Authority and Submission, by Watchman Nee


Second Samuel 15 is a record of Absalom’s rebellion. This was a double rebellion. On the one hand, it was the rebellion of a son against his father. On the other hand, it was the rebellion of a people against their king. This was the greatest rebellion David experienced. His son was taking the lead in this rebellion. At that time, more and more people were following Absalom, and David had to flee from the capital. He was in need of followers. Ittai the Gittite wanted to follow him, but David was able to say to Ittai, “Return and abide with the king” (v. 19). David was truly meek. His spirit was truly keen. He did not say, “I am the king, and all of you should follow me.” Instead he told Ittai, “You can take your way. I have no intention to drag many people into my woes. Even if you choose to go to the new king, that is fine with me.” He was in the midst of his tribulation, yet he still would not take people along with him. It is not easy to know a person when he lives in the palace. But when he is in the midst of trials, his true personality is manifested. Here David was not rash or careless. He was still humble and submissive.

After he crossed the brook Kidron, he was about to turn to the wilderness. Zadok the high priest with all the priests and the Levites wanted to come with him, and they took the ark along with them. If the ark had left the city, many Israelites would have gone with it. Zadok and the Levites’ attitude was right: When rebellion broke out, they had to remove the ark. But at this juncture David did not say, “This is good. Do not leave the ark with the rebellious ones.” David thought that if the ark left Jerusalem, many of the people of Israel would be in turmoil. He was a person who had ascended to a great height. He would not allow the ark to go with him. He was willing to resign himself to God’s dealing. His attitude was the same as that of Moses, who was altogether humbled under the mighty hand of God. Both of them ascended to a height that was unmatched by their opposers. David said that if he should find favor in the sight of the Lord, He would bring him back again to see the ark and His habitation. If he did not find favor in God’s sight, it would have been useless even if the ark followed him. Therefore, he exhorted Zadok the high priest and the Levites who bore the ark to return (vv. 24-26). This was easy to say but difficult to do. There were not many people who escaped from Jerusalem, and the city was filled with rebellious ones. Now he had to send his good friends away. How pure was David’s spirit! He was still humbling himself meekly before the Lord, just as Moses did.

In verse 27 David said to Zadok that since he was a priest and a seer, he should take the lead to bring the priests and the ark back. At that word the group returned. In reading this passage, we have to touch David’s spirit. His spirit was saying, “Why do I have to fight with others? Whether or not I remain a king is God’s business. I do not need many people to follow me, and I do not need the ark to accompany me.” He realized that being an authority is God’s business and that no one needs to maintain his own authority. David went up to the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went up and with his head covered (v. 30). Here indeed was a meek and pliable man! This was what David did when he was offended. He did not hold on to his authority. This is the proper attitude of a God-appointed authority.


A rebellious spirit is contagious. Second Samuel 16 tells us that Shimei came forth along the way. He threw stones at David and cursed him, saying that he had shed the blood of the house of Saul. Even David’s followers suffered because of him. Nothing could be farther from the truth than Shimei’s accusation. If there was a person who had not shed the blood of Saul’s house, that person was David. Shimei could say that David had reigned in Saul’s stead and that David was running for his life. There was nothing wrong in saying that. But it was a gross lie to say that David had shed the blood of Saul’s house. Yet David did not argue. He did not vindicate himself or deny anything. David still had his mighty men with him, and it would have been easy for him to get rid of this man, but he would not do this. Shimei cursed as he went. Even David’s followers could not stand it. Yet David exhorted them not to kill. He said, “Leave him alone and let him curse, for Jehovah has told him to do so” (v. 11). He was truly a broken and pliable man. He was learning to submit to a higher authority. David said that it was God who had told Shimei to curse him. In reading this portion of the Bible, we have to touch David’s spirit. He was alone and an outcast. At least he could have taken out his frustration on Shimei and vindicated himself a little. However, he was an absolutely submissive person. He submitted absolutely to God and accepted everything that God had done to him.

Brothers and sisters, you must realize that God’s appointed authority is one who can take offenses. He is one who can be offended. If the authority that you have received cannot suffer any offense, you are not qualified to be an authority. Do not think that you can act as you please as long as you have been given authority. Only those who have learned the lesson of obedience are qualified to be an authority. Verse 13 says that Shimei continued to curse David, yet David was truly a submissive man. Only such a person is qualified to be an authority. Here was a man who was truly pliable before the Lord. David and his followers rested wearily at a place. Even while Absalom was rebelling, David still maintained a proper attitude. He was a man in the Old Testament, yet he was full of the grace of the New Testament. He was so broken that he was able to have such a spirit. This is indeed a person who was qualified to be an authority.


In 2 Samuel 19, after Absalom was defeated and killed, the Israelites heard that David was sitting in the city gate, and they all had fled to their own house (v. 8). David did not return with fanfare to his palace. Absalom had been anointed to be a king also. This was why David had to wait. The eleven tribes came and asked him to go back, but the tribe of Judah did not come along. David sent men to recover the tribe of Judah (vv. 9-12). David was of the tribe of Judah, and he was driven away by it. This was why he had to wait for the people to ask him back. He was God’s appointed authority, but during his trial, he learned to humble himself under the mighty hand of God. He did not try to build up his own authority. He accepted the arrangements in the environment and was humbled under the mighty hand of God. He was not in any haste. He was a warrior himself, but he did not fight for himself. All the battles were fought for the Lord’s people. In the past God’s people had anointed him to be the king. In order to return to his kingship, he had to wait for God’s people to anoint him once again.

All those whom God uses to be an authority should have the spirit of David. We should not say anything to defend ourselves. There is no need for us to say anything for ourselves. We should not act on our own. There is no need to move even a little finger to prove that we are chosen by God. We should trust, wait, and humble ourselves. We have to wait for God’s timing. God will surely accomplish what He has set out to accomplish. The more submissive we are, the more we will learn to be an authority. The more we prostrate ourselves before the Lord, the more God will vindicate us. But if we try to speak for ourselves, fight for ourselves, and complain, we will destroy God’s work. We have to learn to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God. The more we try to be an authority in ourselves, the more we will walk down the wrong path. The way is clear before us. In the Old Testament the greatest authority was Moses, while among all the kings the greatest authority was David. Both behaved the same way in their capacity as deputy authorities. We have to touch these men’s spirits before we can maintain God’s authority.

(Authority and Submission, Chapter 17, by Watchman Nee)