Pushing Back

by Morris Ruddick on November 21, 2013


© Morris E. Ruddick

“He said, ‘Open the window toward the east,’ and the king opened it. Then Elisha said, ‘Shoot!’ And he shot. Then Elisah said, ‘The LORD’S arrow of victory [over your oppressors].’ Then he said, ‘Take the arrows and strike the ground,’ and he struck it three times and stopped. So the man of God was angry with him and said, ‘You should have struck five or six times until you destroyed them.’” 2 Kings 13:17-19

This passage describes a time in which God’s people were reaching for God’s intervention. What was sought was the judgment to release the turning from the threats of their oppressors.

The times upon us have been marked by evil. They are days in which the masks and the subtleties have been removed from those advancing darkness, from those who call evil good and good evil. Many in the US were stopped in their tracks when the last election failed to bring an expected spiritual shift. However, there are requisites that God’s people must meet in order for His turning to be released.

The story of David in 1 Samuel 30 unveils insights into these requisites. From the time of his renown after killing Goliath, David was in over his head, operating against the odds. Eventually fleeing for his life, David had pulled out all the stops to respond honorably to Saul’s efforts to crush him. Finally, without any question of David hitting a low point in walking out his “calling”, he gave in and sought safety by cavorting with the Philistines. David was flying by the seat of his pants.

Then with his activities with the Philistines abruptly terminated, he returned to his base at Ziklag with his remnant of warriors. Upon returning, they discovered Ziklag had been raided by the Amalekites. They had lost everything, including their families. It was a time of utter despair, with no foreseeable hope for even the next step.

With his followers disgusted and ready to stone him, David’s mantle of leadership had hit a threshold. Yet, it proved to be a turning point for all that would unfold from that point onward; in David’s calling and for his followers.

The scripture tells us that at that low point, in the face of revolt and the bottom dropping out; that David strengthened himself in the Lord and inquired of the Lord. The word of the Lord came: he was to pursue and all would be recovered. It was a time to reach beyond the hopeless despair and push back.
“The kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force.”
Matt 11:12

The Reach
Navigating beyond the low points, the recesses marked by terrible despair, begins by reaching beyond the circumstance and touching the hem of His garment. It involves the reach needed to strengthen ourselves in the Lord. It involves inquiring of the Lord and then mobilizing and strengthening those following us to push back; despite the way things may appear in the natural or the spiritual condition even our faithful ones have succumbed to.

That reach is where true leadership takes root. That reach is where the turning and the genuine foundations for what lies ahead will begin.

The pathway leading to a time of turning is marked by an upheaval spoken of by Jesus (Matt 11:12): “The Kingdom of God suffers violence and violent take it by force.” Not to be confused with forcing issues or working things out in the flesh; Jesus warned that the way of the kingdom would be a narrow, difficult path.

It is a pathway beyond ourselves with encounters that defile and unmask; revealing spiritual residues that encumber the calling. While the situation may push us to the wall; humility, repentance and forgiveness are the spiritual equalizers to close the gap from the bondages of the hidden, spiritual residues needed to release the turning.

So it was, that despite the word from Samuel of being anointed as king, David’s arrival at Ziklag was a key juncture.

David chose to strengthen himself in the Lord and to seek God for a word for the next steps. It was here that David recognized the reality of his weakness in this process. Without the Lord, there was no hope. It’s the place where our humility is humbled. This was the juncture in which the Lord answered David and told him to push back. The steps that followed proved true and they recovered all and then some. As for the turning, while it didn’t happen all at once, this was the point at which it began.
“He [Jesus] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’”
2 Cor 12:9

The reach at the time of turning is subtle, one of challenge, with snares. The snare is in giving up. The snare is in working it out in the flesh. The snare is in failing to face the turning head-on spiritually. The snare is in choosing the wide path in the natural, without a word from the Lord for the next steps. The snare is in failing to recognize that in our weakness, His strength will be manifested.

Beyond the Veil
The book of Hebrews points to a place spiritually beyond the veil. It is the place in which the apostles resided in the post-resurrection church. It was a time when focus was given to issues that made a difference; issues that majored in major things. Judgments made by the leaders of the early church flowed with the anointing and had great power. Their judgments were not based on soulish issues or hurt feelings.

In contrast, King Saul was angered by the mix of David’s anointing and acclaim and sought to destroy him. Yet, it was Saul’s own blind spots, obsessions with trivia, and a reluctance to reach for the real standard of his mantle; which combined to bring forth the very things he feared the most.

Leadership in the early church was serious business. It was marked by those who loved not their lives to the death, whose very shadows (Acts 5:15) repelled darkness. The mantle wielded by these post-resurrection leaders pivoted on an authority that came from ruling their own spirits to the degree that there was not one hint of their leadership deviating from the will of the Lord.

In keeping with that, judgment in the early church came when the standard being established by the Spirit was manipulated or compromised. It was swift and incisive. Acts 5 describes this as a time when “great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.”

David was always a man reaching for the Spirit, for God’s heart. He never lacked in his willingness to spiritually reach beyond himself. However, his true mantle to lead began at Ziklag, as David tapped and entered a realm beyond himself. As he did, David became a standard bearer for God’s Kingdom rule.

The turning came and the spiritual traction began when David was depleted of all he had in the natural; and then in a place beyond himself, having been given a word from the Lord, he acted on it and pushed back.

The Shift of the Standard
While there is no doubt that today there are many, like David, who are at this point of turning and need to strengthen themselves in the Lord, get a word and push back; the day upon us is not unlike the time operating with the early church. The days then, as they are today, were evil. The response required more than the best could offer. It took yielded leaders, anointed to lead a band of leaders.

That is what maturity in the Body is all about: leaders genuinely called, refined by fire, coming together to nurture and lead a society of leaders. Body maturity is a dynamic with a higher standard of leadership. That’s both the challenge and the edge.
“Go therefore and make disciples …. teaching them to observe all the things that I have commanded you.”
Matt 28:19-20

THAT also is our juncture. The paradigm has shifted. The standard to be raised is as a people. The push-back needed is from a society of leaders. Not unlike David, many have arrived at their Ziklags depleted, having been flying by the seat of their pants.

Ziklag, is a place where despair is replaced with humility and iniquities surpassed. It is the place of turning for leaders, when the charisma tied to human exploits gives way to embracing the Kingdom standard to lead leaders. Ziklag is the place where the shift went from David, to a focus on the Kingdom.

This shift is a process, with wisdom we can glean from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. While the Sermon on the Mount might describe categories of individuals; it is also progressive and it outlines this unfolding bearing on growing into a people of God: from the poor in spirit and mournful, the meek, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, to the peacemakers, and the persecuted.

The words of judgment and correction spoken by the resurrected Jesus in Revelation 2 and 3 were words directed to specific segments of the church in that day. Those words reset the standard for communities mobilized for God. I like to view them as tapping the dynamics outlined in the progression of the Sermon on the Mount.

Even for the brethren at Philadelphia, the trusted peacemakers; and those at Smyrna, the suffering persecuted church, who received words of encouragement; the words given them were serious and raised the standard even higher. God’s ways are always progressive; and based on our reaching beyond ourselves, even when all we have has been depleted. God’s ways are not based on what we can do for God; but rather what we allow Him to do through us.

The church at Sardis, the poor in spirit known for their prophetic gifts, had failed in their watchfulness resulting in a spiritual focus considered as dead. Pergamos, the meek, had allowed the entrance of confusion and fallen into doctrinal compromise. Ephesus, who had been known for their hungering and thirsting after righteousness, had become complacent and lost their first love. Laodicea, the merciful, had become seduced by their own accomplishments, replacing their zeal with a cautious, lukewarm approach. Thyatira, the pure in heart, whose spiritual fire and works knew no bounds; were experiencing defilement due to the infiltration of unchecked influences within the ranks of their leadership.

In short, none are exempt in having the standard raised. It’s not about position or past accomplishments. It’s a part of the truth of the parable of the talents with each judged according to their own abilities. It’s how the Kingdom advances. It involves getting beyond ourselves to face the realities; and then together pushing back.

The Alignment with the Turning
There comes a point when the Spirit of the Lord draws a line in the sand. However, that will not happen until leaders anointed and called have transcended the threshold of operating on their own abilities and are truly demonstrating the humility and reach needed to advance to the next level.

The opening scripture points to applying God’s strategy sufficiently in the right way to accomplish the turning. The story of David at Ziklag is one in which from the time of turning, that step by step, little by little, everything began coming together. It was a process, a time of alignment.

God never intended those known by His Name to be like everyone else. We’ve passed a generation marked by superstars and have come into a time in which God shows Himself strong by means of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

The standard is not just higher; it is not even on the same page. Yet in the midst of the turmoil of getting beyond ourselves will come times ordained by God in which a remnant stands up as catalysts for change, as God releases His fire into the hidden lairs of darkness that manipulate the world’s infrastructures. It is a time in which the remnant realigns and then pushes back.
“Lift up a standard on the bare hill, raise your voice to them ….. enter the doors of the nobles; for the Lord has commanded His consecrated ones, He has even called His mighty warriors. The Lord is mustering His army for battle.”
Isaiah 13: 2-4

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