But King Solomon loved many strange women.
Monday Club Sermons.A few years ago two paintings were exhibited in this country, which attracted wide attention. One of them represented Rome in the height of her splendour, and the other in the depths of her decay. The contrast was melancholy and instructive. One could not repress the question as he turned from one scene to the other, What led to this mighty change? It was the old story, which every great nation thus far in history has illustrated sooner or later, that of a secret, slow-moving moral decay, preceding and occasioning social upheaval and ruin. We might fancy that a similar picture might be drawn between two periods in the history of Israel — one, that of the latter part of Solomon's reign, when there was an unsurpassed wealth and glory and power in the holy city; and the other, only a few years later, when the kingdom was rent and the sceptre had departed.
I. SOLOMON'S SIN. This was no ordinary transgression of an ordinary evil-doer. It was not the general unworthiness of his life — an unworthiness that pertains to every child of Adam. It was a distinct thing. It had an historical character — Solomon's sin. We now ask briefly in what did it consist?
1. It was not, primarily, sensuality. That was only the outworking of an inner and far deeper evil. The simple and honest historian tells us that he loved many strange women, thus breaking an explicit command to the chosen people. Now the ultimate evil against which Moses was led to legislate in this particular was not polygamy nor licentiousness, but the idolatry which the foreigner would inevitably introduce. Among these women he found an intellectual stimulus and gratification. They were more brilliant than Jewish maidens, and their culture was a distinct and attractive element in the royal pursuit of "wisdom." For in that great experiment of life Solomon commanded the most costly and varied forms of pleasure and of learning. All the world — all there was in man — was made tributary to the object held up in view.
2. Nor was it pure and simple idolatry. That also was a symptom of inner disorder and weakness. It was like polygamy, a form only of heart-wandering from God. He built high places for his wives, which burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods. There is not the slightest evidence that he ever abandoned the worship of Jehovah, or set up images of him as Jeroboam did, or that he ever lost faith in Jehovah as the one and only true God. But his heart was not perfect; and this was the sin beneath his sensuality and idolatry. He began to waver by tolerating the false religions of his wives. He was liberalised in religion. If people were only sincere, he may have said, no matter what they worship. If they live up to their light, it is well enough without letting in more light. Who knows absolute truth? Who can say, "Thus saith the Lord"? Who, thought this king, sets himself up to say that there is only one narrow way of life? The religious world of to-day finds its most subtle and powerful temptation in the general revolt against restraint and constraint. It takes now one form and now another. It comes as a protest against what is called narrowness, even in construing the terms of the gospel upon which men enter into life. The world has always seen the insolence of greatness against the law of God. It sees now the same insolence under cover of the grace of God. But whatever we may discover in science or art, whatever gains we may make in the domain of reason, there can be nothing essentially new in the way of life by Jesus Christ. The data of theology are all furnished, and have been for ages. The path of life is just as narrow and just as broad as ever. God demands the whole heart, because anything less is nothing at all to Him. Half even of Solomon's great soul is worthless in the kingdom of heaven.
II. SOLOMON'S PUNISHMENT. We observe at once that it was of a character to be peculiarly felt by one of his great endowments and brilliant opportunities. It came very slowly In the first place, although we do not find it here recorded, he lived long enough to see that his splendid experiment in life had been a miserable failure. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity, was his sad verdict. His "world" passed away and the lust of it. He ceased to desire. Punishment came in another form. He was unable to transmit the kingdom to his posterity; and such men have an eye to the future, in which their greatness will come to be fully seen and honoured. They are above the narrowest lines of an ignorant selfishness. They would make coming ages tributary to themselves. To Solomon, who had been made acquainted with the mind of God towards Israel, there must have been a profound sorrow in the certainty that his failure carried the nation down with himself. Those in authority hold a peculiar place in the divine economy, because their defections entail such widespread disasters. Hence God rightly exacts extraordinary punishments of them.
(Monday Club Sermons.)
I. A LIFE OF LUXURY IS PERILOUS TO THE SOUL. God intended man to labour even when he was in Paradise. The idler is practically opposing a fundamental law of the Most High. An abundance of wealth tempts a man to a life of pleasure, which is selfish idleness, and when official power is added to the wealth the flood-gates of sin are opened in the soul in almost all cases. He who, if busy in an honest trade or profession, would readily throw off the approaches of gross sin by his preoccupation. Solomon was a luxurious idler. He was not a statesman busying himself for the good of his country. The young man who has independent resources is in a very hazardous position. He is tempted to play the Solomon on his own small scale. The sin, however, is just as great, and the ruin as profound. He seeks associates who will amuse him, and, instead of growing in spiritual wisdom and strength, he descends rapidly to the plane of stupid carnality.
II. THE WAY OF WICKEDNESS IS A STEEP DESCENT. Solomon found the step from Pharaoh's daughter to Pharaoh's god a very easy one. Youth flatters itself with an idea of its own strength, and plans a descent into sin only a short distance, when it will return and walk in the path of righteousness. It is the silly bird caught in the fowler's net. Association with evil blunts the perception of the evil, and the young man is soon found apologising for the wickedness he formerly condemned.
III. THE WRATH OF GOD IS A DREAD REALITY. Men of loose life love to harp on the truth that God is love, and then interpret love as amiable weakness. It was the Divine anger with Solomon and his corrupted people which rent Israel asunder and raised up formidable foes to destroy the prosperity of the land. Our text is perfectly plain on that head
IV. THE SOURCE OF THE FALSE LIFE IS IN THE FALSE HEART. Solomon's heart was not perfect with the Lord God. The word "perfect" here is not to be understood as referring to the character, but to the motive and intent. A perfect character never existed on earth since man fell, except the Lord Jesus. Solomon s religion was a political and fashionable affair. A heart devoted to God had nothing to do with it. He would pay outward respect to the religion of the land, but with the grand liberality of a worldly heart he would be so broad in his views and so free in his charity as to welcome all religious into his realm and capital. It is simply the heart that is not perfect with God pursuing its course of nature. It is the heart that can indulge in sin to any extent, and yet speak eloquently on universal love and the excellent glory of humanity in general. The so-called philosophy of the day is brimful of it, destroying the idea of the personality of God in order that it may make room for a universal righteousness, sin being eliminated as an old wife's fable. It is the religion that is lauded on the stage by depraved men and women, because it finds no fault with their defilement. This is the Solomonian religion, which is set over against the Davidic religion in our text.
(H. Crosby, D. D.)
I. THE NATURE OF SOLOMON'S FALL.
1. It was gradual. No man becomes wholly abandoned or altogether depraved at once; formation of character is, both in its construction and destruction, a gradual process.
(1) (2) (3) (4) 2. It was sure. From bad to worse, like a stone rolling down a hill. II. THE CAUSES OF SOLOMON'S FALL. 1. The mixing of self-interest with God's service. He chose wives from nations with whom God had forbidden His people to intermarry; hence contagion from such a bad example. 2. The union of piety and superstition. III. THE CONSEQUENCES OF SOLOMON'S FALL. 1. It brought down God s displeasure. 2. It brought ruin on his kingdom. Even the sins of obscure men pass in their effects beyond the power of their perpetrators (as no man liveth, no man dieth, so no man sinneth to himself) but how much more the sins of the great ones of the earth! IV. THE LESSONS OF SOLOMON'S FALL. 1. Great opportunities bring great responsibilities, and such cannot be neglected with impunity. 2. Riches hinder access into the kingdom of God. Wealth applied to selfish ends carries no blessing, but hardens the heart and causes it to lose its hold upon God. (C. E. E. Appleyard, B. A.)
(2) (3) (4) 2. It was sure. From bad to worse, like a stone rolling down a hill. II. THE CAUSES OF SOLOMON'S FALL. 1. The mixing of self-interest with God's service. He chose wives from nations with whom God had forbidden His people to intermarry; hence contagion from such a bad example. 2. The union of piety and superstition. III. THE CONSEQUENCES OF SOLOMON'S FALL. 1. It brought down God s displeasure. 2. It brought ruin on his kingdom. Even the sins of obscure men pass in their effects beyond the power of their perpetrators (as no man liveth, no man dieth, so no man sinneth to himself) but how much more the sins of the great ones of the earth! IV. THE LESSONS OF SOLOMON'S FALL. 1. Great opportunities bring great responsibilities, and such cannot be neglected with impunity. 2. Riches hinder access into the kingdom of God. Wealth applied to selfish ends carries no blessing, but hardens the heart and causes it to lose its hold upon God. (C. E. E. Appleyard, B. A.)
(3) (4) 2. It was sure. From bad to worse, like a stone rolling down a hill. II. THE CAUSES OF SOLOMON'S FALL. 1. The mixing of self-interest with God's service. He chose wives from nations with whom God had forbidden His people to intermarry; hence contagion from such a bad example. 2. The union of piety and superstition. III. THE CONSEQUENCES OF SOLOMON'S FALL. 1. It brought down God s displeasure. 2. It brought ruin on his kingdom. Even the sins of obscure men pass in their effects beyond the power of their perpetrators (as no man liveth, no man dieth, so no man sinneth to himself) but how much more the sins of the great ones of the earth! IV. THE LESSONS OF SOLOMON'S FALL. 1. Great opportunities bring great responsibilities, and such cannot be neglected with impunity. 2. Riches hinder access into the kingdom of God. Wealth applied to selfish ends carries no blessing, but hardens the heart and causes it to lose its hold upon God. (C. E. E. Appleyard, B. A.)
2. It was sure. From bad to worse, like a stone rolling down a hill. II. THE CAUSES OF SOLOMON'S FALL. 2. The union of piety and superstition. III. THE CONSEQUENCES OF SOLOMON'S FALL. 1. It brought down God s displeasure. IV. THE LESSONS OF SOLOMON'S FALL. 1. Great opportunities bring great responsibilities, and such cannot be neglected with impunity. (C. E. E. Appleyard, B. A.)
2. It was sure. From bad to worse, like a stone rolling down a hill.
II. THE CAUSES OF SOLOMON'S FALL.
2. The union of piety and superstition.
III. THE CONSEQUENCES OF SOLOMON'S FALL.
1. It brought down God s displeasure.
IV. THE LESSONS OF SOLOMON'S FALL.
1. Great opportunities bring great responsibilities, and such cannot be neglected with impunity.
(C. E. E. Appleyard, B. A.)
When Solomon was old.
British and Foreign Bible Society's ReportColporteur Pantel of Marseilles once offered a Bible to an old man who angrily replied, "Wine is my god." "Indeed," said Pantel, "then let me tell you that you have not imitated your god." "What do you mean?" "Well, wine becomes better as it grows old, while you, as you have grown old, have become more wicked!" The man was taken aback by this reply. "Look here," he said, "I'll buy a Bible. It is least I can do after such an answer."
(British and Foreign Bible Society's Report, 1902.)
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord.
1. First, then, the superior endowments of Solomon became a snare to him, as they are liable to prove to every gifted nature. Great talents involve great liabilities. Every being is subject to inexorable laws, which cannot be violated with impunity; God secures no man from the legitimate penalties of their violation. One of these laws is that which requires the improvement of talent as a necessary condition of increasing or even retaining it. When God gave Solomon that priceless largess of wisdom He did not exempt him from this law, nor take the work of preserving his character and insuring his ultimate well-being into his own hands. It is a fatal delusion that there is a mysterious gift of God, called Grace, which allows a man to sleep on the lap of some fair Delilah, without being shorn of the locks of his strength — a magic power that holds a man to the right against his own deliberate choice.
2. Another cause wrought with insidious influence to effect his overthrow. Solomon was the dupe of that prince of deceptive devils, misnamed Policy. It was from motives of policy, doubtless, that he entered into alliance with Egypt's king; it was from motives of policy that he married the daughter of that king, and took to his bosom his first heathen wife. Did ever man or woman marry from policy — political, financial, or social interest — that in the end did not find it the most miserable policy that ever mortal pursued, yielding its bitter fruits of sorrow and sin? There is but one bond that can ever bind two human hearts together in union strong and holy enough for the marriage relation; and that golden bond is Love — true, pure, uncalculating, heaven-born love.
3. In estimating the causes of Solomon's decline, we must also remember the danger that attends great worldly prosperity. Human nature is too weak to bear, unharmed, great elevation. Dazzled and blinded by the splendour of rank and honour and power and wealth, man reels and falls from the giddy height.
4. But finally Solomon fell, a willing victim to the seductive charms of pleasure and carnal indulgence. One sentence of the Inspired Volume reveals to us this fatal cause: "Solomon loved many strange women:... his wives turned away his heart after other gods; and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God." Of all the insidious, corrupting, dangerous influences that ever wrought the ruin of man, the influence of a bad woman is the most fatal and irremediable. How powerless are reason and learning to preserve character in the light of such a history as this! How weak is human nature in its best and strongest estate! Who can trust his own heart when such as Solomon fall? Can you, young man? Are you stronger, safer than he, leaning on that broken staff? Let us learn to beware of the beginnings of sin. Not suddenly did this mighty prince fall. Young man, take care that no worm secretly gnaws at the staff of support on which you lean. What of Solomon's final state? Saved or lost? The good God only knows. In the series of frescoes on the walls of the Campo Santo, at Pisa, he is represented, in the resurrection, as looking doubtfully to the right and to the left, not knowing on which side his lot will be east. If he wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes, as it is probable he did, he saw at least the folly of his sins. Let us listen to the deep-toned voice of warning that comes to us from his inspired wisdom — sadly illustrated by his uninspired life — "Fear God, and keep His commandments."
(C. H. Payne, D. D.)
I. NEITHER AGE NOR EXPERIENCE BRINGS ANY RELEASE TO A MAN FROM HIS EXPOSURE TO SIN. "For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods." There is no fool worse than an old fool. Wise man it was who said, "Count no one safe or happy till he dies."
II. IT IS POSSIBLE FOR EVEN A DEVOUT MAN TO BECOME A PRACTICAL IDOLATER IN HIS SECRET HEART. "For Solomon went after Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Zidonians." We are solemnly warned against idols in our hearts, three times in one chapter, by a prophet. Idolatry is still a possible sin to dread.
III. PROGRESS BY STEPS OF PERSISTENT ADVANCE INTO DEEPER SIN MAY ALWAYS BE EXPECTED WHEN ONE HAS TAKEN QUICK START AWAY FROM THE RIGHT AND TOWARDS WRONG. "Then did Solomon build a high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab," etc. There is nothing more to be feared than the unperceived inroad of what might be termed a little sin. The old parable relates that the trees of the forest once held a solemn parliament, wherein they consulted concerning the innumerable wrongs which the axe, first and last, had done unto them and their neighbours. They insisted that this dangerous implement of steel had no power of its own; and they therefore instantly passed an enactment that no tree should hereafter be allowed to furnish any blade with a helve on pain of being itself cut down to the root. So the axe journeyed through the forests, begging but a bit of wood from the oak, from the ash, from the cedar, from the elm, from even the willow and the poplar; but a stern denial met it at each turn; not one would lend it so much as a splinter from its branches. At last, it desired just this small indulgence: give it but a chip — a mere handle with which it could trim away useless boughs, or cut off briers and bushes, for such suckers, as was well known, only used up the juices of the ground; they always hindered the growth of any thrifty tree and obscured its fairness and beauty. The forest win, impressed with such moderation in the argument; it agreed that the axe in this instance might be supplied with one fragment which a storm had riven from an unfortunate sapling — a mere little stick, lying there, which no one prized and no one dreaded. But the instant that keen edge of steel was fitted with any sort of a handle, it struck off the branch of a sturdy oak at a stroke, then hewed itself a new helve at its will; and down went the elms, over toppled the cedars, and the hills grew bare as never before. The time for all defence was passed when the forest surrendered.
IV. THE GUILT OF ALL TRANSGRESSION IS IN THE SIGHT OF A HOLY GOD AGGRAVATED BY PAST WARNINGS GIVEN. "And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the Lord God of Israel," etc.
V. RETRIBUTION GATHERS UP THE ENTIRE HISTORY OF THE SINNER, EVEN IF IT IS DISCHARGED IN ONE ACT. "Wherefore the Lord said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou has not kept My covenant and My statutes which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant." Henceforward it would do no good for this rejected monarch to awake himself to paternal zeal, and try to build up the fortunes of his shattered realm for his children. It is often worth while to attempt to avert a great catastrophe; but one of the punishments sometimes inflicted for sin is the denial to the sinners of all success in after usefulness.
VI. IT MAY BE POSSIBLE TO MISUNDERSTAND AND EVEN PERVERT GOD'S FORBEARANCE INTO EXCUSE FOR FURTHER SIN. "Notwithstanding, in thy days I will not do it for David thy father's sake: but I will rend it out of the hand of thy sore Howbeit, I will not rend away all the kingdom; but will give one tribe to thy son, for David My servant's sake, and for Jerusalem's sake which I have chosen." On the shore of eternal history stands this beacon-light for human warning. The wisest man in the world lived to behave like a fool!
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
Homilist.I. THE CO-EXISTENCE OF GOOD AND EVIL IN THE SAME HUMAN SOUL. So long as we are in this world, this is more or less the case with the best of us; evil is not perhaps entirely subdued, until this "mortal puts on immortality." In heaven evil is not found in alliance with good in any heart, nor in hell is good found in alliance with evil. Their co-existence is only in the human heart, whilst here. This fact should always be recognised by us in estimating the characters of our fellow-men. A man is not to be pronounced utterly bad because he has committed a wrong, nor completely good because he has performed some virtuous deeds. "Who can understand his errors? Cleanse Thou us from secret faults."
II. THE ENERGY OF THE DEGENERATING TENDENCY IN HUMAN NATURE. There seems to be in all men a something, call it original sin, depravity, or what you like, which urges to the wrong; a law in the members warring against the laws of the Spirit. You see this force in the case of Solomon. It was in him stronger than three things.
1. It was stronger than the influence of parental piety.
2. The degenerating force within him proved stronger even than his own religious convictions.
3. It proved stronger, moreover, than his own clearest conceptions of duty.
III. THE UTTER INSUFFICIENCY OF ALL EARTHLY GOOD TO SATISFY THE MIND. "I said in my heart, go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and behold this also is vanity."
IV. THE SUPERIORITY OF TRUE THOUGHTS TO ALL THE OTHER PRODUCTIONS OF MAN. Solomon was an active man, and accomplished many material works while here; but what were they all compared with his thoughts contained in the Book of Proverbs?
1. What are they as to their utility?
2. What are they as to their duration? Where now is his throne of "ivory and gold"? etc.
Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh.1. Proverbs, it has been said, are "the wisdom of many and the wit of one," at least they are most often trustworthy exponents of a uniform experience. And there is a proverb which tells us that no one ever became thoroughly bad all at once. And so it was with Solomon; as the stream of his career sweeps by us in Holy Scripture, windows, as it were, are opened for us through which we gaze out on that sunny flood, so full of promise, carrying on its bosom such rich opportunities and varied treasures, and we note that as it gets wider it loses its pure beauty, as it gets deeper it parts with its simplicity. Here and there these glimpses into his life prepare us for a catastrophe. It requires a vast store of wisdom to keep a man unspoiled amidst popular applause. The power of wealth with all its opportunities may very easily sweep away the calmer dictates of a higher reason. Solomon is the liberal patron of error. He is not an idolater; it would not be fair to call him that. But as he would tell us, "he is no bigot," that the Zidonians and Moabites were sincere in what they believed and practised. That his first duty was to the empire, and to consolidate the acquisitions which he had made. After all, there is an element of truth underlying all religions — "All worships are true." Take care, Solomon! The next step is only too easily taken,. which goes on to proclaim, "All worships are false." I suppose there is no chapter in Church history which we look back upon with such unfeigned horror and humiliation as that which deals with religious persecution. We never shall forget the fires of Smithfield, or look with anything but disapproval at the stern and repressive violence of the Puritan Rebellion. At the same time it must be remembered that there is one thing which, if less repulsive, may be equally deadly in God's sight. Toleration, which springs from a real respect for our neighbour's convictions, is one thing; indifference, which does not feel strongly enough to oppose, is another. At the present moment we are oddly enough confronted with these two developments combining in their efforts to weaken religion.
2. But Solomon does not stop at undenominationalism. No one does. It is an impossible position. He settles down a step further into aestheticism — the worship of the beautiful, the luxurious, the fascinating. A protest against Ritualism is, no doubt, an excellent thing in which every intelligent Churchman should join, if we mean by the term a religion which consists of mere rites and ceremonies, void of real significance, subversive of the sterner realities of religious truth. There is always a tendency, in view of the extreme difficulty of religion, to put up with something easy, in which the heart and the intellect, and the better part of man, need of necessity have no share. Some people think they can saunter into heaven on a ceremony; or be wafted there on the wings of music; or be carried there on a text of the Bible; or be admitted without any trouble, if they sufficiently protest against somebody else. But the very essence of religion is intense personal exertion and personal devotion, and religion has always had to pay the penalty of this difficulty, which belongs to all true excellence, in the various shifts and substitutes invented by indolent humanity. Ritual, music, the accessories of Divine service, are utterly abhorrent unless they mean something. Solomon was not spreading religion when he erected his numerous shrines for the manifold superstitions of the East, and their attractive rites. He was degrading it, he was vitiating the religious instinct and depraving the religious sense. Do let us remember, dear brethren, that all the beauty, all the magnificence of the services of the Church, are for the honour and glory of God, and that if we fail to honour Him, fail to find Him, fail to worship Him, they only add to our own condemnation.
3. But the worship of aestheticism has no finality about it. It is a religion of butterflies after all, who flit from flower to flower, who expand in the sunshine and die in the frost, who are here to-day and are gone to-morrow. Ephemeral, creatures of a day! Do not suppose it, for one moment, if any of you have given up vital belief, if you have teased to believe in God, that you will be able to go on finding religious satisfaction in beautiful sounds, and artistic sights; you will either get better, or you will get worse — and it is terribly easy to get worse. The end of Solomon's career is not encouraging; the best you can say of it is, that it is shrouded in gloom. It was an easy step from a worship of the beautiful to the nature-worship so-called, which was the distinguishing feature of so many of the cults which he imported to Jerusalem. There is a seamy side to many a renaissance, so-called, and there is a seamy side to much which is dignified now by the name of the love of the beautiful. Nature-worship in its simplest form, and apparently its least harmful form, takes the shape of the worship of what we take to be our own nature. It is startling to find how intensely people dislike anything in religion which is stern, or causes them trouble, or appeals to self-denial. This appears in all manner of little ways. Solomon erects his nature-shrine for the pent up denizen of the city, at some little distance outside, and tells him that it is far better for him to go and worship God in the green fields, and among the hedgerows, or even on the river, than to shut himself up in a musty church in Jerusalem. He will tell him that "the Sabbath was made for man," and that to fill his lungs with pure air, and to scent the flowers and be cheerful, is the best worship which God seeks from him. And the worshipper of nature comes back with a tired body, a dissatisfied mind, and a starved soul, and believes that he has spent a happy Sunday. There, in the old temple at Jerusalem, are the double sacrifices and the long round of services, because those who have studied the mind of God believe that He requires on His day a certain proportion of our time, not the smallest contribution which a Christian can make, at the earliest possible hour in the morning, or the latest moment at night. And if they ask for happiness and enjoyment, they remember how Mary says, "He fills the hungry with good things," or how the Psalmist says that God "never fails them that seek Him." But Solomon turns his back, his wisdom departs from him, and he seeks for other gods. He is indifferent, and he calls it toleration. He is intolerant, and he calls it religion. He dishonours the Church, and he thinks that he does God service. He becomes aesthetic, he is lingering now in the courts of the temple, he has turned his back on her realities, he is like a man who just stays a little longer to hear the anthem. He has turned his back, he is gone, he is worshipping nature, in all the downward gradations of that terrible cult. Wise Solomon! who began with building the temple, goes on by tolerating error, to become a besotted voluptuary, and to insult God. It is the history of many a soul, who has forgotten the lesson of his youth, who is false to his tradition, and falls below his own standard. "Seest thou a man wise in his own conceits? There is more hope of a fool, than of him."
(W. C. E. Newbolt, M. A.)
(H. W. Beecher.)
Notwithstanding in thy days I will not do it.I. THE ACTION RELATED TO US. To appreciate it, we must consider(1) the greatness of the offence. Here was authority itself doing that which it ought to have prevented and punished; David's son departing from David's God; wisdom guilty of indescribable folly; a man conspicuously favoured (ver. 9), conspicuously disobedient; the appointed builder of Jehovah's temple building rival temples close by. Yet observe, in comparison with it(2) the lightness of the correction. The offender loses nothing of his power or renown. He has enemies (ver. 14, etc.), but they dare not attack him. There is not a loose stone in his throne till he dies. Only he is warned of the consequences to happen after his death; those consequences themselves, moreover, not being carried out to the full extent even then. Compare the case of pious Hezekiah, who acknowledged the "goodness" of God, when, for a less offence, he received a heavier stroke (2 Kings 20:17-19). Just so it is God's "goodness" that is here revealed to us most (Romans 11:22).
II. THE MOTIVE REVEALED TO US. Why this mercy shown in this instance? Only two reasons are mentioned. One had to do with Jerusalem (ver. 13), the place of Solomon's throne. God had chosen it for His dwelling-placer with great objects in view. The other motive (twice mentioned) has to do with Solomon's father. "For David's sake" the threatened evil was postponed till after his son's death; and even then, for the same "David's sake," it was not to be complete. See, finally, how all this encourages us in the hope of salvation through Christ. See how completely it is part of God's character to spare one man for another's sake; especially where they are so connected that they may be considered as one. Also, if He does thus for a sinner and a servant (as here), how much more for His Holy One (Acts 2:27), His own Son, the Christ of God!
(W. S. Lewis, M. A.)
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
And the Lord stirred up an adversary unto Solomon.
"Hark! they whisper: angels say —
Sister spirit, come away.I want to go now. Lord, now lettest thou Thy servant depart in peace: I am ready; put in the sickle, cut me down and garner me in heaven." It is a Divine stirring: it is the beginning of immortality.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
When Hadad heard in Egypt that David slept with his fathers.
1. Men cannot always give an account of their impulses. We seem to have every. thing, yet we want something else. What that something else is, we perhaps seldom know, or if we do know, we cannot put the want into words. We have all Egypt, yet we are willing to leave it for Edom.
2. What we mistake, either in ourselves or in others, for mere restlessness may be the pressure of destiny. We blame some men roughly for desiring a change, and when we question the men themselves as to their reason, they tell us that they have been treated well, even handsomely, yet they want to go! Then we condemn them as unreasonable, and we predict many a judgment for them! Alas, how ignorant we are, and how cruel to one another!
3. We may judge of the value of our impulses by the self-denial imposed by their operation. Consider what Hadad had to lose! "Except a man deny himself and take up his cross daily," he cannot be moving in the Divine direction. Remember in the cases quoted David was impelled to war, and Samuel to make revelations which must have cost his heart no small strain. Are our impulses towards self-enjoyment?
4. Is it not by some such impulse that the good man meets death with a brave heart? How else could he leave loved ones, home, manifold enjoyment, and social honour? Yet he pines for heaven. "I have a desire to depart." "Oh that I had wings like a dove"
To thee, O dear, dear country,
Mine eyes their vigils keep.God surely sends this home-sickness into our hearts when He is about to call us up higher.
5. Remember how possible it is to overrule our. best impulses. Pharaoh said stop, Hadad begged to be allowed to go. Peter said, "That be far from Thee, Lord," but Christ called him an offence, and drove him behind. "Grieve not the Spirit." "Quench not the Spirit." Is not the Spirit of Christ urging every man to leave the Egypt of sinful bondage? "Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord." "Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life."
(J. Parker, D. D.)
1. The first remark we make is, that it is a feeling not only deep in our nature, as we do not need to show, but acknowledged and approved in the Bible. This has been denied, and some have blamed, while others have praised, the Book on this account; but whether it be to its blame or praise, the feeling is there. We cannot surely fail to perceive that the love of country was employed by God to build up the place He gave the Jewish people in preserving His truth in the long period of darkness, before the time came for the Gospel to go out into the world. Their love was drawn to it before they saw it as the land of Promise. But what purposes are served by this? There is one which may seem low enough to begin with, but which has its own importance. It is one of the ways by which God secures that the earth should be inhabited. There is a dispersive force in the world which began long ago, and which has been going on ever since, the spirit of adventure and energy which seeks action and change; so waste places are peopled and tilled. But there is needed not less an adhesive power to maintain what is gained. The world must have an anchor as well as a sail. Rocky Edom is dear as fertile Egypt, and bleak, storm-struck islands more than southern Edens. If it were not for this, wars for sunny spots would be more common than they are, and kindreds and peoples could not be gathered and held together to build up communities. But the building up of communities is a part of God's providential design. Each one in its own place brings out its own character, and, in the end, may be found to bring its own contribution to the interests of humanity. We may come to a higher view of this feeling when we think of its effect on the individual man. This love of the native soil has been one of the great springs of the poetry of the race; and whatever we may think of poetry ourselves, we cannot fail to see its power. God, who gives the bird wings for its safety and delight, has given man imagination. It is certainly His gift, if men would only use it for Him. And it can be said with truth that, apart from the region of the spirit itself, it is never more pure and purifying than when it takes for its subject the things of native land and home.
2. Another thought suggested by this feeling is that it leads to acts of great self-sacrifice and endeavour. Next to religion, there is probably nothing in human nature which has called out such a heroic spirit of martyrdom, or such long, persistent labour, as the love of native land. The grandest part of the history of nations has been the period when they have risen for independence and freedom, against the attempts to crush out their liberty or their separate life, and when they have left names of leaders which make hearts of men throb and thrill wherever they arc heard. It is a poor Christianity, because it is not a true humanity, which affects to disregard this. There is an heirloom of stimulus to a whole race in the heroic acts of those who have bequeathed them a name among the nations of the world. There are men who can be reached by the love of fellow-countrymen, when they cannot be moved by the love of their fellow-men; and it is quite possible for a man to have both. The narrower is sometimes more intense and energetic than the wider. In the annals of the civil wars in England, an officer, who had fought in many battles abroad, tells that in his first fight on English ground he heard a cry of agony in his own tongue, and he looked behind him to see who of his men was killed. He discovered that the cry came from the opposing ranks, and then first he realised what a terrible thing it was to kill his own countrymen. There are many who feel it so in our quieter times, and who can be stirred more strongly to save from destitution and death those who speak their own language, and have a nearer blood beating in their heart.
3. Another thought suggested by this feeling is, that it should enable us to understand the hearts, and work for the rights of all men. There is a rule recommended by some religious communities, that their members should have no special friendships; that they should do nothing for each other as friends. And there are some philosophers who defend this. They say that "friendship is a barrier which hides from view the qualities of many who are more worthy of regard, that it is a kind of theft from the common good for the benefit of a few, and that, in a higher state of society, friendship will disappear; which amounts very much to saying that if we put out our eyes, so as not to see things that are close to us, we shall be more likely to discover those that are far away. These are the theories of men who have either had no hearts to begin with, or have managed to cover them by cobwebs of speculation. has said that we may make a ladder of the dead things within us, to climb to the highest; but there is another ladder of living things by which we can rise as high, and by which our sympathies can be travelling to and fro like the angels in the dream of Bethel. The vision begins in the dreamer's own breast, and then it passes up into the skies. This is the very way in which God Himself has dealt with us. He came from the limits of the universe into this world, and became our friend, that He might lead us step by step into the fulness of Him that filleth all in all.
4. The last thought we suggest is, that this feeling may help the conception of another and a higher country. It is quite true that we find the spirit of patriotism filling the hearts of men with the highest enthusiasm, and spreading itself over masses of men and long periods, but bringing little spiritual desire. Yet it is one of the ways, as we have said, by which God keeps the heart above sensualism and utter selfishness — a kind of salt that saves nations from entire corruption. We see in the Bible that the thoughts of native land and home are more than any others the figures which God has used to convey to us conceptions about the future. They are more than figures. They have been woven into His plan of education. He made the old patriarchs exiles, in order that He might create in them the longing which went further than any land, behind or before them, in this world. The last view given us of the heavenly world is that of a land and city which have over them a Father and an Elder Brother, and for friends the nations of the saved.
(J. Ker, D. D.)
(W. Hoyt, D. D.)
Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Behold I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon.
I. THE PLAN OF GOD, REGARDED FROM THE SIDE OF HIS WISE OMNIPOTENCE. Is this world a failure? Does it whirl unchecked and uncontrolled along an aimless path, where luck and fortune and chance are the apparent and only guide to its caprice? Is life a game of chess with an unknown adversary, whom we neither see nor hear — where a mistake on our part is followed by a blow, and that a blow without a word? Have vice and violence and cunning, on the whole, the upper hand in the control of the world? Have all the improvements, the luxuries, the refinements of life, only crushed off in their path a wider and a more sordid fringe of poverty, a moraine of misery, and secured the greatest happiness of the few at the expense of the happiness of the greater number? No! Just remember that God is dealing with a fallen world, a world not as He made it, but as man marred it. A child no doubt, as he lies on his bed, powerless, faint, and ill, crippled by an accident, thinks the doctor cruel as he handles his aching limb, and probes the dangerous wound, and prescribes the bitter medicine; he wishes to be free, to be active, to be playing with his fellows, to feel life in his limbs and health in his frame, to eat what is pleasant, to taste what is sweet, and to fill his life with joy. But the father or the mother, and those who have at heart his welfare, marvel the rather at the skill, the nerve, the resource of the careful physician who is bringing health out of sickness, and a wholesome life out of deformity and mishap. An orchard of trees pruned and cut back is a sorry sight to one, who does not understand the secrets of fruit-bearing, and will not be there to see the golden clusters in the rich autumn. God is dealing with a fallen world, where the measures must be largely remedial, and tending towards a future, rather than self-sufficient in the present. The world is better than it was, it has advanced, and is advancing. Although here and there men sigh over the barren sand, as the wave sighs off with a gasp and a groan, and a sound of falling and disaster. Look out over the world and you will see progress — you cannot deny it — a tending towards a renewal of that time, when in the beginning God saw everything that He had made, and behold it was very good; while by the side of progress we see the unerring punishment which overtakes sin and evil; retribution we call it; a sign that God has given us a law, which cannot be broken.
II. EQUALLY SHALLOW IS THE CRITICISM WHICH WOULD BELIEVE THE PURPOSE OF GOD TO HAVE FAILED IN HIS CHURCH. The Church is God's Kingdom set up for the better management of the world. And most emphatically the Church has not been a failure. We have the strange spectacle of lands, once covered with its beneficent richness, now barren and dry, and in the hands of the infidel. We see large fields of the Church, once covered with ripe grain, and rippled with the breath of Heaven, now lying fallow, untilled, apparently uncared for, and yet all waiting on the good purpose of God. If we refuse to despair of the world, much more do we refuse to despair of the Church. The purpose of God in spite of drawbacks is being worked out here. Who can deny it?
III. BUT THERE IS ANOTHER REGION WHERE WE ARE APT TO CHARGE GOD WITH FAILURE. I MEAN THE REGION OF OUR OWN SOUL. God has called us through the Red Sea, and, we say, would God we had stayed in Egypt. God has led us into the promised land, and we say it is no land of milk and honey. Men turn round on the old Bible and say it has failed; on the simple life of prayer and devotion; and say that it has proved powerless to effect its purpose. It is a bitter thing, dear brethren, to look back on life and say that it has fared. To look back on a pure home and careful training only to deride it, and get away from it. To have that bitter severance in life, which owes no piety to the past, which has lost all sense of vocation, or duty, or mission, and simply lives on from day to day a life which would be bearable were it not for its pleasures, and hopeful were it not for its ambitions. It is a terrible verdict which the world records of a man when it says, "He has thrown himself away." It is a terrible sense of failure, when a man owns to himself, "I am not what I used to be." It is sad for the returning prodigal to think of a large portion of his life, of which the most hopeful wish would be, that it might remain a blank. It is a more awful thing for a man to feel that his early hopes and aspirations have failed, and that a brilliant morning is likely to be obliterated in a stormy sunset. What can be more sad than the complete breakdown of the moral sense in the heart once alive unto God? Wise Solomon sunk in sensuality; David, whose heart was responsive to every ripple of the Divine breath, dull and insensate; the altar of God spurned, Sunday desecrated; evil eagerly followed; the shame of vice causing no blush, the meanness of it no compunction? And yet God's purpose survives in another way. Magdalen stands before the world to cheer it with the sight of penitent love, more deep, more utter, because like a precious flower, it has been snatched out of the abyss of sin. An stands before the world, stored with an experience written in letters of blood, and burned in with horror into his soul, invites those who have made shipwreck of youth, to hope to revive and seek Him ten times the more. Ah! my brethren, believe in the inherent vitality of all God's good gifts to you. If ever you have been religious, when you now are cold and dead, cherish that seed of life. God means yet again to revive it if you will let Him. If ever your heart was open and responsive before sin blinded your eyes, and the ways of the world made you hard, put yourself back before the first wilful sin, and know and believe that God wishes to revive in you the promise of a better past.
(W. C. E. Newbolt, M. A.).