Jack Forbes - Mighty Men - Somerset, Kentucky Convention - Sunday Morning, 1950

I will read you some verses in II Samuel 23. This chapter begins, "Now these be the last words of David" and it mentions those words and in verse 14, it says, "David was in a hold, and the garrison of the Philistines was then in Bethlehem. And David longed, and said, 'Oh, that one would give me drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate!' And the three mighty men brake through the host of the Philistines, and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem that was by the gate, and took it, and brought it to David: nevertheless he would not drink thereof, but poured it out unto the Lord. And he said, 'Be it far from me, a Lord, that I should do this: is not this the blood of the men that went in jeopardy of their lives?' Therefore he would not drink it. These things did these three mighty men."

I am not very sure if I am speaking out of my order this morning, but if I consulted my own feelings, I would keep my seat. I often have a fear, in coming to the last Convention, lest a number of things would hinder God's voice being heard. One thing I have a fear of lest those of us who have been to another or other conventions would grow weary or even familiar with our privileges. There is another factor to be considered, too. There are many workers here this morning, and we are very apt to depend on one another instead of each bearing our share of the burden. But last night, we were listening to our sister speaking of this man, David, and these two instances in that man's life are amongst the deepest impressions that have been made on my heart during the year. Our sister was talking about that passage last night, and it was spoken of at special meetings at Christmas time, and just immediately after that, some of us were gathered together in a home and happened to have that same chapter that she was speaking about where David went to that city of Nob, fleeing from Saul, and he asked for bread, and that man Ahimelech said, "There is no common bread here but it is hallowed bread," and then he reminded David that those who partook, those who were qualified to partake of that hallowed bread must be clean. I think at every meeting I have been in since, especially a Sunday morning meeting, those words have kept coming to my mind. Sometimes I am afraid as we come together at a time like this, especially at the last convention, that people in our midst do not have that hunger for hallowed bread and do not have any cry in their hearts like David, "Oh, that I had a drink of the well of Bethlehem." I am afraid some people go away and are very easily satisfied; they think it is very successful if the beds are comfortable, if the food is good and arrangements go all right, but nothing is of any account if there is not some hallowed bread broken in our midst.

I am glad that I have learned in the course of many years, and every doubt in my mind has been dispelled long ago, about God's one and only way in this world, I do not have any doubt on the first day of the week that a home is the right place for God's people to meet; I have not a single doubt in my mind that the only way to preach is as Jesus sent His disciples; I do not have any misgivings as to the way to worship God as far as the outward is concerned, but I have often, and I include myself, very serious doubts with regard to fulfilling the conditions in our own lives and complying with all that God requires from us to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. It would be a sad day if we could just be satisfied with the fact that we are the only people and this is the only way, and so far as the outward is concerned we conformed to it; but worshipping God is a spiritual thing and every meeting where you and I appear, we have an individual responsibility not only to be present - that is a necessary thing, and those that do not go never prosper - but it is a great thing to meet on the first day of the week, and like David, met that day those priests in the City of Nob and asked for bread, and when Ahimelech said, "There is no common bread but it is hallowed bread and only those that are clean or whose lives are hallowed may partake of that." If I could hallow my life once and for all, if I could cleanse my life once and for all, it would be comparatively easy, but God in His wisdom has so arranged it that this is a continual process in our lives that we have to keep up to the day of our death, and sometimes I think the part of convention that helps me most is the secret exercise of heart and mind it gives me to cleanse myself and consecrate my life, to yield to God's claims.

I would not like to be here this morning, to take any part in this meeting, if I did not have some little hunger for hallowed bread. One gets tired of common bread and I am afraid we are often guilty, every one of us, of offering common bread, putting common bread on God's table, but it is a rare thing, and it is a costly thing to either present hallowed bread, and it means a lot to partake of it. Not only did David hunger that day for bread but here on this occasion he thirsted, "Oh, that I had a drink of the waters from the well of Bethlehem." On both occasions, David was in dire distress; he was fleeing from the face of Saul when he asked for bread, and he was in the Cave of Adullam, a fugitive, an outcast from God's people, when he cried for that drink. We think we are fortunate when things go smoothly and everything seems to prosper but every child of God in this meeting knows that God often has to bring adverse circumstances and difficulties into our lives to make us pray and cause us to hunger and thirst for that living bread and water.

I like very much in that chapter how it talks of God's mighty men in the Kingdom of God. I must confess that I have had the idea in my mind that these mighty men had something to do with fighting mighty battles in conflict, but here it tells us some of the marks of these mighty men. One of the things it mentions at the beginning, how they came to David in harvest time - they did not come to him when he was on the throne; it was not when he was popular, but it was in the darkest days of his life when he was despised and rejected. The first mark that they were mighty was that they arose above their natural claims. Harvest time is a time when farmers would not naturally arise, but these men were mighty in putting God's interests before their harvest, and we could do a lot along that line. We enjoyed listening to a brother at one of the conventions who was over from Canada. It was at harvest time that the mission was worked in his district and he got saved. We are very apt to say, "Are there not three months and then cometh the harvest," but these men put the interests of God's Kingdom before the harvest when they heard that cry from the lips of David. It is a callous, cold-hearted person, either saint or servant, who in our midst today have never been stirred by the cry from the lips of those that thirst for living waters or hunger for the living bread, and I think one of the sweetest experiences in the lives of us who preach the Gospel is when amongst unsaved people and see them desiring to hear God's Word that moves us to pray and labour, to fetch this water from the wells of salvation and the living bread from God's storehouse.

That is your privilege and opportunity also in your little meeting
. These three mighty men showed their devotion and courage that day because they arose that day and broke through the host of the Philistines. That is not history; this is not something that applied only 2,000 or 4,000 years ago. The Philistines, you know as well as I do, means "wanderers," and it takes a very mighty person to arise and break through the host of the Philistines sometimes- the wandering thoughts, wandering desires, and sometimes wandering feet.

I hope I will be forgiven for expressing in meetings some of my observations of God's people; they are many miles away from here - but some of you can carry it back if you want to! One Sunday evening, during the year, I noticed a certain person in the locality where we were working, just making a Saturday evening an occasion to visit their friends to have a good gossip. One would not mind it once, but when you see them at it again and again, you wonder do they know anything of the evening before the first day of the week, breaking through the host of the Philistines to get the water and the bread.

That is not all that is mentioned in that chapter, because when those three men brought back that water at the cost of their lives, they faced death and danger, and David showed the quality of the heart he possessed when he would not drink it. He said, "Is this not the blood of those who have jeopardized their lives?" and he poured it out before the Lord. David recognized this was a costly thing; this water was brought at the cost of
men's blood, as it were, and he refused to drink it. When I was thinking of this, this morning, my mind went over to the New Testament and I thought of that servant of God we heard of last night, Saul of Tarsus who was afterwards Paul
. There was one thing I admired much in that man as a servant of God. In his letter to the Corinthians, he tells us of different things he was entitled to do. (Excuse me if I mention one thing that may be a delicate subject.) He said had he not power to lead about a sister, or marry, but he said he would not do it for the Kingdom of Heaven's sake. That is one thing we would always keep before our minds. It is a poor thing to be always claiming the very limit and say what am I entitled to, but Paul denied himself that for the Kingdom of Heaven's sake, but you remember how he writes to those Corinthians and told them he would not allow them to minister to his needs for the sake of example. There are a number of us here as God's servants. I do not know of anything that is more hateful, even outside of God's Kingdom, than selfishness. It is uglier still amongst us as servants of God, and it must be an abomination to God. There must be nothing that would unfit a person, especially as a servant to represent Jesus, more than selfishness. One has to admit in this life of ours, especially in a preacher's life, there is more opportunity for selfishness than in any people in the world, and there is more opportunity and possibilities of unselfishness, self-denial, and sacrifice.

I'll tell you one thing that came to my mind this morning in the course of conversation with one of my brothers. We were talking about a verse in Proverbs; neither of us was very sure that it was there, but this morning I took a concordance and found it in chapter 18. It speaks in the one before about mighty men - and it is good for us to try to adjust our thoughts to the Scriptural interpretation. It says, "A brother offended is harder to win than even a city." It goes on to say that contentions are like the bars of a castle - something that has a very practical application to all our lives. Jesus said one day, "It is impossible, but that offences will come." As He looked at the material that those disciples were made up of, He knew that it was simply impossible but that offences would come, and in God's family, we know that offences still arise. I was going to say a person is fortunate if they get through life without offending somebody or being offended, but I do not know now if I would desire a life without difficulties, and I must say that the things that have done most for my soul have been in facing up difficulties that arise even inside the Kingdom, in days of sacrifice and suffering. Some have spoken about the bright days of adversity and the dark times of prosperity, and there is a lot of truth in that. When I talk about this, it is not to preach about it, but you know and I know what it means to appease or make peace with a brother offended.

I thought of some in the Bible. Abraham: when the herdsmen strove over the pasture, and Lot and he had cattle without number, Abraham proved himself to be one of God's mighty men by denying himself of an ideal farm, so to speak, to preserve the unity of spirit. I thought of Jacob. When he came back from his Uncle Laban and met his brother Esau with 400 trained men, he feared but he did not spend his time in sharpening weapons or training the men for war; he crossed the river, and alone with God, he prevailed in prayer. That is the way to prevail with men. When God blessed him, he could face his brother, and he knew how to appease him. It takes a person who is mighty, as Paul speaks, "Strengthened with might in the inner man: to have a meek and quiet spirit and to turn away wrath by a soft answer." That is something I have a lot to learn, but I would like in the remaining days of my life to try and put those things into practice.

Some of these mighty men in God's kingdom are not always the rich people or big people or those with most ability. I don't know why, but this morning, I was thinking of an old man that was lying in hospital way up on the East coast - an old man and his wife older still - and just as the meeting started, a telegram was handed in to say the man was dead. He just died yesterday - or it may be last night. He was a very insignificant man in appearance, never was rich, just a common farm labourer, and his wife a very ordinary woman, too. The reason why those people have remained in my mind is that I have a lot of respect for them. It must be well over 40 years ago when that couple professed up in the County of Lincoln, and very shortly afterwards - I did not know them, but I and my companion were in that county. Those were the days when there were very few open homes and there was very little money. If we had a dinner of a turnip, that fell off a farm cart and we picked it up in the road, and also a bit of bacon, we almost thought it was Christmas. The home of Billy and his wife was like a haven - two little rooms, one up and one down - and a back kitchen. We slept very comfortably, but I do not know where they slept. Billy and his wife moved out of that place, with no other reason but for the furtherance of the Gospel, and went to a County where there was no one professing.

A long while since, I happened to be in the village where Billy and his wife lived. I called, quite unexpectedly, and saw that old couple sitting there by the fireside reading their Bible, all alone. The scene has ever remained in my mind, and I went away from that home that day with a feeling that if the Gospel can do that for people, it is well worthwhile ... Neither Billy nor his wife was ever rich, but they were very faithful. Times when we have stayed in their home, we never had a very soft bed or a very sumptuous table, but it was a very clean home and a very peaceful home and they spent their lives with one purpose and that was to co-operate in the furtherance of the Gospel in fellowship with God's servants. These are some of the mighty people that are in God's Kingdom. I hope the day will never come when we would value a rich home in preference to a poor home, but that we would measure people by their worthiness and faithfulness.

Some of us have been to several Conventions and there is one thing I want to tell you people - I nearly forgot. I remember the Conventions of 1950 by one message I heard anyway. At the last meetings, we were in, a sister, who had some knowledge of nursing, spoke. She was speaking of her experience of wounds she had seen dressed, and she said that wounds might be quite large or deep, but if they are kept clean, it is wonderful how quickly they heal and a comparatively small wound, even a pin-prick, if it gets infected, can be very dangerous. I did not miss that, and I hope I will never forget that. I hope we will remember that when wounded in the fray, that we will not let the wound get infected with resentment or any malice or bitterness, but if we could keep the wound clean, it would soon heal. However small the wound may be, a little wound can often fester and cause a lot of trouble. Now, these are some of the things that those that are mighty in the Kingdom attend to.