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25. A Frivolous Exercise
And as thy servant was busy here and there, he was gone. And the king of Israel said unto him,
So shall thy judgment be; thyself hast decided it. I Kings 20:40
A man must be hard run indeed when he cannot forge an excuse. This is a very common one for the loss of the soul: "I was very busy, and had no time to attend to religion." They say, "a bad excuse is better than none:" this is very questionable. Here is an excuse which condemned the man who made it. The man in the prophet's story was ordered to keep a prisoner, and it became his first duty to do so; but he preferred to follow out his own wishes, and attend to his private concerns, and so the prisoner "was gone." It is clear that he had power to have attended to the king's business, for he attended to his own. His excuse was a confession that he was willfully disobedient.
I. IT IS AN EXCUSE WHICH SOME CANNOT USE.
1. They have but little to occupy them. They are noblemen, or ladies with no occupation, or persons of large leisure, or invalids who can do nothing for a livelihood, and therefore have ample time for reflection and reading.
II. IT IS AN EXCUSE WHICH IS NOT VALID.
2. They have done all their hard work, and are retired upon their savings, and find it hard to pass their time.
3. They are never busy, for they are idlers whom nothing could provoke to industry. They kill time.
1. There was no absolute need to be so busy. Many people make slaves of themselves with a view to gain, when they could earn enough for their needs, and yet have abundant leisure to care for their souls.
III. IT IS AN EXCUSE WHICH ACCUSES THE PERSON WHO MAKES IT.
2. To have believed in the Lord would have lessened the needful care of life, and so the pressure of business would have been lightened. The fact is that no man can afford to neglect his soul, for thus he hinders his own life-work.
3. You find time for other necessaries,-to eat, drink, dress, converse, and sleep. And have you no time to feed your soul, to drink the living water, to put on the robe of righteousness, to talk with God, and to find rest in Christ?
4. You have time for diversion. Think of the many hours wasted in idle chat, unprofitable reading, or worse. If offered a holiday, or an evening's entertainment, you make time if you cannot find it. You have, then, time for weightier matters.
5. You find time for judging others, questioning great truths, spying out difficulties, and quibbling over trifles. Have you no time for self-examination, study of the word, and seeking, the Lord? Of course you have; where is it?
1. You have enjoyed many mercies in your daily work, for you have been able to attend to your business; should not these have won your gratitude?
IV. IT IS AN EXCUSE WHICH WILL WOUND THE MEMORY OF SOME.
2. You have seen many trials while busy here and there; why did they not lead you to God?
3. You have abilities for business; and these should have been used for God. Did he not give them to you? Why expend them on your own selfish money-getting?
V. IT IS AN EXCUSE WHICH CANNOT RESTORE THE LOSS.
- To have worked hard for nothing: to live hard, and lie hard, and yet to fail, and die poor at last, will be sad.
- To have to leave all when you have succeeded in accumulating wealth will be wretched work. Yet so it must be.
- If you have lost the time, you certainly had it entrusted to you, and you will be called to account for it: but you cannot regain it, nor make up for its loss .
- How wretched to have spent a life in idly traveling, collecting shells, reading novels, etc., and to have therefore left no space for serving God, and knowing the Redeemer!
- Men do worse than this: they sin, they lead others to sin, they invent ways of killing time, and then say they have no time.
- They give their minds to skeptical thought, to propagating atheism, undermining Scripture, or arguing against the gospel, and yet have no time to believe and live!
- Call to the young to use time while time is theirs.
- Call to the aged to spend the remnant of their days well.
- Call to Christians to look well to their children's souls, lest they slip from under their influence while they are busy here and there.
- Call to experienced believers to see to their own joy in the Lord, lest they lose it in the throng.
In London, such is the hum of business, that the great clock of St. Paul's may strike many times and not be heard. God speaks often, and men hear him not because other voices deafen them. A great earthquake happened when two armies were in the heat of battle, and none of the combatants knew of it. Preoccupation of mind will prevent the most solemn things from having due weight with us.
Nero, when Rome was famishing, sent ships to Alexandria, not to bring corn for the starving people, but to fetch sand for the arena. He fiddled while Rome was burning Are not many thus cruel to themselves? Are they not spending, on fleeting merriments, precious hours, which should be used in seeking after pleasures for evermore?
Whatever negligence may creep into your studies, or into your pursuits of pleasure or of business, let there be one point, at least, on which you are always watchful, always alive: I mean, in the performance of your religious duties. Let nothing induce you, even for a day, to neglect the perusal of Scripture. You know the value of prayer; it is precious beyond all price. Never, never neglect it. Buxton to his Son
King Henry the Fourth asked the Duke of Alva if he had observed the great eclipse of the sun which had lately happened. "No," said the Duke, "I have so much to do on earth, that I have no leisure to look up to heaven." Ah, that this were not true of professors in these days! It is sad to think how their hearts and time are so taken up with earthly things, that they have no leisure to look after Christ and the things that belong to their everlasting peace. Thomas Brooks
A treatise on the excellence and dignity of the soul, by Claude, Bishop of Toul, ends thus: "I have but one soul, and I will value it."
Heaven's on their wing: a moment we may wish,
When worlds want wealth to buy.
Grotius, the historian, cried in death, "Ah, I have consumed my life in a laborious doing of nothing. I would give all my learning and honor for the plain integrity of John Urick" (a poor man of eminent piety).
A dying nobleman exclaimed, "Good God, how have I employed myself! In what delirium has my life been passed! What have I been doing while the sun in its race, and the stars in their courses, have lent their beams, perhaps only to light me to perdition! I have pursued shadows, and entertained myself with dreams. I have been treasuring up dust, and sporting myself with the wind. I might have grazed with the beasts of the field, or sung with the birds of the woods, to much better purpose than any for which I have lived."
Charles Hadden Spurgeon
26. Where Is the God of Elijah?
And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters, and said, Where is the Lord God of Elijah? II Kings 2:14
The great object to be desired is God, Jehovah, Elijah's God. With him all things flourish. His absence is our decline and death. Those entering on any holy work should seek for the God who was with their predecessors. What a mercy that the God of Elijah is also the God of Elisha! He will also be with us, for "this God is our God, for ever and ever, he will be our guide even unto death" (Ps. 48:14).
In great difficulties no name will help but that of God. How else can Jordan be divided but by Jehovah, God of Elijah?
Elisha sought first for the Lord, and inquired, "Where is he?" Elijah was gone, and he did not seek him, but his God.
He used Elijah's old mantle, and did not invent novelties; desiring to have the aid of the same God, he was content to wear the mantle of his predecessor. The true is not new.
Still we do not need antiquities from the past, nor novelties of the present, nor marvels for the future; we only want the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and we shall then see among us wonders equal to those of Elijah's age. "Where is the Lord God of Elijah?" The old mantle, used with faith in the same God, parted the waters hither and thither. The power is where it used to be.
I. THE QUESTION TURNED INTO PRAYER. It is as though he cried, "O thou, who wast with Elijah, be thou also with me!" At this day our one need is Elijah's God.
1. The God who kept him faithful must make us stand firm should we be left alone in the truth (1 Cor. 1:8).
II. THE QUESTION ANSWERED. The Lord God of Elijah is not dead, nor sleeping, nor on a journey.
2. The God who heard his prayer must give us also the effectual in-wrought prayer of the righteous man (James 5:16).
3. The God who provided for him at Cherith and Zarephath, and in the wilderness, must also supply all our needs (Ps. 23:1).
4. The God who raised the dead by him must cause us to bring men up from their death in sin (1 Kings 17:22).
5. The God who answered by fire must put life, energy, and enthusiasm into our hearts (I Kings 18:38).
6. The God who gave him food for a long journey must fit us for the pilgrimage of life, and preserve us to the end (1 Kings 19:8).
7. The God who gave him courage to face kings must also make us very bold, so as to be free from the fear of man (1 Kings 21:20).
8. The God who divided Jordan for the prophet will not fail us when we are crossing into our Canaan (2 Kings 2:8).
9. The God who took him away in a chariot of fire will send a convoy of angels, and we shall enter into glory.
1. He is still in heaven regarding his own reserved ones. They may be hidden in caves, but the Lord knoweth them that are his.
2. He is still to be moved by prayer to bless a thirsty land.
3. He is still able to keep us faithful in the midst of a faithless generation, so that we shall not bow the knee to Baal.
4. He is still in the still small voice. Quietly he speaks to reverent minds: by calm and brave spirits he is achieving his purposes.
5. He is still reigning in providence to overturn oppressors (1 Kings 21:18-19), to preserve his own servants (2 Kings 1:10), and to secure a succession of faithful men (1 Kings 19:16).
6. He is coming in vengeance. Hear ye not his chariot-wheels? He will bear away his people, but, sorely, O ye unbelievers! shall ye rue the day wherein ye cried in scorn, "Where is the Lord God of Elijah?"
- Oh, to be so engaged that we can court the presence of God!
- Oh, to be so consecrated that we may expect his benediction!
- Oh, to have that presence, so as to be girded with his strength!
- Oh, to live so as never more to ask this question!
"God of Queen Clotilda," cried out the infidel Clovis I of France, when in trouble on the field of battle,"God of Queen Clotilda! grant me the victory!" Why did he not call upon his own god? Saunderson, who was a great admirer of Sir Isaac Newton's talents, and who made light of his religion in health, was, nevertheless, heard to say in dismal accents on a dying-bed,"God of Sir Isaac Newton, have mercy on me!" Why this changing of gods in a dying hour? "Addresses to Young Men," by Rev. Daniel Baker
1. The God of Elijah gave him the sweet experience of keeping warm and lively in a very cold and dead generation; so that he was best when others were worst .... But where is the Lord God of Elijah in these dregs of time, wherein professors generally are carried away, with the stream of impiety, from all their liveliness and tenderness that aforetime have been among them, when the more wickedness set. up its head, the more piety is made to hide its head? It is a sad evidence that God is gone from us, when the standard of wickedness makes advances, and that of shining holiness is retreating, and can hardly get hands to hold it up.
2. The God of Elijah gave him the sweet experience of the power of prayer (James 5:17). But where is the God of Elijah, while the trade with heaven by prayer is so very low? Alas, for the dead, cold, and flat prayers that come from the lips of professors at this day, so weak and languishing that they cannot reach heaven!
3. The God of Elijah gave him the experience of the sweet fruits of dependence on the Lord, and of a little going far, with his blessing (I Kings 17:16). But where is the God of Elijah at this day, when what we have seems to be blown upon, that it goes in effect for nothing? Our table is plentifully covered, yet our souls are starved; our goodness sometimes looks as a morning cloud, it blackens the face of the heavens, and promises a heavy shower, but quickly proves as a little cloud, like unto a man's hand, which is ready to go for nothing; yea, this generation is blinded by the means that have a natural tendency to give light. Ah! "Where is the Lord God of Elijah?"
4. The God of Elijah gave him the experience of a gracious boldness to face the most daring wickedness of the generation he lived in, though it was one of the worst. This eminently appeared in his encounter with Ahab (1 Kings 18:1). But where is the God of Elijah now, while the iniquities of our day meet with such faint resistance, while a brave brow for the cause of God, a tongue to speak for him, and a heart to act, are so much wanting? The wicked of the world, though they have an ill cause in hand, yet they pursue it boldly; but, alas! the people of God shame their honest cause by their cowardice and faint appearing in it. If God give us not another spirit, more fitted for such a day, we shall betray our trust, and bring the curse of the succeeding generation on us.
5. The God of Elijah gave him the experience of a glorious and powerful manifestation of himself, in a solemn ordinance, even at the sacrifice on Mount Carmel, which was ushered in with the spirit of prayer in Elijah (1 Kings 18:37-39). But where is the God of Elijah, when so little of the Spirit's influences is found in ordinances, even solemn ordinances? Here is the mantle, but where is the God of Elijah? Here are the grave-clothes, in which sometimes the Lord was wrapt up, but where is he himself Communion-days have sometimes been glorious days in, Scotland, and sometimes the gospel hath done much good, so that ministers have had almost as much to do to heal broken hearts as now to get hard hearts broken; but where now is the God of Elijah?
6. The God of Elijah gave him the experience of being enabled to go far upon a meal (1 Kings 19:8). But where now are such experiences, while there is so little strength in the spiritual meals to which we now sit down? This is a time wherein there is much need of such an experience; the Lord seems to be saying to his people, "Rise and eat, for the journey is long"; and what a hard journey some may have, ere they get another meal, who knows? Oh, for more feeding power in the doctrine preached among us!
7. The God of Elijah gave him the experience of the Lord's removing difficulties out of his way, when he himself could do nothing at them: Jordan divided. So Peter had the iron gate opened to him of its own accord: for when the Lord takes the work in hand, were it never so desperate as to us, it will succeed well with him. Sure we have need of this experience this day. How is the case of many souls so embarrassed at this day that they cannot extricate themselves, by reason of long and continued departures from God, so that all they can do is that they are fleeing and going backward! Ah! where is the God of Elijah, to dry up those devouring deeps? Enemies have surrounded the church, and brought her to the brow of the hill, ready to cast her over; where is the God of Elijah, to make a way for her escape? Thomas Boston
Charles Hadden Spurgeon
27. Eyes Opened
And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha. II Kings 6:17
Faith serves the believer for eyes, and makes him see what others cannot. This keeps the man himself quiet and calm, and enables him to check the fears of those who cry, "Alas, my master! how shall we do" (verse 15)?
From this narrative we learn how much may be about us, and yet it may be invisible to the natural eye. We shall use it to teach:
I. THAT THE NATURAL EYE IS BLIND TO HEAVENLY THINGS.
II. THAT GOD ALONE CAN OPEN MAN'S EYES.
- God is everywhere; yet sin-blinded eyes see him not.
- His law touches the thoughts and intents of the heart; yet its wonderful spiritual meaning is not perceived.
- Men themselves are evil, guilty, fallen; yet they see not their own wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores'.
- Their danger is imminent; yet they sport on, blindly dancing at hell's mouth. There is a man at Brighton who wears a placard about his neck, on which are these words, "I am quite blind." This might suit such foolish ones.
- Jesus is near, and ready to help; but their eyes are holden so that they know not that it is Jesus. He is altogether lovely, and desirable, the sun of the soul, yet is he altogether unknown.
- This want of spiritual discernment makes man ignoble. Samson blinded is a sorry spectacle: from a judge in Israel he sinks to a slave in Philistia.
- This keeps a man content with the world: he does not see how poor a thing it is, for which he sweats, and smarts, and sins, and sacrifices heaven.
- This causes many men to pursue the monotonous task of avarice; never more aspiring after better things, but pursuing the dreary round of incessant moil and toil, as blind horses go round and round the mill.
- This makes men proud. They think they know all things because they see so little of what can be known.
- This places men in danger. "If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch" (Matt. 15:14).
- We can lead the blind, but we cannot make them see; we can put truth before them, but we cannot open their eyes; that work remains with God alone.
- Some use artificial eyes, others try spectacles, telescopes, colored glasses, etc., but all in vain, while the eyes are blind. The cure is of the Lord alone.
1. To give sight is the same wonder as creation. Who can make an eye? In the sinner the faculty of spiritual vision is gone.
2. The man is born blind. His darkness is part of himself. "Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind" (John 9:32).
3. The man is willfully blind. None so blind as those who will not see. "The blind people that have eyes" (Isa. 43:8).
4. Opening of the eyes is set down as a covenant blessing. The Lord has given his Son "for a covenant of the people, to open the blind eyes" (Isa. 42:6-7).
Satan counterfeited this in the garden when he said, "Your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods" (Gen. 3:5).
III. THAT WE MAY PRAY HIM TO OPEN MEN'S EYES. We ought to cry, "Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see."
1. When we see sinners in trouble it is a hopeful sign, and we should pray for them with double importunity (Isa. 26:2).
IV. THAT GOD DOES OPEN MEN'S EYES.
2. When we hear them inquiring, we should inquire of the Lord for them. Their prayer should call up ours.
3. When we ourselves see much, we should see for them.
4. When their blindness astonishes us, it should drive us to our knees.
5 The prayers of others availed for us, and therefore we ought to repay the blessing to the prayer-treasury of the church.
6. It will glorify God to open their eyes; let us pray with great expectancy, believing that he will honor his Son.
l. He has done it in a moment. Notice the many miracles performed by our Lord on blind men.
V. THAT EVEN THOSE WHO SEE NEED MORE SIGHT. Elisha's young man could see; yet he had his eyes more fully opened.
2. He specially opens the eyes of the young. "The Lord opened the eyes of the young man." See the text.
3. He can open your eyes. Many are the forms of blindness, but they are all comprehended in that grand statement, "The Lord openeth the eyes of the blind" (Ps. 146:8).
4. He can in an instant cause you to see his grace in its all-sufficiency and nearness. Hagar and the well (Gen. 21:19).
1. In the Scriptures more is to be seen. "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law" (Ps. 119:18).
2. In the great doctrines of the gospel there is much latent light.
3. In Providence there are great marvels. To see God's hand in everything is a great attainment, specially glorifying to his name (Ps. 107:24).
4. In self, sin, Satan, etc., there are depths which it were well for us to see. May we be men with our eyes opened.
5. In Christ Jesus himself there are hidden glories. "Sir, we would see Jesus" (John 12:21; Heb. 2:9).
Have you spiritual sight? Then behold angels and spiritual things.
Better still behold your Lord!
One of the saddest conditions of a human creature is to read God's word with a veil upon the heart, to pass blindfolded through all the wondrous testimonies of redeeming love and grace which the Scriptures contain. And it is sad, also, if not actually censurable, to pass blindfolded through the works of God, to live in a world of flowers, and stars, and sunsets, and a thousand glorious objects of nature, and never to have a passing interest awakened by any of them. Dean Goulbourn
A lady once said to Turner, when he was painting: "Why do you put such extravagant colors into your pictures? I never see anything like them in nature." "Don't you wish you did, madam?" said he. It was a sufficient answer. He saw them, if she did not. So believers, like the prophet, see many divine wonders which worldlings cannot perceive.
If his word once teach us, shoot a ray
Through all the heart's dark chambers, and reveal
Truths undiscerned but by that holy light,
Then all is plain. Cowper
The dying prayer of William Tyndale, the martyr, uttered "with a fervent zeal and a loud voice;' was this: "Lord open the king of England's eyes!"
Charles Hadden Spurgeon