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2 Chronicles 25:2
And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, but not with a perfect heart.
Half-hearted, and therefore a failure
It was not because Amaziah was not sinless that his life proved such a failure, but because he was not thorough going in his principle and piety. English life at present seems to be afflicted with a plague of levity. There is so much hollowness and unreality, so much veneer in character and work, that it behoves us to preach aloud the gospel of thoroughness. A short time ago some workmen were engaged in trying to remove a piece of old London wall. They tried with hammers, then with pick-axes, but to no purpose, the wall seemed to smile at all their efforts; at last they were obliged to have recourse to boring, and blowing it up like a piece of solid rock. That is hardly the way they build nowadays, for a man might almost push over some of our brick walls with his hand. Now, this is just an illustration of what I mean, the want of thoroughness in every branch of industry and in every walk of life. When a man’s own character is not solid, permeated through and through with Christian principle, you cannot have any guarantee of the genuineness of his work. Shams abound everywhere. Gilt and paint carry the day. Ours is an age of tinsel. And the worst of it is that this unrealness characterises much of the religion amongst us. I sometimes meet with a horrible form of Antinomianism, which virtually says, “Anything will do for me--I am a disciple of Christ”; and so the work is actually more slovenly and imperfect because the individual claims to be “not under the law, but under grace.” Why, it is almost as monstrous as the proposal a good young man made to his landlady, that his own excellent Christian example should serve in lieu of weekly payment for his lodgings! A men--I don’t care who he is--dishonours Christ when any other person is put to disadvantage by his piety. If you imagine you are more free to do slipshod work because you are a Christian, I say, it is precisely the reverse. It is just because you claim to be the Lord’s that any sort of work will not do. Bearing His name, you are responsible to Him for every detail of your daily life. If your secular duties are more imperfectly discharged because you are a believer, you do great wrong to the Redeemer. If you snatch a little of your employer’s time to scatter tracts, or prepare for a Sabbath class, or even to read your Bible; or if, in business hours, your thoughts are so given to spiritual themes that you cannot do justice to your work, in any of these cases you do real harm to religion. (J. T. Davidson, D.D.)
The character of Amaziah
This history is adduced to lead to self-scrutiny.
I. The act of assembling is in accordance with God’s revealed wishes; and therefore the act of assembling is a right act. But am I able to believe that every men and woman joins the assembly from such motives as would stand the test of Heaven? Not with a perfect heart.
II. Again, in the matter of listening to God’s Word preached. Some listen from the desire of passing away a dull hour--as a sort of religious entertainment. Alas for the perfect heart!
III. As to your conduct outside the walls of the sanctuary. You are upright and honourable in trade. But why? It is a sad thing when a man’s actions are right because he wishes to be aggrandised, or because he wishes a high place in human estimation, and knows not the only right motive--a desire to please Him “who hath loved us, and given Himself for us.” (T. W. Thompson, B.A.)
Not with a perfect heart
Off Cape Horn we witnessed a singular sight. For some miles there was a narrow strip of water, where the great waves flew in broken spray and dashed high over the ship. On either side the sea was comparatively calm, whilst this boiled with fury, rolling and surging. Yet there was no rock about which the sea surged, nor was there any such fierce wind as to account for it. Overhead the air was thick with sea-fowl. Thousands of the birds dived into this troubled water. The smaller fish were, I suppose, flung up by the toss, and thus fell a prey to the birds. I asked, naturally, what was the reason of this strange sight, and found it was the point at which the tide met the strong current of the sea, and here they raged together. Within, the tide only ran, and it was calm. Without, the current prevailed, and there, too, was calm. On this troubled bit they met, and neither prevailed. It is the picture of those who are at once too religious to belong to the world--too worldly to belong to religion; torn by both and satisfied by neither. (Mark Guy Pearse.)
Whole-hearted religion required
At one of the conferences between the Northern and Southern States of America during the war of 1861-1866 the representatives of the Southern States stated what cession of territory they were prepared to make, provided that the independence of the portion that was not ceded to the Federal Government was secured. More and more attractive criers were made, the portions to be ceded being increased, and those to be retained in a state of independence being proportionately diminished. All the offers were met by a steadfast refusal. At last President Lincoln placed his hand on the map so as to cover all the Southern States, and in these emphatic words delivered his ultimatum: “Gentlemen, this Government must have the whole.” God cannot share us with the world. (A. Plummet, D.D.)
2 Chronicles 25:9
And Amarish said to the man of God, But what shall we do for the hundred talents which I have given to the army of Israel?
I. The path of duty was clearly before Amaziah. “Send the army of Israel away.”
II. He hesitated to tread it because there was a self-made difficulty in the way. So with many to-day.
1. Worldly pleasure.
2. Worldly interests.
(1) A bad business, one you cannot ask God to bless.
(2) A legitimate business that is not conducted on Christian principles.
3. Worldly companions.
4. Bad habits.
III. God recognises the difficulty. “The Lord is able to give thee much more than this.” When our first missionaries went to India, Dr. Cope died on the voyage. Some letters of introduction to English gentlemen in India had been written. When his friends arrived they went on shore and told how Dr. Cope had died and been buried in the deep sea. As they knew nothing of the language of India they asked advice, and the advice given was, “Take the first vessel that sails for England and go home again.” One of the young men of the party said, “That is out of the question. I came here to preach the gospel, and, God helping me, I mean to do it.” They said, “If you bring God into the matter, that alters it altogether.” Bring God into your pleasure and into your business, and that will alter them altogether. (Charles Garrett.)
God able to remunerate fidelity
I know a widow whose husband died and left her with a little family to struggle for. She opened a little shop in the suburbs of the city, when one of the agents of a wine-merchant waited upon her to ask her to be an agent for the sale of strong drink. She said, “Never a drop shall enter my house.” He said “It will help you so much.” She said, “If it helps me some, it will harm me more. I have children around me, and whether I prosper or not, I will not gain anything to the injury of my fellow-creatures.” She has done wonderfully. An intimate friend of mine went to see her, and said, “I cannot understand how you get on, and why so many come to your shop, for they pass a number of good shops to come to yours.” She said to her boy, “George, you are fond of ciphering; get down your slate and put down how far off a man must live from my shop that God cannot bring him there.” That settled it. “God is able to give more than this.” (Charles Garrett.)
Rigid integrity may stand in the way
There can be no doubt that a certain flexibility and elasticity of soul and conscience may make a man get on, as concerns this world, when rigid integrity would stand in his way. Nothing would be easier than to mention striking instances in which men threw away their chance of the highest places by an act of injudicious honesty. A trader who never puffs his wares as better than they really are may not drive such a business as the brazen individual who never spares the trumpet. A preacher who sets forth sound doctrine to people who have not been accustomed to it, and who do not want it, may make himself for a time obnoxious enough. But let us speak the truth and live the truth, no matter what we may lose by it. (Charles Garrett.)
What shall we do for the hundred talents?
I. The command given. “Let not the army of Israel go with thee.”
1. It shows us God’s disapproval of union with the enemies of the truth. The children of Ephraim had departed from the Lord, His favour was withdrawn from them: Judah, if he hope for success, must send such helpers away. Yes, truly “the friendship of the world is enmity with God.” To join affinity with such, as Amaziah did, is to run into temptation and a snare.
2. But the command of God thus given leads us to notice, further, that His disappointment of our hopes is in mercy, not in wrath. Perhaps to the mind of Amaziah this only was wanting to ensure victory: his army was strong, and could he but procure this aid from Israel all would be secure; and yet no sooner are they come than the command is given. It is often thus in God’s dealings with our souls. “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.” “Could I but be placed in such circumstances,” saith one, “Were but this diffficulty removed.” is the thought of another, “then should I grow in grace, and prosper in my soul.” But it cannot be, and you are discouraged. And yet it is in mercy, not in wrath, that your wishes are crossed.
3. Observe that the command calls for immediate compliance. Not after aid received in the battle, but now in the face of danger, at the risk of injury from those sent away, injury, too, that was not feared without cause (2 Chronicles 25:13). God’s command will not bear delay.
II. the difficulty started. “And Amaziah said to the man of God, But what shall we do for the hundred talents that I have given to the army of Israel?” With some awe upon his mind, a conviction of the necessity of obedience, Amaziah liked not the cost. This is the difficulty proposed, “What shall we do for he hundred talents?” There was the divided mind On the one side was his fear of the displeasure of the Lord, without whose help he well knew he could not prosper; on the other side the hundred talents weighed down his purpose--he could not brook the loss of so large a sum. Ah! who would not obey God if he might do it without cost? Who would not be the servant of Christ, if he might be so without pains? Sin must be parted with. “What shall we do for the hundred talents?” We go to the man that has long yielded to his evil habits. We tell him of the door of mercy yet open. The sigh breaks forth as we speak. He owns it “too true.” He is “almost persuaded to be a Christian.” But, no, “What shall we do for the hundred talents?”
III. The unanswerable reply. “And the man of God answered, The Lord is able to give thee much more than this.”
1. Observe--There is no promise of the restoration of the sum. The command of God was the solid ground on which the prophet claimed obedience of the king. And it is even here we too rest our appeal. “Thus saith the Lord.” In urging on you to “yield yourselves unto God,” we cannot--we may not--tell you that no difficulties are in the way. We have indeed that overwhelming motive to present, the safety of the soul.
2. Amaziah is referred to the almighty power of Him whose command he is called on to obey. “God is able to give thee much more than this.” As though the prophet had said, “Thou art ready to sorrow for the hundred talents uselessly bestowed if now to be forfeited, but whose is the silver and the gold? Grudge not, then, this sum at His word, who bids thee yield it for thine own welfare.” For is it dignity, the estimation of others, that you fear to give up? are these “the hundred talents” you are unwilling to part with? What dignity of earth can be compared to that high-sounding and real--not empty--title, “heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ”?--“Ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” Is it riches, or pleasures, the vanity of life, that seem not vain to you? God is able to give, yea, will give you much more than this. He will give you pardon, that blessed gift--pardon for all thy sins, thy multiplied, aggravated, fearful transgressions--“And in the world to come eternal life.” (F. Storr, M.A.)
Soul or silver
Amaziah seemed to be a soldier, and little else. He was devoured by military ambition and vainglory. He coveted the domains of his neighbors. He was greedy of conquest. He dared not attack Israel, but on the other side lay the lands of the Edomites. He wanted to fight. There was probably no reason why he should, for the children of Seir had evidently done nothing to provoke an attack, or we should have had an account of it. But Amaziah must have more territory, and impelled by such noble patriotism, he disciplined his people into a large army. Desiring to be on the safe side, he bargained for one hundred thousand men of Israel, and, in order to secure them, he laid down a bounty of one hundred talents of silver. With these men of Ephraim, hired with the silver talents, he possessed an army of about four hundred thousand men. All things are in readiness, and he is about to start out on his grand mission of punishing a people who held lands near him, when a prophet confronts with the intelligence that if he takes the troops of Israel with him he shall be defeated. Now comes a struggle in the king’s mind. He was bent upon war, and could not brook the idea of defeat, but to insure victory he must send the Ephraimites home. Now, he had given these men a hundred talents of silver! What about them? The command of God had touched his pocket-nerve, and it had sent a sensitive thrill through his whole being. Amaziah is not the only man that has been compelled to choose between obedience and self-denial.
I. Consider, then, the fact that men’s apparent interests are sometimes opposed by the commands of God. Very frequently men’s practices find such opposition; and their desires are fulfilled very often against the clamourings of their consciences. But I have affirmed something beyond this--that a man’s wholesome interests, as they appear to his view, are sometimes in direct opposition to God’s commands. I do not think that a man will be allowed to enter upon a course inimical to God’s will who starts out by committing his way entirely to Divine guidance. God looks out for such a man, and orders his ways so that his interests and the Divine will conform. But a great many start out in the pursuit of business without any consideration of God. With the majority of men, when the time comes to meet the question, “What shall I do?” the answer is prompted more by expediency than by duty. One man argues, “I can make more money in dry goods than in groceries, so I’ll deal in dry goods. But there’s more money in whisky, so I think I’ll open a saloon.” He looks at trade from his own standpoint. I believe that some men really think that they are justified in such a course; they think that a man ought to look after his own interests; that that is the first thing to be consulted; and there never was a greater mistake made in this selfish world! The truth is, that when a man deliberately marks out a course in life, and determines to pursue it, without any consideration of God or his fellow-men, he is engaged in a very dangerous business. There are some other things to consider besides making money. Soul-culture, helpfulness of his fellows, influence for Christ, the increasing light of a pious life; these things are to be taken into the account, or he may look for some period of his life when the alternative will be between obedience and self-denial, or disobedience and defeat.
II. Where this is the case apparent interests are to be sacrificed. God looks upon temporal matters as if they were subordinate to a higher good. Men look upon them as if they were the highest good attainable. God puts His service and the duties of religion above everything else. Men regard religion as a secondary consideration. Do you never hear men say, “I would engage in religious matters if I had time”? You mark a man’s absence from the holy Sabbath worship; he complains, “I feel so tired when Sunday comes, I must rest.” So you see men think more of their hundred talents of silver than of obedience to God. But they have Amaziah’s protest: “What shall we do for the hundred talents of silver?” The answer is plain enough. Let them go. “What!” cries the overworked business man, “leave my store full of customers just because it is the hour of prayer?” “What!” cries the professional man, “suspend my important studies for unprofitable religious occupation? Not much!” “What!” cries the mechanic, “work hard all week and Sunday too?” “What shall we do for the hundred talents that are involved?” In such embarrassing situations the thing to do is what Amaziah did. He sent home the men of Ephraim, and he lost the hundred talents of silver. If your business stands between you and God, let it go!
III. For I beg you to note that the alternative lies between total defeat and increased good. Amaziah was made to select between receiving the value of his invested money and suffering disaster in the prosecution of his scheme. He might do as he pleased, but he might know what to expect. That is the alternative placed before all men. Disobedience leads to defeat. Men may discard the commands of God, but not with impunity. Obedience to the Divine will is the only safeguard against temporal and spiritual disaster. It is a matter that enters into a man’s private life. It does not concern those employments alone which are confessedly unrighteous, it is a law affecting the man who persists in a course when God has called him in another direction, as well as he who persists in iniquitous practices. In either case the safest thing to do is to give up the silver, without one hesitating thought. (Lansing Burrows.)
The subject brought before us in the text is the weighing of consequences.
1. In a certain sense it is the doing of a fool to disdain consequences; and it is the glory of a rational being that he can calculate, and weigh, and be guided by, consequences.
2. And yet there are cases in which to resolutely refuse to take into view what may be the consequences of our conduct, is heroism; is Christianity in its highest and noblest development. Such was the case with the three Jews in Babylon; Moses; Paul.
3. Amaziah’s history will make it plain to us, when we should weigh consequences and be guided by them; and when we should disregard them, and refuse to take them into account at all. He was not wrong in naming the money loss to the prophet. He was wrong in regarding this difficulty as a fatal objection to his obeying God’s command. He not only states his difficulty, but seems disposed to act upon it.
4. This brings us to the great principle which should guide all wise Christian people in regard to the consideration of consequences. Wherever we are sure that duty leads, wherever we are sure God bids us go, then that way we should go, whatever and however painful the consequences may be. In all other cases a prudent Christian man will weigh the consequences of what he may think of doing, and be guided by the consideration of them.
5. To disdain consequences is not to be done in a boasting, vainglorious spirit. The true proof of a man disdaining consequences is that he should disdain them, not when they are in the distance, coming, but when they are present realities; when they are come.
6. The prophet’s reply to the king’s difficulty is worthy of being laid to heart: “The Lord is able to give thee much more than this.” This means that it is worth our while to obey God’s will; that though at first we may lose by doing so, we shall gain more than we shall lose. This truly is not a disdaining of consequences; it is a fuller and truer weighing of them. It is to look further on: it is to throw eternity into the scale of duty and interest. (A. K. H. Boyd.)
God’s power to remunerate
I. How commonly the question is urged, “What shall we do for the hundred talents?” We are not of those who would make light of the sacrifices which must be made by such as would live godly in Christ Jesus. Christ speaks of a “yoke,” of “taking up the cross,” of “forsaking all,” of “cutting off the right hand,” of “plucking out the right eye.” So that the parallel is most exact between the circumstances of ourselves and those of Amaziah.
1. Consider the case of the young who are urged to the remembering of their Creator and the setting of their affections on things above. If by entreaty and warning we prevail on them to hesitate ere they launch on a course of disobedience to God’s commands, the thought of all we ask them to surrender comes upon them with great power, and they feel as though it were unreasonable to summon them to such a sacrifice. And therefore their speech is virtually, “What shall we do for the hundred talents?”
2. Take again the case of the tradesman whose interest seems to demand the profanation of the Sabbath. In asking him to close his shop on the day that perhaps procures him more profit than can be wrung from all the rest of the week, you ask him to make what on mere human principles is scarcely a credible sacrifice.
II. How sufficient an answer there is in the statement, “The Lord is able to give thee much more than this.” It is the apparent conflict between interest and duty which often induces disobedience to God. Duty and interest can never be really opposed. The righteousness of God’s moral government requires that whatever He has made it our duty should also be our interest to perform. But still there is an apparent conflict. This world would cease to be a place of probation if it were always manifest that duty and interest lie in the same direction. When tempted to do wrong for the sake of present advantage, let us magnify the remunerating power of God. If David could say, “Thy Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee,” no text can be more suitable than this one for the talisman of the merchant as he prosecutes the enterprises of commerce, “The Lord is able to give thee much more than this.” (Henry Melvill, B.D.)
The claims of duty
The claims of duty are stronger even than those of affection. The tenderst tie on earth should never induce us to set them aside. The sense of duty which distinguished some of the patriots of ancient Rome was extraordinary. After the expulsion of King Tarquin, a conspiracy was formed for the purpose of effecting his return. It was found out by the authorities; and it was also found that Titus and Tiberius, the two sons of Brutus, the consul, were the principal conspirators. People naturally speculated as to how the consul would act in the matter; but he put an end to all controversy by condemning his two sons to death along with the rest; nay, on the day of execution, he commanded the sentence of the law to be carried out on them first of all. “But,” you may say, “perhaps he did not love his sons as fathers generally do.” On the contrary, the crowd who watched his countenance on the occasion could perceive that there was a terrible struggle within; so that they pitied the grief of the father no less than they admired the bravery of the patriot. Here, then, was a man who preferred duty to affection--the safety of his country to the life of his sons. (Henry Melvill, B. D.)
2 Chronicles 25:14
Now it came to pass, after that Amaziah was come from the slaughter of the Edomites, that he brought the gods of the children of Seir.
To act like Amaziah--to go out to battle in the name of Jehovah, directed and encouraged by His prophet, to conquer by the grace of the God of Israel, and then to desert Jehovah of hosts, the giver of victory, for the paltry and discredited idols of the conquered Edomites--this was sheer madness. And yet as Greece enslaved her Roman conquerors, so the victor has often been won to the faith of the vanquished. The Church subdued the barbarians who had overwhelmed the empire, and the heathen Saxons adopted at last the religion of the conquered Britons. (W. H. Bennett, M.A.)
2 Chronicles 25:18
The thistle that was in Lebanon sent to the cedar that was in Lebanon.
True and false union
Our parable thus distinguishes between true and false union. The true is inward and real; the false is outward and superficial. The true rests on the fitness of things and on eternal laws; the false relies on the capriciousness of human nature and the ebb and flow of circumstances. The false comes through conquest, coercion, and oppression; the true comes from God, righteousness and liberty. You will find these two kinds of union facing us in all relations of life. Take the history of Christianity in the world.
1. The aim of the Roman Catholic Church has been to create union among all Christians. But, while the aim has been good, the method employed has been bad. The union thus sought has been a false one because it has tried to coerce and compel men to acknowledge the Pope to be the one earthly vicar of Christ.
2. A similar policy has been that of the Established Church of England. As soon as the prayer-book was compiled a series of Acts of Parliament were passed--the Act of Uniformity, etc.--to compel all British subjects to conform to its teaching. An effort was made to establish union by Acts of Parliament. The effort with a right and noble aim has failed because based on false methods.
3. Dissenters have also erred in like manner. At the assembly of Westminster divines a number of eminent Christian men drew up a set of doctrines, which were to be the infallible guide for a section of the followers of Christ. If a carpenter has a certain number of boards to make he gets the wood that is necessary; he takes his measurements; he cuts and planes each board exactly to the size, and length, and breadth, and thickness that he desires; he joins the boards together and makes the box, or floor, or other article as the case may be. All are united to complete the one object intended. But it is impossible for us to apply the word “union” in this sense to intelligent, thinking human beings. You may cut, measure wood and inanimate objects as you please, but here you have to do with “creatures” in whom there is the “Divine gift of reason and free-will.” If you wish to unite men under any government, religious or political, you must first appeal to their reason, and leave them free to act as that reason leads them. The only true basis of union among human beings is the “Presence of God”--in other words, righteousness, justice, liberty, and truth. For where righteousness, justice, liberty, and truth are, there God is. The members of a family are united not by bearing the same name, resembling each other in stature and features, but by doing what is right and just to each other, and by loving one another. The members of the Church of Christ are not united by repeating the same creed, by meeting in the same place of worship, by calling themselves by the same name, but by having hearts glowing with love to one Saviour, and by gladly serving their one Lord. The people of a nation are united together not by national prejudices and oppressive laws so much as by their common loyalty to a righteous and just government. (J. Lewis.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "2 Chronicles 25". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13