Afterward, the prophet approached the king of Israel and said, "Go and strengthen your position, and take note what you must do, for in the spring the king of Aram will march against you."
I. THE WISDOM OF THIS WORLD IS A WISDOM OF EXPEDIENCY.
1. It is not destitute of sagacity.
(1) It has its maxims of prudence.
(a) Ben-hadad's counsellors would not have him underrate his enemy. The army they advise him to raise for the invasion of Israel must not be inferior to that which had been lately vanquished (ver. 25). Let us not underrate our spiritual foes.
(b) Neither would they have him underrate the quality of his soldiers. They do not admit that his army was fairly beaten, but speak of "the army that thou hast lost," or "that fell from thee." In this also they were right, for if God had not helped Israel the Syrians would not have been routed. In all our spiritual conflicts let us fight under the banner of Jehovah.
(2) It has its lessons of experience.
(a) Ben-hadad's counsellors lay emphasis here - "And do this thing, Take the kings away, every man out of his place." Why remove the kings? Because in the last war they were "drinking themselves drunk" when they should have been at their posts, and the army, without officers, became confused and demoralized. Trust not the kings again (see Psalm 118:9; Psalm 146:8).
(b) "Put captains in their rooms." Let the army be commanded by men of ability and experience. Pageants are of no use in times of exigency.
2. But its sagacity is mingled with folly.
(1) Because the motives of the wicked are vicious.
(a) In his former war Ben-hadad's impulse was pride. The insolence of his demands evidenced this (vers. 3, 6). But what wisdom is there in pride?
(b) Though mortified by defeat, that pride remained, and was now moved by the spirit of revenge: "Surely we shall be stronger than they." But what wisdom is there in resentment?
(c) Beyond these base feelings the desire for plunder seems to have moved the Syrian. But where is the wisdom in a king becoming a common robber?
(2) Because they put themselves into conflict with the Almighty.
(a) The Syrians formed an unworthy idea of the Elohim of Israel when they localized and limited Him to the hills. Palestine is a hilly country, and its cities and high places were generally on hills; and probably in the hill country of Samaria the cavalry and chariots of Syria were of little service. (See Psalm 15:1; Psalm 24:3; Psalm 87:1; Psalm 121:1.)
(b) In the proposal to give Israel battle in the plains the Syrians now set Jehovah at defiance.
II. THE WISDOM FROM ABOVE IS THE WISDOM OF TRUTH.
1. It is far reaching.
(1) God sees the end from the beginning. We should therefore seek His counsel and guidance.
(2) He forewarns His people. He sent His prophet to the king of Israel to inform him that the king of Syria would come up against him at the return of the year. He forewarns us of the things of eternity.
2. It is prudent.
(1) The prophet advised Ahab to prepare for the event. "Go, strengthen thyself, and mark, and see what thou doest." We should ever deport ourselves as in the presence of spiritual foes.
(2) God helps those who help themselves.
3. It is unerring.
(1) Events foreshown by God will surely come to pass.
(2) According to the advice of the prophet, "at the return of the year," viz., "at the time when kings go forth to battle" (see 2 Samuel 11:1; 1 Chronicles 20:1), probably answering to our March, which has its name from Mars, the god of war, Ben-hadad "went up to Aphek to fight against Israel." There were several cities of this name: one in the tribe of Asher (Joshua 19:30); another in Judah (1 Samuel 4:1); a third in Syria (2 Kings 13:17). The last is probably that referred to here.
4. It is profitable.
(1) This follows from its other qualities. The guidance which is "prudent," "far reaching," and "unerring" must be "profitable."
(2) But further, those who follow that guidance so commend themselves to God that He directly interposes in their behalf. There was a faithful "seven thousand" in Israel (1 Kings 19:18).
(3) If in conflict with those who prefer a worldly policy, they not only have God on their side, but they have Him with them against their enemy.
(4) God helped Ahab against Ben-hadad, not that Ahab deserved it, but that Ben-hadad had to be punished (ver. 28. See also Ezekiel 36:22). The "two little flocks of kids" could not have slain in one day "one hundred thousand men" unless God had helped them. The hand of God also was in the falling of that wall by which "seven and twenty thousand" perished. Let us faithfully pursue the policy of right. Let us never permit the expediency of a moment to swerve us from this. Truth abides. - J.A.M.
Go, strengthen thyself
(L. A. Banks, D. D.)
(Helps to Speakers.)
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