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—JANUARY 22.—I KINGS 16:23-33.—
"Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is
a reproach to any people."—Proverbs 14:34 .
THE Omri dynasty of Israel was a successful one according to worldly standards, but a failure from the Divine standpoint. Omri, a great general, succeeded to Israel's throne after the death of Jeroboam. He was very successful and conquered the Moabites, to the East of the Jordan, putting them under an annual tribute of the fleece of two hundred thousand sheep. He built a new Capital, the city of Samaria, and successfully outranked Jeroboam as a misleader of his people, along religious lines. According to Israel's Covenant with the Almighty there was but the one Levitical priesthood and the one holy temple of Jehovah's presence for the whole people of Israel, and it was at Jerusalem. As worldly wisdom guided Jeroboam to completely separate the ten tribes from the two tribes by establishing new places of worship and simplifying the worship and symbolizing God by a golden calf, so the same spirit of worldly wisdom suggested to Omri a still further departure from God and a still closer approach to the customs and idolatry of surrounding nations.
Omri died, or, according to the records, "Omri slept with his fathers." We are not from this declaration to draw the inference that as a wicked man he went to eternal torment and that the nature of the torment is sleep. Neither are we to think of Omri as saintly and going to heaven and to imagine that those in heaven are asleep. Neither are we to think of him as having gone to Purgatory and that the experiences there are drowsy. We must leave all such unscriptural notions respecting the dead, good and bad. We must come back to the Bible and from it learn that all who die, like St. Stephen (Acts 7:60), fall asleep to await the morning of the resurrection, when the Redeemer will call all forth from the tomb. (John 5:28,29, Rev. Ver.) Then, as Daniel declares, "Many that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake"; a few to glory and honor, the many to shame and age-lasting contempt—from which they will be obliged to purge themselves by obedience to the Divine requirements under Messiah's glorious reign of righteousness.—Dan. 12:2.
Ahab's name signifies, "Like his father." And surely he was! His name was appropriate. His was a reign still more successful in unrighteousness. For twenty-two years he devoted himself to the further undermining of true religion and to the introduction of the worst forms of licentious, heathen idolatry. He was greatly assisted in this course by his wife—Jezebel, the daughter of the King of the Sidonians. Her name signifies chaste; yet she used her great influence with her husband and throughout the nation for the furtherance of unchastity in connection with the orgies known as the religious rites and ceremonies, connected with the worship of Baal and of "Ashtoreth," the female divinity worshipped. In connection with this worship human lives were sacrificed, usually those of children—just as was found in Alaska when, in 1867, it came into the possession of the United States—human sacrifices were frequent—particularly in connection with the laying of a foundation for a great house.
All civilized people are deeply interested in earthly governments and their success. We all crave social and financial prosperity. Nevertheless it is still true that prosperity is injurious in proportion as it separates the people from the Divine arrangements and the blessings which thereto attach. Only righteousness can truly exalt a nation. Every form of iniquity is injurious, however it may at the time seem contrary to this. Ours is the day of the greatest worldly prosperity this earth has ever known. But alas! it is not a day of religious prosperity. On the contrary, there never was a time when unbelief in a personal God and in the Bible as his revelation was so general amongst intelligent people. Our church edifices are becoming temples of fashion, concert and lecture halls, while the real worship which alone is pleasing to the Almighty is far removed—little thought of.
The worship of Mammon, the bowing to the golden calf, the sacrificing of lives to the acquirement of wealth, belong to our day as truly as to that of Ahab—but on a more refined scale and therefore the more deceptive and insidious. It affects the poor as well as the rich, too. The poor often are merely the unsuccessfully ambitious, hence often bitter and discontented.
Continually we find that God uses the wrath of man to praise him. The effect of the prosperity of Ahab and Jezebel was two-fold: it ensnared and degraded one class, while it aroused and separated from itself another class— [R4730 : page 395] those who worshipped God in spirit and in truth. Such left the ten-tribe kingdom and its idolatry and identified themselves with the two-tribe kingdom of Judah and its true worship.
So it is today. The success of Mammon, the rejection of the Bible by the Higher Critics and their lordly boasts of ability to give us something better than the Word of God, and in general Mammon worship, is awakening the more saintly people of our day to separate themselves and to say in the language of Joshua, "Choose ye this day whom ye will serve; as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
As all Christian students know, Jezebel, Ahab and Elijah were used of the Lord as types, and their experiences foreshadowed much greater things in the experience of the Church, spiritual Israel, during this Gospel Age.
Ahab typified civil power. Jezebel typified a religious system. The improper marriage of Ahab and Jezebel, contrary to the Jewish Law, typified the marriage or union of Church and State. The progress of evil under this union is portrayed in the Book of Revelation, where Jezebel is specially mentioned by name. (Rev. 2:20-23.) The Lord charged that the antitypical Jezebel, the Church system, was suffered or permitted to teach and seduce his people from the proper course of Christian living. The same Scriptures represent Elijah, who was persecuted by Jezebel, through her husband, as a type of true believers of this Age persecuted by a false Church through the arm of civil power.