No man can walk before God with a perfect heart and willfully be disobedient to a known command. While God said of David, “I have found a man after My own heart,” He never said thus of Saul, the first king the children of Israel had. God found him when he was out looking for his father’s asses. He was, in the estimation of mankind, little and unknown, but was met by the prophet of God and anointed to be king over God’s people. When the day of his coronation came, he hid among the stuff, but was found and brought forth before all the people, and God gave him favor with the people and victory over his enemies. He behaved himself and ran well for a season. Finally; the prophet came to him saying, “The Lord sent me to anoint thee to be king over His people, over Israel, now therefore, hearken thou unto the voice of the words of the Lord. Thus saith 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 they have and spare not; but slay both man and woman, infant, suckling, ox, sheep, camel and ass.”
What a sweeping command! The iniquity of the Amalekites was full and it was time to utterly exterminate them from the face of the earth. Saul went on the journey, and the record reads that he spared Agag, and the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fatlings and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them; but everything that was vile and refuse, that he utterly destroyed. God told Samuel and Samuel grieved about it.
Saul came back from his journey and went to Gilgal where Samuel met him. He said, “Blessed be thou of the Lord; I have performed the commandment of the Lord.” Samuel said, What meaneth 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 unto the Lord thy God; and the rest have we utterly destroyed.” Then Samuel said unto Saul, “Stay, and I will tell thee what the Lord hath said to me this night.” And he said to him, “Say on.” And Samuel said, “When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the Lord anointed thee king over Israel? And the Lord sent thee on a journey, and said, Go and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they be consumed. Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of the Lord, but didst fly upon the spoil and didst evil in the sight of the Lord?” And Saul said unto Samuel, “Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and have gone the way which the Lord sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, and the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in Gilgal.” And Samuel said, “Hath 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. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, He hath also rejected thee from being king.”
There are epochs in the lives of men when to disobey and reject God means for them to forever settle their own destiny. “There is a line across man’s path that marks the boundary between God’s patience and his wrath. A sinner can reject the pleading of the Spirit and say “No” until the Spirit, grieved, will take His departure and that soul will never have to say “No” again. The Spirit will trouble him no more, and, totally unconcerned, he will go on through life, die and wake up in Hell. But Saul’s case is an object lesson more to believers. His heart had been changed and he had prophesied. He was a man chosen of God to lead his people. He disobeyed until God rejected him and he failed in life and, finally committed suicide.
God does not give commands to have them disobeyed. No man can ignore God’s commands without forfeiting His approval, and sustaining loss. While the command to Saul was sweeping, yet, it was no more so than the command of “God to His people to be separate and distinct from the world, a peculiar people — a holy people, separated unto God. All through the Bible God commands His children to be holy; and none can disobey without loss. There are thousands in this land of ours who, having found pardon for their sins, ran well for a season, but they came up to the command, “Be ye holy,” and seeing that it meant a complete separation from their worldly and unspiritual friends, a placing of their hearts dearest idols upon the altar, a complete consecration of their entire life and being to God, and an utter abandonment of their own ideas, desires and plans to His will — in short, to walk before God and be perfect — right there they failed. They refused to obey, and while they are going on still professing to be Christians, the lowing of the oxen and the bleating of the sheep is heard in their lives.
Saul remained king, but immediately following the recital of his disobedience in the following chapter, it reads, “But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul,” and from that hour his life was one of discouragement, defeat, disaster, and finally came death, by is own hand. He remained on the throne, was the man God had chosen as His representative, still occupied the place as the leader of God’s people, had been anointed and was still looked upon as the king; but his life was barren and fruitless.
There are many walking in his footsteps today who, in their earlier experiences, were wonderfully owned and blessed of God. There was a time in their lives when they walked before God and listened for His command with glad hearts, ready to do His bidding; but it is not so with them now. They still occupy the same old position; they still give in the same testimony; they still have the same profession, and are seen among God’s people, and in many cases are looked upon more or less as leaders. But the juice is gone out of their lives; the clear, penetrating, convincing tone is gone; the sparkle is no longer in the eye; that wine-like fruitage is not in their lives. What is the matter? They are not walking before Him now, and, like king Saul, there has been disobedience somewhere and they are now simply living on the memories of past experiences. They have not been perfect in their obedience. There is nothing that denotes triumph, victory and usefulness to God in their lives now. They are not winning battles and saving souls. They make a show, but, like Saul, it is empty and hollow. Men and women are dying all about them, but they are powerless to help or bless, anybody, and it is only a question of time until they will give up entirely or go, down to their graves defeated and finally lost.
Some years ago, there were five young men that were thrown together in Christian work. They all professed salvation within a short time and all were very active in their efforts to get men to God. They were all firm and fast friends, being employed together during the day and attending the same meeting at night. The question of laying down their tools and devoting all their time to getting men saved often was discussed between them, and all more or less felt the call to do so. The pressure on them to do this was strong, for their desire to see men saved and to glorify God in their lives was earnest and sincere. Much time was spent in prayer and Conversation regarding the matter. They felt and often testified that God wanted their all, but they were young and there were great opportunities for them to succeed in life, and, as they viewed it, to step out and devote all their time to the service of God would be a life of daily and continual sacrifice and toil. It looked like a tremendous undertaking, and they hesitated to do it.
More than twenty years have passed away and mark the results. One of those boys, unsaved and away from God, divorced from the wife of his youth, wanders alone in the world. A second one has drifted until he has become a Universalist. A third one professes to be a rank infidel and declares “there is nothing in it.” The fourth one, who was rather a leader and had much influence over them all, and would spend hours and hours at night in tears on his knees in prayer over the matter, finally decided not to go. He soon drifted, began smoking again, then drinking, and on to immorality; he married a third wife without even a divorce from the second, then deserted her. Two years ago, “while under the influence of liquor, he fell off a street car and was instantly killed.
The fifth one of those boys, finally, against the influence of friends and loved ones, said, “Yes” to God, and making “utter destruction of all, abandoned himself to God, and has spent the years helping Jesus save a lost and perishing world. He has seen thousands find the Savior, until those who have sat under his ministry are today belting the globe with the glad tidings that Jesus saves from all sin.
The man who walks before God with a perfect heart will be perfect in his obedience. All he seeks to know is God’s will, and he is ready to obey. In his consecration, he said, “Where Thou dost lead me, I will follow; what Thou commandest, I will do.” He will obey God though his dearest friends may try to persuade him to do otherwise.
When Saul had called the elders of the church at Ephesus to him, like a father, he gave them his last parting advice, and then said, “And now, behold, I go bound in the Spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there; save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the Gospel of the grace of God.” That old soldier of the cross knew that bonds and afflictions awaited him, but he went bound in the Spirit. When he had come to Cesarea and entered the house of Philip, a certain prophet came in and “when he was come unto us he took Paul’s girdle and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus, saith the Holy Ghost, so shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles. And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done.”
One might as well try to stem the Mississippi at its mouth as to turn back from his course the man who “walks before God” with a perfect heart. Weeping friends cannot persuade him to turn from the path; imprisonments and bonds have no terror; and even death has lost its sting to that man. But, alas, if we could marshal in one company those who have started to walk with God, who, listening to friends, have toned down, cooled off, stepped aside from the path that God had marked out, and today are down and out of the fight, we tremble when we think of what the size of that company would be. How many men are in the pulpit today who started out with hearts aflame, with fire and zeal for lost souls, but they were induced to tone down a little here and there, and to cease preaching against this thing and that thing, as “they would be more popular,” and “take better,” and listened to the voice of a friend rather than the voice of God. They used to testify and preach against all filthiness and worldliness in and among those who professed to be followers of the Lord. They gave no uncertain sound regarding tobacco, cards, theaters, lodges, dancing and worldly adornments, and with a zeal born of the Spirit, they declared the Word of God upon all such things and God owned and crowned their efforts with souls. But alas, they were induced to “go easy” and not be too radical, and they listened, and today one can hear much about their “sane and safe” methods, and how delighted the people are with their preaching, and so on; but to those who walk with God there is something that is lacking in their ministry. Others are surrounded with the gay and the worldly, but the precious Holy Spirit has been grieved and turned away and their pulpits are barren of the gracious results that once attended their ministry. Many others who once were called of God, and “walked with God,” and were anointed of God, and were being marvelously used of God, listened to the voice of relatives or friends and today they are down and out of the fight, While millions of souls sweep on in ever-increasing streams toward darkness and woe.
We look back over the past and the instances multiply in number where young men were being used for the salvation of men, but a father at home, whose consecration was not perfect, must have some help on the farm or in the shop, etc., etc., and, just as if there was no one else to do that kind of thing, his boy, whom God had so wonderfully saved and called into the field that was “ripe unto harvest,” who was reaping grain that would count in eternity, who was seeing precious immortal souls coming home to God, that boy must stop and go home to do what any sinner in the land could have done, and the precious Holy Spirit was grieved. The work of saving souls was not nearly so urgent as gathering corn; and note the consequence. That young man has lost the Spirit; the call comes no more; he feels no longer the burden for a lost world; he is backslidden in his soul and is plodding on in life, each day drawing nearer the Judgment Bar where he must answer not only for what he himself has done, not only for what he has not done or stopped doing, but also for the loss of those who would have been saved had he continued on doing what God had called him to do. What will he say when confronted with those then lost, but who would not have been lost, had he continued to walk before God and obeyed? We think of the young people whom we know were aflame and seeing many brought out of darkness, but listened to friends and today are down and out — not only down and out of the fight, but down and out of the kingdom of grace. What will that father say at the Judgment Bar of God who thought more of the corn he gathered or the hogs he fed than the souls of men that his son was leading to Jesus when he insisted on that son coming home? What will that mother say, when she faces at the Judgment the souls that would have seen the light and turned to God, had she allowed that daughter to have continued on in the blessed and Heaven-crowned work that she was doing?
What an army there would be on the field today had every preacher who started, kept true to Jesus! What a multitude would be singing the songs, of the bloodwashed if every young man and very young woman, who started out in the fight, had remained in the battle and obeyed God, instead of listening to unconsecrated relatives or friends! But, no, they must return home and the work God called them to do must cease. Jesus said, “He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” We do not wish to seem to teach that son or daughter must disobey their parents, but we do say to one and all, if you disobey God, you will suffer for the disobedience. No soul can walk before God with a perfect heart and not do what it knows God would have it do. A perfect heart can only be retained through perfect obedience.
The king and queen might frown, but Elijah would obey God at the risk of his life. Jeremiah would proclaim the truth though his feet might sink in the mire of the dungeon. John the Baptist would preach God’s truth even if his head was lifted from his shoulders. A fire-baptized Peter would lay the murder of his Master where it belonged, though he must go to jail for it. Paul would obey though death stared him in the face. The lonely shores of barren Patmos might be his last place on earth, but John, the beloved, would stand for the testimony of his Lord. Those men walked before God and were perfect in their obedience.
Years ago a young man, wild, reckless and dissipated, was wonderfully saved. His father, who had longed for and prayed for his salvation, was glad, but when the young man lay before him the class of work God was calling him to, immediately trouble arose. That father had set his heart on that son spending his life in the ministry of his denomination, and at once laid plans before the young man to enter school and equip himself for such a work. But God was leading otherwise. He felt and heard the voice of God calling him to other fields in His great vineyard. Stubbornly the father contested and argued the matter with the young man, and continually held up before him the great and good men of that particular denomination which he wished him to enter.
But God called otherwise, and the controversy went on until the young man woke up to the fact that his joy and liberty were waning; and falling on his face before God, he cried, “I will obey Thee.” His mother charged him with being undutiful and neglectful as a son. His sister said it was disgraceful, although she had not thus said when he was dissipating in sin. His brother would not write to him. But with those who were near and dear to him all pulling in the opposite direction, he made his consecration and said “Yes” to God. Very little encouragement did he receive. Sometimes letters from home were burned after the first reading, for fear a second reading might cause him to falter from the path of duty that God had called him to walk in. With no advice and but little encouragement, he obeyed God.
Let the reader mark the results. The father, although kind and loving, but unsanctified, was aroused and led into the experience as a result of the letters written him upon the subject by his son, and died in that experience. That mother came crying to the altar under her son’s simple ministry, saying she was unsaved; afterwards she sought and professed sanctification under the ministry of that son’s wife. In a few years the sister found the Lord and the brother was led to the altar by the younger brother himself, and prayed through to God. We have heard him say that he believes it was all because he obeyed God instead of his loved ones. They did not know best, but God did. He still walks with God, and as the fruits of his ministry God has given him multitudes of souls for his hire, until at this writing he receives far more calls for his services than he can fill, all because he obeyed God.
Those who walk before God with a perfect heart will be “perfect in their obedience.” Had Adam never disobeyed, he would never have been driven from Paradise; but one act of willful or known disobedience cast him outside. One act of willful disobedience made Cain a murderer and an outcast among men. One act of disobedience with a Babylonian garment and a wedge of gold by Achan resulted in his being stoned to death and burned with fire. One act of disobedience by picking up sticks on the Sabbath Day resulted in him who did it being stoned to death. Known disobedience is sin. “The soul that sinneth it shall die.” Disobedience cost Saul his kingdom; disobedience put out Samson’s eyes, and finally led to his committing suicide. Though David found pardon for his disobedience, yet he suffered for all the remaining years of his life. Disobdience by Solomon resulted in his dying with God angry at him. And so all down the ages, from the Fall in the Garden until the present day, upon the blackboard of humanity God has written down in living letters of life that disobedience to the divine will means punishment and death. No soul can retain the divine favor and knowingly disobey; suffer for it you will, and if you will sow disobedience, you will reap a crop that will cause you to wish you had never been born. Man’s only safety lies, in his obeying God.
Beloved reader, let us urge you to run quickly to the Blood, and having all sin washed from your heart, walk before God with a perfect heart in loving obedience to His will. Therein lies your safety. If you have been disobedient, then quickly, in contrition and genuine sorrow, repent, and let Him see your determination to hereafter be obedient to His will. Do it now, for the longer you delay the greater your danger.