Pass you to Calneh, and see; and from there go you to Hamath the great: then go down to Gath of the Philistines…
This was a Divine challenge to Israel. Israel in those days thought that religion was often a great hardship; that it abounded with demands for self-denial; and that its numerous duties could be observed only at considerable cost. You generally find that the least self-denying are the most keenly conscious of their self-denial. In those days the people of Israel were willing to be religious, after a fashion, but they must be also politic, so that their religion should not militate against their national interests, or weaken them in their struggle with the heathen powers by which they were surrounded. Israel practically said: "Cast among these godless nations, there is nothing for us to do but largely to adapt ourselves to circumstances; to obey God's commandments as far as it is practicable, but not henceforth, as in the past, to sacrifice national interests by a too scrupulous attention to religious precepts." We have in the text God's reply to Israel's fallacy. "Pass ye into Calneh." Calneh was a great city on the Tigris. Hamath was also a great city, and a capital, on the banks of the Orontes, on the north. Gath was one of the great cities of Palestine. God now practically says to Israel: "Look at those powers, those centres of worldly empires and governments. You say that they have nothing to hamper them; that they fight their battles irrespective of right and wrong; that no principle is at stake; that their aim is self-aggrandisement; and therefore that the path of victory is to them a far easier one than it can be for nations who, like yourselves, have to fear God and to keep His commandments. See, what is the practical issue. Compare your national prosperity with the prosperity of these surrounding nations. Are their borders greater than your borders?" That was the question which practically silenced their complaint. What are the relative compensations of godliness and worldliness? In what consists man's highest interests or his greatest wealth? Does true blessedness consist in what the world calls success? Take —
1. The life of the thorough worldling — the man who has no principle to hamper him, and to whom the highest law of life is self-aggrandizement. Such as the spendthrift. The man with an insatiable love of money. The gambler.
2. Those who are determined to make their position in the world. Such an one enters business, or a profession, and considers that it is necessary to adopt certain customs which are not above suspicion, but which become largely respectable by their universal acceptance. Even in such cases there are hundreds of thousands who fail entirely in their attempts. Some undoubtedly do prosper and accumulate wealth; but in how many instances have they lost their good name in the effort!
3. The honest man of the world. Even then business may be allowed to monopolise all his time and all his energy, to the exclusion of higher aims, without Which even an honest life is poor. There is a distinctly spiritual work for man to do. If that Christian work is neglected, and the claims of Jesus Christ along spiritual lines ignored, that man may gain the whole world, but he will lose his soul.
Parallel VersesKJV: Pass ye unto Calneh, and see; and from thence go ye to Hamath the great: then go down to Gath of the Philistines: be they better than these kingdoms? or their border greater than your border?