David C Brown
2 Chronicles 13: 10-12
These are the words of the king, Abijah, king of Judah, spoken to the men of Israel. You could say it was a broken day because Israel was not as it had been, the twelve tribes together. God had allowed what had come in in Jeroboam, who is fighting against Abijah here. God had allowed that in His government, so that things were not as they should have been in their unity. And not only that, there is an attack against the people of Judah and one that has great force. You will find in verse 3 that Abijah had only four hundred thousand men and Jeroboam had twice that number; “chosen men, mighty men of valour”, it says of them. Maybe sometimes we feel the testimony is being attacked in some way or other, and we may look at what is around, and what is before us and say, ‘That is mightier than we are. How can we cope? How can we answer?’. Abijah is the king, and he sets out the fact that the kingdom was given to the house of David, “to him and to his sons by a covenant of salt”, v 5. What he brings out in this speech gives a challenge to the men of Israel, and then he makes what we could say are various claims here, and they are very wonderful claims. We can look at ourselves in our present time and say, ‘Well, some of this surrounding circumstance might seem to apply to us, things somewhat broken, things somewhat under attack, things not as they once were, and that in God’s dealings’, but it would be for us to be very, very careful about making any claim. Abijah can make a claim; we would have to be very careful. But it is a matter, I would say, to challenge every one of us as to whether we are having, and taking on, the responsibilities that are set out in these verses.
In Israel there were different classes. The priests and the Levites and so on were different persons. In Christianity, for each one of us, it is our responsibility to take on the service that lies to our hands and, distinctly, that priesthood is something that belongs to every true believer who has the Spirit; but that does not mean that every true believer that has the Spirit is priestly. That would be a question for us. So I would just raise a challenge with myself and with each one of us. Here are persons who can say, “Jehovah is our God, and we have not forsaken him”. How important, in all that might surround, in all that might affect us, that we should be those who are committed in this way and able to say, “Jehovah is our God, and we have not forsaken him”. Elsewhere in this book you get the word of God in somewhat similar circumstances of attack: “Jehovah is with you while ye are with him” (2 Chron 15: 2); so He would give assurance as persons are with Him, but our exercise would be to be able to say in truth and in heart, “Jehovah is our God, and we have not forsaken him”. We would be those who would cling to the divine standard.
Abijah is making a contrast here with Jeroboam’s regime where anyone could be a priest. They would be a priest whether they had the moral qualifications or not, and what were they priests to? They were priests to what was false in these golden calves. But here he can say of what is going on in Israel, “the priests that serve Jehovah are the sons of Aaron”; that is, that they are persons who are the kindred of Christ, and that would be a question for us to have some knowledge and experience as taking up priestliness as those who are priests in the right line and in the right order, those who are of the kindred of Christ.
You will remember that later in the Scriptures, there came a time when there were those who could not prove their genealogy (Ezra 2: 62); they could not show that they belonged properly to the priestly family. That is not a simple matter of genealogy with us; it is a matter of moral qualification. Let us be sure that we serve, and serve in that way as the sons of Aaron, those who are acting according to the true line.
There are two sides to priesthood. One thing that qualifies both is that the priest’s first thought is for God. That feature is in the two sides of his priesthood; one is towards God, because the priest is there to serve God; the priest is there to offer the sacrifices; the priest is there to offer the praises to God. But the priest is also there where needed to look into the needs and exercises, to know the testimony, to know the position; and in all these things, his first thought is for God. So that would be a question and a challenge for me and for each one of us. Is God the One who is first in our thoughts?
Then the Levites, and, again, there was a special class here in the old dispensation, but now everyone has a responsibility as a Levite, and there was a wide range of responsibilities in the wilderness. But this is not exactly what there is in the wilderness; this is that all the service should be maintained. The service of God has to be maintained. The priests would take that up, but the Levites are doing all that is necessary to maintain it, to supply it, to serve it, and they are “at their work”; so that would be a question for each one of us. Are we at our work in doing what is needed to support the testimony, doing what is needed, that what is priestly should be properly served? All the time the service of God is in view. All the time they have in mind what there should be for His heart, and their desire and their exercise is to foster that. So that it can go on to what they do towards God: “and they burn to Jehovah every morning and every evening burnt-offerings and sweet incense”. How wonderful that they could make this claim that they were maintaining day by day, morning and evening, something that was for the heart and the delight of God, something of the magnificence and the glory of Christ as the burnt-offering and what there is in the sweet incense, what only God can appreciate of the glory and the majesty, what there is in Christ. Whose responsibility is that now? Whose responsibility is it? It is your responsibility, my responsibility. It is your responsibility that there should be what there is for the heart of God, for His pleasure and for His delight, morning and evening, maintained, Christ in His glory, Christ in His wonder as the One satisfying the heart of God, being constantly brought before Him.
But then not only is there what there is in the sacrifice, but “the loaves also are set in order upon the pure table”. That is the view that the priests have of the people of God. That is their view, the saints set out according to the divine view and order of them. They look at them in this way. They maintain the order in their view. They see the people of God according to the purpose of God and, particularly in view of the attack of the enemy, they cling to and keep that view of the people of God. We need to be helped, I believe, to be maintained and kept in a constant view of the people of God as they are “in order upon the pure table”. All depends on Christ. They are “chosen” in Christ “before the world’s foundation” (Eph 1: 4), everything maintained for God in Him, yet “set in order” according to the divine view so that God can say of them, even in the wilderness, “a people that shall dwell alone and shall not be reckoned among the nations”, Num 23: 9. There they are in their beauty in His view. We need help - I need help - to be maintained in constant view of the people of God in the glory and the dignity that belongs to them according to divine purpose, and especially in the face of the challenge such as there is here.
Then “the candlestick of gold with its lamps to burn every evening”: think of the way in which Christ in all His glory and purity comes before us! You think of what we had in the hymn:
As the Man of all Thy counsels,
Who the universe will fill
That refers to the One who is so suited to the heart of God, the One who is so delightful in His beauty and His charm, and the light of the candlestick is the light of Christ. How important it is to see the glory and beauty of Christ in the light of Christ, not a human light, nor a human invention. People have their various views of their own of Christ; none of them will be to His glory. But He was to be seen in the light of the glory of what God sees in Him; Christ is to be seen in the light of Christ. But that needs to be maintained. The lamps have to be burning. The lamps require, as we know, the pure olive oil, and it needs to be beaten. Who is responsible for the olive oil to be there? You are! I am! It is the responsibility of each one of us to be continuing to bring in what there is of the Spirit that would give the light and bring in what there is for the light and the glory of Christ.
But not only was there that need, there was also the need, and it was a priestly duty, to keep these lamps dressed, to keep them ready, Ex 27: 21. Perhaps that brings a need for ourselves, to be looking to ourselves, that what is extraneous is removed so there is what burns in a pure light. It speaks of the “pure table” here; but the emphasis in Exodus on purity is in the candlestick (Ex 39: 37), and the light is going to burn in its purity as that is maintained in the dressing of the light.
So he says, “for we keep the charge of Jehovah our God”. What a wonderful charge it is that has been entrusted to us all! To maintain, to keep it, to stand to it is a matter of being committed to it: “we keep the charge of Jehovah our God”. So he can say “we have God with us at our head”. There He is; He is the One who is our Head, the One who is maintaining things. “And his priests, and the loud-sounding trumpets to sound an alarm against you”. That is the trumpets would set out what there is in the divine view, in the divine principle. Matters are to be set out in clarity, the trumpet giving a certain sound.
Well, these are the exercises. Abijah can be seen to make these claims, claims to maintain these. In our day of brokenness we need to be careful about making any claims, but I trust we are encouraged to take these charges up. And I would simply say, if I did not see something of this element here and continued, I would not be here.
May the Lord bless the word!
3rd February 2015