April 15, 2019

We Must Finish Well

INTERESTING FACTS : "THERE ARE MORE SURE MARKS OF AUTHENTICITY IN THE BIBLE THAN IN ANY PROFANE HISTORY." -- SIR ISAAC NEWTON

 
DAILY READING : I KINGS 8 - 9; 10 - 11
 
TEXT : TEXT - 1Ki 11:1  But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites; 1Ki 11:2  Of the nations concerning which the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love. 1Ki 11:3  And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. 1Ki 11:4  For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father. 1Ki 11:5  For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. 1Ki 11:6  And Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and went not fully after the LORD, as did David his father.
 
THEME : APOSTASY
 
It is hard to comprehend the life of Solomon when one reflects on his start and his end. From the building and dedication of the Temple, to the second appearance of God to him and God's promises to him [and Israel], we see the rise and fall of arguably Israel's most celebrated king. Unmatched for wisdom and wealth, Solomon as Israel's third king, and the second in a natural line of the royal [Davidic] family, his kingdom will not survive or succeed for long. His horrible idolatry - including the sacrifice of infants, will lead him to a place of rejection similar to Saul.
 
That is, as Samuel prophesied to Saul saying the kingdom would be given to another man better than he, so God tells Solomon something similar. Whether by a prophet or directly - the text does not indicate, God spoke to him and told him the kingdom would be torn apart. The ten tribes in the north would be under one of Solomon's servants, and only one - Judah [actually two - Judah and Benjamin], would stay under the royal line of David. Ahijah prophesied to Jeroboam that he would be the king of the northern tribes, and Rehoboam [Solomon's son] would reign over Judah.  This was the result of Solomon's rebellion against the direct commands of the Lord not to serve other gods.
 
How severe is the result of willful rebellion against God! Many think that what happened to others with respect to God and His judgment, will never happen to them. Further, we know sin is pleasurable and deceitful. [Heb_11:25  Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;/ Heb_3:13  But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.] Therefore, it is in our nature not to be diligent to make sure we stay in Christ and never defect. Peter after the crucifixion learned what the Lord meant when He said Peter's spirit was willing but his flesh was weak. Peter, as we may assume of Solomon, never thought he would be the one to turn from God and His commands.
 
It is also noteworthy that Solomon, with all of his wisdom, power, and glory is not in the Hebrews Hall of Faith [chapter 11] though Da vid, his father is. Solomon's kingdom went farther in fame and notoriety than his father's kingdom did. Solomon himself was sought more than David because of his wisdom and wealth. Yet, in this, we see God is certainly more interested in obedience than sacrifice, and God is not impressed by size and numbers even if people use His Name to acquire such things. Solomon was an apostate, though Ecclesiastes would indicate a repentful heart in his old age.
 
How do men start so well and end so poorly? There can be many reasons, but the most probable is the subtlety of sin. The "other guy" is always wrong. Yet, the Scripture tells us to look at ourselves, not the other brother or sister. [Luk_6:41- 42  "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother's eye.ΜΆ 1;] This Scripture would be applicable to Solomon in that he gave such wise advice to everyone, yet failed on the points he himself spoke and wrote about [particularly in Proverbs].
 
Even the Queen of Ethiopia came to see for herself the glory of Solomon. His wisdom and wealth left a deep impression on her. Yet, after God Himself appears to Solomon and tells him what good He will do if Solomon obeys as his father David did, in the course of time, his heart turns far from God and His Law. I am certain many were disappointed in Solomon's defection from the Lord, as were many delighted that they could sin with impunity [or so they thought].
 
"How are the mighty fallen," said David after the death of Saul and Jonathan. Sorrow and disappointment follow defection from God when the person who apostatizes is loved and respected. More than that, how are the sheep scattered when the shepherd is smitten. Further, how much more so if he is killed by falling on his own sin. The poe t John Donne during a period of convalescence from a near fatal illness wrote a series of "meditations." In one of these meditations - "Meditation XVII," he is remembered for two iconic lines. It reads -
 
"PERCHANCE he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill, as that he knows not it tolls for him; and perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that. The church is Catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that body which is my head too, and ingrafted into that body whereof I am a member. And when she buries a man, that action concerns me: all mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated; God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God's hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another.
 
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee."[1]
 
Donne makes the point here that we are all part of a whole in the Church or the Body of Christ. As fingers belong to hands that belong to arms that belong to shoulders that belong to the chest etc., no Christian is an entity unto themselves once they become a member of the Body of Christ. We rise and fall - together. Solomon represents the man who, unaware or unconcerned what his sin will do not only to himself, but to others as well, walks away from God leaving turmoil, treachery, confusion, sorrow, and certainly judgment in the wake of his turbulent apostasy. Israel was never the same after Solomon's idolatry.
 
TRUTH FOR TODAY : WE MUST FINISH WELL!
 
Jesus exhorts us to finish well. [Mat 10:22  And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.] Yet, He tells us we will encounter obstacles and temptations to our faith .
 
"Our Lord warned his disciples to prepare for persecution. They were to avoid all things which gave advantage to their enemies, all meddling with worldly or political concerns, all appearance of evil or selfishness, and all underhand measures. Christ foretold troubles, not only that the troubles might not be a surprise, but that they might confirm their faith. He tells them what they should suffer, and from whom. Thus Christ has dealt fairly and faithfully with us, in telling us the worst we can meet with in his service; and he would have us deal so with ourselves, in sitting down and counting the cost. Persecutors are worse than beasts, in that they prey upon those of their own kind. The strongest bonds of love and duty, have often been broken through from enmity against Christ. Sufferings from friends and relations are very grievous; nothing cuts more. It appears plainly, that all who will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution; and we must expect to enter into the kingdom of God through many tribulations. With these predictions of trouble, are counsels and comforts for a time of trial. The disciples of Christ are hated and persecute d as serpents, and their ruin is sought, and they need the serpent's wisdom. Be ye harmless as doves. Not only, do nobody any hurt, but bear nobody any ill-will. Prudent care there must be, but not an anxious, perplexing thought; let this care be cast upon God.
 
The disciples of Christ must think more how to do well, than how to speak well. In case of great peril, the disciples of Christ may go out of the way of danger, though they must not go out of the way of duty. No sinful, unlawful means may be used to escape; for then it is not a door of God's opening. The fear of man brings a snare, a perplexing snare, that disturbs our peace; an entangling snare, by which we are drawn into sin; and, therefore, it must be striven and prayed against. Tribulation, distress, and persecution cannot take away God's love to them, or theirs to him. Fear Him, who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. They must deliver their message publicly, for all are deeply concerned in the doctrine of the gospel. The whole counsel of God must be made known, Act_20:27. Christ shows them why they should be of good cheer. Their sufferings witnessed against those who oppose his go spel. When God calls us to speak for him, we may depend on him to teach us what to say. A believing prospect of the end of our troubles, will be of great use to support us under them. They may be borne to the end, because the sufferers shall be borne up under them. The strength shall be according to the day. And it is great encouragement to those who are doing Christ's work, that it is a work which shall certainly be done. See how the care of Providence extends to all creatures, even to the sparrows.
 
This should silence all the fears of God's people; Ye are of more value than many sparrows. And the very hairs of your head are all numbered. This denotes the account God takes and keeps of his people. It is our duty, not only to believe in Christ, but to profess that faith, in suffering for him, when we are called to it, as well as in serving him. That denial of Christ only is here meant which is persisted in, and that confession only can have the blessed recompence here promised, which is the real and constant language of faith and love. Religion is worth every thing; all who believe the truth of it, will come up to the price, and make every thing else yield to it. Christ will lead us through sufferings, to glory with him. Those are best prepared for the life to come, that sit most loose to this present life. Though the kindness done to Christ's disciples be ever so small, yet if there be occasion for it, and ability to do no more, it shall be accepted. Christ does not say that they deserve a reward; for we cannot merit any thing from the hand of God; but they shall receive a reward from the free gift of God. Let us boldly confess Christ, and show love to him in all things." [Matthew Henry]
 
Perhaps you have started well. Many Christians do. The question is - "how will you finish?" This is the matter before us. We can be like David, or like Solomon or Saul. We must pray for the grace of God to help us. Without His grace, we cannot finish well, for it [was] by His grace that we started. Solomon was not under the New Covenant. We are. Therefore, we have a more sure Word of Prophecy, as we stand on the Scriptures, rely on the power of the Holy Spirit, and receive grace for grace because of the risen Christ who live to make intercession on our behalf. Let us believe - we will fi nish well!

  • [1] PERCHANCE he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill, as that he knows not it tolls for him; and perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that. The church is Catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that body which is my head too, and ingrafted into that body whereof I am a member. And when she buries a man, that action concerns me: all mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated; God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God's hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another. As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come, so this bell calls us all; but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness. There was a contention as far as a suit (in which both piety and dignity, religion and estimation, were mingled), which of the religious orders should ring to prayers first in the morning; and it was determined, that they should ring first that rose earliest. If we understand aright the dignity of this bell that tolls for our evening prayer, we would be glad to make it ours by rising early, in that application, that it might be ours as well as his, whose indeed it is. The bell doth toll for him t hat thinks it doth; and though it intermit again, yet from that minute that that occasion wrought upon him, he is united to God. Who casts not up his eye to the sun when it rises? but who takes off his eye from a comet when that breaks out? Who bends not his ear to any bell which upon any occasion rings? but who can remove it from that bell which is passing a piece of himself out of this world?
 
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee. Neither can we call this a begging of misery, or a borrowing of misery, as though we were not miserable enough of ourselves, but must fetch in more from the next house, in taking upon us the misery of our neighbours. Truly it were an excusable covetousness if we did, for affliction is a treasure, and scarce any man hath enough of it. No man hath affliction enough that is not matured and ripened by and made fit for God by that affliction. If a man carry treasure i n bullion, or in a wedge of gold, and have none coined into current money, his treasure will not defray him as he travels. Tribulation is treasure in the nature of it, but it is not current money in the use of it, except we get nearer and nearer our home, heaven, by it. Another man may be sick too, and sick to death, and this affliction may lie in his bowels, as gold in a mine, and be of no use to him; but this bell, that tells me of his affliction, digs out and applies that gold to me: if by this consideration of another's danger I take mine own into contemplation, and so secure myself, by making my recourse to my God, who is our only security.
 
John Donne; Meditation XVII; John Donne (1572-1631) was the most outstanding of the English Metaphysical Poets and a churchman famous for his spellbinding sermons.
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