Some Lessons From The Chronicles (part 5)
Harry Lacey, Cardiff
The Final Phase. We are not told of any repentance on Jehoshaphat's part for his sin with Ahab. So valued by the Lord is the tender plant of repentance and contrition that, had it developed, it is likely that we should have been told. We therefore do Judah's monarch no wrong to infer it was absent, especially seeing that the same sin reappeared in the last period of his reign. It is to be feared that he had not learnt how evil is an unequal yoke and what folly is association with the ungodly. He joined himself with Ahaziah to make ships to go to Tar-shish. 'This was definitely disapproved by the Lord, who comments upon the wickedness of Ahaziah (20. 35). Their joint works were destroyed and their ships broken, and the reign of one of Judah's good kings ended with a fruitless and abortive venture.
Certain traits of weakness in human character appear to persist. It is upon these that the adversary plays to bring about the discomfiture of the godly. In one character it might be one trait; in another, another. There is, however, a method of dealing with these weaknesses; it is by repentance, contrition and mortification. There is a godly sorrow, which works repentance and produces a salvation which bringeth no regret (2 Cor. 7. 9-10). Nevertheless, in this respect Jehoshaphat knew it not. He ever tended to confederate unequally. Was it that he lacked grit to refuse apparently-good suggestions from questionable people? Did it appear politic as a means to extend God's kingdom? Was it distasteful to him to appear odd and distant? Was he just impulsive? Or did he not have the distinctive power of conviction and faith that made Elijah and Elisha stand alone for God? Whatever be the cause, the existence of the weakness was sadly prominent, and the verdict of the history is written against it for us to observe.
Whether in marriage, in business, or in ecclesiastical matters, the word still stands, " Be ye not unequally yoked with unbelievers " (2 Cor. 6. 14).
A study of the incongruities enumerated in this last-mentioned passage reveals that, whereas the terms ' a believer ' and ' an unbeliever ' contemplate the individual Christian and the individual non-Christian, the terms ' the temple of God ' and ' idols ' contemplate rather a group of believers and the concourse of idolaters. Although the body of an individual believer is said to be " the temple of the Holy Ghost " (1 Cor. 6. 19), it is the assembly of Christians that is said to be " the temple of God " (1 Cor. 3. 16). Consequently, it is more than probable that in working out the incongruities of unequal yokes the apostle has a sanctification in mind which relates to the collective as well as to the individual, as surely is inevitable in the nature of the case. It follows that a believer's association with idolatrous religion defiles not only himself but also the assembly with which that believer is associated.
There is a call to separation from all that is not of God, and there is a promise of unique experience of God based upon the fulfilment of its condition. It is the Lord who calls to a path of separation from evil associations, but it is as the Lord Almighty (rare title in the N.T.) that He promises to receive those that embark upon it. To them He commits Himself to prove Himself " a Father " and to make them experimentally His sons and daughters.
In the desert God will teach thee
What the God that thou hast found:
Patient, gracious, powerful, holy –
All His grace shall there abound.
On to Canaan's rest still wending,
E'en thy wants and woes shall bring
Suited grace, from high descending:
Thou shall taste of mercy's spring.
SOME OF THE WOMEN MENTIONED
Women played their part in the affairs of the house of the Lord. Their influence is noticed here and there in The Chronicles. In a quiet way, almost behind the scenes, they exerted irresistible influences: some immeasurably for good, like Jehoshabeath; but others, commensurately for evil, like Athaliah. Other women are commented upon in the review in ways that teach principles for the affairs of the Lord and His house.
Michal, David's wife, is introduced unexpectedly (1 Chron. 15. 29), Her husband had brought back the Ark, after his former ineffectual attempt to do so following its long exile amongst the Philistines. For God it was a moment of triumph; His Glory and Presence were restored to the midst of His people. For Israel it was a time of great grace; in the good governments of God, that which made them distinct amongst the nations and which they had lost through their sin was again in its rightful place. And for David, Michal's husband, who had been instrumental in this recovery, it was a moment of great achievement. But Michal had no heart for God's joy; she seemed to have no sense of Israel's benediction; her heart failed to beat in unison with that of her husband; she seemed not to understand him and had no sympathy with his pure devotion to His God. Well might he at such a time gird himself with the priestly robe and express his joy before the Lord, but his wife despised him for it, and that in her innermost being and deepest feelings. How unspiritual her nature and dull her soul that such an hour should have found her capable of such feelings! A woman's love for her husband would naturally move her to enjoy her husband's joy, even though she might think it over-expressed. But Michal was carnal, and proud; she was unwifely and ignorant of what was acceptable to the Lord. It seems that Michal was all too truly a daughter of her father Saul and that her attitude and influence was as chilling as his had proved to be.
Seeing that whatsoever things were written, were written for our learning, does not the record of this chilling attitude of a wife to her husband suggest that the quenching of a husband's spirit of devotion by a wife to-day will reflect to her discredit at the coming Bema of Christ? Such a thing also as the resistance of affection is noted in Holy Writ (Mark 3. 31-35 and 21).
Solomon's Egyptian Bride. The daughter of Pharaoh, whom Solomon had taken as his wife, is mentioned in both The Kings and The Chronicles. Because her continued residence was incompatible with the holiness of the City of David owing to the presence of the Ark of God there, Solomon built for her a house elsewhere (2 Chron. 8. 11). The Chronicles being written from the point of view of the holiness of the dwelling-place of the Lord naturally records the reason for this removal, whereas The Kings simply records the fact no less than three times without giving the reason (1 Kings 3. 1; 7. 8; 9. 24).
Intermarriage with heathen women became common after the return from the exile (Neh. 13. 23-31). It was part of Nehemiah's yeoman service for God and for Israel that he stamped this out. And the likelihood of The Chronicles being written about this time accounts for this reproachful comment upon Solomon's Egyptian bride, lest some take it as a justification for similar conduct.
It might be reasoned that Judaism provided no possibility of bringing the proselyte into the full privileges of Israel, or that Solomon was wisely keeping the domestic and the ecclesiastical apart in building for Pharaoh's daughter elsewhere. But, if we construe rightly, the point being taught in this air of reproach is that it would have better befitted a ruler in Israel to have taken a partner whose character, tastes and way of life were more compatible with the courts of the Lord, After all, if a woman is not such as may dwell with her husband on holy ground, and if his fellowship with her is not such as may be developed there, it is doubtful if she will be a benediction to him anywhere.
The Ideal of Marriage. The comments upon wives in The Chronicles necessitates some reference to the ideals of marriage. There is the original ideal and the Christian ideal (Gen. 2. 18-25 and Eph. 5. 22-33). The oneness intended is such as to merge two personalities into one corporate personality. In the original ideal, the very features, viz.: divine choice (" I will make," Gen. 2. 18), suitability (" meet for him"), recognition (v. 23), sex sanctity (v. 25) and companionship (" not good... be alone "), lead to this corporate personality and contribute to the experience of it. This ' cleaving together ' (Gen. 2. 24) of a man and his wife involves a oneness of being which is moral and spiritual as well as physical, and constitutes a relationship which takes precedence over even that otherwise closest relationship of parent and child. It does not appear that such an all-round relationship existed between Solomon and Pharaoh's daughter.
In the Christian ideal, the elements of the original ideal are confirmed and the moral and spiritual features extended by the introduction of the Headship of Christ for a wife's example and of the love of Christ for a husband's. Emphasis is laid upon the sanctifying effect of the love and care of Christ for His Church (Eph. 5, 26) to indicate that the leadership, love and care of the married state should be of an elevating and sanctifying kind.
It might not be out of place to observe that the old expression ' better half' used humorously has its foundation in God's thoughts, for each are at least halves of a whole which neither can constitute without the other.
It should therefore, surely, be the ambition of every married person and all who contemplate marriage that their married life be a life of spiritual and moral oneness in fellowship in the assembly of God and in the furtherance of its interests.
Human Character. Some surprise might be felt that Michal was not changed by her association with David, nor Pharaoh's daughter by that with Solomon; nevertheless, they do not seem to have been. This illustrates the tenacity of human character and the stubbornness with which it resists change in itself for the better.
With a Christian believer both Justification and Glorification are instantaneous, but the salvation of a character takes a lifetime. All the trial we encounter (Rom. 5. 3-5), the effects of the "all things" (Rom. 8. 26-30), the results of worship (2 Cor. 3. 18), the purifying effect of" the hope " (1 John 3. 3) and the concentration of the believer himself or herself (2 Pet. 1. 5-11), are all essential to change our characters and to bring them into conformity to the " image of His Son."
The salvation of feminine character and the Christian churches are associated in the First Epistle to Timothy (ch. 2. 8-15). Having stated that it is essential for the men and not the women to pray in all places where men and women meet publicly, the Spirit of God led Paul to explain why a woman may not teach in the Christian churches. It is shown that the type of character requisite for teaching God's things was not imparted to womankind by God. He did not (it them therefore for a place which would involve a precedence incompatible with the order of creation. From what we are told that Adam was not deceived (ìpatìthì), but that Eve was (exapatìtheisa) thoroughly beguiled, it seems that feminine character may be deceived in God's matters with a greater facility than masculine. The history of false doctrine corroborates this. Thus the passage leads on to speak of woman being saved (v, 15). Neither salvation initial nor ultimate can be in mind; because continuance is essential, physical salvation in childbirth cannot be the whole idea; it follows that it is the salvation of feminine character. The need of this in the ancient heathen world will be apparent. Worldliness, pride, prosperous ease, inordinately public life and unsanctified living, then, as now, destroy the true womanliness of women; whereas, motherhood, dependence upon God, the manifestation of love, and a life of sanctification and sobriety, work out its salvation.
It is an inordinately optimistic man who supposes that he can change the character of a beautiful, but shallow and proud, woman into one who will grace the house of the Lord and bless his home. Wiser is the man who chooses to share his life with one in whom God has wrought, for He will go on to perfect the work He has started (Phil. 1. 6). The most beautiful and best dressed woman and therefore the truly attractive one is the one who, in spite of sober outward adorning and less striking features, wears the incorruptible apparel of a meek and quiet spirit, which is said to have great value even in God's sight. She will do him good and bring God glory all the days of life (Prov. 31. 10-31).
Jehoshabeath was such a woman as we have contemplated. Being the wife of Jehoida the priest, she had accepted the discipline of his path and had been living a life of dependence and sail education. When the moment arrived she was equal to it, and, through her, the boy king was saved (2 Chron. 22. 11-12).
Satan often works behind the scenes. In the hidden parts of life lie often carries out his fell designs. So it is necessary for God to have servants behind the scenes. Jehoshabeath was such a servant. She had kept her place in the hidden side of life, or she would not have been where she could prove herself vitally useful when the moment of need arose.
The Mothers of the Kings. In the accounts of the kings we read repeatedly, " and his mother's name was.." (2 Chron. 13. 2; 25. I; 26. 3; 27. 1; 29. 1). The suggestion that this is mentioned simply for identification and because the kings had more wives than one is scarcely adequate, especially seeing that of the four kings, Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, it is only the name of the mother of the wicked Ahaz that is not supplied. The other men, good in their differing degrees respectively, have their mothers' names indicated so that fair mead of praise be given to women who bear worthy sons. In spite of modern misconceptions about it in some minds, it is still true that " the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world."
Women in the New Testament. So great a place does God show women to have, that a major work would scarcely do justice to the theme as it is expounded in the New Testament. Let the reader, man or woman, consider the women of Luke's Gospel, the women of The Ads, or those of the greetings chapter of Romans (ch. 16), and see how high women stand in the estimate of God, who fashioned their distinctively feminine traits and limitations of Sphere, Women have a service in their sphere, incomparably greater than any they might appear to accomplish by moving out of it. Men can be for God what He desires them to be, only as women arc for God what He has chosen them to be. Inversely, women can be for God what He desires them to be, as men are for God what they are chosen to be. Each have the distinctive vital traits for their divinely-destined functions, and in the perfecting of them respectively lies the attainment of mutual benediction in the home and a priceless contribution to the assembly of God and life in general.