2 Kings 1: 2-4, 7-15
Nehemiah 6: 1-4
1 Kings 21: 1-3
Revelation 3: 8, 10, 11
I was confirmed by the line in the hymn we sang which refers to “they who still abide” (Hymn 289), and I have also been thinking since the weekend about the importance of holding what we have as believers. Satan’s objective is that believers should give things up; he tries different tactics, and he keeps trying. The persons in these different passages did not give up. I had not really looked at this first chapter of the second book of Kings in any detail before, but a reference was made recently to Elijah going with Elisha in chapter 2, and when I read the chapter before it I was struck by the way that Elijah did not give up. Elijah was on the hill, and he was not willing to come under the authority or the command of anyone other than God Himself. He was not going to accept direction from this fallen, wicked king, Ahaziah. What a shameful thing that a king of Israel should fall in this way: he “fell down through the lattice”. What moral degradation has come into the church publicly, but there are still those that cling to the principles of God, and own His authority and the authority of Scripture alone, to direct them.
It is interesting how persuasive Ahaziah is. He sends these fifty men. Satan would seek in an arrogant way to usurp the authority of God. Think of how he did that from the very beginning: he says, “Is it even so, that God has said …?”, Gen 3: 1. He would seek to undermine the authority of God’s word. God’s word comes to us, and we are thankful for that. We proved it at the weekend in a distinct way. Think of the authority that it carries! Are we going to listen to something else? Are we going to act on another word from another source, from a source that is corrupt? Beloved, let us hold fast to God’s word, the authority that it carries and the principles that are included in it! I think that is what, as I understand it, Elijah represents here, one in a position of power, moral authority. He was not going to give up his position; he was not going to go at the king’s command. The first captain said, “the king says, Come down!”. No, Elijah was not going to give up his position. God had not given him the command to do so. He was not going to listen to the king. Another thing about holding on to the principles that are contained in God’s word is that heaven supports those who do so. You might find it difficult to stand - and how challenged I feel about it, standing in any small way for a principle of God - but heaven will support it. Think of this fire coming down from the heavens; it would confirm Elijah. You might say it is severe. Sometimes it might feel that way, but let us be reassured that heaven will support those who stand for the principles that are contained in Scripture.
Another fifty come, and the captain is more insistent. He adds “quickly” this time: “Come down quickly!” Think of Satan’s persistence! Scripture says, “hades’ gates shall not prevail against it”, Matt 16: 18. Hades’ gates will however keep trying to prevail. They cannot prevail because of the Holy Spirit’s presence here in the assembly, but, at the same time, individuals are called upon to be faithful and remain faithful to the principles of God. How wonderful it is that God in His grace even uses a circumstance like this to secure servants for Himself through this third captain. It has been said that this man was like a leading brother who was willing to give up his reputation, give up his dignity, so that his company might be saved, JT vol 35 p27. What a wonderful attitude to take! He “fell on his knees before Elijah”; he recognised true authority. When the angel of Jehovah speaks to Elijah to come down, then he moves. Think of him patiently and dependently waiting on the word of God before he moves. It is interesting that the same message comes to Ahaziah three times; suggesting God’s judgment as to what has come about publicly in the church; the ruin in the profession does not change and our judgment of it should not change either.
I read in Nehemiah because I think he too was one who was not going to give anything up. He was holding fast. One of the things that a believer has, as well as the Word of God and its principles, is a work to do, and Nehemiah recognised it was a “great work”: “I am doing a great work, and I cannot come down”. He recognised his responsibilities. A believer has responsibilities and he also has privileges. Nehemiah felt the responsibility here that the wall might be completed. It is interesting to notice the part in brackets: “I had built the wall, and that there was no breach left in it (though at that time I had not set up the doors in the gates)”. You might say, that final element that would control entry into what was holy and keep out other influences that might come in to spoil, had not quite been finished, and it is at this point that Sanballat and these others come and try to tempt Nehemiah to gather with them in the plain, that is on a lower level, representing a level that is not according to the principles of Scripture. How can we gather on any other basis? If we do there is the possibility of what is not according to the truth, not according to God, getting an inroad. How wonderful it is that he stands firm, and he says, “I am doing a great work, and I cannot come down”. Beloved, let us realise that any small work that might be done for God is in His eyes a “great work”. It may just be being faithful in a simple matter. There were persons here that were working; they had their sword in one hand and they built with the other hand, like those “fully fitted to every good work”, 2 Tim 3: 17. Think of "the sword of the Spirit” (Eph 6: 17) being available to every believer. Do not give that up! Think of “the things which tend to peace, and things whereby one shall build up another”, Rom 14: 19. Think of what the Holy Spirit would give us, wisdom and discernment and skill, not only to know what to do but how to do it, to do it in the Spirit of Christ, a spirit that would build up. It takes skill to build; it does not take much skill to knock something down. God would support those that stand for what is right and who have their part in the “great work”!
In 1 Kings here is a man who has a vineyard and he is not going to give it up; it is his inheritance. Beloved, do you realise that you have an inheritance? An inheritance is something you may receive when a person dies. Well, you do not have to wait for this inheritance: Christ has died to secure it for you. It is yours to enjoy now. Do you enjoy it? If you enjoy something, if you value something, you are less likely to give it up. Do not give up the inheritance that God has secured for you through the death of Christ! It is like this vineyard which Naboth has. Another way that Satan tries to tempt us is with alternatives, but they are always inferior alternatives. Think of Ahab’s arrogance to say, “I will give thee for it a better vineyard”. Is there anything better than what God gives us, the inheritance, the enjoyment of eternal life, the blessing of sonship, the joy of fellowship and company with His people? Is there anything better? Is there a better inheritance than that? No! These things “have not come into man’s heart, which God has prepared for them that love him”, 1 Cor 2: 9. That is like the inheritance, what God has prepared for you. You have had no part in securing it, but God gives it to you. Do you value it? Are you willing to hold on to it? Well, Naboth was. It meant suffering, it meant death for him, and I feel very challenged as to that because I may try to avoid any suffering, but God will support us in it and God sees to it that Naboth is not forgotten. Ahab says, “I will give thee its value in money”. How can these things be measured out in money? Think of their preciousness: “To you therefore who believe is the preciousness”, 1 Pet 2: 7. Can that be valued with money? It never could be, but these things are to be valued by us so that we might not give them up.
I read in Revelation because we get a similar thought there: “thou hast a little power”. That made me think of these other scriptures. These persons each had power; they were able to resist Satan’s temptation. How the Lord Jesus was tempted: “And the devil, having completed every temptation, departed from him for a time”, Luke 4: 13. Think of that, the ruler of the world coming and finding nothing in Him, John 14: 30! The Lord Jesus as a dependent and obedient Man resisted Satan in all the different ways he tried to tempt Him. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God”, Luke 4: 4. Think of Him even referring to the Word of God and its authority! Think of Him saying: “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God”, Luke 4: 12. Think of these things, beloved, and see a perfect Model of One who was able to overcome Satan as an obedient, dependent Man. Let us use the Holy Spirit’s power to follow that Model that we have, that perfect Model. May we be like those of whom it is said they have “a little power, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name”.
Well, let us hold on to God’s Word! Let us not be willing to give up what is due to the name of the Lord. Let each of us be one who “names the name of the Lord”, 2 Tim 2:19! We know what our responsibilities are. Separation is a positive thing. Separation protects what is precious to God and is necessary. “Hold fast what thou hast, that no one take thy crown”. God gives us every resource to hold fast what we have. We are not able to do it in our natural strength. God gives us the power of the Holy Spirit to hold it, hold what we value, not give it up, not give up God’s principles, not give up the work, not give up any thing that is precious to us in the way of inheritance, “that no one take thy crown”. Think of how Satan always tries to degrade man, to take away his dignity. God always does the opposite for those that love Him. He dignifies them, gives them a crown, nothing that this world would recognise, but recognised in heaven. Let us hold fast to what we have, brethren, in responsibility and privilege, and we can be assured that God will support and honour it.
May the Lord bless the word!
10th March 2015