Variety and Unity
the late John Watt
Lessons from the First Book of Kings
Variety and Unity (Continued)
By Wm. Bunting
WHAT now are some of the practical lessons to be gleaned from the foregoing? In the first place we should notice that the local assembly is here compared to a body. “Ye are the body of Christ” (v. 27). More literally, the sentence reads, “Ye are body of Christ.” Thus the verse lends no support to the superior party claim, ‘We are the body of Christ’—a claim which every Spirit-taught mind will repudiate. The absence of the article throws the emphasis upon the word “body”—“Ye are body of Christ.” The term is used characteristically. The local assembly has the features of (the) body of Christ and in the Divine intention is a miniature of the Body in its universal aspect. It should also be noted that neither here nor elsewhere do we read of saints “gathering upon the ground of the one body.” On the other hand, of course, we are responsible to recognise the unity of Christ’s Body in our gatherings, and to put away everything which would mar or obscure the expression of this great New Testament truth.
In the next place, keeping before us the analogy of the body, we learn that as there is a variety of need in the assembly, so God has graciously provided a corresponding variety of gifts to meet that need. There is to be no monopoly of the gifts by any individual member, as though one could possess all the ministries necessary for the upbuilding of the body. “If the whole were an eye, where were the hearing?” (v. 17). True, the eye is a wonderful organ—“the lamp of thy body” (Lu. 11:34, R.V.). Yet, as A. T. Robertson asks, “How grotesque it would be if there were nothing else but a great round rolling eye! A big T surely!” No, the assembly is not to be in any sense ‘a one-man-show’. Some are more fitted to minister comfort, others edification, and others correction. Some are gifted as evangelists, others as pastors. God means there should be variety. Spiritual life asserts itself in different directions. Every man has his own bent, and there must be room for originality. Someone has said we are not to be like Tate’s sugar lumps, all one size and one shape, but like Tate’s Picture Gallery, with its splendid variety of coloured paintings. Young men especially should try to be themselves and not just mimics of others. All the gifts are needed, and we cannot without loss to the whole assembly dispense with any of them. It is a great mistake to slight a brother’s messages just because he does not minister upon the particular line which most appeals to us personally. Some are like spoiled children who must always get a drink – out of their own little mug. “God hath set the members, every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased Him” (v. 18). No one however gifted, therefore, can afford to say to another, “I have no need of thee” (v. 21). There is to be no independency in the body. Have we yet learned this lesson?
Work for All
Again, each member in the body has its own function to perform. The ear hears, the eye sees. There should be no idleness. There is service for all—”to every man his work.” Each one is fitted by God to fill some little niche, and no one else can fill it so effectively. What a change there would be in many meetings were this fact appreciated! Even “those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble are necessary” (v. 22). There are small organs without which the body could not function, yet they are inward and unseen. These are not to be despised by the more gifted, and they themselves must never imagine that because they are less prominent or brilliant there is no service for them to render. There is ever the tendency for such not only to become discouraged, but to envy the greater gifts. The ear, for example, may be tempted to say, “Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body” (v. 16); but there is to be no envying. Each should seek grace to be content with his alloted task, be it ever so humble, for
- “The least we do for Jesus
- Is precious in His sight.”
After all, “helps” (v. 28) is one of the gifts, and who cannot in some way be a help? Are we, however, exercised about using our little talent to the best advantage? It is easy to disparage others because we think they are not doing the work right, yet perhaps we scarcely move a little finger to assist in it ourselves. At the same time, let us not make the mistake of attempting what, as will be perfectly plain to others, God never fitted us to do. It is a pity to be ‘a round peg in a square hole’ all the days of one’s life.
Care and Sympathy
Once more, the members are to honour, care for, and sympathise with, each other. “Whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it, or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it” (v. 26). This is but natural, since the members belong to the same body, are vitally connected, and share the same life blood. “The members of that one body, being many, are one body” (v. 12). Consequently, if so much as the little finger be crushed, all the body will suffer from the hurt. “When a thorn enters the heel,” said Chrysostom, “the whole body feels it, and is concerned; the back bends, the thighs contract themselves, the hands come forward and draw out the thorn, the head stoops, and the eyes regard the affected member with intense gaze.” Could anything be more beautiful?—all the several members interested in one another, so that there may be no lack in the body. O! that we Christians showed more of this tender solicitude for fellow members of the body of Christ everywhere.
“That there should be no Schism”
Speaking of the human body in one of the most beautiful compositions ever penned upon the subject, David, in Ps. 139:14 exclaimed, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made”; and to this day anatomists marvel more and more at the infinite skill and wisdom displayed in the formation of this complicated organism. In our chapter Paul dwells upon this. “God,” he says, “hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked” (v. 24). The reason He has so perfectly apportioned to each organ its due honour is “that there should be no schism in the body” (v. 25). This is the great spiritual lesson which Paul here seeks to inculcate. Its importance cannot be overestimated. The Divine purpose in the bestowal of gifts, whether great or small, is “that there should be no schism in the body.” As in the human body, there is the utmost variety, yet all of this makes for unity. What could be more preposterous than that the “feet and hands should work against one another when God made them to co-operate”! Yet this is like what was taking place at Corinth, and ironically enough the saints were dividing over the very gifts which God had intended should cement their unity. Not only so, but the seeds of division there sown have yielded a fearful harvest all down the centuries. The history of the Church, as another has said, has been a “terrible story of heresies, persecutions, divisions, harsh judgments, cruel suspicions, false witness, narrowness and bigotry.” How sad it is when, like the Jewish factions at the last siege of Jerusalem, the blood bought members of the Body of Christ, turning a deaf ear to the fervent and oft repeated appeals of the Spirit, raise their hands every man against his brother, to the sport of their adversaries!
There is admittedly much weakness and failure in assemblies to-day. Division, however, is not the remedy. True, the word to those in evil associations is, “come out” (2 Cor. 6:17), but when evil manifests itself amongst those who are gathered upon scriptural ground, the word is, “purge out” (1 Cor. 5:7). For a number to rise up and dissociate themselves from an assembly, unless it is absolutely palpable that the Lord has withdrawn, is to err gravely, however great their zeal may be. The removing of a lampstand (Rev. 2:5) is the prerogative of God, Whose patience with His erring people is very great, and He has never ceded His sovereign rights to any man.
(To be continued)
The Devil’s Cradle
LET no one hope to escape notice among the crowd. Satan has a sharp eye on each of us, and has considered us as carefully as he considered God’s servant Job. No physician ever investigates all the symptoms of a patient’s case with half the care that Satan has expended in the searching of you and me. He knows us well, our vanity, our pride, our worldliness, our everything, and he will spare no pains to make his knowledge of our weak points ruinously available. Our earthly comforts he will use to ensnare us into fleshly ease. How many there are who, as long as they were poor, were in measure active, but since they increased their comforts have gone to sleep in the Devil’s Cradle! He will try to use even our spiritual comforts to seduce us. He can make a lullaby song out of the believer’s unbounded privileges, and keep chanting to him of his place with Christ already in the heavenlies; while all the time he holds back the view of present duties and awful responsibilities, till the ease-loving heart drops over, lulled to sleep by Satan’s siren singing about “Grace! Grace!”
He can use the love of the brethren to our ruin. Says old Ignatius to the Romans, “I fear your love, lest it do me an injury.” He can use wordly company to do it, and this to any saint whomsoever, if only without his guard, that he will venture into. Says Henry Martyn: “I no longer hesitate to ascribe my stupor and formality to its right cause, unwatchfulness in worldly company. I thought that any temptation arising from the society of the people of the world, at least such as we have had, was not worthy of notice, but I find I was mistaken.” And he can use solitude quite as effectually as company. Says Luther: “When I am assailed with heavy tribulations, I rush out among my pigs rather than remain alone. | The human mind, unless it be occupied with some employment, leaves space for the Devil, who wriggles himself in and brings with him a whole host of evil thoughts.” In truth, he works through everything, and works everywhere, and works on everyone.
And if once he gets a soul under his influence, who can tell how far his power may go? The heat of spiritual love he cools down rapidly, till from Ephesus, losing its first love, it comes down, down as low as Laodicea, far worse than cold, for it is lukewarm and ready to be spewed out as a loathsome thing. And just in proportion as it loses the fervor of love, so too does it lose the fervor of true prayer, which alone can bring it help. The empty form may indeed be carefully retained, for there are many asleep in Satan’s arms, who yet would not dare to abate a single unit of their full tale of daily prayers. And as it is with Love and Prayer, so too is it with all the manifestations of spiritual life—the soul passes rapidly down through growing languor towards death. To
man’s eyes, indeed, the branch may retain some of its green leaves upon it, but it seldom now strikes a blossom, and never, never, bears a grape. As a fruitless branch it is ready to be cut off, if grace prevent not, and to be cast into the fire.
Meanwhile as spiritual joy declines, the love of fleshly ease and worldly comfort increases, for there is nothing else to fill the empty heart. The cross, felt to be a burden, is quietly laid down, and the pilgrim spirit of self denial is completely abandoned. The earthly aims, once rolled into the Sepulchre of Jesus along with the heavy load of a life-time’s sins, are now one by one resumed: for the poor heart cannot possibly be empty, and if Jesus does not make it happy, then it will turn to the world to feed its hunger. There is now nothing whatever to distinguish the professor from a decent man of the world, save only his profession; and yet, so far from suspecting his danger, or mourning his declension, he is likely enough to be self-satisfied. He may be much troubled with the sins of his neighbours, but very little anxious about his own. Alas, poor sapless professor! Who shall wake thee? A little longer, and you shall be like unsavored salt, good for nothing in God’s house, good for nothing in man’s world, cast forth on the highway to be trodden under foot of men.
Beloved reader, this is what Satan aims at with you and with me, when he tempts us to rest in his sluggard’s Cradle. Do you know any reason why he should not accomplish it in our case, as well as in the case of thousands in every past age, and of thousands round about us just now? Let us be aware of our danger; let us realize our helplessness; let us realize the power of the grace of our Divine Helper, and keep ourselves hid in the secret of His presence. God’s Cradle is our only true refuge from the danger of lying down in the Devil’s Cradle.
Ah, beloved, this is not our time for slumber. We are not children of the night, but children of the day: why then should we sleep? We are Christ’s watchmen, with His earnest and oft-repeated call “Watch,” still ringing in our ears: why then should we sleep? There is a rest remaining for us—a sweet repose prepared for the warriors of the Cross when our day of battle is over: then why should we think of sleeping now? Sleep in the
midst of battle! Sleep when he who plots our ruin never sleeps! Sleep when the whole world is sleeping round us! Nay, nay, let us rouse each other by our urgent exhortations, and press on to fight the good fight of faith, to endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ. We must never ungird our armour till our Lord Comes, or till death, our heavenly Father’s messenger, shall ungird it for us, and, hailing us as more than conquerors, shall bring the wearied soldier his welcome dismissal—Home!
By Jas. McCullough
“There is joy in the presence of the Angels of God over one sinner that repenteth,” Luke 15:10
NO Parable in the New Testament is better known than that of Luke 15. If Psalm 23 is the “Pearl of Psalms” and Isaiah 53 is the “Pearl of Prophecies,” Luke 15 is the “Pearl of Parables,” particularly the story of the Prodigal Son. Note there are not three parables here, it is one parable in three parts, as stated in verse 3: “He spake this parable unto them” (not parables). The whole chapter is taken up with the joy there is in Heaven over a repenting sinner. In the first section of the parable we have the joy of the Shepherd (the Lord Jesus) when He has found the sheep that was lost. The second part brings before us the joy of the woman (the Holy Spirit), when the lost coin is found, while in the last section of the parable we have the joy of the Father (God) when the prodigal son returns home. Thus what we have here pictured for us is, that all three Persons of the Godhead rejoice together over repenting sinners. In verse 7 we read, “Likewise joy shall be in Heaven over one sinner that repenteth,” and again in verse 10, “There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.”
No doubt the lost sheep would be glad when the Shepherd found it and brought it home, and the lost coin (if it could speak) would appreciate being restored to its place again, and certainly the wayward son would rejoice in being back home again, but in neither case is it the joy of the lost when found that is referred to in the parable. It is rather the joy of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, that is pictured here in Luke 15. Thus even in happy Heaven there is new joy when a sinner is saved. Someone has well said that “Heaven holds high holiday over repenting sinners.”
Let us notice verse 10 carefully: “Likewise I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” Now, is it the angels that are said to rejoice in this verse? It is true we often sing, and the sentiment is indeed beautiful:
- “Let the angels bear the tidings,
- Upwards to the courts of Heaven;
- Let them sing with holy rapture
- O’er another soul forgiven.”
But do the angels bear the tidings to the courts of Heaven? Do they sing and rejoice when a sinner turns to Christ? Must Heaven wait until the angels bring the tidings that another sinner has repented? Do angelic hosts have joy and gladness when souls are saved? Perhaps they do, but this is not what is stated here in verse 10. What the verse does say is, “There is joy in the presence of the angels of God.” Who then is in the presence of the angels of God? Is it not the joy of the Lord Jesus Himself, or the joy of the Holy Trinity, that is the thought in this verse, as suggested by the three parts of the parable in the chapter?
Hebrews 12:2 says it was “for the joy that was set before Him He endured the cross”, so that it is not the joy of angels we have here, but rather it is the joy of Him who is in the presence of the angels.
“He will rejoice over thee with joy, He will rest in His love, He will joy over thee with singing” (Zeph. 3:17).
Psalm 99:8 By the late John Watt
IT is before me to say a few words to you on these verses which we have read together, especially on verse 8—“their inventions.”
You will observe how those three men are linked together: Moses, Aaron and Samuel. They were the three great intercessors of the Old Testament. Moses was the apostle, Aaron the high priest, and Samuel the prophet. Moses and Aaron are called priests here, and Samuel one who called upon the Lord. In Jer. 15 Moses and Samuel are linked together as intercessors. Moses and Aaron were linked together in service; Ex. 25:6-8; 29:11; 40:22-29. Num. 16:47; Ex. 14:15; 32:11; 33:12; Num. 14:13; 16:21. As priests they had access to God; liberty to approach Him in prayer. God spoke to them—that is ministry; they spoke to Him in prayer. In Luke 10 He speaks to Mary. In Luke 11 we speak to Him. In Heb. 1 He speaks to us; in Heb. 13 we speak to Him. We have then “worship in His holy hill.” This is the desire of the Father, that we might worship Him. In these verses we have prayer, ministry, and worship.
I will now draw attention to those words “their inventions.” We are living in a peculiar day. It is called by men a day of progress, a day of inventions. “God made man upright, but he has sought out many inventions.” They have “witty inventions.” Christendom is full of inventions and we need to be on our guard, as the people of God, lest we should use inventions. We are not left to ourselves in the service of God. He has given us instructions, but where inventions have been brought in, there has been departure from God. We must not get our ideas from the world, nor from Christendom. Israel had many inventions. God complains that they “went a whoring after their inventions.”
I have observed that Moses, Aaron and Samuel, who are linked together in our Psalm, had each an invention of his own.
Moses’ Invention, Numbers 20.
When the Children of Israel came into the wilderness of Zin, there was no water for the people, and “they chode with Moses.” He was told to take the rod and to gather the people together and to “speak to the rock.” He took his own rod, instead of Aaron’s priestly rod, and ” smote the rock,” instead of speaking to it. The rock had been smitten once (Ex. 17:6). Our Lord Jesue Christ was smitten once at Calvary, but He is now on high, as our High Priest and we speak to Him today. The type shows the seriousness of Moses’ action in Num. 20. God forgave him his sin, but took vengence of his invention. He was not permitted to enter the land on account of it.
Aaron’s Invention, Exodus 32.
The children of Israel were brought out of Egypt and “baptised unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (1 Cor. 10:2). He was their lord and they must be true to him. God took him up to the mount, to give him the pattern of the tabernacle, but they were not true to him, during his absence; for they “sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” In their thoughts were the words used elsewhere, ” My Lord delayeth His coming,” and they “rose up to play.” He was receiving the pattern of the tabernacle, every whit of which spoke of Christ’s glory; but Satan tried to forestall Moses, by using Aaron to bring in the golden calf, before Moses came down from the mount, with the pattern of God’s tabernacle. Thus Aaron took away the hearts of God’s.people from Him. Aaron was a great orator; God Himself said, ” I know Aaron the Levite, that he can speak well.” He had no thoughts of his own—he got them from Moses (Ex. 2:14, 15). In Num. 12 he gets them from Miriam, and here he gets them from the people. They said, ” Up, make us gods.” He expresses surprise that it came out a calf. But who made the mould? Aaron did, and it was his invention. Do not express surprise, my brother, when things turn out wrong. Remember you made the mould. Did God forgive Aaron? He did, but He took vengeance on his invention. It was ground to powder, and cast on the waters, and they were made to drink it.
Samuel’s Invention, 1 Sam. 8.
Great men can make mistakes and often, at the end of a useful life, there comes to light some invention which has been hidden there for years. Gideon had his invention. When the gold came from the Ishmaelites, he made the ephod. What a wonderful life of usefulness Samuel had, commencing with lowly service, till his fame as a prophet spread from Dan to Beer-sheba! But grace and gift do not run in the blood, and for anyone to handle God’s things there must be the spiritual qualifications for the service undertaken. He made his sons judges, but his sons were not men of character, nor men of piety; but wicked men, who seemed to think gain was godliness. This invention of Samuel was used by the children of Israel to obtain a king. We cannot appoint men, because they are our kith and kin, to fill our shoes. They must be devout men, and full of the Holy Spirit. God forgave Samuel, but took vengeance on his invention.
These were not the only men that had inventions. You can trace that line right through the pages of Holy Scripture. We might look at others.
Abraham’s Invention, Gen. 16.
Abraham asked God for a son. He did not wish the son of his steward, Eliezar, to be his heir. God promised him a son, but he could not wait God’s time; so he must try an invention of his own. He had been down in Egypt, and brought up Hagar. If you go down into the world you will bring up something with you. He takes Hagar to wife as if an Egyptian could produce the proper seed. She produced “a wild ass of a man,” as the New Translation renders the Hebrew, for the flesh can only produce flesh. Abraham went on with his invention for many years. God did not speak to him while he was attached to his invention. He wanted to save himself and his invention and cried to God “O that Ishmael might live before Thee.” The time came when Isaac was bom—then his invention must go. “Cast out the bond woman and her son.” He was forgiven, but God must take vengeance on his invention.
Rebekah’s Invention, Gen. 27,
for the sisters can have inventions, as well as the brothers. She wanted the blessing for Jacob, the man she loved. God had marked out Jacob for the blessing, but she could not wait God’s time. Isaac was old and blind. He was a man guided by his feelings, for when spiritual vision is gone feelings govern. He loved Esau because he fed him with savoury food; he loved the wrong man. To get the blessing for Jacob Rebekah must have an invention. It was gloves for the hands, the only gloves that are mentioned in the Scriptures. Then the skins for the neck. He must take the name of his brother also. Isaac says, “Come near that I may feel thee, my son. The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esua.” It was not Jacob’s voice but Rebekah’s, for she put the words into his mouth. How often we have seen a brother using an invention at the oversight meeting. We have felt his hands and said, “Yes, they are your hands, but the voice is not yours—it is a woman’s voice. You have gotten your thoughts from your wife.” God forgave, but took vengeance on the invention.
Jacob had taken his brother’s name and made his hands like Esau’s. When his father said, “Art thou my son Esau?” he answered, “I am your son Esau.” God met him at the brook Jabbok, when he was returning to Bethel, and “wrestled with him” there. Jacob asked for a blessing—he had stolen the blessing by saying his name was Esau. He could not have an invention in the presence of God, he could not tell God that his name was Esau. He said “My name is Jacob.” God forgave him, but took vengeance on the invention. “Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel.” He must ” put off the old man, with his deeds, and put on the new man.”
Jacob’s own sons had a similar invention—they brought to him Joseph’s coat dipped in blood. God would not allow this to pass unjudged, though for years they told the same story. They were forced to come to Joseph: and all God’s dealings with them, through Joseph, were to get them to judge their invention.
Israel’s Invention, Numbers 13
The sending out of the spies was Israel’s invention. When you read Numbers 13, you would think that the thought was from God; but when you read Deut. 1, you see that it was their invention. They were in a low spiritual condition. When this happens there is a desire for inventions to cover up the condition. When the two came back with their report, they were not believed. Their gospel of a glorious land was rejected. When the ten gave their report the hearts of the people failed them, and they wanted another invention. They said one to another “Let us make us a captain and let us return to Egypt.” Caleb stilled the people and said “Let us go up at once and possess it, for we are well able to overcome it.” Did God forgive them? Hear the prayer of Moses, Num. 14:19, “Pardon, I beseech Thee, the iniquity of this people, according to the greatness of Thy mercy, and as Thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.” He forgave, but took vengeance on their invention. “They shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them which provoked Me see it” (Num. 14:23).
The desire for a king was…
Another Invention, 1 Sam. 8.
They wanted to be like the other nations. They borrowed this invention from the nations. God was their King, but they wanted a man to fight their battles—to lead them. They used the failure of Samuel’s sons to press their desire. It is always easy to find an excuse to press our point, and to gain our desire. God warned them that it would be conscription under Saul—he would take, by force, from them the things which they valued most. They said ” We will have him.” God “gave them a king in His anger and took him away in His wrath” (Hos. 13:11). Did God forgive them? Yes, but He took vengeance of their invention. Saul was rejected, removed, then slain on Mount Gilboa. They mourned over him, and should have learned by the failure of their invention.
(To be continued)
Lessons from the First Book of Kings
By A. McShane
IF the amount of literature devoted to any part of the Bible be a true indication of the interest taken in it by the Lord’s people, there can be little doubt in our minds that the Books of Kings are amongst the most neglected parts of Scripture, for surprisingly little has been written upon them. Indeed, apart from the notes by the late Mr. Rodgers, a few writings upon the Temple, and one or two upon the prophets, Elijah and Elisha, those associated with the assemblies, who have used their pens to edify the saints, appear to have left these books practically untouched. Notwithstanding we can be assured that there are important lessons to be learned from God’s dealings with Israel’s kings, especially with regard to church government. The principles that obtained in those far-off days are in many cases unchanged and can be seen operating amongst the saints in our own day.
It is generally agreed that the Books of Kings were originally one, but were later divided into two, for the sake of convenience. They were probably written by Jeremiah and cover a period of some 433 years. In them is traced for us the decline of the Nation from the palmy days of Solomon to the captivity in the days of Zedekiah. Throughout this story there is persistently emphasized the weighty lesson that sin and departure from God are ever followed by His chastening rod. The words of Amos could well be written over its pages: “You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities” (ch. 3:2). During these years God raised up many prophets, who warned the people of the judgments that would come upon them for their sin, and the history here recorded proves beyond doubt that these were no false alarms, but fearful threatenings that were fully executed upon them for their obstinate and rebellious ways.
If there is a close analogy between the kingdom of Israel and the “Kingdom in mystery,” and many believe that there is, we may solemnly conclude that if disobedience and mingling with surrounding nations brought God’s earthly people to such misery and bondage, we, His heavenly people, cannot expect to escape if we follow in their evil ways. Can we deny that the story of the corporate testimony of the saints in this dispensation is any less sad than that of Israel under her kings? While we are thankful for what God is doing in our midst, we cannot close our eyes to the fact that a great contrast exists between the low spiritual state of the saints in the twentieth century and the glorious times of the apostles. No doubt God has graciously granted in our days recovery and revival, as He did in the days of Hezekiah and Josiah, but in spite of this the drift continues, and looks as though there will be no staying of its tide. Should our few thoughts upon these Scriptures in any way encourage us to emulate the good example of those kings and prophets, who sought to keep Israel right with the Lord and recover them when they had gone astray, and also cause us to avoid the evil doings of those other kings and false prophets, whose influence was a curse to the Nation, then these few papers will not have been written in vain.
The First Book of Kings opens with an account of David’s last days and the means used to alleviate his increasing debility. The passage of time had changed the once ruddy and agile youth, who had hazarded his life to meet the giant, into a shivering, bed-ridden invalid, no longer fit to administer the kingdom, much less go forth to war. In these circumstances the natural concern of many in Israel was the question as to who would be his successor to the throne, though he himself had no doubt about the matter, for God had already revealed to him that He had chosen Solomon for this position (1 Chron. 22:9).
An unexpected crisis arose, however, when Adonijah, another of David’s sons, aspired to the kingship. He judged, perhaps, that being in all probability the oldest son alive, and also in good favour with his father and the people, he had a natural right to claim the throne, even though he was doing so without Divine sanction. His ambition to be exalted had lain dormant for a time, but the circumstances then prevailing gave him the opportunity to fulfil his desires. The temptation brought him out in his true colours. He would seize the crown in spite of his father and without regard for the will of God. In all this he is typical of the great future usurper, the Antichrist, who in self-will and pride will reign in the land until the true King of Kings, typified in Solomon, is set by God upon His throne.
This high-handed action of Adonijah in Israel finds a parallel in the history of many of the assemblies of God to-day. It is always a critical time for the saints when godly and trusted guides become feeble or are taken Home. The question invariably arises as to who will fill their shoes. The most likely thing to happen is that some, like Adonijah, will conclude that because they are the oldest in the meeting and very popular and friendly disposed toward the saints, the burden of church government should fall upon their shoulders. Indeed in not a few cases it is to be feared that some wait expectantly for the day when they will step forward to the place of leadership. Neither the will of God, nor their insufficiency for the responsibilities involved, appear to give them the slightest concern. Little wonder that the late Mr. Hoste, while speaking upon Heb. 13:17, remarked, “Fools walk where angels fear to tread.” Seldom do assemblies realize that, while elders must not be novices, yet neither age nor popularity fits a man for oversight. Self exaltation, as in Adonijah’s case, may put a man into a high position, but it cannot enable him to fill it for the glory of God. No man, who is holding his place by his own efforts, is to be envied, for no one who is self-appointed, can count upon God to maintain his cause.
There can be little doubt in our minds that Adonijah had studied the revolt of his brother Absalom and noted carefully the reasons for its failure. He, in all probability, concluded that, if Joab, the military leader, and Abiather, the religious leader, had been with Absalom, the victory would have been assured. With this in mind, he confides in these two men and solicits their support in obtaining the crown. For craft, cruelty, and conquering glory Joab had no rival in Israel; and in the religious sphere, Abiather, on account of his associations with the Ark and David’s pilgrimages, had the esteem and respect of all who worshipped at God’s altar. With the help of these two most influential men of the Nation, he felt satisfied that his purpose could be achieved. Yet it is clear that some other personages were notably absent from the new court. Neither David, the aged king, nor Solomon his brother, nor Nathan the prophet, nor any of his uncles, nor Benaiah was called to his coronation. Not one of these had been snared by his scheme. Is it not passing strange, that seldom does anything contrary to God develop amongst the saints, but some noted brethren are associated with it, while at the same time others, who perhaps would oppose the wrong course, are not acquainted with what is being done. The two leaders mentioned above were directed by natural wisdom and found themselves fighting against the man of God’s choice. Spiritual men, even though not so crafty, are often preserved from laying hands suddenly upon men and from being partakers of others’ sins.
Adonijah had sufficient understanding to perceive that his ambition to be king could not be attained without the support of the populace. His simple device to win them over was very effectual. A great feast, free for everyone was all that he required to provide. Human nature in men is depraved and selfish enough to reach for something for nothing, even though it may be but a bait to catch their support. Flattery and feasting are often employed by false leaders to win the hearts of the people. It is to be feared that quite a few, who are but place seekers, invite their poorer brethren to their homes, not that they feel for them in their poverty, but because they seek their support in the assembly, and are prepared to pay for it with material things. What is even more humiliating, is that many of God’s dear people are not difficult to buy. It is well to keep in mind the words of another, “He that can be bought is not worth buying, and he that is worth buying cannot be bought.”
The guests of Adonijah were soon disillusioned. The feast was not over until they heard a noise in the city. This in turn was followed by the news that another king, Solomon, had been crowned, so they fled every man to his house. The same principle still operates amongst the saints. God’s men may be despised and rejected for a time, but He will see to it that in His own time and way they will be given their divinely appointed positions. All such can learn a lesson from Solomon. He made no effort to reach the throne. He left his cause in better hands, and when God’s time came he found himself in the place of responsibility without the slightest doubt in his mind that he had either fought or struggled to reach it.
WE WOULD SEE JESUS
- We would see Jesus, for the shadows lengthen
- Across this little landscape of our life;
- We would see Jesus, our weak faith to strengthen
- For the last weariness, the final strife.
- We would see Jesus, the great rock foundation,
- Whereon our feet were set by sovereign grace;
- Not life, nor death, with all their agitation.
- Can thence remove us, if we see His face.
- We would see Jesus, other lights are paling,
- Which for long years we have rejoiced to see;
- The blessings of our pilgrimage are failing;
- We would not mourn them, for we go to Thee.
- We would see Jesus, this is all we’re needing;
- Strength, joy, and willingness come with the sight
- We would see Jesus, dying, risen, pleading,
- Then welcome, day! and farewell, mortal night!
- CHOICE HYMNS OF THE FAITH No. 387
Strive to see God in all things without exception, and acquiesce in His will with absolute submission. Do everything for God, uniting yourself to Him by a mere upward glance, and by the overflowing of your heart towards Him. Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inward peace for anything whatsoever. Even if the whole world seems upset, commend all to God, and then lie still and be at rest in His bosom. Whatever happens, abide steadfast in a determination to cling simply to God, trusting in His eternal love for you; and if you find that you have wandered forth from His shelter, recall your heart quietly and simply. Maintain a holy simplicity of mind and do not smother yourself with a host of cares, wishes or longings, under any pretext.
(A 16th Century Saint)
Winter in London
“If religion, any religion, is what it claims to be, then it is something so tremendous that you must either reject it with due reflection, or accept it with due devotion. To potter about with it… is to be both illogical and insensitive? If I am in any way a believer that Christ the Lord has lived and died for man and made man’s salvation possible by suffering, then I should be awe-struck at the splendour of this mystery.
To coax the waverers and deserters with appeals and attractions, as though the Church were part of the entertainment industry, seems to me fatal.”
Ivor Brown in “Winter in London.”
The Bible is the central jewel of which Creation is the setting. There is not a single contradiction in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. It is the medicine book of the ages, a book of moral training, moral restriction, moral remedy. It is a singing book, a healthy book, a book which has not a morbid spot in it from beginning to end, a book which is full of choirs, full of angel voices, full of inspiration, full of nobleness and grandeur all the way through. The real inspiration of the Bible is that it inspires love in you and in all that read it. There never was and there never will be a book so directly inspired of God from beginning to end. There is no single precept in it that is wrong; everywhere it is against animalism, against vengeance, against cruelty, against selfishness. Everywhere it is for righteousness, the largest and noblest. No architect ever conceived of such an estate as God’s Word, and no artist or carver or sculptor ever conceived of such pictures and statues as adorn its apartments. When a man has given up the one fact of the inspiration of the Scriptures, he has given up the whole foundation of revealed religion. The friendliness, the exaltation, the nobility, the gentleness, the encouragement, the helpfulness, the beautifulness of the Bible make it a most wonderful Book.
—Henry Ward Beecher.