Then the man of God approached the king of Israel and said, "This is what the LORD says: 'Because the Arameans think the LORD is a god of the hills and not of the valleys, I will deliver all this great army into your hand. Then you will know that I am the LORD.'"
I. THE WISDOM OF THIS WORLD IS A WISDOM OF EXPEDIENCY.
1. It is not destitute of sagacity.
(1) It has its maxims of prudence.
(a) Ben-hadad's counsellors would not have him underrate his enemy. The army they advise him to raise for the invasion of Israel must not be inferior to that which had been lately vanquished (ver. 25). Let us not underrate our spiritual foes.
(b) Neither would they have him underrate the quality of his soldiers. They do not admit that his army was fairly beaten, but speak of "the army that thou hast lost," or "that fell from thee." In this also they were right, for if God had not helped Israel the Syrians would not have been routed. In all our spiritual conflicts let us fight under the banner of Jehovah.
(2) It has its lessons of experience.
(a) Ben-hadad's counsellors lay emphasis here - "And do this thing, Take the kings away, every man out of his place." Why remove the kings? Because in the last war they were "drinking themselves drunk" when they should have been at their posts, and the army, without officers, became confused and demoralized. Trust not the kings again (see Psalm 118:9; Psalm 146:8).
(b) "Put captains in their rooms." Let the army be commanded by men of ability and experience. Pageants are of no use in times of exigency.
2. But its sagacity is mingled with folly.
(1) Because the motives of the wicked are vicious.
(a) In his former war Ben-hadad's impulse was pride. The insolence of his demands evidenced this (vers. 3, 6). But what wisdom is there in pride?
(b) Though mortified by defeat, that pride remained, and was now moved by the spirit of revenge: "Surely we shall be stronger than they." But what wisdom is there in resentment?
(c) Beyond these base feelings the desire for plunder seems to have moved the Syrian. But where is the wisdom in a king becoming a common robber?
(2) Because they put themselves into conflict with the Almighty.
(a) The Syrians formed an unworthy idea of the Elohim of Israel when they localized and limited Him to the hills. Palestine is a hilly country, and its cities and high places were generally on hills; and probably in the hill country of Samaria the cavalry and chariots of Syria were of little service. (See Psalm 15:1; Psalm 24:3; Psalm 87:1; Psalm 121:1.)
(b) In the proposal to give Israel battle in the plains the Syrians now set Jehovah at defiance.
II. THE WISDOM FROM ABOVE IS THE WISDOM OF TRUTH.
1. It is far reaching.
(1) God sees the end from the beginning. We should therefore seek His counsel and guidance.
(2) He forewarns His people. He sent His prophet to the king of Israel to inform him that the king of Syria would come up against him at the return of the year. He forewarns us of the things of eternity.
2. It is prudent.
(1) The prophet advised Ahab to prepare for the event. "Go, strengthen thyself, and mark, and see what thou doest." We should ever deport ourselves as in the presence of spiritual foes.
(2) God helps those who help themselves.
3. It is unerring.
(1) Events foreshown by God will surely come to pass.
(2) According to the advice of the prophet, "at the return of the year," viz., "at the time when kings go forth to battle" (see 2 Samuel 11:1; 1 Chronicles 20:1), probably answering to our March, which has its name from Mars, the god of war, Ben-hadad "went up to Aphek to fight against Israel." There were several cities of this name: one in the tribe of Asher (Joshua 19:30); another in Judah (1 Samuel 4:1); a third in Syria (2 Kings 13:17). The last is probably that referred to here.
4. It is profitable.
(1) This follows from its other qualities. The guidance which is "prudent," "far reaching," and "unerring" must be "profitable."
(2) But further, those who follow that guidance so commend themselves to God that He directly interposes in their behalf. There was a faithful "seven thousand" in Israel (1 Kings 19:18).
(3) If in conflict with those who prefer a worldly policy, they not only have God on their side, but they have Him with them against their enemy.
(4) God helped Ahab against Ben-hadad, not that Ahab deserved it, but that Ben-hadad had to be punished (ver. 28. See also Ezekiel 36:22). The "two little flocks of kids" could not have slain in one day "one hundred thousand men" unless God had helped them. The hand of God also was in the falling of that wall by which "seven and twenty thousand" perished. Let us faithfully pursue the policy of right. Let us never permit the expediency of a moment to swerve us from this. Truth abides. - J.A.M.
Because the Syrians have said, The Lord is the God of the hills.I. WE MAY LIMIT THE LORD BY MISTRUSTING THE SUCCESS OF HIS CAUSE. The temptation is at times heavy upon us to think that the Gospel cannot conquer the world, that the truth of Jesus cannot spread in the midst of the thick darkness which surrounds us, that the good old cause is falling into a desperate condition, and that, mayhap, the victory we have looked for will not come after all. Here let us convict ourselves of having thought God to be the God of the hills and not the God of the valleys, for we have generally based our fears upon our perception that the front of the battle has changed.
II. WE MAY COMMIT THE SIN OF SYRIA BY DOUBTING THE HELP WHICH THE LORD WILL RENDER TO US. Sometimes we are brought into sore trouble, and then we imagine that the Lord will not help us as he helped the old saints, of whom we read in the Bible. We can believe all about Abraham and Moses and David, but we question whether the Lord will help us. We look at those men as the great hills, and we regard ourselves as the valleys, and we dare not hope that the Lord will deal with us as He did with His servants in the days of yore. Now, is not this making God to be a local God, think you? Ought we not to have the same faith in God as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had? I have even known Christians say, "I cannot go to God about my trials, they are so ordinary and commonplace. I can pray about spiritual things, but may I pray about temporals? I can take my sins and burdens of serious care to Him, but may I pray about little domestic troubles?" How can you ask that question? He tells you the hairs of your head are all numbered: those are not spiritual things surely. You are told to cast all your care on Him. He is the God of the hills of the higher spiritual interests of His children, and is He not the God of the valleys of their hourly troubles? Does He not bid us ask Him to give us day by day our daily bread?
III. IT IS VERY EASY TO FALL INTO THIS SIN BY COMPARING AND CONTRASTING THE EXPERIENCES OF OURSELVES AND OTHERS. The thoughtful soul may often hear the rustle of the skirts of Jehovah's garments in the stillness of those lone hills. God is in rugged souls, in the ravines of a broken heart, and in the caves of dread despair: He overrules the whirlwind of temptation and the tempests of satanic blasphemy, and anon He is seen in the bow of hope and the sunshine of full assurance. The Lord is in every heroic struggle against sin, and in that eager clinging to His word which is seen in so many tempted souls. Yet men judge their fellows and say, "The Lord cannot be there," even where He is most mightily. On the other hand, I have known persons fashioned in this rough mould look down on the gentle, quiet life of the useful, less thoughtful, and perhaps less intelligent Christian, who is "like" the valley, and they have said, "Lord, what shall this man do? He does not sympathise with my soul troubles, he has had little or no law work, he does not understand my grand conceptions of truth, he enters not into the deep things of God." Remember that this may be true, and yet the brother may be a far better man than you are.
IV. A VERY COMMON SHAPE OF THIS SIN IS LIMITING THE POWER OF THE GOSPEL. I have known you limit the power of the Gospel by supposing that it will only save certain sinners. You heard of a great drunkard who was converted, of a swearer who turned to God, and you said to yourself, "I do not wish to be a drunkard or a swearer, but I have seen many of that sort of people saved, and I, who have led a moral life, have not been renewed in heart: it makes me envy them." Why should not you also obtain salvation? Is Jesus the Saviour of open and gross sinners and not of the more secret offenders?
V. WE CAN, AFTER THE FASHION OF SYRIA, LIMIT THE POWER OF GOD BY NOT EXPECTING HIS DIVINE AID TO BE GIVEN TO US IN HIS SERVICE,
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
II. AGAIN, THE WORDS MAY BE USED IN A SUPERSTITIOUS SENSE. We are to speak of its falseness now when applied to religious worship, associated as that worship often is with certain fixed and unbending conditions that are hurtful to the health and hostile to the spontaneity of the "life indeed." Of course, the tendency that I speak of finds its crowning type in the ritualist. As much as any one, the ritualist attempts to limit God, tying the operations of His grace to given and definite places, given and definite agencies, given and definite channels. And yet the superstitious spirit may exist, the spirit that attaches undue importance to places, associations, and forms. Not, of course, that places and associations are without their value in worship. They have their own impressiveness, their own significance, their own power to stimulate and help. But when all has been said, we are not to set limits to God. He who is the God of the hills, with their majesty, their variety, and their poetic associations, is also the God of the valleys, with their tameness, monotone, and commonplace features, And when He keeps you down in the valleys, be sure He can meet you there, in the homeliest religious services, in the humblest religious fellowship; and not only there, but amidst the dullest and most prosaic routines of everyday worldly life, till the fireside, the shop, the counting-room, the mart, become for those who wait and who watch for Him a very Bethel, a house of God, the gate of heaven.
III. There words may be taken as descriptive of a worldly spirit — a spirit of worldly compliance and worldly compromise. Passing at this point from the subject of God's help and worship to the subject of God's claims, we find a tendency that is just the opposite of the one we have now been speaking of. In that case the error was that of over-separation in religious matters; in this case the error is that of over-concession — concession to the time-spirit, concession to the place-spirit. "Your God is a God of the hills; He vanishes when the hills are left, and the valleys take their place." How often does the cynic's taunt find colour and excuse in the professing Christian's conduct! Some people do speak and act as if the authority of God were a matter of locality, and as if the leaving of the locality meant the leaving, or at any rate, the lowering, of the authority. I take the case of professing Christians in their seasons of recreation — let us say during foreign travel. Do not some put off their home religion with the same regularity with which they put off their home broadcloth, and put on tourist religion with the same sense of release with which they put on their tourist tweeds? The thought might be carried further. Is not this at the root of a good deal of the unrest that is otherwise puzzling to see? Children discontented in happy homes, apprentices discontented with kind employers, servants discontented in comfortable places, young men and young women discontented with evangelical ministries and a watchful and attentive Church fellowship, all on the outlook for change, where to the outward observation there does not seem much reason for change: how shall we explain it? Sometimes, I fear, in this very way. The atmosphere of restriction does not suit such. They want to be surrounded with a slacker personal oversight, a lower local tone. They want to break free from religions restraints; and in breaking free from religious restraints they imagine they get quit of religious obligations. You do not get quit of them. Right is right, and wrong is wrong, whatsoever be the circumstances, whatsoever the customs, whatsoever the observation.
IV. THESE WORDS, TOO, MAY BE TAKEN AS DESCRIPTIVE OF A RATIONALISING SPIRIT. Here we pass from God's help, worship, and claims to the subject of His truth. And what is the error to be noticed here? Just the error we have been endeavouring to trace all along, the error of those who set bounds to God. We believe, do we not? that the Gospel is universal. We believe that as it is universal in intention, it is universal in fitness. We believe that both in precept and in promise it is the power of God to every one that believeth. But there are those who deny this. They deny it on the grounds of capacity, deny it on the grounds of race. And it is interesting to notice that this rationalising spirit we speak of, in limiting the adaptability of the Christian religion, limits it from two different standpoints, for two different reasons. Some object to the Christian faith as being too elementary, characterised by elementary conditions, suitable to an elementary stage. The God of the Christians, they say, may serve for the simple, the inexperienced, the emotional — women with their capacity of belief, children with their childish dreams. But He will not serve for others — the scientist with his love of truth, the artist with his love of beauty, the artisan with his love of independence. Others, again, speak of the Christian faith as a something that is too advanced, at any rate for certain circumstances and certain classes. The God of the Christians, they say, may serve for the cultivated and progressive, those whose minds have been opened, and whose consciences have been trained. But He is altogether too exalted in His standard, too strict in His principles, and too exacting in His demands, for the common and unenlightened, the barbarous and embruted. What is the notion of both classes but the notion of a limited God — a God, as some say, for the hills, a God, as others say, for the valleys, yet in each case a God that is less than universal, a God who is bounded in His presence, bounded in His power, and bounded in His claims? We hold by a higher idea. We cling to a nobler and more inspiring faith. We believe that the God of the Bible is the God of the hills and the valleys alike, wheresoever His religion has had full play.
(W. A. Gray.)
1. There are those who confine Him to the hills of speculation, but exclude Him from the valleys of daily life. They are the intellectual patrons and flatterers of God. He is too great to be realised. He is the Supreme Thought, the Infinite Conception. the Unconditioned Absolute, and various other magnificent inanities. According to their view, He cannot be brought down to daily experience, or take any immediate part in the common progress of life. He is grand, but useless. He is glorious, but unapproachable, His sanctuary is on hills that cannot be climbed, or in clouds that cannot be entered; but He has no agency in the valleys.
2. Then there are those who recognise God in the valleys of trouble, but ignore Him on the hills of strength and joy. They call Him in professionally. He is kept for the hour of distress. They use religion as a night-bell which they can pull in times of exigency.
3. It is the very glory of religion in its most intelligent conception that it comprehends and blesses the whole life. What is this life for which any religion that is true has to provide? It is no easy riddle. It is easy enough to invent a theory or an outfit for one side of it; but we want a doctrine that will involve and ennoble its entirety. What is this life? What is its origin? Look at the impulses which excite it; add up into some nameable total the forces which operate upon it; and bring under one law the ambitions which lure or goad it into its most daring activities. Here is a hunger which no bread can satisfy. Here is an imagination which conquers the visible and longs to penetrate the unseen. In the breast is an eager suppliant that will not be forbidden to pray. And what is the hereafter of this multiplied life? Does it go out like a spark? The false religion is God of the hill but not God of the valleys. The superficial theory is excellent in fine weather, but useless in foul. It is pleasant in prosperity, it is helpless in adversity. It can swell our laughter, it cannot dry our tears. This is the proof of the true religion — that it encompasses with in. finite sufficiency the whole life, is equally strong at every point. It can run with the footmen; it can keep pace with the horses; and it can subdue into peace the swellings of Jordan.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
PeopleAhab, Aram, Ben, Benhadad, Ben-hadad, Hadad, Israelites, Syrians
PlacesAphek, Damascus, Samaria, Syria
TopicsAramaeans, Arameans, Army, Deliver, Drew, Hands, Hills, Mountains, Multitude, Nigh, Says, Spake, Speaketh, Spoke, Syrians, Thus, Valleys, Vast
Outline1. Ben-Hadad, not content with Ahab's homage, besieges Samaria
13. By the direction of a prophet, the Syrians are slain
22. As the prophet forewarned Ahab, the Syrians come against him in Aphek
28. By the word of the prophet, and God's judgment, the Syrians are smitten again
31. The Syrians submit; Ahab sends Ben-Hadad away with a covenant
35. The prophet, under the parable of a prisoner,
39. making Ahab judge himself, denounces God's judgment against him
Dictionary of Bible Themes1 Kings 20:28
5029 knowledge, of God
LibraryThe Lost Opportunity
TEXT: "And as thy servant was busy here and there, he was gone. And the king of Israel said unto him, So shall thy judgment be; thyself hast decided it."--1 Kings 20:40. There is a very striking incident connected with this text. The great battle is raging, a certain important prisoner has been taken, and if you read between the lines you seem to know that upon him depend many of the issues of war. His skill in leading the enemy had been marvelous, his courage in the thick of the fight striking; …
J. Wilbur Chapman—And Judas Iscariot
Putting on the Armour
The Section Chap. I. -iii.
The Letter of the Synod to the Emperor and Empress.
Nature of the Renderings
The Practice of Piety in Glorifying God in the Time of Sickness, and when Thou Art Called to Die in the Lord.
The Twelve Minor Prophets.
Tiglath-Pileser iii. And the Organisation of the Assyrian Empire from 745 to 722 B. C.
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