Those Amalekites!

1 Samuel also said unto Saul, 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. 2 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. 3 Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.” (1 Sam. 15:1-3)

Many people have a problem with God on account of such scriptures. They cannot reconcile how a loving and merciful God can at the same time be so unforgiving and brutal. God told Saul through Samuel,

“I remember that which Amalek did to Israel…”

‘I thought He was quick to forget’, you say.

Forget about forgetting.

What we do not realize is that the Old Testament is a shadow of the New Covenant, which is the real thing. Hebrews 10:1 says,

“For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things…” (Heb. 10:1)

Yes, the entire Old Testament, upon which the law rests, was a shadow. The Bible states it right there. The real thing is the New Covenant.

I am glad the Bible uses the word “shadow”. Now, we all know what a shadow is. A shadow is less than a dead thing. It is not even comparable like, say, with vapor to water. A shadow is not the real thing; rather, it is simply an indicator of the thing that is there. And therefore here, in Hebrews, the Bible talks of:

“a shadow”; and

“the very image of the things”.

Two very different things: one real; the other, unreal.

All that happened under the Old Testament – that is, before Jesus came to earth – was a shadow.

So, under the Old Testament, the Amalekites were a shadow. What, pray, were they a shadow of?

The Amalekites and all the other enemies of the nation of Israel were a shadow of our fleshly lusts. Yes, the real thing that the Bible is referring to when it talks about the Amalekites here is the flesh. The Amalekites were a shadow of the same bodily lusts that you and I are subject to as men and women of the flesh. In other words, you and I have Amalekites living inside us! And, believe it or not, these Amalekites are more real than the ones King Saul went to deal with.

The enemy under the New Covenant is more real and deadlier than the enemies the Israelites encountered during the Old Testament times. That is why the gospel of Jesus Christ is about crucifying the flesh.

God is so merciful and loving, but when it comes to the flesh, He gives no quarter. “Giving no quarter” means no mercy. God has only one word for the flesh: extermination.


Once again, we reference the Amalekites.

“… he laid wait for him in the way”.

I have only one instinctive response to a snake, and that is to kill it. Any other response will come looong after I have killed the snake.

The Amalekites ambushed the Israelites along the way. They were determined to not let them pass and go on to inherit the good land that the Lord had promised them.

In the same way, the flesh – our fleshly desires – are determined to hinder us from inheriting the many good things that God has for us in the Spirit and even from making it to heaven.


“And he gathered an host, and smote the Amalekites, and delivered Israel out of the hands of them that spoiled them.” (1 Sam. 14:48)

Notice that the Amalekites “spoiled” the Israelites. They plundered them, they killed them; they were hell-bent on wiping them completely off the face of the earth.

In the same way, the flesh is bent on destroying us spiritually.

We see this also in 1 Pet. 2:11.

“Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul”.

Our fleshly lusts war against our souls. To what end? It is to the end that they might destroy us spiritually.

Need we ask any more why God would tell Saul,

“Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.”

Need we any more reason to understand why Paul would preach no other gospel other than

“Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23).

The revelation of “Christ crucified” to the church is the revelation of the true gospel of Jesus Christ, for it enables us to wage war against the flesh.

And, finally, need we any more reason on why we should go out and wage war against the flesh – our own flesh and its lusts – bearing in mind that this was the same charge that God gave to King Saul?

But we are to do it through crucifying the flesh.

No Longer After The Flesh – Part 1

“Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh…” (2 Cor. 5:16)

I do not know of many rich people who have any spiritual depth, and that’s a fact. The reason for this is because money has a way of blinding people to spiritual things. So does fame, worldly status, etc. That is why many of today’s Christian leaders are as blind as a bat. They allow themselves to become attached to their titles, soaking in the power and worldly esteem that comes with these things – and they go blind.

God has arranged it so that there is no man or woman who considers the things of this world who will see into His spiritual Kingdom. In fact, the Bible commands in 2 Corinthians 6:17:

“touch not the unclean thing”.

What do you think the unclean thing is?

We do not know sin as God knows it. With God, anything that is not of the Spirit is sin.

In order to have the things of God’s Kingdom, you must surrender this world.

But I digress. I was talking about the rich man. Not many have spiritual depth.

Am I the only one saying this?

Hardly. The Bible in 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 expressly says,

“26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:

29 That no flesh should glory in his presence. 30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: 31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”

If you want to glory in any way in the Kingdom of God, you must glory in Jesus alone.

This is one of the most difficult things to penetrate our hard hearts. We are so twisted we have no inkling of how God operates. That is why, however hard we try, we keep coming back to glorying in men in the natural.

But God has not ordained it to be so. In fact, God has ordained it to be the exact opposite. We are to glory in the Spirit. The Apostle Paul says,

“Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh…” (2 Cor. 5:16)

How powerful could scripture get?

We know no man after the flesh. Who are we? What do we have? Do we have any knowledge?

We are nothing, we have nothing; and we know nothing. The Apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 12:11 states of himself,

“I be nothing.”

The only reason Paul wrote those words was because it was fact. He knew he had to empty himself of self in order for Christ to be in him.

If you, a man or woman of God, have anything, it can only be

“Christ in you” (Col. 1:27)

So how does the Apostle Paul present Christ?

He presents Him as

“Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23)

In the natural He was weak.

And what does Paul say of himself?

“… of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities.” (2 Cor. 12:5)

That is what it means to know God. That is why, as a rule, God denies the men and women who have something to hold onto in this world the heavenly things. It is too easy an opportunity for the flesh to exalt itself.

But God is merciful. He always has a remnant. Therefore there will always be men who are rich, educated or of high societal standing, who will be able to see into the things of the Spirit. As with everything to do with God, these are chosen as a matter of God’s mercy.

No man is ever allowed to say that they are where they are in their standing with God outside of God’s express mercy, choosing and grace.

This understanding brings God’s grace to a man’s life. It did with our Lord Jesus, and with the apostles.

[As unassuming as babes]


The Ministry Of The Holy Spirit

1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.

2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.

4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:

5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. 1 Cor. 2:1-5

This is an incredible scripture. In these verses, the Apostle Paul is stating an incredible fact. He is saying that he had absolutely no need of anything human in order to deliver the transformational message of the gospel. Mark that. Paul had absolutely no need, nor any use for anything that comes from man or the world system.

It did not matter even if he did not have the capacity to express himself. Indeed, Paul did not have that capacity, just as we see with Moses (2 Cor. 11:6). But even if he had such a capacity, Paul declares here that he would not have depended on it in preaching the gospel to the Corinthians.

It no longer mattered whether he was educated or not. Indeed, Paul had to lose his education together with all that he had in order to gain and preach Christ.

When the Apostle says in verse 4,

“And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power”;

he is not talking about miracles. Not by the longest shot. On the contrary, Paul is talking of something far more important to God, and to us, than performing and receiving miracles. Paul is talking of a work deep in the spirit of man, a work that can only be accomplished by the Holy Spirit Himself.

Today, you hear people shouting all over church-land: “Power!”, “Receive!” and such like things when they see demonstrations of the power of God. But even though God’s power might be demonstrated in miracles and healings, yet the incalculably greater miracle is the one over which Paul was mandated: to set the spirits of men free from the power of sin. Thus we see that the true power of God is demonstrated in the transformational work of the cross in a man’s life.

It was not that Paul was a lazy man who did not want to put his intellect to work. Paul did not just opt not to lean on his intelligence. On the contrary, Paul was a spiritually intelligent man who knew that there was only one way to accomplish God’s will in the lives of men: by the Spirit of God.

When the Holy Spirit has the opportunity to work in a vessel like he had in a man like Paul, He reveals the cross in men’s hearts, and this revelation has the power to change or transform men into the image of Christ. It can completely uproot all the works of the devil in our lives, chief of which is the sin which dwells in our hearts.

In one place, Paul tells the Corinthians that the gospel has power to cast down “…imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; and having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience…” (2 Cor. 10:5-6)

Such is the power of the gospel.

Isn’t it strange that people seem so concerned with miracles and other outer manifestations of the Holy Spirit’s working rather than the defeat of the sin within us? Show me a man who has the zeal to be rid of sin in his life, and I will show you a man who is headed to heaven. On the other hand, show me a man who is only excited about miracles and healings; such a man could be headed anywhere.

Paul further tells the Corinthians in verse 3:

“And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling”.

Why was that so? It was because Paul feared himself. He feared to allow his intellect or anything he had learned, or, indeed, anything else to get in the way of the Holy Spirit. Paul feared even tradition. He feared to infuse his Jewish tradition into the gospel.

I once heard of a Rastafarian church. There is no such thing in the Bible. That is simply tradition and there is no power of God in tradition. There is no African church, no Arab church, and no white church. There is only one church, the united Body of Christ.

We should never rely on anything human or worldly when it comes to the gospel. That is simply man’s vanity and it brings death and destruction instead of the life of God. We should not even rely on any gift that we have in the natural.

That is why the cross must confront us first. We should first allow the cross to work in us and break us. Nothing that comes from us has any power to change men. But when we die to ourselves, we allow the Holy Spirit in us to reveal the cross in men’s hearts. This was what Paul meant when he tells the Corinthians,

“And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling”.

One of the reasons I love Paul’s stance is that by not depending on “man’s wisdom”, Paul became truly free. He did not have to lean on his intelligence. He did not have to depend on anything that he had, or that he could get from this world.

I once had a pastor friend who had just come back from Bible college. He brought back a truckful of books and all the lessons he had learned in Bible school. But this pastor had not changed one little bit. He preached the gospel with great eloquence. But the true gospel of Jesus Christ is presented by the Holy Spirit Himself, not by any Bible school methods or knowledge. What this preacher needed to come back with was a change in his character through a revelation of the cross in his life.

Paul did not struggle to bring a message. On the contrary, the main struggle that we see Paul having here is crucifying his flesh – his human nature and intellect and the worldly system – so that he would allow the Holy Spirit to minister. The Apostle Paul strove to keep his flesh clear of the Holy Spirit’s ministry field. He could only do that by crucifying it.

Finally, in these scriptures, we see what the true ‘ministry’ of the Holy Spirit involves. The Holy Spirit ministers “Jesus Christ and him crucified”, or the cross of Jesus Christ. It is in this revelation that the power of God is found. In other words, when Paul says:

“That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God”;

he is in effect talking about the revelation of the cross of Jesus Christ in a man’s heart and the transformational work it brings to him, in contrast to a gospel that comes from human wisdom, which has no power to bring about such a transformation.

[Below: A bus agent at the main Arusha bus stand attends to two tourists]


True Spiritual Victory

But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,  And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Php 3:7-14) 

In every race, each athlete’s eyes are fixed on the finishing line. Once he or she touches that line they consider they have finished the race. But over and above that they make every effort to finish in a winning position so that they can receive the prize. After all, the really important person is the one who wins because he or she is the one who receives the prize.

The Apostle Paul desired to not only finish the heavenly race but to be that winning person. Paul got the revelation that the way to this was to conform to Christ by partaking in His sufferings and death. That meant forgoing, or denying all his earthly and fleshly rights. Only through this means could he attain to the prize of God’s high calling, which was the resurrection of the dead. And what is this resurrection of the dead? True, it includes the hope of eternal life that we have. But it also involves carrying the life of Christ in the here and now – victory over the flesh, the world and the devil.

The gospel that the Apostle Paul carried needed to be a revelation so that it would not get mixed with the craftiness of human wisdom. The latter appears like it has Godliness in it, but it never changes someone. It simply has not the power to do so. A revelation was what Paul got and he testifies that it changed him completely. He became, not a religious person, but a changed man.

How we need that revelation in our hearts today! That revelation will break us, and make us vessels worthy to carry the life of Christ. Through the manifold riches of God, the winning spot is one that is available to all of us.

We who are saved need to ask ourselves many questions today: whether that change is taking place in our lives daily; whether we are continually carrying a heart of true humility? Whether we are guarding and maintaining a pure heart at every cost? Whether we are paying the price of walking in true love and a tender, forgiving heart. These are things that require a high price indeed. And these are the things that the spiritual athlete is made of.

Christians today are busy boasting of their victories over the devil; but how often do we see the Apostles talking of the devil? They talked more about another more subtle and infinitely deadlier enemy: an enemy who does not and who cannot submit to the will of God. That enemy is the flesh. Unfortunately, today there is ‘another’ gospel being preached, which gratifies the flesh. It caters to and pampers the flesh. God’s people are not taught to crucify the flesh. On the contrary, in this ‘new’ gospel the flesh is very important . Live well, eat well, drive well, dress well, etc. Success is measured in financial and material terms. The ‘good life’ is emphasized. God’s people become, in effect, enemies of the Cross of Christ!

Well, I am sure God has no problem us living that good life. But He expressly instructs us to crucify the flesh. How we can reconcile the two is a gymnastic tightrope that much of the time we are unable to walk carefully enough. We easily play into the hands of the spirit of the world. Note the freedom of the man who, in Apostle James’ words, can live contented with the simple life: Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.” James 1:9-10