The King and His Army, A Tribute To Ern Baxter by Dan Bowen

THE KING AND HIS ARMY is series of strategically important prophetic messages preached by J. Ern Baxter in the UK at the Lakes Bible Week in 1975. As one of Brother Baxter’s sons in the faith, I had the great joy and privilege of being with him, my life and ministry forever impacted and shaped by the profound and powerful Word of the Lord proclaimed. This series of messages places before us one of three major prophetic models found in the rich typology of the Old Testament for the Apostolic Reformation of the Church today.

Brother Ern used to say: "Four men speak to the Church typically from the Old Testament today. Adam speaks to us racially; Abraham speaks to us redemptively; Moses speaks to us congregationally, and David speaks to us regally or royally!" David’s long and difficult journey from Ziklag to Zion speaks prophetically today about the stages in the strategic journey of reformation that the Church must make, if we would move from our present subnormality and ineffectiveness to maturity and the fulfillment of mission and destiny!

Dan Bowen, my friend from the UK, is involved in that journey. Because of his sensitivity to the Spirit, his appreciation and respect for Brother Baxter, and his diligent labor in faithfully transcribing these messages from the Lakes Bible Week, we are able to present this strategically important prophetic series. But before presenting Ern’s first powerful message, "The Head and Shoulders Man" I present Brother Bowen’s tribute, "A Prophet - One as Untimely Born"

"A Prophet - One as Untimely Born” by Dan Bowen.

Why a Forty Year old Prophetic Vision is only coming into Fulfillment Today.

At the Newfrontiers Brighton Leadership Conference 2004, leader and father of the movement, Terry Virgo came to give his two keynote addresses and chose to base in the Lake District in 1975.  Terry said; “Ern Baxter, a remarkable prophetic preacher from the USA, spoke powerfully at a number of the early U.K Bible Weeks.  None of his messages was more telling than a series he entitled, ‘The King and His Army’” .  Reporting on Terry’s two sermons, his wife Wendy wrote;

Terry recalled the way Ern Baxter, a mighty preacher of the 70s preached about this. Now with the passage of time we can see some of his prophetic predictions coming into being, notably that ministry that appeals to the intellect, the flesh and is man-centred will decline in power and authority, while that which is anointed by God ... will prosper” .

Why would a series of sermons some 29 years old seem so influential that they be re-called and re-preached?  What was the substance of such a message that so impacted Terry Virgo and the gathered thousands who heard the vision preached at Brighton?  Who was this Ern Baxter?  Why did he preach as he did?  What compelled him?  What motivated him?  What envisioned him?  And most importantly why has “The King and His Army” been remembered as the most significant series of messages he preached in the United Kingdom during the many years he came here?

Firstly we must make it clear that this introduction therefore will not focus so much on the man himself but rather on his awesome vision of God.  I believe Ern Baxter would wish it so.  This will maintain the balance that Justin Taylor warned must be kept .  I neither wish to exalt Ern Baxter to a pedestal he is not worthy of, neither do I wish to allow him to fade into history when he was a unique gift from God for our good.

I feel a tremendous affinity with Dr John Piper in my own love of Ern Baxter’s vision of God.  Piper wrote that joy always seemed peripheral to him until he read Jonathan Edwards.  Just so for myself the Church as expressed in Ephesians 2:20 seemed peripheral until I met Ern Baxter.  Again just like Piper , it took one sermon of God-centeredness to take me captive.  For him it was Jonathan Edwards’ book, “The End for Which God Created the World”.  For me it has been his presentation of this series, “The King and His Army”.  Those sermons captivated me because of the broad cosmic sweeps of the Kingdom of God that it portrayed.  I remember hearing that sermon for the first time and barely flinching throughout.  Truly, “I have seen the city of God and I cannot turn away!” . 

It should be made clear that to understand Ern Baxter, one must understand the vision of God and His Kingdom that he held – for that vision motivated him, stirred him, and even possessed him for most of his life.  One of the men who knew him best – his administrator Ritch Carlton wrote of his God-breathed vision;

“This is the carefully thought out, studied out and prayed out understanding by a man who ... walked through the squalor of Christianity as it has been demonstrated in the twentieth century.  He was a witness to Christianity’s divisions – from the inside and the outside.  With disappointment he cried, “Where is the Church?” He knew that the Church is God’s instrument to the earth to declare His glory and righteousness.  He loved the Church ... above all else Ern still believed that God had a purpose for the Church in the earth that would be realized in ultimate and complete victory” .

It is my belief that the vision of the Church contained within the “King and His Army” is one of the most dramatic presentations ever portrayed.  Ern was a unique preacher and each of his sermons a beautiful tapestry of compelling vision.  Charles Simpson said of him that he; “used words as artistic tools and in the pulpit painted magnificent pictures” .  Live within the pages of this book and you will find your vision of God and His Church expanded and enhanced like never before.

However a word of apologetic is required if the words of Puritan Thomas Brooks are to be heeded who complained that the world is full of books and of how many contain quality that is really long-lasting and truly beneficial to the reader who invests time and attention in opening it’s pages .  There are three reasons why this book has been compiled and they may be understood as the debt paid out, the vision made clear and the challenge left standing.

1. The Debt Paid Out.

To whom much has been given, much will be required.  It’s a biblical concept that must be faced and yet isn’t often spoken of as is the parable of the talents that the Lord Jesus gave.  If the Scriptural evidence isn’t clear enough, C H Spurgeon’s words cannot be denied or ignored;

“Beloved when you and I have seen or heard anything which God has revealed to us, let us go and write it, or make it known by other means ... You have not been privileged to see, merely to make glad your eyes and to charm your soul; you have been permitted to see in order that you may make others see and that you may go forth and report what the Lord has allowed you to perceive” .

When, through the sovereignty of God, I came into the possession of several hundred audiotapes and videotapes of Dr Ern Baxter I knew that I had a number of choices.  I could keep them to myself, and do very little with them other than to allow them to gather dust or I could constantly listen to them and enjoy them myself.  However I was surprised in speaking to people who had actually been at the Bible Weeks where Ern Baxter spoke, to discover that many of them had forgotten what he said perhaps not having the time or the motivation to revisit the dusty audiocassettes sitting on This seriestheir shelves. 

It was at this point that a respected pastor friend of mine came to visit me at my home and we decided to spend some time together in prayer.  I was amazed when he opened his mouth and began to prophecy ; “The call is to publish”.  He too hadn’t expected such a powerful and direct word.  We had never discussed or even thought of publishing.  But as we weighed the prophecy we felt that the call was to take the measure of glory and anointing contained on the audiotapes and ensure they were transcribed into the written word as soon as possible.

Therefore in the presenting of the transcribed collected sermons of “The King and His Army” – I feel one step closer to repaying the said debt.

2. The Vision Made Clear.

Newfrontiers teacher John Groves was correct when he said that the “King and His Army” is certainly not classical exposition – it is more prophetic teaching .  Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann wrote that the task of prophetic ministry is to nurture, nourish and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the alternative dominant culture around us .  “The King and His Army” most certainly does that.  It perhaps isn’t the best choice of tomes to consult if one wants a theological understanding of the events in 1 and 2 Samuel surrounding Saul and David, but it most certainly does fulfil Brueggemann’s criteria of presenting an alternative to the dominant culture around us.  The reader may not accept it as a genuine word from God but the facts are unaltered that Ern Baxter was and is presenting an alternative – he should therefore be taken seriously as a prophetic preacher .

The major example of the vision presented concerned the three major cities that played a part in David’s life.  The three were Ziklag (1 Samuel 27:6), Hebron (2 Samuel 2:1) and Zion (2 Samuel 5:7).  Of these three cities Ern Baxter said; “These represent three historical junctures in David’s progress towards the ultimacy of his kingship” .  He made the connection between these historical junctures and the prophetic symbolism for us by saying;

“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.  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” .

But Baxter made it clear to those in the marquee at the Bible Week that he wasn’t content to allow the Church to remain hidden in Ziklag.  He earnestly believed that the time was coming to move on.  However this mobilising will be accompanied by outpourings of the Holy Spirit.  Ern Baxter said;

“He is anointed a second time.  I believe that this means that there is an increase in the intensity of the divine anointing and provision for the demands that these crises propose.  We can look for an acceleration of the activity of the Holy Spirit as we move on in God and there will come new empowerments and new dimensions and new anointings to accommodate the new demands and the new confrontations and the new requirements that are being made upon this.  This thrills me!” .

This vision of the “coming down” of the Spirit of God was characteristic of Ern Baxter’s vision .  The last two or three decades have seen many men of God, churches and indeed movement of churches that have professed to have been both Reformed and charismatic fall down on one side or the other (mostly in my experience they have abandoned their charismatic dimension and become solely Reformed).  When investigating this decision it has become apparent that this decision is usually made through fear or observance of excess demonstrated in the charismatic movement.  Ern Baxter himself would have had more reason than most to made this decision to abandon all things charismatic.  After all he lived through the Pentecostal Movement and saw excess.  He lived through the Latter Rain Movement and saw excess.  He lived through the Healing Movement and saw excess and he lived through the Charismatic Movement and saw excess .  Disappointed he may have been but at the end of his life and ministry in 1991 he declared that the last 60 years of his charismatic life had been glorious and he would not exchange them for anything .

So why was Ern Baxter any different?  He saw like Gordon Fee that;

“The Word of God is the Spirit’s sword, and as it is faithfully spoken forth in the gospel, in the arena of darkness, men and women hear and are delivered from Satan’s grasp.  Biblical preaching, empowered by the Spirit proclaims a redemptive word that sets the church free from its captivity to the powers”. 

The two must come together!  They belong together!  And Ern would not allow “wrong use, to permit no use, but rather right use”.  This was Ern Baxter’s vision – that God’s purpose for the church was ultimate and complete victory and it would be empowered by the Spirit of God.  The gospel not coming in word alone but with power.

3. The Challenge Left Standing.

The Word of God presents another principle.  Deuteronomy 34 gives an amazing account of Moses final days on earth.  The Lord said to him that he would be taken up a mountain and shown the land from east to west.  He would see it but not cross over there.  In the New Testament the author of the book of Hebrews spoke of “all these having obtained a good testimony through faith did not receive the promise” .  Ern Baxter is one such man and as such his teaching and sermons left many challenges to us who follow.  He seemed to deliberately leave challenges in the Bible Week series that he preached as though he knew that what he was preaching was material that would potentially open the eyes of people’s hearts to the vision and hope of God’s alternative kingdom .

The challenge did not just ring out at the end of the Lakes Bible Week 1975 but again at Bryn Jones Dales Bible Week 1976 in the heartfelt sermon, “The Kadesh Crisis”.  The plea at both Bible Weeks was quite simple.  Dare to believe God.  He insisted that there are two choices facing the Church today – just as there were two choices facing the children of Israel prior to entering the land.  They could die in the wilderness or they could believe God and go in.  Just so with us, we can face dying in immaturity or we can believe that God has got a higher purpose for His Church and a higher calling than we are yet experiencing.  Ern’s administrator Ritch Carlton said Ern cried out; “Where is the Church?” Like Moses he was shown it but he wasn’t permitted to go in.  That challenge still stands open and ready for someone willing to rise up and fulfill it.

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