and teaching a spiritual lesson to the members of the Church in all future ages. What truth is contained in the command to Saul to slay utterly, and what lesson it was, designed to teach, we shall see as we proceed. Meantime we must consider the result of Saul's disobedience. "Then came the word of the Lord to Samuel, saying, It repents Me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments." What are we to understand by the Lord repenting, and repenting that He had made Saul king? Human repentance implies either a change of opinion or a change of purpose— of the understanding or of the will. This last, not excluding the first, is the Scripture state of repentance towards God. These changes are incident only to imperfect and sinful beings, and are not, therefore, possible with God. This Samuel declares plainly when assuring Saul that the Lord had rent the kingdom from him, and given it to another better than he. "The Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for He is not a man, that He should repent." He who sees the end from the beginning can make no mistakes, and can, therefore, have no cause for repentance. But although God cannot repent, repentance, attributed to Him in Scripture, is not without a meaning. When God is said to repent of the evil that He has threatened, repentance signifies mercy. When He is said to repent of what He has done, as of having made man, and of having made Saul king, there is something besides mercy included in its meaning. In the inmost or celestial sense the whole Word treats of the Lord as the incarnate God. This, we have seen, is the subject of the history of Saul, who represents the Lord as truth Divine, before His Humanity was made Divine Truth. Jehovah could not repent that He had assumed humanity subject to the common infirmities of our fallen nature, yet there was something in His early state and experience which gave rise to something analogous to human repentance. The Lord, as man, did not, like ordinary men, pass from a state of sin to a state of righteousness, and had never therefore to do the work of repentance. But there were other human states and changes of state which He passed through which were attended with a state analogous to repentance. Indeed the Lord, in the process of His glorification, passed through states analogous to all those through which ordinary men pass in the course of their regeneration. Man undergoes changes of state both natural and spiritual. He passes through the several states of infancy and childhood and youth and manhood; but he goes through still greater changes in passing from natural to spiritual, and from spiritual to celestial states of life. Our Lord also grew in wisdom and in stature and in favour with God and man. He grew physically and mentally; and from being a Divine natural became a Divine spiritual and a Divine celestial man. When an ordinary man, in the progress of his natural and spiritual life, passes from a lower into a higher state, he sees the imperfection of the state from which he has risen, and the comparatively superficial nature of the trials or temptations he had experienced while he was in it. In the earlier states of the regenerate life temptation does not reach the lower depths of evil, because its lower depths are neither known nor felt, nor is the true character of the excited evil understood. The knowledge of evil is then general but not particular, and therefore the opposition to it is general. The people are slain, but Agag the ruler is saved alive, and the best of everything is preserved. Our Lord, in passing through corresponding states, had corresponding experiences. This was shadowed forth in the conduct of those who were types of Him; and Saul was one of those types. Their sins, as I have said, represented His temptations. Unlike any other man, the Lord never failed in His conflicts with evil and the powers of evil; but His temptations did not, in His earlier life, always go to the greatest depths of the evil which assailed Him. This is clearly set before us in the writings, where the analogy between the Lord's glorification and man's regeneration is treated of: "Every man first of all supports spiritual combat by the goods and truths he has acquired by knowledges, and from them and by them he judges respecting evils and falsities. Every man, also, when he first begins to engage in spiritual combats imagines those goods and truths by which he supports the combat to be his own, that is, he attributes them to himself; and he at the same time attributes to himself the power by which he resists. Before man is regenerated it is impossible for him to know, so as to be able to say he knows, acknowledges, and believes it, that nothing good and true is from himself, but that all goodness and truth is from the Lord. Nor does he know that he is not able to resist anything evil and false by his own power; for he does not know that evil spirits excite and infuse evils and falsities, still less that by evil spirits he has communication with hell, and that hell with all its weight presses upon him, as the sea does upon every part of a dyke raised to oppose its waves, a pressure which it is utterly unable by its own strength to resist. But as nevertheless, before regeneration, he cannot help imagining that he fights by his own strength, he is permitted to imagine so, but afterwards he is more enlightened. When man is in such a state as to suppose that goodness and truth are from himself, and that the power of resisting is his own, then the goods and truths by which he fights against evils and falsities are not really good and true, although they appear to be so; for his selfhood is in them and he takes merit to himself in the victory, and boasts as if he had conquered the evil and falsity, when yet it is the Lord alone who fights and conquers. That this is the truth of the case can only be known by those who are regenerated by temptations. As the Lord in His earliest childhood was introduced into the most grievous combats against evils and falsities, He could not do otherwise than entertain this same imagination, as well because it was according to Divine order that His human essence should be introduced by continual combats and victories to his Divine essence, and be united thereto, as because the goods and truths by which He fought against evils and falsities belonged to the external man; and as these goods and truths were thus not altogether Divine, therefore they are called apparent goods and truths. His Divine essence thus introduced the human essence to conquer by its own power. In a word, in His first combats the goods and truths from which the Lord fought were tainted with somewhat hereditary from the mother, and so far as they were tainted they were not Divine, but by degrees as He conquered evil and falsity they were perfected and made Divine." Now apparent truths and goods are goods and truths Divine, but not Divine goods and truths—they are from the Divine, but not in themselves Divine. They are such as exist in the minds of angels and men, and are finited by being received in finite faculties. Such were the goods and truths by which our Lord carried on His early conflicts with the powers of darkness, and by which He made His Humanity truth Divine, as preparatory to His making it Divine Truth. These finited and therefore apparent goods and truths, tainted with somewhat hereditary from the mother, being represented by Saul, we can see the marvelous truthfulness of Saul's chequered history, as typical of the early history of our Lord's inner life and experience. We can see that our Lord's early conflicts with the powers of darkness were less interior, and His victories over them less complete, than when He had put off more of the imperfections He inherited from His human mother, and put on more of the infinite perfections He inherited from His Divine Father. We can see why in Saul's conflict with the Amalekites the people were slain but the king was saved alive, and why everything that was vile and refuse was destroyed utterly, while the best of the flocks and herds were spared. The general principles of evil and falsity were, like the people, destroyed, but the ruling principle, like the king, was not yet overcome. The temptation and victory did not go to the root of the evil, although, as we shall see, this did not finally escape. Whatever was apparently evil and false in the external man was, like the things vile and refuse, destroyed utterly, but what appeared to be good and true was preserved. We can see further why it repented the Lord that He had made Saul king, even when considered in reference to him whom Saul represented. Repentance does not in any case mean a change in the Divine mind, but it means in every case a want of harmony between the Divine and the human mind. Here, therefore, it expresses a want of harmony between the Lord's Divine and human nature; between the absolutely and the apparently good and true in the Lord, who, as yet, was God and man, but not yet God-man. The Divine Being repenting that He had made  Saul king, does not mean that it had been better the Lord had not assumed a frail humanity, so that its imperfections should be manifested in His early conflicts with the powers of evil, but that these imperfections were irreconcilable with the Divine perfections, and must be removed; or, as we have elsewhere expressed it, that truth Divine could not be a permanently but only a temporarily ruling principle in the Lord's Humanity. Yet the selfhood of the maternal humanity, like that of every ordinary human being, only began to manifest itself in the Child Jesus when He began to show the active workings of hereditary evil, that slumbers in the infant breast of every child of Adam, until it is awakened by exciting agencies in the progress of mental development. Hence the seeming inconsistency of the Lord choosing Saul and afterwards repenting of the choice. As it was not till Saul began to manifest evil qualities which he did not seem at first to possess, the Lord repented He had made him king; so it was not till hereditary evil began to unfold itself in the maternal humanity of the Lord that the contrariety between the Divine and the human began to manifest itself, the perception of the active existence of which is expressed by the Divine Being repenting.

When the word of the Lord came to Samuel, saying, "It repents Me that I have made Saul king, it grieved Samuel, and he cried to the Lord all night." In the extract we have given from the writings respecting the Lord's early states and experiences, one of the reasons assigned for His imagining that the goods and truths by which He maintained His combat against evil and falsity, and the power by which He maintained it, were His own, was, that the goods and truths by which He fought were of the external man. A Divine dictate now comes to the internal man, giving a perception of this condition of the external; and the result is internal grief, and an ardent desire to come into closer union with the Divine itself. We read in the Gospel that the Lord went into a mountain and continued all night in prayer to God. Such dark states of mental tribulation experienced by the Son of Man were faintly shadowed by the grief and the night-long cry of Samuel; and for corresponding reasons, which our Lord Himself expressed when He said, "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." But this internal dictate, strengthened by earnest prayer, is to be brought down into the external. Samuel therefore rises early to meet Saul in the morning, that in the dawn of a new state the truth which has been imparted to the inner man may be brought down into the outer man also. "It was told Samuel, saying, Saul came to Carmel, and, behold, he set him up a place, and is gone about, and passed on, and gone down to Gilgal." This is not the Carmel so celebrated in Scripture for its fruitfulness and beauty, from which it derived its name; but we may infer that, as a city, it had, relatively to mount Carmel, the same meaning that a principle in the understanding has to the same principle in the will; and therefore means the doctrine of internal good and truth. It was in Carmel that Saul set up a place, which is understood to have been a memorial of his victory over the Amalekites; as the pillar which Absalom set to keep his name in remembrance was called Absalom's place (2 Sam 18:18); and which favours the idea of a state, which Saul's state was as well as represented—something of self-glorying in victory. But Saul had gone about and gone down to Gilgal, and thither Samuel followed him to "roll away "the reproach of Amalek.

Having thus far considered the narrative in its inmost sense, as relating to the Lord Himself in His Humanity, it may be desirable, in pursuing the subject of it, to view it more in its inner sense, as relating to ourselves, as the subjects of that regeneration which is the image of His glorification, and for the sake of which He assumed our frail and fallen nature, and did and suffered all that humanity could do and suffer, that He might bring us, by doing and suffering, to participate in the glory into which He entered. Profoundly instructive and impressive it is to see something of the inmost sense of the Word, and of the Lord's great and merciful work in the flesh, as the origin and archetype of our own; but it is too high for us to dwell long or exclusively upon it with advantage. It is generally sufficient, and even more profitable, to view the Lord's glorification as reflected in the mirror of human regeneration.

When Samuel came to Saul, Saul said to him, "Blessed be you of the Lord: I have performed the commandment of the Lord. And Samuel said, What means then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear? And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice to the Lord your God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed." Saul, as appears from his subsequent confession, was aware that he had not, in this, wholly followed the Lord, and yet he combines with his holy salutation of Samuel the voluntary assurance that he had obeyed the Lord's commandment; and when the prophet demanded of him, "What then means the bleating of the sheep and lowing of the oxen?" how ingeniously does he put the case for himself: "They have brought them from the Amalekites; the rest we have utterly destroyed"! As the natural man is eager to obtain reward, so is he anxious to escape blame; and just so far as he claims merit for the good, he refuses to take blame for the evil. Yet there is a spiritual truth expressed in this. In the early states of the regenerate life the natural mind knows and yet does not know the truth in regard to merit and blame. It knows theoretically but not practically. One of the earliest and easiest of our religious lessons is, that, as God is the Author of all good, we can claim no merit for goodness; and that as we do evil from freedom, we can have no excuse for sin; and yet we may feel proud of our virtues and not be ashamed of our vices. There is an important and most practical doctrine of the Church on this subject. If we believed that all good is from heaven and all evil is from hell, we would neither appropriate the merit of good nor the guilt of evil. It is by regarding good as our own that we claim the merit of it, and it is by regarding evil as our own that we try to excuse or justify it; and thus refuse to take the demerit which belongs to it. Saul represents one whose natural mind is still in this state. But when light from the Lord enters through the spiritual mind, this state is seen, and a perception of it comes to the natural mind itself. When Saul had offered his explanation, Samuel said to him, "Stay, and I will tell you what the Lord has said to me this night. And he said to him, Say on. And Samuel said, When you were little in your own sight, were you not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the Lord anointed you king over Israel?" The true condition of the mind in the earlier stages of the regenerate life is for the will to be under the direction and control of the understanding, which is meant by Saul being little in his own sight. He then reminds Saul of the commission he had received respecting the Amalekites, and tells him how imperfectly he had discharged it; but Saul still maintains that he had obeyed the voice of the Lord, and had gone the way which the Lord had sent him, and had brought Agag the king of Amalek, and had utterly destroyed the Amalekites: but the people had taken of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice to the Lord in Gilgal. It was then that Samuel uttered that memorable saying, "Has the Lord as great delight in burnt-offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." Worship is one of the duties we owe to God; but it is only a means to an end: and the end of all Divine worship is that we may be strengthened to do the Divine will. God requires mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt-offering. The ceremonial law was given for the sake of the moral law; and the institutions of worship are, still more under the New Testament dispensations than those of the old, aids to the performance "of the duties of the moral law. It is well to serve the Lord in worship, but to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.

But if worship, in its pure and holy state, is secondary and auxiliary to a pure and holy life, what can be said of that worship which is founded upon a violation of the Divine commandments? Is not worship sometimes offered to God as a substitute for obedience to His will? When penitence is in the heart prayer will be upon the lips; for from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. But even then the offering itself must be pure. The sacrifices under the law-were required to be without spot or blemish. For the animals offered on the altar represented the good affections of the human mind; and these should be offered to God unspotted by the world and the flesh. The sheep and oxen of the Amalekites could not represent pure and innocent affections. In themselves they might be free from ceremonial blemish, but they were tainted by the moral corruptions of their owners. They had been devoted to destruction: how could they be offered in sacrifice? The old man with his lusts is to be crucified; the new man with his affections is to be sacrificed. These are the two great aims of the spiritual warfare and the ultimate condition of the spiritual life. They were those of the Lord Himself. It was when He was crucified as to the old man, or the frail humanity He inherited from Mary, that He offered Himself up a living sacrifice as to the new man, or the humanity He derived from the Divinity. This complete glorification of the Lord, and the corresponding complete regeneration of man, could not be represented in this act, and did not indeed belong to the reign of Saul. Therefore Samuel announces to-him, that as he had rejected the word of the Lord, the Lord had rejected him from being king. This was not the first but the second time that the prophet had declared to him the forfeiture of his kingdom. And it is worthy of remark that in the first instance it was for assuming the function of the priesthood in himself offering a sacrifice, when he should have waited for Samuel to perform that sacred duty; while on the present occasion it was for proposing to offer a sacrifice which could not be accepted, but would in its nature be abomination to the Lord. When his dethronement was announced to him, Saul relented. "Saul said to Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord, and your words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice." This is the second time that the will of the king has been overruled by the voice of the people. In rescuing Jonathan from the consequences of the rash vow of Saul the people were right; in taking of the spoil which Saul was commanded to destroy the people were wrong. In both we have a representative of that state of mind when its lower principles rule the higher, as when the passions rule the intellect, and desire overcomes the sense of duty. In the present instance we see the result in Saul sparing the king and the flocks. The highest and the lowest, or the primary and the ultimate principles of things are the most important; and when these are spared of that which should be destroyed utterly, the work of extermination, however sweeping, is greatly incomplete. When Saul confessed his sin, he prayed Samuel to pardon it, and to turn again with him that he might worship the Lord. "And Samuel said to Saul, I will not return with you: for you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel. And as Samuel turned about to go away, he laid hold upon the skirt of his mantle, and it rent. And Samuel said to him, The Lord has rent the kingdom of Israel from you this day, and has given it to a neighbour of your that is better than you." Had Saul rended his heart when he rent the mantle of Samuel, his sin might have been forgiven and the kingdom of Israel might have been secured to him; but it is evident from the sequel that his repentance was not deep, and that a sense of shame was as great as his sense of guilt. Again he confessed, "I have sinned;" but now he asks not for pardon from God, but for honour before men. "Honour me now, I pfay you, before the elders of my people, and before Israel, and turn again with me, that I may worship the Lord your God. So Samuel turned again after Saul; and Saul worshiped the Lord." In all this we see the external character of the truth which Saul represented, whether we consider the subject in relation to the Lord in the progress of His glorification, or to man in the progress of his regeneration. Of Samuel we have here an instance of that which in relation to the Lord is called repentance. He first refuses to return with Saul, and then complies with his repeated entreaty. It is a sign of mercy; but this was the result of a second prayer, which indicates that a change of state in the human mind produces an apparent change of purpose in the Divine mind. The real truth is, that the Lord is mercy itself; but His mercy cannot be operative in man until man is in a state to receive it It was now, therefore, that an important act was done, which but for Samuel's turning again with Saul, would have been left undone. "Then said Samuel, Bring you here to me Agag the king of the Amalekites. And Agag came to him delicately. And Agag said, Surely the bitterness of death is past. And Samuel said, As your sword has made women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women. And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord." As Agag represented the internal of that of which the Amalekites were the types, of falsity grounded in interior evil; and Samuel represented the internal of that which Saul and the Israelites were the types, which was truth grounded in interior good; therefore Samuel slew Agag, to teach us that an evil or false principle can only be destroyed by its opposite good or truth. A true king of Israel would indeed have represented the opposite of a king of the Amalekites, for he would have represented the external in which was the internal; but it is evident that Saul did not; and from this circumstance he saved Agag alive.

And all this may be acted over again after another manner. May not the Christian disciple, who has received the command to forsake all, yet desire to retain a part, and endeavour to serve God and Mammon? May he not do what many have done, seek to propitiate the Deity by giving Him a portion of his unrighteous gains? And seeking by his worship and service to reconcile God to himself, rather than to reconcile himself to God, may he not thus ask to be absolved from the guilt, rather than purified from the stain of sin? In addition to all this, and as a necessary result of it, he will seek the praise of men more than the praise of God. All this may be drawn from the narrative regarded in its literal sense. But in the interior or spiritual sense, which resides within that of the letter, we may trace in the particulars of the history the state and operations of the mind within itself in times of spiritual conflict. How insidious are the evils of our own hearts which we are commanded utterly to destroy! These are the men and women, infant and suckling, sheep and oxen, camel and ass: the men and women, infant and suckling, are the thoughts and affections of the inner man; and the sheep and oxen, camel and ass, are the corresponding affections and thoughts, knowledge and science, of the outer man. A seemingly still more unnatural and terrible duty is imposed on the Christian disciple in the Gospel, in the demand which is made upon him to hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and his own life also, or he cannot be the Lord's follower. The spiritual duty imposed upon us both by the law and the Gospel is that of crucifying the old man with his affections and lusts, that the new man may live. But how arduous is this duty! what is more difficult than to lay down the very life with all that makes life enjoyable? Yet the life that is to be surrendered, the life of our corrupt selfhood, is opposed to the true life which we receive by regeneration, and which alone can secure to us either present or future happiness. No wonder we should be in danger of yielding to the influences and suggestions of our own natural will and understanding, to stop short of utter extermination, and save a remnant of our congenial, and perhaps cherished, natural loves and delights. How faithful a type is Saul of the natural mind rendered feeble and vacillating by the influence of its lower affections and thoughts, suggesting views of expediency or self-interest, as Saul was by the people! But the spiritual mind, the inner man, like Samuel, sees from a higher elevation, and is able to remain uninfluenced, unless it be sorrowfully, by the feeble character and vacillating conduct of the natural mind below. The outer man may fall short or yield, but the inner man remains in his integrity. And through the inner man the Lord speaks to the outer man, disclosing to him his frailties and failures and their unhappy consequences. The real nature and operation of the mind we may know by our experience. It is one of the characters by which the human is distinguished from the merely animal nature. Animals cannot look into their own minds, because the animal mind, whatever power it may possess, has no reflex action; but man can look into and judge of the state and operations of his own mind. In the relation before us we, therefore, see outwardly represented that Divinity-created constitution of our nature which enables us to reflect upon ourselves, and to know, that we may judge and control, the lower propensities and imaginations of our own minds.

In compliance with Saul's entreaty Samuel turned again with him to worship; but the offering could not have been taken from the spoil of the Amalekites, but must have been supplied from the flocks of Israel, as representing the true affections to be offered in worship. Then, when the inner and outer man are so far united, that which had been left undone or incomplete can be done or completed. It was after they had worshiped together that Samuel commanded Agag the king of the Amalekites to be brought forth. "And Agag came to him delicately, and said, Surely the bitterness of death is past. And Samuel said, As your sword has made women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women. And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord in Gilgal." Our expositor remarks that "in these words of Samuel to Agag lie deeply concealed the cause of the Divine imprecation upon Amalek, that the Lord should have war with him for ever, and his name should be blotted out from under heaven. Agag going delicately signifies external allurements which the malignant spirits whom the Amalekites represented practise before others. Samuel's words, 'your sword has made women childless,' signifies that their falsities do violence to the good affections; your mother shall be made childless among women,' signifies that among them there would prevail evil affections derived from the will and not from the intellect; and Samuel's hewing him in pieces before the Lord, signifies that they were separated from those who are in the falsity of evil derived from the intellect; thus genii are separated from spirits, as formerly stated." It is easy to see the application to persons in this world. But it is above all things necessary to search and try whether, and how far, it applies to ourselves. And knowing that the principle of interior evil, however it may be concealed from men, is against the throne of God, and that the Lord must have perpetual war against it, we should war against it also until it is consumed. As we learn from the history of Israel, the evil is too deeply seated to be effectually overcome in one conflict; though subdued it will rise up again and again. But every earnest effort to subdue it will weaken its power, and prepare for its name or nature being finally blotted out from under the heaven of the regenerated mind.

Samuel and Saul now parted never to meet in the flesh again. Each went to his own birthplace and his own home; the truth which each represented thus retiring into the interior of the spiritual and natural mind to which they respectively belonged. But although all outward exchange between them ceased, sympathetic connection was not entirely broken off. Samuel mourned for Saul. The thought and affection of the inward man mourn over the frailties and shortcomings of the outward man. That may not restore the object of his sorrowing to the state, the loss of which he mourns. Notwithstanding Samuel's mourning, the Lord still repents that He had made Saul king. The truth Divine in the maternal humanity, which Saul represented, is at variance with the good of the Divine love, which cannot find in it a permanent dwelling-place, and a perfect medium of manifestation in overcoming hell and ordering heaven, and establishing a spiritual Church on earth. Such a permanent dwelling-place and medium are to be found in another and higher principle, which the Lord Himself is to provide; the inauguration of which forms the subject of the next chapter.

8    previous  -  next  -  BM Home  -  Full Page