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2 Kings 18:4
I. Turning to Hezekiah's mode of dealing with the brazen serpent, we see that he acted on the principle, common to all genuine reformers, that idolatry is a disease which requires heroic treatment. The only effectual way of getting rid of the superstition was to cut the roots of it. Without hesitation, therefore, he broke the image in pieces.
Something would have been wanting to the thoroughness of his action if he had simply destroyed the serpent without giving any reason for doing so. To call things what they really are is the most convincing way of exposing error. 'It is a piece of brass,' said the king, as he broke the serpent in pieces. And when, quite obviously, it had no power to resent the deed, no skill to protect itself from outrage, or to punish the doer of it, then the people could not but allow that the king was right.
II. Images of brass or wood, no doubt, have lost very much of the fascination that they once exercised over rude minds in semi-barbarous ages. But 'the essence of idolatry consists in the mind worshipping its own fancies and notions,' or (to express the same thing in another form) in interposing between the soul and God a false, inadequate, partial image or representation of the Divine nature.
In the Divine Son of God we have given us the highest image of the Invisible God the human embodiment of His moral perfections. There is no idolatry in worshipping Him, for conscience owns Him, and the reasonable soul claims Him as its rightful Lord.
III. Has idolatry, then, become an impossible sin for a Christian? Are we in no danger of framing for ourselves false and partial images of the truth and tenderness of God?
Alas, no! for human nature remains pretty much the same in all ages. Man never knows how idolatrous he is. The same tendencies which impelled the Israelites of old to worship the brazen serpent and the golden calves the same which led the leaders of the Jewish nation to reject the word spoken by Christ for the sake of their own tradition are alive among us, though in a more subtle and dangerous form. The Jews of our Lord's day had their idols, and it was part of Christ's mission on earth to destroy them. Like Hezekiah, He, too, appeared among men as a reformer and an image-breaker.
And still the need exists for clearing away the false in order to disengage the true. Still it is the struggle of earnest men to extricate the Divine figure of the Gospels from the encumbrances of human systems, and to set Him clearly before us in the light of His own revelation of the Father.
J. W. Shepard, Light and Life, p. 166.
References. XVIII. 4. R. H. Fisher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxiv. 1903, p. 346. C. Simeon, Works, vol. iii. p. 537. Joseph Milner, Sermons, vol. iii. p. 454. Charles Marriott, Sermons, vol. i. p. 125. T. R. Stevenson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi. p. 236. W. Walters, 'The Fiery Serpents and the Serpent of Brass' (with Numbers 21:9 and John 3:14 ; John 3:16 ), Christian World Pulpit, xx. p. 237. Hall's Contemplations, Book xx. 'Contemplation ix.' Stanley's Jewish Church, vol. ii. p. 395. XVIII. 4, 5. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvi. No. 960.
2 Kings 18:5
First note some of the grounds upon which this confidence in God is based; and, secondly, mark some of its features.
I. Some Grounds upon which Trust in God is Based.
1. The first is the Goodness of God. Moral theology places trust in God in connexion with hope, and not directly with faith. Of course, faith must be at the root of all virtues. A belief in a Personal God is necessary; and further, a belief in His Providence, that He has not let the strings of His government out of His hands, and is not the captive of what we call natural law that He continues to preside over the world which He has made, and the men who are in it. All this belongs to faith; but above and beyond it reaches the grace of hope, for it lays hold of the Divine goodness. Confidence in the Divine goodness is, according to Aquinas and many others, principium impetrandi , giving special force to prayer.
2. Another ground of trust in God is His faithfulness to His promises. Goodness, when combined with almightiness and fidelity, affords a triple basis upon which to rest.
3. Experience may be added to the former. Hezekiah had experienced the Divine help in effecting the difficult religious reforms in which he had been engaged, and he feared not now that the 'Lord God of Israel' would forsake His people in the hour of extreme need.
II. Some Features of this Confidence. 1. To be confidence in God, it must be entire. In foul weather as well as fair, in the storm, when Christ is asleep, as well as on the land when He is awake. Christ tested this confidence in the case of His disciples, and He does so still. This confidence in Divine help must extend both to temporal as well as spiritual things. Such trust, it need hardly be said, must not be a cause of idleness, "but a stimulant to effort: 'God helps those who help themselves'. Hezekiah knew that; and so went into the house of the Lord, and spread 'the letter before the Lord' which the Assyrian foe had sent him, and prayed earnestly to the Lord.
2. Trust, too, must be prompt. To ask for Divine help when all things have been tried in vain savours rather of despair than of confidence.
1. All must have some object in which to confide. Our trust must be, not in self, not in others, but in God. It was to Him Hezekiah at once turned in his terrible need.
2. To kindle this spirit of confidence let us meditate upon the Divine goodness, the fidelity of God to His promises, and call up remembrances of His past mercies.
3. Let this trust extend to all circumstances and difficulties whether of soul or body; and we shall find, like the good king, that 'the salvation of the righteous is of the Lord,' and that 'He is their strength in the time of trouble'.
W. H. Hutchings, Sermon-Sketches, p. 246.
References. XVIII. 5. A. G. Mortimer, The Church's Lessons for the Christian Year, part iv. p. 219. XVIII. 6, 6. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture 2 Kings from chap. viii. p. 47. XVIII. 19. H. P. Liddon, Sermons on Old Testament Subjects, p. 335; see also Outlines of Sermons on the Old Testament, p. 80.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 2 Kings 18". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany