Even if you go and fight bravely in battle, God will make you stumble before the enemy, for God has power to help and power to overthrow."
There is something which approaches, if it does not amount to, the ludicrous in the question so solemnly proposed by Amaziah, "But what shall we do for the hundred talents which I have given to the army of Israel?" Could it be the right thing and the wise thing to sacrifice all that money? Were a hundred talents to be thrown away? Supposing he defeated the enemy without the help of these mercenaries, would it not be a mortifying thing that he had spent such a sum to no purpose? But Amaziah was so situated that he had to make the choice which has so often to be made; he had to choose between sacrificing his money or forfeiting the favour of his God. He had the wisdom to accept the former alternative, and to believe the prophet, that the Lord was "able to give him more than this." On the choice which we make, when this question comes up for settlement by ourselves, there hang great issues. Wherefore let us well consider -
I. THE LIMITATIONS TO THE VALUE OF GOLD. Gold serves many useful purposes; through it we can secure the necessaries and the comforts of life, the conditions of education, the advantages of good society; but its power is very limited, after all.
1. Its possession, so far from ensuring happiness, often entails much burdensomeness, and always imposes a heavy responsibility.
2. Its tenure is slight and short; an accident or a revolution, impossible to foresee, may take it suddenly away, and at death it must be relinquished.
3. It is wholly powerless in the presence of some of the sadder and graver evils of our life.
4. It tempts to indolence and indulgence, and it may be doubted whether it does not spoil more lives than it brightens and blesses.
II. THE BOUNDLESS BLESSEDNESS OF THE FAVOUR OF GOD. The Lord was not only able to give Amaziah "much more than this," much more than "a hundred talents of silver," but he was able to bless him in ways which were incomparably superior to such material enrichment. And so is he able and most willing to bless us. Willingly should we part with gold and silver at his bidding, to be true and loyal disciples to our Master, to preserve our spiritual integrity; for if we do this "for Christ's sake and the gospel's" (Mark 8:35) there will be for us ample and most abundant compensation for what we lose.
1. The peace of God, which passes understanding, and which surpasses all material values.
2. The positive and active friendship of our Lord, and of the good and true.
3. A life of noble and fruitful service.
4. A death of hope.
5. A future of immortal glory. In view of these things, we need not be greatly concerned about the less of a hundred or a thousand talents. - C.
At one of the conferences between the Northern and Southern States of America during the war of 1861-1866 the representatives of the Southern States stated what cession of territory they were prepared to make, provided that the independence of the portion that was not ceded to the Federal Government was secured. More and more attractive criers were made, the portions to be ceded being increased, and those to be retained in a state of independence being proportionately diminished. All the offers were met by a steadfast refusal. At last President Lincoln placed his hand on the map so as to cover all the Southern States, and in these emphatic words delivered his ultimatum: "Gentlemen, this Government must have the whole." God cannot share us with the world.
And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, but not with a perfect heart.
It was not because Amaziah was not sinless that his life proved such a failure, but because he was not thorough going in his principle and piety. English life at present seems to be afflicted with a plague of levity. There is so much hollowness and unreality, so much veneer in character and work, that it behoves us to preach aloud the gospel of thoroughness. A short time ago some workmen were engaged in trying to remove a piece of old London wall. They tried with hammers, then with pick-axes, but to no purpose, the wall seemed to smile at all their efforts; at last they were obliged to have recourse to boring, and blowing it up like a piece of solid rock. That is hardly the way they build nowadays, for a man might almost push over some of our brick walls with his hand. Now, this is just an illustration of what I mean, the want of thoroughness in every branch of industry and in every walk of life. When a man's own character is not solid, permeated through and through with Christian principle, you cannot have any guarantee of the genuineness of his work. Shams abound everywhere. Gilt and paint carry the day. Ours is an age of tinsel. And the worst of it is that this unrealness characterises much of the religion amongst us. I sometimes meet with a horrible form of Antinomianism, which virtually says, "Anything will do for me — I am a disciple of Christ"; and so the work is actually more slovenly and imperfect because the individual claims to be "not under the law, but under grace." Why, it is almost as monstrous as the proposal a good young man made to his landlady, that his own excellent Christian example should serve in lieu of weekly payment for his lodgings! A men — I don't care who he is — dishonours Christ when any other person is put to disadvantage by his piety. If you imagine you are more free to do slipshod work because you are a Christian, I say, it is precisely the reverse. It is just because you claim to be the Lord's that any sort of work will not do. Bearing His name, you are responsible to Him for every detail of your daily life. If your secular duties are more imperfectly discharged because you are a believer, you do great wrong to the Redeemer. If you snatch a little of your employer's time to scatter tracts, or prepare for a Sabbath class, or even to read your Bible; or if, in business hours, your thoughts are so given to spiritual themes that you cannot do justice to your work, in any of these cases you do real harm to religion.
This history is adduced to lead to self-scrutiny.
I. THE ACT OF ASSEMBLING is in accordance with God's revealed wishes; and therefore the act of assembling is a right act. But am I able to believe that every men and woman joins the assembly from such motives as would stand the test of Heaven? Not with a perfect heart.
II. Again, in THE MATTER OF LISTENING TO GOD'S WORD PREACHED. Some listen from the desire of passing away a dull hour — as a sort of religious entertainment. Alas for the perfect heart!
III. As to your CONDUCT OUTSIDE THE WALLS OF THE SANCTUARY. You are upright and honourable in trade. But why? It is a sad thing when a man's actions are right because he wishes to be aggrandised, or because he wishes a high place in human estimation, and knows not the only right motive — a desire to please Him "who hath loved us, and given Himself for us."
Off Cape Horn we witnessed a singular sight. For some miles there was a narrow strip of water, where the great waves flew in broken spray and dashed high over the ship. On either side the sea was comparatively calm, whilst this boiled with fury, rolling and surging. Yet there was no rock about which the sea surged, nor was there any such fierce wind as to account for it. Overhead the air was thick with sea-fowl. Thousands of the birds dived into this troubled water. The smaller fish were, I suppose, flung up by the toss, and thus fell a prey to the birds. I asked, naturally, what was the reason of this strange sight, and found it was the point at which the tide met the strong current of the sea, and here they raged together. Within, the tide only ran, and it was calm. Without, the current prevailed, and there, too, was calm. On this troubled bit they met, and neither prevailed. It is the picture of those who are at once too religious to belong to the world — too worldly to belong to religion; torn by both and satisfied by neither.
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