2776. The Church A Mother

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The Church A Mother

No. 2776-48:193. A Sermon Delivered On Lord’s Day Evening, During The Spring Of 1860, By C. H. Spurgeon, At New Park Street Chapel, Southwark.

A Sermon Intended For Reading On Lord’s Day, April 27, 1902.

The children whom you shall have, after you have lost the others, shall say again in your ears, “The place is too small for me: give me a place where I may live.” Then you shall say in your heart, “Who has begotten me these, seeing I have lost my children, and am desolate, a captive, and moving to and fro? And who has brought up these? Behold, I was left alone; these, where were they?” {Isa 49:20,21}

 For other sermons on this text:
   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2692, “Church Increase” 2693}
   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2776, “Church a Mother, The” 2777}
   Exposition on Isa 49:1-23 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2703, “Preservation of Christians in the World, The” 2704 @@ "Exposition"}
   Exposition on Isa 49:13-26 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2265, “Harvest Joy” 2266 @@ "Exposition"}
   Exposition on Re 7:9-17 Isa 49 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3238, “Vision of the King, A” 3240 @@ "Exposition"}
    {See Spurgeon_SermonTexts "Isa 49:21"}

1. I never like to look at the Bible as merely an old Book, a relic of the past; I like to read it and think of it as a new Book, and one applicable to the present time. And I am continually compelled to regard it as such; for I find that it relates to the things passing around me, — it deals with my present sorrows, my present doubts, and my present joys. It is not merely a record of the saints in olden time; it is a Book of Direction for the saints of the present generation. It did not merely give consolation to those who received the promise centuries ago, but the same promise comes home fresh and sweet to us, and we look at it as being a new and present revelation from heaven to us. At least, there are times when the Spirit takes the words of Scripture, and makes them as fresh and new to us as though an angel had just flown from heaven, and, for the first time, uttered the gracious words by whispering them in our ears. And the passage which I have read bears to me, just now, though it may not to you, all the freshness and sweetness of a passage made for the occasion. If this Book had been written yesterday, I am sure it could not contain truth more applicable to myself; — indeed, if I had to have it, as Mohammed’s followers had the Koran, chapter by chapter, just as they required it, I could not have a Bible more adapted to my daily experience and my daily needs. For the Holy Spirit continually takes from the things of Christ, and not simply applies them to us, but, apparently, he seems to adapt them to us, or else he brings out to our mind’s eye that old original adaptation which God had placed in them, foreknowing for what purpose they would be used in later days.

2. I propose to comment on this text somewhat pointedly, and I hope that the remarks I shall make on it may be the means of leading others to take the passage as a subject of profitable meditation; and I shall begin by observing that the Church is a mother; when I have dwelt on that idea, I shall notice that, like other mothers, the Church sometimes has to be bereaved; then, in the third place, I shall observe that she has another trouble which mothers in England do not have, — may God grant they never may! — she herself is sometimes a captive, she wears bonds and fetters, and groans in slavery; and then I have to notice, in the fourth place, the promise of the text, that this mother, despite her bereavement, despite all her captivity, shall see her family multiplied to a most extraordinary degree, so that she shall be overwhelmed with amazement, and lifting up her eyes shall say, “Who has begotten me these, since I have lost my children, and am desolate, a captive, and moving to and fro? And who has brought up these? Behold, I was left alone; these, where were they?”

3. I. Well now, first of all, notice that THE CHURCH IS A MOTHER.

4. She always stood in that relationship to all her members. Take each member of the Church individually, he is a child; take us altogether, we make up the mother, the Church. The Church of Rome professes to be a mother; and what a mother she has proved to be! Let the Inquisition tell how tenderly she has nursed her babes. Let conventual torture chambers tell how her little infants have been cared for. Let the stakes that once stood on Smithfield, {a} let the gibbets and the fires all rise up, and tell the story of that tender and compassionate mother! Ah! but the Church of Christ is a true mother. Even when she is not continually using the name, yet is she a tender and affectionate nursing-mother to all her offspring. I shall begin here very briefly to speak about this mother.

5. The Church is a mother because it is her privilege to deliver into the world the spiritual children of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Church is still left in the world so that she may bring out the rest of God’s elect who are still hidden in the caverns and strongholds of sin. If God had willed it, he might have brought out all his children by the mere effort of his own power, without the use of any instrumentality. He might have sent his grace into each individual heart in some such miraculous manner as he did into the heart of Saul, when he was going towards Damascus; but he has not chosen to do so. He, who has taken the Church to be his spouse and his bride, has chosen to bring men to himself by means; and so it is, through God’s using the Church, her ministers, her children, her works, her sufferings, her prayers, — through making these the means of the increase of his spiritual kingdom, she proves her right to take for herself the title of mother.

6. But when these little ones are born, the Church’s business is, next, to feed them. It is not enough that she has brought them to Christ; it is not sufficient that, through her agency, they have been quickened, and begotten again to a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead; it is her work to feed them. She gives to them the unadulterated milk of the Word. Through her ministers, through her servants, through the different agencies which she employs, she endeavours to satisfy their longing souls with the bread of life. She gives them suitable food; she feeds them by her doctrine, by her ordinances; she invites them to come and eat and drink at her table, and it is her earnest desire and effort to supply all their spiritual needs by feeding their understandings, their affections, their hearts; every part and power of the mind and soul, the Church labours to feed.

7. Nor is she content with feeding: it is her endeavour to train up her children. There are some professed churches of Christ that seem to do nothing whatever in the way of training up the young in their midst. These churches, if there are any sinners converted, scarcely ever hear about it. If children are born, there is no rejoicing over them; their names are not written in the family register, — the church-book. They are not asked to come forward, and be recognised as children of God by being baptized; they are permitted to come up, perhaps, to the church’s house, but if they should offer to join her number by profession of their faith, they would be at once told that they were not yet fit to be numbered with her very royal children. But the true nursing churches do not act like this. They look out for every babe in Christ that they can find, and then they seek to instruct these babes; and when they are instructed, the church receives them into her arms, and she takes them to be hers, to be trained up for future deeds of usefulness. She trains up some of her sons to be captains in the Lord’s host. She puts the sword of the Spirit into their hands, and tells them to use it in fighting their Master’s battles. She trains up others of her sons and daughters to teach even younger ones and she puts these into her schools. She trains up all her children, some by one means and some by another. She says to some, “Go abroad, my children, and labour for your Lord in his far-off fields, and extend his kingdom wherever you can.” So the Church well deserves the name of mother, when she brings up, and fosters, and nurtures the children of God.

8. Nor is this all the Church can do. She will be always ready to nurse her children when they become sick; for, alas! in the Church’s family, there are always some sickly ones, not only sick in body, but sick in spirit. And never does the Church appear so truly a mother as she does to these. Over these she will be, if she is what she should be, particularly watchful and jealous. Though the strong shall have her attention, yet the weak shall have double. Though those who are standing up shall be helped, yet those who are cast down shall be helped even more. If there is a weak lamb, if there is a wandering sheep within the Church, she opens her eyes wide, and it will be her endeavour to watch most over these. She knows her duty is like her Lord’s, to bind up the broken in heart, and comfort those who mourn; so she continually invites her ministers to bring out sweet things from the storehouse. She says to her servants, “Put on the great pot, and put in the precious doctrines of the gospel, and let all these be simmering, so that there may be food for all my children.” “And,” she says, “take care that you bring out the wines on the lees well refined, the fat things full of marrow, for I have some weaklings in my family who will not be strong to labour unless they have the rich cordials of the gospel continually given to them.”

9. Ah! and when the Church is in proper order, how she will nurse the weak! Do you remember what she did in Paul’s days? — for what Paul did the Church did. He says, “We were gentle among you, even as a mother cherishes her children.” So will the Church do, through her ministers, her officers, and, indeed, through all her members if they fulfil their duty. She will be watching for the souls of men, especially for those souls that are the saddest, and the most cast down, and the most subject to temptation and to trial; she will watch over them and nurse them. And she will never be happy, let me add, until she brings all her children up to her Husband’s house in heaven. She is expecting him to come eventually; and when he comes, it will be her joy to meet her Husband leading her daughters with her. And she will say, “Come out, you daughters of Jerusalem, and see him who is greater than King Solomon crowned with the crown with which his mother crowned him on the day of his espousals.” And, at last, when she and her Husband shall be safe in the glory kingdom in heaven, then she will say, “Here I am, and the children whom you have given to me, and have nursed for you; but by your help they have been kept, by your grace they have been preserved, and it has been my loving duty, as their tender mother, to nurse, and cherish, and nurture them, and bring them up for you.”

10. Every time I give the right hand of fellowship to a new member, especially to those just brought in from the world, I think I hear Christ’s voice speaking to me, and saying, “Take these children, and nurse them for me, and I will give you your wages.” I say this is said to me, but I mean it is said to the entire Church; — I merely speak, of course, as the representative of the body. We have, whenever members are given to us, a great charge, under God, to nurse them for him, and, instrumentally, to advance them on the road to heaven. But, in all this, the Church is a poor mother, if her God is not with her. She can do nothing in delivering, nothing in nurturing, nothing in training, nothing in preserving, and nothing, at last, in bringing her children home, unless the Holy Spirit dwells in her, and sends her strength to accomplish it all.

11. When we speak of people joining the Church, we mean that they are added to the company of God’s people. We believe that the Church does not consist only of the preachers, and deacons, and elders; but that the Church is a company of faithful men and women, banded together according to God’s holy rule and ordinance for the propagation of the truth as it is in Jesus; and Betsy the servant maid is as much in the Church as any Very Reverend Doctor or Dean is. The Church, then, — by which I mean the great company and body of the faithful, — that Church is a nursing-mother.

12. II. The second remark which I proposed to make on our text is, that THE CHURCH IS SOMETIMES BEREAVED. Ah! there must be coffins in every house; there must be shrouds in every family; and so it is in the Church.

13. The Church has to lose some of her children. “After you have lost the others,” I read here. She loses some of her nominal children by spiritual death, but the reason for this is because they are not really her children at all. They are those who crept in, and pretended to be hers; and they looked so much like hers, that she could hardly tell them apart. For a little while, she nursed them; but, afterwards, they turned out to be the offspring of Satan, and then they went away from her. But even when they go away, she is such a loving mother that, though she feared they were not her children, yet she did not like to lose them. I heard some of her children singing, the other night, after one of these false brethren had been discovered, —

    When any turn from Zion’s way,
       Alas! what numbers do,
    Methinks I hear my Saviour say,
       “Wilt thou forsake me too?”

The Church does not like to lose even those who are not her children.

14. Then, next, she loses many of her children — I mean, they go away from her — by temporal death. Many of the Church’s children are taken up above; and, somehow, though she is glad to know they are in their Father’s bosom, yet she does not like to miss them. The Church regrets to see the vacant seat of her dead, and especially if it has been one of her children who has been very dutiful, and has striven to serve her much. She will weep very severely for such. When she lost her son Stephen, do you remember that a whole company of her children followed him to the grave; for it is said devout men carried him to his burial, and made great lamentation over him? Though the Church does not sorrow as one who has no hope, though she is glad to know that her children are well provided for, and taken up to live in their Father’s house, yet it is a great suffering to see her ministers taken away, and her church officers and members removed one by one, even while in their various spheres of usefulness, and while faithfully serving their Lord and Master.

15. Then, again, the Church loses her children, sometimes, by a trying providence. Many churches, as well as ourselves, are in that position; we have lost our children; we have lost many simply from the fact of their having to move far way; in this way, our congregations are necessarily scattered. Some of those who used to sit under our ministry Sabbath by Sabbath, who came up with our great company, and kept holy day, cannot now be seen in our midst. And I, if you do not, feel this as bereavement; I cannot bear to miss the face of a single one from the members of the church. There is a kind of sacred bond of union that binds us all together; and I do not like any one to go away, unless it is, now and then, when some grow dissatisfied, and then I feel it is better for them to go somewhere else, — it is certainly not worse for their minister. But those who have been loving, tender children have had to leave the church, — those who have striven for her good. It is a sad thing to see them separated from us, and that has happened to this church over and over again. As often as the minister has been removed from her midst, some of her children have been lost. The church-book is a very chequered book to look at. As I look back on the record of the past, I see the membership increase rapidly. A certain minister dies, and then the church is diminished and brought low. Again another comes, and a new company is gathered together; and as soon as he leaves, away they go; and so the church suffers bereavement; her children are removed, — not into the world, let us hope. But, alas! this does happen, even with God’s own children; after losing their early love in some one church, they go on wandering here and there, scarcely caring to unite themselves in church fellowship again, living unhappily, bereaved and alone, desolate and without companions.

16. I think I have said enough on this point. The Church, like every other mother, sometimes has to lose her children, and suffer bereavement.

17. III. Now I come to the third point, which is this: — YOUR CHURCH SOMETIMES HAS TO BE CARRIED AWAY CAPTIVE.

18. How often has this happened to the Church of God in the olden times! The Church has been carried into foreign countries; taken from her much-loved house at Jerusalem, and compelled to sit down by the waters of Babylon, and weep while she remembered her ancient habitation; her children have hung their harps on the willows, and when their enemies came, and required a song from them, they have said, “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” She has been a captive, indeed, in more modern times; since the days of Christ, the Church has been a captive in another sense, namely, that sometimes she has been cruelly persecuted. Kings have sent out their bloody edicts against her; then the tender nursing-mother, the Church, has been obliged to house her children in the dens and caves of the earth; they have worshipped in catacombs, by the light of candles, or perhaps with no light whatever; her dearest sons have been compelled to administer the ordinance of Christ in the vaults among the dead. When the living were too unkind, then death has found them a shelter; the earth has helped the woman, and in the catacombs her children have been born.

19. Often, too, the Church has been compelled to seek a refuge in foreign countries. You know how she went far into Africa; and how, again, she sought a lodging place in the safety of the Alps; — there, amid the snow-clad mountains, she found a little shelter from the bloodthirsty hounds of hell. And in even more modern times, the Church in this land has had to flee across the waters; and there, in America, the Pilgrim Fathers have become the founders of mightier churches than those they had left behind. Those were the times of the Church’s captivity. We cannot tell in this age what griefs they were that wrung the hearts of the first passengers in “The Mayflower.” When they left England, and went to America, they went out not knowing where they were going. They could not meet together for worship; it was death if they dared to preach the gospel; but they went where they could among the Indians, to be free to worship their God. Ah, those were days of moving to and fro! Then the Church wept, and said, “I am desolate, I am a captive, I am driven far away from my former habitation.”

20. The same thing has sometimes happened to the Church also, not in days of persecution, but in days when deadly sickness has seized on her limbs, when, suddenly, her energies have been dampened, her power lessened, and she has no more delivered children, or even nursed them tenderly. Days of slumber and heaviness have come over the Church, indeed, and days of heresy, too, when her ministers were no more shining lights, but, like the flax when the light is gone out, they were an offensive stench; when her fountains have no more gushed out with living waters, but a black, turbid, and putrefying stream; when, instead of the bread of heaven, her children have had to eat husks; when, instead of the pure Word of God, it was anything but the truth, — the lies of Satan and the inventions of hell.

21. IV. I will say no more on the Church’s captivity, but will just observe, in the last place, that, when the Church has lost her children, and when she herself has been made captive, and moved to and fro, she has said, “Ah, me! Ah, me! My God has forgotten me, the Lord has forsaken me; I am become a widow, I will sit in the dust, I will sorrow even to the end, I will groan even in the bitterness of my spirit; like Rachel, I will weep for my children, and I will not be satisfied or comforted, because they are gone.” But here comes this last point: even then, THE CHURCH HAS HAD A MARVELLOUS INCREASE AFTER ALL HER CAPTIVITIES, and all her bereavements have always worked for her good so far.

22. Never has the Church lost her children without obtaining many more. You remember, when the Jewish nation seemed to be once and for all cut off from the Church; when the apostle said, “Since you judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.” The Church might have sorrowed, and said, “I have lost the Jews”; but she found the Gentiles. Where she lost one, she found thousands; the day of her sorrow was the day of her increase. And, do you know, whenever the Church has lost a martyr, she has always, soon afterwards, found her numbers increased? Gathering around the stake, idle bystanders have noted the patience of the man of God; they have seen him when his hoary beard was being singed by the flames; they have watched him as his very bones cracked in the fire; they have seen him lift his burning hands to heaven, and clapping them, cry, “God is with me in the fire!” Struck with amazement, they have asked, “What is this that makes the man rejoice in a death so terrible?” And they have gone home, and they have retired to pray; and the next day has found them knocking at the door of the Church, entreating to be admitted into the sacred number of her children. The days of her bereavement have been the days of the increase of her family; and when the Church has been scattered and driven to and fro, it has always been for her good, — it has been like the scattering of seed. There was once a time when there was a granary full of heavenly seed. Satan knew this was destined to cover the whole earth with a glorious harvest. He was extremely angry concerning it; and he said, “What shall I do to destroy this seed?” so he went down into the dark pit, and brought up a legion of fiends. “Now,” he said, “we will burst the granary door open, we will take out that grain, we will cast it on the waters, we will throw it to the winds of heaven; we will throw it all away; it shall not be kept here to make a harvest on the earth.” So they broke open the door, and scattered the seed. Fool that he was, — God was making use of him to sow the fields; and, lo! the harvest sprang up, and Satan was still more full of wrath to find that he had outwitted himself; instead of scattering the Church, he had increased it. The little handful of grain on the mountaintop, when it was planted, grew and shook like Lebanon, and made the fruit of the seed rejoice and flourish like the grass of the earth. Yes, my brethren, you will find, in every case in the Church’s history, whenever she has been made captive, or has been bereaved, it has been for her good.

23. Now, just at this time, we are somewhat desolate; we have lost many of our children; our hearers are compelled to wander here and there, instead of listening to the Church’s voice, while we ourselves are like a captive moving to and fro from one place to another, where we can meet; and we have been apt to say, “This is a very sad thing, and very much to our harm.” But let us say that no longer, — for notice, I take this to be a personal promise, and I think it is a promise to the Church: “The children whom you shall have, after you have lost the others, shall say again in your ears, ‘The place is too small for me: give me a place so that I may live.’ Then shall you say in your heart, ‘Who has begotten me these,’ since I have lost my children, and am desolate, a captive, and moving to and fro? And who has brought up these? Behold, I was left alone; these, where were they?” This shall be the cry of the Church.

24. The first thing which astonishes the Church, when she opens her eyes after her captivity, is to notice the number of her children. She formerly counted her children by the number of their graves, she said they were all dead; but, suddenly, she found others coming around her, and calling her mother; again she saw her house filled, they were thronging about her, and she was astonished to see so great a number. Had there been only one or two, she would have thought they were the remnant spared from the hands of the enemy, but she saw the great number, and was astonished. Now, sometimes, when we think of this church, which God has so greatly enlarged that we number fifteen hundred souls, we are apt to think, “What a number!” It astonishes us. “You shall see greater things than these,” and you shall find that our relocation to another place, and our apparent captivity, shall increase the number of converts, and we shall be astonished as, month by month, they come before the church, and bear witness of what grace has done for them. We shall say, “Who has begotten me these? Who are these who fly like a cloud, and like doves to their roosts?”

25. It was not merely their number, it was also their character that astonished her, for she said, “Who has begotten me these? I do not know them. I have lost my children. These, where were they? Who has brought up these?” It is their character, as well as their number, that amazes her. Often, the Church finds her converts run in a certain vein; a certain class of people is brought to know the truth. But when the Church moves to and fro, there is another class brought in. Do you remember what happened once in Exeter Hall? A young man going, one Sunday morning, with his skates in his hand, to the Serpentine, and passing Exeter Hall, saw a crowd blocking up the path; he said, “What is this? There is something special going on here.” He joins the crowd, and the mass behind pushes him in; the minister preaches, and the words go home to that young man’s heart; they are quick and powerful, — he is brought to know the Saviour, and is converted. Many, who are not accustomed to go to one place, will go to another; many, who would not enter a place consecrated to divine worship, may, nevertheless, step in to another building out of idle curiosity or amusement. This has happened at the Surrey Gardens; and now, when we go to another place, another class, who perhaps have never been to hear the gospel, will be induced to come in, and we shall say, “Who has begotten me these? These, where were they?” I am not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet; but, before long, this will come to pass; we shall see numbers converted to God that will astonish us; and, besides that, there will be among them some remarkable sinners and some remarkable saints, and when they are added to the church, they will compel us to say, “These, where were they? Who has begotten us these?” Then you shall thank God that you ever had to suffer. Then the church shall rejoice that she was bereaved, and that she was moved to and fro. How do I know this? Well, I know it, simply, because I know, if I know anything, that this passage has been applied to my heart by the Holy Spirit. It has stuck so to me, and entered so thoroughly into my heart, that I have not been able to get rid of it; but have lived on it, and have felt the sweetness of it; and if this does not come true, then I am certainly deceived. But let us take care that it does come true; for, while we believe the promise, it is ours to be the means, in the hand of God, of fulfilling it.

26. Dear brothers and sisters, pray more than you have ever done. Wrestle with God in prayer. Plead with him that this may come true. For though he gives the promise, he says, “I will still be enquired of by the house of Israel for this, to do it for them.” I pledge you tonight — I cannot get you each to say, “Yes,” — but I pledge you, as a personal favour to your minister, and as an act of kindness to our loving mother the church, as a proof of your affection for your Lord and Master, — I pledge you, at the family altar, and in private tonight, and on, until next Christmas day, that we meet together, to plead with God for this particular blessing. Turn to this promise in your Bibles; read the passage at your family altars, and then plead it, — “Lord, you have made us to be desolate for a time. We have lost some of our children; now grant that the children whom we shall have, after we have lost these others, may cry, ‘Make room for us; the place is too small for us to live in.’ ” One of our brethren recently said to me, “You surely do not expect to see the Tabernacle crowded down the aisles, do you?” I do, indeed; I expect to see it as crowded as this chapel has ever been. {b} I think we shall often be moved to say, “Who has begotten me these?” God’s arm is not shortened that he cannot save, neither is his ear heavy that he cannot hear us. We shall go on, and conquer, and never cease. The God who has been with us in the past, will be with us in the future; and as it has been, so it still shall be. God shall still be glorified in the salvation of men.

{a} Smithfield: The place where the fires that Queen Mary (1553-1558) ordered to be lit to put to death such Protestant leaders and men of influence as Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer and Hooper, but also hundreds of lesser men who refused to adopt the Catholic faith. See Explorer "http://www.britannia.com/history/narrefhist3.html" {b} All who are familiar with the history of the Metropolitan Tabernacle know how literally and how blessedly this expectation was fulfilled.

Exposition By C. H. Spurgeon {2Ch 11:1-17 12:1-16}

Let us read, for our instruction, part of the story of Rehoboam, the son of Solomon.

11:1-4. And when Rehoboam was come to Jerusalem, he gathered from the house of Judah and Benjamin a hundred and eighty thousand chosen men, who were warriors, to fight against Israel, so that he might bring the kingdom again to Rehoboam. But the word of the LORD came to Shemaiah the man of God, saying, “Speak to Rehoboam the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and to all Israel in Judah and Benjamin, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD, "You shall not go up, nor fight against your brethren; return every man to his house: for this thing is done by me."’ ” And they obeyed the words of the LORD, and returned from going against Jeroboam.

So far, so good. There was some degree of the fear of God in the minds of men when, at the bidding of a single prophet, a king would disband his troops, and cease from war.

5-15. And Rehoboam lived in Jerusalem, and built cities for defence in Judah. He built even Bethlehem, and Etam, and Tekoa, and Bethzur, and Shoco, and Adullam, and Gath, and Mareshah, and Ziph, and Adoraim, and Lachish, and Azekah, and Zorah, and Aijalon, and Hebron, which are fenced cities in Judah and in Benjamin. And he fortified the strongholds, and put captains in them, and food supplies, and olive oil and wine. And in each individual city he put shields and spears, and made them very strong, having Judah and Benjamin on his side. And the priests and the Levites who were in all Israel resorted to him out of all their borders. For the Levites left their suburbs and their possessions, and came to Judah and Jerusalem: for Jeroboam and his sons had cast them off from executing the priest’s office to the LORD; and he ordained him priests for the high places, and for the demons, and for the calves which he had made.

No wonder, therefore, that Rehoboam’s kingdom was strengthened by the arrival of these men, who were, doubtless, the best men in the whole country, men who feared the Lord, — men who knew the law, and who knew how to teach the people what they should do.

16. And after them out of all the tribes of Israel such as set their hearts to seek the LORD God of Israel came to Jerusalem, to sacrifice to the LORD God of their forefathers.

“Birds of a feather flock together,” so those in Israel who feared the Lord went where their ministers had gone; this movement would bring about an emigration of some of the best of the population, to reside near the sacred shrine where Jehovah was worshipped; and it must have tended to strengthen Rehoboam’s little kingdom even more.

17. So they strengthened the kingdom of Judah, and made Rehoboam the son of Solomon strong, for three years: for three years they walked in the way of David and Solomon.

That was good while it lasted; but, alas! it did not last long.

12:1. And it came to pass, when Rehoboam had established the kingdom, and had strengthened himself, he forsook the law of the LORD, and all Israel with him.

He was not able to endure the perils of prosperity. He forgot the Lord who had caused him to prosper; and, in the pride of his heart, he turned aside to idols.

2. And it came to pass, that in the fifth year of King Rehoboam, Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem, because they had transgressed against the LORD,

That was not Shishak’s reason for coming up against Jerusalem. He had heard of the riches of Solomon; and doubtless, he came for the sake of the spoil which the palace and the temple would yield to him. But God often overrules the lower motives of men for the accomplishment of his own purposes. “I girded you,” he said of Cyrus, “though you have not known me.” So he girded Shishak for the chastisement of Israel, though Shishak did not know him.

3, 4. With twelve hundred chariots, and sixty thousand horsemen: and the people were without number who came with him out of Egypt; the Lubims, the Sukkiims, and the Ethiopians. And he took the fenced cities which pertained to Judah, and came to Jerusalem.

How vain is man when he boasts in the strength of his fortifications! These fenced cities fell at once, like houses built of cards, before the power of the mighty king of Egypt, and the vast hordes that accompanied him. Rehoboam had spent his strength in making these defences, but how soon they were proved to be worthless. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is”; but “cursed is the man who trusts in man, and makes flesh his arm, and whose heart departs from the Lord.”

5, 6. Then came Shemaiah the prophet to Rehoboam, and to the princes of Judah, that were gathered together to Jerusalem because of Shishak, and said to them, “Thus says the LORD, ‘You have forsaken me, and therefore I have also left you in the hand of Shishak.’ ” Whereupon the princes of Israel and the king humbled themselves; and they said, “The LORD is righteous.”

Now, that is the very essence of true humility, the acknowledgment that God is righteous in whatever punishment he brings on us on account of our sin. It is a very short sentence, but there is a great fulness of meaning in it: “Jehovah is righteous.”

7, 8. And when the LORD saw that they humbled themselves, the word of the LORD came to Shemaiah, saying, “They have humbled themselves; therefore I will not destroy them, but I will grant them some deliverance; and my wrath shall not be poured out on Jerusalem by the hand of Shishak. Nevertheless they shall be his servants; so that they may know my service, and the service of the kingdoms of the countries.”

That is a very instructive expression. I believe that, when God’s people go astray from him, he sometimes allows them to fall into great bondage, in order that they may understand the difference between his happy service and the servitude in which they may be held by any other lord. All masters, to whom we surrender our hearts and minds, will turn out to be tyrants, except the blessed Prince of peace. His yoke is easy, and his burden is light; but all other yokes gall the shoulders sooner or later; and God has sometimes made his wandering people feel this so bitterly that they have longed to get back again to the service of their God.

9. So Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem, and took away the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king’s house; he took everything: he also carried away the shields of gold which Solomon had made.

He did not plunder the people; he was contented with the loot of the temple and the palace. These were comparatively easy terms for the conquered nation, and one wonders how such a powerful king as Shishak should have been so easily satisfied in those days; but God has the hearts of all men under his control, and even when he lets a powerful foe go out against his people, he still restrains him when he pleases. What a mercy it is for us that, when God chastens us, there is an end to it! It is always in measure, he does not let loose the fulness and the fierceness of his wrath, as he will on the castaways in eternity; but when he lays his rod on us, he counts every stripe. Forty stripes except one was all that an Israelite might have to endure; and, surely, God often stops far short of that number when he deals with us. However, Shishak humiliated the king and his people by taking away the treasures of the temple and the palace; and, among the rest of his plunder, “he carried away the shields of gold, which Solomon had made.”

10-12. Instead of which King Rehoboam made shields of bronze, and committed them to the hands of the chief of the guard who kept the entrance of the king’s house. And when the king entered into the house of the LORD, the guard came and fetched them, and brought them again into the guard chamber. And when he humbled himself, the wrath of the LORD turned from him, so that he would not destroy him altogether: and also in Judah things went well.

Or, rather, “things in Judah even went well.” There was comparative prosperity; they were not altogether prosperous, for they were not altogether right with God; but there was a sufficient proportion of godly men, the Puritan party, the Evangelical party, was strong enough in the land, for God still to look at it with favour, yet not unmixed with disapprobation; for the party who worshipped idols, the party composed of the superstitious, the party belonging to the world was still very strong.

13-15. So King Rehoboam strengthened himself in Jerusalem, and reigned: for Rehoboam was forty-one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city which the LORD had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, to put his name there. And his mother’s name was Naamah an Ammonitess. And he did evil, because he did not prepare his heart to seek the LORD. Now the acts of Rehoboam, first and last, are they not written in the book of Shemaiah the prophet, and of Iddo the seer concerning genealogies.

Where are those books now? It is of no consequence whatever where they are. There are a great many other books that have perished because they were not inspired. They were books of genealogies, — valuable in their day; but if they had been of any use to us spiritually, they would have been preserved. Now, since other ancient books have evidently been lost, let us devoutly bless God that the inspired Books have been preserved for us. By what a continuous miracle of Providence, every inspired letter has been continued in existence, it would be hard to tell; but we ought constantly to praise the Lord that, out of the Book of this prophecy, not a line has been removed.

15, 16. And there were wars between Rehoboam and Jeroboam continually. And Rehoboam slept with his forefathers, and was buried in the city of David: and Abijah his son reigned in his place.

Spurgeon Sermons

These sermons from Charles Spurgeon are a series that is for reference and not necessarily a position of Answers in Genesis. Spurgeon did not entirely agree with six days of creation and dives into subjects that are beyond the AiG focus (e.g., Calvinism vs. Arminianism, modes of baptism, and so on).

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