Charles Simeon Commentary - 2 King 10:16 - 10:16

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Charles Simeon Commentary - 2 King 10:16 - 10:16


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DISCOURSE: 372

TRUE AND FALSE ZEAL

2Ki_10:16. Come with me, and see my zeal for the Lord.

UNGODLY men, though they will not follow the example of the godly, are glad to have their sanction and approbation in what they do. Jehu was indeed acting at this time under a divine commission. The work in which he was engaged, was that of extirpating the whole house and family of Ahab: and, terrible as it was, he did right to execute it, because he acted under a divine command [Note: 2Ki_9:7-9.]. But his spirit in executing the work was far from right. He was too much under the influence of pride and ambition. This appears from his address to Jehonadab, in the words before us. Jehonadab was a holy man, and had considerable influence in the state: and, knowing that Jehu was fulfilling the will of heaven, he went to meet him, and to testify his approbation of his proceedings. And Jehu, glad to have the sanction of such a man, took him up into his chariot, saying, “Come with me, and see my zeal for the Lord.

Now, as this zeal was partly good, and partly evil, I propose to shew,

I.       When our zeal is such as will bear inspection—

“It is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing [Note: Gal_4:18.].” And we may be assured that our zeal is good,

1.       When it proceeds from a principle of love—

[Love is properly the principle from which all our actions should flow. There are, indeed, far different principles from which our zeal may spring. We may he led on by a spirit of party, which will operate to the production of great efforts in the support of any cause. Or we may he actuated by a natural forwardness of disposition, which urges men to prosecute with ardour whatever they undertake. A self-righteous hope of commending themselves to God, also, will stimulate some to incredible exertions in any cause in which they are embarked. But that which alone gives the stamp of piety to our services, is love. We should act from a sense of the unbounded obligations which we owe to God, both as our Creator and Redeemer. “Our souls should be altogether constrained by the love of Christ, to live to him [Note: 2Co_5:14-15.]:” and so far as we are actuated by that principle, we have reason to hope and to believe that our zeal is genuine, and that our services are pleasing and acceptable to God.]

2.       When it is regulated by the written word—

[As our zeal may spring from an unworthy motive, so it may be exercised in an unhallowed way. It must be bounded by the occasion that calls it forth; neither exceeding it, nor falling short of it. Joshua erred in making a league with the Gibeonites, whom he was commissioned to destroy [Note: Jos_11:18-20.]: but Saul also erred, when, “from his zeal to the children of Israel and Judah, he sought to slay them [Note: 2Sa_21:1-6.].” There is an intemperate zeal that is highly criminal. Such was that of Simeon and Levi, who slew the Shechemites, because by the prince of that city their sister had been defiled [Note: Gen_34:25-31.]. They had just ground for displeasure; but their mode of manifesting their displeasure was cruel in the extreme, and brought upon them God’s merited indignation [Note: Gen_49:5-7.]. Not that the mere circumstance of slaying their fellow creatures when they were incapable of resistance was wrong, provided they had received a divine commission to do so: for Joshua did right in extirpating the Canaanites; as did the tribe of Levi also, when they went through the camp of Israel, every one of them slaying even his nearest relatives, if he found them worshipping the golden calf [Note: Exo_32:25-29; Deu_33:8-11.]. The word of God is that by which every act must be regulated. It is not sufficient that we think to please God: for James and John thought to please their divine Master by calling fire from heaven to consume a Samaritan village; and Paul also thought he was serving God aright, when he haled men and women to prison and to death for their attachment to Christ. They (James and John) were told by their Lord, that “they knew not what spirit they were of [Note: Luk_9:53-55.]:” and he (Paul) condemns himself afterwards as an injurious and blaspheming persecutor [Note: Act_8:3; Act_26:9; 1Ti_1:13.]. If we are able to shew a command for what we do, then our zeal in doing it is good.]

3.       When it is tempered with discretion—

[There are conflicting duties, which, as far as possible, should be made to harmonize; and neither of them should be violated without necessity. To obey the civil magistrate is the duty of all: but when his injunctions militate against the paramount authority of God, they must be disregarded, whatever be the dangers to which our disobedience may subject us. The appeal, “Whether it be right to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye [Note: Act_4:19.],” carried its own evidence along with it. Of course, there is need of much discrimination in this matter. The Pharisees acted well in shewing a regard for the Sabbath, and a zeal for the due observance of it: but they erred grievously, when they accused our blessed Lord as violating it by working miracles on that day: for they should have known, that “God preferred mercy before sacrifice,” and, consequently, that acts of mercy and necessity superseded the obligation of a merely positive command [Note: Mat_12:2-7.]. Even where a duty is plain, it is proper for us to consider whether we are the persons to perform it. To preach the Gospel is a most important duty: but to engage in that service uncalled, and unsent, is not by any means expedient or right: for even our blessed Lord “glorified not himself to be made an high priest, but waited for the call” of his heavenly Father [Note: Heb_5:4-6.]. So again, we must attend to the time and manner of executing what we conceive to be a lawful act; and not abuse our liberty by exercising it in a way that may prove offensive to others [Note: 1Co_8:10-13.]. In a word, our zeal must be wisely regulated: it should be able to rise to any occasion that may call for it [Note: Act_21:13.]; but it should be under due control; nor should it ever be satisfied with a conviction that a thing is “lawful,” without considering also whether, and how far, it is “expedient [Note: 1Co_6:12.].”

We think, then, that a zeal flowing from such a source, and regulated by such a standard, and exercised in such a way, will bear inspection; and that, so far as we give the invitation for the purpose of self-inquiry, and not of self-applause, we may say, not to man only, but even to God himself, “Come, and see my zeal for the Lord.”]

But there are occasions when our zeal is blameworthy, and,

II.      When it evidently manifests itself to be delusive and vain—

It is altogether vain and unacceptable to God,

1.       When it is ostentatious—

[Such was that of Jehu on this occasion. Raised to kingly power, and successful beyond his most sanguine expectations, he was elated with pride, and desirous of having his prowess admired and extolled. Hence his conduct, which, as conformable to a divine command, was made the ground of a reward, was, on account of the base mixture of pride and cruelty with which it was pursued, visited with signal punishment [Note: Compare ver. 20 with Hos_1:4.]. Ostentation will mar and vitiate the best actions that we can possibly perform. The giving of alms, or the waiting upon God with fasting and prayer, are acceptable services, if performed aright; but when made occasions for advancing ourselves in the estimation of men, they are hateful and contemptible in the sight of God, and will bring with them no other recompence than that which we vainly seek [Note: Mat_6:1-5.].” The declaration of God in relation to such things is plain and express: “For a man to seek his own glory, is not glory [Note: Pro_25:27.]:” therefore “let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips [Note: Pro_27:2.].”

To this, then, we must carefully attend: for if, whilst professing to serve the Lord, we “sacrifice to our own net, and burn incense to our own drag [Note: Hab_1:16.],” be the service what it may, God will say, “Who hath required this at your hands [Note: Isa_1:11-12.]?” yea, it will be no better, in his sight, than “the cutting off a dog’s neck, or the offering of swine’s blood [Note: Isa_66:3.].”]

2.       When it is partial—

[In this respect, also, Jehu’s zeal notoriously failed. He was sent to punish Ahab’s wickedness; and yet himself joined in the idolatry which he was ordered to abolish [Note: ver. 29.], and indulged in all the sins which he was commissioned to correct [Note: ver. 31.]. Zeal, if pure, will extend to every part of our duty: it has respect to God’s will; and therefore will operate in reference to all his commands; to those which require self-denial, no less than to those which may administer to our personal gratification. Zeal will be in the soul what the soul is in the body: its operation will be uniform and abiding — — — Whether our actions be public or private, and whether our duties be of an active or passive kind, it will stimulate us to approve ourselves to the heart-searching God: and, if it fail of this, at least in our endeavours, it is evidently not such as has God for its author, nor such as God will ultimately approve.]

3.       When it is transient—

[The stony-ground hearers manifest a great degree of zeal for a season: “they anon with joy receive the word; but, having no root in themselves, they believe only for a while, and in time of temptation fall away [Note: Luk_8:13.].” But it is not sufficient for any man to “run well for a season only [Note: Gal_5:6.].” “We must endure unto the end, if ever we would be saved [Note: Mat_10:22.].” We are “not to look back, after having once put our hand to the plough [Note: Luk_9:62.].” “We are never to be weary in well-doing:” “never, under any circumstances, to faint.” On this our future remuneration altogether depends [Note: Gal_6:9.]. “The man who draws back, draws back unto perdition [Note: Heb_10:38-39,]:” and he whose zeal will not carry him to the last extremity, even to the enduring of the most cruel death, will fail of obtaining the approbation of his God [Note: Luk_17:33.]. I must, therefore, guard you against ever relaxing in your zeal even for a moment. Whatever your attainments be, and whatever you may have done or suffered in the service of your God, you must “forget the things that are behind, and reach forward unto that which is before, and press on for the prize of your high calling,” till you have actually finished your course, and obtained the crown which is to be awarded to you [Note: Php_3:13-14.].]

In conclusion, let me say to every individual amongst you—

1.       Have a zeal for God—

[God is not to be served with lukewarmness [Note: Rev_3:15-16.] — — — He requires the heart, the whole heart [Note: Pro_23:26; Hos_10:2.]: and surely he is worthy of it; and his service well deserves it. See what zeal men display in the pursuits of this world; the student, for knowledge; the merchant, for his gains; the soldier, for honour: and will you be behind any one of them? Does our blessed Lord and Saviour deserve less at your hands, than this vain and perishing world can do? The burnt-offerings, you know, were wholly consumed upon God’s altar: they were wholly God’s; and the priests had no part in them. Such offerings are ye to be: and to be devoted thus exclusively to God is “your reasonable service [Note: Rom_12:1.].” Give yourselves up, then, entirely to God; and “whatsoever your hand findeth to do, do it with all your might [Note: Ecc_9:10.].”]

2.       Let “your zeal be according to knowledge”—

[Ignorant zeal will only deceive and ruin you, as it did the Pharisees of old [Note: Rom_10:2-3.]. There is a great deal of zeal in the world: else whence come the penances and pilgrimages of the Papists? and whence the accursed cruelties of the Inquisition? Who knows not the persecutions that Christianity has sustained from heathens; or the miseries that Popery, under the name of Christianity, has inflicted on those who would not yield to its abominations? In all these things, the agents “have imagined that they did to God an acceptable service [Note: Joh_16:2.].” Nor can I deny that even good men have sometimes been betrayed into a very erroneous line of conduct, from a mistaken notion, that they were serving God, whilst anathematising those who differed from them in some matters of subordinate importance. But be not satisfied, brethren, even though Jehonadab himself be embarked in the same cause with you. It is not by man’s judgment or example that you are to stand or fall, but by the judgment of your God, according to his written word. Endeavour, then, to have your mind and spirit regulated by the only standard of right and wrong. And especially be on your guard against a fiery zeal. “The zeal of our blessed Lord was such as even consumed him [Note: Joh_2:17.]:” but remember, it was himself that it consumed, not others: yea, when he himself suffered from the blind zeal of others, he prayed for them, even for his very murderer [Note: Luk_23:34.]. “Be ye then followers of him.” “Let it be your meat and your drink to do the will of God yourselves [Note: Joh_4:34.]:” but, with respect to others, let all your efforts be “to save, and not to destroy them [Note: Luk_9:56.];” to “win them” by love [Note: Pro_11:30.], and not constrain them by force [Note: Luk_14:23.].]