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Footsteps of the Flock (Part 1)

Author, expositor, preacher and missionary John Matthias Davies (1895-1990), whose collected writings span nearly 1,500 pages, was mightily used of God to bring blessing to those who heard him and those who still read his works. His exceptional gift for effective and powerful exposition of the Word of God was never more clearly seen than in his “Footsteps of the Flock” book, chapter 1 of which is reproduced below. 

Footsteps of the Flock

Part 1

SOME ESSENTIAL PRINCIPLES of separation from 2 Cor 6:11-18

This subject is of vital importance to every child of God. It is woven into the fabric of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal; the Lord knoweth them that are His, and let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” That which identifies a piece of money as a coin of the realm is the seal that it bears, and similarly, that which is to identify a man as a Christian is the seal above referred to impressed upon every department of his life by the Royal signet. This in itself should be sufficient reason why every believer should enquire “what God hath said” on a subject of such importance. We shall have occasion to notice later that it is one of the tokens of the New Covenant, just as circumcision was the “seal of the righteousness that Abraham had received through faith” (Rom 4:11), and the token of the covenant that God had made with him (Gen 17:11), which token was to be written with the knife in the flesh of every male Israelite.

There are at least three great periods or epochs in the world’s history around which the teaching on separation gathers. They are:

1. Creation as recorded in bringing of order out of the desolation referred to in verse 2.

2. The election of Abraham as recorded in Gen 12:1-3, some 2,000 years after the first epoch. This is the calling out of Abraham to be the father of the people who were to be God’s chosen people. Consequent upon this election is the redemption of the nation at a later period from under the bondage of Pharaoh, the bringing of them out of Egypt.

3. The redemption of individuals, or the gathering out from among the Jews and Gentiles, the church, a people for His name as recorded in Acts 15:14. This commenced some 2,000 years after the second epoch. As a result of Israel’s rejection of their Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, God has temporarily set aside that nation, scattering them to all parts of the earth. In the present age He is taking out of the nations those who through faith in Christ form the body known and called in Scripture as the church. After this outgathering is over and the church is completed He will return and rebuild the Tabernacle of David which is broken down. This will be another great epoch in the world’s history and will usher in the Millennial reign of the Son of Man.

Before considering these in their order we shall look at some essential principles of separation as revealed in 2 Cor 6:1, 11-18, 7:1. “We beseech you…that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.” Let not the grace of God be fruitless in your life.

He expects that the grace of God, effectively received, should bring the conscience under the light and authority on the word of God. Hence he continues with separation, establishing some fundamental principles of a separated life. Then he exhorts them to cleanse themselves from every defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (7:1). This then is the divine order and to urge subjective sanctification before there has been a separation from that which God has condemned is an unscriptural procedure. Those who seek to follow this divine order and seek to teach it are often spoken of as very narrow, and as limiting the sphere of their influence and usefulness. Yet the portion dealing with separation is preceded with the admonition “Be ye enlarged”. Thus in God’s estimation to be separate from all that is contrary to His mind and will is the secret of enlarging our sphere of usefulness. The straightened man is the unseparated man, whereas the separated man is the enlarged man.

There are four important principles relative to separation in these verses that we do well to emphasise.

1. The Presence of God enjoins separation.

“I will dwell in them and walk in the midst of them” (v16). A brief survey of the occurrence of this expression in the Old Testament will help to enforce its importance on our minds.

Exod 25:8 – “Let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.” Here we see that it was God’s desire to dwell in the midst of the people that He had redeemed with an outstretched arm.

Exod 29:45-46 – “They shall know that I brought them forth that I might dwell among them.” It was not only His desire to dwell among His people but it was His design in saving them. God’s redeeming purposes do not end until He has a people who can enjoy His presence and a people with whom He can have communion in holiness.

Exod 33:3 – “I will not go up in the midst of thee lest I consume thee.” Sin in the camp made it impossible for God to continue in their midst, hence He moved outside the camp in grace. Only when the Tabernacle was erected and the Mercy-seat set up did He return. God cannot be linked up with unjudged sin, with idolatry. The presence of God in the midst of His people is the detective detecting our ways and worship.

Exod 33:15-16 – “If thy presence go not with us, carry us not up hence.” “So shall it be known that we have found grace, and so shall we be separated.” Thus the presence of God in the midst of His people realised and enjoyed is alike the proof of grace and the power for separation. In speaking to the church at Corinth the apostle re-iterates the same principle when he says “But if all prophesy and there come in one that believeth not or unlearned he is convinced of all, he is judged of all and thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest, and so falling down on his face he will worship God and report that God is in you of a truth.” If the presence of God was more of a reality in our gatherings, doubtless we would see more added to the church.

2. The Precepts of God enforce separation.

In this portion four are given:

  1. “Be ye not unequally yoked”
  2. “Come ye out”
  3. “Be separate”
  4. “Touch not”

Nothing could be stronger, nothing could be more definite. There is no room for a path of compromise here. Other references from various parts of the Word might be cited which teach the same truth. Contact with iniquity is contaminating. Contact with death and uncleanness was forbidden to the Israelite. To touch the carcase of an unclean beast or the carcase of unclean creeping things rendered the individual unclean and GUILTY (Lev 5:2). The unclean animal was to be an abomination to them (Lev 11:10). Unclean fellowship has a defiling influence. God’s precepts demand that His people walk in separation

3. The Promises of God encourage separation.

  1. “I will dwell among them”
  2. “I will walk in them”
  3. “I will receive you”
  4. “I will be their God”
  5. “They shall be My people”
  6. “I will receive you”
  7. “I will be a Father unto you,  and ye shall be my sons and daughters saith the Lord Almighty.

What a galaxy of promises, seven of them repeated in quick succession, and all to encourage the believer who is prepared to walk in obedience to the word of God. What a constellation to brighten the firmament in the dark night of His absence. These promises surely sufficiently compensate for anything that the believer is called upon to renounce by walking in the narrow path. The companionship of our God, His constant smile, His Fatherly care and protection are only assured to His people as they obey the word “Be ye separate”.

Of all the family of faith our Lord says “He is not ashamed to call them brethren”, but it is only of those who confessed by their life that they were strangers and pilgrims that He says “He is not ashamed to be called their God.” In sovereign grace He delivered His people from Haman in the days recorded in the book of Esther, but in that deliverance the Lord does not openly manifest Himself as being on their behalf, and that probably because they had stayed in Babylon when they might have returned to their own land (Ezra 1:23).

How precious it is that in this portion there are seven promises over against four precepts. How God would lure His own into the wilderness that He might speak comfortably to them. He would draw us with the cords of His promises given in loving kindness. May we find it in our hearts to say in response “Draw us, we will run after thee.” We can only claim the promises in the measure we seek to carry out the precepts.

4. The Power of God enables Separation.

“…saith the Lord Almighty.” This is the only place in the New Testament apart from the Revelation that the Lord reveals Himself to us in this character. But how precious it is here. The Corinthian Saints had been saved from the worship of idols, and brought out from under the power and dominion of Satan, but they were seemingly fearful of the consequences that they might have to suffer if they severed all their connection with their old heathen and idolatrous worship. It is the same today in lands where idolatry holds sway. When one trusts the Lord Jesus Christ there is not lacking the lurking fear of the anger of their old deities. Their old friends will threaten them with the vengeance of their gods, and tell them that if they forsake these gods they will visit them with chastisement by spoiling their crops or flocks, or by bringing sickness into the fam,ily. The fear of such things as these seems to have prevented some of the weak Corinthian saints from separating from their old heathen places of worship. They wanted to effect a compromise by worshipping the Lord in a heathen temple. This God could not allow, and hence to encourage these believers to separate from their old ways He reveals Himself to them as the Lord God Almighty. He would have them know that the One under whose wing they had come for refuge was God-all-sufficient. It was thus that He revealed Himself to Abraham in a previous day. “I am (El-shaddai) God Almighty (or God-all-sufficient) walk before Me.” Abraham in the dim distant past, the Corinthian saints in their day, and we in ours may depend upon the sufficiency of our God for every emergency or exigency that we are liable to meet in this separated path. There is no difficulty or no enemy that we may encounter as we seek to walk in that path, but that the power of God is there to enable us to meet it. When the Lord gave command to the man with the withered hand to reach forth his hand, He also gave the individual the power to obey. He who knows our frame will not test us above that we are able to bear. Then shall we not reckon upon His power, seek to walk in His precepts, thereby enjoy His promises and rejoice in the realisation of His presence?