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XIX.-THE JOURNEY TO EKRON.
“But thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob; but thou hast been weary of me, O Israel !” Isa. xliii. 22. I scarcely know a more heart-affecting expression than this. It is the mournful language of a neglected and disregarded friend. And who is this friend ? It is he, who is Love itself; it is the Father or mercies, the Saviour of sinners. Alas! who has more cause for such complaint than himself! If any one is forgotten, neglected, and mistaken on earth, it is the compassionate Friend of penitent sinners! Yea, do not men seem to have conspired to blot out the remembrance of him ? The church, which is called by his name, for the greater part, rejects him. The larger number of the pastors of his flock will not hear his voice. The seal of the Lamb, in the present day, is in many places a seal of reproach. Decorum forbids even his name to be mentioned; social life has cast out the Lord of glory as a disturber of its peace; science increasingly disregards him in places very many; art dedicates its colours and its melody to other gods ; and most of the writings and books, which are circulated through the world, boldly disclaim any connexion or friendship with Him.
There is therefore sufficient reason for the mournful complaint of the Holy One of Israel : “ Thou hast not called upon me: thou hast been weary of me !” and who can doubt that he has a right to make this complaint, or that he has the very best claim upon our affectionate remembrance ? Behold, he took our nature upon him; he became a man of unparalleled sorrows ; his head was crowned with thorns; he was crucified for us! Yes, out of free love to sinners, he yielded up himself, that he might be our Surety and Representative, standing in our place, and bearing our punishment; and, be astonished, 0 ye heavens! regarding as parts of his own mystical body every individual whom he has redeemed. Yes, that he might associate us with himself in his glory, he associated himself with us in his death. He caused our sins to be placed to his account, that he might
clothe us with his virtues; he suffered himself to be crushed beneath our curse, that he might raise us to his own glory. Behold, this has he done for us ! What think you then ? Does he require too much of us in requiring us to remember him, to call upon him, and not to be weary of him? quirement he makes of every one amongst us. May the heart of every one be open to receive it, and to comply with it! For, are there none amongst us to whom it may be said, You no longer wish to remember Him and to be in communion with him, as you once did? You have forgotten your first love. Once you seemed to wait upon him, but now you love the world and the things that are in the world; preferring its husks before the bread of eternal life. Is it not so ? “ Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the Lord.” O think upon what he has done for you; how he has preserved you; how he has delivered you. There was a time when you believed that the Lord had done it. But now you have forgotten this, and forgotten even the Lord himself. But his memory
is not like
Lo! he stands before you, and complains that you
have not called
upon him, but have been weary of him. O listen to this word of the most condescending mercy and the most astonishing love! The infinitely holy Creator addresses his sinful creature, saying, “ Thou hast been weary of me, O Israel !” O smite upon your breast,
“God be merciful unto me a sinner !” May our meditations on the subject now to be considered serve to impress these thoughts more indelibly upon our hearts !
2 KINGS I. 2-4.
And Ahaziah fell down through a lattice in his upper chamber that was in Samaria, and was sick: and he sent messengers, and said unto them, Go, enquire of Baal-zebub the God of Ekron whether I shall recover of this disease. But the angel of the Lord said to Elijah the Tishbite, Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say unto them, Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that ye go to enquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron ? Now therefore thus saith the Lord, Thou shalt not come down from that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die. And Elijah departed.”
This narrative may serve for a variety of serious reflections. We divide our meditation into three parts, showing; I. The application to Ekron; II. The Divine jealousy; and, III. The paramount claims of Jesus Christ.
I. Israel had now changed its ruler. Ahab had fallen under the hand of the Lord, and the throne was filled by his son Ahaziah, a worthless character, who did only evil in the sight of the
Lord, walking in the ways of his father and mother, and causing Israel to sin. He served Baal and worshipped him, and provoked the Lord God of Israel to anger, as his father Ahab had done. The Almighty therefore saw it not good to sheathe the sword of vengeance. The first painful stroke upon Ahaziah was the revolt of the moabites. This people had for many years been tributary to the kings of Israel ; but under Ahaziah, they rebelled, and conquered. We have now before us another visitation, which Ahaziah experienced. Standing one day on a balcony of his palace, the balustrade on which he leaned suddenly gave way. The king was precipitated to the ground, was seriously injured, and was sick." The Lord not unfrequently so arranges it, that his judgments lay hold of the ungodly and profane at the very time when they are most at ease. How often have we heard of men, who, with the cup of festivity in their hands, and the sound of the harp and the viol in their ears, have been suddenly struck dead by the Divine hand, have fallen paralyzed to the ground, or been seized by some other catastrophe ! The severity of God is then rendered the more apparent by the contrast between their revelry and their woe; and the cry against the vanity of the world, uttered by such judgments, is the more loudly and alarmingly heard, by reason of the sudden reverse.
Ahaziah lies sick; but, alas, we behold in him the same state of mind on his sick bed as we perceive in many others who come within our own observation. Here is only another proof of the melancholy truth, that the severest afflictions are ineffectual in themselves to soften the sinner's heart; and thus we see that the power
which converts the soul does not consist in misfortunes or any outward events, but solely in the mercy and grace of God. How much had Ahaziah heard and seen in his father's time, which, humanly speaking, might have led him to repentance ! How remarkably had the Almighty revealed himself again in Israel, and what terrific proofs had he given of his severity and jealousy! Though all this must have been fresh in Ahaziah's memory, yet he acts as if such awful realities, with his own father's fearful end, had been only an idle tale, and instead of humbling himself before the living God, his heart still cleaves to idolatry. He sends to the philistine oracle at Ekron, where men worshipped an idol named Baal-zebub, that is, the lord of flies, probably so named because the plague of flies, which was common in that region, was attributed to his displeasure ; or else, because he was honoured as a protector from that plague. The idol of Ekron was supposed to give oracular answers, through the medium of its priests, respecting future events; and it had obtained such general credence, that it was resorted to from a considerable distance. That the predictions there uttered, and the prodigies there exhibited, were not merely the illusions of priestcraft
, but were founded upon some reality, and were connected with infernal influence, can hardly be doubted. Pagan idolatry in general seems to be supported and maintained by infernal magic. When, in the Divine judgments upon antichrist and his kingdom, Satan shall suffer that signal defeat which is denounced against him in the word of God, it will be found that it was he who created and maintained the worship of idols, and that it was from his agency that the kingdom of darkness and falsehood received its principal support. And when heathenism shall become bereaved of this satanical support, then will the eyes of the blind world be opened, and men will be astonished how they could have adhered for thousands of years to a mere nonentity, and will come from the east and the west to worship the Lord in Zion.
The idol at Ekron and his oracle was the first remedy that the sick king at Samaria could think of. He assembled his servants about him, and proceeded by their means to an act of impiety as great as could well be committed in Israel. “Go," said he, openly and shamelessly, “ inquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover of this disease.” Conduct such as this of Ahaziah cannot outwardly be imitated by ourselves, because gross idolatry has long ceased to exist in this part of the globe, and the polite world is too enlightened to consult the devil in person, having long held Satan and hell to be merely the puerile notions of antiquity. Yet after all, we find, upon closer inspection, that even our own philosophic age is full of that heathen leaven, though it is now moulded into a more refined form; and experience shows that disbelief of the 6 word of prophecy” only leads into new superstition. It is true, the presentiment of an invisible world, and the necessity of entering it, is indelibly impressed upon the human mind. But those who scorn to submit this feeling to the rule of Scripture, and to seek satisfaction in the divinely revealed record, are sure to sink under the dominion of darkness and imposture. As a counterpart to the oracle at Ekron and Endor, we have, in the present day, visionaries and somnambu
instead of the Delphic tripod and the Dodonian oak, we have pretended prophets and fortune-tellers, whose numbers are greater amongst the people than is generally supposed; and it we are above believing these, still we have our forebodings, our presentiments, and our dreams, of which many are apt to make
as much as of the Divine oracles. The place of the ancient heathen mysteries is occupied by a multitude of secret associations, in whose mystic. obscurities thousands seek those disclosures which they refuse to accept from the hand of the living God; and though they can smile with scorn at the magicians of antiquity, they do not think it beneath them to have recourse to amulets and charms, to which popular belief ascribe mysterious powers; or to endeavour to cure diseases by what are called sympathetic remedies. But suppose we are free from such superstitions, still when we hear a mother entreating the physician to save her child, and when, upon any one referring to the blessing of God for success, offence is taken at this reference, is not this the same spirit as we see in Ahaziah? Is not this a running after idols, an idolatry of means? Yet how common is this amongst us! How many are there, who have never seriously thought of applying to the God of Israel, and who seem to know of no other God in their necessities and embarrassments, except the creature—dust and ashes ! But woe unto those who give to idols the glory which belongs to God alone! That the Lord does not regard such conduct with indifference, the sequel of this narrative will teach us.
II. What then became of Ahaziah ? He sent to Ekron, to inquire of Baal-zebub; but instead of the lying voice of the idol, he hears the awful words of the living God. The angel of Jehovah directs Elijah the Tishbite to “
go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and to say unto them, Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that ye go to inquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron ? Now therefore thus saith the Lord, Thou shalt not come down from that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die.” It is Christ, the Angel Jehovah, who spoke thus to Elijah. Why it was he, is not difficult to understand. Jehovah Immanuel had the greatest cause for being displeased at Ahaziah's impiety! He had done every thing to gain the hearts of men, and to lead them to the most entire confidence in himself. During a series of ages
he had visited his people Israel with manifestations of the most condescending kindness and love. Even in the times of the patriarchs, he had shown how his “ delights were with the sons of men,” and how ready he was to assist them with his counsel in all their affairs; not only with means ordained by himself, but even without means upon many and various occasions. He had revealed himself as
a very present help,” to those who sincerely sought him; and had shown his loving-kindness in