1 Samuel 29
Biblical Illustrator
What do these Hebrews here?
David was almost at the lowest point of his fortunes when he fled into foreign territory. The Philistine commanders, very naturally, were suspicious of these allies, just as Englishmen would have been if, the night before Waterloo, a brigade of Frenchmen had deserted and offered their help to fight, Napoleon. So the question, "What, do these Hebrews here?" — amongst our ranks — was an extremely natural one, and it was answered in the only possible way, by the subsequent departure of David and his men from the unnatural and ill-omened alliance. Now, that suggests to us that Christian people are out of their places, even in the eyes of worldly people, when they are fighting shoulder to shoulder with them in certain causes; and it suggests the propriety of keeping apart. "Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord." "What do these Hebrews here?" is a question that, Philistia often asks. But now turn to the other question. Elijah had fallen into the mood of depression which so often follows great nervous tension. The usually undaunted prophet, in the reaction after the great effort, was fearful for his life, and deserted his work, and flung himself into solitude, and shook the dust off his feet against Israel. Was that not just doing what I have been saying that Christian people ought to do — separating himself from the world? In a sense yes, and the voice came, "What dost thou here, Elijah?" "Go back to your work; to Ahab, to Jezebel." "Go back to death if need be. Do not shirk your duty on the pretence of separating yourself from the world." So we put the two questions together. They limit one another, and they suggest the via media, the course between, and lead me to say one or two plain things about that duty of Christian separation from an evil world.

I. The first thing I would suggest to you is THE INEVITABLE INTERMINGLING, WHICH IS THE LAW OF GOD, AND THEREFORE CAN NEVER BE BROKEN WITH IMPUNITY. Christ's parable about the Kingdom of Heaven in the world being like a man that sowed good seed in his field, which sprung up intermingled with tares, contains the lesson, not so much of the purity or non-purity of the Church as of the inseparable intertwining in the world of Christian people with others. Society at present, and the earthly form of the Kingdom of God, are not organised on the basis of religious affinity, but upon a great many other things, such as family, kindred, business, a thousand ties of all sorts. There are types of Christian life today unwholesomely self-engrossed, and too much occupied with their own spiritual condition, to realize and discharge the duty of witnessing, in the world. Wherever you find a Christian man that tries more to keep himself apart, in the enjoyment and cultivation of his own religious life, than to fling himself into the midst of the world's worst evil, in order to fight and to cure it, you get a man who is sharing in Elijah's transgression, and needs Elijah's rebuke. The intermingling is inevitable in the present state of things.

II. And now let me say a word about the second thing, and that is — THE IMPERATIVE SEPARATION. "What do these Israelites here?" is the question. What do we do when we are left to do as we like? Where do we go? When the half-cwt. fastened by the bit of string is taken off the sapling it starts back to its original uprightedness. Is that what, your Christianity does? Let us look at the spirit. Where do I turn to? What do I like to do? Where are my chosen companions? What are my recreations? Is my life of such a sort as that the world will turn to ms and say, "What! you here!" "A man is known by the company he keeps," says an old Latin proverb, and I am bound to say that I do not think it is a good sign of the depth of a Christian professor's religion if he feels himself more at home in the company of the people that do not share his religion than in the company of those that do. There are two questions which every Christian professor ought to ask himself about such subjects. One is, Can I ask God to bless this, and my doing it? And the other is, Does this help or hinder my religion?

III. Now there is one last suggestion that I wish to make, and that is THE DOUBLE QUESTIONING THAT WE SHALL HAVE TO STAND. The lords of the Philistines said, "What do these Hebrews here?" They saw the inconsistency, if David and his men did not. They were sharp to detect it, and David and his band did not rise in their opinion. So let me tell you, you will neither recommend your religion nor yourselves to men of the world, by inconsistently trying to identify yourselves with them. The world respects an out-and-out Christian; and neither God nor the world respects an inconsistent one. But there is another question, and another questioner — "What dost, thou hers, Elijah?" That question is put to us all in the moment when we are truest to our professions and ourselves. What do you think you would say if, in some of these moments of unnecessary intermingling with questionable things and doubtful people, you were brought suddenly to this, that you had to formulate into some kind of plausibility your reason for being there? Let us cleave to Christ, and that will separate us from the world. If we cleave to the world, that will separate us from Christ.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.).

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