« PreviousContinue »
THE HISTORY OF AHAB.
Each fruit of the Spirit in a saint has its counterfeit in some trait or disposition of the natural man; and when declension has taken place, either in the Church or in the individual saint, there is a great proneness to substitute the counterfeit for the reality, and so deceive ourselves and impose on others. But God is not mocked. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Satan may succeed in leading us to confound them together now; but God has furnished, in His blessed word, unfailing tests whereby the faith that waits on Him and trusts His guidance, can distinguish the one from the other: and the day cometh “when every man's work shall be made manifest; for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is." May we have grace to judge ourselves by the word in the light of God's presence now, that there may be the less for the fire of that day to burn up and destroy!
“Easy to be entreated” is one characteristic of the “wisdom that is from above." Precious, lovely, fruit of the grace of Him of whom it is said that He pleased not Himself.” Sweetly was it manifested, too, in Paul, that faithful servant of Christ, who could
"Unto the Jews, I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews ; to them that are under the law, as under the law, I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without law, as without law (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ), that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak; I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some." But how different was this from the irresoluteness and want of principle which makes a man the sport of every influence which is brought to bear upon him. That Blessed One who "pleased not Himself,” yea, and who had no will of His own to oppose to the wishes of those who surrounded Him; who accordingly was at the bidding of any who asked Him, whether Simon the Pharisee or Matthew the Publican; who, in His childhood and youth, was subject to His mother and Joseph; and who, in after years, could say "Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money; that take and give unto them, for me and thee.” That Blessed One was so devoted to the will of His Father, that neither maternal tenderness, nor the entreaties of His disciples, any more than the rage of the enemy or the clamours of the multitude, could turn Him aside. " How is it that ye sought me? Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" proclaims even at twelve years of age how it was His meat to do the will of Him who sent Him, and to finish His work. “Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come," was His language on another occasion; and when some would have interrupted Him in His work of obedience and love by conveying to Him the message of His mother and His brethren, “ Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee,” how did the depth and intensity of His devotedness to His Father shine out in His reply—“Who is my mother or my brethren? And he looked round about on them which sat about Him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren ! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister and mother.” His very yieldingness in all that merely affected Himself without compromising the glory of His Father, was but one result and expression of His entire, unlimited, unalterable devotedness to His Father's will. It was one part of that wondrous life of self-sacrifice by which, in His person, the Father was perfectly displayed
So also, in his measure with the Apostle. Yielding, easy to be entreated, he could be and was, as we have seen; it was his delight to please every one for his good
to edification. But where the glory of his Master, and the foundations of the faith were concerned, he was firm as a rock. What considerateness of those who were in the faith before him—what modesty and humility on the one hand; and yet what unswerving fidelity, what bold uncompromising faithfulness on the other, do we see in the passage where he speaks of his second visit to Jerusalem after his conversion: Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also. And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that Gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately (how beautiful !] to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain. But neither Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised : and that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage: to whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the Gospel might continue with you.
And though there were some of high standing and character among those who were enlisted on the side of error, it makes no difference to Paul. As a junior, and one who had been an adversary and blasphemer, he had shown all deference to those who were in the faith before him. He had first communicated privately with them of reputation; but when it came to be a question of the truth of the Gospel continuing with the saints, he sets his face like a flint, and can know no distinction. “ But of those who seemed to be somewhat, whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man's person : for they who seemed to be somewhat, in conference added nothing to me." Even Peter himself he withstood to the face, because he was to be blamed. Just as our Lord, in a former instance, when Peter would have dissuaded him from pursuing the path of rejection and sorrow on which he had entered, and which was to terminate in the Cross, turned round and said, “Get thee behind me, Satan, thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God. but those that be of men.”
There is such a word, brethren, as “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." There is such an exhortation as, " Watch
ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong." All this is perfectly compatible with the tender, gracious considerateness of others, and readiness to yield every thing to their wishes, in which the glory of God and the honour of His Christ are not involved, which is implied in those words, “ Easy to be entreated;" but it is altogether opposed to that pliableness of mind, that unsteadiness of purpose, that want of decision for God, which, alas! so often takes its place. The false tenderness which, under pretence of not giving pain to others, really shrinks from the pain and trouble to ourselves of withstanding others in the cause and service of our Lord, how often is this passed off for the charity and tenderness which the New Testament inculcates! There is surely a solemn warning against self-deception like this in the fact, that one of the worst kings who ever sat on the throne of Israel was not so much an ambitious, cruel, sordid man, as one of easy, pliable disposition; weak, wavering, and irresolute; and thus the fit tool of another's avarice, cruelty, and ambition; the instrument of a woman as energetic and decided in evil, as he was weak and irresolute in that which was good. " But there was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord, whom Jezebel, his wife, stirred up. May the Lord grant us to glean, from the inspired history of this wicked man, those lessons of warning and admonition for which it has been left on record.
It was in the darkest period of Israel's history that Ahab lived and reigned. The Ten Tribes, which had never rendered hearty submission to the rule of David's house, at last openly revolted, and chose for themselves a king. They had adhered to the house of Saul for years after David was crowned, and reigning in Hebron over Judah. They took the first opportunity of throwing off their allegiance
to him, when Absalom raised the standard of rebellion. When Absalom’s conspiracy was quashed, and the men of Judah were bringing back the king, the men of Israel said, " We have ten parts in the king, and we have also more right in David than ye: why, then, did ye despise us, that our advice should not be first had in bringing back the king ?” and again was the trumpet of rebellion blown, “every man of Israel went up
from after David, and followed Sheba. the son of Bichri; but the men of Judah clave unto their king, from Jordan even to Jerusalem.” And though this new insurrection was soon suppressed, and throughout the short remainder of David's reign, as well as throughout the prosperous, glorious reign of Solomon (blessed type of the kingdom of the true Prince of Peace to be set up ere long), there were no internal broils or dissensions, as soon as he slept with his fathers and Rehoboam reigned in his stead, the Lord let loose on Rehoboam, as chastisement for his father's sin, the suppressed elements of discontent and rebellion, and the Ten Tribes were permanently rent off and became a separate kingdom, Judah being still left to Rehoboam, that the house of David might not be without a light before the Lord in Jerusalem. This new kingdom of Israel, or the Ten Tribes, had hardly been set up, when an entire system of false worship and idolatry was introduced by the king, who thus earned for himself the title which from that point in the history he bears in the word of God—“Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin.” Of this sin, the kingdom was never purged. Nadab, the son of Jeroboam was slain by Baasha; but he also “ did evil in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin." His son Elah is slain by Zimri, one of his captains; he, in his turn, is overthrown by Omri, and self-desperate, shuts himself up in the palace, and burns it over his own head, and dies; while Ömri ascends the throne and reigns in his stead. But among all these, there is not one who returns to the Lord, and
the idols which Jeroboam had set up. Of Omri, it is said that “ he wrought evil in the sight of the Lord, and did worse than all that were before him.” It was from this stock that Ahab sprang, and of him, the sacred historian says—" And Ahab, the son of Omri, did evil in the sight