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TRUE AND FALSE ZEAL
2 Kings 10:16. Come with me, and see my zeal for the Lord.
UNGODLY men, though they will not follow the example of the godly, are glad to have their sanction and approbation in what they do. Jehu was indeed acting at this time under a divine commission. The work in which he was engaged, was that of extirpating the whole house and family of Ahab: and, terrible as it was, he did right to execute it, because he acted under a divine command [Note: 2 Kings 9:7-9.]. But his spirit in executing the work was far from right. He was too much under the influence of pride and ambition. This appears from his address to Jehonadab, in the words before us. Jehonadab was a holy man, and had considerable influence in the state: and, knowing that Jehu was fulfilling the will of heaven, he went to meet him, and to testify his approbation of his proceedings. And Jehu, glad to have the sanction of such a man, took him up into his chariot, saying, “Come with me, and see my zeal for the Lord.
Now, as this zeal was partly good, and partly evil, I propose to shew,
When our zeal is such as will bear inspection—
“It is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing [Note: Galatians 4:18.].” And we may be assured that our zeal is good,
When it proceeds from a principle of love—
[Love is properly the principle from which all our actions should flow. There are, indeed, far different principles from which our zeal may spring. We may he led on by a spirit of party, which will operate to the production of great efforts in the support of any cause. Or we may he actuated by a natural forwardness of disposition, which urges men to prosecute with ardour whatever they undertake. A self-righteous hope of commending themselves to God, also, will stimulate some to incredible exertions in any cause in which they are embarked. But that which alone gives the stamp of piety to our services, is love. We should act from a sense of the unbounded obligations which we owe to God, both as our Creator and Redeemer. “Our souls should be altogether constrained by the love of Christ, to live to him [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:14-15.]:” and so far as we are actuated by that principle, we have reason to hope and to believe that our zeal is genuine, and that our services are pleasing and acceptable to God.]
When it is regulated by the written word—
[As our zeal may spring from an unworthy motive, so it may be exercised in an unhallowed way. It must be bounded by the occasion that calls it forth; neither exceeding it, nor falling short of it. Joshua erred in making a league with the Gibeonites, whom he was commissioned to destroy [Note: Joshua 11:18-20.]: but Saul also erred, when, “from his zeal to the children of Israel and Judah, he sought to slay them [Note: 2 Samuel 21:1-6.].” There is an intemperate zeal that is highly criminal. Such was that of Simeon and Levi, who slew the Shechemites, because by the prince of that city their sister had been defiled [Note: Genesis 34:25-31.]. They had just ground for displeasure; but their mode of manifesting their displeasure was cruel in the extreme, and brought upon them God’s merited indignation [Note: Genesis 49:5-7.]. Not that the mere circumstance of slaying their fellow creatures when they were incapable of resistance was wrong, provided they had received a divine commission to do so: for Joshua did right in extirpating the Canaanites; as did the tribe of Levi also, when they went through the camp of Israel, every one of them slaying even his nearest relatives, if he found them worshipping the golden calf [Note: Exodus 32:25-29; Deuteronomy 33:8-11.]. The word of God is that by which every act must be regulated. It is not sufficient that we think to please God: for James and John thought to please their divine Master by calling fire from heaven to consume a Samaritan village; and Paul also thought he was serving God aright, when he haled men and women to prison and to death for their attachment to Christ. They (James and John) were told by their Lord, that “they knew not what spirit they were of [Note: Luke 9:53-55.]:” and he (Paul) condemns himself afterwards as an injurious and blaspheming persecutor [Note: Acts 8:3; Acts 26:9; 1 Timothy 1:13.]. If we are able to shew a command for what we do, then our zeal in doing it is good.]
When it is tempered with discretion—
[There are conflicting duties, which, as far as possible, should be made to harmonize; and neither of them should be violated without necessity. To obey the civil magistrate is the duty of all: but when his injunctions militate against the paramount authority of God, they must be disregarded, whatever be the dangers to which our disobedience may subject us. The appeal, “Whether it be right to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye [Note: Acts 4:19.],” carried its own evidence along with it. Of course, there is need of much discrimination in this matter. The Pharisees acted well in shewing a regard for the Sabbath, and a zeal for the due observance of it: but they erred grievously, when they accused our blessed Lord as violating it by working miracles on that day: for they should have known, that “God preferred mercy before sacrifice,” and, consequently, that acts of mercy and necessity superseded the obligation of a merely positive command [Note: Matthew 12:2-7.]. Even where a duty is plain, it is proper for us to consider whether we are the persons to perform it. To preach the Gospel is a most important duty: but to engage in that service uncalled, and unsent, is not by any means expedient or right: for even our blessed Lord “glorified not himself to be made an high priest, but waited for the call” of his heavenly Father [Note: Hebrews 5:4-6.]. So again, we must attend to the time and manner of executing what we conceive to be a lawful act; and not abuse our liberty by exercising it in a way that may prove offensive to others [Note: 1 Corinthians 8:10-13.]. In a word, our zeal must be wisely regulated: it should be able to rise to any occasion that may call for it [Note: Acts 21:13.]; but it should be under due control; nor should it ever be satisfied with a conviction that a thing is “lawful,” without considering also whether, and how far, it is “expedient [Note: 1 Corinthians 6:12.].”
We think, then, that a zeal flowing from such a source, and regulated by such a standard, and exercised in such a way, will bear inspection; and that, so far as we give the invitation for the purpose of self-inquiry, and not of self-applause, we may say, not to man only, but even to God himself, “Come, and see my zeal for the Lord.”]
But there are occasions when our zeal is blameworthy, and,
When it evidently manifests itself to be delusive and vain—
It is altogether vain and unacceptable to God,
When it is ostentatious—
[Such was that of Jehu on this occasion. Raised to kingly power, and successful beyond his most sanguine expectations, he was elated with pride, and desirous of having his prowess admired and extolled. Hence his conduct, which, as conformable to a divine command, was made the ground of a reward, was, on account of the base mixture of pride and cruelty with which it was pursued, visited with signal punishment [Note: Compare ver. 20 with Hosea 1:4.]. Ostentation will mar and vitiate the best actions that we can possibly perform. The giving of alms, or the waiting upon God with fasting and prayer, are acceptable services, if performed aright; but when made occasions for advancing ourselves in the estimation of men, they are hateful and contemptible in the sight of God, and will bring with them no other recompence than that which we vainly seek [Note: Matthew 6:1-5.].” The declaration of God in relation to such things is plain and express: “For a man to seek his own glory, is not glory [Note: Proverbs 25:27.]:” therefore “let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips [Note: Proverbs 27:2.].”
To this, then, we must carefully attend: for if, whilst professing to serve the Lord, we “sacrifice to our own net, and burn incense to our own drag [Note: Habakkuk 1:16.],” be the service what it may, God will say, “Who hath required this at your hands [Note: Isaiah 1:11-12.]?” yea, it will be no better, in his sight, than “the cutting off a dog’s neck, or the offering of swine’s blood [Note: Isaiah 66:3.].”]
When it is partial—
[In this respect, also, Jehu’s zeal notoriously failed. He was sent to punish Ahab’s wickedness; and yet himself joined in the idolatry which he was ordered to abolish [Note: ver. 29.], and indulged in all the sins which he was commissioned to correct [Note: ver. 31.]. Zeal, if pure, will extend to every part of our duty: it has respect to God’s will; and therefore will operate in reference to all his commands; to those which require self-denial, no less than to those which may administer to our personal gratification. Zeal will be in the soul what the soul is in the body: its operation will be uniform and abiding — — — Whether our actions be public or private, and whether our duties be of an active or passive kind, it will stimulate us to approve ourselves to the heart-searching God: and, if it fail of this, at least in our endeavours, it is evidently not such as has God for its author, nor such as God will ultimately approve.]
When it is transient—
[The stony-ground hearers manifest a great degree of zeal for a season: “they anon with joy receive the word; but, having no root in themselves, they believe only for a while, and in time of temptation fall away [Note: Luke 8:13.].” But it is not sufficient for any man to “run well for a season only [Note: Galatians 5:6.].” “We must endure unto the end, if ever we would be saved [Note: Matthew 10:22.].” We are “not to look back, after having once put our hand to the plough [Note: Luke 9:62.].” “We are never to be weary in well-doing:” “never, under any circumstances, to faint.” On this our future remuneration altogether depends [Note: Galatians 6:9.]. “The man who draws back, draws back unto perdition [Note: Hebrews 10:38-39,]:” and he whose zeal will not carry him to the last extremity, even to the enduring of the most cruel death, will fail of obtaining the approbation of his God [Note: Luke 17:33.]. I must, therefore, guard you against ever relaxing in your zeal even for a moment. Whatever your attainments be, and whatever you may have done or suffered in the service of your God, you must “forget the things that are behind, and reach forward unto that which is before, and press on for the prize of your high calling,” till you have actually finished your course, and obtained the crown which is to be awarded to you [Note: Philippians 3:13-14.].]
In conclusion, let me say to every individual amongst you—
Have a zeal for God—
[God is not to be served with lukewarmness [Note: Revelation 3:15-16.] — — — He requires the heart, the whole heart [Note: Proverbs 23:26; Hosea 10:2.]: and surely he is worthy of it; and his service well deserves it. See what zeal men display in the pursuits of this world; the student, for knowledge; the merchant, for his gains; the soldier, for honour: and will you be behind any one of them? Does our blessed Lord and Saviour deserve less at your hands, than this vain and perishing world can do? The burnt-offerings, you know, were wholly consumed upon God’s altar: they were wholly God’s; and the priests had no part in them. Such offerings are ye to be: and to be devoted thus exclusively to God is “your reasonable service [Note: Romans 12:1.].” Give yourselves up, then, entirely to God; and “whatsoever your hand findeth to do, do it with all your might [Note: Ecclesiastes 9:10.].”]
Let “your zeal be according to knowledge”—
[Ignorant zeal will only deceive and ruin you, as it did the Pharisees of old [Note: Romans 10:2-3.]. There is a great deal of zeal in the world: else whence come the penances and pilgrimages of the Papists? and whence the accursed cruelties of the Inquisition? Who knows not the persecutions that Christianity has sustained from heathens; or the miseries that Popery, under the name of Christianity, has inflicted on those who would not yield to its abominations? In all these things, the agents “have imagined that they did to God an acceptable service [Note: John 16:2.].” Nor can I deny that even good men have sometimes been betrayed into a very erroneous line of conduct, from a mistaken notion, that they were serving God, whilst anathematising those who differed from them in some matters of subordinate importance. But be not satisfied, brethren, even though Jehonadab himself be embarked in the same cause with you. It is not by man’s judgment or example that you are to stand or fall, but by the judgment of your God, according to his written word. Endeavour, then, to have your mind and spirit regulated by the only standard of right and wrong. And especially be on your guard against a fiery zeal. “The zeal of our blessed Lord was such as even consumed him [Note: John 2:17.]:” but remember, it was himself that it consumed, not others: yea, when he himself suffered from the blind zeal of others, he prayed for them, even for his very murderer [Note: Luke 23:34.]. “Be ye then followers of him.” “Let it be your meat and your drink to do the will of God yourselves [Note: John 4:34.]:” but, with respect to others, let all your efforts be “to save, and not to destroy them [Note: Luke 9:56.];” to “win them” by love [Note: Proverbs 11:30.], and not constrain them by force [Note: Luke 14:23.].]
THE CHARACTER OF JEHU
2 Kings 10:30-31. And the Lord said unto Jehu, Because thou hast done well in executing that which is right in mine eyes, and hast done unto the house of Ahab according to all that was in mine heart, thy children of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel. But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart: for he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam, which made Israel to sin.
WE can scarcely conceive any stronger proof of God’s willingness to reward his people, than that which he has given us in rewarding persons, whose services were merely external, without any real love to him in their hearts. If we were to judge from the honour put upon Jehu, we should be ready to suppose he was, if not a blameless, yet, on the whole, a pious character: but on a review of his history, our admiration must be fixed, not on him, but on that infinitely gracious and condescending Being, who was pleased to remunerate such services as his. Let us consider,
The character of Jehu—
Here was a mixture, not uncommon in the world. Let us notice,
What he did for God—
[Being appointed of God to the office of avenging upon Ahab the blood of Naboth and of the prophets, he addressed himself to the work without delay. In the space of a few hours he destroyed Jehoram, with his mother Jezebel, and then instantly set himself to complete the work he had so prosperously begun. And it is worthy of observation, that in extirpating the family of Ahab, he succeeded by the very same means which Jezebel had used for the destruction of Naboth. He sent letters to the great men of Samaria, to whose care the seventy sons of Ahab were entrusted, and required of them to cut off their heads in one single night, and send them to him at Jezreel: and these elders, many of whom had doubtless concurred in the shedding of Naboth’s blood at the command of Jezebel, now, at the command of Jehu, became traitors to their king, and murderers of all his family.
But, besides cutting off the posterity of Ahab, he proceeded also to execute judgment on all the worshippers of Baal. By a stratagem deeply laid, but ill according with truth or godliness, he succeeded against these also in one day; and entirely banished, as it were, the worship of Baal from the land, burning all his images with fire, and making his very temple a draught-house, or sink of all uncleanness.
In this conduct he gained the approbation of Jehonadab, whose pious character and zealous co-operation strengthened and encouraged him in this arduous undertaking. From God himself too did he obtain a decided testimony of approbation, together with a rich reward: for he alone of all the kings of Israel had the kingdom continued to his posterity of the fourth generation, or for so long a period of years.
Thus, it must be confessed, he appears to have been a distinguished servant of the Lord; though, alas! he was but partial in that obedience which he rendered.]
What he omitted to do—
[Against Ahab, whom it was his interest to destroy, and Baal, whom he had no wish to preserve, he executed vengeance with zeal; but against the calves of Dan and Bethel, which policy required him to preserve — — —, he raised not up his hand. Nor indeed did he make the law of God the rule of his conduct: “he took no heed to walk according to that;” much less did he aim at it “with all his heart:” no; he both indulged in himself, and tolerated in others, much that was contrary to the divine will; and thus he manifested, that, notwithstanding all his outward obedience, his heart was not right in the sight of God.]
Such was his character, externally good, but internally depraved. Let us proceed to notice,
The lessons to be deduced from it—
Such characters as these are very instructive: they teach us,
That we may perform many outward duties, and yet have no vital principle of religion within us—
[The actions of Jehu, as to the matter of them, were good; and therefore they were rewarded; but in their motive and principle they were bad; and therefore God afterwards visited them with a severe punishment [Note: Hosea 1:4.]. This shews, that notwithstanding all he did for the Lord, he had not within him any principle of true piety. And thus it is with multitudes amongst ourselves: they are zealous against open vice and profaneness, yea active too in many works of benevolence, and yet appear evidently to be destitute of vital godliness: they have never been truly humbled before God, never fled to Christ for refuge, never given themselves up to God as his redeemed people — — — How much is it to be regretted that such persons, who by their virtues have gained the admiration and love of the most pious characters, and even received a recompence from the Lord also, should yet, for want of a root of grace in them, never bring forth fruit unto perfection, and never obtain happiness in the eternal world! Like the youth in the Gospel, or Nicodemus, or Paul in his unconverted state, they are zealous towards God to a certain extent, but without a new and spiritual birth must for ever perish. O that all who have a zeal for God in the performance of outward duties, would carefully examine the principles by which they are actuated, and never be satisfied with any action which has not a sense of redeeming love for its moving cause!]
That we may profess much zeal for God, and yet have a radical alienation of heart from him—
[Jehu certainly professed to be actuated by a regard for God’s honour: “Come, see my zeal for the Lord,” said he: and when the different events had taken place, he made reflections upon them as accomplishing the divine predictions. Yet his flagrant neglect of other duties stamped him an hypocrite in the sight of God. And is it not thus with many who make a profession of religion in the present day? They think themselves zealous for God, and wish to be thought so by others: but they are manifestly under the dominion of some reigning lusts, some evil tempers, some hidden abominations. They will sacrifice the refuse to the Lord, and such things as they care but little about; but the choicest of the flocks, and the sins which are more intimately connected with their pleasures or their interests, they will retain. Let professors of religion who are so ardent in talking about their favourite topics, or in attending on the ordinances of religion, inquire, Whether the law of God be really in their hearts; whether they are aspiring after an entire conformity to its commands; and whether they are longing to “stand perfect and complete in all the will of God?” Sad will it be to be numbered among those of whom St. James speaks, who seem to be religious, and yet, by their unbridled tongues, and unsubdued tempers, shew that they “deceive their ownselves, and that their religion is vain [Note: James 1:26.].”]
That if ever we would be accepted of God hereafter, we must have our hearts right with him now—
[This is required of every human being [Note: Deuteronomy 10:12-13; Deuteronomy 18:13.]. Absolute perfection indeed is not to be expected; but Christian perfection must be attained; nor without it will any conformity to outward rights, or any profession of Christian principles, avail us before God [Note: Acts 8:21.] — — — — But how shall this state of mind be attained? It must be sought by prayer to God, who has promised to give us his Holy Spirit, and by the mighty working of that Spirit to bring us to an entire conformity to his will [Note: Ezekiel 36:26-27.]. Plead then with God that blessed promise: yea, give him no rest till he accomplish it to your souls. Then shall your heart be made right with God, as God’s is with you; and with infinite condescension will he “take you up to sit with him in the chariot” of his love, and on the throne of his glory [Note: ver. 15.].]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 2 Kings 10". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany