Elijah: The Sidonian Conflict (Young Prophet Series Book 2)

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They who find their way to Him, and tell Him all that is in their hearts, will have all their questions solved. Scripture never blinks the defects of its heroes. Its portraits do not smooth out wrinkles, but, with absolute fidelity, give all faults. That pitiless truthfulness is no small proof of its inspiration.

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If these historical books were simply fragments of national records, owning no higher source than patriotism, they would never have blurted out the errors and sins of David and Solomon as they do. Where else are there national histories of which the very central idea is the laying bare of national sins and chastisements? The difference in tone augurs a different origin. Strange idealising which leaves the ideal king wallowing in a sty of sensuality and an apostate from Jehovah! Here we are simply told of the two things,—his sin, and the divine judgment which it drew after it.

What was its extent? Did he himself take part in idolatrous worship, or simply, with the foolish fondness of an old sensualist, let these foreign women have their shrines? The darker supposition seems correct. His was a case of halting between two opinions, or rather, of trying to hold both at once. He wanted to be a worshipper of Jehovah and of these idols also. Was his apostasy final? Yes, so far as we can gather from the narrative. Not only is there no statement of his repentance, but the silence with which he receives the divine announcement of retribution is suspicious; and the prophecy of Ahijah to Jeroboam, which obviously comes later in time than the threatenings of the text, treats the idolatry as still existing verse If Solomon had ever abandoned his idolatry, he would not have left them standing.

So we seem to have in him a case of a fall which knew no recovery, an eclipse which did not pass. The Book of Ecclesiastes, if of his composition, would somewhat lighten the darkness of such an end; but his authorship of it is now all but universally given up. The lessons of such a fall are many.

How Bad Was Jezebel?

First , it teaches the destructive effect of yielding to sensual indulgence. All his wisdom was worth little if it could not keep him master of himself. A young man who lets his passions run away with him is less to be condemned than an old sensualist. God means that reason should govern impulses and desires, and that conscience should govern all and be governed by His will.

The vessel is sure to be wrecked when the officers are sent below and the mutineers get hold of the helm.


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Second , it warns us that till the very end of life a fall is possible. This ship went down when the voyage was nearly over.

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Prophets and Apostasy (Chapter 5) - The Theology of the Book of Kings

In sight of port it struck, and that not for want of beacons. After so many years of high aims, so many temptations overcome, with such habits of wisdom and kingly nobility, after such prayers and visions, he fell; and, if he fell, who can be sure of standing? No length of life spent in holy thoughts and service secures us against the possibility of disastrous fall. When a man that has been had in reputation for wisdom and honour shames the record of his life by a great splash of mud on the white page, near its end, he seldom returns. An old apostate is usually finally an apostate.

Third , may we not venture to see a warning here against marriages in which there is not unity in the deepest things, and a common faith? There is no sadder sight than an old man whose youthful enthusiasm for goodness and belief in the super-excellency of wisdom have withered, leaving him a hard worldling or a gross sensualist.

Better the early days, when he was obscure and poor, and believed in wisdom and in the God of wisdom, than the late ones, when worldly success has spoiled him! The immediate connection of sin and punishment is the teaching intended by this close juxtaposition of these two halves of our narrative.

However long the chastisement may be in bursting, the divine resolve to send it is instantaneously consequent on the crime. The chain that binds departure from God with loss of blessing may be of many or few links, but it is riveted on when the evil is done. We do not learn how the Lord said this to Solomon. Possibly it was by the same prophet who afterwards announced to Jeroboam his destiny; but, however announced, it seems to have been received in sullen silence, and to have wrought no softening nor change.

Solomon was threatened before the prophet spoke to Jeroboam; and if Solomon had repented, Jeroboam would never have been spoken to. We have as clear declarations of worse results from ours; but they do not stop some of us. How strange it is that men will put out their hands to grasp their sins, even though they have to stretch across the smoke of the pit for them!

Note how forbearance delays and diminishes retribution. The separation of the kingdom is deferred, and one tribe is left to the Davidic house; probably Judah is meant, and Benjamin is omitted as being small. Stated in the language of the secular historian, that is to say that the consequences of great national virtues or crimes are seldom reaped by the generation that sowed the seed and did the deed, but take time to mature and work themselves out.

A people ground down by heavy taxation and forced labour, to keep up the luxury of a court containing all that disgusting crowd of wives and concubines, was ripe for revolt, and when the sceptre fell into the hands of a headstrong fool, and there was a capable leader on the other side, discontent soon became rebellion, and rebellion soon became triumphant. So soon after its establishment did the house of David prove unworthy, and the experiment fail. Yet that long-suffering purpose is not turned aside, but persistently and patiently goes on its way, altering its methods, but keeping its end unaltered, bending even sin to minister to its design, pitying and warning the sinner ere it strikes the blow that the sinner has made needful.

Behind the figure of Solomon we see another. The wisest of men fell shamefully, captured by coarse lust, and apparently steeled against all remonstrances from Heaven.


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  • But Christ is the true Temple as well as Priest and Sacrifice. But Christ is the Prince of Peace, and of His dominion there shall be no end. Solomon is the great example of the sad truth that the loftiest and wisest share in the universal sinfulness. Christ is the one flawless Man, who makes those who take Him for their King wise and peaceful, prosperous, and in due time sinless, like Himself. Solomon falls into the background in the last part of the story of his reign, and his enemies are more prominent than himself.

    So long as he walked with God, he was of importance for the historian; but as soon as he forsook God, and was consequently forsaken of His wisdom, he becomes as insignificant as an empty vessel which has once held sweet perfume, or a piece of carbon through which the electric current has ceased to flow. The sunbeam has left that peak, and shines on other summits.

    Never was there a sadder eclipse. It is the old story of a young man of mark, attracting the eyes of the king, being promoted to offices of trust, which at once stir ambition, and give prominence and influence which seem to afford a possibility of gratifying it. The preservation of ancestral piety is for nations and individuals a surer protection than the improvement of ancestral outward defenses. In such an office he would be thrown among his kinsmen, and would at once gain influence and learn to sympathize with their discontent, or, at any rate, to know where the sore places were, if he ever wanted to inflame them.

    One can easily fancy the grumblings of the Ephraimites dragged up to Jerusalem to the hated labour, which Samuel had predicted 1 Samuel , and how facile it would be for the officer in charge to fan discontent or to win friends by judicious indulgence.

    Here Comes Elijah

    That is the second stage in the story,—the spark on the tinder. The symbolic action preceding the spoken word, as usual, supplied the text, of which the word was the explanation and expansion. How pathetic is the newness of the garment! Unworn, strong, and fresh, it yet is rent in pieces.

    ELIJAH- The Man & The Message, Part 1

    So the kingdom is so recent, with such possibilities of duration, and yet it must be shattered! Thus quickly has the experiment broken down! The commentary followed. Their incipient fulfilment in the wars with Edom and Syria had been equally futile; and therefore God, who never strikes without warning, and never warns without striking if men do not heed, now drops the message into ears that were only too ready to hear.

    The scene is like that in which the witches foretell to Macbeth his dignity. Slumbering ambitions are stirred, and a half-inclined will is finally determined by the glimpse into the future. The divine Potter, like mere human artisans, has His spoiled pieces of work, and, with infinite resource and patience as infinite, re-shapes the clay into other forms. The separation of the kingdoms was a divine act, and yet it is treated often in the later books as a crime and rebellion.

    A man may be a rebel while he is doing the will of God, if what he does be done at the bidding of his own selfishness. Note that the prophecy is in three parts. The third part verses promises Jeroboam the kingdom, and lays down the conditions on which the favours promised to David and his house may be his. The whole closes with the assurance that the affliction of the seed of David is not to be for ever. Yet there was another side to it; for the very failure of the human kings made the Messianic hope the more bright, like a light glowing in the deepening darkness, and tumult and oppression might teach those whom prosperity and peace had only corrupted.

    The great lesson for us is the ruin which follows on departure from God. Mark, too, that the judgment is wrought out by perfectly natural causes. The separation follows old lines of cleavage. There are two ways of writing history. You can either leave God out, or trace all to Him.

    12. The Life and Times of Elijah the Prophet— Israel’s Deliverance (1 Kings 20:1-43)

    Perhaps, if modern history were written on the same principles as the Books of Kings, the divine hand would be as plainly visible,—only it requires an inspired historian to do it. The way of bringing about the judgment for departing from God has changed, but the judgment remains the same to-day as when Ahijah rent his garment. Between 1 Kings and 40 we must suppose an attempt at armed rebellion by Jeroboam.

    That attempt must have been put down by Solomon. And that it should have been made shows how little Jeroboam was influenced by religious motives. It is an old trick of aggressive nations to side with a pretender to the throne of a country which they covet, and benevolently to strengthen him that he may weaken it. It was a bad beginning for a king of Israel to be a pensioner of Egypt. This was all that could be said about the end of a career that had begun so nobly.

    If more had been said, the record would have been sadder; and so the pitying narrative casts the veil of the stereotyped summary over the miserable story. Solomon was not an old man, as we count age, when he died; for he reigned forty years, and was somewhere about twenty when he became king. The sun went down in a thick bank of clouds, which rose from undrained marshes in his soul, and stretched high up in the western horizon.

    There is something very striking in that one flash, which reveals the enthroned God, working through the ignoble strife which makes up the rest of the story. This double aspect of the disruption of the kingdom is the main truth about it which the narrative impresses on us.

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