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AMAZIAH’S CONFLICT BETWEEN DUTY AND INTEREST
2 Chronicles 25:9. And Amaziah said to the man of God, But what shall we do for the hundred talents which I have given to the army of Israel? And the man of God answered, The Lord is able to give thee much more than this.
IT is humiliating to reflect, that move attention was often paid to the messengers of the Most High by ungodly men under the Jewish dispensation, than is generally paid to them even by the godly in the present day. At one time we read of a whole army stopped and disbanded by one single declaration of a prophet [Note: 1 Kings 12:21-24.]. At another time, a great national reformation was effected by the very same means [Note: 2 Chronicles 15:8-15.]. In like manner, when Amaziah king of Judah was going with an army of four hundred thousand men against the Edomites, one word from a man of God prevailed on him to dismiss one fourth of their number, because, as being idolaters, they were under the displeasure of the Most High. He was indeed concerned about the subsidy which he had paid them for their assistance: but that only serves to shew more strongly what implicit obedience he was disposed to pay to the commands of God, when he could so easily be induced to sacrifice his temporal interests, and to release from their obligations so large a portion of his army. The difficulty however which he started, and the solution of that difficulty by the prophet, deserve particular attention. Let us consider,
The difficulty started—
Amaziah had hired one hundred thousand Israelites as auxiliaries in this war, and had paid the money for their equipment; and, when he was required to discharge them, he naturally concluded that he should lose all that he had advanced. Hence he expressed to the prophet the difficulty that was in his mind. Now,
This is a common difficulty in the minds of men—
[Circumstances of necessity will sometimes arise, where duty and interest appear to clash with each other. Sometimes they actually exist, as in the instance before us; and sometimes they are only apprehended as likely to exist. It sometimes happens that a person has been placed by his parents in a line of business where he cannot get a livelihood without continually violating the laws of the land and the dictates of his conscience. What is to be done in such a case? His property is embarked; and cannot be disposed of without a considerable loss. And shall that be done? Shall such a sacrifice be made to God? It is desirable indeed to maintain a conscience void of offence; but is it to be done at such an expense?
It sometimes happens also that a person is educated for the ministry, with certain expectation of preferment: but when the time for his ordination arrives, he finds no disposition for the holy employment, no real determination to give himself wholly to the service of the sanctuary. What then shall he do? To go to God with a lie in his right hand, and profess that he is moved by the Holy Ghost to take on himself that sacred function, when he is moved only by the temporal advantages annexed to it, is very painful: and to contract a responsibility for the souls of hundreds and of thousands, when he has scarcely any concern about his own, appears to him a very dangerous step. But what must be done? He has been educated for it: he finds it difficult to turn to any other line: and, above all, the provision designed for him will be lost: and how can these difficulties be surmounted?
When the evils are in prospect only, their operation is exactly the same. One man feels that it is his duty to become a faithful follower of Christ. But his parents will be offended; his friends will be alienated: his prospects in life will be destroyed: and how can he endure to make such sacrifices as these? A few pence he would readily lose; but the loss of so many talents would be ruinous; and he knows not how to combat evils of such magnitude as this.]
But the difficulty referred to would be no difficulty, if only we viewed things in their true light—
[If we should suppose an angel sent down to sojourn for a time on earth, would he find any hesitation whether to prefer his interest or his duty? Nor did the Apostle Paul hesitate even when life itself was at stake: “I am ready,” says he, “not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the Lord’s sake.” Nor should we find any difficulty if we formed a proper estimate of things around us. Should we regard our temporal interests, if we reflected on the extreme emptiness and vanity of every thing here below? Should we hesitate in our choice of evils, if we considered the impossibility of ever being acknowledged by Christ, without forsaking all, even life itself, for him? Above all, would we suffer the whole world to stand in competition with Christ, if we considered what wonderful things he has done and suffered for us? — — — Verily, the loss of all things compared with the loss of his favour, would be only as a feather in a scale against a talent of lead; and, like Paul, we should “count all things but loss, that we might win Christ;” and instead of repining at the injuries sustained, should regard them rather as grounds of mutual congratulation; saying with St. Paul, “If I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you all: for the same cause also do ye joy and rejoice with me [Note: Philippians 2:17-18.].”]
But we cannot suggest a better view of this matter than that which is contained in our text; in which we have,
The difficulty solved—
We are contented that men should lean to the side of interest, if only they will consider wherein their true interest consists. If God cannot do more for them than the world can, let them seek the world; or, if he cannot compensate all that they can lose or suffer for him, let them seek the world. But we fear not to say, whatever be the sacrifice which they make for him, “The Lord is able to give thee much more than this;”
In this world—
[It is a certain truth, that God does often recompense the services or sufferings of his people even with worldly prosperity: “Godliness hath in this respect the promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come [Note: 1 Timothy 4:8.].” This very consideration is urged by God himself as a motive to charity [Note: Proverbs 3:9-10.]: and our text suggests it as an argument for submitting cheerfully to losses in the path of duty. And it is curious to observe, that the loss sustained by Amaziah in obedience to God’s command, was not only recompensed by present victory, but was restored in a three-fold proportion to his grandson Jotham; the same sum being paid to him for three successive years by the Ammonites, which Amaziah his grandfather sacrificed to the Lord on this occasion [Note: ver. 11. with 2 Chronicles 27:5.]. But it is not three, or thirty-fold that we are to expect, but “an hundred-fold” of whatever we sacrifice for the Lord [Note: Mark 10:29-30.]: and is not this an ample compensation?
It is true, the Israelites whom he dismissed on this occasion did him great injury in their return home [Note: ver. 13.]: and this might almost seem to contradict the promise in our text: but we apprehend that this very circumstance was permitted by God, on purpose to shew Amaziah how great a ruin he had been delivered from; since these Israelites were not hearty in his cause, and would have turned against him when once they saw the Edomites prevail, and would thus have utterly completed his destruction. Other reasons might be assigned for this dispensation: it might be supposed to be a punishment on Amaziah for hesitating to obey the divine mandate, and for placing his interest in competition with his duty: or it might be intended to guard him against the idolatry into which he was about to fall, by suffering the most idolatrous part of his own dominions to participate in the judgments inflicted on the Edomites. But we apprehend, that the reason first assigned, is that which was more immediately in the mind of God, when he permitted to dark and mysterious a judgment to fall on one who was obedient to his command, yea to arise, as it were, out of that very obedience.
But, waving all consideration of temporal recompence, God can infinitely more than counterbalance all temporal losses by the richer effusion of his Spirit on the soul. If he suffer us to be deprived of earthly wealth, are we any losers, if he communicate to us a proportionable increase of spiritual riches? Cannot he, by the consolations of his Spirit, raise us far above all temporal distresses, and, by opening a prospect beyond the grave, make us to rejoice and glory in all the sufferings that can be inflicted on us here? Behold the Apostle Paul, how he “took pleasure in infirmities, and reproaches, and necessities, and persecutions, and distresses, for Christ’s sake,” because they tended to his spiritual welfare [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:10.]: and others, his companions, “took joyfully the spoiling of their goods, knowing that they had in heaven a better and an enduring substance [Note: Hebrews 10:34.].” Thus may we expect it to be with us in this world: “if our afflictions abound, so shall also our consolation abound by Christ;” and the very sense of having sought the glory of God will make every pain a pleasure, and every loss a gain.]
In the world to come—
[“If we suffer with Christ, we shall also reign with him:” and who can declare the full import of that promise? Truly, the reward that awaits the faithful followers of Christ hereafter, no words can express, no imagination can conceive. It will be in vain to attempt any description of the glory and felicity of heaven: but I will ask, Whether one single plaudit from our Judge will not overbalance all that we can either do or suffer in a hundred years? How indignant shall we be in that day, to think that we permitted the things of time and sense to warp our judgment, or embarrass our practice! One glimpse of the Saviour’s glory will repay whole years of trouble: and no sooner shall we be received into his bosom, than we shall adore him for every trial that weaned us from the world, and for every loss that facilitated our progress towards the heavenly kingdom. Let us only take eternity into our estimate, and we shall instantly say with the Apostle, “I reckon (I compute) that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us [Note: Romans 8:18.].”]
Those who are yet undecided in the course they shall take—
[Strongly as we have condemned the conduct of Amaziah for hesitating between the calls of interest and of duty, we yet will venture to propose him as an example, changing only the object of your concern. Are you tempted to violate a duty, or to draw back from suffering, ask yourselves immediately, ‘But what shall I do for the favour of my God? what shall I do for the peace of my conscience? what shall I do for the salvation of my soul? How can I bear the loss of all these?’ Let, I say, your hesitation be on this side: let the consideration of your eternal interests rise in your mind as instinctively and forcibly, as that of temporal interests does in the mind of a worldling: and then we shall have no fear but that your obedience to God’s word will be prompt, uniform, and unreserved. You will “buy the truth” at any price, “and never sell it” for a thousand worlds.]
Those who have been enabled to give up all for Christ—
[Whatever you may have lost or suffered, have you ever for a moment repented of the sacrifices you have made? No: if your hearts are right with God, you will feel yourselves indebted to God in proportion to the losses you have sustained for him; seeing that the privilege of suffering for him is an inestimable gift [Note: Philippians 1:29.], and the highest honour that can be conferred upon a child of man [Note: Acts 5:41. 1 Peter 4:12-14.]. Go on then, Beloved, “strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might:” and let it be seen in you, that “a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things that he possesseth,” but that “in God’s favour is life;” and that, with “his love shed abroad in your heart,” “though you have nothing, you are yet possessing all things [Note: 2 Corinthians 6:10.].”]
THE SIN AND DANGER OF DESPISING GOD’S COUNSEL
2 Chronicles 25:16. And it came to pass, as he talked with him, that the king said unto him, Art thou made of the king’s counsel? forbear; why shouldest thou be smitten? Then the prophet forbare, and said, I know that God hath determined to destroy thee, because thou hast done this, and hast not hearkened to my counsel.
WHEREVER “the heart is not perfect with God,” a compliance with the divine will may be occasional and partial, but it never can be uniform and unreserved: when circumstances occur that require the sacrifice of a bosom lust, the heart will rise against the commandment, and trample under foot the authority of God himself. Herod would comply in some things with the injunctions of John the Baptist, but, when a separation from Herodias was insisted on, he broke through all the restraints of conscience, and inflicted death on his monitor as the penalty of his fidelity. Not unlike to Herod was King Amaziah; who obeyed the voice of a prophet requiring him to dismiss his hired troops, and to rely on God to compensate his loss, but was filled with indignation against one who expostulated with him on the subject of his idolatry. It should seem, that in proportion as a man is degraded in his own eyes by the conduct reproved, he will, if not truly penitent, swell with resentment against the person that undertakes to reprove him. The hiring of troops to augment his army appeared a prudent and commendable measure: but to take for his gods those worthless idols, over whom he himself had prevailed, was folly in the extreme. Hence, when reproved for it, he burst forth into a rage, and quickly terminated his conference with the inspired messenger.
From hence we shall take occasion to shew
What is the conduct of the generality in reference to the counsels of God—
God still, as formerly, sends his servants to testify against prevailing iniquities; and still, as heretofore, are his messages rejected. In Amaziah we see a striking picture of rebellious man—
[Nothing could be more just than the reproof given him. To renounce Jehovah, who had interposed so wonderfully in his behalf, and to substitute in his place those idols which had not been able to protect their own votaries, was an infatuation, of which we should scarcely have conceived him capable. Yet behold how he resented the prophet’s expostulation! He regarded the admonition as an insult, and as an interference with his royal prerogative; as though God himself was not at liberty to counsel him. He moreover menaced the prophet, with an evident reference to Zechariah, whom for a similar offence his father had put to death [Note: 2 Chronicles 24:20-21.]. Thus he authoritatively silenced the messenger of Heaven; and determinately persisted in his impious idolatry.]
No less reasonable than the expostulations made with him, are those which in God’s name we make with you from time to time—
[They principally relate to two points; Your rejection of God as the supreme good; and, your neglect of Christ as the only Mediator between God and man.
And is there not ground, abundant ground, for remonstrances on these points? Though Jehovah is acknowledged in words as the true God, is he loved, and served, and honoured, as God? Do we give him our whole hearts, and “cast all our idols to the moles and to the bats?” Say whether “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life” be not in reality preferred before him, and whether we do not provoke him to jealousy by these, and other “idols which we set up in our hearts?” — — — And though we confess Christ to be the Saviour of the world, say whether we seek him, and rely upon him, and plead his merits at the throne of grace, and renounce with abhorrence all dependence on our own wisdom, strength, or righteousness? Alas! it is manifest, that the regard paid to him amongst us, is by no means what it ought to be, and that all his love to us is repaid, for the most part, with cold indifference and mere formal acknowledgments — — —
We ask then, Whether, as servants of the Most High God, we have not reason to complain, reprove, expostulate? and whether our most earnest representations ought not to be taken in good part?]
Yet is our testimony, like that of the prophet, too often rejected with disdain—
[In public indeed we are permitted to speak with some degree of plainness: yet even there a faithful discharge of our duty is sure to bring upon us no little measure of odium and reproach. If we exhort, reprove, rebuke, with all authority, as we are commanded to do, many, especially of the higher ranks, will consider themselves as insulted; and will either endeavour to silence us, or, if unable to effect that, will withdraw from a minister that is so offensive to them. Their advice to us is like that of the Jews of old; “Prophesy not unto us right things; prophesy unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits; make the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us,” or, at least, do not set him before us in his real character [Note: Isaiah 30:8-11,]. And, when they cannot prevail, they tell us plainly, if not in words, yet more strongly in deed, “As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the Lord, we will not hearken unto thee [Note: Jeremiah 44:16.].”
And what if we presume to speak to men in private? What indignation do we then excite! If there we should say to them, “I have a message unto thee from the Lord;” and should then proceed to add, in reference to their contempt of God as their chief good, “Wherefore do ye spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which satisfieth not [Note: Isaiah 55:2.]?” and then, in reference to their contempt of Christ as their Saviour, “How shall ye escape, if ye neglect so great salvation [Note: Hebrews 2:3.]?” we should soon find whether the spirit of Amaziah does not prevail at this day, as much as ever. It is worthy of observation, that those very persons who will take the most indecent liberties with us, decrying to our face all our views and conduct as the grossest absurdity, will not suffer us to speak in ever so gentle terms to them against their views and conduct: and, if we presume to bear a faithful testimony against the iniquities that prevail around us, we are instantly silenced by reproaches, and are cast out as the very pests of society [Note: See Jeremiah 29:24-27.].”]
That we may be the better able to appreciate such conduct, we now proceed to shew,
In what light it is to be viewed—
The world themselves uphold one another in this conduct, as innocent at least, if not also highly laudable: but, wheresoever it is found, it must be regarded,
As a symptom of obduracy—
[The prophet needed no other evidence than this to convince him, that Amaziah was a hardened sinner before God. We do not say that every neglect of divine warnings argues the same degree of obduracy; but, in proportion as such neglect is wilful, deliberate, and persevering, it betrays a spirit of rebellion, and a determined hostility against the God of heaven. And here let us ask ourselves, whether we have not throughout the course of our whole lives set God at defiance, neglecting daily what we knew to be right, and practising habitually what we Knew to be contrary to the divine commands? Let each of us enter into the secret recesses of his own heart, and say, Whether his own will, rather than God’s, have not been the determining principle of all his actions, and whether self have not been the rule, the measure, and the end even of those things wherein he has professed to serve his God? — — — Verily, if to “tremble at God’s word” be that which characterizes the first beginnings of grace in the soul, the state of those who can live so carelessly in a wilful opposition to it must be awful indeed.]
As a ground of dereliction—
[God’s secret “determination” to withdraw from Amaziah all further communications of his grace, was justly inferred from the measure of obduracy now visible in his conduct. And though we cannot certainly dive into the secrets of the Almighty, we may often form a very probable judgment respecting them from what we see with our eyes. We know how God has acted in former times, and how he has told us that he will act: “My people would not hearken to my voice, and Israel would none of me,” says he; “so I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lust [Note: Psalms 81:11-12.].” Repeatedly is the same awful truth declared respecting the heathen world, notwithstanding their sins were far less aggravated than those committed by persons enjoying the light of revelation [Note: Romans 1:24; Romans 1:26; Romans 1:28.]. What then must we expect, who dwell under the meridian light of his Gospel? Have not we reason to fear that he will say, “Ephraim is joined to idols; let him alone [Note: Hosea 4:17.]?” Yes, indeed: “His Spirit will not always strive with man [Note: Genesis 6:3.]:” and if we continue to “rebel and vex his Holy Spirit, he will turn to be our enemy, and fight against us [Note: Isaiah 63:10.].” If once we prevail to quench the motions of his Spirit, our state will be awful beyond all expression: “Woe to them,” says God, “when I depart from them [Note: Hosea 9:12.]!”]
As a prelude to destruction—
[Trace the conduct of Amaziah from this moment, and behold his end! He would not listen to the counsels of God, and he is instantly given over to other counsellors [Note: ver. 17.]. He sends a challenge to the king of Israel, who dissuades him from entering into an unnecessary and destructive war. The parable used on this occasion intimated to him his insufficiency to cope with Israel, and the certain issue of so unequal a contest [Note: ver. 18, 19.]: but “he would not hear; for it came of God, that he might deliver them into the hand of their enemies, because they sought after the gods of Edom [Note: ver. 20.].” To battle he went, and was defeated, and taken; and his capital became an easy prey to the conqueror, who plundered it of all its wealth, and broke down a portion of the wall which had been erected for its defence [Note: ver. 21–24.]. From that time he lost all the affection and confidence of his subjects, who at last conspired against him; and, when he “had fled to Lachish for safety, sent after him and slew him there.” The whole of this is traced to God as its author, on account of his impious rejection of the divine counsels [Note: ver. 27.].
And what may not be expected by us also, if we “reject the counsel of God against ourselves?” Surely we shall be left to follow the infatuated devices of others, or of our own hearts, till we bring upon ourselves the destruction we have merited. Hear, how awfully this is declared by God himself: “If we receive not the love of the truth that we may be saved, God will send us a strong delusion, that we may believe a lie, and finally be damned, because we believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness [Note: 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12.].” And by us is this sentence more especially to be expected, because of the many and faithful warnings which we have despised; for “he that, being often reproved, hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy [Note: Proverbs 29:1.].” The gathering of clouds does not more certainly portend rain, than a contempt of God’s messages gives reason to expect his everlasting displeasure.]
In what manner we should attend the ordinances of religion—
[We should “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, if we would not deceive our own souls [Note: James 1:21-24.]” — — —]
What obligations we owe to God for his long-suffering towards us—
[Long has “he stood at the door of our hearts, knocking [Note: Revelation 3:20.],” and has been refused admission [Note: Song of Solomon 5:2-3.] — — — O let us bless his name, that he has not yet given us over to judicial blindness, and final impenitence [Note: Acts 28:25-27.]. Still has our Great Advocate, the Lord Jesus Christ, interceded for us [Note: Luke 13:6-9.]; and still does our “God wait to be gracious unto us.” O that “to-day, while it is called to-day, we might hear the voice” that yet soundeth in our ears, and that “the long-suffering of our God might lead us to repentance [Note: Romans 2:4.]!”]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 25". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany