Thoughts on Second Chronicles.

Thoughts on Second Chronicles.

R. B.

2 Chronicles 1 - 7
2 Chronicles 8, 9
2 Chronicles 10 - 12
2 Chronicles 12 - 16
2 Chronicles 17 - 20
2 Chronicles 20 – 22:9
2 Chronicles 22:10-24
2 Chronicles 24, 25
2 Chronicles 25
2 Chronicles 26
2 Chronicles 27 - 28
2 Chronicles 29 – 30
2 Chronicles 31 – 33
2 Chronicles 34 – 35
2 Chronicles 36

2 Chronicles 1 – 7.

1892 36 The wars of the Lord are now ended, Solomon is on the throne of the Lord. Further glories appear, and a fresh page is turned in the book of God's counsels. The prince of peace is on the throne, and we have the building, and the numbering, the order, and the arrangement of the servants of the temple. Not now as when David ascended the throne, then the numbering was of mighty men of valour, ready armed for war "a great host like the host of God." Now all enemies are subdued; even the internal disturbers, as Adonijah, Joab and their adherents are not even worthy of mention — the last but equally impotent effort of Satan against God's chosen man. In the joy and glory with which the second book of Chronicles opens all else is either annihilated or enshrined in its brightness. As when the feeble rays of a lamp are over-powered and lost in the light of the midday sun, but the precious gem shines in a splendour beyond its own; so the glory of Jehovah rests upon all. It filled the house; and Solomon on his knees before the altar shines more than when sitting on the throne.

The Gentile has the privilege of having a little share in the building of that house; he has not the readiness and free-giving of an Israelite, but he has a place there, and we may say a blessed place. And a more blessed place is yet to come. For that house is to be a house of prayer for all nations (Mark xi. 17). And the presence of king Huram's labourers may have been the occasion of the psalmist's prophetic utterance. "And the daughter of Tyre shall be there with a gift" (Ps. xlv. 12). And the Tyrian Gentile will shout then with more intelligence." "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel that made heaven and earth, Who hath given to David a wisdom endued with prudence and understanding that might build a house for the Lord and a house for His kingdom" (2 Chron. ii. 12). The Gentile's place was subordinate, but participating in Israel's blessedness.

This fact and the psalmist's prophecy must have been known to the scribes and pharisees who boasted of their knowledge of their law, that in the days of the temple's pristine glory Gentiles were there. Why then raise such a tumult in Paul's day, saying that he had brought a Gentile — an Ephesian into the temple? There was more hatred of Paul than against the Gentile; not so much jealousy of the Gentile as dislike of the truth. No difference! and that salvation was as greatly needed by the Jew, as by the Gentile!

The abiding presence of Jehovah in His house was dependent upon the obedience and faithfulness of the king, and Solomon knowing his responsibility prays for wisdom to govern Israel aright. Doubtless David as a saint knew that he was responsible; but Solomon is presented here as responsible for the right exercise of his kingly functions, and he accordingly asks for wisdom. He asked because he needed. God uses him and sets him in a position, that we may, as it were, look through him as through a glass on to the glories of the Messiah; yet He meets him as a man in his necessities, which became all the greater because he was so highly exalted. The unwisdom of a mean man might pass unnoticed, but folly found in a king would be like dead flies in the apothecary's ointment.

But Messiah, the Lord Jesus, is wisdom, both the wisdom and the power of God (see 1 Cor. 1). and He will ask in that day, yet not for wisdom but for the accomplishment of God's decree. "Ask of Me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession" (Ps. ii. 18). Grace postpones that day, for it is the day of judgment. God forbears long with the wicked, and His long-suffering is salvation. When the Lord was about to suffer, He made a very different request to his Father from that which He will make in the day of vengeance. He was occupied with His disciples and said, I ask for them, I ask not for the world," (John xvii. 9). The present time is characterised by divine patience, and He Who is the coming king reveals Himself now as the Saviour. In that day He will ask and receive, and dash them — His enemies — in pieces like a potter's vessel,

The Lord exceedingly magnified Solomon in the sight of all Israel, and bestowed upon him such royal majesty as had not been on any king before him. Alas! no sooner has he reached the topmost glory, than he begins to use his high position, and riches, as a means for the gratifying of the flesh, and the pride of life. He multiplied chariots, sent to Egypt for horses, and multiplied wives and silver and gold (see Deut. xvii. 16, 17). The Lord God had laid down a rule for the guidance of the king. and Solomon disobeys in all points. This could not fail to bring judgment. It was delayed for a little, for the accomplishment of the counsels of God concerning His Son must have the first place. The house of David began to feel the first strokes of judgment in the last days of Solomon. In the following reign the kingdom was rent in twain.

But God's purpose to give a picture of the future blessedness was not yet complete, and judgment must stand aside awhile. The temple must first be built, the glory must fill it. The priest must be sanctified, and the singers — not the least important in that joyful time — must be arrayed in white linen, having cymbals and psalteries and harps. Then when the glorious future is presented, the whole panorama is rolled up, and the history of the kingdom is briefly given so as to mark each downward step unto the end.

We think of another white-robed company, whose robes are made white in the blood of the Lamb, whose voices will join in a sweeter song than that of the singers of Israel. It will be the shout of all, "For He is good, for His mercy endureth for ever." But there is a speciality about the white-robed company in Rev. vii. 13, etc., etc. The Lamb spreads His tabernacle over them, rather than dwells among these Gentiles. Jehovah, as it were, came down to receive the tribute of praise from Israel's singers, and filled the temple with the cloud of His presence. The picture would not be complete without it.

The foreshadowing of the glories of the millennial reign of Christ is closed, for what more can be added, when His glory fills the house? It is the crown of Israel's blessing.

There are seemingly two occasions when the glory filled the house so that the priests could not minister. The first (2 Chron. 5:11-14) is before Solomon's prayer, when the trumpeters, singers, and all join with one voice saying, or singing "For He is good, for His mercy endureth for ever," that then the house was filled with a cloud, the cloud appears as an answer to their shout of praise. Jehovah steps down from the heaven of heavens, His dwelling place, to His earthly throne, to receive the praise of His people and reveals His presence by a cloud. On the second occasion (2 Chron. vii. 3) after Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offerings and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the house. Two facts are recorded, the same as on the former occasion. The priests could not enter the temple by reason of the glory, and the people worship and repeat the same words, "For He is good, for His mercy endureth for ever." But when there were two occasions, the Holy Ghost is repeating the joyous record, returning to it after having given Solomon's prayer which gives more cause for grief than for joy, occupied with Israel's sin, and captivity in the end; this scene is the climax of their blessedness, the essence of their glory. Henceforth the glory declines, the fine gold becomes dim. Not many years after that glorious display, the dark shades of night spread a funeral pall over the guilty city and captive people, which will not be removed, till the nation's moral resurrection, when "many of them that sleep in the dust shall awake" (see Dan. xii).

At this point — Solomon's prayer — there is a transition from the setting forth of the kingly glories and power of the Only-Begotten, in spite of man's failure and errors, to the committal of what was used by God as a vehicle to declare these glories, to the care and responsibilities of man; to a man who was made a king, and endowed with wisdom and honour beyond any other king, before or after, but who was not able to sustain the weight of it. The throne and the temple were entrusted to king Solomon's keeping, and the glory of each dependent upon one man. Solomon knows his position, and prays. He blesses the Lord God, blesses the congregation, then takes the attitude of supplication, and spreads forth his hands towards heaven. As David before the ark, so Solomon before the altar; but what a difference between David's psalm and Solomon's prayer! Though the ark be only in a tent, and the altar be in the gorgeous temple, yet David's view of the coming glory is not hidden by the intervening failure of Israel which limits the outlook of Solomon.

God said to David, "there shall not a man fail thee to sit upon my throne." There was always a man whose birthright it was to sit upon David's throne. Unworthiness was found in each, but the line of descent continues till Christ came. He is the Man on Whom the Holy Spirit looks. In Him there was, and is, the divine right as well as the human title; for He is the Son of God as well as Son of David, and whatever may intervene between the promise and its fulfilment, He will assuredly sit there. Solomon, unlike David, looks not on to the bright future unless the last words of his prayer (2 Chron. 5:40, etc.) express his faith in God remembering His mercies to David. The word that presses upon his mind is "Yet so that thy children [David's] take heed to their ways, to walk in my statutes, as thou [David] hast walked before Me." This gives a supplicatory character to his prayer. David's psalm is rather thanksgiving and praise, for he contemplates Israel in the land, in the enjoyment of God's uninterrupted favour, Solomon sees them rebellious, suffering, and scattered. David calls upon the heavens to be glad, and on the nations to say "The Lord reigneth." Solomon prays for mercy when Israel shall be dispersed among the nations. David calls on the God of salvation, rejoicing in that name. "Save us" he says, not in view of Israel's backsliding but that the heathen should he finally subdued, for the ark in the temple — the evidence of final victory — was not yet. He is full of the promise. Solomon thinks of his present responsibility, of Israel's sin, and deprecates the righteous anger of God, and, pleading, as it were, the pity and compassion of God in view of the broken covenant, explains, "What man is there that sinneth not?" In a word, David calls upon a happy people to praise the Lord, Solomon prays for mercy and forgiveness for a sinful people; the dominant note in David's song of praise, and with which he closes is "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel for ever and ever;" the constantly recurring petition in Solomon's prayer is, Hear Thou from the heavens, and when Thou hearest, forgive.

The time when Messiah will sit upon His throne was then and is still future, but it was present to David's faith. Solomon's prayer is not prophetic of the coming happy time but of the near future when Israel would forsake the Lord, and the Lord forsake His house and dwell in he heaven of heavens. Even there would He hear the supplication and confessions of the repentant. The Holy Spirit through His inspired instrument gives this repeated cry, "Then hear Thou from the heavens, Thy dwelling place," thus teaching the contrite and humble to look up through the surrounding gloom to God's eternal dwelling place. A gracious intimation that in the last and closing days of the people's long captivity, when in a far country, and no access to the temple, when every outward mark of their still being the chosen people of God is gone, let them only look up to the heaven of heavens, and He Who sits on the throne will hear, and will forgive.


2 Chronicles 6.

1892 53 In Solomon's prayer there seemed to be two different grounds on which he stands to prefer his requests. The first he takes is the promise conditionally given to his father David. In the second, it is the mercy of God that can forgive after sin is committed. For sin having appeared whether in any man, or in the nation at large even though Solomon himself personally be not guilty, the whole kingdom would be lost unless God in His mercy went beyond the terms of His covenant with David. Hence in the case of transgression there can he no cry but for forgiveness.

These essentially different standpoints appear, the first from 2 Chron. 6:14-20, and the second in ver. 21, and following. In the latter Solomon is no longer on covenant ground. Forgiveness would not be needed if he and the people had righteously fulfilled the conditions laid on them, for God's promise was made contingent upon their obedience. In the former part there appears no doubt or fear of his own, or the people's, taking heed to the law; and in this his request is "let thy word be verified." It is calling on God not to forgive, but to fulfil His promise. There seems this confidence in himself, for though he speaks of any man sinning, or even of all the people, he never says, If we sin. The Lord does not fail to remind him that he was as liable to sin as any man (see 2 Chron. vii. 17), and that it is upon his failure, dragging all the people with him, the solemn judgment of God is pronounced.

He recognises the infinite majesty of God. "But will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth? Behold heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee; how much less this house that I have built." The thought of the infinite greatness of God subdues him, and henceforth his prayer becomes more supplicatory in character. "Have respect therefore to the prayer of Thy servant and to his supplication; O Lord my God to hearken unto the cry and the prayer which Thy servant prayeth before thee that Thine eyes may be open upon this house day and night, upon the place whereof Thou hast said that Thou wouldest put Thy name there; to hearken unto the prayer which Thy servant prayeth toward this place. Hearken therefore unto the supplications of Thy servants and of thy people Israel which they shall make toward this place; hear Thou from Thy dwelling-place, even from heaven, and when Thou hearest, forgive."

Forgiveness is linked with God in his dwelling-place, the heaven of heavens, and not with the house. For grace is sovereign and has its source in God dwelling in the heavens. The temple and its magnificence were well suited for the law and the covenant, but forgiveness is with God in His dwelling-place. Thither Solomon looks. Nothing could be hidden from the all-searching eye of God and as if the thought expressed in 2 Chron. 6:36 — "there is no man which sinneth not" — were pressing upon his heart, he prays for forgiveness. For if God judged on the principle of law, and righteousness apart from grace, He would, yea must, forsake His house and leave Israel under the awful judgment of a broken covenant. Often does he say "hear and forgive." And God did repeatedly hear and forgive (governmentally) till He was compelled to judge, and say "why should ye be stricken any more?" Solomon's prayer to this point is general; but he knows there is no man that sinneth not, and he is in presence of the holiness and righteousness of God, Who can only meet man on the ground of infinite mercy and sovereign grace. He did not know, as we, how that mercy is secured, yea, abounds, through the cross of Christ.

"If any man sin against his neighbour." Such a thing might happen as an exception to the general obedience of the people. Had the people never become idolaters and externally at least maintained the righteousness of the law, there was still the possibility of an individual sinning against his neighbour. And Solomon's prayer in such a case is not, Hear and forgive, but "Hear thou from heaven [where he knew that forgiveness could only be found] and do, and judge Thy servants by requiting the wicked, by recompensing his way upon his own head, and by justifying the righteous by giving him according to his righteousness." This is law. If the sinner had been immediately requited in judgment, neither land nor people Would have been polluted. But when the whole nation are sinners, when those whose office it was to vindicate the law were equally guilty, who then could righteously take vengeance for a broken law? Such the whole had become in the time of the prophets, and for this reason the prophets were sent, and dark pictures are given of the chosen people's sin and guilt. It was even worse when the Lord was here; for in His presence they dared to appear as vindicators of the law when their own conscience could and did bear witness against them. Their incompetency to act was made manifest (see John 8) Only the mercy that endureth for ever could act for such a people. And he who at the first said "Verify Thy word" can only now say "Hear and forgive."

What a mingling of law and grace is here, if the way of the wicked is recompensed upon his own head? where is forgiveness? The law never brought out the depths of sin in man. Nor, while the law obtained as a rule of life, could forgiveness be known as the gospel proclaims it. While the saint of old as under law knew that if the Lord marked iniquity none could stand, and has not the knowledge, nor could have of a perfect redemption — can only say, "But there is forgiveness with Thee that Thou mayest be feared" (Ps. cxxx.), he had not the knowledge of God's perfect love which casteth out all fear. By the unspeakable grace of God this knowledge is ours. The experience of these saints never rose to christian experience. Looking to law as a rule of life, along with grace for forgiveness, was a condition that did not meet the mind and love of God (see Heb. viii. 8). Now the believer in Christ has died to law, is separated from the whole order of things, which was suited for God's earthly people, and quite right then, but wrong now.

The believer now has a heavenly calling, being in a sphere which is beyond the reach of the law which pressed upon the saints of old so that they were in bondage all their life. Is then the believer lawless? Nay, but as risen with Christ, he is to live to God, and Christ is his law in the new resurrection sphere. The grace that came by Christ teaches us to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present age; the law said, Thou shalt not covet, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt love the Lord with all thy heart, etc. But the grace goes farther, giving the impelling power to fulfil the righteousness of the law (which the law itself never could, and was never intended to do). The grace adds, to look for the appearing of the glory, and this is a chief part of christianity, and is always accompanied (where it is not mere sentiment but a divine reality) with power so to live as the grace given teaches. Shall a forgiven man go to the law for the measure of his holiness and obedience? That same law which when in force by the authority of God could only stir up the flesh and excite its opposition?

There was a time when obedience to the law, or disobedience, was the dividing line between the saints of God, and all others. But it did not separate saints from the world. For there was then no cross. Now saints, believers, are crucified to the world, and the world to them. This is a complete and absolute severance not merely from its sins and condemnation, but from it as a system which may have good things (good naturally) as well as bad. We as believers in Christ belong to an entirely different sphere, as separate from the old system in which Solomon lived, as the Lord Jesus risen." They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world" (John xvii.).

The requests of Solomon go not beyond temporal evils and temporal judgments. For Israel is God's earthly people; but they are Jehovah's people and Solomon constantly says Thy people. And though the wickedness of the people seems to spread out before his eye, so does also the goodness of God, and for the worst sins he can beseech forgiveness. He had before said, "If any man sin," as if such a thing would be an exception in Israel; but now in 2 Chron. 6:29, the exception to the general prevalence of iniquity would be if any man prayed or confessed his sin.

Still in this desperate condition of the people, he says, "and render unto every man according unto all his ways" (2 Chron. 6:30). But forgiveness is blended with the law, which had no place in the law as given by Moses, though the forgiving character of God was revealed to him in the mount (Ex. xxxiv. 6, 7). It is now brought prominently out, and God's perfect absolute knowledge of the heart is, as it were, pleaded as a reason for forgiveness. Under the gospel it is not law alone, nor law and grace mixed, as under the intercession of Moses, but grace reigning through righteousness by Christ our Lord.

The stranger is prayed for, and comes in to share in Israel's blessings and privileges, even to pray in this house. The Lord said it was written "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations" (Mark xi. 17). The comparatively few strangers that worshipped in that temple cannot be the full answer to Solomon's request, He was led by the prophetic Spirit of God beyond the time then present to the time when all Israel shall know the Lord; and he goes on to say "that all the peoples of the earth may know Thy name as doth Thy people Israel." In that day Israel will be the greatest nation and bear rule over the Gentiles, but will also he a model of obedience and worship.

But before the brightness of that millennial day bursts on the world, a greater sin and a heavier judgment than all before it shall be found with that people. Their sins and their judgments had been in the land; the outpouring of the wrath of Jehovah drove them out of their own land into one afar off. Captivity to the Gentiles was to succeed pestilence and famine and war. These which they suffered in the land were sufficient to teach them to be obedient to the law of God if they had had ears to hear and hearts to understand. But they were heedless to every call, their hearts were impervious to God's patient dealing, restoration after chastisement only gave them further opportunity for sin until the cup ran over. And God said, Why should ye be stricken (chastised) any more? and gave them up to the Gentile. Even the sorrows of the Babylonish captivity so deeply felt by Jeremiah were comparatively light before those under the power of the Romans, and the two tribes that represent Israel feel Gentile oppression much more now than when carried to Babylon. And greater woe awaits them before that day comes. But the prophetic prayer of Solomon comprehends a return and a gathering of all back again to their land. He reaches forward to the millennial day. "Now therefore arise, O Lord God, into Thy resting-place. Thou, and the ark of Thy strength; let Thy priests, O Lord God, be clothed with salvation, and let Thy saints rejoice in goodness" (2 Chron. 6:41). It is in the form of a prayer, but it is not the less a prophetic description of their millennial gladness. And as it were recognising that all this blessing is not because of Israel's repentance, but for His sake Who is appointed to reign over them, Solomon closes with the feeling that all rests with Him. "O Lord God, turn not away the face of thine Anointed; remember the mercies of David Thy servant."

Sin and its judgment, a possible repentance, and forgiveness from God, occupy his mind and are the subject of his prayer. But the mercy of God is as prominent in Solomon's prayer, as was the inflexible righteousness of God in the law given by Moses; and it was on this mingled system of grace and righteousness that God dealt with Israel until the Lord came, the fruit of mediatorial intercession really. God (to speak after the manner of men) accepts Solomon's modification of the old covenant. "And the Lord appeared to Solomon by night, and said unto him, I have heard thy prayer" (2 Chron. vii. 12), and takes up special cases of judgment; if the people repent, He will hear and forgive. But He did more; He did not wait for their repentance, but sent prophets to rebuke, warn, of the inevitable judgment that must follow sin; to invite, yea plead with, them to repent, and ii they did repent, to say what grace would do for them.

God's gracious words to Solomon form a fresh starting point with Israel, and the message of the prophets is founded on it. Isaiah says, "Repent, and God will abundantly pardon." The law visited the sins of the fathers upon the children. Ezekiel says, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die; the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father," nor his own, if he turn from his unrighteousness. And in view of this grace rising above law, both the people and their kings sank deeper in iniquity until God says, as if giving a reason for His judgment, "What could I have done more for my vineyard that I have not done?" The first words of Isaiah are that God had brought and nourished children that became rebellious, and that the ox and the ass were more faithful to their owners than Israel to God.

Nevertheless Solomon is reminded of his own responsibility. The continuation of the kingdom, as it was given to him, hung upon his own faithfulness. God says, "If thou," etc., and adds, "if ye turn away," for the people would assuredly follow their king. And the consequent judgment would (and did) fall upon all Israel. "I will root up them": even the house called by His own name should become a reproach. But the nations, the Gentiles, would know why God so dealt with them.


2 Chronicles 7 – 9.

1892 68 The Lord manifests His acceptance of the worship of Israel, and of Solomon's prayer, for fire descends from heaven and consumes the sacrifices, and His glory fills the house, and He also graciously grants the King's requests. He will hear and forgive if the people humble themselves and pray to Him. He will look on that house and be attent to the prayer that is made in it. And the Lord is as minute and particular in His answer as was Solomon in his prayer. "If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people, if my people which are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now mine eyes shall he open and mine ears attent unto the prayer that is made in this place. For now have I chosen and sanctified this house that my name may be there for ever and mine eyes and mine ears shall be there perpetually" (2 Chron. vii. 13-16). Solomon prays for Israel as the Lord's people; he said in his prayer, Thy people. And the Lord owns them as His, and says, My people.

It was in the night the Lord appeared and answered his prayer. As the chief if not the sole responsibility rested on him, a private word is given, not in the hearing of the people but special to him. "And as for thee, if thou wilt walk before me as David thy father walked, and do according to all that I have commanded thee, and shalt observe my statutes and my judgments, then will I establish the throne of thy kingdom according as I have covenanted with David thy father, saying, There shall not fail thee a man to he ruler in Israel." This is a word for Solomon himself as to his own ways and obedience to which he made no reference in his prayer — unless it be contained in the words, "there is no man which sinneth not." Yet are they remarkable words from one who was under law (for at that time the two tables that Moses wrote were in the ark, but not the budding rod, nor the manna), and therefore on the ground of establishing his own righteousness. The words are almost a confession that his righteousness at the best would only be as filthy rags. Be his thoughts what they might, the Lord reminds him of what he seemed forgetful. "And as for thee" must have awakened in him thoughts and feelings which perhaps had till that moment lain dormant; if faithful and obedient, the unbroken continuance of his throne is promised. But if he failed, though the forgiveness which the Lord had pledged Himself to would certainly be shown to him and to the people, yet persistent sin would ultimately bring upon them unfailing judgment. "But if ye turn away and forsake my statutes and my commandments which I have set before you, and shall go and serve other gods and worship them, then will I pluck them up by the roots out of my land which I have given them, and this house which I have sanctified for my name will I cast out of my sight and will make it a proverb and a byword among all nations. And this house which is high shall be an astonishment to every one that passeth by it, so that he shall say, Why hath the Lord done this unto the land and unto this house? and it shall be answered, Because they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods and worshipped them and served them, therefore hath He brought all this evil upon them" (2 Chron. vii. 19 etc.).

Solomon was disobedient, and "did evil in the sight of the Lord" (1 Kings xi. 6): all these evils fell upon them. Solomon's throne was overturned, the house was destroyed, and the people made captives; even the righteous remnant had to share in the national calamity. And it is Solomon himself who in the first years of his reign shadowed forth the peaceful glories of Messiah's rule and kingdom; in his later years he becomes the leader, the first link among the kings of Israel of the abominations which in the end brought on king and people the long-threatened judgment of God. Thus, the first idol, after the temple was built and the Lord's name called on, was found in the family of the king, of him who had so earnestly prayed that the Lord God would turn not away the face of His anointed. And the idol was not a secret thing worshipped by his servants, but by his wives in public, and he built altars for them. He who had led the people in the worship of Jehovah, is now and thus the leader in idolatry.

The typical character of Solomon's reign ceased when, or soon after, the temple was filled with glory, and the honoured type gives place to failing man. In Solomon's greatness and his subsequent fall we have an answer to the all-important question: — Can man sustain himself in the position of the highest favour and dignity possible, the immediate gift of God (short of new and eternal life) by his own strength? Let Solomon's fall answer, and in the N. T. see Heb. vi. But was it upon Solomon's fidelity that the promise of God depended? Nay, the kingdom of God is not contingent upon Solomon's faithfulness, but rests on One greater than Solomon, Who at the right and appointed time will surely establish it.

Solomon said, "Verify Thy word." Truly the word is verified in their judgment. But there is one promise that their sin and judgment do not touch. While every blessing which depended upon their obedience is lost, this one becomes more necessary (so to say) through their unfaithfulness. The Lord had said, there shall not fail thee a man to be ruler in Israel; that God's king should sit upon His throne in Zion. It is His eternal purpose and declared in His word (Ps. ii), though kings and rulers take counsel against Him. This decree could not be annulled even if all Israel were for ever destroyed. There is nothing in God's righteous judgment on the land, the people or the house, not even on the royal family of David of whom the promised king was to come, that could in any way set aside God's immutable decree concerning His Son. This promise shines with increased lustre when all apparently is lost; for when the armies of Nebuchadnezzar besieged the city, when Jeremiah was in prison for his testimony when their cup of iniquity was full, and the Gentile was to rule over them, then the word of the Lord came to the imprisoned prophet, "David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel" (Jer. xxxiii. 17), and now joined to the priest and Levite (see whole chapter) there shall not want a man before the Lord to offer burnt-offerings — a sacrifice continually. Thus the throne and the temple shall be both on a foundation of God's laying. "Behold I lay in Zion for a foundation" etc. (Isa. xxviii. 16).

There appears to be a delay to the setting up of this glorious kingdom, and, though Israel is under the appointed judgment during the delay, their judgment is not the sole reason of the delay (apparent), but that through Israel's fall salvation might come to the Gentile (Rom. xi. 11), or, as Peter says, the long-suffering of our Lord is salvation. The Man, Who is to reign, has appeared. He came in the likeness of sinful flesh to lay a righteous foundation for the bringing in of a greater glory than Solomon knew, yea, and much more. For as the prophet said, "It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth" (Isa. xlix. 6). It is now salvation to the Gentile. When He comes to restore the preserved of Israel, this present day of long-suffering will have closed for ever. He Who is coming — our Lord Jesus — is now sitting on the right hand of the Majesty on high. Exalted to the highest, He is waiting there on God's throne till His enemies are made His footstool. Meanwhile, He has all power over all flesh to give eternal life to as many as the Father has given Him. As the ark floated over the waters of the deluge (for God's word — The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head — was contained in it) while the earth that then was perished, so does this decree of God, this promise to Israel, this blessing for the whole earth, the eternal decree, rise above the moral and judicial flood that now overwhelms Israel.

Solomon is still the connecting link between God and the people, and he is responsible to maintain it. And when he as it were broke that link, there was none but that sovereign "mercy endureth for ever" to keep the earth before the mind of God as an object of pity and compassion, till Christ came Who brought grace and truth, not to mend the old broken link which truth cast away for ever as a useless thing, but that grace might establish a new and better link between God and (believing) man. And the Lord Jesus, God and man, brings the believer into relationship with God. "For ye are all sons of God by faith in Jesus Christ" (Gal. iii. 26). A mere human link might, with the law, serve the purpose of God for the time. But now that eternal redemption is proclaimed, there must necessarily be One Who in accomplishing eternal redemption could bring not only God down in love to man, but believing man up to God. This is the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Son of man. "He hath done this" (Ps. xxii). Now there is a link everlasting between God in heaven and men on the earth through faith in Him Whom God has highly exalted. And the Spirit is both unction and seal.

But Solomon is also responsible for the right use of the wisdom God gave him as befitting a man that is to be a type of God's king, and for all the accessories of power and riches and honour. For these things did not leave him when the typical aspect of his reign ceased; but he was surely responsible to God for them in the use he made of these great gifts and endowments. He asked for wisdom and knowledge that he might judge and rule God's people aright, and God approves of his request. And the Lord added riches and wealth and honour such as no other king had. He was wiser than all men; he spake three thousand proverbs, one thousand and five songs, he spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall, he spake also of beasts and of fowls, and of creeping things and of fishes (see 1 Kings iv. 29-34). Amazing knowledge! Earth, air and water disclose the secrets of the vegetable and of the animal creation of God. But was this wealth of knowledge needed for the government of Israel according to the law? Was it a necessary part of that wisdom for which he prayed (2 Chron. i. 10)? Did he not waste that power, that wisdom with which he was so eminently endowed? And was there no misuse of the abundant riches, which the Lord added to him? Were they given that he might bring horses out of Egypt, possess chariots, and multiply wives, things expressly forbidden? Can we wonder that when he looked upon all his labour, his verdict is, Vanity and vexation of spirit. (Ecc. i). He failed in nothing upon which he set his heart, and his word upon all is — no profit under the sun. We hear the words of our Lord Who said long after, What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul? We do not dare pronounce on his soul; but he gained much of the world's riches, and found — no profit. The conclusion he comes to is, "There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour etc." (Ecc. ii. 24); and that all this was nothing but vanity and vexation, he saw or had learned, was from the hand of God. The rich man in Luke xii. said, "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years: take thine ease, eat, drink and be merry;" but God said Thou fool. Treasure for self and not toward God must end in vanity and vexation of spirit; and this was Solomon's experience. And in it his responsibility lay.

Alas! man being in honour abideth not. Impossible that a mere man could maintain such a place as being the channel of God's word to man or of man's supplication to God. Only One could do that mighty work of connecting heaven with earth, and only One could bring the eye of God to be open on that house, and His ear attent to the prayer that is made in it; only He everlasting. It is not now the old link of creation, as of God with a sinless creature, as with Adam before he sinned, or even with Israel under a modified law, but on the ground of redemption, a new and eternal link; through faith now, through the manifested glory in the coining time.

The consequences of disobedience are not limited to himself, yet all hangs upon him; his turning away involved that of the people. That, vast outlook of glory and power and dominion was presented to Solomon as the reward of his obedience. But as resting on his faithfulness it was but a house built on the sand. The floods of idolatry overthrew it, and great was the fall thereof.

When the appointed time comes, all will hang on Him Who cannot fail. For He is the man of God's right hand, and to Him praise is ascribed by every creature. "Blessing and honour and glory and power be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever" (Rev. 5:13).

2 Chronicles 8, 9.

1892 83 We are now on lower ground (ch. viii). Not here a foreshadowing of the peaceful reign of Messiah; but a man is presented who is in possession of glory and honour which was given that he might, as far as a mere man, display the glories of the coming kingdom; a man who used his excellent wisdom in searching out the things of nature and found no profit in them.

In his wisdom he utilizes the cities that Hiram refused (1 Kings ix. 12, 13); he built store cities, secured his communications with outlying districts by fortifying the upper and the nether Beth-boron, fenced cities with walls and gates and bars. This is the display of prudence and strength in the presence of possible enemies. It is the evidence of that wisdom with which he was endowed, which, if he had not misused it, would not have been applied in accumulating horses and fortifying cities. This is not the aspect of Messiah's peaceful reign, when peace and safety is the portion of each Israelite; for the strength and impregnability of a kingdom may subsist under the oppressive power of a tyrant, and the showy splendour of the king may be only a veil to hide the oppression and tears of the subject.

As yet this was not the case with Israel. The Canaanites who were not consumed are made servants and pay tribute; the Israelites are captains and chiefs.

We are reminded of our Lord's words to Peter: they may allude to this period of Solomon's reign and throw a ray of light upon the future condition of the children of Israel. "Of whom do the kings of the earth take custom, or tribute, of their own children or of strangers? Of strangers, said Peter. Then, said the Lord, are the children free." Solomon had not yet so sunk in the slough of idolatry and forgetfulness of God as to deal with Israelites, the chosen people, as he did with Canaanites. His fall into idolatry, though rapid, was not as if proceeding at once from building the house of the Lord to the erection of an idol's temple. Even the heathen said "nemo fit repente turpissimus." The cause of his fall is given in few but pregnant words. "But Solomon loved many strange women." This was the steep incline.

The fame of Solomon's wisdom had brought the queen of Sheba to hear and prove it. She is astonished and overcome. But what will be the outshining of Him, of Whom the brightest days of Solomon were but a faint resemblance? She is only one of many, for "all the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom that God had put in his heart." But what are these kings of the earth compared with countless numbers that heaven and earth and sea will send forth to sing the praise of Him that liveth for ever and ever?

Solomon passes away, and a brief resumé is given of his riches and power (ch. ix). Pagans speak of the golden age of the world. This was surely the golden age for Israel (apart from their glorious future); the world's richest and most prized are but common things. Yet this is only the image of good things to come, when righteousness shall characterise Israel, as gold did the throne and the temple.

All this magnificence soon vanished. The display of glory rested upon the presence of the Lord in His house, and His abiding presence there depended upon Israel's obedience. From Chronicles we should not learn that the old enemy of idolatry, older than the calf at the foot of Mount Sinai, was secretly sapping the foundation of that visible display of glory. For while the outward service and worship of the temple were doubtless duly observed, idolatry was taking root and spreading in the king's own family. This evil is not recorded here; for the Holy Spirit in Chronicles is foreshadowing the glories and the kingdom of Christ, and not giving the history of Solomon's failures. All here is in intimate touch with the future, and the failures are recorded elsewhere. Those here mentioned are with the view of showing not so much what man is as of Satan's subtle attempts to prevent the establishment of the kingdom in God's appointed way. Every sin or failure which the Spirit records is always overtaken by judgment, not unmingled with mercy, proving that grace alone can meet man's sins and fulfil the counsels of God.

When the glory of the Lord filled the temple, the typical aspect of Solomon's reign ceased, for what more was needed to fill up the picture? Afterwards we have the doings of a wise man who uses human means to strengthen his kingdom. This is not the character of Messiah's peaceful reign, for His glory and rule shall be over the whole earth. The Spirit of God is not occupied with the doings of either David or Solomon, save subordinately as a frame fitted for the picture of Christ and His glory. The genealogy in the first book attests it. There was no need to begin with Adam to prove David's call to the throne, nor that Jesus of Nazareth was the son of David and the true heir to David's throne. But as Man having the right and title to reign over all, besides His special rights over Israel, His genealogy is traced from Adam leading through Abraham and David, and by Matthew carried on till He appears. So it is manifestly up to Adam in Luke.

Many events are omitted in Chronicles which were needed to show what manner of men these favoured types were, but not necessary to the Holy Spirit's design in Chronicles. For instance, there is not the sad story of Bathsheba. No mention of the rebellious attempts of Adonijah and his associates, who are, as historical excrescences, swept aside out of the path of the Holy Spirit occupied as He is with the kingly glories of Christ. We have the sure establishment of the kingdom, the subjugation of the nations (of all who are in contact with Israel), and the worship of God. This glory is committed to man with every advantage, but alas! proved to be utterly incompetent to retain it. And none but the Man Whom God made strong for Himself could uphold it, and He is both able and worthy, yea to exalt the glory of God.

2 Chronicles 10 – 12.

1892 101 Now all apparently depends on man's faithfulness, and necessarily the brightness is increasingly overshadowed until completely extinguished. The distant, as yet, black cloud had its beginning in Rehoboam's reign, morally its dark shadow began when Solomon multiplied his wives; it was the penumbra of the coming eclipse. In such a crowd of heathen women is it a wonder that Rehoboam proves to be a foolish son and constrained Solomon to say, "A foolish son is a grief to his father and bitterness to her that bare him." His first act was one of extreme folly more like the cruel despotism of an oriental tyrant than of wisdom that should have characterised the son of Solomon. But this folly, the immediate cause and occasion of the revolt of the ten tribes, is the consequence and fruit of Solomon's sin, and the beginning of the public manifestation of divine wrath. Solomon in his later years made Israel's yoke heavy, he chastised them with whips, but Rehoboam's foolish resolve brought their discontent to a head and the slumbering tribal jealousy now blazes forth with increased virulence and a leader appears who gives form and cohesion to the rebellious spirit of the ten tribes. A prophet had told Jeroboam that he should rule over them. This man is the appointed executor of God's judgment, and a breach is made in Israel which will only be healed when the true and wise King shall come and sit on the throne.

When Rehoboam gathered an army to punish the revolted tribes he is forbidden by the Lord. "Ye shall not go up to fight against your brethren: return every man to his own house: for this thing is done of me" (2 Chron. xi. 4). They obeyed. This seems like bowing to God's judgment; and for three years they walked in the way of David and Solomon. The priests and the Levites leave their possessions and come to Jerusalem; for Jeroboam's policy would not permit them to execute the priest's office unto the Lord. And so they strengthened the kingdom of Judah. For three years this foolish son acted wisely. Yet that the glory of Solomon's earlier years was gone, what greater proof than Rehoboam building and fortifying cities in Judah? Against whom? Against Israel, as against others. While he dealt wisely, he prospered. But the same snare which caused Solomon's fall brings Rehoboam into more open guilt. And the people follow him, true then as the prophet said later, "My people love to have it so." When he had strengthened himself he forsook the law of the Lord, and all Israel with him. Why is it said here, "all Israel with him" when the ten tribes had forsaken the law and the temple led by Jeroboam's priests? May it not be that Judah is called Israel as remaining true to David's house, and so far on covenant ground when the ten 1 tribes had forsaken it and morally were no longer Israel, which name is here limited to the two tribes which clave to the house of David and to the temple? The priests and the Levites, who had before left their possessions for the sake of the temple, now follow the king in his departure from the Lord; and thus it is "all Israel with him."

"This thing is done of me." This explains how it was that ten tribes as with one mind so suddenly shook off allegiance to the house of David. A fugitive servant no sooner blows his trumpet than they follow him. It was the judgment of the Lord, pronounced in Solomon's day, executed in the days of his son. "But I will take the kingdom out of his son's [Rehoboam's] hand and will give it unto thee [Jeroboam] even ten tribes" (1 Kings xi. 35).

There were two great tribes, Ephraim and Judah; and there was exhibited on more than one occasion a spirit of rivalry and jealousy by Ephraim, if not by Judah. God allowed this old rivalry to reappear. It had been repressed under the splendour of the reigns of David and Solomon, but not extinguished; and Rehoboam's folly brought it to the surface as bitter as in times of old. Ephraim, as the representative of Joseph, was always jealous of his birthright privileges and importance, and claimed pre-eminence. For did not all his brethren bow to Joseph? The past history seemed to confirm his claims. He was in the first rank in their march through the wilderness. Manasseh, though the elder, was officially and prophetically placed second by Jacob (Gen. xlviii. 19). Ephraim resented the prominence of Judah. Was not Joshua an Ephraimite? and he was their great leader after Moses. Samuel was born within the borders of their lot. Shechem and Shiloh were places of renown and of resort for all Israel, and these places were in their territory. All these, if not advantages, were circumstances which would lead the other tribes to give Ephraim the most prominent place, which he was not slow to take.

Hence Ephraim had preponderating influence; so much so that in the prophecies the ten tribes are often called Ephraim. See their jealousy in not being foremost in Gideon's victory over the Midianites (Judges viii). His meek answer mollified their wrath. The same spirit was seen when Jephthah had overcome the Ammonites. In this case they were called, and refused. Nevertheless they resented his victory. Who was Jephthah, the child of a concubine? Should Ephraim follow him? But the man they despise is victorious; and this they resent. It was resenting the mercy of God Who had wrought a great deliverance for them. Their jealousy rose to the extent of civil war, in which they were defeated. This defeat apparently kept them quiet even when Saul the Benjamite was made king. And there was no pretext for manifesting it (save in the case of Sheba, 2 Sam. xx.) during the lives of David and Solomon. It was the folly of Rehoboam that gave occasion for its reappearance, never to depart till the true and wise King comes, Who will unite in His own Person the power of the Ruler, and the privileges and glory pertaining to the birthright.

Judah may have taunted Ephraim that the Ruler came not from Ephraim, and then what was the advantage of having the birthright? Ephraim envied Judah the privilege and honour of giving the Ruler which naturally belonged to him who held the birthright. In the coming day Ephraim will acknowledge that the birthright is His Who fulfils in His own Person the original promise when He appears to reign over all Israel. "The envy also of Ephraim shall depart and the adversaries [?Ephraim] of Judah shall be cut off. Ephraim shall not envy Judah and Judah shall not vex Ephraim" (Isa xi).

As we read that Solomon loved many strange (foreign) women, and then of the establishment of idolatry; so here is the turning point in Rehoboam's prosperity: "he desired many wives" and then when he was strengthened in his kingdom, he forsook the law of the Lord. The next recorded event is the invasion by Shishak king of Egypt, the Holy Spirit expressly adding, "because they had transgressed against the Lord" (2 Chron. 12).

2 Chronicles 12 - 16.

1892 114 Now for a season Israel's glory is gone. Satan had succeeded in causing it to depart, but could not annul God's purpose concerning Christ. Therefore is Judah preserved, and prophets are sent if they have ears to hear. Ephraim rebelled against David's house, Judah rejected Christ, the greater Son of David; they hated Him without a cause. Caesar, even Barabbas, was preferred to Him.

In revolting against Rehoboam Israel cut themselves off from the governmental channel of blessing, and as if to close up every means of communication from God one of the first acts of Jeroboam was to set up calves for Israel's worship. We know how the mercy and patience of God rose above even this insult. He sent them prophets, notably Elijah and Elisha. Did not some of the kings of Judah do as bad, or worse; setting up the idols of the Gentiles, and shutting up the temple of the Lord? Yet guilty as they were, even exceeding Israel in their abominations, they are kept and watched over by God, and Judah never rebelled against the house of David — not till Christ came; and then all their sin culminated in this, We have no king but Caesar.

Until the captivity there were transient glimpses of light in their dark downward course. For in the longsuffering of God; a king who did right in the sight of the Lord sometimes sat upon the throne of Judah, and after the return of the remnant from Babylon, prophets were sent both to cheer the godly, and warn the wicked. But God was working for His name's sake. And the key to His forbearance is that Christ was to come of the tribe of Judah, and if this is the key to God's infinite patience and longsuffering, the key to Judah's persistent and increasing sin is that Satan was trying to make Judah's sin, if possible, exceed the forbearance of God. And apparently, he succeeded, for we do read — "until there was no remedy." God did indeed send His last, His best: what other remedy could there be? Only we know that Satan's apparent triumph at the cross is God's real victory. "Now is the prince of the world judged."

The rest of Chronicles is but the record of Judah's rapid descent from the sin of Solomon to the exceeding wickedness of the sons of Josiah, all which called forth the denunciation of the prophets. and caused the misery which made Jeremiah weep.

How short-lived is the glory that depends upon the faithfulness of man! The temple that Solomon built is spoiled and robbed in the days of his son. For gold there is brass. When He comes and brings back glory to Israel, this will be reversed, "For brass I will bring gold" (Isa. 60:17). God takes pleasure in undoing the work of sin, symbolically expressed by the prophet, though doubtless true literally, for the gold and the silver are His.

But God was beginning to pour out His wrath, and He brings them under that same power from which He with a mighty and outstretched arm had at the beginning delivered them. Their sin and rebellion against God had been the fruitful cause of internal division (ten tribes gone) and external disaster (Shishak the Egyptian). But the God of all grace says that, if they cry to Him and own His righteousness, He will give them deliverance. "I will grant them some deliverance; and my wrath shall not be poured out upon Jerusalem by the hand of Shishak" (2 Chron. xii. 6-8). Mercy lingered over the already doomed city; and while it waited, sin increased. Rehoboam's life is summed up in the words, "he did evil." But is it not said that he walked wisely during the first three years of his reign? Yea, but the prophet says, "When the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die" (Ezek. xviii. 24). The days of his wisdom are not mentioned, and the judgment of God upon him is "he did evil." Was it not a very special act of disobedience to make constant war against Jeroboam when the Lord had expressly forbidden him to fight?

The Levites showed their fidelity by leaving their possessions and going to Jerusalem, but it was equally a proof that the whole system established under David, and instituted by the Lord, was broken and gone. For they had their appointed possessions in all the coasts of Israel. It was one of the external marks of God's order in Israel; to forsake them would be disobedience to God's command. But when that order was broken by the nation's sin, it was according to God's mind to leave their possessions which had become now defiled, and to assemble at the place where the Lord's name was still recorded. So now, when we find defilement and sin sanctioned in that which pretends to the Lord's name, absolute and complete separation from evil, whatever its appearance, is the true path for every Christ-honouring believer.

Abijah comes, and follows in his father's steps as to war with Israel. His battle with Jeroboam, and God's deliverance of Judah and judgment upon Israel, is all that is recorded under his rule, unless it be summed up in 2 Chron. 13:21. Abijah reasons with the revolted tribes. Was this mere human policy, an attempt to win back Israel to himself, or real concern as to their condition before God? Be his motive what it may, it was no less a call to Israel to return to the Lord God of their fathers. Israel heeded not, but even sought to destroy this testimony and set an ambush against Judah. Judah cries, and God delivers. Is not this deliverance equally a call to Judah? A reminder of God's faithfulness "if they cry to me I will hear;" if we may so speak, it is God redeeming His pledge, His mercy and truth rising infinitely above their transgression, however low and fallen they might be; if they called, God would hear. So Solomon prayed.

In the beginning of Asa's reign the deepening gloom is stayed for a brief moment. A gleam of light shoots across the dark scene, and reveals how great the darkness. The idols that were in Judah and Benjamin he puts away. How evident the spread of idolatry, how greatly increased, to require a law to put it down! In his zeal he decrees that "whosoever would not seek the Lord God of Israel should be put to death." Did you ever know idolatry, or any sin, put away by commandment? It may hide its head: idolaters may seem to throw their idols to the moles and the bats, but it exists and is rather strengthened by repressive laws. Its seat is in the heart and the idol is only the outward symbol, the visible index of the heart's enmity against God. And so in Judah when a good king would uproot it out of the land, it always burst forth with increased power when an evil king succeeded. (2 Chron. xv. 17). The heart of Asa was perfect all his days, perfect outwardly in zeal against idolatry. But a more searching test awaits him, and this exposes the state of his heart; for while things that look well, and have a fair appearance, may win a good name among those that cannot look beneath the surface, He Who searches the heart, and knows what man is, brings out to view sufficient at least that saints and godly men may have a true judgment of things in their reality. Perhaps not now every hidden evil, but in the great coming day every secret thing will be revealed. When the believers' hidden, perhaps unsuspected, evil is made known before the judgment seat of Christ, all will be to the glory of His grace. But when the books are opened, and the sin and hidden evils of those who live and die in the rejection of the Saviour, it will be for their everlasting condemnation.

The attempt of Baasha against the kingdom of Judah, brings out the want of faith in Asa's heart, that he had no confidence in God. His unceasing activity in zeal against idolatry had no reality in his soul. The sun arose in the form of Baasha's invasion, and this outward piety withers away, because there was no depth of earth. He goes to the king of Syria for help, there is not even the appearance of going to God. Asa has brought silver and gold into the house of God; now he gives these treasures to Benhadad, and adds thereto treasures from his own house. All this is glory of the kingdom departing from the house of David; it may be a Jeroboam, a Shishak, or a Benhadad, but God is accomplishing His own will, though every succeeding stroke of His judgment had its immediate occasion in the king's increasing sin. And now we see Asa outwardly zealous against idols, inwardly no faith in God, (and without faith it is impossible to please Him); and when reproved by the prophet Hanani, he puts him in prison, and at the same time oppresses some of the people. How evidently the king and the people are departing from God, for those that remain faithful to Him, are oppressed and imprisoned. These were some of that remnant which God always, even in the darkest times, reserved for Himself. God, Who waits patiently until the measure of iniquity is filled, applies another test to the unfaithful king, a bodily personal trial. The result is the same, and his want of faith appears in another aspect. Not God's merciful interposition, but man's aid; first the Syrian, Gentile help against Israel, now he goes to the physicians. Two years before he died he was diseased in his feet and it became exceeding great. Yet he sought not the Lord but went to the physicians (2 Chron. xvi. 12): pregnant words. His unbelief is not in simply applying to the physicians, in using providential means, but looking only to man, and in forgetting God. But the physicians could not help him. "And Asa slept with his fathers." How solemn and graphic the words of scripture! He is diseased, goes to a physician, and dies! Yea, now, as well as then, if God be forgotten, vain is the help of man.

So far we mark the descending steps of Judah. First, idolatry creeping into the king's house, then becoming general among the people insomuch that Asa in the early years of his reign makes a law against it. What a change in a comparatively short time from the bright early days of Solomon! Yea, what a change from Asa first to last, from the time when he did not spare even his own mother (2 Chron. xv. 16) to the time when he put Hanani in prison and oppressed some of the people. So forgetful of God, of His mercy and of His promise, and His claims upon them, that he seeks aid from the Syrian, and we have this wonderful, even monstrous thing, Judah seeking and purchasing with Jehovah's treasures Gentile help against Israel. This tells their evil condition before God. Well, if they would worship the Gentiles' God, why not seek the Gentiles' aid? How different all is from the time when the Gentile brought tribute and presents, and kings came to hear the wisdom of Solomon.

Hitherto how manifest the longsuffering and patient waiting of God. His partial judgment on the kings and nation, as well as His great mercies are His gracious calls to them to turn from their idols. And these calls ceased not till the hardness and perversity of their heart was shown to be evidently indomitable. "Why should ye be stricken any more?" So the whole nation after Jonah's death, took a deeper, we may say headlong, plunge into the darkest abyss of iniquity that an Israelite at that time could. I say at that time, for now apostate Christendom is sinking deeper than apostate Israel did or could. And the rebellion of Israel against Jehovah their king is succeeded by Christendom practically denying the Lord that bought them while pretending to honour Him.

Yet let us remember, while we maybe astonished at Israel's folly and wickedness, as the prophet calls upon the heavens etc. (Isa. i. 2), that Jehovah was working all through for His name's sake, controlling their wickedness that His great name, as declared to Moses — longsuffering and gracious — might in the end shine forth in all the splendour of His majesty and in all the boundlessness of His love. And where are these two seen? In the cross where mercy and truth, righteousness and peace, met together, never to be seen apart for ever.

2 Chronicles 17 – 20.

1892 131 Although the last days of Asa were evil, and the cloud hanging over Judah was darkening, yet there is a gleam of brightness during his son's reign. Under Jehoshaphat's rule the fear of the Lord fell on the surrounding nations, for the Lord established his kingdom. Judah brings presents, and he has riches and honour in abundance. He sends instructors with the book of the law of the Lord, and they go throughout all the cities of Judah, and teach the people. Moreover some of the Philistines and Arabians bring presents and flocks. Jehoshaphat waxed exceedingly great and had mighty men of war and of valour in Jerusalem. It might have seemed to the few godly ones a return of the golden days of Solomon.

Alas! Jehoshaphat is no exception to the universal frailty and ingratitude of man. When he had riches and honour in abundance, he joined affinity with Ahab. This is a still lower step than Asa's seeking help from Benhadad. For it ignores the sin of Israel's rebellion against the house of David, and against the Lord God of Israel. Jehoshaphat seemed indifferent to Israel's worship of Jeroboam's calves, and of their forsaking of the temple of the Lord at Jerusalem. Jeroboam dared to disestablish and heathenise the national religion, the worship of Jehovah, and it is distinctively called his sin.

Christians now may view unperturbed "legal disestablishment"; for we are called to separation from the world and from its things, earthly establishments among them. For it was the religious establishment of the world that rejected Christ. In that day worshippers were not called to separation from the world, although from its sins and evil then as now, but now much more, are we called to separation from the world, as a system. For we are transformed into another sphere, a sphere of light and life, a new creation, separated from the old which God is going to destroy, though He bear long with it. No nation could commit a deadlier sin than to disestablish by human law, what God had set up by divine law. "Legal disestablishment" is now agitating men's minds: how does Jeroboam's sin bear upon what may be in this country? God often, if not constantly, judges man upon his own ground, it may be a man or it may be a nation. Take as an instance the man who had one pound given to him. Out of his own mouth he is condemned.

Ahab walked in the steps of Jeroboam; now to join affinity, with such is, if possible, more offensive to Jehovah, than to forget God and seek help from the Syrian. Besides, Asa was evidently afraid of Baasha. On a former occasion God had delivered him and sent His prophet to encourage him; why should he fear? This fear in no way condones or excuses his sin which was a practical denial of the Lord God of Israel. But however great the sin of Asa, that of Jehoshaphat is much greater. Not fear of a Gentile enemy led him to join with Ahab, for at that time he was rich, powerful and prosperous. Perhaps it was all these that led him to forget God, and to seek alliance with Judah's former enemy and with the haters of God. Jehoshaphat is called a good king, yet in this he is leading Judah away from God. But what will not good men do when they forget God?

He may have reasoned that although Israel had forsaken the Lord and His temple, they were as much the children of Abraham as themselves, and where then the evil of affinity with them? Possibly kindness and friendship might win some of them back to the temple in Jerusalem, whereas to avoid and shun them would only strengthen their hatred. Something like this kind of plea is used now by those who, having professedly forsaken the world, look with a lingering eye upon the things they had seemed to condemn. Jehoshaphat condemned idolatry yet made affinity with it. But how did the prophet rebuke him on returning to his house, "Shouldest thou help the ungodly and love them that hate the Lord" (2 Chron. xix. 2)?

This was a phase of sin not contemplated in Solomon's prayer; for that supposes the people, though sinful and therefore suffering, yet acknowledging outwardly the authority and rule of Jehovah, to Whom if they cried, He would grant deliverance. But how could that be when allied to the haters of the Lord? In how short a time after the responsibility of maintaining the worship of Jehovah was laid upon man, how quickly all seems forgotten! beginning with Solomon's idolatry and Rehoboam's consequent folly; and now Asa seeking help from the Gentile, and Jehoshaphat's alliance with Ahab, with an apostate. But he did not worship the calves. No, but he sought the friendship of one who did, and so became a partaker of his sin.

The Corinthians are warned not to mingle the Lord's table with the table of demons. Was not Jehoshaphat, as it were, mingling the temple worship with that of the calves of Jeroboam i.e. with demons? as far as possible in that day, doing what the Corinthians were warned against.

It was no extenuation, but rather an aggravation of the sin of the ten tribes that they were Abraham's seed, and they were far worse than the heathen around them. But what is Judah's condition before the Lord at this moment? They were cleaving professedly to the house of David and to the temple of the Lord, but practically allied with a rebel and an idolater. This was to be deeper sunk in iniquity than even Israel; and yet there are depths lower.

Does this bear no very distant analogy to something nearer our own time? Do christians now in this day join themselves to idols? Certainly not to Jeroboam's calves; but every thing which takes precedence of the Person of Christ is an idol. Even the church of God, beloved as it is, if its blessedness, if the "one body and one Spirit," become a shibboleth and displace in ever so small a measure and occupy in our heart that supreme place which belongs only to the Lord Jesus Christ, then the church becomes an idol. If an evangelist thinks and aims more at popularity, i.e. preaching himself and not the Lord, his preaching, blessed work as that is and God's means for the saving of souls, that too becomes an idol. In fact every soul, believing or not, that has not Christ as the supreme Object of his affections, is to that extent an idolater. So that idolatry is not limited to the bowing to an image of gold, or of wood; the idol may be only, but really, in the imagination. There is constant but pressing need of our remembering the apostle's words "Little children, keep yourselves from idols."

Jehoshaphat's connexion with Ahab was not to his honour, and how disastrous to his son, who married Ahab's daughter! the consequence doubtless of the friendship between the two kings. Jehoshaphat is entangled in Ahab's quarrels; still in his heart there is a feeling of what is due to the Lord, and he will not join Ahab against Ramoth-Gilead without consulting a prophet of the Lord. Micaiah said enough to have dissuaded him from joining Ahab in that enterprise. Evidently he had determined his own course, and wanted the Lord to sanction it. Micaiah's solemn word did not deter him; besides, he had pledged his kingly words, "I am as thou art, and my people as thy people, and we will be with thee in the war" (the people are linked with the king for good or evil), and he would not withdraw from it. A false notion of their word of honour has led others since then into the path of evil, sometimes irreparably; but the merciful Lord interposes for His own, notwithstanding their perverseness. Unmingled justice would have allowed Jehoshaphat to feel the full effect of his folly, but mercy triumphed; in his danger he cried to the Lord, and he is delivered and returns to his house in peace. But the Lord's reproof comes after His mercy. The prophet armed with the sword — the word — of the Lord meets him, and with the words as of indignant surprise, says "Shouldst thou help the ungodly? etc., etc." And here is a solemn word, important teaching, that Israel though truly of the seed of Abraham, were yet haters of the Lord. And this read in the light of the New Testament tells us that, whatever our privilege — the greater, the more responsible — if Christ be not supreme in our affections, we are so far haters of God. This may seem harsh to some, but we must bow to the truth of God. If Christ is exalted above every name in heaven, and He is worthy, so He must have the highest place in our heart. And to reign there is neither to give nor to seek friendship with the world, nor with those who bring not the doctrine of Christ i.e. the Christ of God. This is the only true measure of separation from the world and the world's religions.

A different scene now opens, and Jehoshaphat becomes another man. Moab, Ammon, and others come against him: he is afraid but seeks not Benhadad's aid nor yet to strengthen himself by an unholy alliance, but in the midst of the congregation he stood and prayed (his true place) and pleads the promise of God, and touches the right chord when he says, "Thy possession which Thou hast given us to inherit." The answer is immediate. The Spirit of the Lord came upon one of the sons of Asaph, and they are told not to fear; that the Lord would fight for them, that it was His battle, not theirs. "Ye shall not need to fight in this battle, set yourselves, stand ye still and see the salvation of the Lord with you, O Judah and Jerusalem; fear not nor be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord will be with you" (2 Chron. xx. 17). It was a wondrous battle, truly the Lord's. The Lord set ambushments; who or what these were, we are not told. Judah was to stand still and see how wondrously the Lord would fight for them. Judah goes forth with songs and then stands still while the Ammonites destroy the inhabitants of (those who came from) Mount Seir, and after that, "every one helped to destroy another." So that, when Judah came to the field, not of battle, but of slaughter, they found only dead bodies.

Compare this battle and the destruction of the enemy with the battle fought by the side of Ahab where Jehoshaphat narrowly escaped, where his ally was slain. He was brought home in peace, but not with honour. Nor in this is there any honour for Jehoshaphat; the honour is the Lord's. The king and Judah stand still. It was the same mighty arm that overthrew Pharaoh in the Red Sea; then, Israel was told to stand still and see the salvation of the Lord. Israel was then a helpless multitude, a crowd of men, women and children; now it is the soldiers that are told to stand still, "ye shall not need to fight." And why are they not allowed to fight? Ah, he who had not long before joined affinity with Ahab was not in a condition to enjoy the honours of a victory. The Lord must do it all Himself, for the king cannot be used as an instrument of deliverance.

How many saints now through past unwatchfulness and failure are in a somewhat like position! Safely preserved from the foe according to the sovereign grace and purpose of God, but there is no contending manfully with enemies. This privilege and honour is for the faithful, for the strong and valiant. For the righteous government and discipline of God must be maintained in the church now as in Judah then; and this as well as His grace found in every time of need. The weak and even the failing are kept safely, while the faithful engage in the battle. But when all fail in steadfastness, what then? The Lord Himself fights His people's battles, and they stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, but they have no honour in overcoming. What mercy! what shame to us! and what part can we have in the many promises to the overcomer? (Rev. ii, iii.)

2 Chronicles 20 – 22:9.

1892 146 Even Jehoshaphat is no exception to the universal deceitfulness and ingratitude of the human heart. The people were sinking deeper in sin notwithstanding the wonderful interpositions of God's mercy, His patient longsuffering; they had not prepared their hearts unto the God of their fathers (2 Chron. xx. 33). The prophet had told the king, "There are some good things found in thee." When did the Lord ever forget what was acceptable to Him? Yet here is but another instance of the inconstancy and instability of man. For after the gracious rebuke of his unholy alliance with Ahab, after his wondrous deliverance from the united armies of Moab, of Ammon, and others, a great multitude, after God had given him rest, after all this did he join himself with Ahaziah, king of Israel who did very wickedly. This alliance was for commercial purposes, to make ships to go to Tarshish. The prophet reproved him for joining with the father, and he repeats it with the son. Again the Lord rebukes him, and the ships are broken. There is to be no alliance with Israel, with the haters of the Lord, neither for war nor for commerce. Ahaziah solicits a renewal of the attempt, but Jehoshaphat would not (1 Kings. xxii. 49). No doubt he felt the reproof given by Eliezer, and that the destruction of his ships was Jehovah's judgment.

A brief notice of Jehoram follows; we see the cruel policy of a tyrant: he slew all his brethren and some of the princes. Is he a son of the house of David? Yes; but he is married to Ahab's daughter, and was better pleased with Ahab's court than with his father's. See what Jehoshaphat's affinity with Ahab led to. For the first time we read of Judah's king following and bringing in Ahab's wickedness into the court of Judah; and not only worse idolatries, but his wife when old (Athaliah) develops into a murderess and slays even her own grandchildren, save Joash who is preserved from her fury. In a remarkable way a prophetic writing comes to the king from Elijah, which was kept back by the over-ruling hand of God till the right moment, after the prophet's death, when the threatening contained in it might (humanly speaking) have greater effect upon him. But it does not appear to have wrought any change on him. A murderer of his brethren, an idolater, of the worst type, he died just as Elijah's writing predicted. In judgment his was a miserable, dishonoured and unregretted end, no reign hitherto so disastrous, if we except Rehoboam's, when the ten tribes revolted: the Philistines and the Arabians, who brought presents to his father, rise up against him. And again we may ask; Is he a scion of the house of David? Yea, and therefore he and his are not irreparably destroyed. "Howbeit the Lord would not destroy the house of David because of the covenant that He had made with David, and as He promised to give a light to him and to his sons for ever" (2 Chron. xxi. 7). Judgment yet delays, but it soon comes, and is pronounced by divine authority upon the guilty people and land. As each evil king appears, Judah's guilt deepens; and idolatry, the root-sin of all, bears abundant fruit. Judah had already become Aholibah.

Enough is given to show the accelerating descent of Judah into the depths of idolatry and the judgments of God becoming more severe. Think of the chosen nation dwindled down to two tribes; of the royal family of David, the chosen of the chosen, whose representative now is a fratricide, an idolater dying a most awful and terrible death, the immediate infliction and judgment of the righteous God; and of the enemy triumphant! What a condition morally and governmentally for the people! Were the surrounding heathen nations worse than this? How great the compassion and longsuffering of God! how His mercy flowed on like a river that deepens and widens as it rolls onward, as it were, side by side with the flood of iniquity, and keeping pace with it, until that deed was done which brought upon them the heavy judgment under which they are still lying. That deed which truly was the doing of the combined power of the darkness of hell and of earth, of Satan and the haters of the Lord, but which was fore-ordained of God as indeed the means and reason of the only foundation of Israel's past mercies, of God's present longsuffering, of their ultimate restoration, and of eternal salvation known now and forever, both for the Jew and the Gentile. O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God, how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out (Rom. xi. 33)!

The greater their provocation, the greater does the mercy of God appear. But underneath their provocation is the power and cunning of Satan. For he is to them the unknown and hidden enemy of their Messiah, ever seeking to break that kingly chain whose first link is David, and the last Jesus the great Son of David. The idolatries, rebellions, and alliances with the Gentile, or with apostate Israel, are so many attempts of Satan against Christ. His enmity is more against the COMING KING than against the people of the kingdom. He is permitted so far as to bring judgment upon the chosen people, but this only shows how glorious is the victory of grace over the most desperate wicked­ness of man, and of God's power over the utmost malignity of the devil.

Israel as a shadow of the future kingdom was ruined when the ten tribes revolted. But God's purpose stood fast, and for its accomplishment two tribes continued steadfast to the house of David: a fact due only to the faithfulness and purpose of God. When that purpose is accomplished, it is the bringing in His First Begotten into the world; but before He takes the kingdom, judgment falls upon Judah, and with heavier strokes than upon Israel, and heavier still they are to bear before the King appears in glory. Their cup of iniquity overflowed when they crucified their own Messiah. God lingered in mercy till then, yea after; for Peter proclaimed the restitution of all things if they would only repent. But even as they rejected Jesus on earth as their Messiah, so they would not have Him as the risen Lord of all, and killed Stephen. He was as a messenger from the dead, and their language is the same as when the Lord was living on the earth, "We will not have this man to reign over us." Of necessity judgment followed.

Either by the enemy's sword, or by internal treachery, Satan had apparently almost succeeded in destroying the house of David; against that house he was continually plotting. If he could but destroy that family (by this time he knew that the Bruiser of his head would come thence), then all Israel would be his prey, the two tribes as well as the ten, besides the world at large where he reigned. Jehoram, Cain-like, had slain all his brethren, and the Philistines and Arabians come to complete the destruction of the chosen family, so that there was never a son left him [Jehoram] save Jehoahaz the youngest of his sons (2 Chron. xxi. 17) called also Ahaziah, who reigned but one year. How marked the judgment of God upon these two kings! The former (Jehoram) dying of a dreadful disease, buried ingloriously, the latter slain by the sword, a poor runaway fugitive. But it was the vengeance of God (2 Chron. xxii. 7).

2 Chronicles 22:10-24.

1892 164 Athaliah, daughter of Ahab, granddaughter of Omri a wicked king of Israel and of a heathen king — Ethbaal king of the Zidonians — the wife of Jehoram, the idolatrous mother and wicked counsellor of her son Ahaziah, when she saw that her son was dead, arose and destroyed all the seed-royal and seized the throne, all but one infant whom his aunt Jehoshabeath hid from the demoniacal policy of his grandmother. What a picture! Where is David's son? What now of the promise that David should never want a man to sit upon his throne? Has Satan in very deed almost caused that race of kings to be cut off? Has he rendered null the word of God? How the great arch-foe would have boasted, if he had thus proved himself able to bring an everlasting curse, where God was controlling all things for better blessing! "He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh." Though the line from David to Messiah is at this time attenuated to a mere feeble thread, and the promised glory (the future blessing of Israel, of the whole earth, and the immutability of God's counsels, then seemed to hang upon the precarious life and safe hiding of an infant), yet the promise of God is as sure and His counsels as firm while the infant Joash is in hiding, all unconscious of the momentous results hinging upon his life, and that his unnaturally wicked grandmother, a mere tool in the hands of a greater enemy, would seek his life; the purpose of God was as sure, and His decree as immutable, as when Solomon in all his might and glory sat on the throne. Apparently all seems contingent on the life of a babe; in reality all rests upon the firm foundation of God's word.

We think of our own blessings, those which are peculiar to saints of the heavenly calling; but God had promised that all nations of the earth should be blessed in Abraham's Seed (Gen. xii. 3, Gen. xxii. 16, 17); and God not only gave a promise but confirmed it with an oath, so that the certainty of the word of God is under two aspects, the promise and the oath. All our blessings are wrapped up in the Seed, and are more (can we say more?) than confirmed to us by the promise and the oath; for we have the fact of Christ's death. The cross accomplishes God's word and fulfils His promises; and we know that all of them in Him are yea and amen.

Joash at the right time appears, the rightful heir to the throne of David. And the stranger and usurper, Athaliah, is slain. The genealogical line to Messiah is unbroken, and as yet each one sits upon his throne. The time will come, nay, is come, when the line, still unbroken, has not that throne; and so will continue, hidden and without that throne, till the great Son of David comes to sit thereon. How busy and indefatigable the enemy was to destroy the family of David, even to stir up a woman to slay her grandchildren! Ordinarily affection, or tenderness, seems to increase toward the succeeding generation; but Satan deprives his slaves of natural affection, and substitutes bitter cruelty, in order to work out his purposes. How suddenly his plans are overthrown! All at once Joash appears, the people shout, the priests and Levites appear in arms, Athaliah is slain, and the kingdom is restored to the rightful king. The genealogical line from David to Messiah is preserved, and kept by the controlling power of God, notwithstanding Satan's persistent attempts to destroy it. Nay, he began as soon as men were born to make the advent of the promised Seed impossible. It was to prevent His coming that he tempted Cain to kill his brother, to corrupt the antediluvian world so that God in mercy as well as judgment destroyed that demoniacal race in the deluge. And when he knew in what line the promised seed was deposited, all his malignity and cunning were directed against it from the heathen down to the high priest who said it was expedient that one man should die for the people. This selected line is placed on the chosen earthly throne, for a time, to show how God can exalt, and then because of sin cast down, trampled upon, and to human eyes stamped out of being, to show His judgment; and for a while seated upon God's earthly throne, we find rebels, idolaters, murderers. What a throne that of Israel and Judah had become!! And still it is Jehovah's throne, and the appointed KING is coming, to reign in righteousness.

All the days of Jehoiada the priest, Joash did right in the sight of the Lord; yea, seems to take the lead and gives commandment to repair the mischief that Athaliah had done (2 Chron. xxiv. 6-11). But external influence, however holy, can never change the heart, which like a constrained bow springs back to its normal bent the moment that pressure ceases. How often this solemn fact is seen in christian families! How often a son leaving the godly restraints of his father's house plunges with greater zest into the sinful pleasures of the world!

This was the case with Joash who sank into the depths of crime and ingratitude. While Jehoiada, his uncle, lived, Joash did what was right; but Jehoiada dies, after which "came the princes of Judah, and made obeisance [flattered him]: then the king hearkened unto them." Their evil influence led Joash to his ruin, as princes had before led Rehoboam. Yielding to their flattery and no doubt solicitation also, "they left the house of the Lord God of their fathers and served groves and idols" (2 Chron. xxiv. 17, 18, etc.) How short the step from seeming out ward piety to unblushing evil! Was there no conscience in Joash? No feeling of gratitude toward Jehoiada or his family? He remembered not the kindness of the father but slew the son.

2 Chronicles 24, 25.

1892 178 The reign of Joash is summarised in 2 Chron. xxiv. 18, and his life is condensed into three facts. (1) He left the house of the Lord, (2) he served idols, (3) wrath came. The nation follows the king. But God is still patient with Joash and with his people. He sends prophets to them, for though the judgment is so near, and as certain as their iniquity, He remembers His covenant with them. His mercy and long-suffering is most manifest toward Joash; for a special messenger is sent to him, one who naturally has some considerable claim on him, and who would be heard and attentively listened to beyond all others. The All-wise God knows how to use natural feelings for His purposes of mercy, and when these feelings are outraged, so much the greater evidence of the power of Satan over man. Zechariah, son of Jehoiada, and a cousin of the king, is the bearer of God's message and reproof. The life of the king, humanly speaking, is due to Jehoshabeath, and the king will (if from no other feeling than gratitude) listen to her son, though he heed not Him Who sent the words. And how then was God's message received? Just as the most hardened sinners receive it. "And they conspired against him, and stoned him with stones, at the commandment of the king, in the court of the house of the Lord." Joash forgat Jehoiada's kindness; and when Zechariah was dying he said "The Lord look upon it and require it." A righteous cry, that which the Lord did look upon and require; but if we look for a gracious cry, which agrees with Christianity, hear it in the last words of Stephen, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." Little did Jehoshabeath think that she was hiding and preserving the murderer of her own children. Divine retribution is sometimes slow but always sure. About a year after the death of Zechariah, he is himself slain on his bed; his slayers did not commiserate him in his great diseases.

But while retribution is an essential element in the government of God, and plainly appears in 2 Chron. 24:25, there is something more important still than any such requital. The line of kings, of the sons of David, though for the time being so iniquitous (their position increasing their guilt), must be preserved until He, the great Son, comes Who shall reign in righteousness.

Amaziah succeeds his father, in mercy to the people, but in faithfulness to His covenant with Israel. The stream of iniquity from Solomon to Zedekiah is frequently turned aside, but not uninterruptedly as in the case of the revolted apostate tribes, where, from Jeroboam to Hoshea, all did evil. And we see in this how the Lord Jehovah rises above the provocation of the sins of Judah. The great end which God has purposed within Himself is ever before Him, and to this He makes everything here below to tend, not the irresponsible creation only, but responsible and accountable man. Joash was righteously requited for the killing of Zechariah; the Lord required it of him, so that man is individually responsible and righteously judged, while every, the minutest, event is in His hand to control and direct as He shall please. How can man dare to pronounce upon such wisdom as this? Rather let us bow our heads and adore.

That an evil-doing son should succeed a righteous father is a proof that an evil nature is not made good by righteous example or precept, though that evil nature may become apparently worse through unrighteousness being constantly presented and enforced by example and precept. But that a son even in such circumstances should do that which is right in the sight of the Lord, when a righteous son succeeds a wicked father, is a proof of the interposition of God in the power of His grace. So in this case Amaziah, who did right, succeeds Joash his father who at last. did wickedly. It was a little brightness for Judah, but only a short time; for "he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, but not with a perfect heart." And before he died, the little brightness passed away, and domestic treachery deals with him as with his father.

Notwithstanding the exceeding wickedness found among the sons of David, imperatively calling for divine vengeance, the true Heir, the promised Son, must sit on David's throne, and the kingdom must be established in righteousness. For much more than that kingdom hangs upon the coming of the Son. The world waits for His coming to be delivered from the bondage of corruption, and for the display of the glory of God; for not only Israel and Judah are to be one kingdom then, but the whole earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. (Hab. ii. 14). And more than these, there is His glory as the head of the church, as the great First-born from the dead. We speak not of His coming with grace, bringing salvation; but of His coming in glory completing our salvation. There was a due time for the former, there is also for the latter. If, as the prophet says, it was but a little thing to gather Israel compared to the being God's salvation to the ends of the earth, so we may with the utmost reverence say, that His glory filling the whole earth is but a little thing compared with the glory of redeeming the church, giving Himself for it and cleansing it from every spot and stain and blemish, and then presenting it to Himself, and making it the vehicle of His glory to the delivered world.

As the evil of man, and the persistent malignity of Satan become increasingly prominent, we also see how both are used of God to show forth the richness of His grace toward man and the Almightiness of His power and control of all the attempts of Satan; and that in spite of all these, yea, and sometimes by using them, God is bringing to pass His own immutable purpose. In this history in the Chronicles, we learn the patient long-suffering of God, His constant rising in goodness and mercy over all the evil in Judah till — in crucifying the Lord — it reached and touched the throne of God. Then there was no remedy, no more patience (save for the few disciples whom the Lord would gather out of Jerusalem, and hide them during the storm of wrath and vengeance, as He did, in old time, save Lot from the overthrow of Sodom), no reason why the threatened judgment should any longer be delayed. In pursuing this history we see — perhaps plainer than elsewhere — not only how vain, but also how untiring, Satan was in all his attempts to destroy the family of David, or to make it so vile that God in His righteous anger might destroy it. See his attempts in Solomon's declension, Jeroboam's rebellion, and Rehoboam's folly. The chequered history of Judah since Rehoboam; the forsakings of the temple, the consequent invasions of the land by enemies, then outward repentance; the stupid iniquity of conquering a people and then worshipping the gods of the vanquished nation; — is not Satan's hand discernible in all this? But there is worse to come.

Notwithstanding, the wisdom of God knew how to combine His purpose of grace with His righteous government. Each evil king as a responsible man is judged in righteousness; in which all the unsaved will be judged. But the decree founded on grace is eternal and unchangeable. The Son of David shall, must, reign. The government shall be upon His shoulders, and of His kingdom there shall be no end.

Amaziah begins well. He did well in not slaying the children of his father's murderers, in appointing captains over thousands, over hundreds throughout all Judah and Benjamin; but when he hired soldiers out of Israel, it was not well. Jehoshaphat was rebuked for giving aid to Ahab, to Israel; Amaziah seeks aid from Israel, and hires apostates. In the former, there was the appearance of Judah's superiority; now under Amaziah there is more marked indifference to the name of God, and to the associations of His people. As a nation they were in a weaker condition, for Jehoshaphat giving help to Ahab is certainly greater than Amaziah receiving soldiers from Israel. Later, the king of Israel in his conscious superiority compared himself to a cedar in Lebanon, while he contemptuously likened Amaziah to a thistle, that a boar out of the wood could trample on. Amaziah felt the truth of this afterwards (2 Chron. 25:22).

Jehoshaphat made friendship with the enemies of God; as the professing church has joined affinity with the world in many things. We know who has said "The friendship of the world is enmity with God." And when the professing church helped Constantine to the throne of the world, it was not the church overcoming the world, but yielding herself (i.e. the professing mass) as a stepping-stone to the world's power and grandeur. The world and the church shook hands over the cross, and thus cemented their friendship (unfaithfulness with hypocrisy) which has continued ever since. This was surely high treason against our Lord and Master. The world smiles upon the professing mass — Christendom — and they love to have it so. Christendom sleeps in the arms of the world and rests there, subsisting by the world's power.

So Amaziah, professing right, and indeed doing right at first, seeks to strengthen himself by means of the haters of God; and the nominal church has followed in the wake of Amaziah and Judah. In all this history we see the rapid sinking of Judah into the mire of idolatry; but we see also that Christendom has plunged as deeply into worldliness. When the body calling itself christian gave up its place of separation from the world and took that of affinity with it, prostituting its power and influence to the service of the world, and receiving in return the world's smiles and riches (as was really the case when the famous edict of Milan in A.D. 319 or 313 was published, which places Christianity and paganism on the same level, i.e. an "act of toleration," the world in its wisdom began to tolerate the name of Christ), the so-called Christian church was like the ten tribes that followed Jeroboam. They no sooner left the temple than they worshipped golden calves. Christendom has forsaken the place of pilgrims and sojourners, assigned to them by the rejected Lord, and made obeisance to the world.

Upon being rebuked by the prophet, Amaziah thinks of the hundred talents; must he lose them in sending away the Israelitish soldiers? The prophet removes his anxiety. "The Lord is able to give thee much more than this." God rewards his obedience, imperfect as it is, and gives him victory over Edom; and he takes many captives. His treatment of them was barbarous; the Holy Spirit does not sanction it, but relates the fact (2 Chron. xxv. 12). But if his obedience to the divine command was due partly to the assurance that he should not lose his hundred talents, his obedience was not with a perfect heart. And he has to feel the consequences of his error. The dismissed soldiers soon showed their true character; they were mere mercenaries. Whether for or against Judah it mattered not, it was plunder they wanted; therefore no wonder that they were angry, for they expected abundant booty. They had their revenge on the cities of Judah.

But there is a higher stand-point whence to look at the hiring of these Israelites. The Lord was not with them, and the incorporating of them with the army of Judah was obliterating the mark of distinction which had been made by God (as worshippers in the temple at Jerusalem, and as worshippers of the two calves), save as He mercifully remembered them, and sent prophets unto them, notably Elijah and Elisha. Would it not be a triumph for Satan, if he could not join all the tribes in a general apostasy, to amalgamate their armies? For then whatever victory the Lord would give to Judah must be shared by apostate Israel. This the Lord would not permit, and His word is, Send them home. If we give occasion to the enemy to mix himself up with the affairs of the church in ever so small a matter, under whatever pretext, we are sure to suffer. In the righteous government of God, the evil consequences of previous folly may appear, even though that folly, or sin be repented of and forgiveness received. David repented and was forgiven; the Lord put away his sin, but the consequences were felt all through his life. He felt the sword in his bitter wail for Absalom (2 Sam. xviii. 33), in the insurrection of Sheba the Ephraimite, and in his last days the futile attempt of Adonijah to usurp the crown which God had given to Solomon. All these were but the accomplishment of the Lord's word by Nathan. "The sword shall never depart from thine house (2 Sam. xii. 10).

Now comes (ver. 14) the most amazing folly. He returns victorious over the Edomites, and with extreme brutishness worships the gods of the people he had vanquished. One could perhaps better understand how a heathen would bow down to the gods of his conquerors. But that Amaziah who began his reign well though not with a perfect heart, should worship the idols of those that he had conquered, is an act of folly and stupidity; which can only be accounted for by the fact that Satan was behind it all, hurrying king and people to their ruin, and that God in judgment permitted blindness to fall upon them, which in a succeeding reign was judicially decreed (Isa. vi.).

2 Chronicles 25.

1893 194 A prophet is sent and reproves Amaziah for his amazing folly. "Why hast thou sought after the gods of the people which could not deliver their own people out of thine hand?" The infatuated king had no answer to this stinging reproof, which in effect was saying that he was worshipping the gods he had vanquished. But if the king cannot answer he can threaten — the resource of the world to stop the mouths of God's witnesses. "Art thou made of the king's counsel? Forbear; why shouldest thou be smitten?" Have you authority to speak, have you been duly appointed as one of the king's counsellors? And thus it is that the merciful message from God to show him his sin and folly is met with threatenings; "forbear," said the king, and the prophet ceased, and the message of the merciful reproof was thrust away. He could refuse the mercy and shut the mouth of the prophet; but he must hear God's judgment without any mingling of mercy. "I know that God hath determined to destroy thee because thou hast done this and hast not hearkened to my counsel" (2 Chron. xxv. 16). And when God determines to destroy, can man escape?

Amaziah is but a sample of man. There is a message of mercy from God now, and the spirit of the world is still saying "Forbear," or giving hearing only to some humanly appointed authority, an authority which is constituted and upheld by law. And all such do forbear rather than offend the world. The awful judgment of God on those who do not obey the truth is not announced as God gives, but is toned down so as not to be self-applied. Nay, a mere human authority will preach smooth things; and man will sleep on in his sins, or, if perchance a word alarms the burdened conscience, he turns himself on his yet unthorny bed, folds his hands saying "a little more sleep," takes his accustomed draught of the devil's anodyne, and after a while wakes — where?

"Thou hast done this" i.e., his seeking after the gods of Edom, and afterwards not hearkening to the prophet's counsel, which perhaps was frequently given before that time. Indeed the stern impatient word "forbear" seems to imply that this was not the first time that the prophet had reproved the king. But this was the occasion for uttering God's determination. "I know that God hath determined to destroy thee." To sin is to be worthy of condemnation, but to refuse mercy and reproof brings out God's determination to destroy (Prov. i. 24-31). His own pride and folly becomes the immediate occasion of his ruin. He was lifted up because of his victory over Edom and challenges the king of Israel. How contemptuously Joash treats him! Amaziah impelled by his own vanity would not hear; it was the first step in the path which led to his downfall, and his defeat was the first public stroke of God's judgment which was now inevitable, for this came of God (2 Chron. 25:20). Man's pride and folly when persisted in become the precursor of God's judgment. Yet for this act of foolish pride he took advice — whose advice? Like Rehoboam he sought the mind of flatterers.

If a lying spirit was permitted to persuade Ahab, whose determination was it to destroy Amaziah? The king of Israel made good his parable. It was the thistle against the cedar, and the result was a complete rout. The thistle was trampled on, and was trodden down by a wild beast. "Judah was put to the worse before Israel and they fled every man to his tent" (2 Chron. 25:22). Amaziah is a captive, the walls of Jerusalem are broken down for the space of 400 cubits, the treasures of gold and silver both of the temple and palace were taken, and hostages also. This was an effectual stop to Judah's boasting against Israel. Whatever glory Amaziah won by his victory over Edom is irretrievably overshadowed. Fifteen years afterwards, like his father, he is slain by conspirators. But mark the closing words of the inspired writer, "Now after the time that Amaziah did turn away from following the Lord they made a conspiracy against him in Jerusalem" etc. (2 Chron. 25:14-27.) He turned away from the Lord on his return from the victory over Edom. Then the conspiracy was formed. He returned in triumph and thought his throne was secure; but unknown and unapprehended, as when Jonah rejoiced under the shadow of the gourd which a worm at the root was destroying, a conspiracy was formed against him in the hour of his boasting. It was the judgment of God. "I know that God hath determined to destroy thee," said the prophet, and whether vain-gloriously boasting against Israel, or humiliated under his defeat by the man that he wantonly challenged, or fleeing to Lachish from conspirators, this determination of God still followed him: God was overruling the wickedness of the conspirators to accomplish His determination. He might flee to Lachish from them, but he could not flee from the judgment of God.

No conspiracy would have succeeded had he not turned away from the Lord. Though he showed little or no faith when he hired soldiers from Israel, and a very selfish and interested obedience to the Lord's word when he sent them away, it was when he publicly set up Edom's idols that the Lord permitted these evils to come on him. "Now the rest of the acts of Amaziah first and last" (2 Chron. 25:26). "First and last" — Is there not a division here between the former and the later part of his reign? and is the dividing line when he turned from the Lord? Though the former part was not with a perfect heart, it was when Jehovah was publicly dishonoured that the prophet announced God's determination to destroy him.

How low, in a comparatively short time since the magnificence of Solomon's reign, has Judah fallen! How debased in their own eyes they must have appeared when their own city wall, even of Jerusalem, was broken down by an enemy! Calamities from within and without fall on the people, as the family of David, dragging the nation after them, sink deeper and deeper in the mire of idolatry and corruption. How marked has been the downward course since the death of Jehoshaphat and how swiftly and surely the judgments of God followed! Jehoram dies of a terrible disease, Ahaziah by the sword, Joash and Amaziah by domestic treachery. What a history that of Judah is becoming! The last days of pagan Rome are scarce blacker. In Rome we see the cruelty, the ambition, and the lawlessness of men without the knowledge of God; but in Judah with equal wickedness there is the knowledge of God, as far as could be known under the Mosaic economy. But if God winked at the time of ignorance among the Gentiles (Acts xvii. 30), not so with Judah; there judgment followed more or less swiftly in the track of sin, God using earthly instruments but not the less His judgment.

Not so now; this present is pre-eminently the day of grace. God is longsuffering and man is heaping up sin. But the day is coming when Christ will take the immediate rule of this world; for when His judgments will be seen in the earth, then also the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness (Isa. xxvi. 9).

2 Chronicles 26.

1893 211 Uzziah succeeds and does that which is right in the sight of the Lord according to all that his father did; that is, not with a perfect heart in the first part, and manifest failure in the last. The same evil was in Uzziah, as in Amaziah; only it was manifested in a different way. It was after Amaziah was lifted up in heart that he marched straight into defeat and captivity; and when Uzziah was strong, he transgressed in going into the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar. How often does prosperity, far more than adversity, try the saints of God! The pretentious and the hypocritical are snared and taken. The true if carnal are laid low. The spiritual and true are kept by our faithful God Who will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, etc. (1 Cor. x. 13.) If then we ask why the saints of God are for the most part poor, we may answer with another query (looking merely at the weakness of man, not at the power of God), Who has strength to overcome the power of riches?

"He transgressed." So had previous kings; and man might estimate the sin of worshipping idols to be worse than that of assuming the function of a priest. But especial note is made of it, and this alone should arrest man's estimation; God's mention of it, and the judgment that follows show God's estimate of his transgression. In usurping the office of the priest, he was rebelling against Jehovah. The world's history gives many instances where the chief of the civil power assumed the functions and duties of the high priest. And for idolatry or a worldly religion no arrangement could be better. Indeed the two functions (the kingly and the priestly) naturally gravitate towards each other, affording mutual support; the temporal clothing itself with spiritual dignity, the spiritual expressing the power of the temporal. And for the material prosperity of a nation, a church upheld by the state consolidates the nation's power, while dissent tends to weaken unless other things counteract. So the ancient kings of Rome from Numa, and afterwards the emperor, even Constantine and several of the christian (so called) emperors that succeeded him took the title of "pontifex maximus"; until, after being declined by Gratian, it was entirely dropped by Theodosius. But when the emperor dropped the title, the priest eagerly yet gradually grasped it; and he who assumed the title of "pontifex maximus for the whole of Christendom" was not slow to avail himself of every opportunity of claiming and expressing the civil power.

The Christian's path is above the secular and the spiritual power of this world. The saint's path of the former time was connected with the things from which the Christian is now separated. It was then God's will in the old dispensation that the regal and sacerdotal offices should be distinct and separate. Even David, the honoured type of the coming king (and, as such, appointing the temple service and the twenty-four courses of the priests), assumed not in his kingly office the duties of the high priest. Solomon does take the lead at the dedication of the temple, but he is scarcely the high priest on that occasion. "Then the king and all the people offered sacrifices before the Lord" (2 Chron. vii. 4). But it was right for the king and all the people without naming the priests or the Levites; for he was then foreshadowing the kingly and priestly glories combined in Christ. It is of Christ the prophet speaks, "He shall build the temple of the Lord and He shall bear the glory and shall sit and rule upon the throne, and He shall be a Priest upon His throne" (Zech. vi. 13). It was but a transient glimpse, but it was the union of the kingly and priestly glories of the millennial day in the Person of Christ. And what was the splendour and magnificence of that typical day to the coming day of Christ! We wait and long for His appearing.

But we may humbly enquire wherein was the exceeding greatness of Uzziah's transgression. "He transgressed," the inspired historian says; so did Solomon; and ten tribes revolted as the Lord's judgment on the people. Rehoboam's idolatry brought Shishak the king of Egypt on Judah, and the despoiling of its treasures. Abijah (Abijam) walked in all the sins of his father (1 Kings xv. 3). Asa sought help of the king of Syria, and when diseased sought not the Lord but the physicians. Even the. good king Jehoshaphat joined affinity with those that hated the Lord. And from Jehoram's accession to the death of Amaziah, what fills the page of Judah's history but murder and usurpation and idolatry increasing all through the land? If these sins should cause the Lord to drive the people to a far-off land, Solomon prayed that, if they repented, God would hear their cry and forgive. But a more subtle evil is here than those for which Solomon prays for forgiveness, and a more terrible judgment than any that Solomon thinks might happen. A judgment which prevents the cry for mercy and God's interposition "lest they should convert and be healed."

Such a sin as Uzziah's and such a judgment were unthought of by Solomon. If idolatry evidences man's baseness, ingratitude, and corruption, Uzziah's entering into the temple to burn incense on the golden altar evidences proud presumption and defiance of the Lord's authority. For he was not ignorant that to burn incense was the office of the priests alone — a duty and privilege for the sons of Aaron and no other. In Uzziah was the appearance or pretence of worship, but real disobedience and profanation of the holy things; it was sacrilege on the king's part and faithfulness on the priest's part that drove the king out of the temple: yea God Himself showed His displeasure by smiting him with leprosy. The judgment is in accordance with his transgression. He dared to take the office of the priest, to do what the law forbad him. Now as a leper, he cannot come into the temple, he loses the privilege of a common Israelite, he is cut off from the congregation, and must henceforth live in a separate house. Nor can he exercise his kingly functions, but, in modern language, a regency is appointed. Jotham was "over the house and judged the people."

If the gravamen of Uzziah's transgression was his presumption in entering into the temple, and, instigated by his own will nor fearing to interfere with the priests in their service to Jehovah, according to His commandment, daring to burn incense on the golden altar, what is the difference between his transgression and the doings in Christendom? Do we not see man's will and order, and authority exercised in the great house, which professing Christendom has become? Does the Lord in any way sanction this? (1 Cor. iii. 12.) Alas! man is seen intruding into the things of God, but what true-hearted priest has faith to drive him out?

1893 226 The governmental connecting link between God and Israel was broken when the ten tribes rebelled against David's house. Grace then established a temporary link, having a governmental character with the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin. It could not be otherwise than temporary; for two tribes in the place of twelve would be an impeachment of the wisdom and power of God, a sort of compromise of God's original purpose. It is not temporary alone historically, i.e. Judah broke it, but it was so intentionally, and necessarily as resting on human instability. It was a condition of human evil, a grave circumstance which divine wisdom made to fit in and be subservient to His counsels of redemption, and also for immediate display of His forbearance and mercy, His wisdom, power, and patience shining in all as nowhere else (the cross excepted). But two tribes only never could inherit the promise originally made to twelve. God's promise was made to the fathers, and though the fulfilment necessitates the raising of the dead, is this incredible (Acts xxvi. 6, 7)? All the twelve tribes are spoken of as hoping to come to the inheritance. To ask how it could be established in the future for all Israel if Christ had not been rejected, and after His death raised again the third day (though in human and Satanic wisdom to crucify the King must for ever have prevented the setting up of the kingdom in Him, the only divine and stable foundation), is presumptuous if not sinful on the creature's part. The unerring word declares that this temporary link is broken, and that the government of the world in and by Israel is for the time in abeyance, but to be manifested when God will have established them as the first nation in the world. All turns on Christ dead and risen.

Their rebellion against Rehoboam formed a crisis in Israel's history. Ten tribes wilfully forsook the covenant — perhaps not intending to forsake it; but this was Satan's object, and he, as far as permitted, led them to it. Did he know that the rebellion was permitted and overruled by God, and was to be used as part of the plan of divine counsel, in the carrying out of which the wisdom and the grace of God was to be infinitely exalted, and he himself defeated and all his aims eventually brought to nought? Though carried away and almost overwhelmed by Satanic craft, having followed his leading at first and powerless afterwards to overcome, the ten tribes are distinctly responsible to God for breaking away; and the promises pledged to them under the covenant were absolutely forfeited, and every act of forbearance and loving-kindness on God's part towards them was pure and sovereign mercy, quite above, yea infinitely above the character of covenant blessing. They had forsaken the covenant; but God did not forsake them till justice and truth compelled Him. There seems a crisis in Judah's history in Uzziah's presumptuous attempt on the functions of the priest. The former was rebellion against Rehoboam, and the occasion for it was found in his unwisdom. The latter was direct rebellion against God. How much greater than Rehoboam's folly is Uzziah's presumption and disobedience to God's word, that the anointed priest alone should burn incense! Diminished power and dominion, and subjects changed to enemies were the fruits of that arrogance; but Uzziah could still enter into the temple, not yet shut up in a separate house till he died (2 Chron. xxvi. 21). It is the leprosy of Uzziah which hinders his being the channel of God's power and government in the earth, as it was his profane disobedience that occasioned the leprosy. The king's exclusion from the house of God formed the second and irreparable crisis irreparable till Christ the Son of David restores all things.

The exclusion of the king shadows the cutting off of the whole nation. Their idolatry for a long time was pointing to and preparing the way for this judicial act of God. No sooner had God's picture of the coming glory passed away than idolatry appeared. Even Solomon, who in his estate dimly mirrored the glories and universality of the millennial reign of Christ, fell into idolatry before he died and shamelessly built places for his wives' idols. And soon it spread among hearts that naturally are enmity against God, and though its public growth was somewhat checked by each good king that occupied the throne, it was never wholly eradicated; nay, with an evil king it burst forth with increased vigour. No affliction, no judgment, could free the land from it before the Babylonish captivity. It began possibly with Solomon's weak desire to please his idolatrous wives, who like Rachel brought their images with their household stuff. A weak desire on Solomon's part, but sinful and foolish where obedience and faithfulness to the Lord were involved. He as a wise man perhaps looked with contempt upon his wives' folly, but he did not forbid it. And, beginning with winking at it, he ended with being a willing supporter. A dreadful end it was to a small beginning. "Behold how great a matter a little fire kindleth"!

1893 244 How inveterate the love of idols in Amaziah when he worships his captive gods, for he had brought them to Jerusalem! To what did Ahaz sink, and Manasseh yet lower (if that be possible); for to the idolatries and cruelties of Ahaz, he added witchcraft? To the practice of the worst abominations among the heathen, like Balaam he had dealings with a familiar spirit. But notwithstanding this constant and increasing evil until the decree of unsparing judgment, as spoken by Isaiah, and the sign, as well as the occasion seen in the king's leprosy, Judah was accounted, and God dwelt with king and people, as on the ground of covenant responsibility.

But though sovereign grace abounded, and infinite mercy seemed to linger, Judah had now forfeited that place, and they were Lo-ammi. God would have reinstated them and built up their kingdom in more than Solomon splendour and riches if they could have repented, but they would not. Their eyes were blinded lest they should see etc. however mysterious it may appear to us, it is no less time, that God had judicially done to them as He had in judgment done in ages past to Pharaoh; He hardened their heart. But compare the different position and responsibility of the king and people now with what it was under Solomon, for then covenant blessing and privilege depended on the faithfulness and righteousness of the king. If he walked before God (see 2 Chron. vii. 17-22), the responsibility of the national prosperity rested on the king — thou — but his turning away would surely draw the people after him, and the consequent judgment would be on him and the people — if ye turn away. The turning away was consummated in Uzziah, the measure of iniquity was filled by him (it overflowed under the following evil kings) and the decree of judgment was issued. Their ears made deaf, their eyes blind, heart fat until the appointed time.

If, as the prophet says, the sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron (Jer. xvii. 1), so also is their judgment. Uzziah was a type of that nation which, leprous as he, must endure the deprivation of being cut off from the Lord's house, and be confined in a separate one until the judgment be overpast. The Jews now have no temple and are separate, as a rule, from all Gentiles. But while the mercy of God lingered over the doomed city and nation, it gave a season of joy and gladness to the righteous. There was still the temple for them, and they would find His presence in His house. It would be empty and desolate for the wicked who might crowd to it, and boast of it, as did the Jews when our Lord was here, but there would always he a line of demarcation between them, the house would be full of God's mercy for the righteous, it would be desolate for the wicked (Isa. i. 10-15).

The judgment of God upon this guilty nation takes the form of a delusion. There had been wars, pestilences, and famines, but now something that blunts their feelings. They might have wept and cried to the Lord under the former, as often they did in the times of the Judges; but now they shall simply be deluded. What more terrible judgment, save the eternal one, than "I also will choose their delusions," and this because when God called, there was none to answer.

A more fearful delusion followed by a heavier judgment will come on Christendom, and for the same reason, because they will not hear. 1n the past time God called by judgment and by mercy. Now He calls by mercy alone; the message sent is God's love and free salvation. Still men will not hear, "for this cause God shall send them strong delusion that they should believe a lie" (2 Thess. ii. 11 etc.) On Israel the expression is rather negative (though equally fatal); their heart is made fat lest they convert and be healed. On Christendom it is more positive: not only inability to perceive the truth; but the positive acceptance of a lie, "that they should believe a lie, that they all might be damned:" their eternal doom is foretold.

God forebore long with Ephraim, "How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel?" He bore with greater longsuffering the greater provocations of Judah. For His house was in Jerusalem, and His name was recorded there. When (see Hosea xi. 12) the covenant was broken which afterwards subsisted with Judah after Ephraim (Israel), and judgment was inevitable, there was still, as it were, the lingering of divine commiseration; for we know Who wept with human tears over Jerusalem.

The interval between the judgment on the king, and the destruction of the city by the Babylonians, is filled up with the solemn calls to repentance by God through the prophets, — calls to the nation; but words of comfort to the righteous, and the certainty of final deliverance for them. But from the time of Uzziah's leprosy governmental responsibility is set aside, or modified, it becomes more of an individual character. They were to be no longer as a nation the people of God. Lo-ammi was writ large when they were carried to Babylon.

But it is then when the individual in contrast with the nation is addressed that the sovereign grace of God shines forth, and mercy to the transgressor which the law could not hold out, and which indeed ought not, or it would cease to be a righteous law. But grace is higher than law, and bids it stand aside till the great propitiation is set forth, which shall proclaim and establish its inflexible righteousness. But God, shall we say? waits not for that supreme moment to declare His mercy but proclaims aloud "Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord and He will have mercy upon him and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon." And so the repentant Israelite returning to the Lord would have all the blessings named in Isaiah lv. But these blessings are not merely given as the happy portion of the then repentant Israelite (had repentance been possible) but have a prophetic character. He declares what Israel will be when they turn to the Lord, and the veil is taken away; then all these blessings, will be made good to them both literally and symbolically.

But the proclaiming grace and pardon to the contrite individual in no way condoned the national sin. Judgment on the nation must fall on the righteous as on the wicked. The difference between the righteous and the wicked will definitively and eternally appear in the next life. In this they are mingled together, and the suffering, brought upon themselves by the wicked, the righteous are involved in. Nationally the wicked and righteous are one, and both endure the national judgment. Saints of God now feel the temporal judgments falling on the world, but this is made a blessing and becomes a means of knowing God, and the wonders of redemption in a deeper way. For it enlarges the sphere of faith and trust, and the Christian may take the language of Job, and with a Christian's confidence and submission (which Job had not) say, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him" (Job xiii. 15). The Lord knoweth them that are His and is able to preserve in the midst of the fiercest judgment those that trust in Him. How did He preserve His own that were cast into the fiery furnace, the intense flame of which destroyed their executioners while on the three Hebrews there was not even the smell of fire! In the splendour and amid the riches of their Babylonian palaces not so happy or so honoured as when walking in the midst of the fire; for they were in company with One Who was like the Son of God! And so with that remnant which God has ever kept for Himself, out of that people, whether the righteous in the past, or the believing portion now joined to the church, the righteous judgment that overtook the guilty nations did not, could not, remove the special care that God takes of the godly. To human eyes they suffer in the same circumstances, and no difference is seen. So it might have been said of Daniel and his three friends. They were captives like the wicked princes, bound with similar chains, carried to the same city, all of them known as captives of Judah. But how they rose to honour in an alien city! True God was carrying out His own purpose, foreordained and immutable; at the same time it was God's reward for their faithfulness. We turn to the earlier words of Isaiah — "say ye to the righteous that it is [shall he] well with him." If "well" here below in the midst of the fruits and consequences of sin, what must "well" mean in eternity?

1893 260 The law excluded the leper not only from the tabernacle but from the camp, yea from his own family; "he shall dwell alone, without the camp shall be his habitation." Driven out with rent garments and bare head, but with his upper lip covered (the sign of mourning and woe) and from his own lips the confession of his shame, and the reason of his exclusion, he had to cry, Unclean, unclean (Lev. xiii. 44-46, Num. 5:2).

In the government of Israel, the king was chosen to stand for God before the people, and before God for the people to enforce righteousness both by precept and example, and the temple as the tabernacle of old was the meeting place (Ex. xxix. 43 and 2 Chron. vii. 12). Now that the king is driven out of the temple, and compelled to dwell in a separate house, thus interrupting the legal communication between God and the people, what a feeling of woe must have passed through the few righteous that were in Judah! What unknown terror in their minds when compelled to say of the king — he is a leper! The place of chief of the godly was the king's, as well as chief of the people. And when he had to take the place of a leper and say, Unclean, what wonder that Isaiah (Isa. vi.) as the most prominent of the godly remnant should give sad expression to the tears and feelings of the righteous! "Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips;" and this he would the more deeply feel, for as he adds "mine eyes have seen the King, Jehovah of Hosts." There is no word in scripture to express a worse condition than "unclean"; for this is applied to the leper who is thrust out of the camp, but this is the word that the prophet applies to himself. Why should he be so vile in his own eyes? Because he had seen the King, Jehovah of hosts. The posts of the door moved, and the house was filled with smoke at His presence, what else could Isaiah — holy as he might be — say of himself, but that he was unclean? Not that the righteous were cut off from God; nay, there was a resource, a little city, always provided for them; as now God says by the apostle that with every temptation (trial) there is a way of escape. And the prophet had already given God's word, "Say ye to the righteous that it shall be well with him" (Isa. iii. 10). It is while threatening the wicked that the Lord pauses (shall we say?) in the midst of His denunciations to give this assurance to the righteous. How cheering this must have been to those who, conscious that in the righteous government of God, every covenant, blessing, and privilege was forfeited! Nothing remained for them but sovereign mercy, and this is just what God delights in, for He is the Father of mercies. And in the vision when Isaiah sees Jehovah of hosts, when the almost despairing cry bursts from him "Woe is me," it is then that mercy, yea, more than mercy is shown him, and the angel with the live coal takes away his uncleanness.

This purging of the prophet is not quite the same as the cleansing of a sinner when he receives the forgiveness of his sins, and is cleansed from guilt, for it is the precious blood of Christ that cleanses from all sin. Fire, which is symbolical of the judgment of God, would consume a sinner not purged. In the vision it is qualifying a saint to carry Jehovah's message when every visible means was gone — a message to a people who were never in such a position before. And now that this priestly and kingly link had utterly broken, a new link is formed with the righteous: not that there had not been prophets before, but a new one under the circumstances. The nation was cut off and Lo-ammi written on Judah, as indelible as Belshazzar's doom upon the walls of his palace. Only Christ can say Ammi again.

The corporate position of the whole nation also the prophet bewails, when he confesses that he is a man of unclean lips, dwelling in the midst of a people of unclean lips. His association with them (for he was an Israelite) aggravated the uncleanness: a truth that has its importance now, and that needs the live coal now as then. Not only is seen the individual condition of the righteous, but their national position. The righteous and the wicked as both forming the nation must, at least outwardly, suffer the national judgment. But through all, the righteous are kept and brought, and the prophet becomes the visible link of communication between God and His witnesses, until Christ came, and with Him not a mere temporary link of prophecy with the righteous remnant but the bringing in of everlasting righteousness. But righteousness which is by faith is that which therefore comprehends Gentiles as well as Jews. How wondrously and mercifully God is presented as meeting His own disconsolate ones! The word too records the mercy and the power that kept them together in spite of the influences of surrounding idolatry and indifference. Malachi speaks of those that feared the Lord, and that they spake together; and though they dwindled to a small number, the Lord found some in the temple that then stood, and called others to follow Him, until the hour came when they would no more be correctively smitten, but chastisement gives place to judgments and exhortations, yea, entreaties, to the expectation of threatenings.

1893 274 The purging qualities of fire are often used symbolically to foretell Israel's cleansing in the latter day. God's judgments are a fire that will consume the wicked and purge the righteous. "And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined and will try them as gold is tried. They shall call upon my Name, and I will hear them, I will say it is my people and they shall say Jehovah is my God" (Zech. xiii. 9). "And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto Jehovah an offering in righteousness" (Mal. iii. 3). The prophet's vision of the angel cleansing his lips with a live coal, and the righteous remnant refined like silver and gold over the furnace, are correlative. Isaiah represents the righteous remnant, and they are symbolically purged with a flaming coal from the altar; in the future God will refine and purge the remnant of Israel.

Looking at the historical fact, the prophet is lifted out of his "undone," "unclean," condition, and sent with Jehovah's message to the guilty men of Judah — "Go tell this people" Even Moses at the burning bush shrank from being sent to Pharaoh. Here Isaiah, who had just bewailed his uncleanness, no sooner hears Jehovah saying "Whom shall I send? and who will go for us?" than he answers in the power of the Spirit, "Here am I: send me." Cleansed from his iniquity, purged from his sin, he is empowered to bear Jehovah's words. What efficacy in that live coal!

But the time is coming when not merely a cleansed individual, though a prophet and representative withal, shall be the Lord's messenger, but a chosen remnant who are also called His brethren (Matt. xxv. 31 etc.), not to Judah who hearing shall not hear, and seeing shall not perceive, nor understand, but also on whom God's heavy judgment must fall. These future messengers carry a different message to a different people; they preach the King and invite to the kingdom. Then it will be good news of the kingdom and blessing for those that receive it. But the message by the prophet is a decree of judgment, the shutting, for a time, of the door of mercy. Time people, as a nation, are set aside. "Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone." Judah, like Ephraim, is given up.

Seasons of merciful interposition may yet be given after the judgment is decreed. And though the judgment is pronounced, this does not prevent God's promise of His Son even to "that king Ahaz," not for the sake of the guilty people, but for the sake of the righteous. They thought that if king Uzziah was a leper, then all was ruined; but the promise reveals the King that is coming, of Whose kingdom there should be no end. The glory and magnificence of this promise may have been but dimly seen and felt, but there was strength and cheer for them. God knew how to comfort, and reveal His own purpose; and He has ever known how to provide and care for His own individual sheep while carrying on His great purpose of redemption, or taking vengeance on his enemies. With Him is neither variableness nor shadow of turning; for when Sodom was destroyed, not having ten righteous men within its gates, God did provide for the safety of one, and Zoar, a little city, was spared for his sake. And the Lord Jesus says that the days of great tribulation shall he shortened for the elect's sake. God controls and guides the storm for their sake. Worse and fiercer the storm of sin during the first of Manasseh's reign, and mingled with the predicted judgment under the sons of Josiah; yet what a merciful and blessed season the righteous had in the times of Hezekiah, and of Josiah! God provided an ark for Noah, spared Zoar for Lot's sake, and now calls upon His people, His elect, to enter into their chambers until the indignation be overpast (Isa. xxvi. 20).

The bright seasons in the reign of Hezekiah and of Josiah were to sustain the faith and cheer the hearts of the righteous, not to set aside or annul the judgment. Even Josiah's tender heart and piety could do no more than bring him peace in his own day. But the judgment would surely come in his son's day. If the people could and would have heard and seen and understood, who is to say that it could not then have been, as it will be when the words of the psalmist are made good to Israel in the coming day? "And He remembered for them His covenant, and repented according to the multitude of His mercies" (Ps. cvi. 45). But the prophet enters into the mind of God and does not pray that the judgment may be averted, nor for forgiveness as Solomon did, that God would hear from the heaven of heavens, and, when He heard, forgive. The people were to be deprived of contrite hearts and broken spirits (to which God pledged Himself to look), lest they should be converted. The prophet recognises the righteous judgment, and merely asks "How long" this unparalleled judgment is to last. And the irrevocable answer is "Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, and Jehovah have removed men far away and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land" (Isa. vi. 11). But the judgment is not yet past; the land is desolate, for Israel's blindness is not yet removed. When the veil is taken away, they will turn to the Lord (2 Cor. iii.), their enemies shall be destroyed, and the waste cities shall be inhabited (Isa. liv. 1-10).

But all through this time of wrath the line is preserved among them, even as the seed remains in an oak or a teil tree that is stripped of its leaves, cut down, and only a stump remaining; through the scent of water it will yet bear boughs like a plant (cf. Job xiv. 7). How small the remnant at the time of the Babylonish captivity! If the oak tree was shorn of its leaves then, nothing but the stump is left now.

"High-minded" Christendom, looking at the scattered people, exclaims in unbelief akin to derision, "Can these dry bones live"? Yea, whether looked at as dry hones, there will be the shaking and the breath from the four winds, and they will stand up an exceeding great army; or whether as the stump of the tree but whose substance (life) is in it, the scent of water will cause it again to bear boughs. Among the stricken mass of captives that Nebuchadnezzar brought to Babylon, there were Daniel and his three friends, and others doubtless; and they were kept from Babylon's idolatry. And in due time Ezra and Nehemiah appear, and bring back to Judea the "tenth" that the prophet speaks of. For this "tenth" is by no means significative of the godly remnant, but of the portion of Judah that should historically bear the name of Jews; "tenth" used indefinitely as a small portion compared with the nation. The "tenth" it was that crucified the Lord and so more guilty than those of Manasseh's day, or in the days of Josiah's sons. But they shall be eaten, consumed, or devoured a second time. God's righteous remnant were in their midst but really the life was in the godly ones. The holy seed was in them, but they had dwindled down to a very small number when the Lord Jesus came, such as Zacharias, Elizabeth, Anna, Mary and others that followed Him. But the grace and truth that came by Him was like the scent of water that Job speaks of. There were goodly boughs from the stump of Judah, shooting over the wall. But Judah, the returned "tenth," rejected Him, and the leprosy of Uzziah seemed evermore fixed on them, and so it would he but for the wisdom and power of God. For the leprosy that smote the people typically in Uzziah will be cleansed by Him Who had but to touch and say "I will: be thou clean;" and in the future, as in the past, the leprosy will immediately depart.

1893 293 But the national sin calls for national judgment, which would have been eternal, but that God provided a Man made strong for Himself, Who should be their Messiah, and also our Saviour, even the Lord Jesus. He healed them by His stripes, He was bruised for their iniquities. But it was a light thing to be a substitute for Israel merely, His soul was made an offering for sin. Reconciliation was made by His blood for the sin of the whole world; for the shedding of His blood could not be limited to its atoning value for Israel.

As the king was cut off by his leprosy from the temple, so was the nation governmentally cut off from God. Uzziah's exclusion is symbolical of Judah's. But the nation shall be restored, and the sin, the moral leprosy, shall be washed away. And the house of David which led the way into sin and idolatry is first named as cleansed by the waters of the fountain that shall be opened in that day, a day joyfully anticipated by the prophet. "In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness" (Zech. xiii. 1). But who can tell its brightness? When the then nation is sprinkled with clean water, when all are taught of God, when the name, the real name, of the chief city, the once idolatrous Jerusalem, will be JEHOVAH SHAMMAH, then the story of the glory of Solomon and of his golden city (2 Chron. ix. 20) will lose its place of wonder and boast, in presence of the greater millennial glory which the Lord will surely bring to Israel; for the kingdom and the power and the glory are His. The Lord will turn Israel's sorrow to joy, their captivity into conquest. He Who in their stead once suffered, and was afflicted for their sakes has blotted out the handwriting that was against them, all the broken ordinances that called aloud for judgment; and He will reinstate in all the blessedness of the original promise.

That Israel's guilt was borne by Him, as well as atonement made for every believer, in His death and bloodshedding on the cross, is a truth that shines through the words unwittingly spoken by Caiaphas when he said to the chief priests and Pharisees gathered in council, "Ye know nothing at all, nor consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not" (John xi. 49, 50). How contrary to God, how devilish, was the thought of Caiaphas? How blessed and divine the truth of God contained in it! Yet the high priest was quite unconscious of any feeling but his own hatred and jealousy of Christ; but he is compelled by the Holy Spirit to use words which unfold God's love to Israel, and His purpose of redemption in Christ; and then God gives His commentary on them, and that such was not the meaning of Caiaphas. But this shows how God controls all things for the furtherance of His truth, and of His glory. And Caiaphas was not the only one, nor indeed the first to utter words, the fulness of which he could not comprehend. Balaam, while desiring the last end of the righteous, could scarcely grasp the extent of his despairing cry, "I shall see Him but not nigh." It was wrung from him: he felt himself powerless in the hand of his Almighty Conqueror.

Again, we may reverently and adoringly say, how wise, divinely and graciously wise, that the words of the high priest were not of himself as was his thought, but were controlled by the Holy Spirit, that they might hear His meaning; "And not for that nation only but that He should gather into one the children of God that were scattered abroad." In these words of meaning is the nation (Israel) as such, and also the children of God, each one in his individual position, rather gathered out from it, and all made one in Him. It is for Israel restored; and believers made one in Christ by His cross.

Henceforward from Isaiah's prophecy there is no semblance of repentance in Judah; for although Jotham, the son of Uzziah did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, it is expressly said, "And the people did yet corruptly" (2 Chron. xxvii. 2). Even the bright moments in the reign of Hezekiah and of Josiah were only an outward reformation, a veil drawn over the evil of idolatry, so that it was compelled to hide its hydra head. And the Lord said by the mouth of His prophet, "For as much as this people draw near Me with their mouth and with their lips do honour Me, but have removed their heart far from Me; and their fear toward Me is taught by the precept of men" (Isa. xxix. 13). It was by the command of Hezekiah that the people pretended to draw near, but He Who searches the heart knew that it was far removed. This was God's word in the prophet's day; and the word is confirmed by our Lord Jesus Who applies the same word to the Jews in His day (Matt. xv. 7-9). Hypocrisy was characteristic of them, and was dominant in the time of the prophet. "Every one is a hypocrite" (Isa. ix. 17). "I will send him against a hypocritical nation" (chap. 6). The people would please Hezekiah, but they followed their own evil; and the natural effect of a good example on an evil nature is to make persecutors, or, if the good example be that of a man in authority, it very probably will make hypocrites. This the nation became and were so when our Lord was here below. Not but what some also became persecutors (Heb. xi. 36-38), but hypocrisy perhaps the more prevalent. And what more hateful than hypocrisy? While to the publicans and harlots the Lord said Come, to the hypocrites He said Woe.

And yet the Lord had His own chosen ones among the nation of hypocrites and idolaters, and while the prophets came armed with God's judgments against the wicked, they were also the messengers of peace to the afflicted few. The prophets were laden with assurances of God's mercy, and His remembrance of them. The godly might have had desponding moments when Ahaz reigned, yet what a distinct and definite promise is given, and given too to "that king Ahaz!" Not for his sake is it given, but to tell the nation what God will do for them, and to cheer and brighten the lives of the oppressed remnant. There is the destruction of their enemies (Pekah and Rezin), and afterwards the advent of the Son, of Whose government there should be no end. "For unto us a child is born etc." (Isa. ix. 6, 7). How evident that two classes in Judah are before the mind of the prophet, the righteous and the wicked! To the former is given the glorious promise; to the latter although their calamities are great, and will be greater, yet the words of the prophet, the knell of their utter ruin, are "For all this His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still!" Even the great prophecy, the promise of a Son, could not turn away the Lord's anger, nor was it intended so, but to give a sure word of prophecy where the righteous might rest their hope, laying a foundation on which the righteous could build all through the time of judgment.

We may here notice a change in the manner of communication from the Lord to the people. In the wilderness it came through Moses, and all his power and authority enforced it. But now, through sin, the leader or king of the nation can no longer be the channel of the Lord's messages. A special man must be raised up for the purpose; who, through the wickedness of him that occupies the place of the first channel, may be put in prison as was Jeremiah. But he was strengthened of the Lord (Jer. i. 17-19) to overcome the anticipated opposition. And not only so; for the Lord in old time commanded Moses to speak to the people, as if, in putting honour on Moses, He would use his authority. Now the Lord speaks more directly to the people. Certainly the prophet speaks to the people, but it is the Lord's authority; the servant may be ill-treated and despised, and the authority and power of the king be against the authority of the Lord. In mercy now the words come direct from the Lord to the poor and despised. "To that man will I look etc." That is, the Lord spoke through Moses and the ruler spoke with the Lord; now when the Lord speaks, it is outside and often against the king, but ever to the humble and contrite. God's communications will again come through the Ruler, when the Son of David comes and takes the kingdom. All will be in due order in that day. He that rules was "the Servant," and serves even while He rules. In all things He has the pre-eminence.

2 Chronicles 27 - 28.

1893 308 Very brief is the notice of Jotham, no event does the Spirit of God dwell on. In a general way he did right in the sight of the Lord, but, it appears, manifested no energy, for while he did right, the people still did corruptly. Nevertheless, outward prosperity marks a righteous king, his enemies pay tribute, and "Jotham became mighty, because he prepared his ways before the Lord his God" (2 Chron. xxvii. 6). But if the people acting corruptly is evidence of the want of energy in the king, how much greater the corruption in his son Ahaz, who soon exceeded and led the people in their corruption? If Jotham could not put down the idolatry of his own family, and restrain the tendencies of the heir of his throne, much less the same tendencies in the nation. Two things mark his reign, the king personally righteous but without zeal, while the people doing corruptly were fitting themselves to follow Ahaz in all his abominations.

Rather longer is the account of Ahaz, or of what happened during his reign, than of Jotham, a righteous king. But it was the iniquity of Ahaz that made him prominent; and there were two events in connection with Israel which were brought out at that time, viz., Judah's decadence, "For the Lord brought Judah low because of Ahaz king of Israel for he made Judah naked, and transgressed sore against the LORD." Ahaz is called king of Israel, his position before God, for the ten tribes were apostate. Judah was the Israel of God, but Judah was made naked, never so low as now, even lower than apostate Israel. It is this that we see; and secondly, that Israel, who had taken an apostate place before God, had yet some righteous men, who felt their position, men of weight and influence who would not allow their trespass to be added to by retaining the captives from Judah. "Our trespass" was no doubt their great trespass in rebelling against the house of David. The rebuke of Oded and the remonstrance of the four princes cause the captives to be sent home. Israel seemed to be more amenable than Judah to correction. At least, with some, the remembrances of what they had been under David, and how they had sinned and forfeited every covenanted mercy in their rebellion against Rehoboam, extorted the confession "for our trespass is great, and there is fierce wrath against Israel."

The return of the captives and the cause of it could have been no secret to Judah and Ahaz; but it had no effect on the besotted hearts of the men of Judah, who were already feeling the judgment of God. Unconscious of it they might be, but no less visible was the judgment; for while the LORD was calling them to the remembrance of His goodness, by causing the Israelites to restore the captives of Judah fed and clothed, and the remembrance too of His just wrath in permitting the Edomites and the Philistines to smite and invade Judah, yet "At that time did king Ahaz send to the kings of Assyria to help him," and purchased it with the gold of the temple, and of his palace. And though the Assyrian king did not help, but distressed him more, yet did Ahaz sin more, for he sacrificed to the gods that smote him; and the sacred writer, even the Holy Spirit, as in the utmost human contempt says "This is that king Ahaz." Yet to him the prophet speaks of the glory of the Son to be born, and Hezekiah gives a dim shadow of the coming glory. Dim, for though wonderful in itself, as coming after the abominations of Ahaz, what can it be but partial and dim when taken as a picture of the future millennial glory of the Son? "For now we see through a dim window obscurely."

The power and goodness of the Lord is manifest in the fact that Hezekiah was a good king, his father was the worst that yet sat on the throne. Where was the youth Hezekiah trained, was it in his father's palace or in the city? Ahaz had surrounded him with idolatry, he had idols in every separate city, in every grove, on every high hill, he had shut the doors of the LORD's house. Wherever Hezekiah looked, an idol met his eye. And yet in the first year of his reign, the first month(!) he opened the doors of the house of the LORD. It is not only remarkable, and astonishingly so, in Hezekiah personally as being an evidence of the power of God over surrounding influences, but also in that Hezekiah was used governmentally (for God still waited for Israel though the judgment was pronounced). He was giving a sample (shall we say?) of what the fulfilment of the promise would be, the promise of the Son just made to Ahaz. There is no excuse for the rationalistic pretension that the virgin's Son, Immanuel, was to be a child either of the king or of the prophet. Compare Isa. ix. 6, 7.

2 Chronicles 29 – 30.

1893 322 This chapter may be called the account of the re-consecration of the temple and of the priests and Levites; the trumpets and the instruments of David were there (2 Chron. 29:27). Nor did Hezekiah fail to remember all Israel (2 Chron. 29:24), and accordingly, in the following chapter, he sends to all Israel and Judah, and wrote to Ephraim and Manasseh, to the remainder of the ten tribes that were not carried into captivity by the king of Assyria (2 Kings xvii. 6 ver.). Some scorned the invitation; but many came (2 Chron. 30:10, 11). When the anti-typical day comes, the scorners will have perished; for then all the tribes in various ways will come to the house of the Lord and to Jerusalem (see Ps. cvii. which is a grateful remembrance and thanksgiving for the loving-kindness of the Lord: a song of praise from Israel restored). So in these chapters we have the re-opening of the doors of the temple, its re-consecration, and the recall of all Israel. What can these be but pledges from God of what is yet future, for the temple then standing was soon to be burnt by the Chaldeans, and the tribe of Judah to be scattered, as Israel was? why then such a great change, if it were not symbolical of a greater yet to come? The temple service was certainly restored because Hezekiah was good. But a deeper truth, I think, is to be apprehended — that Hezekiah was made a good king, because the Lord was going to give a little sample of His grace and power to be fully manifested in His time. Is this not intimated in the sudden preparation of the people's hearts, which humanly would require many years? "And Hezekiah rejoiced and all the people that God had prepared the people, for the thing was done suddenly" (2 Chron. 29:36). Looking at the circumstances, their most universal idolatry and the national and truly quick response to Hezekiah's call, apparent in all the chapter (2 Chron. xxx.), are we not compelled to acknowledge the constraining hand of God, and while acknowledging, stand aside and humbly enquire what new act of grace and love is now to bring out more of God of which this rebellions and idolatrous people are to be the platform? Soon is the grace displayed. A sample, shall we say? of that eternal love that never changes and of that power before which all enemies are as chaff, is presented and each while prophetically it points to the future, historically it is the voice of a call. He Who can do this, can do much more. Repent for why will ye die? for God hath spoken and evil is determined against this nation, but if you turn from your evil, He will repent of the evil He thought to do (Jer. xviii. 8). But the earnest call of the prophet and the gracious interpositions of God in delivering power were alike unheeded. "Make the heart of this people fat." How true of the last days of the kingdom! How patiently God waited to be gracious!

All that were invited could not keep the passover of the appointed time, the 14th day of the first month; for the priests were not sufficiently sanctified, nor the people gathered. The king and princes had taken counsel to keep the passover in the second month. This was a provision made by the Lord for unavoidable failure. (See Num. ix.) But even in the second month a multitude of the people, chiefly of the ten tribes, had not cleansed themselves; yet did they eat otherwise than it w as written.

Hezekiah prayed for them; not that he was indifferent to their condition, but his only resource under the circumstances was to pray for them saying, "the good Lord pardon every one." There might have been much ignorance in the people which were left of the tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun. These tribes had forsaken the temple for many years; the sins of ignorance were forgiven: if not ignorance, it was presumption — no forgiveness for that (see Num. xv). This does not intimate that he knew of the uncleansed condition of some while at the feast; for the purport of his letters (ver. 1) was to come according to the law, and waiting for the second month was affording time to be cleansed. Rather, when he knew it after, and it could not humanly be remedied, and that some had eaten the passover otherwise than it was written, he had no resource but in prayer.

2 Chronicles 31 – 33.

1893 339 What of old was the consequence to Judah of the unnatural alliance of Jehoshaphat and Ahab? The marriage of Jehoshaphat's son with Ahab's daughter. Jehoram slays all his brethren and some of the princes. The dark times of Ahaziah, and Athaliah succeed. Jehoram killed his brothers, Athaliah slew her grandchildren (2 Chron. xxii. 10-12). Such the effect of his affinity with Ahab. God suffered long: only one thing more to fill up the measure of their iniquity; and then judgment was pronounced. They had forsaken the Lord, followed idols, sought the aid of man, and made alliance with apostates. It was in Uzziah's reign that an attempt was made to upset the order of the temple. Departure from the Lord would bring judgment. Not giving heed to God's calls to return, would confirm it, but to interfere with God's order in His own house and seek to introduce man's order called forth the immediate sentence. The nation, symbolised by Uzziah's leprosy, is cut off from the house which they had defiled. But the judgment on the king did not change the people. The sentence was "make the heart of this people fat," and the fulfilment was, "and the people did yet corruptly" (2 Chron. xxvii. 2).

Another effect of the then affinity with Ahab is that Ahaz walked in the ways of the kings of Israel. This expression seems to denote the greatest guilt of the kings of Judah, and is used after affinity with Ahab. Ahaz burnt his children in the fire. Manasseh dealt with a familiar spirit and with wizards. Could the chosen nation sink lower? The sons of Josiah make the cup of iniquity to overflow, and the beginning of judgment overtakes them. But before that, the patience and goodness of God provides two bright presentations of the future, when in His time, not in Uzziah's, the priest and the king shall be one; not to avert the doom of Judah, but for the encouragement of the righteous yet found there. They are given under Hezekiah and Josiah. This was unmingled mercy. But they passed away and wickedness prevailed from the king to the lowest. Hezekiah had it in his heart to make a covenant with the Lord God of Israel, that His fierce anger might turn away, but the sentence was decreed and the piety neither of Hezekiah, nor of Josiah, could turn aside the judgment about to fall on Judah and Jerusalem. The utmost was a delay (2 Chron. xxix. 10; 2 Chron. xxxiv. 23-28).

How the many interpositions of God in mercy during the whole of their history, which were so many calls to repentance, remind us of our Lord's words, as He wept over Jerusalem, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" (Matt. xxiii. 37; Luke xiii. etc.) Asa in his later days oppressed some, who seem by being named together to belong to the same company as the seer (2 Chron. xvi. 10); but persecution raged after Uzziah. Perhaps the bitterest times were during the reigns of Ahaz and of Manasseh. But the Holy Spirit refers to them and their sufferings (Heb. xi. 33-38), and declares the world not worthy of them. Idolatrous Jerusalem has its army of martyrs as well as pagan Rome, and so-called christian Rome not less but more.

But mark that He Who wept said, I would have gathered! God speaks in Him with human tears. Who will dare to attempt to draw the line between His deity and humanity? Where is reverence for the person of Christ our Lord? It is far from shining in this present evil age, when the only Worthy One was rejected for a robber, and which will close with the vilest of men exalted and exalting himself as God.

2 Chronicles 34 – 35.

1893 356 In Hezekiah's life there are two events which foreshadow the restoration of Jehovah's worship and the destruction of the enemy; that is, the passover and the overthrow of the Assyrian have each a prophetic bearing. But again what closer illustration of the history of Israel than in the life of Manasseh, wickedness and rebellion against God, then captivity in a Gentile's dungeon, and lastly restoration, not merely deliverance from a foreign land, but restored to his kingdom! As to all Israel, their national iniquity is ended, and they are eating the fruit of their doings. Their restoration is yet to come. And come it will as surely as Manasseh was restored to his kingdom.

Manasseh has fearful prominence among the wicked kings of Judah, even the fierceness of Jehovah's wrath is attributed to the sins and provocations of Manasseh (2 Kings xxiii. 26, 2 Kings xxiv. 3, Jer. xv. 4). He is singled out for his sins, and as the object of God's mercy, as no other, before or since.

The passover kept by Josiah seems more extensively observed by the people than that of Hezekiah, at whose invitation some mocked (2 Chron. xxx. 10). There was no passover before or after like that of Josiah, and none like him that turned to the Lord with all his heart "according to all the law of Moses" (2 Kings xxiii. 25). Notwithstanding the Lord turned not from His fierce anger. But Hezekiah's soul has a deeper thought of the mercy of God; for to him the first thing was to receive the pardon of all sin, and then the service of God. Both begin by cleansing the house of the Lord. This was imperative, for in vain would Hezekiah draw nigh to God while the temple was defiled. The difference is that Josiah did it as preparing himself for the eating of the passover; Hezekiah, as that which was imperatively due to God. It is the "passover" which fills the heart of Hezekiah, and in the first year, in the first month, having put the temple in order and the priests and Levites in their places, he sent to all Israel to come to the passover. This is more than "according to all the law of Moses" which characterised Josiah.

The holding this feast so filled Hezekiah's heart, that if he could not keep it on the day which was regularly appointed, he would on that which was graciously permitted, and all Israel were in that condition to which this permission is granted by God. And when the passover is finished, then all present went out to the cities of Judah and brake the images, and then returned to their own cities. But it was in the eighteenth year that Josiah kept the passover. He would have them all first prepared, as he said to the priests: "So kill the passover, and sanctify yourselves and prepare, etc." It was due preparation "according to the law of Moses" moved Josiah, not the mercy of God beyond law, which seemingly occupied and filled Hezekiah, insomuch that when he was told that some had taken the passover without having cleansed themselves, i.e., without legal preparation, which was a sin in the eye of the law, he looks higher than the law, to the sovereign mercy of God, and prays, "the good Lord pardon every one." Josiah cleaves to the law, and acts righteously in cleaving, but it did not bring him joy and gladness as to Hezekiah and the people with him (2 Chron. xxx. 26). The book of the law is found (not that he searched for it); and he reads. What is the effect of the law upon his soul? He rends his clothes: it brings distress. The Lord answers to his weeping and promises mercy beyond the provisions of the law (2 Chron. xxxiv. 24-28). The reading the law may have quickened him in his work of purging the land, but it did not make him joyful; on the contrary he rends his clothes. When Moses went up the second time on mount Sinai to meet the Lord, He proclaimed His name as the merciful, gracious, and longsuffering Lord, and yet as visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children — wondrous mingling of law and grace which only He Who gave the law could do. Josiah clave to the law, as a good Jew. Hezekiah, in spirit, rested on the mercy which was in store for thousands. Hezekiah prepares himself to purge the land by eating the passover. Josiah prepares himself to eat the passover by breaking the images. In eating the passover, there is confession of sin and helplessness; there is the profession of faith in Him, Who said, "When I see the blood I will pass over," and still more emphatically, though symbolically, given by the Lord Himself, "Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, etc." Man prefers and follows in the path marked by Josiah. It is not God's way. His way is to eat the passover first, and thus to get eternal life. How else could we break down images? It would be Satan casting out Satan.

But, as yet, the law could not be set aside: where there was faith, the individual could rise above it, and God responds to the faith He gives. Josiah as a good king, under law, prepares himself, and because he is good, he bows under the law in deep distress. His purging of the land, and his repairing of the temple could not prevent his tears. Nor was the law given to wipe away tears, rather to cause them to flow. Both kings are noted for zeal, but it is manifested differently. Hezekiah sends to Ephraim and to Manasseh (tribe) and to others to come and keep the passover. Josiah sends to destroy all the visible traces of idolatry both in Judah and in the cities of Manasseh (tribe). That is the land of the tribe of Manasseh, for at that time Israel was carried into captivity by the Assyrian. Why need Josiah interfere with those who are aliens to Israel? It was sufficient for Josiah to know that these aliens were dwelling in God's land, and the land must be purged.

Evidently Hezekiah is on higher ground than Josiah, and it is said of him that none before or after were like him (Hezekiah). He is noted for his trust in the Lord (2 Kings xviii. 5), that is, he took the ground of grace. Josiah took rather the ground of law. Hezekiah was sick nigh to death and was tried, that he might know all that was in his heart. Just the way of God with His saints who live by faith. Josiah was not so put to the proof and tested. Hezekiah's path was like the path of the just, shining brighter and brighter unto the perfect day; and he passes away in peace, after knowing the increasing brightness of the power of God Who healed him of his disease and restored him so as to go again to the house of the Lord, and gave deliverance and victory over his enemy. Josiah passes onward, having the blessings of a faithful Jewish servant under the law, but fails to discern the will of God at the close of his life. Perhaps a little elated with his prosperity, and with the reform that he had effected in his kingdom, he endeavours to withstand the king of Egypt and is slain, and his dead body brought to Jerusalem. The difference of the deaths of these two kings is worthy of our notice. May the Holy Spirit lead us to apprehend His teaching in it.

Now in sending to destroy all trace of idolatry, before keeping the passover, is just the way that religious man (the religion of the world) approves. Many Christians even follow in the same path, and believe it to be the right way. And if it were law without grace under which we were placed, it would be quite right. Many attempt to approach God in this path, not considering, what may seem a paradox, that the farther they advance in this path, the farther is God from them. And if they could approach God by this path, and receive His pardon and justification, it would not be God justifying the ungodly, but the purged. But purged from what? From sin? But the nature is sinful: if any could purge himself from the sin that dwells in him, he must purge himself from his nature, without having any other — for he is supposed on his way to God to receive the new nature — where then would he be? The gospel speaks differently. The unpurged, the lost, are called, are invited in the gospel; for even Christ, our passover, was slain for us. We are keeping the feast that followed it, the feast of unleavened bread.

How Satan must deride the attempt of any man to make himself clean, and fit for the presence of God. The Lord said of Job that he had no equal in the earth, not excepting his three friends, that he was perfect and upright; and when his calamity suddenly burst on him and overwhelmed him in body as in circumstance, he not knowing God's love and inscrutable wisdom uttered intemperate words; yet even then he knew enough of himself to say, "If I wash myself with snow water and make my hands never so clean, yet shalt Thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me." He did not know the utter vileness of his nature: this can be learnt only in the presence of God Whose divine light makes the heart bare. When brought to that light, he says, "Behold, I am vile."

A man sometimes speaks of finding his way to God! He never will. He may be brought to God, but he will never find the way to Him. Why the Lord Himself only brings us to God by the shedding of His own precious blood, and will man pretend to come in the name and strength of his own works, after the truth is declared in the cross of Christ? That cross which proves the vileness of man as well as proclaims the infinite love of God?

It was the object in giving the law, that man might know his own vileness and impotency, but he, full of conceit of himself, accepted the law as the means of life, and sought to establish his own righteousness by that which could only be for himself, the ministration of death. But we have seen that the best man in the earth says, Behold, I am vile. Truly the nature is vile, and man, to cleanse himself, must destroy his own nature. Then where is he? There is one, only one, way of being cleansed and fit for the presence of a holy God, and that is not by our endeavours which, were it possible, would take a long time (and death might supervene) but by the Holy Spirit's application of the blood of Christ. There is a perfect, immediate, and eternal cleansing. His blood cleanseth from all sin.

2 Chronicles 36.

1893 370 With the death of Josiah the forbearance of God ceased and judgment soon came upon the city. It had been hitherto restrained; for the calamities that befell the kingdom of Judah partook of the character of chastisement. The reformation effected by Josiah was the last interposition of mercy from God, while Judah remained as a nation. The next national interposition of God will not be a mere temporary reform but eternal, under their king Messiah, our Lord Jesus. But now the sky was black with impending judgment. And the first droppings of the storm of the judgment proved the removal of the last stay of David's house. Alas! this was followed by the maddest infatuation of their kings, the sons of Josiah.

The dominion of the Gentile soon began, and will only terminate when the Lord appears. But Josiah, in this matter, enquired not of the Lord: it was his own ardour that led him to withstand Pharaoh-necho. And as if he had a presentiment of his death, he disguised himself (2 Chron. xxxv. 22), of which there was no need with faith in God. He had not even the faith of Jehoshaphat, who, though abetting and helping Ahab, would not go to battle without enquiring of the prophet of the Lord, and went with his kingly robes on. Jehoshaphat was preserved; Josiah was slain. The God of battles, Who guided the arrow that gave Ahab his death-wound, controlled the archers that slew Josiah. Mercy took him away from the evil to come (Isa. lvii. 1); but there was judgment in the manner of it, which fell on the guilty city unmixed. The people of the land placed his son Jehoahaz on the throne. The Egyptian monarch, however, would not permit him to be king, but carried him into Egypt where he died a captive: the same land and power, from which, in ages past, the Lord with mighty arm and wondrous signs had delivered His people Israel.

All Israel as a nation now was cut off, and the way made for accomplishing in due time His purpose, that mercy should come to the Gentiles (Rom. xi.). And we may observe here that, as one Gentile is used for the execution of Jehovah's anger on Israel, so another (Cyrus) is used as the instrument of His mercy in giving permission, and help to all that wished to return. "Who is there among you of all his people? The Lord his God be with him, and let him go up" (2 Chron. xxxvi. 23). True, that restoration was partial; for only a remnant returned, a little one compared with the nation. A full restoration of all Israel, after the judgment is ended, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south (Ps. cvii. 3), is reserved for the great Son of David; Who will not only restore them to greater glory than they had under Solomon, but also take vengeance on those Gentiles that, while executing Jehovah's wrath on His own guilty people, sought to gratify their hatred and boasted against the Lord God of Israel. It was truly the axe lifting up itself against Him Who used it.

But if the king of Egypt is God's rod for Josiah, not he is for the guilty city. The king of Babylon executes Jehovah's wrath upon Jerusalem, and Egypt must submit to him now whom God had appointed to rule over the world. Nebuchadnezzar set up whom he would, and whom he would he cast down. We see this power exercised in regard to the sons of Josiah. Egypt's subjugation is seen in that Eliakim, the nominee of Pharaoh-necho, becomes the servant of the king of Babylon (2 Chron. xxxvi. 6). How completely is Judah under the power of Nebuchadnezzar when he binds this king in fetters, and puts a child of eight years on the throne, and after three months places his uncle Mattaniah (Zedekiah) there! Even the changing of his name was evidence of the supreme authority of Nebuchadnezzar, who did the same to Daniel and his three friends.

But Zedekiah rebelled against his lord, and the rebellion was through the anger of the Lord (1 Kings xxiv. 20); it was a part of the judgment upon Judah and Jerusalem, and it brought special judgment upon himself. For the terrible vengeance of Nebuchadnezzar on his helpless captive was due perhaps not so much to the rebellion of a vassal king as to the guilt, the enormity, of breaking the oath that he took in the name of Jehovah to be obedient to Nebuchadnezzar (Ezek. xvii. 11-21). This iniquity filled up his cup. He made a covenant with the king of Babylon, and took an oath in the name of Jehovah to obey Nebuchadnezzar, insomuch that Jehovah said "my oath," and "my covenant." Afterwards he rebelled against the king that Jehovah had set over him, and sent to Egypt for horses and men. He despised the covenant and oath so solemnly taken and thus presented the name of the Holy One of Israel to the heathen king as nothing. This brought things to a climax: there was "no remedy." The Babylonish captivity terminated the existence of Judah as a nation, as the king of Assyria did that of Israel.

In all their past history the long-suffering of God rises above their sin. Nevertheless they turned a deaf ear and would none of His reproofs. Jehovah "sent to them by His messengers rising up betimes and sending, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place"; but they mocked His messengers, despised His words, and misused the prophets, until the wrath of Jehovah rose against His people till there was no remedy. Therefore He brought upon them the king of the Chaldeans (2 Chron. xxxvi. 15, etc.) until Cyrus arose — type of their Messiah, Who will accomplish a greater and a final restoration.

But though the captives might weep by the rivers of Babylon, the prophecy of Isaiah (Isa. vi.) was not fulfilled; the removal of men far away, and the great forsaking in the midst of the land yet remained to be exhausted. The children of the returned captives had yet another opportunity (humanly speaking) of turning aside the wrath of God; according as He said, "I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them" (Jer. xviii. 7-10). How wonderful and full of grace and truth are these words! Yet they rejected and crucified the Lord of glory. The time of "Jacob's trouble" is at hand; and so is their Deliverer. Then there will be no need for one to say to his neighbour, "Know the Lord," for all shall know from the least to the greatest. Once the city was forsaken; but the irrevocable name of it soon will be "Jehovah is there," R. B.