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CHAPTER XIV.

THE DIVIDED KINGDOM.

Keynote: Matt. vi. 24.

THE latter part of Solomon's reign, and the divided rule which followed, seem to me to be typical of the especial dangers that are likely to beset the experience to which we have in that reign advanced, and the temptations peculiar to it. No height of spiritual blessing or spiritual power, can for a moment absolve us from the need of obedience and watchfulness. The temptation to Antinomianism has often overwhelmed the Church or the individual, after seasons of peculiar blessing, and it needs to be especially guarded against. We can never forsake the written law of the Lord with impunity, let our advancement in spiritual life be what it may. And we need to watch, lest, when seated in heavenly places in Christ, we should feel so far lifted above the usual temptations of life, as to be tempted to be less careful of taking heed to our steps, that we walk continually in the law of our God. Some have grievously failed here.

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And, foreseeing this danger, it was especially commanded concerning the king in Deut. xvii. 18-20: "And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: and it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life; that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them: that his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel." Had Solomon kept this law before his eyes, he would not have failed as he did. And did Christians now faithfully read and obey the teachings of the Scriptures, they too would escape similar failures.

Three especial things had been commanded the king in Deut. xvii. 16, 17, "But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses; forasmuch as the Lord hath said unto you, Ye shall not henceforth return no more that way. Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold." Every one of these commands Solomon disobeyed. In I Kings x. 26-28 we read that he "gathered together chariots and horsemen" and "had horses brought out of Egypt," and that he "made silver to be in Jerusalem as stones.” 226 And in I Kings xi. 1-8, we are further told, that he "loved many strange women" and had "seven hundred wives;" and that "it came to pass when Solomon was old that his wives turned away his heart after other gods; . . . for he went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom, the abomination of the Ammonites." The result of all this was that the "Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the Lord God of Israel which had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods, but he kept not that which the Lord commanded. Wherefore the Lord said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee and give it to thy servant," 1 Kings xi. 10, 11.

The three especial dangers, that seem to me to be typically warned against in this history are, lest the heart begin to lean on earthly resources rather than on the Lord, as symbolized by the horses from Egypt; lest it suffer its affections to go out after things the Lord has forbidden, as symbolized by the strange wives; and lest it begin to store up for its own use and enjoyment the spiritual riches and gifts, which have been given for purposes of service to the Lord, as symbolized in the multiplying of silver.

Solomon seemed at first to obtain by these unlawful means, the fulfillment of the promises of prosperity made to him; but the fatal consequences followed none the less surely. He would have received the promises just 227 as certainly, as direct gifts from the hands of the Lord, without using these means, and no curse would have followed. But his disobedience to the commandments of the Lord, though it at first enriched him, soon led to more serious departures, and ended in a flagrant turning from the only true God to serve idols. And in our case, none the less surely will these consequences follow, if we, like Solomon, neglect the Scriptures which are able, we are told, to make the man of God perfect, "thoroughly furnished unto all good works;" and if we fail to obey the voice of the Lord by His Spirit.

The result of all this failure was a divided rule. Two kings claimed the throne, and ten tribes revolted from the house of David and set up Jeroboam, Solomon's servant, as their king, leaving only the tribe of Judah to yield allegiance to Rehoboam, Solomon's son. In these two kingdoms of Judah and Israel we have presented to us, I think, that which always results when the inward kingdom of peace has been lost through disobedience, and the heart seeks to serve two masters, alternately yielding to the one and then to the other. Our Lord says concerning this, "No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon." Ye cannot. It does not say, ye must not, or ye ought not, declaring the penalties that will follow if we disobey, but simply, "ye cannot." Joseph Cook says that the "cans" and "cannots" of the Bible are not the arbitrary expressions of 228 God's will, but are simply divine announcements of the eternal nature of things. And we, all of us, know experimentally, that any effort to reverse this inexorable "cannot," always results in grievous backsliding.

The kings of Judah, for the most part, seemed to want to serve the true God, but they were weakened by the departure of the other tribes, and were continually ensnared by Israel's influence or opposition. Of most of their kings the divine sentence was of this sort: "He did that which was right in the sight of the Lord; but not with a perfect heart." But Israel was openly reprobate, and of their kings it was continually said, "He did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord." Its very first king, Jeroboam, fearing the influence of Judah and of the worship at Jerusalem, deliberately established idolatry as the legal and national worship, and has been from that time known throughout all ages as "Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin." "And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David. If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam, king of Judah. Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt. And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan. And this thing became a sin: for the people went 229 to worship before the one, even unto Dan," I Kings, xii. 26-30. All this, we are told in verse 33, Jeroboam "had devised of his own heart." And it seems to me another striking illustration of what idolatry really means: that it is that sort of worship which is "after the commandments of men," and not of God, and is devised out of our own hearts, or out of the hearts of our fathers. In a divided Christian soul, such a worship is always set up sooner or later. The heart must worship, but it cannot endure the worship of the only true God; "it is too much for it," and some substitute is necessary, of the heart's own devising.

I cannot here go into the remaining devils of the books we are considering. From the twelfth chapter of 1 Kings, through 2 Kings, and from 2 Chron. x. to the end, it is one long and sad story of sin and failure. There was constant war between the two kingdoms, alternated with occasional alliances. But in these alliances it was not Israel that came up to Judah, but Judah who went down to Israel, see 2 Chron. xviii. 1, 2. And the consequences of these alliances were such as always result from the effort to unite together the service of two masters; the idolatrous nation were in the ascendancy, and those who were seeking to serve the true God were deceived and betrayed. Great disasters fell upon Judah in consequence of this "joining affinity" with Israel, and the way was paved for the final fall.

The lives of the kings of Judah and Israel, and their battles, with their alternating victories and defeats, are 230 full of many practical lessons for us; but I cannot consider these at present. Neither have I space to go into the history of the prophets raised up to preserve a faithful testimony to the Lord during this time of grievous failure. The books written by many of these prophets, and embodied in our Bible, should be studied carefully in connection with this history.

The evil in the two kingdoms waxed worse and worse, until no effort or pretence even, was made to serve the Lord, but of both Judah's kings and Israel's we read, each one "did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord;" and the doom pronounced against them in Deut. xxviii. 36, 37, 63-68, was finally fulfilled, and they were "plucked from off" their own land, and "brought unto a nation which neither they nor their fathers had known." Israel's doom came first. In 2 Kings xvii. their wickedness seemed to culminate, and we read that "they rejected His statutes, and His covenant," and "left all the commandments of the Lord their God." "Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them out of His sight: there was none left but the tribe of Judah only. . . . . So was Israel carried away out of their own land to Assyria unto this day."

The doom of Judah, though somewhat later, came none the less surely. In 2 Chron. xxxvi. we have the account of this. They "transgressed very much," we read, "until there was no remedy." And God brought upon them the "King of the Chaldees, who slew their young men in the house of their sanctuary, and had no 231 compassion upon young man or maiden, old man or him that stooped for age: He gave them all into his hand." And all the vessels and treasures of the house of the Lord were carried away to Babylon, and the house of the Lord was burned up, and the walls of Jerusalem broken down, and all her palaces burned with fire. And those who had escaped from the sword were carried away to Babylon, where they were "servants to the king and his sons."

Babylon was not Egypt. Egypt, I believe, is a type of the state of nature out of which the Church is brought, while Babylon is the state of worldliness and corruption into which unfaithfulness brings her. Babylon seems to be always used in Scripture to set forth Satan's counterfeit of that which the Lord has made. If the Lord provides any good thing for His children, Satan provides a counterfeit of it, transforming himself even into an angel of light, if only thereby he may perchance deceive the elect. We do not hear of Babylon while Israel were in Egypt, nor during the early freshness of their joy in escaping from Egypt. It was an enemy who came to light only in the advanced period of their history. The Church knew nothing of the danger which Babylon typifies, during the early years of its existence, nor are Christians at once upon their conversion assailed by it. It is only when Churches or individual believers have been drawn away from their faithful allegiance to the law of the Lord, when they have substituted the commandments and traditions of men for the commandments 232 of God, and have begun to "mock the true messengers of the Lord, and despise His words and misuse His prophets," that the danger, typified by Babylon and its kings, comes in. A false and corrupt rule takes possession of the heart, and carries it captive. The precious truths, which were part of the worship of the true God, typified by the "vessels of the house of God, great and small, and the treasures of the house of the Lord," are taken for the service of the false religion; and the strength and wisdom, typified by the young men and the old men, are made to be servants to the king who has taken them captive. I am sure that our knowledge of the sad lapses into corruption of portions of the Church of all ages, and of individual Christian experiences now, can confirm all this.

A watchful walk with the Lord would have saved Judah from it all. They had had warnings without number, throughout the whole course of their declension, for we read that the "Lord God of their fathers sent to them by His messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because He had compassion on his people, and on His dwelling-place." 2 Chron. xxxvi. 15. And I feel sure that no soul now falls into backsliding or captivity, without continued and oft repeated warning, both from within and without. The Lord sends messengers to such now, as really as He did to Judah then, because He has compassion on them; messengers of outward sorrow, and suffering, and loss, or messengers of inward condemnation and heaviness of heart. The blessed Holy Spirit "rises 233 up betimes" and speaks to them in a voice they cannot mistake, giving them a sight of their condition and its dangers, and drawing them back to obedience tenderly and lovingly, or seeking to drive them with stern rebuke. And the danger for such, lies just where it did for Judah's last king, of what we read that he "humbled not himself before Jeremiah the prophet, speaking from the mouth of the Lord."

I feel therefore that the lesson of this story calls loudly upon each one of us, and especially upon those who may have advanced in their experience as far as the reign of peace, to take heed to every warning sent in love and compassion to save us from similar backsliding, even though that warning may be but the slight inward check or call of the indwelling Spirit.

The six books of Kings, and the history of the kingdom close with this captivity. But there is, notwithstanding all, a most blessed question asked in the very last sentence of 2 Chronicles, which opens up before us a possibility of return from backsliding, and of individual faithfulness, even in the time of the nation's captivity. It appears that "the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus, king of Persia," and charged him "to build Him an House in Jerusalem," and Cyrus made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it in writing, saying, "Who is there among you of all His people? The Lord his God be with him and let him go up!"

In the books of Ezra and Nehemiah we have this question answered, and the remnant, whose hearts stirred 234 them up to individual faithfulness, are there brought be- fore us, with the work that they did, and its blessed results.


Texts on a divided heart:--Matt. vi. 24.  Luke xvi. 13Amos iii. 2Luke xiv. 33John xv. 4Luke xi. 34Matt. vii. 18-21James i. 22-26; ii. 10; iv. 41 John ii. 15-17Gal. i. 101 Thess. ii. 4-6John v. 44Eph. vi. 6Col. iii. 22.

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