Part 4: The Commited Vanguard by Ern Baxter

The Committed Vanguard is the fourth in The King and His Army Series, a powerful and relevant prophetic message on the restoration of the Apostles’ understanding of Christ’s Kingdom and the reformation of His Church delivered by Ern Baxter in 1975 at the Lakes Bible Week in the UK.

Shall we pick up our sequence of thought now?  We are going to start talking about the army tonight and again tomorrow.  The subject of the series is “The King and His Army” and in five nights of course we can’t give it in its entirety or in depth but I think we can give you a broad overview of what we feel God is saying from this portion of Scripture.  Our basic assumption is that we have here a picture of God bringing into being the kind of kingdom that He wants and in His great providence, I’m sure, since He has said to us through His servant Paul that the things that happened to Israel happened as examples for us that we were allowed to see the terrible danger and tragic results of trying to run God’s Kingdom with a Head and Shoulders king.  I’m not going to labor the Saul matter anymore because we want to go on now into the very positive aspects of David (for remember Jesus Christ is the seed of David).  David speaks of the kingliness of our Lord.  Abraham speaks of Him redemptively.  But it is as the seed of David that He is referred to on the Day of Pentecost where Peter said that David’s greater Son has ascended to take the throne that was promised.  So the whole Pentecostal thrust is a thrust of authority.  We think of redemption as occurring at Calvary and in the Resurrection but the rod of His strength – that rod and scepter of authority – had it’s inauguration on the Day of Pentecost.  When Christ ascended on high and in response to God’s promise to David and sat on David’s throne and became the king of the Kingdom.  When we say, “Thy Kingdom Come”, we are saying Thy kingdom be fully manifest for it has come in the sense critical and it’s coming in the sense progressive.  It is my personal conviction shared by many others that we are viewing at the present time – all things considered as we look at ethnic Israel and as we look at the state of the nations and we see the perplexity of the present situation in the world – it seems that we have come to that hour in human history when God is going to show forth His glory in the manifestation of kingdom power and authority.

And so as David takes over the kingdom from Saul, I am suggesting that we have here something helpful for us to follow in what we can expect in the process of moving out of the Head and Shoulders situation into the Heart situation.  Remember again we are not talking about worldly government.  We are not talking about the Hittites, the Hivittes and the Jebusites – and all the other parasites.  We’re talking about the Israelites.  Let us understand that we are talking about all those who profess to have a relationship with God.  The move from Saul to David wasn’t one of crisis – it was one of process.  You see this; I hope that God will help us to see and be encouraged by the fact that there is an inevitable process.  I say inevitable.  It is as inevitable as God taking the kingdom from Saul and giving it to David that God is going to take the kingdom from Head and Shoulders government in the professing Christian community and it will be put into the hands of Heart people with spiritual authority.  In fact you know I sense something here tonight and last night in the joy – put that on the back burner and hold it.  (*laughter*).  I don’t know if we’ll get to it tonight or not.  But don’t minimize this joy.  This is not some little odd by-product.  This is very, very meaningful.  Amen?

All right let’s dive in shall we?  I haven’t got much by way of introduction and I haven’t got much of an ending but I hope I’ve got something to put in the middle.  (*laughter*).  I think most of you have been along each night and need to see ourselves in David’s discouragement.  Some of us like to give the impression that we are perpetually on top and some of us get a little intimidated when we see somebody that almost convinces us.  But I must confess I have my low moments.  And David, although he was anointed and knew he was anointed, by now knew he was to become Israel’s king, got discouraged.  I am not saying that you should emulate David’s discouragement, but that you should be encouraged by it, if you happen to get involved in it.  (*Laughter*) (V.1).  “Then David said to himself, ‘Now I will perish one day by the hand of Saul.’”

It must have been rough.  The Head and Shoulders man in Israel had kicked the Heart man out of his kingdom, and he wasn’t going to make it.  Oh Saul had been entertained for a while, as long as David sang to the king and brought him a little revival from his demonic tortured state.  But when David became a mighty man of war, and it was obvious that he was gaining favor far beyond what Saul had ever planned for him, then Saul realized that he had to get rid of him.  And he tried to kill David with a spear, and you may remember that Jonathan warned David that there was no hope of any reconciliation between David’s kingdom and Saul’s.  If you are hoping that somehow the house of Saul will have a revival, then you are flogging a dead horse.  There is no revival for the house of Saul.  God has declared that He is taking the kingdom from Head and Shoulders government and is putting it into the government of a man after His own heart.

All right?

(V.1) “‘I will perish one day.  There is nothing better for me than to escape into the land of the Philistines.  Saul then will despair of searching for me in all the territory of Israel and I will escape from his hand.’ So David arose and crossed over, he and the 600 men who were with him, to Akish, the son of Meoch, king of Gash.  David lived with Akish in Gath with his men each with their household, even David and his two wives.  Now it was told Saul that David had fled to Gath, so he no longer searched for him.”

Now what happened?  I’m not going to impose an interpretation here because I am loath to press types to fit every little detail.  But it does appear that in the crisis, when the Head and Shoulders religious structure of Israel put David out – that he was driven right out into the world.  He had to find temporary living and existence among the Philistines who were Israel’s perennial enemies.  Does this mean that the Church will be driven underground?  Does this mean that the people of God will go through a crisis time when God in His providence will have to provide for them some kind of protection?  Does this mean some kind of outlawing of the people of God? 

I’m not sure I know what it means, but I mentioned to you last night that in the paradox of our relationship to God we must have two ingredients: suffering and joy.  The suffering is as inevitable as the joy, and we must be prepared for it.  Now I don’t want you to get morbid about it.  I don’t want you to be irresponsible about it and I don’t want it to come as a surprise to you.  I mentioned H. A. Baker the other night – the great apostle in China.  He saw what was coming, and he warned his flocks across the country. When communism took over China, they were ready while other Christians were not.  Many Christians had been told that before their lives would be involved in any risk the Lord would come and whisk them out.  If you are thinking tonight that before the axe falls you are going to go riding out on a magic carpet, you had maybe better re-think that because I find nothing in the Scriptures that tell me that you are any better than any other generation of God’s people, and that they that are godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer.  We are ordained to suffer.  It’s not something we should shun – I don’t know what the future holds for us, but I know who holds the future.

I think in the analogy here we have to look at the “crisis crunch.” The time comes when Saul no longer entertains David in court.  The time comes when Head and Shoulders government says, “That’s it.” We don’t want any more of that stuff.  It’s gaining popularity and it is gaining strength and we don’t want any more of it – it’s got to go.  If this doesn’t mean anything to you then push it to the back of your plate.  But to some of you I am sure; you know what I am saying.  I think you should be ready for it.  Don’t sit around like Samuel mourning something that God has said is over.  All right?

So David asked Akish in (V.5) if he could have a place to live and Akish gave him Ziklag in (V.6).  “Therefore Ziklag has belonged to the kings of Judah to this day, and the number of days that David lived in the country of the Philistines was a year and four months.” I’m not sure I totally understand why we are given that period of time, but I have a suggestion, and if you will hold that until we get near the end of our message tonight, you will see that in a year and four months living among the Philistines, the Heart man David had one of the greatest revivals he ever had.  In 1932 Joseph Stalin said, “By May 1st 1937 (that was at the end of the 1st 5 year plan) the very name of God will no longer be heard in Russia.” Well 1937 has long since come and gone, and so has Stalin, and the very name of God is still very much alive in Russia.  In fact the report I get is that there is a considerable move of the Holy Spirit, and I’ve talked to people who have been in Holy Ghost meetings in Russia where what is going on here is going on there.  You just can’t keep God out of His own universe!  The Bible says, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and all that dwells therein.”

Now I have been suggesting that everyone should hold to that verse when you open your eyes each morning.  Just declare it!  “The earth is the Lord’s.” We have been so intimidated by sin, and we have been so intimidated by demons and the devil – we’ve been so intimidated by the world and all its machinations that we have forgotten to believe the facts.  The fact is that the world belongs to the Lord!  The fact also remains that all who are in the world belong to the Lord!  The fact remains that you and I are supposed to be reigning with Christ now and running the world; instead of that, we are hiding in caves and pits and mountains waiting for something to happen that isn’t going to happen.  We are saying, “Lord take us out of it,” and He is saying, “That isn’t what I had in mind – I told you to get into it!” He didn’t say to sit around and wait for Him to take us out of the world; He told us to go into it, and we are spending our time waiting to get out of it.  So while we are coming out, we are meeting Him trying to push us back in!  (*Laughter*)

We’re the salt of the earth!  We’re the light of the world!  If you entertain the idea tonight that the Second Coming of Christ is the hope of the world, you had better go back and read your Bible.  The Second Coming of Christ is the damnation of the world – it’s the judgment of the world – it’s the end of the world’s hope – the world has no hope!  The coming of Christ is the believer’s hope not the world’s hope!  You say, “What is the world’s hope?” The Gospel of the Kingdom is the world’s hope! The Gospel ministered in Word and in community manifested through the redeemed people of God. 

We’re the world’s hope!  The world is looking at us – they are saying have you got anything to offer us?  That’s why God is raising up in this hour literally a counter-culture.  A new society!  I mean that!  For a long time we have had our souls saved.  Whatever that was – it’s something “in here.” But our lives were a mess and our relationships were all fouled up.  And our philosophy of life was all screwed up.  But hallelujah, our souls were saved.  Now God is saying, “I came to redeem the whole man.  I not only want to save your soul, but your spirit, your body, your boyfriend, your girlfriend relationships, your husband and wife relationships, your family relationships, your redeemed community relationships – I want to make you a new society – a new order!” God is doing that now and He is working on every area.  The last few years He has been saying, “Prophets!  Talk to My people about husband and wife relationships.” “Yes Lord.” “Prophets!  Talk to My people about family.” “Yes Lord.” “Prophets!  Talk to My people about getting together – it’s about time they got together down there!” “Yes Lord!”

Now all of this has been coming through – why?  God is forming His society because the world is ready.  The world has run out of options.  We are the only option they have got left, and right now it doesn’t look too good for the world, but we are going to get our house in order, and God is going to set the house of the Lord on the top of the mountain, and the nations are going to flow up unto it.  That’s going to be a miracle – did you ever see water run uphill?  (*Laughter*)

Ziklag, to Hebron, to Zion.

Now there are three places that I want you to keep in your mind tonight and tomorrow night.  Ziklag – Hebron – Zion.  These represent three historical junctures in David’s progress towards the ultimate manifestation of his kingship. 

In Ziklag David has been kicked out of Saul’s court and gets started in building the new society.  Let us now go to 1 Chronicles 12, “Now these are the ones who came to David at Ziklag while he was still restricted because of Saul the son of Kish.  And they were among the mighty man who helped him in war.” I am calling these people, “The Committed Vanguard.” Ziklag stands for those who rallied around David, when Saul was still trying to kill him, and when he was restricted to Ziklag and the land of the Philistines because of Saul’s demonic desire to erase him.  While he was at Ziklag restricted, these were the ones who came. 

“Now they came.” I like that.  “They came to him.” They weren’t coerced.  They came.  They were attracted to him and they came to him under the risk of death.  They came to him at Ziklag, and I might as well tell you now before we get into it that I believe we are at Ziklag right now.  Right now the Heart government of God is under the gun.  It’s no longer welcome in the courts of Saul, but people are gathering to the Lord at Ziklag under pressure.  Spiritual authority is rising up all over the earth.  Now I don’t want to give you any wrong impressions here because I don’t want to equate the Lord with men, other than to say that the Lord has chosen men who have spiritual authority and these men are Heart men.  They are men who feel with the heart of God.  All over the world God is raising up men who are saying things that are attracting people who are sick and tired of Head and Shoulders government and want to get next to the warm heart of David.  Does anyone understand what I’m talking about?

Now let’s look at the kind of people who were coming to him.  (V.2) “They were equipped with bows using both the right hand and the left to sling stones and to shoot arrows from the bow.  They were Saul’s kinsmen from Benjamin.” Isn’t that something?  The first ones that are mentioned are people that come right from Saul’s own tribe, and there is reason to believe they might have been personally related to him, and yet they are among the first to come to David.  There is divine irony for you!  The ones that are right close to the Saul government come to David at Ziklag, where he is restricted because of Saul’s demonic desire to kill him.  These were the ones who came, Saul’s own kinsmen, Benjaminites were among the first to come.  I remember reading this a few weeks ago, and suddenly there flashed into my mind another picture, and I thought that there was some irony in it too, as I thought of another Saul, who was also of the tribe of Benjamin, who was a Head and Shoulders man, if ever there was one.  He went armed with letters from the High Priest to take Christians prisoner and take them into the synagogue and have them flogged.  This man was so mad, that he would hold the coats of others, as they sent the first martyrs into heaven under a pile of stones.  So Saul is riding along on his little donkey on the way to Damascus, and the Bible says that he was “breathing out threatenings and slaughters.” “Just wait till I get my hands on those crazy Christians – they’re upsetting the whole Head and Shoulders thing.” (*Laughter*) As he is riding along on his donkey; suddenly, pow!  And the Lord Jesus says, “I’ll take him.” (*Laughter*) So Saul of Tarsus hit the dust and became Paul the apostle.

1.  The Committed Vanguard were Men of Balance.

Saul’s own kinsmen were among the first to join David.  Let’s take a look at the character and ability of this committed vanguard and let it speak to us.  This is very practical here tonight.  “The men who came to him from the tribe of Benjamin could use both their right hand and their left to sling stones and shoot arrows.” That means they were men of balance.  I know that balance somehow gets confused with imbalance, and that men will use the word “balance” when they really mean, “I don’t want to stand for the truth – I want to keep balance.” Their idea of balance is to be off balance.  But balance is very necessary, because the Bible is full of counter-parts of divine truth and balance is extremely necessary.  These men who came to David were men of balance. 

I wonder if I can share something with you.  Some 12 years ago I had the second of only two visions that I have ever had in my life.  I was speaking in a convention in a large church in Canada.  Now I don’t care for platforms very much.  I try to avoid them as much as possible, so I found in that church that to maintain the symmetry of the pew arrangement with the pillars of the church, that at one point the pew came out the other side of the pillar, and there was room for just one person to sit next to this great pillar.  Nobody wanted to sit there – it was kind of an orphan seat.  So every night I would take my briefcase and slip down the aisle and sit there, and I was protected from the sight of the people by the pillar, so the only people who could see me would be one or two people on the platform.  I had my own private little office, and could get the feel of the meeting there, and pray and when the time came, I could slip up and minister.  One night as I sat there I felt as if I wanted to kneel and pray.  I don’t think I would have done it if I had been on the platform, but no one could see me, and there was no question of me appearing hyper-spiritual, so I swung around and got down on my knees.  As I did that I had this vision of the globe – the earth – projected into space, much like what you see when the astronauts take a picture of the earth from the moon.  That’s how I saw it.  It was projected into space, and all over the earth there were these Quonset huts.  How many know what Quonset huts are?  (*Laughter*) Ok, I have to start from scratch then.  (*Laughter*) After the last world war they sold them in Canada as army surplus.  Ok?  Now we understand each other.  (*Laughter*) Now, I saw these huts all over the globe, and the interesting thing was that they were all the same size.

But they were all over the globe.  I said, “Lord, what’s this?” He said, “I am going to have in every place a people that are known for the anointing, and when you travel from place to place, you will not ask for My people by this name or that, but you will say, ‘Where are the People of the Anointing?’” Now I was frightened by this and I thought, “I’ve had enough!” I can understand how some of the Old Testament men felt when they saw an angel.  I thought that’s enough – I’m going to sit up.  But as I sat up in the pew, it kept coming: “They went out from us because they were not of us.  Had they been of us, they would have remained with us.  But you have an unction from the Holy One.  And the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch.”

I understand that.  Antioch was the first time that the Holy Spirit got a chance to exercise sovereign domain over the children of God.  Up until then He had been all tied up in Jerusalem with Judaistic concepts and principles, but down in Antioch was the first time the Holy Spirit really got free to come and do the job He had come to the earth to do in propagating the Gospel across the earth.  So I held that vision in my heart, and I have shared it, and I believe it is a valid vision, especially as later on, I began to see the truth of the Church in the community (locality or city), and all of God’s people in every place, and it became very real to me. 

What is it that has brought us here tonight?  Is it because we are all agreed on baptism?  Or is it because we are all agreed on church government or some other doctrine?  The one thing that has brought us together in this degree of unity is the anointing.  I go into a conference (and I’ve done this many times) and Arthur you may remember this – we did it in Palmerstone North in New Zealand one night.  They took an alphabetical poll of the audience starting with Anglicans, Baptists and so on down.  Of course the great racetrack bleachers were filled with hundreds and hundreds of people.  And as they named each of the denominations, I thought everyone voted on every issue.  As they said “Anglicans,” it seemed to me as if everyone put their hands up.  As they said “Baptists,” it seemed as if everyone put their hands up.  That wasn’t so of course, but there was a representation from the whole alphabetical list.  Now what brought them together?  The anointing! 

This is the first time I have said this publicly, and I hope I am right in doing it, but for years I have wondered how this was going to happen.  In the last six months I think the Lord has given me an insight that He is preparing men in every place who are Christ-like, wise, who are gathering around them bodies of people who are full of the love of Christ, that can be depended on to represent the Lord in this crisis hour:  The Vanguard Community – people of balance.  People that are not riding hobby horse issues and getting up tight, but people who are concerned to be corporate representatives of Christ.  I repeat this is the first time I have said this publicly because I have never had permission to say it before.  In America I can take you to city after city where already I can see that community is coming into focus – I am tingling right now as I say it – where God is raising up people who are manifesting Christ in such a way that they are becoming the nucleus around which God is going to gather the Church into the community.

I believe that in this committed vanguard, as we find the description of those men who came to David at Ziklag, we are going to see the characteristics of the kind of people that God is raising up right now in preparation for Hebron and Zion.  These are special people!  And one of the first things about them is that they are people of balance – they can use both hands equally well. 

I came out of my home in Canada one morning and was going down the back steps to my car.  As I looked on the cement pavement at the foot of the steps I saw a little bee, and it was acting rather strangely.  It was buzzing, but it wasn’t going anyway, so I decided to investigate and got down real close.  I found that he had lost a wing, only leaving him with one.  If you have only got one wing, you are not going anywhere.  All you are going to do is go into a circle.  Now we have got people that are all for prayer.  “Oh God … Oh God … oh Godddd.” (*Laughter*) Then we have got others, and all they do is praise the Lord.  We have got an emphasis and wonder why we are not getting anywhere.  You have got to get the balance.  The counter-balance.  The people that God is going to use in this committed vanguard in this hour are going to be balanced people.

2.  The Committed Vanguard were Men of Order.

Not only could they use both hands, but they had order.  You are going to see this coming up as we move into the Army – look at (V.3) “The chief was Ahiezor then Joash (and I am not going to name all these other fellows).” (V.4) “And Ishmaiah the Gibbeonite, a mighty man among the 30 and over the 30, then Jeremiah, Jahazieal, Johanna, Jozabad” and on down.  Now what am I saying?  In this group of men that came to David at Ziklag there was not only balance but there was authority.  Authority is a word that we do not like. But I will tell you what the kingdom is about ladies and gentlemen.  It is about spiritual authority.  I think here in Great Britain you should have a cultural background that will make you more amenable to this than those of us in the USA.  We have so much permissiveness, so that “no one will run my life.” But if it can work in America, then I am sure that it can work here.  Anybody knows that bad government is better than no government.  Everybody knows that we have got to have authority. 

Much of the authority of the Head and Shoulders governmental, ecclesiastical thing has been man-made, and therefore not helpful.  It has not been loving, and it has not been considerate, so we have turned away from authority.  But God is raising up all over the world tonight, men and women who are Christ like.  They have got a passionate concern for the sheep.  God is putting authority into them and they are manifesting the authority that God has given them, not for their own sakes, but for the sakes of God’s people.  God is establishing His authority, His government, and He is putting men in spiritual government over other men, and men don’t mind having a man over them, if he is the kind of man who has got valid spiritual government over him.  Now I don’t know what’s happening here, but I know that in America the men who are kicking against the message of authority are men who know very well that if authority comes into their lives, then they themselves are going to have to change.  You see before a man can exercise authority, he must be under authority.  You can’t have authority unless you are under authority.  And when these men came to David, these men understand authority.  They had a chief, and other men, the thirty, and a man over the thirty, and a structure of authority.  “God hath set in the church first … second … third.” People get so uptight.  One of the things we are hearing all the time is, “Oh, you are establishing a hierarchy.” Well, what is a hierarchy, but a structure of authority?  The Trinity is hierarchy, and there is a structure of authority within it.  Father – Son – Holy Spirit.  When God brought Israel into existence, He called a man by the name of Moses, and then Aaron and his sons, and then chiefs over the tribes.  God is a God of authority and order.  When He wanted to bring into His existence His Church, He said, “I will appoint My governmental authorities,” and here is where the crunch comes.  “When Christ ascended on high, He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists and some shepherds and teachers for the adjusting of the saints with a view to the work of ministry for the building up of the body of Christ.” Man with his built in perversity didn’t live with that very long before he turned the whole thing around and started to ordain authority.  The Kingdom of God is not a democracy – it is a theocracy and spiritual authority is not the product of a democratic vote – it is the product of theocratic appointment !

God makes appointments!  Who in the world would have ever picked Saul of Tarsus – that little bow-legged, beetle browd, hook nosed Jewish rabbi who was full of murder and threatenings – who would have chosen him?  Jesus Christ chose him!  You may be here tonight ready to punch me in the nose – but tomorrow you may be an apostle.  (*Laughter*) You see if you know what to look for in what God is doing – that is a great help.  If you will look around and find where there are men that are speaking with spiritual authority – where there are men who are doing God’s work with spiritual authority.  Not only with an authority in their voice but an authority in their conduct and in their dealings with one another and with other men; you can look to them and not be unduly concerned about submitting your lives to them, because they are obviously men of spiritual authority. 

Across the word one of the most controversial words is ‘authority.’ Books are being written on it!  The history of authority is being re-written by modern writers – why?  It is one of the key words of the hour!  Authority has gone out of the social system.  We’ve got people walking the streets of Canada and the United States who have committed 2 or 3 murders, raped 3 or 4 women, and yet because of the looseness of our legal sanctions, they are out on bail and ready to do the crime again.  God is raising up a counter-culture where we have got men and women who know what it is to be submissive to authority.  There are a people out there tonight who are scared stiff.  They see the society crumbling and are saying, “Is there anywhere we can find authority?  Where can we find a decently ordered society?” I don’t want you to go away from here because I’m dealing with this and think I don’t believe in the blood or in regeneration.  I do!  I am not talking on that level.  I am talking about the formation of God’s people.  It’s fine to get people to the altar, but what are you going to do with them after that?  It’s fine to get them into the baptistery, but what are you going to do with them after that?  It’s fine to lay hands on them and get them to talk in tongues, but what about after that?  They have got to be brought into the structure of the redeemed community. Did you ever read Acts 2 all the way through in one sitting?  You would think after 3, 000 people had come through that dynamic experience that we would have a very deep course in Christian doctrine.  The whole chapter is filled with the life of the new society, “with gladness and singleness of heart they went from house to house breaking bread and rejoicing in the Lord and found favor with the people.” The people said, “Isn’t that beautiful?” Whereas, they look at us and say, “Eugh!” (*Laughter*) The world is waiting for a corporate manifestation of Christ!

You young ones are the people to do it.  Some of us old guys will never get out of our ruts.  Some of us have been in it too long – now we may tag along.  It’s hard for us to change.  If you young people can only hear this, “Submit yourselves to people that have got authority – let them mould your lives – let them disciple you in God.  Submit to those that rule over you.” God is giving vision to men across the world of the redeemed community.  I’ve been 43 years in the ministry, and what I’ve been hearing in the last 3 or 4 years I have never heard in my life before!  It is a whole new insight into what God is doing all over the world.  God is raising up spiritual authority, and people are coming into covenant relationships and into submission and are being discipled in God. Instead of a lot of people going around with a one way ticket to heaven in their pocket book, we have got people that are learning how to live for Christ – get their lives together – get their marriages together – get their homes together – get their finances straightened out – find out how to relate – find out how to develop – how to mature – how to grow – how to help – God is bringing into existence His Kingdom under the Lordship of Jesus Christ! 

Let’s look at verse 8.  Here’s some more of those that came to the committed vanguard.  “And from the Gaddites, there came over to David …” I like the King James better here.  It says, “They separated themselves unto David.” I am going to be brutally frank with you here tonight.  The hour is past when you can play the game on both sides of the religious fence.  You are either going to separate yourself unto what God is doing or you are going to be caught in the tents of compromise when the storm comes.  I am saying to you, “find out what God is doing and separate yourself to it – not in any legal sense – but as truly seeing what God is doing.”

I have got all kinds of friends who feel sorry for me.  (*Laughter*) They say, “Poor Baxter, he is really mad.” I tell you now, it is the most delightful kind of insanity.  (*Laughter*) I have lived in my ivory tower of unilateral authoritarianism, as that single pastor up there at the top of my organization, with all of my underlings and satellites under me, and I would come down from my crows nest to preach my sermons and went back up.  (*Laughter*) Eleven years ago the Lord started to deal with me about these things.  I saw plurality.

The Montreat Conference

It was only a year ago in Montreat where one morning a group of brothers said to me, “We are going to meet in a room Brother Ern – we’d be glad if you’d join us.” About 200 men met in that room and I will never forget it.  They began to talk about relationship.  They began to tell how God had brought them together in a relationship that was protective and beautiful.  I don’t know why, but when I went in that room I started to cry.  Now, I am not a cry-er.  I am a laugher!  I am a hand-clapper and a shouter.  When I cry it is usually God.  I sat there weeping and couldn’t understand why I was weeping.  I just sat there and wept and wept.  I wasn’t sure what I heard, but I was hearing a sound.  I saw brothers.  (I am not going to be a name dropper for some of you know the brothers I am related to) stand up and bare their hearts.  I saw a man I didn’t think capable of crying – he is a man of the military – but I saw him throw himself over the pulpit and weep.  At last because they had always respected me and loved me, they said, “Brother Ern would you like to say something?” I said, “I don’t know if I can compose myself.” At last I went up there and stood and said, “If I did what I feel to do, I would prostrate myself on the floor and say ‘Brothers – cover me.’” I didn’t have to throw myself on the floor.  A few hours later we met in a little room, and I entered into a covenant relationship.

Something happened in the spirit world – something happened in my spirit, and I found that I was plugged into men of God, and after 40 years it was like I had come home.  I had been 40 years on the way home, and I am no longer alone.  I don’t know what that means to you, but I am telling you that God is bringing a dimension into the earth now, as He is bringing the redeemed community into the formation of relationship where we are plugging into one another.  We are no longer going to church and saying, “Good morning brother and God bless you,” but we are finding one another in a community of concern and love and relationship and protection that is one of the most beautiful things that has ever happened to me in my life.  I wish that I were free to say more about that.  But what God is doing right now is bringing spiritual authority, plurality, and rank and order into this committed vanguard.  Men are separating themselves unto this.  I was interested in the word that we heard this morning – probably it’s not the time for a lot of people to come in, but I believe that there are a lot of people here tonight that know it is time for you to come in.  It is time for you to find a place to plug in.  It’s time for you to come into a community situation with brothers and sisters with whom you are covered, and with whom you are related, and you know where you are covered, and where you are related governmentally, and you know exactly how to plug in to the vine.

You see Jesus said He is the vine and we are the branches.  He didn’t say, “I am the root and you are the branches.” He didn’t say, “I am the trunk and you are the branches.” He said, “I am the whole vine – root, trunk and branches.” Then He talked about abiding in Him.  What if you are a twig way out here and yet plugged into a branch?  You say, “Well, I don’t think I am plugged into Jesus; I should be plugged into the trunk.” No – if you are plugged into a branch, you are plugged into the vine.  What am I saying?  I am saying that in the body of Christ, you are plugged into the one that is next to you, and that the one next to you is plugged into the one next to him, and so on. And while by the Holy Spirit the life of Christ does indeed come to you directly–the life of Christ also comes to you through a vital relationship to the vine, from those around you; you draw Christ’s life from your brothers and sisters connected to you in the Lord. 

There is no such thing in the New Testament as someone going it on their own.  Everybody has got to be plugged into the vine – where are you plugged in?  Where are you attached?  I am not asking about nominal Church membership tonight.  I want to know where are you plugged into a vital part of the vine – where are you drawing life?  I don’t mean vertically.  You can draw on that in your prayer closet.  But there is another dimension that the Bible is very clear about; you have got to be in a community relationship, as a member of a body of believers where you are drawing life from the ones that you are plugged into and in that part of the vine where the Spirit has placed you.  You can’t go it alone.  God never made you to go it alone.  Two are better than one and if one falls down the other will lift him up.  If one gets cold the others will keep him warm, and they will have a better award for their labor, the Bible says.  Don’t try to go it alone!  An Amalakite will get you and shoot you in your eye!  You get people preaching on healing and they say, “There was not a feeble one among them when they came out of Egypt.” Do you know why there wasn’t a feeble one among them?  They all got killed.  (*Laughter*) Everyone thinks that there was a great healing service – no!  The Bible says that the feeble got dragged along and got so far behind that the Amalakites came up and killed them all off.  That’s why there wasn’t a feeble one there.  What am I saying?  You had better stay with the pack or an Amalakite will get you.  (*Laughter*) There is no use looking at me like that – I am not going to stop.  (*Laughter*)

3.  The Committed Vanguard Were Men Trained For War.

Now these men of Gad that were separated unto David in the stronghold in the wilderness were mighty men of valor.  Here is another thing that we don’t like today.  They were men trained for war.  They were disciplined!  “I don’t want to be disciplined – I don’t want anyone to run my life – I just want Jesus.  Jesus and me.” Yes, I’ve met you kind of people before.  In fact some of you were in my church!  “Don’t bother me!  If I’m not out on Sunday then don’t phone me!  Mind your own business!  I will come and hear you preach, and I will come and put my dollar in the offering, but don’t bug me about what I’m doing!” Yet they are the very people who scream to high heaven when they are in the hospital for three weeks, and no one has visited them.  “I don’t understand those Christians down there – I’ve been attending for six years and no one came to visit!” (*Laughter*) Of course no one came to visit you because you told us time and time again to mind our own business and that you wanted to run your own life.  This is a two-way street mister!  If you are going to be one of my sheep, then you are going to have to tell me your name!  You are going to have to tell me where you live!  And I want to know that I am responsible for you, and I want you to know that I am responsible for you, and I want to know where you are. 

One of the names of an elder or shepherd is an overseer.  An overseer is one who sees over.  Can you imagine a shepherd so irresponsible that when he gathered his flock and looked over them he said, “Oh, I don’t know – some of them are missing!” Jesus took care of that didn’t He?  What man if you having a hundred sheep, if he lose one, he does not leave the ninety and nine to go into the wilderness and look for the one until he hath found it?” The discipline that we are being called to is called in the Bible discipleship.  For so long we have been asked to accept Jesus as our Saviour as though we were doing God a favor.  “Please won’t you accept Jesus?  Please?” Did you ever go through the Acts of the Apostles and find an altar call?  In the early church people were trying to get in!  “And no man durst join himself to them.” When you and I become a community of power, people will be beating down our door to get in!  But now we lower the standard of the gospel to get a decision.  “Just let me see your hand – put it up half way?  A quarter way?  Wiggle a finger?” (*Laughter*)

You know what I am offering you tonight?  I am offering you the opportunity to come into the redeemed community of King Jesus under valid spiritual authority, God-men trained, gifted and appointed by God to help you keep your life in hand and to teach you what it is to have a life that is properly disciplined by a man of God – that is what we are offering.  We are offering you the opportunity to come into a redeemed community where God Himself has placed shepherds that will love you and that will lay down their lives for you . 

They were disciplined.  They were trained for war.  They knew what it was to be disciplined and come under authority.  They were also balanced.  It says that they could handle the shield and the spear.  What does that mean?  A shield is defensive and the spear is offensive.  That is balance.  It is not enough to be always defending or always on the offensive.  Jesus said, “Come in for food and go out for service.” If you stay out there constantly trying to minister to others, then you will starve to death.  If you come in and sit all the time at Bible conferences, then you will get too fat!  You come in to get fed and go out to serve.  You fend off the enemy, but you are not forever fending off the enemy – you give him a whack too.  (*Laughter*) Balance!  Fearlessness!  “Faces of lions,” the Bible said!  There was fearlessness and a courageousness characterizing this committed vanguard.

I am telling you in this hour that if you are going to stand with what God is doing, you are going to have to have some courage.  You are going to have to have the face of a lion, because in the Ziklag experience, we are still exposed to Saul.  “They were as swift as the gazelles on the mountain” and they were resourceful.  As they skipped across the mountain, they had to be sure footed.  They knew how to adapt.  They knew how to move and find their way.  They were men trained for exactly this kind of thing – this was the committed vanguard!

Spiritual Authority is Earned Authority.

Now also order.  Isn’t this interesting?  We have the same thing here as among the Benjaminites.  Look at (V. 9) “Ezer the chief, Obadiah the second, Eliab third, Mishmannah fourth, Jeremiah fifth, Attai sixth, Eliel seventh, Johannan eighth, Elzabad ninth.” What’s this all about?  Order.  Structure.  Authority.  Someone says, “I want to be first.” You have got to earn the right to be the first.  You have to earn the right to be heard.  You have to earn the right to have authority – you can’t buy a living in this community!  You can’t get a job by bribery here.  You have to earn the right by your life and consistency and resourcefulness and courage until men come to you and say, “Brother will you take me?” One of the charges that is being levelled against some of us in America is that we are reaching for men and want to take over their lives.  That is about the biggest lie I have ever heard.  I have men constantly calling me long distance and saying, “Baxter in this troubled hour … I am this kind of minister or that.” They come from all kinds of backgrounds.  “Will you take me?  Will you disciple me?  Will you shepherd me?  Will you counsel me?” Now, they are doing this with other men.  What are they hearing from me?  I am just one of many!  They are hearing 43 years of experience, and they are hearing from someone who has been there through the wars.  They are hearing from someone who has the same scars.  Someone who has been through what they are going through, and they are saying, “Help!” You don’t have to reach for men when you deserve the right to exercise authority in lives.  You don’t have to reach – but look, don’t you try to be number one until you have earned the right to be number one.  There was order in the committed vanguard.

You know lately it’s come to me very strongly that I think it’s very important in this hour that we don’t grow too rapidly, because brother, once this thing breaks, we better have men and women ready to take what’s coming in and be ready to handle them.  Many of you young people are going to have to learn to submit to authority because you may be the youngest leaders in history.  Already in many places of the world where this message and this emphasis of the Holy Spirit is coming, I’ve gone into communities in America of three-hundred or more where young men in their twenties are exercising an eldership of maturity that would put fifty year old men to shame, but these young men have come under authority to other men and have worked at it and submitted themselves and sat at the feet of other men and have earned the right to be heard.  You say, “I’ve never heard this kind of talk before.  I thought you just got saved and joined a church and paid our dues on Sunday morning and heard a sermon.  I don’t understand this!” I am sure that the majority of you do.  I don’t want to talk down to you, but you see folks for years we have had an emasculated, watered down, anemic kind of Christianity, that barely resembles anything like the reality, yet now we are finding out what reality is!  Reality is total involvement!  “Christ is my Lord!  He puts me in the Body!  He puts me under authority!  He puts me under a shepherd!  I learn to be disciplined, trained, equipped for service and for war.  I start to function in the redeemed community!  I find my own place of authority and responsibility and I become part of reality.  It’s not just a Sunday thing – it is a whole week thing!  It’s a life thing – I’m totally involved in an alternate society – in a counter-culture – in a new order.  I am so excited I am going to jump out of my skin!” (*Laughter*)

4.  The Committed Vanguard Were Superior People with a Tradition.

Not only were they people of order – they were superior people.  “He who was least was equal to a hundred and the greatest to a thousand.” Hallelujah!  You know what’s happening in this thing?  It is so thrilling to me.  I’m finding today where young people are moving into this sphere of relationship and discipleship and submission – I am finding young people of quality and courage that are like no young people that I’ve ever seen.  I think this is the greatest generation of young people have ever lived.  I do.  Across the world I am finding them.  There is something in them, and they are ready to commit.  They’re ready to do whatever.  There’s not just one here and one there.  There’s a generation, and there are thousands of them across the earth!  There is an army of young people right now across the earth, with a bedroll under one arm and a Bible under the other, with a glint in their eye, and they are saying, “Where next Lord?” Hallelujah!  They are not a bunch of renegades – they are committed.  They are seeking oversight and seeking shepherding. 

Verse 15 is an interesting verse because there is nothing that I can find in the Bible that tells us where it happens.  But it says, “These are the ones that crossed the Jordan in the first month when it was overflowing all its banks, and they put to flight all those in the valleys both to the east and to the west.” Those people had a tradition of bravery and they were proud of their tradition.  You say, “How does that fit in with what you are saying?” Oh, very well.  Did you ever read Hebrews 12: 1, “Seeing that we are encompassed by so great a cloud of witnesses”?  What crowd of witnesses?  All those in chapter 11 – that is our tradition!  Elijah is looking at you tonight.  Jeremiah is looking over this crowd.  Abraham is having a peep!  There is David looking through the tent over there.  We have got tradition!  We ought to be the best generation of Christians that ever lived. 

I remember 10 years ago I preached in Glasgow, and they were taking me to the airport at Prestwick, and we were going through some hills, and the driver said to me, “Do you know where you are?” I said, “No.” He told me we were going through the hills where my forebears had rendezvoused at the risk of their lives to meet for the meal of covenant.  Suddenly, as we were driving along, I felt the tears running down my cheeks as I looked out at those hills, and I could see at dusk forms making their way down those valleys to rendezvous at some pre-arranged spot at the risk of their lives to break bread.  I said, “Those are my people!  And I have got a tradition!” You see there is a Christian tradition that is valid – don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Don’t decide because God is bringing us into a new dimension that all the old dimensions were bad.  Don’t do that.  I’m afraid that we have done that with some of our singing.  We have thrown out the grand old hymns as though they were apostate.  I have met people who received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and they figured that everything they knew about Christianity prior to that time was apostate.  That is ridiculous!  Christianity didn’t start in 1966!  (*Laughter*) God always builds on what has gone before – there is rich tradition.  I am a lover of Church history!  There have been great men in the life of the Church!  Great men.  My library is full of biographies that I dip into from time to time.  They have challenged me and charmed me and inspired me and thrilled me.  We are indebted to them – we’ve got a tremendous tradition!

In this hour God is bringing us into a new dimension and one of the challenges is that we have got a past that should inspire us to move into this new dimension – perhaps one of the most demanding of Church history!

I want you to look at verse 16.  “Then some of the sons of Benjamin and Judah came to the stronghold to David.” They were latecomers.  “David went out to meet them and answered and said to them, ‘If you come peacefully to me, to help me, my heart shall be united to you, but if to betray me to my adversaries, since there is no wrong in my hands, may the God of our fathers look on it and decide.” This is the nature of commitment.  It is honesty and integrity.  Brothers we are learning the meaning of honesty.  I talked to the shepherds and their wives today – we are living in an hour when we can no longer play the phoney baloney church game – when we can no longer put “the face” on.  We can’t play games anymore!  The hour has come for reality.  The hour has come to take the masks off.  The hour has come to bear our hearts.  The hour has come, when we can’t be hypocrites and do the double living thing.  The time has come for us to enter into relationships that are honest and clean, and where integrity is involved, and we have a beautiful picture of it as these people come to David.  David said, “Alright, I will lay it on the line to you.  If you are men of integrity and honor I want you to know – if you have come peacefully to help me, and if your heart is one with my heart, then I want to enter into commitment with you.  But if you have come to betray me, then I warn you that I have done nothing wrong, and I am right with God.  You will have to answer to God for it.” That’s not playing games.

Commitment has to have the Holy Spirit in it.  “Then the Spirit came upon Amassi who was the chief of the thirty and he said, ‘We are yours oh David and with you son of Jesse.  Peace, peace to you and peace to him who helps you, indeed your God helps you.’” That’s the response.  My heart is with your heart!  I can’t enter into that kind of commitment with you people here.  I can’t do that.  But back home I have got that kind of commitment with men who will die for me.  I have got men back home who are one with my heart, and my heart is one with their heart.  Don’t you raise your voice against me in their presence!  We have made a commitment, and we’ve met one another with all our bareness hanging out.  Nothing covered!  We know about one another.  We know each other’s weaknesses.  We know each other’s strengths.  We have entered into commitment, and we are one with each other. 

This is the whole drift of the New Testament ladies and gentlemen!  This is why the world has no time for us.  We’re not even decent to one another – we don’t even have integrity to one another.  We are not honest with each other, and we don’t defend each other, but rather speak evil of each other!  The hour has come for us to be the committed vanguard as God is bringing in the climax of the age, and as people like you begin to have understanding.  Enter into relationships!  Find your place in the vine!  Plug into authority!  Find your place under shepherds!  Be men that are honest and have integrity and stand for one another because the fire will get hot before we are through.

The result of this was that David made them captains.  People want authority without commitment.  You want authority?  Submit to authority and you will get authority.  If you want authority without submission, then you won’t get it.  People are no longer listening to what comes out of our mouths.  They are listening to what comes out of our spirits.  There is a new perception coming into the body of Christ and you can’t fool people anymore like you used to.  People hear the sound of your spirit. 

5.  The Committed Vanguard Saw Inevitable Increase.

All right let’s drop to verse 22.  “For day by day men came to David to help him until there was a great army like the army of God.” The inevitable increase came day by day to David and the vanguard.  Let me comfort your hearts tonight brothers, especially you that are in the leadership of this move of God, this thing that is happening.  People are deriding us because of what we are saying.  Derision is part of the satanic plan.  It was derision that got Eve to fall in the Garden.  The serpent said, “Oh yes?  Did God really say that?” You see; we can’t stand derision.  You know how Satan usually brings derision today?  He says, “Now brother, you’re an intelligent man.” You want to be an intelligent man of course!  Satan used to do that with me about the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  He said, “Now Baxter, you are an intelligent fellow,” and I would preen.  Now when they say I’m an intelligent fellow, I say, “No, I’m stupid.” (*Laughter*) That disarms them in a hurry!  They don’t expect you to admit that you are dumb!  “I’m foolish” – well I am to them!

“The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God for they are foolishness to him.” I can’t explain to a natural man the mechanics of regeneration or the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  I have got so many things to say. 

All right!  “Day by day they came to David.” I want to encourage your hearts by saying this.  Even now in Ziklag, when we have been kicked out, lied about, berated and mocked – even now, the growth of God is among us, and across the earth men are coming into the reality of the relationships of the redeemed community.  But remember!  Don’t stop at Ziklag.  Don’t let the better become the enemy of the best.  When you sing your songs – sing it right.  Don’t sing, “We’re marching to Ziklag.” We are at Ziklag, but we are not staying here.  Don’t sing “We’re marching to Hebron.” Go right to the end of the track.  Zion!  “We’re marching to Zion!” We’ll talk about that tomorrow night.

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