1 Samuel 1: 22-24; 2: 11, 18, 19, 21, 26; 3: 1, 19; 6: 10-12, 14
Mark 4: 20
What our brother has said confirmed me in a simple thought as to how steadiness should mark the life of the believer. I thought that our spiritual growth should be steady, our walk should be steady, and the increase of our fruit-bearing should be steady. I would seek help from the Spirit of God to say something about these things. I love this account of Samuel; it is encouraging to read these references to him growing. It is sad to see that there are no children here tonight. We are used to seeing them often at the meetings, and it encourages us to see them. Many of them are set aside by illness just now, which is unusual; often it is the older ones amongst us who are ill. When the young are not here, we miss them and it would make us realise and appreciate what spiritual life there is in our young ones.
I thought of this scripture as to the boy Samuel in relation to steady growth. What a good start he had. Probably all of us here, as having been brought up by believing parents, can say that we have been given a good start, an excellent start. “And the woman abode, and gave her son suck until she weaned him.” The care and nurture of parents would be with a view to normal growth and development in children, not only naturally, but spiritually. The world looks for and makes much of spectacular growth, what is amazing, but I think the spiritual growth in a believer’s life is not to be like that; it is to be steady and normal. What our brother has said about being properly rooted would cause that to happen, it would lead to steady, normal growth. That is what we would desire to see in our children. We would not expect to see what is not appropriate to their age. We would not expect them to say things that an older person would say in the meeting, because they have not had the same experience as the older ones. How thankful we are to have the older ones amongst us too - like our brother has said, those who would represent “full corn in the ear”, Mark 4: 28. So Samuel is first nurtured by his mother, but there comes a point when he is weaned and ready to make spiritual progress himself. It says that she brought him to the house of Jehovah. What a wonderful privilege it is for us to be in the presence of God, in the temple; what a privilege to be able to come to the meetings. Let us not undervalue these week-night meetings we have. This is where we can grow, where we receive spiritual impressions, spiritual food that would cause us to grow steadily. As we appropriate what comes to us by the Holy Spirit in our meetings, it would cause steady, normal growth.
These are interesting references to Samuel’s growth. It says that “Samuel did not yet know Jehovah”, 1 Sam 3: 7. How could he minister to Jehovah if he did not know Him? I wondered if we see something of this in how the children of the saints serve the brethren even before they fully understand doctrine or the truth, or have a full appreciation of what they have been brought into. They set out the chairs and help to clear up the meeting room afterwards; they are serving in the presence of God. God’s intention is not that they should stop there, but that normal spiritual growth should proceed in a steady way. It says “Samuel ministered before Jehovah, a boy girded with a linen ephod.” What a beautiful sight, and his mother brought him a little coat, from year to year. Much has been said about this by others before, but the growth was normal and followed an expected pattern. It is like the height and weight charts you are given when the children are born and then you see how, as they grow, their progress follows the expected curve on the chart. Samuel’s mother was expecting growth, normal growth, and it would be right to expect our younger ones to grow and develop normally in spiritual things. We should be looking for it, and we should be providing the conditions in which they can grow. She came up year by year. It was not happening overnight, it was not mushroom growth, to speak carefully. In nature, things that grow quickly often do not have much substance. A fast-growing wood does not have the same substance; it is not as dense as a slower-growing hardwood. So also in spiritual things, what grows normally and steadily brings about substance. It says, “The boy Samuel grew on, and was in favour with Jehovah and also with men.” Not only was he growing, but there was starting to be a testimony that others could take account of. Further on in chapter 3 where we read it says, “And Samuel grew, and Jehovah was with him.” Think of that - the reassurance of God being with him and letting none of his words fall to the ground. It is a wonderful thing to hear young believers speaking words that God would find delight in and that have power to affect others. How often, when perhaps we should know better, we are arrested by something that a young person says.
My simple impression is that steady normal growth will be brought about by keeping ourselves in the presence of God, especially in our occasions of gathering. In one sense when it comes to growth there is nothing that we can do ourselves, because it is God who gives the increase. But there is a responsibility on each of us to be in the place where the spiritual food supply is, whereby we can grow. There is also a responsibility on those of us who are heads of households to provide spiritual food in the house - to read the scriptures and provide what would be of the character of the manna. The manna was to be gathered by those responsible for the household: “ye shall take every man for those that are in his tent” (Ex 16: 16). Each day the household would have eaten of it, and if they had not they would not have been able to grow, speaking simply. I feel the test of this myself. It is good to read at least a verse of scripture daily as a household, especially one that speaks of Jesus. The children pick it up and they grow. May we be encouraged to do that.
I read in chapter 6 because I was thinking about steadiness of walk. As they grow, children get stronger but they do not walk immediately. That is not something we would expect. But we do expect them to walk in due course and we are glad to see it when they do. Spiritually it is the same. We are glad to see them walking. The walk of the believer is to be by this one high way. There is to be this steadiness and purpose, there is not to be an attitude of ‘I’ll stop here for a little while, or take this side road and see what interesting things are there, and I will catch up later and get back to the main high way’. No, there is to be a steady, straightforward walk in the path of the believer. I feel tested because I do not think this marks me as it should. One thing that helps us to walk straight ahead is to have an object in view and to have purpose of heart. I was thinking about Daniel.; He “purposed in his heart that he would not pollute himself with the king’s delicate food”, Dan 1: 8. The result was that ten days later there was clear evidence of normal progress there. And to have an object in view would help us to walk by the one high way. The object must surely be Christ, Christ in glory. Not anything historical, or anything that we have settled down into here, or that we hold in our minds in a merely intellectual way; but a real living link by faith and in the power of the Holy Spirit, looking on Christ where He is in glory, looking steadfastly on Him there. That would result in us walking properly in the testimony, I am sure of it.
“Lowing as they went”: it has been said before that these kine felt the loss of what was natural, they felt it keenly, but it did not change the way in which they were walking. It would be normal to feel the sorrow of giving things up that naturally we are attached to, but let us leave them behind knowing that there is something better ahead of us and that the pathway of the believer is to be straight on. At the end, there was suffering and sacrifice for these kine - they had to lay down their lives. That would be normal in the life of the believer - we are to lay down our lives, our bodies are to be presented “a living sacrifice”, Rom 12: 1. How hard these things may seem to do, but God has given us full provision, has given us power by the Holy Spirit, to walk in this one high way, not stopping and then going quickly or going back, but onward steady movement. I was arrested when I read recently in Mr Stoney that ‘A step in the right direction can be a snare’, vol 4 p 274. You might think that that was an unusual thing to say, but I think what the brother was bringing out was that we might make a step in the right direction and that is just enough to satisfy our own conscience, enough to put our mind at ease, and then we settle down for a little. To take only a step in the right direction may be a snare to us. Only one step is not what God has in mind for us; it is steady, constant movement towards Christ that is intended in the believer’s pathway - that is the will of God. Reaching the end may involve suffering, indeed there may be suffering all the way, but God would find pleasure in it.
I read in Mark’s gospel because it speaks there about the fruit. Fruit would be what God finds pleasing in the life of a believer. I would not go over what our brother has already said. “These are they that have been sown on the good ground”. The seed, God’s word, is perfect, but we are responsible to make sure that we cultivate the good ground. We need to avail ourselves of the early rain and the latter rain, the constant supply of the power of the Holy Spirit, that there should be steady increase in the bearing of fruit - “one thirty, and one sixty, and one a hundredfold”. In another account the fruit-bearing declines, and that perhaps would be like the public position. But in the individual believer’s life God would be looking for steady increase in fruit-bearing. In one sense we see all of these features perfectly in the Lord Jesus. We must be very careful what we say, for the Lord was always, absolutely perfect. Mr Coates describes the life of the Lord Jesus growing up as “the beautiful development of perfection”, vol 10 p 45. I think that is something to ponder. As we ponder Luke chapters 2 and 3 as to the Child Jesus and the Boy Jesus, what an object He is for our affections! As we are occupied with Him there will be steady fruit-bearing in our lives for God, for His pleasure. That is what God is looking for in us, features of Christ. Let us be occupied with these things and be exercised to be more steady - in growth, and in walk, and in bearing fruit.
May the Lord bless the word.
6th October 2009