Where Shall I Turn?
In 2 Kings, the first chapter, we find the story of a king in trouble and God’s dealing with him because he turned to an idol, “The God of Flies,” in his distress. First of all, let us look at this great truth: namely, in an hour of trouble there is a splendid chance to see the working of the right arm of God. If we throw away these chances by turning to help outside of God we lose the key to a door that would have opened into God’s treasure house.
The account in 2 Kings says Ahaziah the king “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 and enquire of Baal-zebub the God of Ekron whether I shall recover of this disease.” Think of the open door to which this king had the key in such an evil hour as this. He sends to enquire of the oracle of the idol god of the Philistines at Ekron instead of seeking the living God of the Jews, the God whom he had ample reason to know was all sufficient. Was he not the eighth king of Israel? Was God not still the God of Jacob; the wonder working God? Here was a chance for him to prove God and find that always “underneath are the everlasting arms.” God has said that wherever there is trouble He has something not as big as the trouble—no, not as big—bigger. He does not say that where sin abounded there was as much grace as there was sin, but He says this in Romans 5:20: “But where sin aboundeth, grace did much more abound.”
God’s “Much More”
There’s a fortune in that “much more” of God’s Word. This king could have had it. Just think of these two words in connection with our salvation through Jesus Christ. Adam was wonderfully made and given an ideal earthly home. He fell, we are fallen in sin, but the redemption in Jesus Christ does not restore us to what Adam was before he fell, but oh bless God! “much more.” Romans 8:16–17 tells us “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God, and, if children, their heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.” You see, it is as if a common deckhand fell off the great ocean liner into the foaming sea. The rescue party goes fast to work and before long the deckhand stands on his feet, the crowd gathered around him. He has been unconscious. He feels his clothes, and they have been changed. He feels his head, but a new brass cord trimmed cap is upon it. The deckhands who were his fellows stand to salute him, and in astonishment he asks why. The captain comes to him and calls him mate and the vessel rolls on while he assumes his place of authority next to the captain of the ship. He fell off a deckhand, he is rescued a mate. This is the way grace works. This is the “much more” abounding of grace in Jesus.
Failure Or Victory?
There is a wondrous “much more” in the cross of Christ. He took our sin, our death, and we take back not what Adam lost, but the likeness of Jesus. Oh, bless God for the “much more.” See it in Colossians 3:3–4: “For we are dead and our life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life shall appear then shall ye also appear with Him in glory.” You see, the catastrophe of the fall gave God’s grace a chance to provide a wondrous everlasting Christ-likeness redemption.
This old King Ahaziah’s fall, God would have gladly used as a chance to show great power. Sickness would have been changed to health and God would have given him victory over the rebelling Moabites, but he turns to “the God of Flies.” When a man turns away from God he’ll turn to most anything. Poor old King Saul even turned to the miserable old witch of Endor, so beclouded in his crooked mind that he supposed a witch can command the respect of a prophet. God allows Samuel to appear before Saul long enough to proclaim his doom: it is not the witch who does the business. And here in Ahaziah’s case God let His ragged prophet intercept the messengers on the way to the oracle of Ekron long enough to pronounce the doom of the sick king. His words are: “Now therefore thus saith the Lord, thou shalt not come down from that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die.” There is nothing but death outside of the crucified and risen Jesus. “No man cometh to the Father but by Me” are the very words of Christ in John 14:6.
Then King Ahaziah turned to the god of Ekron. He was certainly sin blinded, for God had proven in that very town that the living God was God. A horrible plague had broken out on the Philistines in Ashdod because they had captured the ark and held it. They brought it into their heathen temple and set it up by their god Dagon and in the morning the old idol had fallen on his face before God’s ark, and the next morning the same thing had happened, only the stump was left for the head and the palms had been cut off, and the hand of the Lord was heavy in plague in the city. Then the men cried out for help and asked how to get rid of the ark. They took it to the city of Ekron, where was this god of Baal-zebub, and the whole city was afflicted, as the record says in 1 Samuel 6:11, “for there was a deadly destruction throughout all the city.” There was no relief until God’s ark was drawn away on a new cart by milk cows. Now this foolish King Ahaziah is sending back to this very town where God had sent great disease to the secret parts of this people because of their wicked, lustful, licentious worship of such parts before their idol. Surely the words in 2 Peter 21 and 22 come with force to us as we see this wicked king of God’s chosen people turning to this awful idol. Here are Peter’s words: “For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb. The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.” Oh, how terrible is sin! How woeful its blindness!
A Few Questions
Elijah asks a question of the messengers before he pronounces the doom of the king, like a judge on the bench, who gives the rebuke before the sentence: “Is it because there is not a God in Israel that ye go to enquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron?”
I would like to ask some questions of you who are on your way bowing down to the god of this world and your flesh; your little idol of self-desires: Do you worship self because there is no power in Jesus to break the strong fetters of sinful desires? Do you know He could break them if you would let Him put His power upon them?
Do you draw back from Jesus and cling to your sin because Jesus’ blood has lost its power to wash you whiter than snow? No. You know that He says from Isaiah’s cleansed lips, the 1st chapter, 18th verse: “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
Do you refuse to come to Him because His promises are not good? You know perfectly well you never trusted one of them that failed. God is true to His word. Jesus says in Luke 21:33: “Heaven and earth shallpass away but my words shall notpass away.” Do you refuse to call upon God because He will not hear you? No! You know He will hear you. You know He will be true to His promise in Jeremiah 33:3: “Call unto Me and I will answer thee and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.”
The old king sees the messengers returning and asks quickly for a reason and they tell him straight out what Elijah had to say from the Lord. The words of doom echo through the air. Oh, I tell you, man knows he is guilty before God. All you have to do is sound God’s notes of doom and they will all turn pale. I know they’ll turn their heads quickly and hide their feelings and start in to bluff and lie, but they, the doom notes, have struck home and they scratch around in an awful hurry for a good argument or an excuse. The very motive behind the intense argument against hell these days is the feeling of guilt. If hell was as absurd as folks are saying it is today they wouldn’t waste their time talking about it. But all this howl and holler and dust in the air argument over hell only show to me more as the days go by that in the secret guilty chambers of the human heart the bells of doom are rung, the hammer strokes for the gallows can be heard and this argument is only the putting of the fingers in the ears to ward off the clanging out of the wages of sin.
“He Sees Man,” Not The Message
The old king doesn’t pull out an argument here, because there is no one to argue with. But he does the thing that sinners since Cain and Abel’s time have done. He tries to discredit the messenger of doom and bluff himself into some kind of idea that he has gotten rid of the message. No, sir. Hear me, Cain could put Abel to death even, and say all he wanted to say against Abel, but it didn’t change the fact a bit that clean blood was the only way to God. It did make Cain’s offering of his best effort more acceptable than a sin offering to God. No, sir. Good corn and good wheat and all the best that a man can do cannot take the place in God’s eyes of His Son on the cross, which He asks us to accept and in faith present to Him as our sin offering. This old king could not change Elijah’s method by having the messengers call off the facts about Elijah’s looks: that he was a rough old hairy fellow, with no style or finish, just girt about with an old leather girdle.
Up To Date
Believe me, Elijah was behind time in style, but he was up to date in the latest news from glory, and he had just delivered his latest wireless from God’s throne and God would it good even if Elijah wasn’t much for looks and refined speech and clothes.
Oh! How we need a crowd of preachers today to shoot the truth straight out, whether people like it or not—rough-shod—straight from God into the sissy, ease-loving, amusement-chasing, idol-hunting crowd of our day. The one mark of our day is that the so-called church crowd of our day love refined language, dress and looks in a preacher better than they love the straight truth from God’s Word. If I bring some of my friends, who have tasted of the heavenly gift, have gripped God through the blood, and know what the truth is and how to rightly divide the words of truth and present them to some of these churches looking for a preacher, the first thing they will talk about is his personality, then his language, and last of all the truth that he brings.
Oh! Awful age in which we live! You have sealed your doom. You have turned down some of God’s sanctified preachers, filled with the Holy Ghost and with fire for a mollycoddle trimmed to suit your fancy, with oil on his tongue to smooth over your sin; with a good actor’s looks and bearing and an actor in deed and in truth. God has sent you rugged prophets without diplomas and with unvarnished speech. They have come with a big message, big enough for all man’s needs, but you turned them down and traded the rough man with a message for a smooth orator of culture without a message.
But this trading of men will not keep the message from being fulfilled just as God has stated it. Your preacher may not offend you with the preaching of hell, but that does not change the facts.
No “Sparks” In God’s Word
Your smooth paid mouthpiece may poetically speak of the “divine spark” within, but that does not change the words which Jesus uttered in Mark 7:21–23, “For from within out of the heart of men proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: all these evil things come from within and defile the man.” Jesus was tender but never had anything good to say about sin. God’s prophets call a spade a spade and give no quarter to sin and the devil; and pet no soul that pets sin. Rough, hairy, poorly clothed John and Elijah had nothing soft to say about sin, though either one would cry their heart out over a sinner that was tired and sick of sin. God has no message to a world-loving, amusement-seeking, sin-loving crowd, but the message of doom.
Ahaziah was king, but a king and sin and a beggar and sin are treated alike by God, and the high-brow crowd of our day with sin and the ignorant crowd with sin God treats alike. One way out of sin for all—Jesus only!
The message of doom did not stop the king’s ego from working overtime. He sends for the prophet who has gone to some hill or mountain to come down to him. The idea of this is to try to bluff the messenger into changing the message, but God knows how to take His messengers onto a high place from which they need not come down, though all the men of their time command them to leave their high ground. Oh! How the critics of our day would like to take Moses from Sinai. How they would love to prove that such a thing never happened as Moses talking with God. Beware, do not pull that veil from Moses’ face which the people asked him to wear when he came from the presence of God, the brightness of so much reflected glory might blind you, poor, faithless critic. Isn’t it remarkable, though, to see the hours and days and months and years of effort these critics spend to take Moses from Sinai and how little time they spend trying to get on the mountain themselves and lead the people up with them?
Mt. Moriah and Carmel
They would like to tell us that Abraham went to Mt. Moriah with Isaac because he had suddenly changed his belief and turned to the cult of human sacrifice like the surrounding heathen. They would love to spoil God’s beautiful picture of Himself and His beloved Son in type going up to Mount Calvary to die for all the people. They would explain away as accident which prevented murder, the fact that a ram was caught in the nearby bushes.
There are idol-worshipping kings of education today who would love to drag Elijah from Mt. Carmel and laugh at the falling of the fire to lick up water and wood and sacrifice and stone.
But our God is still “A consuming fire.”
On! how the storms of unbelief and the battles of faith blast at Mt. Calvary. How the infidel sneers at that precious blood and scoffs at the idea of there being any merit in it. “Come down” were the very words used by the scoffers to Jesus as they wagged their heads while He hung there, held to the cross by the cruel nails: God’s Lamb “slain from the foundation of the world.” How they argue about the body which God allowed Mary to wrap about His only begotten Son and offer it to pay the wages of sin: death. Oh! Priceless flesh that bought so much! Oh! Sinless flesh that could meet heaven’s test and satisfy every claim of the broken law. Oh! Blessed broken body, they would pull you from Mt. Calvary. But God held you there until the last sweet words were said, “It is finished,” and we are free who take thee as our Savior. Like Elijah, who on that hill pulled fire down upon those who cried in the name of their wicked king, “come down,” Jesus will have in His hands at His coming all the judgments of God, and the consuming fire of God against the wicked kings of the earth who are crying “come down.”
God did not send the fire down when Elijah called for it to justify or protect Elijah. No. Sometimes God’s prophets have to take the stones and the death for the message they bring, but the “come down” yellers will get the fire from God. Oh, how men who profess to be Christians are yelling “come down” to the crowd who want to have a mountaintop experience. I fear for them. Let’s go up with the Elijahs, not pull them back to the faithless crowd. God sent fire here upon the arch representatives of backsliding blasphemers. They were on their way to the oracle of Ekron and now they come to command God’s prophet. It is blasphemy. It is belittling God, commanding the agent of God as if he were a servant of the king. The truth that God is God and there is none beside Him needs to have the fire fall to burn it in on a race of such awful wickedness. But do you think that those who today are calling Jesus from Mount Calvary will get by with any less fate? Nay. I tell you the fire of their consuming will be terrific, for in the age of light revealed by God’s own Son they have joined forces with the king of darkness to put out the only ray of light shining above the awful death which stares men in the face—death, the wages of sin, which Jesus paid.
The third captain coming before Elijah took the right place—“fell on his knees.” This is the place of a man when such a message of doom has reached his ears. It is not our place to contradict the message, but to go to our face before the God of holiness, against whom we have sinned by bowing down before the god of our own self-desires and giving our desires their way. This is our sin, God Word tells us. Isaiah 53:6: “We have turned every one to his own way(our idol) and the Lord hath laid on Him (Jesus) the iniquity of us all.” Why shouldn’t we go to our knees before Jesus, blessed Lover of our souls?
Yes, we have all taken our own way to our idol’s temple. And the message of doom comes across our path. Here it is—Romans 6:23: “The wages of sin is death.” And here is the path of hope and salvation leading to life: “But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” That is God’s red lantern swinging before the open bridge that goes into the river of death. How the four auto riders who were taken from the bottom of the river today would shout their thanks if last night some man had warned them with a red lantern and let them stop the machine before it plunged into the dark waters with its load of souls that must exist somewhere forever. Can’t you see how foolish you are tonight to push God’s red lantern message away and take your chances with death? See, Jesus is the bridge prepared by God across the river of death.
You must deal with this sin question. I don’t care if it does seem that there are other theories about sin. Turn to the living God from idols, and read Him in His own appointed way through Jesus on the cross. It is there He deals with the sin question.
Here is an illustration of the way folks act while sin is in the heart. My brother had a much swollen finger. He did all sorts of things to get rid of the pain. I tried to get him to let me look at it, but he said he couldn’t stand to have me hold it. I got a glimpse of it, however, and told him I saw that he had a splinter and that it was festered. He denied it and wouldn’t let me get near him for quite a while. Finally when the pain became terrific he gave me the chance to take my knife and go at it. I had to cut. I had to probe. But in a few minutes I had a big splinter on the end of the knife, and he had peace in five minutes. You may go to your oracles and ask them for peace; you may go to the world idols and ask their advice, but only to get an answer of doom from God’s messenger. But if you will deal with God at the cross, where He dealt with sin, you will have peace.
You don’t like to have folks talk about sin. I know it. Neither did brother want me to come near to his fevered finger. You resent a personal worker asking after your soul’s welfare because of the fever in your soul from sin. Deal with God at the cross and all things will change. Doom will change to dominion.
“Joint heirs with Jesus Christ.”