Unlocking the Mystery of Human Life





Scripture Reading: 1 Samuel Chapter 15





In Deuteronomy 25:19, God ordered the Israelites to blot out the memory of Amalek.  But in 1 Samuel Chapter 15, when the Israelites killed the Amalekites, they spared Agag the king of the Amalekites. They also spared the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good; they did not utterly destroy them. In dealing with the Amalekites, the people of God exercised their discernment; they killed some and spared some. God charged them to kill everything, but they wanted to spare the best ones. Among the oxen, sheep, camels, and donkeys of the Amalekites, there may have been a distinction between the strong and the weak or the great and the small. But in God’s eyes there was no difference. He ordered all of them to be killed and nothing to be spared. This means that the Amalekites along with all they had were rejected [by God]. However, the Israelites seemed to have a better discernment than God. They divided the sheep and oxen of the Amalekites into those which were good and those which were weak. They spared the best of the sheep, oxen, fatlings, lambs, and good things; they killed only the weak and worthless ones.


Man often thinks that he is smarter than God and that he has more wisdom than God. He thinks that it is even possible for God to be wrong, and that He is not always economical. “Why should I set aside all that I have learned throughout the years, including my eloquence, wisdom, and ability?” Man is concerned with profit, economy, value, and result. But God does not care for these things. There is only one thing that He takes pleasure in—His own will. Other than His will, God has no pleasure in anything.


We think that it would have been a waste to kill the oxen, sheep, and Agag. Real submission is always a waste to the fleshly man. Have others ever considered that you have been wasted? Have you ever felt that you wasted yourself? Perhaps you have never felt a sense of waste. This is because you are too full. You will have a sense of waste only after you have set your flesh aside. If your self is fully utilized, and if you are full of natural elements, you will not have a sense of waste. If the oxen and sheep are saved, where is the waste? There is the sense of waste only when all the oxen and sheep have been killed. When the oxen and the sheep are spared and the flesh has not suffered any loss, there is no room to speak of waste. There is the sense of waste only when the flesh is set aside and rejected by God! When the flesh can do something, but is nevertheless stripped of the opportunity of exhibiting itself, there is the sense of waste. When an opportunity for exhibition is present, it is impossible to talk of waste!  A worker must have God’s view before he can work for God. If a person’s view is earthly and he serves by the flesh, he may be very competent in what he can do, yet the nature of his work is wrong and far from being noble in God’s eyes.


The Israelites spared Agag and the best of the sheep and oxen because they could not find a justification for killing them. They thought that the sheep, oxen, and Agag were useful. It was too much of a waste to kill all of these good things. The problem with the Israelites was that they did not see God’s will. They considered these things according to their natural concept and had pity on them. They were not willing to blot the Amalekites and everything they had out of their memory according to God’s Word.




I have been considering one thing: God has to give us revelation. If we do not have revelation from God to see His will, we will justify things according to our concepts. We will consider that something is reasonable when we think that it is good and justified. As a consequence, we often do not hate what God hates and cannot sympathize with God. We should not despise such a word. If we have not dealt with this matter in a serious way before the Lord, we cannot engage ourselves in His work, because we are not qualified to do so. Even if we have done something, it will not be registered in the heavens. We need to ask God for a thorough and shattering revelation to see what He sees! When our eyes are opened, we will see how evil are the Amalekites; we will not treasure even the best of the sheep, the oxen, or Agag. We will realize that everything that issues from the flesh is useless! If we have not seen the evil of the goodness of the flesh, we have not yet seen God’s revelation, and we are still not clear concerning what is spiritual.


We may agree that the flesh should be removed, but the question is whether or not we truly hate the flesh. We have to know the flesh, and we have to hate it to the extent that we want to kill it. Only then can we say that we have seen the revelation. Sparing the flesh is an expression of the lack of light concerning the flesh. If we see what God sees, we will judge as God judges and reject what God rejects. Ten or twenty years ago when you were still a sinner, did you realize that you were an evil person? No. Not only were you without this realization, but you even boasted with a bold conscience that you were better than your neighbors and that there were few in this world who were as good as you. Today you know that you are a sinner. When others ask if you have sinned, you say yes. But even though you say this with your mouth, you may not realize in your heart how evil you really are. What does it mean to be void of God’s light? Being void of God’s light is to fail to see what God sees. A man who does not see what God sees is one who is without His light. If you do not know that you are a sinner, you do not have God’s light. If someone tells you now that you are without any sin, you will not dare agree with this because you have seen a little of what God sees. You have the light of God, and you readily admit that you have sinned!


In God’s work, cutting away the flesh has much to do with God’s light. I am not saying that the goodness of the flesh cannot render man some help. But if we have God’s light, we will see that God even rejects the goodness of the flesh. God says that the energy of the flesh, as well as the natural power of attraction, eloquence, ability, and wisdom of the flesh are useless in His work. In God’s work we must not stop short of hating the fleshly energy. We must deny the goodness of the flesh in the same way that we deny the weakness of the flesh. Most people know that sin is evil and that it should be removed. But they think secretly in their heart: “Do I have to lay down my wisdom, eloquence, and power too?” Those who ask such questions are void of God’s light. I know a few workers of the Lord who are very useful in God’s hand. They have all experienced intense light. You may be afraid of God’s light, but there are some who are not afraid of it. They want to experience God’s intensified enlightening because they realize that even the best of themselves and their flesh is under God’s curse and cannot be employed in God’s work. How many of us have ever been enlightened by the Lord in such a strong way? We have to pray and ask God to give us a thorough revelation so that we will see what we do not understand. If we know how hopeless we are, we will repent in ashes!




Samuel charged Saul to smite the Amalekites. Samuel was representing God. In 1 Samuel 15:13, Saul said to Samuel, “Blessed are you of Jehovah! I have fulfilled the word of Jehovah.” He thought that he had obeyed in everything. He felt that he had killed the weak sheep, oxen, and all the Amalekites, sparing only the best of the sheep, oxen, and king Agag. He thought that these were inconsequential. Can there ever be a time when obedience to God is economical? Obedience is not an economical move! Saul thought that it was enough for him to kill the weak sheep, oxen, and the Amalekites, and that his obedience was good and perfect enough. He wanted to save some things. He thought that he had removed all the evil things, that enough of the Amalekites had been killed, and that he had obeyed Jehovah’s commandment!


But in verse 14, Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears and the lowing of oxen that I hear?” Saul said that he had fully obeyed the Lord’s commandment. But where did the sound of the sheep, the oxen, and Agag come from? Saul was enraged. Those few sheep and oxen were too stupid. They could bleat and low any other time. It is often not up to us when the sheep bleat and the oxen low. They bleat and low at exactly the wrong time. They were innocent! They bleated and lowed at the wrong time! We can imagine the scene. Saul was about to say, “Blessed are you...,” when the sheep bleated and the oxen lowed. He was about to say, “I have performed the commandment of the Lord...,” when the sound of the bleating and lowing came again. After he finished his speech, the bleating and lowing cut in again. Then Samuel asked where the sound was coming from. Perfect submission would not have resulted in any noise!




Two things are outwardly similar but inwardly different: one is a thorough and inward realization of the corruption of the flesh, and the other is an outward and political performance. One is of life, and the other is a matter of politics. Life comes from within; one acts genuinely according to what is within him. Politics is intentional and artificial. A Christian should walk by life and not by politics. I wish to mention one [Christian] brother. I hope I am not criticizing him. I can only say that I have never met any person who is as obnoxious about his flesh as he is. I have told him many times that his trust in his eloquence and power and the results of his work were nothing but an expression of himself. These things were not of God, and God was not pleased with them. He might be wiser, more eloquent, and more powerful than others, but none of these things could be employed in God’s work. I spoke to him frankly, and he did not reject me. He said, “Brother Nee, I agree that my virtues such as eloquence, wisdom, and power are corrupt. You are right.” He fully agreed with my words. He said the same thing from the first year I met him until the third year. Every time I spoke to him, he accepted my words patiently, humbly, and willingly. But he was only being political; it was not life. Politics is artificial; it does not come from within.


How do I know that he was being political and not in life? If something is political, there will be bleating and lowing. Once you hear bleating, lowing, and the sound of Agag, you know that it is politics and not life. Saul said that he had kept God’s Word. If he had, there would not have been any bleating or lowing sound. If it is something political, one will have to control the sound and muzzle the bleating and lowing when it is time to be quiet. If you hear any bleating or lowing, you can be sure that something political is being carried on. If the flesh can still plead for mercy, it means that one only has an intentional performance; it is not life, and it is not a genuine dealing of the flesh.


In spiritual matters, a man can only deceive himself; he cannot deceive others. You can only cheat yourself; you cannot cheat anyone else. Neither God nor the believers or the world can be deceived by you. Even Satan will not be deceived by you. A man can only cheat himself. Saul might have thought that no one heard the bleating and lowing. Actually, the whole world heard it. Yet he still thought that he had kept the sound from everyone. The brother that I just mentioned did not need anyone to point out his flesh. While he was speaking, his flesh spontaneously was exposed. One can never hide the sound of the sheep, oxen, and Agag from the ears of others. Although a man may not say anything outwardly, the inward sound will expose him. Sometimes when you tell others to deal with their flesh, natural wisdom, eloquence, and power, they may think in their hearts that they are not that bad. They may not say it with their mouth, but they cannot hide what is in their heart. There is a big difference between a person who has been judged and one who has never been judged. If a person has not been genuinely dealt with in his flesh, he may pretend outwardly that he has been dealt with, but the sheep and oxen which he has spared will inform others that his performance is not real. In spiritual matters, nothing can be hidden from God. The sheep and oxen will expose what is in man. This was Saul’s history.


Let us therefore be diligent to enter into that rest lest anyone fall after the same example of disobedience.  For the Word of God is living and operative and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit and of joints and marrow, and able to discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  And there is no creature that is not manifest before Him, but all things are naked and laid bare to the eyes of Him to whom we are to give our account (Hebrews 4:11-13).




In verse 15, Saul told Samuel the reason he had spared the best of the sheep and the oxen. He wanted to offer them to the Lord. This shows how we are prone to spare good things for God in the hope that we can please Him. It is a good intention to spare good things to offer to God. But good intentions can become a substitute for God’s will! Whatever God says must be done. Today we have to deal with this matter once and for all. We have to see that good intentions can never be compared with God’s will! God’s will does not need man’s hand to adjust it. He knows what He wants and what He likes. His commandment speaks of His heart. We should not try to change His desire by our good heart.


Hence, we have to see that our good heart can never replace or amend God’s commandment. We should never think that we can be God’s counselors. He is the Lord, and we are but the slaves who take orders from Him obediently. We should not try to do anything for God out of our good heart. Such good hearts often contradict God’s commandments, because they are nothing but an indication of the existence of the flesh.





Verse 22 is very precious. This word is too good. Samuel said, “Does Jehovah delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As much as in obeying the voice of Jehovah? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed, than the fat of rams.”


The fat of rams adds sweet aroma to the sacrifices and delights the Lord. A sacrifice is a loss to us and a gain to God. When a man offers a sacrifice, he loses something. Putting a sacrifice on the altar is a loss; it is to sacrifice oneself in order that God would gain something. A sacrifice is for man to suffer, to deny himself, and to give his best to the Lord. Yet God said that no sacrifice can replace obedience, and no work can replace our hearkening. The problem with us is that we can do everything but obey. Man thinks that he can offer up sacrifices that are better than obedience. Yet God treasures obedience and hearkening.


Even if we can do many works for God, and even if we can sacrifice, labor, suffer, and deny ourselves, none of these things can replace obedience and hearkening. Many people work laboriously and unceasingly in order to replace obedience with sacrifices. They think that as long as they work unceasingly and continuously, they can make up for their lack in obedience. The only thing they will not do is to stop and obey. Such ones can never hope to please God. I know only one thing—nothing can replace obedience.


God’s will is better than our sacrifice. We may think that sacrifice and sufferings are good. We may think that everything will be all right as long as we offer good things to God. But what does God say? Our mind does not need to worry about what to do for God. All we have to do is to obey His commandment.




Before the Lord’s departure from the world, He prayed the last night in the Garden of Gethsemane. Many people think that the Lord was sorrowful and that His sweat became like great drops of blood because His flesh was weak and He was afraid of the cup. No! Listen to what the Lord said: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39). The Lord asked that the cup be removed from Him if it were possible. Yet He prayed that it would not be according as He willed but as the Father willed. The Lord could ask for the cup to be removed from Him, but He could not ask for God’s will to be removed. He could ask for the passing away of the cup of the Cross, but He could not ask for the passing away of God’s will. The Lord was not dealing with the matter of crucifixion but with the matter of God’s will. He desired to be one with God’s will. It was all right with Him whether or not the cup was taken away. All He asked for was God’s will. Many times we pay attention only to the bitter cup; we think that suffering is always good and that sacrifice and labor are always good. Yet the cup is good only when it is linked to God’s will. If the cup is separated from God’s will, the cup has no value to it. After the Lord was clear that God’s will was for Him to take the cup, He took it willingly. Before the Lord was clear that the cup was God’s will, He could pray for the cup to go away. But when He was clear that it was God’s will, He took it without any hesitation.


Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider being equal with God a treasure to be grasped, But emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, becoming in the likeness of men; And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient even unto death, and that the death of a Cross. Therefore also God highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the Name which is above every name, That in the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, And every tongue should openly confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:5-11).


Even though He was a Son, learned obedience from the things which He suffered.

And having been perfected, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation (Hebrews 5:8-9).


We must live for God’s will, not for the sacrifices. May the Lord shine on us thoroughly so that we realize that nothing of us will ever please God. Only that which is done according to God’s commandment will please God. Do not think that everything will be all right as long as we live for Him, consecrate to Him, and suffer for His sake. We must ask if this living, consecration, and suffering are God’s will. The Amalekites, the sheep, the oxen, and Agag are all useless on God’s altar. The sacrifice which God wants on the altar must be something that God Himself designates. Everything else is the flesh and only deserves to die; it is not worthy to be put on the altar. May the Lord open our eyes to see that we can offend the Lord not only in sinful things, but also in offering sacrifices. May the Lord forbid us from offering what He has not designated, and may He direct us to do only that which is according to His will!



Verses are taken from The Recovery Version of the Holy Bible and Words of Ministry from The Collected Works of Brother Watchman Nee, Set 2, Volume 42, Chapter 43, Conferences, Messages and Fellowship; Absolute Obedience,  [with personal enlightenment and inspiration].  Both are published by Living Stream Ministry, Anaheim, CA. All Rights Reserved.



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Updated:  4/1/2021