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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

1 Kings 20

Verses 1-43

The Partial Exclusion of God

1 Kings 20:28

I. There are scenes with which we naturally associate God; and how true that was of the Syrians a glance will show us. It was among the hills that Israel fought them; it was on the rough hillside that Israel conquered. For us no less than for the Syrians there is a suggestion of God about the hills. It was on a hill that our Saviour blessed the world with the priceless preaching of the Sermon on the Mount. And on a hill-top having said farewell He ascended to the mansions of His Father. Somehow right through the Bible story there clings to the hills the thought of the Divine. As it is with nature so it is with our lives, for they, too, have got their hill-tops mystical. There are great hours when we rise above ourselves and in such hours God is not far away. For just as the fierce north wind catches the clouds and drives them apart till through the gap we see the sun, so our great sorrows and joys and passions and despairs scatter the clinging mists and show us God.

II. We are often blind to God just where He is most active. You see at once how true that was of the Syrians. They saw Him on the wild torrent-swept hills, but not in the tenanted and fertile valleys. They denied the Infinite in its sweetest revelation, and were blind to God just where He was most active. Perhaps we are all in danger of that sin, as the Syrians were, even in regard to nature. There are certain set places we can admire enthusiastically, but to all the rest of God's world we are half-blind. The man who can see hardly needs to go abroad. The wonder and bloom of the world are at his hand. But perhaps our great danger lies in ignoring God in the valley-lands of common life. It is far easier to see God upon the hills than to discern His presence in the valleys. It is far easier to see Him in the crisis than to detect His going in our common days, yet He is never nearer than in these simple duties that meet us every morning when we rise, in these common joys that consecrate our homes, in these common burdens that we all must bear.

III. To exclude God always spells disaster, in friendship and home and State, even in business. And the more a man prospers in a godless business, the worse is the disaster in the eye of heaven. Exclude God altogether if you will, but do not give Him the hills and Keep the valleys. That did not save the Syrians in the battle, and it will not keep you and me from being lost.

G. H. Morrison, The Unlighted Lustre, p. 144.

Business Here and There

1 Kings 20:40

The words of the text are a part of a parable spoken by the prophet to King Ahab. The King of Syria had been given over to the hands of Ahab, whose duty it was, for the sake of the religion of God and of the people of Israel, that Ben-hadad, the king, should be slain. Instead of that, in a moment of weakness, weakness which cost Israel dear, the king let Ben-hadad go free, and the words of the text are really a portion of a parable spoken by the prophet against the act of the king. Now we will get away from the context, and look upon our own age.

I. A Busy Age. It is, all will acknowledge, a busy age. It is a mere truism to tell you that the life you lead is a busy one, it is from Monday morning till Saturday night full of business; but the warning which the prophet gives the king is quite as good for you as it was for Ahab. 'And as thy servant was busy here and there the great opportunity was gone.' It does not require much paraphrasing. Now in a great town it is business that holds sway. We are all of us conscious of the evil influence that this rush and hurry has on our spiritual life. In our better moments we are ashamed to think how very far behind business religion comes. We try, some of us at any rate, to climb the steep incline to heaven with a burden tied to our back. Is it to be wondered at that your steps are feeble and tottering and faint? Religion strikes most of us as a thing for heaven only. It is for the eternal spheres and not for the temporal. 'Business is the thing here,' you say. It requires the exercise of moral qualities. A man must be honest, his integrity must be above reproach, he must be truthful, he must be diligent. These are moral qualities which in themselves are glorious, but after all they are not the best qualities, are they? How about unselfishness, meekness, considerateness for other people, purity, rightness of motive, do they thrive on the milk of business? No, business does not touch them because they are higher than business.

II. What will Business Do for You? It will give you a certain amount of comfort. Quite so, it will. It will give you a fair share of pleasure. Yes, there is nothing wrong in that. It will give you a certain influence with your fellow-men. That is right; there is nothing wrong in that. But what more can business give you? Can it give you anything that you will take away when you go to a better realm than this? No; I will tell you why. The things of business are temporal, and when the things of time finish, the things of business end. Therefore whatever you gain here in quantity you must leave behind. There is no arguing with it. All the credit that a man has got will end when his will is proved, and it is known that he has left so many thousands. Notice the word. He is leaving them. He does not benefit. The issues of business have to do with quantity, not quality; with time, not with eternity.

III. 'Good Business.' There is nothing in the Bible against making a man a diligent business man. Diligence, skill, perseverance, will always have their due reward. The business man who is a Christian should be second to none. The working man who is a Christian should need no watching. The servant man or the servant girl who are Christians should be above complaint, because the Christian, whatever his sphere, should be the very best.

IV. The Noblest Standard. Now it is very practical for us to consider that religion after all is the only thing that gives us the noblest standard of purity. The noblest standard of purity is to be had in the religion of Jesus Christ, and in the religion of Jesus Christ only. Religion demands truthfulness. You cannot be a Christian and a liar at the same time. You must be absolutely truthful in word and deed. Religion is utterly opposed to the modern fashion of putting on appearances, trying to induce people to think that you are what you are not. Religion will not permit you to start a dishonest business. You cannot, if you are a religious man, start your business on a fictitious character. Let no man go beyond and defraud his brother in anything. That is religion. Be busy; be as busy as you can; be diligent, work hard in the fear of God and in the love of Christ. You will not then lose your opportunity. No, you will be busy here and there, but the love of Christ will be in your hearts. You will be better Christians and better business men, and in the long run, when the adding up and counting is done, you will find the incorruptible crown which God, the righteous Judge shall give you.

References. XX. 40. J. Angell James, The Penny Pulpit, No. 1938. XXI. 1-10. J. M. Neale, Sermons for the Feast Days, p. 27. XXI. 19, 20. C. Kingsley, Town and County Sermons, p. 317. XXI. 20. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Holytide Teachings, p. 128. XXI. 29. J. Keble, Sermons for Sunday After Trinity, part i. p. 283.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 1 Kings 20". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/1-kings-20.html. 1910.