1 Kings 20:5
The messengers came back and said, "This is what Ben-hadad says: 'I have sent to you to demand your silver, your gold, your wives, and your children.
The Spirit of WarJ.A. Macdonald 1 Kings 20:1-11
Veiled MerciesJ. Urquhart 1 Kings 20:1-21

In human histories so much is made of brilliant uniforms, scientific discipline, skilful manoeuvres, exploits, surprises, and successes, that readers are carried away with "the pomp and circumstance" of so-called "glorious war." In the text we have the other side; and we are reminded of the appeal of James: "From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your own lusts that war in your members?" (James 4:1.) Conspicuous amongst these is -

I. THE SPIRIT OF WAR, We see this -

1. In Ben-hadad's message (ver. 3).

(1) We do not understand this to be a demand from Ahab for the actual surrender to Ben-hadad of his "silver" and "gold," "wives" and "children." Else it would be difficult to see any material difference between this first message and that which followed (ver. 6).

(2) The meaning seems to be that Ben-hadad would hold Ahab as his vassal, so that Ahab should retain his wealth, wives, and children only by the sufferance and generosity of his superior. He would have the king of Israel reduced to the condition of the "thirty and two kings" who, with their subjects and fortunes, appear to have been at his service (compare ver. 12 with ver. 24).

2. In his confident boasting.

(1) He boasts of the vastness of his army. "All the people that follow me." The Hebrew is given in the margin, "at my feet," suggesting subjection and submission.

(2) Of the certainty and ease with which such an army may carry victory. "The gods do so to me and more also if the dust of Samaria shall suffice for handfuls for all the people that follow me." They need not be content with handfuls of dust when they can fill their hands with the most valuable things in Samaria.

(3) This was the boasting which Ahab rebuked by the use of what had probably been a proverbial expression: "Let not him that girdeth on his harness boast himself as he that putteth it off." This caution might be profitably considered by those who are engaged in spiritual conflicts: "Be not high minded, but fear."


1. In Ben-hadad's requisitions.

(1) In those of his first message right is outraged. "Thy silver and gold are mine." Taking this demand in the sense of Ahab's coming under villenage to Ben-hadad, the claim was iniquitous. Man has rights of property and freedom, which, unless they are forfeited to law by crime, should ever be held most sacred. The injustice of slavery is horrible.

(2) The second message went even farther. It threatened open robbery. Robbery not only of the monarch, but of his subjects also. A starving wretch who steals a loaf of bread may be convicted as a felon; but warrior who plunders kingdoms - a Napoleon - is glorified as a hero! Rut how will these weigh together in the balances of the sanctuary?

2. In his principles of appeal.

(1) Justice is not named. How often is justice named in warfare where it has no place! The Syrian king was more outspoken than many modern war makers.

(2) Mercy is quite out of the question. Yet in modern times wars against savages have been trumpeted as benignities, because of the civilization which, it is presumed, will follow in their wake!

(3) Ben-hadad did not live in these favoured times, so the one principle to which he appeals is might. "He has the men," and he will have "the money tool" In this he has had too many successors in the kingdoms of civilization.

(4) Not only must the covetousness of the king be gratified; so also must the host "at his feet;" and since the "dust of Samaria" will not satisfy them, Samaria must be sacked and pillaged. One injustice begets another.


1. In the provocations.

(1) Observe the "putting" of Ben-hadad's requisitions. No attempt is made to spare the feelings of Ahab, but, on the contrary, the language is studiously framed to lacerate. "Whatsoever is pleasant in thine eyes" - note, not what is pleasant in the eyes of the spoilers - "they shall put it in their hand and take it away."

(2) Witness also the peremptoriness. "Tomorrow about this time."

2. In the struggles.

(1) Men are in conflict. This is not a strife of elements without feeling, which is terrible enough, but of flesh and blood and nerves with exquisite sensibilities, with susceptibilities of acute pain and suffering.

(2) The combatants are armed. That they may put each other to torture they are provided with swords, spears, arrows; and in these clays of civilization, with fire-arms of various kinds. Elephants, camels, horses, and other animals are pressed into the dreadful service.

(3) Survey the battlefield after the strife. Men and animals dead and dying, mingled; gaping wounds; mangled limbs, sickening horrors I What pictures of cruelty are here!

(4) Reflect upon the homes plunged into grief and poverty entailed through the loss of breadwinners; and add the sequel of pestilences and famines. Surely we should pray for the advent of that peaceful reign of righteousness which is promised in the Scriptures of prophecy. - J.A.M.

As thy servant was busy here and there, he was gone.
Ahab had a chance of doing God's will; he neglected to use it, and judgment descended upon him.


1. In the case before us Ahab should have destroyed Ben-hadad. We ought to outlive all evil — to overthrow all that opposes the spread of truth and righteousness.

2. God's glory would have been manifest in the destruction of the Syrian king. That glory is revealed in a yet greater degree when souls are saved, and in this we may be instrumental.

3. What, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Even so, it devolves upon you to do all you can to save those who are unsaved. This work for God's glory, can only be performed by adaptability in teaching — the exercise of a loving spirit — earnest prayer — a humble dependence on the Divine power.

II. WE TOO OFTEN NEGLECT TO EMBRACE THE OPPORTUNITIES PRESENTED. The prophet, in his parable, said, that while he was busy here and there, his prisoner had escaped; that was the excuse he made. Christian people often make excuses for not doing their duty, here is one.

1. I am too timid. I can't speak to my children, to my servants, to strangers about their souls, and their duty to the Great Creator. Why can't you? You can talk to them about their bodies and temporal things. Why not about Divine?

2. It is not my business. Whose then? Ministers are paid to do this work, and they ought not to trouble us. So, then, if you knew a man had poisoned himself, you would not try to save him (although you knew well enough what to do), all you would say would be "Go to the doctor."

3. I am too much engaged. And, perhaps, there never was an age in which men are so busy as they are to-day. "Express speed" is far too slow. Men must beat the lightning, or at least equal it. They are "too busy" to give a little time to the consideration of the best means for spiritual work; too busy to engage in that work themselves; and what does it all mean?

III. OPPORTUNITIES ONCE LOST NEVER RETURN. "Opportunity for doing good is like a favouring breeze springing up around a sailing vessel. If the sails be all set, the ship is wafted onward to its port; but if the sailors are not there, the breeze may die away; and when they would go they cannot, and their vessel stands as idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean." Think for a moment of the opportunities each has neglected; let the thought stimulate you to improve the present.


(A. F. Barfield.)

This story was originally told in order to tough the conscience of King Ahab, who had allowed Ben-hadad, King of Syria, to escape when Providence had put the cruel monarch into his hand on purpose that he might receive his doom. Ahab is no more, but this Scripture is not, therefore, like a spent shell — there is truth and power in it yet. Its teaching is applicable to us also.

I. THE OBLIGATION which the text suggests, that we may solemnly own that we are under a higher obligation still. This man being engaged in warfare, was bound to obey the orders of his superior officer; that officer put into his custody a prisoner, saying, "Keep this man," and from that moment he was under an obligation from which nothing could free him.

1. That we are bound to serve God is dear, because we derive our being from Him.

2. It was for this end that the Almighty made us, and for nothing short of this, that we might glorify God and enjoy him for ever.

3. To the service of God a thousand voices call us all

4. A great argument for our obligation to glorify God is found in the fact that in this service men find their highest honour and their truest happiness.

5. Let this, also, never be far from our memories, that there is a day coming when we must all of us give an account of our fives, and the account will be based upon this inquiry — How have we served and glorified God?

II. A CONFESSION: "He was gone." The man was under obligation to take care of his prisoner, but he had to confess that he was gone.

1. We have lost many opportunities for serving God which arise out of the periods of fife. I hope you will not have to say, "My childhood is gone; I cannot praise Jesus with a girl's voice or a boy's tongue now, for my childhood passed away in disobedience and folly." You cannot talk to your son now, as you might have done when you could take the fair-haired boy upon your knee and kiss him and tell him of Jesus.

2. Another form of regret may arise out, of the changes of our circumstances. A man had once considerable wealth, but a turn of Providence has made him poor: it is a very unhappy thing if he has to confess, "I did not use my substance for God when I had it. I was an unfaithful steward, and wasted my Master's goods, and now I am no longer trusted by Him, my property is gone." Another may have possessed considerable ability of mind, but through sickness or declining vigour he may not be able now to do what he once did.

3. As time has gone so also have many persons gone to whom we might have been useful.

4. Sometimes, however, the confession of the thing gone concerns noble ideas and resolves. You had great conceptions, and if they had but been embodied in action something good would have come of them; but where are the ideas now? Were they not smothered in their birth?

5. And there may be some from whom a vast wealth of opportunity has passed away. They have been blessed with great means and large substance, and if these had been laid out for Jesus Christ year after year many a lagging agency would have been quickened, and many a holy enterprise which has had to be suspended for want of means might have gone on gloriously.

III. THE EXCUSE which was made — "As thy servant was busy here and there, he was gone."

1. The excuse is, "I was so busy"; which, first of all, is no excuse, because a soldier has no business to have any business but that which his commander allots to him.

2. When the man said he was "busy here and there," he cut away the only excuse he could have had, because that showed he had ability.

3. Then, again, what he had done was evidently done to please himself. He was "busy here and there."

IV. THE UNALTERABLE FACT. "While I was busy here and there, he was gone." Could you not seize him again? "No, he is gone." Is there no making-up for past neglect? No recapturing the missing one? No, he is gone, clean gone.

1. With the time, remember, your life has gone, and there is no living it over again.

2. Remember, also, that future diligence will not be able to recover wasted time. I suppose Luther was past forty before he began his life-work, and yet he accomplished a splendid result for Christ; but even Luther could not get back his years of unregeneracy and superstition. Time is on the wing; use it now. Do not loiter, for thou canst pluck no feather from the wing of time to make it loiter too. It flies, and if thou wouldst use it, use it now. Arouse thyself, and sleep no longer. If thou wouldst indeed be true to God who made thee and to Christ who bought thee with His precious blood, use thyself now to the fullest conceivable extent for the glory of thy Lord and Master. What shall we do? Let us all fly to Jesus, who can forgive the guilt of the past.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

Arab had been faithless to his trust. He had had the opportunity to crush out the enemy of Israel, but he had let him live for his own selfish purpose, and in sentencing the pretended soldier who had been faithless he was in reality uttering sentence against himself. It is my purpose to compare the opportunities of life to a prisoner given to us to keep, in which if we are faithful to our trust we shall secure eternal promotion and blessing;. and if we are careless and indifferent and neglectful, our opportunities will all escape and leave us poverty-stricken indeed. Every period of life has its special opportunity, which if not used at that time escapes for ever. It can never be recaptured. Youth has opportunities peculiar to itself; it is like the spring-time in nature. If a farmer lets spring-time escape him, and leave his fields unploughed and his gardens unplanted, however remorseful he may be about it he cannot capture that opportunity after spring-time has passed. Youth is like that — a time for sowing, a time when the mind readily grasps its lessons, and seizes with firm hold upon new truths; it is the time when we make most of our friends, and when the affections have the strong grip that hold for ever. It is a terrible thing to let youth go by and not become a Christian. To return to the parable of which our text is a part, one would suppose that a man having been put in charge of a prisoner to keep, with so terrible a warning that his life depended upon his being faithful to his trust, would have seen to it that the man did not escape. But when we compare it to our own lives, we can see how easy it was for the man to become careless, and to be taken up with other things which may have amounted to very little indeed, but which took his mind off the matter of greatest importance to him and thus endangered his life. The story is told of Henry IV. of France, that he asked the Duke of Alva if he had observed the eclipses happening in that year. He replied that he had so much business on earth that he had no leisure to look up to heaven. What sad folly it is for men born with the possibility of immortal Joy to so bend themselves towards the earth and so set their hearts on the things of this world as scarcely to cast a look to the things belonging to the world to come. How much wiser was Zeuxis, the famous painter of his day, who, when somebody observed that he was very slow at his work, and let no painting of his go abroad into the world to be seen of men until he had tried it in every light and given it long consideration to see if he could find any fault in it, replied to an inquiry as to his conduct, "I am long in doing what I take in hand because what I paint I paint for eternity." So what we do has to stand the test of eternity. If it is rubbish, it will be burned up in the judgment fires. An old historian tells us that Alexander the Great, being much taken with the witty answers of Diogenes, bade him ask what he would and he should have it. The philosopher demanded the least proportion of immortality. "That is not my gift," said Alexander. "No?" asked Diogenes. "Then why doth Alexander take such pains to conquer the world, when he cannot assure himself of one moment to enjoy it?" What the cynic said to this great conqueror might well be said to every man who is giving himself so earnestly to the business of this world that he is running the risk of losing the infinitely greater values of eternity. Comparatively few men and women deliberately set out to make great fortunes, or to win for themselves great worldly triumph at the cost of their spiritual welfare. The great majority who are fatally deceived by the enemy of their souls are seduced into evil ways and into fatal neglect by the desire for the simplest physical pleasures and adornment. There is only one way to make sure of your salvation, and that is to improve the present opportunity and thus make certain that it will not escape. A friend of mine overheard one young girl saying to another in the saddest tone, thinking about her friend: "I think she regretted it afterwards; she said it should be different next time. But then," with a little sigh, "so many things haven't any next time." If it should happen to be that way with you that there should be no "next time." with the offer of mercy to your soul, I want to so speak and so do my duty by you that I shall not be responsible for your failure to gain heaven.

(L A. Banks, D. D.)

The parables of the New Testament are so speakingly real, so beautiful in their conception, and so manifestly the touches of a Master-hand, that we are liable to overlook — if not, indeed, to neglect — the minor parables of the Old Testament. And yet these minor parables, like the minor prophets and poets, possess — especially for the student of literature — a charm and fascination peculiarly their own. They are not wanting either in colour or finish, but are, in fact, bits of beautiful workmanship well worth framing and hanging up in honoured places of the mind and memory. Amusingly quaint, touchingly tender, they belong in a conspicuous degree to the hoary past, more so even than do the allegories of the Great Teacher Himself. In one particular, however, they closely resemble His, they never fail to hit the target of their aim. Now, our text is taken from one of these minor parables and in its aim it resembles Nathan's. The teaching here is that Ahab had a fine opportunity of serving God and his country, but he threw it away and it did not return. Let us discuss together this subject of opportunities — more especially lost opportunities.

1. And, first, this word opportunity springs from an old root signifying "at port," or "in the harbour," suggestive of the welt-known and oft-repeated lines: —

There is a tide in the affairs of men,

Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.

Thus we think of the trader watching the market, ready to pounce upon every opportunity that presents itself, so that he may turn it to gold; ready to snatch every chance of striking a good bargain, and thereby winning success. Indeed, it would appear — as a suggestive writer has remarked — "as though it were a part of the Divine discipline to put large opportunities in men's way, and leave it with themselves whether they will use or neglect them. There is no coercion to compel us to turn them to account, and the wheels of time shall not be reversed to bring them back once they are gone. If we neglect them we shall be permanent losers in this life; how much more in the next we cannot say." True it is, however, that thousands fail in life through neglect of such chances, and through want of energy and enterprise, so that when the Blucher of opportunity presents itself, they have not "pluck" enough to arise and charge, and so win their Waterloo. There are great national opportunities which present themselves once or twice in the lifetime of a country or community and never come again. Such an opportunity the Church of Rome had when some of her most noble and faithful sons and servants pointed out, before it was too late, the sins and excesses which led to the Reformation. Such an opportunity old Jerusalem had nineteen centuries ago; but she spurned it, rejected it, and finally quenched it in the blood of the innocent. "And when He drew nigh, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known in this day, even thou, the things which belong unto peace, but now they are hid from thine eyes."

2. But, in the second place, there are opportunities which belong to certain periods of life. Saith Seneca: "Time is the only thing in which it is a virtue to be covetous, and for this reason, that it is the only thing that can never be recovered. Lost riches may be regained by patience and industry; forgotten knowledge may by hard work be conjured back again into the brain; departed health may return through the skill of the healer; the consistency of many years may blanch again the sullied snow of character; but time once gone is gone for ever." Now if this be true with regard to the physical and mental — how much more with regard to the moral and the spiritual? Says the poet: "Heaven lies near us in our infancy." The heart has not become stained and soiled; the conscience has not become seared and hardened through the deceitfulness of sin; the moral faculties have not become blunted and atrophied through bad habits, but on the contrary, the whole being is fresh and hopeful and buoyant.

3. Let us consider next our opportunities of usefulness. Take the home, for example; what a splendid chance it presents to Christian parents of influencing their children goodwards at the very gateway of life! If you have neglected to do this, then you have missed a great opportunity, and one that will never again present itself under the same favourable conditions. So, again, with regard to servants. Now, as a Christian master or mistress, God has placed within your reach a fine opportunity of doing real home mission work, and so cause your servants for ever to bless the day when they came to reside under your roof. And to a certain extent the same thing holds good with regard to visitors. When Lord Peterborough lodged with Fenelon for a season, he said, on leaving, "After this I shall be a Christian in spite of myself." Oh, there is a day coming when these lost opportunities will appear in a clearer light, and with more terrible and startling distinctness; when the opportunity of years ago — calling us to the service of others, and to the service of our Master, Christ, will again reappear, and, like the Hebrew seer, take up its parable against us. "Because I have called, and ye refused," etc. "Consequences are unpitying." So, then, as we have opportunity, let us work that which is good toward all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of the faith.

(J. Dymond.)

In this parable we find a man busy about everything, but at the cost of neglecting his duty. There are plenty of men who are very busy in the world, but who never do their duty. They are not idle: some people are too idle to do anything; but those of whom I now speak are not idle. They are always on the move, and are busily engaged at different things; but they never keep to the same things long. They do not seem to have any aim in life. It is not enough for us to be always doing. What God requires of us is, just to do what He wants us to do. We have to learn, first of all, what God would have us do, and then do it. Now here is one man who attaches the greatest importance to making his fortune, to heaping together money. He makes provision for the,few years that he has to spend here; but for meeting his God, and for rendering an account of the way in which he has lived and served his Lord and Master, he has made no provision. Well, that is a man who is busy here and there, but who nevertheless misses the one great duty which, above every other, he has to perform. Now I want you children, not only to be busy, but always to have an aim in life, and that aim to glorify God. We glorify Him by living just as He would have us live. Christ Himself has given us an example. The great thing is to give Jesus the first place in our hearts and lives, and never do anything that is not well-pleasing to Him.

(D. Davies.)

I. THE TRUST OF OUR TIME. Each new day that dawns upon us, each hour that rests with us in its rapid flight, each of the moments which together make up the sum total of our existence, each of these is a trust, not to be used at our mere caprice, not to be cherished or lost just as the passing fancy takes us. Each day, each hour is golden with possibilities of good; of good for ourselves, of self-discipline, of self-culture, of deepening spirituality, of a nearer vision of God; of good for others, of gentle words and kindly deeds, of some task begun for the blessing of our fellows, of some seed sown which shaft ripen at last to a harvest of beneficent achievement. And if the parts of our life are thus a trust, what shall we say of life itself in its entirety? What tremendous possibilities of weal or woe are bound up in the small compass of a single life! But if this be true, as it is, of the life that is bound within the two shores of birth and death, what shall we say of the trust of the soul itself — the soul whose unending life reaches far on into the unknown eternity beyond the grave — the soul, that spark flashed forth from the fire of Eternal Being, ray of light let down to earth from the Central Sun of Universal Existence? Oh, what a trust is this!

II. THE FAILURE OF THE TRUST. "As thy servant was busy here and there, and he was gone." "He was gone," what a sad story these words suggest; a charge neglected, a duty unfulfilled, a bitter loss sustained, a dire doom incurred. "It is gone," what a suggestion of inconsolable regret there is in these words, Some trusts once gone may be recovered: lost health may be restored, friends alienated may be won back again: but in life there are some utterly irreparable failures. A young man grieves the fond heart of a loving mother by carelessness or sin; he wanders away, perhaps, into other lands, and by silence and neglect breaks the tender heart he has so deeply shadowed; and then, perhaps, he comes to himself, and he says, "I'll go home, and make up for my hard neglect by special tenderness and care"; and when he gets home he finds that she is gone; that there is now no chance for his late atonement.

III. THE EXCUSE FOR FAILURE. "Thy servant was busy here and there, and it was gone." Now, mark you, the excuse was not, "Thy servant was busy." That would have been in one sense a justifiable plea, and not a lame excuse. For life, for the best and the noblest, is always a busy thing. We are in a busy world. Around us we hear on every side the breaking of the unresting waves of human industry and human toil It is plain that the having been busy is not the excuse that we have to consider. Now notice what the excuse really was, "Thy servant was busy here and there." I think that this being busy here and there may fairly be taken to mean that desultory and utterly unsatisfactory kind of being busy in which so many waste their days and miss their chances of good; the busy idleness of the restless child, not the busy industry of the thoughtful and high-purposed man. Now is it not. Just this serious trifling, this spending of our energies on lesser and lower objects, and so withdrawing them from higher and truer and more lasting occupations — is it not just this that will account for half the failures of life? The two great wants in this habit of life are the want of a continuous purpose and of a true and worthy object — a purpose that shall bind all our multiplied actions into one, and so give to our energies and our life that true unity in which alone lies strength; an object great enough and good enough to lend inspiration to flagging energies, and attractiveness to the most trivial tasks needed for its achievement. And this, in the saddest sense of all, is the excuse that will make thousands at the last miss utterly their chances of eternal life. Of those who make what Dante calls "the great refusal"; of those who fail to accept the offers of salvation held out to them in the Gospel of Christ, there are not many, I fancy, who do so deliberately and of set purpose.

(Canon O'Meare.)

t: — How much wisdom was there in the charge of Pythagoras to his disciples: "Be mindful of opportunities"! We live in a world where all are busy. Many busy for themselves; many for the Church. All around us in nature is busy — full of action. All in commerce and life says — "Do something, do it." And in one sense all mankind do something, but many are busy without an object, a rule, or a motive, and consequently without a beneficial result. Their actions are made up by a collection of shreds and patches; they move in a circle, busy in moving, but arrive at the point whence they started — no progress, no attainment, no benefit is visible. Activity is the law or the habit, of the human mind, and never is mind easy but as it is in action; but without a suitable motive, rule, and end, can no degree of activity be of real benefit.


1. Opportunity is in some cases unmistakable; it presents itself and presses on us so plainly, that we must be blind if we will not see it, deaf if we will not hear it, dead if we will not regard it. It lies in our path, and we must push it out of our way, or pass over it to escape. If, however, it is not in our way, we should seek it. If the door is not open, we must open it. Where opportunity cannot be found, it must be made. What must be done can be done. Impossibilities are not insurmountable in real duties to God, to ourselves, or for others. It is admirable to see how a persevering mind creates opportunities, and lamentable to see how the timid pass them by.

II. I shall now give these remarks A PRACTICAL BEARING:. It is important to inquire — For what purpose did God create me? What is life? It is not a dream of pleasure, or it would not be a passage through a vale of tears. It is not a whirl of business, or it would have been lengthened and not doomed to loss and disappoinment, to the most devoted men of trade. God's end is more worthy of Himself; He has blessed you with such faculties for a great end, or, as John Howe says, "It would be like clothing a man in purple to send him to feed swine." Are all our faculties given to us to be employed on the wisdom which is "earthly, sensual, devilish," or for business or pleasure, or the honour which cometh from man? No, but for God, for gaining and enjoying heaven. Let us notice a few causes which operate to the neglect of what would ensure man's everlasting salvation.

1. Actual idleness — some are literally slumberers, nothing rouses them — "A little more sleep, a little more slumber," is all they utter.

2. Inconsiderateness is another cause — such are not careful or wise to use the power or cultivate the habit of reflection.

3. Frivolity of mind. Many are turned away from seeking salvation by what is as insignificant as the chirping of a grasshopper.

4. But not less fatal than these is that ruiner of thousands — procrastination. There is a world of importance in the monosyllable "now." Fortunes, blessings, and souls without number have been lost for want of minding this word "now." Duties cannot clash. God does not require two things which are opposed to each other of any man, at any time; but the language of God to you at this moment is this — "Now is THE accepted time," that is, the best opportunity. Some continue during the whole of life, from the dawn of reason to the feebleness and inactivity of its closing hours "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do," oh, living man! "do it with thy might" — do it, "for there is no device in the grave" — do it, for thither thou goest, and all your opportunity is confined to this world. True, there may be posthumous good, as seen in legacies and founded institutions, and books which survivors may not suffer to be lost when we are gone; but these things, so far as we are concerned in them, are done in this world.

2. Youth is the prime and flower of opportunity. Youth! Many of you hear and feel it to be the season of joy. Yes, it is best for piety too. Unencumbered by the cares of a master or father, your time is at your own disposal. Oh, now seek salvation. Suffer not the season of youth to pass, lest you in age say, I have lost my opportunity and cannot seek salvation now. Seek it with earnestness.

3. Health is an important opportunity to do good to others. What can an invalid do compared with the healthy? Such may do something. I would not add to their affliction by suggesting they cannot. God does not add to their sorrow by discharging them from all opportunity to do good.

(J. A. James.)

Outlines from Sermons by a London Minister.

II. THE SIGNIFICATION OF THE PARABLE. It is not very clear in all its details, but "so much is indisputable. that the young man who had gone out into the battle is the representative of Ahab, and the man entrusted to his keeping, but allowed to escape through carelessness, is the representative of Ben-hadad." "Israel had just endured a hard, bloody fight, and had carried off the promised victory; but now, in the person of Ben-hadad, it had let the arch-enemy, whom God had given into their hands, go free and unpunished." It is especially to be noted that as the man in the parable is represented as having a prisoner entrusted to his care by another, so Ben-hadad had been given into Ahab's hand by god as His prisoner. God was captain, Ahab only keeper.

1. The overthrow of kings and rulers proceeds from the Divine hand, and is often necessary for the preservation of those whom they rule.

2. That when God gives men power over others, it is at their peril if they do not use it according to His will. For man to deliver where God condemns is to affect to be more merciful than God. To question the decision of a human judge is to cast a doubt upon either his ability or his character. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" Shall criminal reverse the sentence of another with impunity?

3. Weakness of purpose and lack of character may be mistaken for generosity: A man who uses money for the benefit of others which has been entrusted to his care by his master, is not generous, but dishonest. God gave Ahab place and power to use in His service; to employ them for other purposes was to rob God.

4. Those who are displeased at the truth of God are on the high road to ruin. The sentence which Ahab passed Upon the man of God was soon executed upon himself. Those who reject the remedy which would heal their disease must not complain if they have to suffer from the consequences. The truth is intended to lead to repentance.

5. Those who are ruled by the Word of God will sometimes have to suffer temporal pain for obeying it. The servant of God will sometimes find himself, like the prophet who spoke the parable, wounded "by" or "in the Word of the Lord."

(Outlines from Sermons by a London Minister.)

The parable which touched the heart of the discontented king was meant for us. We are anxious about too many things, and while we are busy here and there, lo, the principal thing is gone. We live in a hurrying age. We ask questions, and are in too much of a hurry to wait for an answer. In religious service from soul to soul nothing counts like personality. A Christ undertakes the reformation of a planet. It is a task to quail the stoutest heart, but He never hurries. His calm is ever unruffled. And when we come to think it over and count it up, we find that Jesus Christ did more work than any man who ever lived upon this earth. Science is not the enemy, but the ally of religion. Theologians are beginning to apply the methods of science to their department of knowledge. Beyond science and beyond theology is the heart of consecration for his fellow-man, which he who would do the work assigned him must have; without which, like the man who was "busy here and there," one will lose the whole object of his life. We ought, moreover, to see that the things that we do are worth the doing. The man in our story missed the relative importance of the things he had to do. What is the one thing we are to do above all others? To him who is busy in money-getting, to the lawyer, whose sole thought in this world is the law, to the doctor, who thinks little beyond his patients and their medicines, to each one wholly absorbed in his worldly occupation comes the voice while he is "busy here and there," and the man, like the king, is heavy and displeased.

(G. Hedges, D. D.)

We are so "busy here and there" — busy in commerce, in letters, in politics, in domestic, social, and ecclesiastical matters, that things, oftentimes invaluable, pass away from us without our knowing it.

I. MEANS OF IMPROVEMENT PASS AWAY FROM MEN IN THIS WAY. "Whilst men are busy here and there,"

(1)religious services have come and gone,

(2)Christian ministers have appeared and departed,

(3)soul-rousing books are come from the press, and run through their edition unobserved; they are dead to everything but their business.

II. OPPORTUNITIES FOR USEFULNESS PASS AWAY PROM MEN IN THIS WAY. The father is so absorbed in his business, that he neglects the spiritual culture of his children, and they reach a stage of depravity without his knowing it. Whilst men are busy, those around them who need their instruction drop into their graves, and pass beyond their reach. How many merchants in London, professing Christianity, carry on their daily avocations in the city with a soul so absorbed in their business, that they are unconscious of the thousand sinning, wretched, and dying spirits that teem around their warehouse.

III. THE DAYS OF GRACE PASS AWAY FROM MEN IN THIS WAY. Through this absorbing spirit of business, men lose their years without knowing it, — feel themselves old and grey-headed before they are aware. This subject serves to impress us.

1. With the fact that man has evidently fallen. It can never be that the human soul, with its moral sensibilities, its noble faculties, its fountain of affection, was made to be thus engrossed with the material concerns of a few short years. No, we have fallen. This subject serves to impress us:

2. With the fact that change is a resistless law of life. It matters not whether we are busy or asleep, change proceeds in its resistless march. While we are "busy here and there," men are dying, the outward scenes of life are changing, our own life is decaying, our end is approaching. We may be so busy on the shore as to think of nothing but the few shells we are gathering, but the billows are rolling on, and will bury us and our business soon. This subject serves to impress us:

3. With the fact that a religious life is a wise life. A religious life is a life that subordinates the body to the soul, matter to mind, business to virtue, time to eternity, all to God. "Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all to the glory of God."


Ahab, Aram, Ben, Benhadad, Ben-hadad, Hadad, Israelites, Syrians
Aphek, Damascus, Samaria, Syria
Although, Ben, Benhadad, Ben-hadad, Ben-ha'dad, Deliver, Demand, Gold, Hadad, Indeed, Messengers, Representatives, Returned, Saying, Says, Silver, Sons, Spake, Speaketh, Speaks, Surely, Thus, Turn, Wives
1. 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 Themes
1 Kings 20:5

     5732   polygamy
     8812   riches, ungodly use

1 Kings 20:1-6

     4333   gold

1 Kings 20:2-9

     5594   tribute

1 Kings 20:5-6

     5437   palaces

The 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
And the king of Israel answered and said. Tell him. Let not him that girdeth on his harness boast himself as he that putteth it off.'--1 KINGS xx. 11. For the Young. Ahab, King of Israel, was but a poor creature, and, like most weak characters, he turned out a wicked one, because he found that there were more temptations to do wrong than inducements to do right. Like other weak people, too, he was torn asunder by the influence of stronger wills. On the one side he had a termagant of a wife, stirring
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

The Section Chap. I. -iii.
The question which here above all engages our attention, and requires to be answered, is this: Whether that which is reported in these chapters did, or did not, actually and outwardly take place. The history of the inquiries connected with this question is found most fully in Marckius's "Diatribe de uxore fornicationum," Leyden, 1696, reprinted in the Commentary on the Minor Prophets by the same author. The various views may be divided into three classes. 1. It is maintained by very many interpreters,
Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg—Christology of the Old Testament

The Letter of the Synod to the Emperor and Empress.
(Labbe and Cossart, Concilia, Tom. VII., col. 577.) To our most religious and most serene princes, Constantine and Irene his mother. Tarasius, the unworthy bishop of your God-protected royal city, new Rome, and all the holy Council which met at the good pleasure of God and upon the command of your Christ-loving majesty in the renowned metropolis of Nice, the second council to assemble in this city. Christ our God (who is the head of the Church) was glorified, most noble princes, when your heart,
Philip Schaff—The Seven Ecumenical Councils

Nature of the Renderings
From the text we now turn to the renderings, and to the general principles that were followed, both in the Old and in the New Testament. The revision of the English text was in each case subject to the same general rule, viz. "To introduce as few alterations as possible into the Text of the Authorised Version consistently with faithfulness"; but, owing to the great difference between the two languages, the Hebrew and the Greek, the application of the rule was necessarily different, and the results
C. J. Ellicott—Addresses on the Revised Version of Holy Scripture

The Practice of Piety in Glorifying God in the Time of Sickness, and when Thou Art Called to Die in the Lord.
As soon as thou perceivest thyself to be visited with any sickness, meditate with thyself: 1. That "misery cometh not forth of the dust; neither doth affliction spring out of the earth." Sickness comes not by hap or chance (as the Philistines supposed that their mice and emrods came, 1 Sam. vi. 9), but from man's wickedness, which, as sparkles, breaketh out. "Man suffereth," saith Jeremiah, "for his sins." "Fools," saith David, "by reason of their transgressions, and because of their iniquities,
Lewis Bayly—The Practice of Piety

The Twelve Minor Prophets.
1. By the Jewish arrangement, which places together the twelve minor prophets in a single volume, the chronological order of the prophets as a whole is broken up. The three greater prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, stand in the true order of time. Daniel began to prophesy before Ezekiel, but continued, many years after him. The Jewish arrangement of the twelve minor prophets is in a sense chronological; that is, they put the earlier prophets at the beginning, and the later at the end of the
E. P. Barrows—Companion to the Bible

Tiglath-Pileser iii. And the Organisation of the Assyrian Empire from 745 to 722 B. C.
TIGLATH-PILESER III. AND THE ORGANISATION OF THE ASSYRIAN EMPIRE FROM 745 to 722 B.C. FAILURE OF URARTU AND RE-CONQUEST Of SYRIA--EGYPT AGAIN UNITED UNDER ETHIOPIAN AUSPICES--PIONKHI--THE DOWNFALL OF DAMASCUS, OF BABYLON, AND OF ISRAEL. Assyria and its neighbours at the accession of Tiglath-pileser III.: progress of the Aramaeans in the basin of the Middle Tigris--Urartu and its expansion into the north of Syria--Damascus and Israel--Vengeance of Israel on Damascus--Jeroboam II.--Civilisation
G. Maspero—History Of Egypt, Chaldaea, Syria, Babylonia, and Assyria, V 7

The book[1] of Kings is strikingly unlike any modern historical narrative. Its comparative brevity, its curious perspective, and-with some brilliant exceptions--its relative monotony, are obvious to the most cursory perusal, and to understand these things is, in large measure, to understand the book. It covers a period of no less than four centuries. Beginning with the death of David and the accession of Solomon (1 Kings i., ii.) it traverses his reign with considerable fulness (1 Kings iii.-xi.),
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament

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