Through the Bible Day by Day
And Benhadad the king of Syria gathered all his host together: and there were thirty and two kings with him, and horses, and chariots: and he went up and besieged Samaria, and warred against it.
A PROSPEROUS NATION
1Ki_4:1-7; 1Ki_20:1-43; 1Ki_21:1-29; 1Ki_22:1-53
What a picture is here given of national contentment and prosperity! We can almost hear the gladsome voice of the myriad-peopled land, teeming with young life and laden with golden harvests. It was the summer of their national existence. The sacred scribe enumerates first the high officials of the court, then the daily provision of the king, his studies, and his fame. Abundant proof was yielded by all these circumstances to the manner in which God kept the pledges which had been made to David, his father.
Here is Solomon “in all his glory,” but as we turn from him to the lowly Carpenter of Nazareth, who had nowhere to lay His head; who found His friends among the poor; and who ultimately laid down His life a ransom for many, we realize that, even apart from His divine nature, His was the nobler ideal and the richer existence. “A greater than Solomon is here.” Who can measure His empire or resources? What tongue can recount His wisdom? Happy and safe are they that sit at His table, hear His words, and are joint-heirs with Him in His Kingdom! Rom_8:17.
BOASTING BEFORE THE BATTLE
Ben-hadad’s insolent demand indicated how low Israel had sunk. The worship of Jezebel’s gods had wrought moral degeneracy. Let us never forget this lesson. When national religion fades and our churches are deserted; when the Bible loses place in education, and family prayer fades out of the home, dry-rot and decay eat away the strength of the national heart.
Ahab’s answer was better than might have been expected from such a man, but it would have amounted to little beyond a stalwart boast if there had not been other influences at work on the behalf of the chosen race. It may be that at this crisis, ceaseless prayer was being offered in the schools of the prophets. Elijah, certainly, was not silent, but on mountain heights or by the Cherith brook, was no doubt pouring out his mighty soul. The advent of this prophet, 1Ki_20:13, unasked, was a harbinger of good. Notice how God’s loving-kindness follows us into a far country. See Eze_36:32. He does not forget, but woos us back. His tools of help, however, are not what we should expect, but ever the weakest and least likely, that no flesh should glory, 1Co_1:27.
And they went out at noon. But Benhadad was drinking himself drunk in the pavilions, he and the kings, the thirty and two kings that helped him.
THE GOD BOTH OF HILLS AND VALLEYS
What is God to us? Is He only the God of the hills? We expect religion to serve us when we come to the great summits of experience. There are times of rapture and of vision when we seem naturally to stand with God on the holy mountains. We have our Moriah, our Pisgah, our Tabor, our Hermon. But is that all?
No! God is with us in the valleys. When we descend into the valley of weeping, Psa_84:6, r.v., the valley of the shadow of death, the valley of obscurity and loneliness, the valley of conflict, we can say with the psalmist, “Thou art with me,” Psa_23:4. Most of us, perhaps, spend the larger part of life in the valleys, walking among commonplace duties. Let us see to it that in these shadowed days we walk in close companionship with the Divine Friend; that, when the path ascends and the mountain-breeze is on our faces and the view widens, we may stand with God on our high places as with hinds’ feet. See Hab_3:19.
And his servants said unto him, Behold now, we have heard that the kings of the house of Israel are merciful kings: let us, I pray thee, put sackcloth on our loins, and ropes upon our heads, and go out to the king of Israel: peradventure he will save thy life.
LOSING THE MAN GOD PUT INTO HIS HAND
Ahab’s easy good-nature was criminal, and indicated the evil that was enervating and cankering his heart. Whatever may have been his private feelings and sympathy, it is plain that these had no right to control his action as king when national interests were at stake. The judge may be subject to tender compassion toward those on whom his office requires him to pass sentence, but he should be governed by consideration of the good of all. This unwise clemency on the part of Ahab resulted, in after-days, in Israel’s suffering at the hand of Syria.
“Busy here and there!” It is true of us all. We are so occupied that we have hardly time to think. We do not realize the opportunities which are placed in our hands, and which, if not made immediate use of, depart never to return. The bald head of departing opportunity, said the Greeks, has not even one lock of hair by which we can catch it and drag it back. Let us be diligent in the King’s business, remembering that to Him we must render an account.