“But the Word of God came unto Shemaiah the man of God, saying, Speak unto Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and unto all the house of Judah and Benjamin, and to the remnant of the people, saying, Thus saith the Lord, Ye shall not go up, nor fight against your brethren the children of Israel: return every man to his house; for this thing is from me. They hearkened therefore to the word of the Lord, and returned to depart, according to the word of the Lord.”-1 KINGS xii. 22-24.
THUS was the separation of the hitherto united band of Israel into the two kingdoms of Judah and Israel completed. Happily it was done without bloodshed. Rehoboam would have added to his previous folly that of attempting to compel the tribes whose hearts he had alienated to return to their allegiance by force, but he was forbidden by Divine command, and the two kingdoms were suffered to consolidate themselves in peace.
A quiet separation when their hearts were united no longer was evidently the wisest course, and thenceforward the two peoples had a separate nationality and a diverse history. But they are still interesting to us, because they still describe the Church, which has also had its division into two, the one in which affection prevails over intellect, signified by Judah, and the other in which the intellect prevails over affection, represented by Israel.
The kingdom of Judah continued to exist with a very chequered history until the time of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, who destroyed the temple, burnt Jerusalem, and carried the remaining Jews away into captivity in Babylon. The kingdom of Israel continued with Samaria for its capital, until it became extremely corrupt, and at length was destroyed, and the inhabitants were carried away into Assyria.
Religion in its rising state is like Israel up to the time of Solomon, constantly more and more united and powerful. When religion is declining it separates and divides. Strong minds take some single characteristic, or some few characteristics, and make a distinct church of these, and so distinct communities or separate sections or divisional churches arise. Although when love is warm, and charity reigns in a communion, all will tend to harmony and unity in the church, when love grows cold and charity decays there is a tendency to division, and separate communions have their use. They mutually keep guard over each other and connect each other. They detect faults and chastise follies, and though a decaying church will deteriorate to its end, called in Scripture the end of the world, yet its downward course is arrested, and made much more gradual, and its corruption at last is probably not of so deep a dye as it would have been but for its division into separate parts, and these protesting against each other.
Had Israel not separated from Judah in Rehoboam’s time with so self-willed, furious, and corrupt a king, and the entire kingdom, with undivided wealth and power, remained at his command, his capacity for evil would have been far greater, and the mischief he had done in the world much more.Asit was, “Judah,” we are told, “did evil” in his time ” in the sight of-the Lord, and they provoked Him to jealousy with their sins which they had committed, above all that their fathers had done.” “They did according to all the abominations of the nations which the Lord cast out before the children of Israel” (1 Kings xiv. 22-24).
This division then was of Divine Providence for good, and the divisions in the Christian Church into Protestant, Roman Catholic, and other sub-communities have in like manner been for good under the circumstances, the Church being a declining one. They have checked each other, and they have checked the tendency of the great body to become so material, superstitious, and stupid; as they would otherwise have become. The two sides of the Church are affectional and intellectual, or celestial and spiritual.
The affectional or celestial in tendency of character is represented in Scripture by Judah. The members of it are more earnest in worship and praise than in exercises of the intellect. The name Judah signifies praise to Jehovah. The Christians represented by Judah, are in general amiable and earnest, but they are often rather averse to the exercise of much intellectual vigour. They willingly do as their fathers have done, and even increase their exercises and energy in that direction; but they dislike change and are shy of inquiry. They are willing to worship and to praise and to love, but are not much given to thought and reflection.
The virtues they practise when in the earnestness of warm young affection look beautiful and are interesting, but in their ground partake much of natural feeling; and self-love in some form will attach itself to them. A sense of merit intrudes and induces self-righteousness, or they will multiply forms, and thus become a great source of superstitious observances, bigotry and exclusiveness. Goodness, without truth to purify the motives and direct the aims of a man, often does mischief from its blindness, and no man is so obstinate as he who is well-intentioned but is destitute, of good sense, and will not seek to learn by patient inquiry. He is constantly confounding his own conceptions with the will of God, and he struggles as a martyr for heaven, when he is only an obstinate adherent of folly. Hence, this description of Christian character is the dupe and the prey of designing priests. Such simple minds confide implicitly in those on whom they have bestowed their esteem, and sustain by their countenance and their blind adhesion, abuses and follies of the most injurious character. The kingdom of Judah sunk at last entirely under the power of Babylon, and the people became captives in that land.
Spiritually, those who give themselves too exclusively to good, without the effort to learn truth, fall under the yoke of that lust of dominion exercised by lordly priests who are meant in the Word of the Lord by Babylon. They become ritualists, Romanists, blind adherents to some poor creature not a whit wiser than themselves, and probably not so good; who is audacious enough, or stupid enough, to set himself between them and that God who sends out His mercy to all, but who also sends out His truth for every soul.
It is a sad thing to abjure the mental eyes which the Lord has given us to enable. us to behold the wonders of His works and the glories of His Word.
Should we see in the world of nature, some human being with closed eyes, content to shut out all the beauties of the universe, the magnificence of the firmament, the loveliness of flower and shrub, and all the soul-inspiring changes of the human countenance, and be told that this strange abnegation was the result of an amiable weakness, which had been persuaded by some authoritative guide thus to submit, and take in exchange for the God giving faculty of sight just so much of report of the splendours of nature as the guide thought fit to impart, how deeply should we be moved with pity at so cruel an abuse of misplaced confidence. But the eyes of the understanding are infinitely more valuable than the eyes of the body. The world of mind, of knowledge, of intellect, is vaster, grander and immeasurably more important to our true interests than the world of outward vision, and yet there are those who can be introduced to conceive that mystery and darkness, at least on religious subjects and on science, if science interfere with some old cherished fallacy of theirs, are to be preferred to the Divine light of the grand universe or to some new disclosure of wisdom and of truth.
Such are Judah separated from Israel. Sooner or later, those who are careless of truth become careless of goodness, and descend from bad to worse like Judah, of whom we not only read that they committed serious evils in the days of Rehoboam, but frequently, as we learn from their history, king after king walked in the sins of his fathers or became worse than those who went before him; until the last king, Zedekiah, had his eyes put out, and was bound in fetters at Babylon. They were the sad symbols of those who may begin with a profession of good, but who despise the truth which alone makes man free, and defends, purifies, and exalts him to become a child of the light and an angel of love.
The kingdom of Israel separate from Judah represents those in the Church who give predominance to intellect, who think more of truth than of good.
These are often to be met with, and are greedy of knowledge. They cultivate the intellectual side of religion. They desire to give a reason for the hope that is in them, but sometimes when they have got reasons, and give reasons, they consider their whole duty to be done. They cultivate the intellect, ever the intellect. They do not consider religion as the means of making us humble under a sense that our graces are all gifts of unpurchased and undeserved mercy. Love to the Lord, filling us with the graces of the heart, making our lives and tempers pure; faith gentle, true and good: but they regard doctrines chiefly, and esteem them as things to be discussed and proyed, and discussed and proved, and discussed and proved again. They are eager disputants, always going over evidences.
“E’en though vanquished they can argue still.”
Such are Israel without Judah, and in this state of mind pride of intellect often creeps in, and a vain, conceited, and unpleasant character is formed. Persons in this state make sometimes an idol of the intellect, and vain fantasies flit over the mind, like bubbles of the brain. Reasoning is mistaken for reason. The delusive fancy will sometimes creep into the intellectually clever that nothing is true but what they make true, that they can make anything true or anything false, and ultimately that their self-will, their caprice, ought to be law.
Israel in this separated character is often described in the prophetical Word, especially in the prophecy of Hosea: “Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself.” ” And the pride of Israel testifieth to his face: and they do not return to the Lord their God, nor seek Him for all this. Ephraim also is like a silly dove, without heart; they call to Egypt, they go to Assyria.”
“For from Israel was it also, the workman made it, therefore it is not God; but the calf of Samaria shall be broken in pieces. For they have sown the wind, and shall reap the whirlwind.”
Sometimes Israel is described by her chief tribe Ephraim and it is said, “Ephraim feedeth on wind and followeth after the east wind: he daily increaseth lies and desolation: and they do make a covenant with the Assyrian, and oil is carried into Egypt.” The emptiness of a religion of the intellect, which never rises to pure love to the Lord, or goes down to genuine integrity of conduct, is described and condemned as a mere following after wind. Alas, the mere play of the intellect after every wind of doctrine is but following after bubbles as vain and empty, as superficial and evanescent as the filmy playthings of the giddy child.
Israel at length became the captive of Assyria, whose help she had often courted, as Judah became the slave of Babylon, because Assyria in the Word of God is the symbol of the rational power of the mind, sound when subservient to religion, but a bitter tyrant when exalted above religion, and the tool of an infidel spirit.
The mere reasoner becomes a slave of reasoning, and goes his his ceaselesss round of wrangling; like the gin-horse that still plods In the same circle and makes no progress. He reasons, and reasons and reasons, and dies, sure of nothing.
Would wemake advancement in heavenly things we should carefully inquire into divine truth, and earnestly strive to understand it. As we do this from the affection for the truth perception comes in and we perceive it clearly. When we thus see the truth in light we should in faithfulness reduce it to practice, and it will be confirmed by its fruits. “What doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with thy God? “
We have seen the result of separating the two grand departments of religion, as represented by the separation of Judah and Israel into two kingdoms, and ending in the one becoming captive to Babylon, and the other to Assyria, let us now consider the effect of their reunion, for this also is copiously described in the Divine Word.
We must not suppose however that all was continued calamity with the two kingdoms of Judah and Israel after their separations. Both had times of comparative prosperity. Both had intervals of comfort, peace, and well-being. Such is the plenitude of Divine Mercy that the Lord blesses the sincere according to their lights always, and gives to those who do not live in the most perfect state as much of benediction as their conditions of mind and life will enable them to receive.
So, in the separated communities of the Christian Church, there have been multitudes of Christians not only true to what they consider their duty to uphold in contradistinction to others, but bright with every virtue of heart and life. Men of humility, men of benevolence and self-sacrifice, men of active virtue, and diligent in works of worth, in learning, and every excellence which dignifies our humanity as the image of the Divine Humanity of love, wisdom, justice and beneficence. Christians with these rich graces have illustrated and adorned every section of the Christian Church, even in its divided condition, and so will all be found united in the eternal home provided for the good of every name. The Lord has said, and it may be applied to each, “Other sheep have I that are not of this fold, them also must I bring, that there may be one fold, and one shepherd.”
Israel re-united forms the theme of many a glorious declaration of the prophets. Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel are especially rich in these; but their predictions were but faintly fulfilled in the return of the scattered people from Babylon, Assyria, and other lands, after the seventy years captivity. Thus we read in Isaiah: “And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and His rest shall be glorious. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people which shall be left, from Assyria and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush and from Elam, and from Shinar and from Hamath, and from the isles of the sea, and He shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shalt assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth”(xi. 10-12). This passage was given by divine inspiration, with many others of similar import, long before the seventy years’ captivity in Babylon; and was literally fulfilled by the return of Judah and Israel to their own land in the time of Ezra, where they fanned, one nation with a temple again at Jerusalem, and once more all Israel dwelt in their cities” (Neh. vii. 73); for God had made them rejoice with great joy: the wives also, and the children rejoiced; so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar of” (xii. 43 ).
In their spiritual import, however these magnificent prophecies of the reunion of Israel and Judah point to the united church of the New Jerusalem. In that church, the. Grandest unfoldings of knowledge and faith will be united to the deepest humility and the holiest love. The diffusion of light will be abundant with a plenteousness beyond all former days, but a light leading ever to heavenly-mindedness and genuine affection. Goodness and truth will again be hand in hand. The church will be one, because all the portions of it gather round the Saviour-who is one. “In His days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is His name whereby He should be called THE LORD (Jehovah) OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS” (Jer. xxiii. 6). No church could ever be truly one and therefore universal, unless it provided for the cultivation and consecration of all human faculties. A church that could act upon the maxim that ignorance is the .mother of devotion would be certain to be degraded to stupid mummeries by its followers, and be condemned and protested against by those who seek for and reverence the truth. Blind superstition excites pity, and in some contempt. On the other hand, a church full of intellectual glory, but defective in humility, charity, piety, and virtue, is like the noon of a wintry day, bright but cold.
True religion is a broad and comprehensive thing. It aims at making man a full man, the image of all the perfections of his Maker. The true disciple of the Lord must abound in knowledge, for wisdom and knowledge are the strength of his salvation. He must be painstaking, studious, and thoughtful. He must be bold for truth, and strictly and rationally follow where truth leads, for only thus can he attain safe paths in which to walk; but he must also be full of adoring reverence for the Lord, the ALL-GOOD, and for gentleness, loving-kindness, and tender mercy. He must be faithful to every iota of duty. “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much.” The least of real good is superior to a thousand truths without goodness, but nothing excellent is attained without the union of both.
These are the lessons we are taught by all those declarations of the Word, which proclaim for the grand future a Church in all respects united. “Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side and bring them into their own land: and I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel: and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all. And David, My servant, shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments and observe my statutes and do them” (Ezek. xxxvii. 21,22, 24). The restoration and elevation of all Israel upon the mountains of Israel represents the union of all those who know the truth of every name with each other by the exalted affections of love to the Lord Jesus and mutual kindness to each other. They become one grand Church, one holy nation under one king, the Divine Saviour who is King of kings and Lord of lords. He is called my servant David, because David was the type of Him, and because David means the Beloved One. The Divine David then, the Divine Shepherd, the Beloved One, the God-Man, the centre of every excellency, will reign over His united and regenerated Church. It will be, as declared of the New Jerusalem, a golden city, and clear as crystal, golden with celestial love, and clear with the brightness of wisdom, and the members will walk in the light of the Holy City (Rev, xxi. 24).
They shall fight against nothing but evil. ” I will save them out of all their dwelling-places wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God.” Their worship, then, shall be full of feeling, full of adoration, and of blessing. “My tabernacle also shall be with thern; yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
Author: Jonathan Bayley— The Divine Wisdom of the Word of God (1892)