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Footsteps of the Flock (Part 5)

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 5 of which is reproduced below. 

Footsteps of the Flock

Part 5

The Separated Pilgrim – The Believer’s Walk

1. In relation to the flesh

“Let him that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (2 Tim 2:9). “If ye then be risen with Christ, mortify (comp. Rom 4:19, Heb 11:12) therefore your members which are upon the earth.” “But now ye also put off all these, anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing ye have put off the old man with his deeds” (Col. 3). “Mortify the deeds of the body” (Rom 8:13, comp. v36 – put to death). They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh” (Gal 5:24). These scriptures enunciate the very first principles of the Christian life. Their teaching corresponds to that of the ordinance of circumcision under the Abrahamic covenant (Gen 17:11) and as a seal of the faith-righteousness he had received (Rom 4:11).

To the Noahic Covenant also God had given a token – the bow in the cloud – a token for faith to lay hold of in dark and stormy days, a token written with the finger of God in the heavens. But the token of the Abrahamic Covenant was to be engraved with a knife in the flesh. It was one of the ordinances that was to be observed on the 8th day, a phrase that is often found in the Old Testament. It speaks of a new beginning and typifies resurrection. While Israel was in the wilderness the ordinance was not observed, but no sooner did they arrive in the land of their possession, than God demanded its observance. They were taught that they must first learn to use the knife on themselves before they would seek to blow the trumpets of judgment around Jericho. During the four days that followed their obedience to the word of God, they would have been an easy prey to the enemy, but God would have them learn that in their weakness alone could His strength be magnified.

Alas! that its meaning should have been lost so soon. The Apostle had to speak of the circumcision which was out outward only, while that of the inner man, that of the heart was forsaken. The mere outward circumcision, the formal adherence to the ordinance corresponds to the separation of the Pharisee, but the believer’s is to be that of the inward man, the separation of our Lord. “Ye are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.”

Circumcision is not the type of baptism, but rather does it teach the mortifying of the deeds of the body, which is symbolised in baptism. It is the putting of the teaching of baptism – death, burial and resurrection with Christ – into daily practice. The verb “mortify” in Col 3:5, has the continuous force. The believer will ever need to continue to put to death the deeds of the body. While the “old man” is judicially dead and put away from before God forever, the believer needs to reckon as God reckons and seeks to act it out in daily life by not making any provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof.

True separation leads the individual to use one edge of the two-edged sword upon himself, before using the other edge on others.

“THE MEMBERS WHICH ARE UPON EARTH.”

A cursory glance at the members which are upon the earth as recorded in Col 3 will quickly reveal that amongst them there are sins which even the natural moral man shrinks from and abhors, but there are those there which are more tolerable and more tolerated. Covetousness for instance. Very often it is named economy! But it is economy “falsely so-called”. The desire to amass wealth, to heap up riches is ever present in the human heart. Too often the conscience is pacified with the pretence that the profits shall be used on the Lord’s altar. Such a thing is nauseating while true giving is a sweet-savour unto the Lord.

SAUL AND THE AMALEKITES

Saul was enjoined to slay all the Amalekites sparing none, but he spared the fat among the flocks and Agag the King, telling Samuel that he had kept the animals for sacrifice! Samuel would have none of his hypocrisy and Agag was slain, hewed to pieces. “Obedience is better than sacrifice and to hearken than the fat of rams.” Saul’s path of compromise had disastrous results. He himself was slain by one (2 Sam 1:10) and later a lineal descendant of Agag sought to exterminate Israel. Haman’s ascendancy and autocracy was the consequence of Saul’s disobedience. Sin tolerated and trifled with soon becomes
a master.

DAVID AND THE AMALEKITE

David’s treatment of the Amalekite in 2 Sam 1 betokens another spirit. The young descendant of ‘Duke Amalek’ appeared to be very meek, and hypocritically bowed to David, but David would not tolerate the man who had touched the Lord’s anointed. The flesh is an opportunist and can be very religious when occasion demands, but in its religious form it is to be more dreaded, and mortified as much as the flesh in its more ugly forms.

It is important to note that we are not called upon to mortify the body or its members by bruising the body or by ascetic habits, like some of the fakirs and so-called holy men of India do. Asceticism is of no value to the subjugating of the flesh; it only begets a false humility which puffs up the flesh with pride. This false asceticism is condemned in Col 2:23. They have a show of wisdom, but are of no value to the subjugating – the keeping under – of the flesh. The idea that by ill-treating the body one will be able to control the carnal appetites is as foreign to the scriptures as the idea that being “crucified with Christ” means the total eradication of the flesh, spoken of as the “old man”. The law of sin has been engraved upon the members and can only be abrogated or rendered powerless by another law – the law of the Spirit of life – becoming operative in the life of the individual.

2. In relation to the World

“I have chosen you out of the world” (John 15:19)
“The world hateth you” (John 15:19)
“Ye are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:14)
“The world is crucified to me and I to it” (Gal 6:14)
“Friendship with the world is enmity with God” (James 4:4)
“Love not the world” (John 2:15-17)

How clear and definite are these words of Holy Writ. Dr. Scofield defines the world as “the order or arrangement under which Satan has organised unbelieving mankind upon his cosmic principle of force, greed, selfishness, ambition and pleasure.”

The Scripture says that “all that is in this world” is “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life.” They are things which are to pass away. They are transient and temporal, whereas God has set eternity in the heart of man. Hence nought but eternal things can really satisfy him. Yet how many believers there are who try to satisfy themselves with the husks that the world has to give. Worldly pleasures, worldly amusements, worldly associations and friendships are indulged in irrespective of the fact that “the world lieth in the wicked one”, and is a condemned scene (John 12:30).

The world’s hatred of Christ has not abated in the least. He is still despised and rejected. Men will not have Him to rule over them. To be convinced of this it is only necessary to introduce the subject of the Cross into a social circle of unconverted friends, and it will soon be manifest. In governmental, commercial, social and even ecclesiastical circles, Christ is rejected. In the letter to the church at Laodicea, He is seen outside desiring entrance. Anyone who trusts Christ today must reckon upon the enmity of the world if he is to be loyal to his Lord.

LOT’S EXAMPLE

On the page of Scripture Lot, Abraham’s nephew, stands out as the portrait of the worldly believer. He left Abraham, forsook the fellowship of the one who “confessed that he was a stranger and a pilgrim on the earth” for the fellowship of the men of Sodom who “were sinners exceedingly”. Sodom allured him from the pilgrim path. He went into Sodom a wealthy man, but had to leave it poverty stricken. He was saved as by fire. He lost everything in the overthrow, except his salvation. If that had not been “reserved in heaven” for him he would have lost that too. But that was not one of Sodom’s commodities. Worldly principles, worldly ambition, worldly honour, had seemingly controlled his life and eventually ruined his testimony and his family. The record of his earthly pilgrimage closes with his dwelling “in a cave”. He forsook the “tent” for Sodom’s dwellings. These he had to flee, but alas! he seems to have lost his tent and become a cave-dweller.

3. In relation to certain Christians

“If any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard,
or an extortioner with such an one no not to eat” (1 Cor 5:11).

“If any Man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he
may be ashamed” (2 Thess 3:14).

“Having a form of godliness, denying the power thereof, from such turn away” (2 Tim 3:5)

“They that profess to know God but in works they deny Him” (Titus 1:16).

Association with sin has a defiling influence. It is necessary for the believer to fully realise the force of the above Scriptures. Carnality, insubjection to the Word of God, a lifeless form of Godliness and an empty profession are things the true Christian is to avoid. To have fellowship with such as live the life described in these verses is forbidden to him. Yet many who have been born of God sit at the “communion” (as the Lord’s Table is spoken of) to partake of the emblems of the “broken body” and “shed blood” of Christ alongside with men who are openly guilty of the above sins. Individuals are allowed into membership without regard to their life and testimony, whereas a great many of those who take upon themselves the responsibility of “administering” the supper or communion (though no such language is used in the New Testament) do not believe the whole word of God, especially the epistle to the Thessalonians which teaches the coming of the Lord. Not believing it, how can they submit it.

Even the “form of godliness” is to be turned away from. Godliness is profitable, but the form of it without the power is abominable, worthless and to be avoided.

JEHOSHAPHAT AND AHAB

When Ahab sat on the Throne of the ten tribes of Israel, Jehoshaphat was king over Judah. The one was an ungodly wicked king, the other walked in the ways of the Lord, but he went down to Ahab to Samaria and an unholy alliance was formed. “He joined affinity with Ahab” (2 Chron 18:1). As a result of this affinity Jehoshaphat joined Ahab in battle against the Syrians (2 Chron 18:31). The purpose of the conflict would seem to justify his doing so. They were going to war against an outside foe, and thereby to recapture Ramoth-Gilead, which was one of the six cities of refuge. The plausibility of the end in view greatly influenced good king Jehoshaphat. But it almost cost him his life, and brought wrath upon him from the Lord (2 Chron 19:2). “Shouldest thou help the ungodly and love them that hate the Lord?” These were the questions addressed to him on his return to Jerusalem. However plausible it seemed to help Israel against Syria, Jehoshaphat was acting contrary to the mind of the Lord when he did so. Ahab was not only wicked himself, but he ruled over the ten tribes that had broken away from Judah. He was thereby guilty of perpetuating division among God’s people. Jehoshaphat represents the large-hearted, broad-minded, charitable Christian who is prepared to help anything that is labelled “Christian work”.

Another result of this affinity was that his son married Ahab’s daughter (2 Chron 21:6). This led Jehoshaphat’s son to walk in the ways of the king of Israel. Walking in a path of compromise may have sad results for the family.

Jehoshaphat did not seemingly learn the lesson even after his narrow escape on the battlefield, but he must join himself to Ahaziah king of Israel, to make ships to go to Tarshish. But the Lord did not prosper his business partnerships with Ahaziah, the ships were broken.

To have refused fellowship with Ahab and Ahaziah would have incurred their frown, and laid him open to be accused of being narrow-minded, but it would have gained the favour of the Lord. Walking in a path of separation will oft-times incur your friends’ displeasure, if they are carnal or worldly-minded, but it will inherit the Lord’s well-done.