CHAPTER 18. —SOLOMON
Solomon naturally engages our attention after David. There is comparatively little in the life of Solomon that bears upon the ways of providence so far as that striking enunciation and illustration of them is concerned which it is the object of these chapters to elucidate. There is actual providence or divine intro-natural working in his case in fact; but his case as a whole is not remarkable for the obvious exemplification of it. There are just one or two points, and at these we will look.
First, there is his own recognition of the ways of providence throughout the prayer in which he opened the temple for the purpose for which it was built (1 Kings 8). He supposes the case of Israel being “smitten down before the enemy,” and admits that such an eventuality would be “because they had sinned against him (Jehovah)” (verse 33). Now the triumph of the enemy would proximately be a natural affair; but Solomon allows that God would participate in the event by allowing it, in punishment of the sins of His people. He supposes also the withholding of the rain for a similar reason (verse 35); and therefore teaches that nature’s operations may be so affected by the divine volition as to become a direct expression of His mind towards those affected. He anticipates the prayers that would be addressed towards the temple of Jehovah’s dwelling in their midst, and requests that by whomsoever presented, whether by one man or all the people, or by the stranger from a far country, Jehovah would “hear and forgive, and DO according to all that the stranger calleth to thee for, and give to every man according to his ways,” “knowing, as He only knows, the hearts of all the children of men” (verse 39). In this he recognises the providential dealings of God with men, in the ordinary occurrences of life. He supposes the case of Israel going out to battle against their enemies, the prayer that Jehovah would “maintain their cause” indicating a recognition of the principle that God may incline the scale of natural events without appearing to do so and lead to issues that would not otherwise come.
There is doubtless a great deal of misapplication of these principles in our times. Two countries at war may each ostentatiously invoke the divine blessing and help, when probably both are beyond the sphere of His recognition. Events in private life may be loudly trumpeted as “providential” which God has not affected at all, but which are natural juxtapositions of fortuitous occurrence Nevertheless, there is a providential control, though all circumstances are not controlled. We must not be scared or discouraged out of a recognition of the true by vast mass of the spurious. Where God is feared, His promises believed and His Commandments obeyed, there is a providence at work, shaping natural circumstances, to give them an appointed issue for good though the road travelled may be apparently evil.
“The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous: His ears are open to their cry.”
Next there is the answer that was given to Solomon’s prayer and the conclusions involved in the statements made when considered in the light of the events to which they referred:
“I have heard thy prayer and thy supplication that thou hast made before Me. I have hallowed this house which thou hast built . . . If ye shall at all turn from following Me, ye or your children, and will not keep my commandments . . . then will I cut off Israel out of the land which I have given them, and this house which I have hallowed for My name, will I cast out of My sight. . . . And they shall say, Why hath the Lord done this unto this land and to this house? And they shall answer, Because they forsook the Lord their God, . . . . therefore hath the Lord brought upon them all this evil” (1 Kings 9: 3-9).
The points in this declaration are obvious. In case of disobedience, the overthrow of Israel, the rejection of the temple the subjection of the nation to evil, were all to be the work of God. Jehovah himself declares this. Apart from the history of the matter, we should have concluded that there was to be a miraculous interposition; that Jehovah would openly and manifestly destroy Israel as He did the Sodomites; or overthrow the temple as He did the god Dagon; or subject them directly to evil as he did the Egyptians in the ten plagues.
The history of the matter shows us the employment of a perfectly natural agency, in which there was nothing apparently divine at all. First one, and then another Gentile neighbour invaded and devastated the land with the objects common to all invaders. Take Sennacherib for example. He came “up against all the defenced cities of Judah and took them” (Isaiah 36: 1). He then set his face towards Jerusalem in which Hezekiah fortified himself in sorrow and apprehension. He heard that Hezekiah trusted to God to deliver him out of the hands of Sennacherib. He then sent this defiant message:
“Let not thy God in whom thou trustest deceive thee . . . Behold, thou hast heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands by DESTROYING THEM UTTERLY, and shalt thou be delivered?” (Isaiah 37: 10).
It was true, the Assyrians had prevailed by military prowess in a wonderful manner, as the Romans did after them: but what is the fact that transpires concerning this? That they were divinely used and strengthened as the instrument of divine purposes. So Jehovah himself declares:
“I BROUGHT IT TO PASS that thou shouldest be to lay waste defenced cities into ruinous heaps. Therefore their inhabitants were of small power: they were dismayed and confounded” (verses 26-27).
Did Sennacherib therefore know Jehovah, because he was divinely appointed? On the contrary, Jehovah here declares—
“By thy servants thou hast reproached the Lord. . . . I know thy rage against Me.”
He speaks of him as an axe or saw exalting itself against the man using it (Isaiah 10: 15), and decrees His purpose against him thus:
“It shall come to pass when the Lord hath performed His whole work upon Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks. The Lord of Hosts shall send among his fat ones leanness, and under his glory He shall kindle a burning like the burning of a fire” (verses 12-17).
So with Nebuchadnezzar, he acted from motives of ambition and lust of spoil and military glory: yet the fact on the inner side of it was this:
Israel “mocked the messengers of God and despised His words, and misused His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people until there was no remedy. Therefore HE BROUGHT UPON THEM THE KING OF THE CHALDEES, who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion on young man or maiden, old man or him that stooped for age: He gave them all into his hand” (2 Chronicles 36: 16-17).
“Surely at the command of the Lord came this upon Judah, to remove them out of His sight” (2 Kings 24:3).
The most striking illustration of the ways of providence afforded by the case of Solomon is that occurring in connection with the close of his reign.
Solomon, we are told (1 Kings 11: 6-11) “did evil in the sight of the Lord and went not fully after the Lord as did David his father . . . Wherefore the Lord said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee and thou hast not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee and will give it to thy servant.”
Here is a plain intimation of a divine work to be done, calculated to excite the expectation of direct and visible interference. When we consider the mode in which the purpose was carried out, we see, as in other cases, a process apparently all natural. Solomon dies: the tribes assemble to appoint his son Rehoboam king in his stead. Before proceeding to the ceremony, they petition the heir-expectant for some mitigation of the burdens which Solomon had imposed upon them in the latter days of his reign. Rehoboam, unable to make up his mind of himself what answer to give, asked advice of those around him: first of the old men who had formed Solomon’s court, and then of the young men brought up with him. By the former he was advised to answer amicably and give in to the wishes of the people. But by the counsel of the others, he adopted a tyrannical tone and sent the people away with a rebuff. What was the result? It was a perfectly natural one.
“When all Israel saw that the king hearkened not unto them, . . . Israel rebelled against the house of David” (1 Kings 12: 16-19).
What caused the effect? The king’s impolitic speech. What caused the speech? The answer is this:
“The king hearkened not unto the people, for the cause was from the Lord that He might perform His saying which He spake by Ahijah the Shilonite” (verse 15).
This is not merely the opinion of the instrumental writer of Kings: it is the view avowed by Jehovah Himself under circumstances leaving no mistake as to its meaning. Rehoboam gathered an army from Judah and Benjamin, to force the ten tribes back to their allegiance.
“But the word of the Lord came to Shemaiah, the man of God, saying, Speak unto Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and to all Israel in Judah and Benjamin, saying, Thus saith the Lord, ye shall not go up nor fight against your brethren: return every man to his house: FOR THIS THING IS DONE OF ME” (2 Chronicles 11: 1-4).
Here, then, we have the cause of a divine work being carried out by a direct causation of which the subject was perfectly unaware. Rehoboam acted under advice that he felt to be agreeable: yet the agreeableness of that advice and the hearty effect he gave to it in the speech addressed to the people, were due to a divine predisposition of which he was unconscious.
We have also to notice that before Solomon actually passed off the scene, a variety of enemies were astir with plots against him. Hadad, of the seed royal of Edom, an exile in David’s days, returned to his country from Egypt and exerted himself in hostility against Solomon, who maintained the jurisdiction established by David his father, over Edom. Rezon, a courtier of the dethroned king of Zobah, “gathered men unto him and became captain over a band, . . . and he was an adversary to Israel all the days of Solomon, besides the mischief that Hadad did, and he abhorred Israel and reigned over Syria.” Also Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, Solomon’s servant, “even he lifted up his hand against the king.” Concerning these, we are informed (1 Kings 11) that the Lord “stirred” them up. The statement is an illustration of the subject in hand. The men themselves were not aware that the Lord “stirred them up.” They simply found themselves the subject of a propensity to be active and enterprising in the promotion of their own interest in antagonism to Solomon. They were instruments in the hands of God for the punishment of Solomon.
The application of all these cases to our own times will be obvious. God has not changed. He has not abandoned the earth. By the hand of the Lord Jesus and the angels, He is working out a work in it, both as regards nations and individuals, Jews and Gentiles. It matters not that we cannot see the divine hand in visible operation. The fact is attested in too many ways to admit of doubt. The fact is consoling in private life, to such as fear God and commit their way to Him; common occurrences may be the Lord’s hand leading and guiding to an appointed end, for blessing or punishment as His unerring wisdom sees fit; while as regards political occurrences, we are enabled to feel that they are no empty words that are written in Daniel 4: 17:
“The Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will, and sitteth up over it the basest of men.”
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