the things concerning the kingdom of God..."
KINGDOM OF GOD
Canaan — what volumes the name speaks to us!
Many are the songs written about Canaan Land, yet the masses of believers
entertain the mistaken notion that Canaan is a type of heaven — that bright glory world above with streets of gold, walls of jasper and
gates of pearl. This cannot be,
because the great mark of Canaan was that the land had to be conquered and that God gave such glorious victories over enemies.
There is warfare in Canaan. There
are giants in Canaan. There are
hoards of enemies in Canaan. The
battles in Canaan make the experience in the wilderness look like a Sunday
School picnic. The possession of
Canaan was for victory and through victory.
The children of Israel crossed the Red Sea to escape
the enemy. They crossed the Jordan
to conquer the enemy!
Canaan speaks to us of the realm of the Kingdom of God.
If we are going to possess the Kingdom, we are going to have to fight for
it. The powers that are there will
contest every foot of it; as soon as we start to possess our inheritance in God,
we will come face to face with them, and we will find they are not easily
defeated. We are no threat to them
until we begin our march to possess our inheritance.
Multitudes of Christians are settled upon their lees — they are satisfied
with knowing the joy of sins forgiven and hope to make heaven their home at
last. There is no desire in their
hearts to attain to anything of value in the Kingdom of God or to any position
of responsibility and usefulness. It
is said of Israel, “They despised the pleasant land” (Ps. 106:24).
Canaan was a land of fruitfulness, of heights and depths and beauty and
glory and power, a type of the Kingdom of God; but some of the people thought it
would cost them a great deal to possess it, and they would rather go without it.
I have read of certain Spaniards that lived where there was a great store
of fish, but they were so lazy they would not exert themselves to catch them,
but begged of their neighbors. Such
sinful sloth is upon the masses of Christians that fill the pews of the church
systems in this hour, and though the Kingdom of Heaven be offered them, yet they
will not yield to the leadings and dealings of the Holy Spirit to possess it.
They have only some faint wishes or desires.
“The soul of the sluggard wisheth, and hath nothing” (Prov. 13:4). Men could be content to have the Kingdom of Heaven if it
would drop as a ripe fig into their mouths, but they have no desire to pursue
it, and their unsanctified hearts would abuse, misuse, prostitute and profane it
were it given into their hands. We
cannot have the world without labor, or any success or position or rank or
responsibility or recognition without applying ourselves, and do we think to
have the Kingdom of Heaven without paying
Paul shows us how God’s people under the Old Covenant, ransomed by
grace, and set upon a course of divine privilege and opportunity, were called to
win the prize of their calling, and missed it.
They were delivered out of the hand of their enemies by the blood of the
Lamb. They were visibly under
God’s protecting wing, and led out of Egypt by a mighty hand.
They were set under the cloud of Yahweh’s presence.
All were led out of Egypt by a door miraculously opened, and miraculously
shut. Pharaoh’s claims upon them
were forever cut off by the Red Sea. They
had bread sent down from heaven as their daily supply.
They had water given them by grace, out of the rock smitten by the rod of
law and judgment. The water, after
once bursting out of the rock known of old as Jacob’s Pillar, continually
followed Israel in their wanderings through the desert (I Cor. 10:4).
Israel then was led as one family by God’s appointed leader, and all
were blessed alike and all promised alike.
Must they not, therefore, all alike receive God’s approval? Far from it! “But
with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the
wilderness” (I Cor. 10:5). The
whole body of Israel received the same great privileges, and were set at the
same starting line. But did all win
the goal? Nay, they became
“castaways,” or were disapproved of God.
God was not well pleased with Israel.
Their privileges did not so place them under grace, as to put them beyond
responsibility, and the call to obedience.
The Lord displayed His disapproval of them, for they never gained the
prize of their calling. What was
that calling? An entry into the
land that flowed with milk and honey! The
possession of all the riches, beauty, resources, expansiveness, fruitfulness and
power of the land! That was the
object set before God’s rescued ones. “I
am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them
up out of that land unto a good land and a
large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey” (Ex. 3:8).
They were His people ransomed by blood, numbered by hundreds of
thousands, and yet out of the delivered out of Egypt by grace — only two entered
the land of promise, when it became a question of their believing God, obeying
God, and possessing their possession! Among
the number of the excluded were Moses the servant, and Aaron the saint of the
Lord. God was not “well
pleased.” The proof was visible enough; they never entered the good
When God told the children of Israel to go into the land of Canaan, He
said, “I have given it to you.”
In a little while He added this striking admonition, “Go in to possess
it.” These were potential terms.
In the divine and sovereign council of heaven God had already deeded
the land to them, but they were not qualified yet to possess it.
The land was full of giants, and walled cities, and fierce armies, which
required a struggle for its possession. “We
must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God,” our beloved
brother Paul has told us. The
simple meaning of the word “tribulation” in the Greek is pressure. Ray Prinzing
has mentioned how we are pressured on every side, but as birth pangs it is
pressing us into His Kingdom, pressing us out of self’s aspirations, pressing
us into the plan and purpose of God. Through
intense pressure, great distress, much trouble and suffering, strenuous effort
and fierce warfare we enter the Kingdom — this realm of
spiritual reality, fullness, glory and power.
The Kingdom is obtained through much pressure and steadfast discipline.
When Israel came to the end of their wilderness journey and arrived at
the Jordan River, it was a time of new beginnings.
The old generation of disobedience and rebellion passed away in the
wilderness. And now a new
generation camped at the Jordan, and was preparing to cross over into their
promised land of Canaan. It was the
end of one era and the beginning of a new day for the nation.
Joshua would now lead the new generation of the people of Israel across
the Jordan and conquer and possess and inherit the glorious land given to them
by God. Wonderful things were to
take place when Israel set foot in their promised land. Although Israel would face great and strong enemies when they
entered Canaan, the Lord promised that He would drive out all those enemies from
before them. He further said,
“Every place whereon the soles of your feet shall tread shall be yours: from
the wilderness and Lebanon, from the river, the river Euphrates, even unto the
uttermost sea shall your coast be. There
shall no man be able to stand before you: for the Lord your God shall lay the
fear of you and the dread of you upon all the land that ye shall tread upon”
The covenant of the old Land of Canaan is our
example to prepare us to enter the new and greater “land” of the Kingdom
of God on earth. These words of
Paul Mueller are so very significant for us all at this present time.
“The Psalmist said, ‘The righteous shall inherit
the land, and dwell therein for ever’ (Ps. 37:29).
Not only shall the saints inherit the earth, but they shall inherit the
land. This land is a special place
reserved for the elect. It is the
place that corresponds in type to Mt. Zion in Jerusalem, the place of David’s
throne. It is the glorious realm of
spiritual Zion, the “land” that corresponds to the Holiest of all in the
tabernacle or house of the Lord. That
place, or land, is a land of the incorruptible and immortal glory of the
presence of the Lord. From that
“land” the saints shall rule and reign with Christ in incorruptible bodies,
with incorruptible minds, the mind of Christ.
“O that the wonderful spirit of revelation would enlighten us to the
grandeur of these promises of God! The
wisdom and understanding of the Spirit is being given to us. We are growing up to know the hope of our calling, and to see
the glories that are reserved for us in the realm of Spirit. Only as
we are enlightened by the spirit of revelation can we possibly comprehend the
marvelous truth of our inheritance in
Christ. When we fully
understand that Christ is our inheritance, the things of earth will indeed grow
dim. The world and all things of it
will lose its attraction, and we will run with patience the race that is set
before us. Our glorious, risen
Christ has already set down the footprints, the steps, into the glory that is
reserved for us. He has
pre-destined our walk unto His fullness. He
has set aside an inheritance for us that makes the things of this world look
like the paltry dust and ashes that it is.
Compared to the splendor of the incorruptible and immortal Christ of
glory, all else is corruption. He
has reserved Himself for us! He has
set aside the Holiest of all, the place of His greater presence, for the holy
remnant who are now growing up into Him. What
an inheritance! The steps to that
glory are there. Walk in the Spirit
and the way will be made clear” —
Consider, precious saint of God, how vast and rich the land is! The land is unsearchably great, unlimitedly rich.
The dimensions of the land are the length, the breadth, the height, and
the depth of the Kingdom of God. The
land is all the riches and the glory of Christ Himself.
Many saints have no desire to attain experientially to the fullness of
Christ Himself. They are more
interested in a mansion over the hilltop, or a cabin in the corner of
glory-land, or some such foolishness. The
land is peace, joy, righteousness, incorruptible life, wisdom, knowledge, power,
dominion and glory. All this is
ours as children of God, but only as we grow
up into Christ and put on Christ
do we become mature and arrive in the position to assume this responsibility of
possessing our possessions. We are
talking about the full stature of
Christ within ourselves, not gold bath tubs in heaven.
By a mature understanding and a divine faith we see the way to enter the
land and take possession of all the riches and glory of full sonship to God.
Why have we not, then, fully possessed our land?
The thing that kept Israel out of their land was a heart of unbelief. “Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of
entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.
For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word
preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.
So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief” (Heb.
4:1-2; 3:19). You remember how
those that spied out the land of Canaan brought back an evil report.
On the one hand they said that the land was exceptionally good, but on
the other hand they said that it was impossible to enter.
The people were giants, they said, and the cities fortified and great.
They asserted that Israel could never conquer the land, and if they tried
they would be utterly defeated and devoured.
Ah, how often that wily devil of unbelief speaks the very same things
within us! He says, “Don’t talk
about overcoming every enemy. Don’t
talk about walking in the nature of God. Don’t talk about coming to perfection
— nobody can be perfect in this world.
Don’t talk about conquering death — everybody dies until the
rapture. Don’t talk about being manifested sons of God — it is enough to
join a good church, pay our tithes and be faithful Christians. Don’t talk about becoming exactly
like Christ — nobody can measure up to Him. Don’t talk about putting on the mind of Christ. Don’t
talk about ruling and reigning with
Christ — it might go to your head. Don’t talk about being kings
and priests after the Order of Melchizedek — that is too
high for you. All of these things
are good and wonderful. But it is
absolutely impossible for you to possess them.”
I do not doubt that even while some have been reading this message that
devil of unbelief has whispered such
things in your ear! “You cannot
possess the land, you cannot attain to the high calling of sonship, you will
never stand among the manifested sons of God because you are weak, you are now
old and feeble; you can’t preach or teach the Word; you are beset by physical
ailments and disease, silly of you to think of overcoming sin and death; you
have already failed so many times to please your heavenly Father; God never
answers your prayers, anyhow; you have no church or fellowship, no one to
encourage and strengthen you; you have too many problems and hang-ups; you are
young and inexperienced, others have walked in this truth for years; your own
home is out of order, you are bedeviled by a carnal, opposing spouse and unruly,
rebellious children; don’t ever think you can enter the good land of the
Kingdom — it
is far beyond your ability. You can
never make it!” The little devil
of unbelief lurking within the carnal mind in each of us is just waiting for the
opportunity to inject his deadly venom and deliver to us the evil report —
“You are not able to go up and possess your inheritance!”
Never believe him!
“The inhabitants are giants,” he will tell you. “and the cities
have walls that chariots run upon. You
will be defeated and you know it. You
will go by way of the grave at last. You
will miss the unveiling of the Kingdom glory in the earth, you will not be a
member of God’s overcoming, conquering army.”
All this is an evil heart of
unbelief. It is a heart
occupied by the evil one; so it is called an evil heart.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, saith
the Lord! We must ask the Lord to
deliver us from the evil heart. We
must take our stand with Joshua and Caleb and proclaim by the faith of the Son
of God within us that WE ARE ABLE TO GO UP AND TAKE THE LAND!
We must have faith in the power of His resurrection within ourselves.
The mighty power of God within us is able to do exceeding, abundantly
above all that we ask or think, above all that we dream or imagine.
God will do the work as we follow on in patience,
faith and obedience, even as He did for Israel of old.
“Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome
it.” That is the confession of
the heart of faith born of God. The
Lord has promised it, but we must possess
it. He has given it,
but we must experience it.
It is our portion, but we must take it.
The fullness of the Kingdom is not presently our possession, but HE will
cause us to take it, HE will enable us to possess it.
Our heavenly Joshua, Christ
Himself in us, is taking the lead in His army; He will go before us; He will
fight the battle for us. All we
need is such a vision. Joshua
received such a vision, and thereby the faith and assurance that God was with
him. And armed only with that
faith, trust, and obedience he possessed
The generation in the wilderness consented to the spying out of the land —
doubt they really enjoyed the grapes and the figs and the pomegranates the spies
brought back — but they refused to enter in and possess the land. It is
all right, this same unbelieving generation tells us today, to be baptized in
the Spirit, speak in tongues, heal the sick, prophesy, be slain in the Spirit
and do some miracles — these things are all right. They relish the firstfruits
of the Spirit that the spies bring back, the little sample of the richness of
the land, but they do not want to hear about Christ appearing in glory in the
saints, or the manifestation of the sons of God. And as for people conquering death and by-passing the grave —
that is definitely not for God’s people today. True, God has it for us, it is part of our inheritance, but
we dare not try to lay hold upon it today.
That will take place, automatically, at the “rapture”, or in the first resurrection
“at the last day” — not now.
We cannot possess the land — the
walls are too high, the giants too tall, and the people too strong.
The armies of the enemies have iron chariots.
How utterly ridiculous to suppose that we can overcome such obstacles!
Oh yes, you can be filled with the Spirit, teach a Sunday School class,
move in the gifts, get into prosperity — but you cannot be conformed to
the image of the Son, defeat Satan,
conquer sin and death, and ascend the throne of God to rule and reign with
Christ over the nations and all things. You
can sneak in and seize a cluster or two of grapes from the valley of Eschol, but
it is positively absurd to try and take
the whole valley of Eschol! You can
get some healing for your body, you can receive an occasional word of wisdom or
knowledge, you can get deliverance from habits and demons, and overcome everyday
weaknesses and sins — but you cannot have the mind
of Christ replace the carnal mind, you
cannot be perfect, you cannot put on the nature and character of God until you
are sinless, you cannot put on incorruption and immortality, you cannot be
caught away in the Spirit as were Philip and Elijah, you cannot rule and reign
in the Kingdom, you cannot be a manifested son of God — today. We don’t
mind tasting the grapes of Eschol, but DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT MARCHING IN TO CONQUER THE WHOLE LAND!
It should be obvious to any thinking person that this is the mind-set of
just about all Christians today and the teaching of all the preachers and
churches. Of course, many churches
don’t even want their people to taste the firstfruits!
The whole issue revolves around this question: Are we going to settle for
the “earnest” of our inheritance, the “down payment” of the Spirit, or,
are we going to arise from the dust and rocks of this great and terrible
wilderness and follow our Joshua across the Jordan to lay hold upon, and enter
into, and possess fully, ALL THE GLORIOUS INHERITANCE OF THE LAND GOD
HAS GIVEN US? Together we can
praise God that there is arising a new generation that has heard the trumpet
call. Moses the servant of God is
dead, the old-order ministry is passing away, and a people is gathering in
preparation to follow their heavenly Joshua into the fullness of the glory and
power of the Kingdom of God. And there
shall be a glorious victory! For
God has promised the land is ours if only we can hear His voice and obey.
There are only two real enemies — fear and unbelief.
But God has promised, “Be strong and of a good courage...I will not
fail thee, nor forsake thee...”
VIOLENT TAKE IT BY FORCE
When our blessed Lord came teaching the Kingdom of God throughout the
province of Galilee, He made it abundantly clear that possessing the Kingdom is
not an easy thing. It is not so
difficult to see the Kingdom, as Moses
saw the promised land from the heights
of mount Nebo, but to possess the Kingdom takes a definite effort. Jesus
spoke of this when He told the Pharisees, “The law and the prophets were until
John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth
into it” (Lk. 16:16). It is
doubtful if any of those who heard these words had the remotest idea of the
effort involved in possessing the
Kingdom. Let me put it this way.
It takes an added effort after you have already put forth an effort!
Like a sprinting race, it is that final thrust at the end where the
contender puts forth all of his complete energy.
He will press forth with all the strength he can muster to win the race.
In like manner it takes running, pressing, and even violence
in one’s effort to take the Kingdom.
“And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven
suffereth violence, and the violent take
it by force” (Mat. 11:12). Some
say that this is a negative statement, that Jesus is not talking about the
necessity of taking the Kingdom by violent effort, but that in the hour when the
Kingdom was announced many carnal people sought by the violence of carnal effort
to seize the Kingdom for their own ends. These
words of Jesus in Matthew are, however, a sequel to the words written by Luke.
Matthew says that since the days of John the Baptist, the Kingdom of God
suffers violence — and the
violent take it by force.
Luke says that since John the Baptist the Kingdom is preached, and men press
into it. Each of the Gospel writers
expresses in his own words the thought given
by Jesus. The backdrop to
this is the conquest of the land of Canaan, the Old Testament type of our
possessing our inheritance in Christ. No
one can dispute that when Israel went in to possess their inheritance that the
land of Canaan suffered violence.
Ah, yes! they pressed their way into the land and violently took it by force.
That is the picture the Holy Spirit has drawn of what it means to take
These words — suffers, violence, violent and force — are
all related words with much the same meaning.
They picture vital energy and activity used in forcing or crowding
oneself into something.
To interpret these words of Jesus one needs to know the location of the
Kingdom of Heaven. Violence can
only happen where an adversary is located.
Surely, up in God’s eternal heaven, there is no
violence, as Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done
in earth as it is in heaven.”
Today we know that the Kingdom of God is within you (Lk. 17:20-21). Can
we not see by this that the Kingdom of Heaven can suffer violence only within
the life of the believer where both the Spirit of God and the spirit of the
adversary function, where the spirit and the flesh indeed war with one another,
where the mind of Christ and the carnal mind both exert themselves to control.
I am sure that Jesus is not referring here to armies or physical
violence. The violence He is
talking about is violence that is done to SELF — the fleshly nature, the carnal mind, the human will —
which wars against the life of God and prevents one from entering into
the Kingdom. Sometimes we must be
violent in our own land, with our self, with obstacles within and without, in
order to possess the promised Kingdom.
Never forget, beloved, that it is possible to enter and possess the
Kingdom of God while we live upon this earth right now.
To possess the Kingdom within ourselves is going to take a mighty effort.
The spirit of this world, the spirit of your own natural mind, resists
you. The Greek word that is used
for “presseth into it” is a strong word.
It is the word that is used for storming a city and forcing an entry.
It could be translated, “Everyone forces his way into it.”
One writer, commenting on this verse, said, “The Kingdom of Heaven is
not for the well-meaning but for the desperate.” In a violent sense we must fight our way through every
adversary and possess the land of Christ within our world. In this way we take the Kingdom of God by force — violently.
Possessing the Kingdom is no Sunday School picnic.
It means resistance, opposition,
contention, struggle, confrontation, engagement,
assault, attack, conflict, fighting, battle — WARFARE!
I can assure you, precious friend of mine, no one ever drifted
into the Kingdom, no one ever stumbled
into the Kingdom, and no one ever possessed the Kingdom by accident or unawares.
To possess the Kingdom is something that demands effort and which takes
everything of mind and heart and spirit that a man can muster.
To possess the Kingdom requires a victory and a triumph and a conquest. We must struggle and battle our way in, just as the Allies
did in Europe in the second World War. All
this is very difficult, and the natural thing to say is that we can never do
that by ourselves. Nor can we!
But the King who leads the battle is right within us to enable us to do
the things which by ourselves we could never have done.
Another possible rendering of the Greek in this passage would denote not
so much “to force an entrance” as into a besieged city, but to “seize hold
of” and carry off as plunder. It
suggests the picture of a prize just coming within reach, which the bolder
spirits immediately capture, without waiting for a signal.
This would make the passage read: “The law and the prophets were until
John; since then, the Kingdom of Heaven is taken forcibly, and the violent drag
it towards them.” The thought
here is that the coming of John the Baptist marked the beginning of a new era.
In former times the Kingdom had been merely prophesied and foreshadowed;
now it had come so near that men could hasten their possession of it by a strong
and mighty effort. They were no longer to wait passively for the Kingdom (God
will bring it in His time), but hasten it by their own faith and action.
Its powers were already manifesting themselves in the mighty works of the
firstborn Son of God, and the nature of its new righteousness was powerfully
proclaimed by Jesus. The great Day
had drawn so near that a strong and united faith might break down the remaining
barriers. Men might “take the
Kingdom by force” — might “drag it towards them,” and see its full realization in their
Jesus believed that the Kingdom could be apprehended by any who had the
vision and the faith. To that end
the work which He laid on His disciples was not that of passive waiting, but
that of actively seeking the Kingdom.
By hungering and thirsting after it, by lifting their hearts to it with
earnest desire and invincible faith, they were to hasten the day of its coming
forth. The blessed firstborn Son of
God Himself became the example and prototype of an all-conquering faith,
revealing by His nature and His mighty works, by His authority and dominion over
all things, by His death and triumphant resurrection,
the accessibility of the Kingdom to every son of God.
He taught men to cry out to God, “THY KINGDOM COME!
THY WILL BE DONE IN EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN!” And this is the
message for those who have received the call to sonship in this significant
hour at the end of the age. We are now in the days when decisions are being made
and portentous events are in the offering. Some people are making conscious
decisions by proclaiming, “I will follow the Kingdom and I will pursue it like
a dog pursues a fox.” When a
hound chases a fox, he never gives up. He
may lose sight of the fox, but he still has its scent. Even though we may not have the Kingdom in sight, we will not
give up either because we know by faith that the Kingdom will come to pass in a
people that presses violently into it — but, blessed be
God, we have the scent and we will
The marginal reading of one Old Version is even stronger — “the
Kingdom of Heaven is gotten by force and they that thrust men.”
You cannot win a good place in God’s Kingdom without a fight.
I tell you I shall employ FORCE to possess the Kingdom.
It will not be the force of bullets.
It will not be the force of guns. It
will not be the force of numbers. It
will not be the force of personality. It
will not be the force of organization and promotion. I ask God to give me the mightiest force of all — the
power and demonstration of the Holy Ghost.
Holy ones are looking down upon us and they are saying, “Rise up, and
take the Kingdom!” A great cloud
of witnesses from all the centuries and all the ages is looking down upon us
from the battlements of that unseen realm of spirit as the final battles of
God’s sons are fought for the possession of the Kingdom territory of God.
The last contest for the dominion of this earth is heating up.
The supremacy of God’s Kingdom over every other kingdom and power is
now to be asserted, without earthly weapons of war, but with the spiritual
weapons of prayer, faith and the power of God.
By the army of God the claims of the Kingdom of God are to be enforced; for all that is within us, and all the world, must bow to
the supremacy of God’s Christ and the will of the Father in heaven.
The weapons of the Spirit are infinitely more potent than all the guns
that ever were fired, than all the battles that ever were fought, than all the
bloody fields that ever were won; for the Holy Spirit’s conquests are made
without any of the weapons of men. They
are made by a power greater than these. The
Kingdom of God is gotten by violence —
taking sin, sickness, sorrow, pain and death by the throat, and saying, “You
shall not rule this earth! Nor
shall you rule this earth that I am!
I am the Lord’s! The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof!”
That is the only way the Kingdom of Heaven will ever be won — by violence, by those who know how to thrust men with the
sword of the Spirit, a two-edged sword that is sharper than steel.
The kind of faith God is looking for in His sons is tenacious
faith — the faith that embraces the promise and will not let it
go. That is how Jacob became Israel
— “I will not let you go until you bless me.” This is a warfare. The
Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force.
I have never received anything from God beyond mere merciful blessings
that came easy. It has taken
asking, seeking, knocking, and pressing violently through until the victory is
secured. Babies can’t get
violent. But even they can cry
until you act! Children aren’t
sent out to war. The immature do
not possess the Kingdom. The
spiritually lazy do not become sons of God.
Salvation is free. The baptism in the Holy Spirit, with all of His gifts, is free.
And that is where all the children
of God stop. But nothing beyond that is free.
Everything else in God costs.
And the Kingdom of God will cost
everything you have.
In order to gain this Kingdom we must aim
high. There is an interesting
passage of scripture in Judges 3:31. “And
after him was Shamgar the son of Anath, which slew of the Philistines six
hundred men with an ox goad: and he also delivered Israel.”
One brother, in commenting on this verse, said, “Not failure, but low
aim is the crime! This has been the
opinion of all the people who have greatly influenced this world, but it has not
been the opinion of those who have not. Is
it yours? It was certainly the
opinion of Shamgar.”
It is probable that many who read these lines have never heard of Shamgar.
Except for the one verse quoted above, there is no other mention of him
in the whole Bible, but that one single verse speaks volumes!
Shamgar was a most remarkable man, and a type of all those who refuse to
be hindered from possessing the Kingdom. Shamgar
must be understood in the light of his time.
In those days the Philistines had conquered Israel and were oppressing
them ruthlessly. They had disarmed
the entire population of Israel, systematically confiscating all the swords and
weapons of war and removed them from the land of Israel.
Then to make sure that Israel did not organize any resistance to their
tyranny, they also deported all the blacksmiths so that not only did they not
have weapons, but they lacked the skill and ability to produce them.
The people were despondent and felt absolutely hopeless
in the face of their oppression. They
had lost faith in themselves, but had also lost faith in Yahweh. The situation, indeed, seemed beyond remedy!
What could they do? The
Philistines were a strong and numerous people with powerful weapons of war and a
well trained army.
Enter a man named Shamgar. Shamgar
was not a king, nor a general, nor a sergeant.
He was not even a private. There
is no record of him ever having been in the army or having any military training
or experience. Shamgar was a
farmer, a very good farmer, no doubt, but only a farmer.
He broke a yoke of oxen and used these oxen to plow his fields.
At that time this required
great boldness and tenacity because when crops were planted, and after much
investment and toil, the harvest finally arrived — then the Philistines would sweep down and carry away the crops.
The whole land lay in desolation, the roads were overgrown with grass and
weeds, the villages were ghost towns, because the people were hiding in the
walled cities where they had at least a modicum of safety.
The land was helpless before the Philistines.
Shamgar was not satisfied to accept this state of affairs and so he went
out, plowed his fields with his oxen, and planted his crops. When harvest time arrived six hundred Philistines armed with
flashing swords swept down upon this one
farmer. The only weapon at
Shamgar’s disposal was an ox goad. An
ox goad was usually made from the limb of an oak tree.
It would be from eight to ten feet long with the bark stripped off and a
sharp iron point affixed to the tip. It
was used to jab the ox when he tried to get out of the furrow.
On the other end of the goad was a flattened piece of metal that was
sharpened for the purpose of scraping the dirt off the plow as it collected.
Not a very sophisticated weapon of war!
But it was all Shamgar had in addition to his fierce determination, his
seething resolve, and his violent passion.
This situation would not stand! One
thing Shamgar was efficient in — the use of an ox goad.
In the hands of a man who had handled one from his youth, it could become
quite lethal. So when these six
hundred Philistines swept down upon Shamgar, he decided that he had had enough;
and that he was going to do something about it.
Excuses would have come easy. There
was only one farmer with an ox goad and there were six hundred soldiers with
gleaming swords. What could any man
do without a sword? There was no
way to resist such a formidable foe. The
best thing to do would be to hide and just let them have the crops. But that kind of reasoning was not to be found in Shamgar’s
heart. Shamgar had a deep and
profound faith in God. He also had
a compassionate concern for his people, and for his own dignity as an Israelite
and a child of God. Armed with this
resolve, he determined to take a stand at whatever the cost.
He stood in his field and as the Philistines came upon him, he grabbed
that ox goad and began to swing it! There
must have been some astonished Philistines.
And the battle that ensued became the battle of all battles in the annals
of military history. There
were sculls cracking all over the place. That
mighty oak limb with its iron tip on one end and its flat iron on the other was
whirling like the propellers of a helicopter.
They must have thought that they had come upon a hornet’s nest because
they were getting it from all sides. No
one could even get close enough to Shamgar to thrust him with a sword!
They were jabbed and cut and pounded on.
When the dust settled there were six hundred dead Philistines scattered
through the fields. Then
there is that remarkable little phrase that says it all: “He also delivered
Israel.” What a warrior Shamgar
was! What a mighty man of God!
His popularity soared so high that the people made him a Judge. He was the third Judge
that delivered and ruled the people of Israel.
From this farmer in ancient Israel there rings through the centuries and
millenniums a message for each of God’s elect in this vital hour at the end of
the age. The first lesson has to do
with the crime of low aim.
Most Christians never really try to accomplish anything significant in
the Kingdom of God because they never really set any high goals.
They are satisfied to set their goals low or to set no goals at all and
then they generally hit them very accurately.
It does not take too much aim to hit the target when there is no target.
The target of most Christians is to die and go to heaven.
That is not a hard one to miss! It
takes no vision, revelation, purpose or violence
to die and go to heaven! That has
nothing whatever to do with the Kingdom. Being
filled with all the fullness of God, conformed to the image of the Son, putting
on the mind of Christ, laying hold upon manifested sonship, overcoming death,
delivering creation from the bondage of corruption, and bringing in the Kingdom —
those are goals that challenge! Those
are goals that have the power to change the world and alter the course of
history. Kingdom goals! If you
have no Kingdom goals in your life you will never possess the Kingdom.
Jesus never preached about dying and going to heaven.
He said, “Seek ye first THE
KINGDOM OF GOD!” It pains me to
say it, but I am certain that many in this hour intellectualize the wonderful
truths of sonship and the Kingdom of God, but their hearts are not set on those
goals; they have another set of goals that are unnamed, undefined, but very real
which control their affections and thus, their lives.
One of the tragedies of life is that many people live their whole lives
without ever finding out what they were here for.
If they had only known what they were supposed to do they might have done
it. But like the faithless
Israelites of old, they just wander in the wilderness for forty years. They wander through thirty, sixty, eighty years of life never
really knowing where they came from or where they are going.
They never see what the purpose of God is in their lives.
They have no sense of divine destiny.
Like the animals, they eke out a meager existence in their little
insignificant and meaningless world of earthly
things and carnal pursuits.
They never breathe the rarefied air of the heavenlies, or catch a glimpse
of the heights of Zion, or taste the powers of the Kingdom of God.
It reminds me of a baseball player wandering around inning after inning,
and after the ninth inning, finally finding out what the game was all about.
If he had only known! That
is the way with the church world today. They
don’t know what the game is all about! They
have no idea whatever of what is really going on.
But those who have heard the sounding of the trumpet, and received the
call to sonship and the Kingdom, are expecting great and mighty things from God!
And wonderful and glorious things are happening in their lives in God’s
Shamgar had a goal. Shamgar
had a vision. Shamgar had a hope.
Shamgar had a purpose. Shamgar
was stirred to radical action, to violent movement.
Shamgar’s goal was to get free from bondage and to free his people from
bondage. It was a high and noble
and lofty goal. It was not just an
idea in his mind. It was not just
an intellectual belief or a theological position.
I suppose that every Israelite in Israel secretly nursed the same goal.
But Shamgar set his affections upon that goal.
Shamgar sought first that goal. It
became a burning passion in his heart.
Shamgar found the wisdom of God as to how to attain that goal.
In spite of all the obstacles and limitations, he trusted God that
somehow He would use him to bring that goal to pass. He was going to take a stand and he was going to do it now.
He would press his way in, and
take the victory by force.
He would act violently. And he did
it! He delivered himself and his
people, and they made him a Judge in Israel.
He was just a lowly farmer, and all alone, but they elevated him to the
head of the nation. This man who
had never done anything but goad an ox became the leader of God’s nation on
earth. Why? Because he would not take “No” for an answer!
And by the grace of God he did it! Advancement
is from above. And God blessed him.
These words of brother Paul Mueller are so very pertinent here.
“The great issue now before the sons of God has to do with our entrance
into the Kingdom of God. This is not a question of our salvation, but of our approach
to the throne realm of God’s Kingdom where we will eventually rule and reign
with Him, making all the blessings and benefits of His dominion available to
others. We believe that it is of
paramount importance for all sons of God to be vitally concerned with our
entrance into that Kingdom realm, thereby making our calling and election sure.
Jesus spoke to the people and admonished them: ‘Strive to enter in at
the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not
be able’ (Lk. 13:24). Since the Lord has revealed the value and importance of
entering into His rest, the word strive
has not been in our vocabulary. However,
when searching the true meaning from the original, we find this word comes from
a Greek word meaning to struggle.
Strong’s Concordance gives three examples of this word: (1)
to compete for a prize, (2) to contend with an adversary,
(3) to endeavor to
accomplish something. With this
understanding, we can better comprehend its use and application in our lives.
The root word from the original Greek is AGON and indicates a place of
assembly where a contest is being held. Therefore,
we might picture ourselves as sons of God struggling to compete for a prize,
contending with our adversary, and endeavoring to accomplish something within
the great arena of the universe where we are being observed
by the whole creation. Because
we are aware that all creation is anxiously awaiting that attainment unto full
sonship, and that their full release and deliverance depends upon the
manifestation thereof, we will strive
in the Spirit, not after the flesh, that we might attain to that prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” — end quote.
This striving, this pressing, this violence,
means that the myths that spiritual warfare is gentlemanly, that you enter and
possess and inherit the land essentially unscathed, that it costs relatively
little, that all you have to do is believe
and confess, that violent men no longer need to take the Kingdom by
force — these myths must forever end. The hour is late, the day of unveiling is at hand.
Only an unreserved commitment, only an indestructible faith, only a
radical thrust will birth this manchild of the ages and herald the dawn of that
blessed age when the glory of the Lord shall fill the earth as the waters cover
the sea, and all peoples and all nations shall come and walk in the light of the
Lord, and there shall be no more curse anywhere forever.
Sons of God — let
us arise with courage and boldness and give ourselves to the task!
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