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August 16: 1Ki 11 | Jer 37 | Mk 11

Reading 1 - 1Ki 11:1-3

"King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh's daughter -- Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. They were from nations about which the LORD had told the Israelites, 'You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.' Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love... and his wives led him astray" (1Ki 11:1-3).


It was not merely that he had "many wives", but that they were "foreign" women, securing the throne by political and marital connections with occupied nations; but these wives also introduced spiritual adultery into Israel. So the story of Solomon's sad decline is recorded, to remind us that, in spite of Solomon's greatness and wisdom, the temptations of his position were too much.


The Scriptures abound in warnings against alien marriage: The sons of God marrying the daughters of men resulted at last in the Flood (Gen 6-9). Abraham and Isaac, faithful sojourners looking for the Kingdom, opposed such marriages for their sons (Gen 24:3; 28:1). The Law of Moses forbade the yoking together of the clean ox and the unclean ass (Deu 22:10). Moses said to take no alien spouses (Deu 7:3,8). Ezra (Ezr 9; 10) and Nehemiah (Neh 13:23-29) tell us of the evils of such alliances, and Paul has stressed the deviation of such a union (1Co 7:39; 2Co 6:14-18).


Those who are courting or are contemplating marriage must remember that complete happiness can be achieved only when it is "in the Lord". History and experience show that where there is no unity of thought and purpose, whether it be between God and Israel, Christ and the ecclesia, or between a husband and wife, there may follow a break in fellowship and unity. How could it be otherwise? That is the sadness and the tragedy of divorce or separation.


When the Israelites were delivered from Egypt they were told that they should not "make marriages" with the peoples of Canaan. Moses gave the reason in words which are relevant today:


"Thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods..." (Deu 7:3).


Paul had much the same thing to say when he wrote: "Do not be mismated with unbelievers. For what partnership have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?"


Marriage, properly understood and lived, is a part of the divine fellowship in which love, patience, sympathy, understanding and service can be truly learned, and happy is the couple from whom these flow to the rest of the household of faith, for their reward will be the eternal blessing of the Father.


In being prepared against the "problem" of "alien marriage", it is not sufficient merely to quote one or two passages like "only in the Lord" and "be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers". We should see far more clearly than that. It is the general realization and appreciation that to marry "outside" is willful disobedience to the Lord who bought us, and it is a failure to understand the loftiness of our calling. We are invited to be the Bride of Christ. How then can we be associated in the closest intimacy with one who is not a member of the called-out ones in Christ? The whole of the Word of God requires this necessary separateness.


The Lord knows all our circumstances and He arranges that which is best for us. If in all our ways we acknowledge Him, He will direct our paths. "Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him" and the Psalmist assures us that finally "He will give thee the desires of thine heart". If we thus "rest in the Lord", then we can rest assured that in whatever circumstances we find ourselves, those are the best for us in the ultimate. If other conditions were better, then the Lord would bring them to pass.


It may be, perhaps, that celibacy is best for us -- the Lord knows. If, on the other hand, marriage with a true companion is the better condition, then the Lord will see to it that the proper partner comes along. Sometimes such comes to pass later on in life. Place the whole matter in the Lord's hands and leave it there. Above all, don't try to short-circuit the Lord: after putting it in His hands, don't rush hastily into a marriage pretending it is the Lord's doing. When the Lord moves in the matter there will be no mistaking it, and then one may say: "This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes."


Reading 2 - Jer 37:1

"Zedekiah son of Josiah was made king of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; he reigned in place of Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim" (Jer 37:1).

"Zedekiah was a small man on a great stage, a weakling set to face circumstances that would have taxed the strongest. He was a youth at his accession to the throne of a distracted kingdom, and if he had had any political insight he would have seen that his only chance was to adhere firmly to Babylon, and to repress the foolish aristocracy who hankered after alliance with the rival power of Egypt. He was mad enough to form an alliance with the latter, which was constructive rebellion against the former, and was strongly reprobated by Jeremiah. Swift vengeance followed; the country was ravaged; Zedekiah in his fright implored Jeremiah's prayers and made faint efforts to follow his counsels. The pressure of invasion was lifted, and immediately he forgot his terrors and forsook the prophet. The Babylonian army was back next year, and the final investment [encirclement, siege] of Jerusalem began. The siege lasted sixteen months, and during it, Zedekiah miserably vacillated between listening to the prophet's counsels of surrender and the truculent nobles' advice to resist to the last gasp.


"The miseries of the siege live for ever in the Book of Lamentations. Mothers boiled their children, nobles hunted on dunghills for food. Their delicate complexions were burned black, and famine turned them into living skeletons. Then, on a long summer day in July came the end. The king tried to skulk out by a covered way between the walls, his few attendants deserted him in his flight, he was caught at last down by the fords of the Jordan [Jer 39:4,5; 52:8], carried prisoner to Nebuchadnezzar at Riblah away up in the north beyond Baalbec, and there saw his sons slain before his eyes, and, as soon as he had seen that last sight, was blinded, fettered, and carried off to Babylon, where he died [2Ki 25:7; Jer 34:3; 52:9,10]...


"A weak character is sure to become a wicked one. Moral weakness and inability to resist strong pressure was the keynote of Zedekiah's character. There were good things in him; he had kindly impulses, as was shown in his emancipation of the slaves at a crisis of Jerusalem's fate. Left to himself, he would at least have treated Jeremiah kindly, and did rescue him from lingering death in the foul dungeon to which the ruffian nobility had consigned him, and he provided for his being at least saved from dying of starvation during the siege.


"He listened to him secretly, and would have accepted his counsel if he had dared. But he yielded to the stronger wills of the nobles, though he sometimes bitterly resented their domination, and complained that 'the king is not he that can do anything against you.'


"Like most weak men, he found that temptations to do wrong abounded more than visible inducements to do right, and he was afraid to do right, and fancied that he was compelled by the force of circumstances to do wrong. So he drifted and drifted, and at last was smashed to fragments on the rocks, as all men are who do not keep a strong hand on the helm and a steady eye on the compass. The winds are good servants but bad masters. If we do not coerce circumstances to carry us on the course which conscience has pricked out on the chart, they will wreck us" (Alexander MacLaren).


Reading 3 - Mar 11:15

"On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there" (Mar 11:15a).

In keeping with Passover command and ritual, Jesus was purging the leaven from the house of God (Exo 12:19).


"The action of the Lord in cleansing the temple is often quoted as an example of righteous indignation. Yet in all the four records (Mat 21, Mar 11, Luk 19, Joh 2) it is nowhere stated that the Lord was angry. Certainly it was not righteous indignation which drove back those soldiers, ordered to arrest him (Joh 7:46); nor was it righteous indignation which made armed men retreat and fall to the ground in Gethsemane (Joh 18:6). Was not the same power at work in the temple incident? But even if we concede that the Lord might have been expressing righteous indignation, what right have we unrighteous ones to claim that we can also show righteous indignation? It is more likely that we are confusing righteous indignation with wrathful feelings of revenge, personal provocation, and wounded pride. Certainly the Lord never lost his temper. Every word and action was under complete control" (Percy Bilton, "The Christadelphian" 114:218).


"He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves" (v 15b).


We may well imagine the tables of moneychangers, overturned by Jesus, while the coins fall on the floor (Mat 21:12; Luk 19:45; Joh 2:14). Compare this incident with another not too many days later, when Judas threw the 30 pieces of silver into the temple (Mat 27:5). Imagine the coins clattering and clanking along the floor, while the priests scurried here and there to gather them up.


In both cases, this was money paid for "sacrifices"!

 

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