As the king passed by, he cried out to the king: "Your servant had marched out into the middle of the battle, when suddenly a man came over with a captive and told me, 'Guard this man! If he goes missing for any reason, your life will be exchanged for his life, or you will weigh out a talent of silver.'
I. MERCY IS FALSE WHEN IT OPPOSES THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD.
1. That righteousness dooms the incorrigible to death.
(1) "The wages of sin." The incorrigible will certainly find this in the "damnation of hell" (Psalm 9:17).
(2) Their time also in this life is shortened either by the sword of the magistrate or by the judgment of God. They get sufficient space for repentance; but the space so given, if misimproved, aggravates the terror of their death. Protracted probationary existence under such conditions, therefore, becomes a doubtful mercy.
(3) It is also the reverse of mercy to their contemporaries, because the influence of the wicked is mischievous. It is, therefore, a considerate judgment that they do "not live out half their days" (Psalm 55:23).
(4) The difference between good and evil cannot be too strongly marked. The good must have no fellowship with the wicked. In eternity their separation is complete (Matthew 25:46; Luke 16:26). The more perfect the separation here, the more of heaven upon earth will the good enjoy; and the more of hell upon earth, the wicked.
2. Ben-hadad was obnoxious to that doom.
(1) He was guilty of the highest crimes against humanity. In his offensive wars he was not only a public robber, but also a wholesale murderer. But murder at least is held to be a capital crime (see Genesis 9:5; Exodus 21:12, 14; Leviticus 24:17. See also Matthew 26:52; Revelation 13:10).
(2) He was guilty likewise of the highest crimes against God. He was not only a gross idolater, but also a blasphemer of Jehovah. He localized and limited Him as "Elohim of the hills" and defied Him in the plains. But such blasphemy also was punishable with death (Leviticus 24:11-16).
(3) He committed all these offences in the land of Israel, where they were capital crimes, and the God of Israel delivered him into the hand of Ahab that he might suffer the penalty.
3. But Ahab opposed his mercy to the righteousness of God.
(1) But is there no mercy for the penitent? Certainly there is. In repentance there is no encouragement to evil; on the contrary, in it evil is condemned. Faith in Christ is the perfection of repentance since therein only can we be effectually delivered from sin. Repentance must be genuine.
(2) Ben-hadad's repentance was not genuine. His servants "girded sackcloth on their loins, and put ropes on their heads, and came to the king of Israel, and said, Thy servant Ben-hadad saith, I pray thee, let me live." (Sir John Froissart relates that the inhabitants of Calais acted in a similar manner when they surrendered their city to Edward III. in 1346). All this was intensely mortifying to Ben-hadad, whose tone was so different when he thought himself in the position of a dictator (see vers. 3-6). The haughtiest in prosperity are often the meanest in adversity.
(3) But here is no show of repentance towards God. He confesses that he deserves to be hanged for invading the land, but not a word about his blasphemy against the Elohim of Israel. Yet Ahab granted him his life.
II. THOSE WHO SHOW SUCH MERCY ENCOUNTER THE JUDGMENT OF GOD.
1. Because thereby they encourage evil.
(1) If sin be committed with impunity it will soon lose its character. Men are naturally inclined to sin, and are restrained chiefly by fear of its penalties. If these are remitted, offences against the law of God will come to be justified.
(2) The estimate of goodness would consequently be lowered, for we judge of qualities by contrasts. Heaven is seen in its strongest light as the antithesis of hell Remove from sin its sinfulness, and goodness will be distorted into weakness or folly.
(3) Such confounding of right and wrong must be fatal to all law and order, and tend to inaugurate the wildest confusion and the deepest misery. All this flows from the principle of false or indiscriminate mercy.
2. Hence Ahab was held to be an accomplice with Ben-hadad.
(1) He had an unworthy sympathy with. this blaspheming monarch. "Is he yet alive? He is my brother." "Brother king, though not brother Israelite. Ahab valued himself more on his royalty than on his religion" (Henry). Would Ben-hadad have called Ahab his brother had he been victorious?
(2) "He caused him to come up into the chariot." This was a sign of cordial friendship (see 2 Kings 10:15, 16). "The friendship of the world is enmity against God." So instead of imposing terms, he accepted those proposed by Ben-hadad (ver. 34).
(3) "So he made a covenant with him and sent him away." The form of these covenants was to cut a sacrifice in twain, and the persons entering into the compact walked between the pieces and were sprinkled, together with the articles of agreement, with the blood, to express that if they failed to fulfil their pledge God might treat them as the sacrifice had been treated.
3. Ahab in consequence was doomed to die.
(1) This was signified to him by another prophet. He is by the Jews supposed to have been Micaiah, and with some reason perhaps (compare 1 Kings 22:8).
(2) This prophet, after the example of Nathan (2 Samuel 12.), made Ahab pronounce his own sentence (vers. 37-42). In the doom of the prophet who, for disobedience to the word of the Lord in not smiting his fellow, was destroyed by the lion, Ahab could also read his doom for not obeying the word of the Lord when he should have smitten ben-hadad to death (vers. 35, 36).
(3) The prophecy came true. Ahab was slain fighting against the Syrians to recover Ramoth in Gilead (1 Kings 22:85). And by the hands of the Syrians, under Hazael, the children of Israel suffered severely (see 2 Kings 8:12; 2 Kings 10:32, 33).
(4) In anticipation of these things Ahab "went to his house heavy and displeased." Heavy at the tidings and displeased with the prophet. It would have been more to his advantage had he gone to the house of God in contrition for the sins of his wicked life. - J.A.M.
Now the men did diligently observe whether anything would come from him, and did hastily catch it.I. IT IS A PITY THAT AWAKENED SINNERS DO NOT COPY THE EXAMPLE OF THESE MEN.
1. There is far too little of diligent observance of what God says in His word.
2. The same thing ought to be done when you are heating the Gospel preached; for God has been pleased, in order that His truth may be brought home to your hearts, to choose certain of His servants to speak His word; and, so far as they speak in accordance with His mind and will, they speak for God to you.
3. Then, again, while there is too little of diligent observation of what God has said, there is also far too little of hastily catching at the word.
II. IT IS VERY STRANGE THAT SINNERS ACT THUS, FOR IT IS NOT CONSISTENT WITH THE USUAL WAYS OF MANKIND.
1. We have a proverb which says that "drowning men catch at straws." So they do; and when a man is in peril, he will usually grasp at anything that seems to offer him a hope of escape. How is it, then, that, with a Bible full of promises, and a Gospel full of encouragements, the mass of people with troubled consciences do not at once catch at what God says? There is another proverb of ours which says that "the wish is father to the thought." Sometimes, a man wishes for a thing so long that, at last, he believes it is really his; but how strange it is that, in spiritual things, men wish, and wish, and wish, — or say that they do, — and yet they do not believe that it is as they wish! The more they wish, the further they seem to be from the blessing they desire to possess.
2. This is the more strange, too, because you can continually see how sinners catch at everything else. See how they cling to their own righteousness. A thousand tons of it are not worth a farthing; it is neither fit for the land nor yet for the dunghill, yet they prize it as if it was a heap of diamonds. See what confidence many put in utterly worthless forms and ceremonies.
III. WHEN WE ARE DEALING WITH GOD, THERE IS VERY MUCH TO CATCH AT. Many years ago, when I was in great distress of soul, and could not find Christ for a long while, I would have been glad if I had heard anybody speak about how much there is for a troubled soul to catch at. Perhaps I did hear something about it; but, if so, I did not catch at it, though I think I should have done so if it had really been made plain and clear to me. Until God the Holy Ghost enlightens the soul, the truth may be put very plainly, but we do not see it. I will try, now, to set it before any one here who is willing to catch at it.
1. Now, poor troubled soul, if it had been God's purpose to destroy you, — if He never intended to hear your prayers — if He never meant to save you — let me ask you, very earnestly — Why did He give you the Bible? I want you to catch at this thought.
2. Again, why has God raised up a ministry, and given you the opportunity of listening to it? Why are you continually being warned to flee from the wrath to come? Why are you constantly being instructed in the truths of the Gospel?
3. I remind you also that you are still on praying ground.
4. See, next, if you cannot catch at this great truth — God has given Jesus Christ to die for sinners. You are a sinner, so catch at this glorious fact: "He gave Himself for our sins."
5. There is another truth that I think some' of you might catch at; it is this one: "God now commandeth all men everywhere to repent." This was the message that our Lord Jesus Christ Himself preached, "Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
6. Then, again, what can be the meaning of that other command, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved," except that if, as a guilty sinner, I come and trust in Christ, I shall be saved? It is even so; indeed, I am saved as soon as ever I do believe in Jesus.
IV. THERE IS MUCH GREATER ENCOURAGEMENT FOR YOU AND FOR ME, THAN THERE WAS FOR THOSE MESSENGERS FROM BEN-HADAD.
1. For, first, suppose Ahab did utter a hopeful word, he was very deceitful.
2. Then, again, when those men listened to Ahab, he might have uttered a friendly word without meaning it.
3. These messengers from Ben-hadad said that the Kings of Israel were merciful kings; and we know that God is much more merciful than they were, for "His mercy endureth for ever."
4. Those messengers from Ben-hadad might have believed be: tar of Ahab than would have been true, but you cannot believe better of God than will be true.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
( J. Bunyan..)
PeopleAhab, Aram, Ben, Benhadad, Ben-hadad, Hadad, Israelites, Syrians
PlacesAphek, Damascus, Samaria, Syria
TopicsAside, Battle, Behold, Bringeth, Captive, Chance, Cried, Crying, Fight, Gets, Guard, Midst, Missing, Pass, Passed, Passing, Pay, Payment, Price, Prophet, Reason, Servant, Silver, Soldier, Someone, Talent, Thick, Weigh
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 20:39
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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