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into an angel of light, he succeeds. The world and its allurements may be overcome; but that which is good being perverted to raise a reputation for ourselves, instead of bringing glory to God; by that we fall. The precept being regarded—“When ye have done all, say ye are unprofitable servants”—is the state of heart which preserves. But, alas! who is sufficient for these things !
We have, in the subject before us, an instructive lesson. Judgment pronounced upon evil by the prophet of the Lord, and the reception he met with. sition of the king, and the power of God supporting his servant. The servant's faithfulness in obeying the commandment and in refusing a reward; closing with his fall and the occasion of it. He is proof against temptation when presented in the form of evil, and he falls when tempted by apparent good. The voice of a brother, his standing and reputation, are honoured above the word of God. He disobeys the former and accredits a lie in the latter.
The Holy Ghost is silent as to the sin of the old prophet of Bethel. The sin of the one against his neighbour is clear; but the sin against God in the other's disobedience is clearer. We are often taken up with that which is an injury to many, regardless of that which is done against God. Many can contend earnestly for love to the brethren, and warmly resent failure in this respect, yet remain unmoved when the truth of God, on which it is based, is sought to be undermined. We cannot hold the truth, without love to the brethren being a consequence. The fruit-bearing which flows from communion with God is the evidence of it. Seek
first the kingdom of God, and all things else shall be added unto you.
The communion of saints did not spring from their agreement with one another, but their union of heart about God. Taught by His spirit the virtue and value of the Lord Jesus for them, they rolled themselves in the confidence of love upon His care. That they enjoyed His presence was manifest, in that "great grace was upon them all.” In beholding the love of God, they
became vessels for transmitting it. “Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord they were changed !” " Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart." He bestows His gifts on those who love Himself. There is positive declension in the soul, when the gifts are spoken more about than the Giver—when saints can be grieved for the lack of right deportment to themselves from their brethren, yet indifferent as to right thoughts about God in Christ. Dishonour to the Lord is less thought about than disrespect to one another. But so it is under every trial: man has proved himself untrue to God; God, in His covenant with Christ, true to man. abideth faithful.” Blessed that it is so! Most blessed ! because He changes not, we have confidence and hope. We must cease from man. We must trust in God.
The subject before us so graphically portrayed, is not novel in its occurrence. A saint to day and a prophet then, have features in common. Seeing the one, you recognise the other. The servant of God subduing every outward opposition, and himself subdued by that which was within.
Very weak ones have got the victory over the world outside the church, have overcome its threats, and despised its rewards. Very strong ones have fallen from troubles within. Ostensible evil is easily resisted; when, disguised as good, it subdues. Hence the need of constant dependence upon God, and right thoughts about Him, that He may give us the spirit of dependance upon Him. There was a bond between Job and God, as related in chap. xlii. ver. 8. “ Ye have not spoken of me the thing which is right, like my servant Job.” Job had his failings and many of them. But Job had right thoughts of God. We have our failings and many of them, so
. that no less a Christ than the Christ of God can meet our need. Let us beware of dishonouring Him, and of that which is as bad, if not worse, assuming a neutral attitude. Judging the wrong ways of many who are contending for the right, instead of identifying ourselves with those on the Lord's side.
The sin of Jeroboam provoked the judgment of God,
and in the chapter before us is given the prophet's denunciation against the altar. The course of the prophet to the close of the tenth verse, is marked by steadfastness in the service of his master. He set out on his errand by the word of the Lord. He delivers his message. The king is provoked to wrath, and commands the prophet to be seized. "He put forth his hand from the altar, saying, Lay hold of him, and his hand which he put forth against him dried up, so that he could not pull it in again to him.” The word of the Lord is adhered to, and His strength goes along with it. He identifies Himself with His testimony. The king, smitten, becomes a suppliant. He who stretched out his hand against God cannot draw it back again. And he entreats of the prophet to pray for him. What instruction is here !
The servant, whilst witnessing for God, is supported by Him; and the power of the world is humbled at his feet. And so it should be with the church. Not because she is the called of God, but for His sake who called her. Alas, she has used the grace God has bestowed, for her own exaltation, forgetful of His glory. “And the man of God besought the Lord, and the king's hand was restored him again, and became as it was before.” And the king said unto the man of God,“ Come home with me, and refresh thyself, and I will give thee a reward." And the man of God said unto the king, “ If thou wilt give me half thine house I will not go in with thee, neither will I eat bread nor drink water in this place. For so it was charged me, by the word of the Lord, saying, Eat no bread, nor drink water, nor turn again by the same way that thou camest. So he went another way, and returned not by the way that he came to Bethel.”
Thus far the word of the Lord is obeyed — the testimony against the altar delivered. Outward opposition was overcome, and the gifts of the ungodly king rejected. The prophet was not afraid of his threats, and was proof against his rewards. His separateness as God's witness against ungodliness was maintained. Yet, “ let not him that putteth on his armour boast as he that taketh it off.”
Many trials await us in the wilderness. We cannot raise so much as our helmet (Eph. vi. 17), but we are open to the darts of the foe. The sense of danger should keep us on the alert. It “whilst men slept that the enemy sowed tares." That which is most apparent, is the least dangerous. The history of the Church elucidates this. Open opposition to God's people drove them to Him for protection.
" When Peter saw the wind was boisterous, he was afraid, and, beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me!"
The greatest danger to the Lord's people is from one another. Paul, speaking to the elders of the Church of Ephesus, warns them that grievous wolves should enter in among them—“ Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them.” “Looking diligently, lest any man fall from
, the grace of God, lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.” Such por
, tions of the Word healthily digested in the soul, would work wonders in the way of keeping down self-sufficiency amongst saints.
None ever wandered so far from the truth, but any of us may go further; none ever dishonoured God by sin, however hateful, but we may do worse. We cannot depend upon one another. We cannot confide in one another; and the communion of saints did not consist in leaning upon one another; but each individual trusted in God, and, according to his faith, was in & position to assist his neighbour. If brotherly love could be sustained apart from God, then in just such proportion could we do without God. But “ of Him, and to Him, and through Him, are all things.”. He gives the blessing, and His is the power to sustain it. In honouring Him, we are taught to honour one another. When His glory is our aim, our happiness is His. Exalted conception of the
majesty and dignity of the Lord Jesus ... and God the Father delights to shower down blessing on His people. His happiness is in them, and they find their happiness in Him. Let us beware of unhallowed thoughts of the Son of God. Let us eschew curious disquisition about His person. His name is Wonderful;
no man can unravel the mystery. He is presented to us as the object of adoration, not as a subject for inspection. " He smote the men of Bethshemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the Lord."
But again to our narrative. We read in verses 11 to 19, “ Now there dwelt an old prophet in Bethel; and his sons came and told him all the works that the man of God had done that day in Bethel : the words which he had spoken unto the king, them they told also to their father. And their father said unto them, What way went he? for his sons had seen what way the man of God went, which came from Judah. And he said unto his sons,
Saddle me the ass. So they saddled him the ass: and he rode thereon, and went after the man of God, and found him sitting under an oak: and he said unto him, Art thou the man of God that camest from Judah? and he said, I am. Then he said unto him, Come home with me, and eat bread. And he said, I may not return with thee, nor go in with thee: neither will I eat bread nor drink water with thee in this place: for it was said to me by the word of the Lord, Thou shalt eat no bread nor drink water there, nor turn again to go by the way that thou camest. He said unto him, I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of the Lord, saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water. But he lied unto him. So he went back with him, and did eat bread in his house, and drank water.” Paul, writing to the Galatians in chap. i. 8, says, Though we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” The prophet of Judah had delivered his testimony upon the express revelation of God to himself, and it was not said to him “Go to such a person, and it shall be told thee what thou must do." We have a standard in the written Word, and the Spirit of God also to enable us to apprehend it. A revelation discordant with it could not be accredited. The New Testament unfolding the
grace was but the fulfilment of the promises recorded in the Old.
in the Gospel,