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2 Chronicles 13:21-22 - Homilies By W. Clarkson

Abijah: the lessons of his life.

These concluding verses, which dispose of the latter end of the life of Abijah, may bring before us the lessons which are to be gathered from his career.

I. THE SLIGHTNESS AND VALUELESSNESS OF HUMAN FAME . He was a descendant of David, and a king reigning at Jerusalem, and he gained a somewhat brilliant victory over his rival at Mount Ephraim—"the rest of his acts and his ways and sayings are written in the story of the Prophet Iddo;" but who reads them there, or who can tell us anything of what is there contained? In the Book of the Kings ( 1 Kings 5:7 ) we are referred to our text for the details of his career. But how scanty we find them to be! How little do we know of this once proud and "mighty" monarch; and how content we are that we know so little! And of what entire valuelessness to him would any fuller knowledge on our part be! We need not be concerned that our name and fame will traverse so small a part of this globe, and travel so short a space of time; that we shall be so soon forgotten. Kings and statesmen, whose chances of fame were far greater than ours, have found how ephemeral and how worthless a thing is fame. To be loved by those whom we have blessed, to be esteemed by the good and true, to be honoured of God to take some part in the promotion of his glorious kingdom,—that is the heritage to be coveted and to be gained.

II. THE BRITTLENESS OF EARTHLY FORTUNE . When Abijah ascended the throne of Judah, he had, probably, good reason for expecting a long period of honour and enjoyment. But three short years brought his hopes down to the ground. Some disease showed itself in his frame, or some accident befell him, or some treacherous blow struck him, and he went down to the grave with his early hopes unfulfilled. And who shall say that the young man of our acquaintance, of our connection, of our affection, who has such bright prospects before him, will not find, by a sad disillusion, that the term of his happiness and his honour is a very brief one; that a few years, or even months, will bring him to his grave? "Love not the world, neither the things which are in the world The world passeth away … but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. "

III. THE DANGER OF GREAT SUCCESS . We read in the preceding verse ( 2 Chronicles 13:20 ) that Jeroboam never "recovered strength again" after his humiliating defeat at Mount Ephraim. We might with equal truth say of Abijah that he never recovered from his success. He was apparently elated by it, and, in the perilous mood of complacency, he gave himself up to culpable domestic licence ( 2 Chronicles 13:21 ). His latter days were spent in home luxuries and (it is only too likely) in revelries and follies. His success was too much for him; as, indeed, success very often proves to be. Many men can stand misfortune; comparatively few can stand prosperity. It is a "slippery place," where the unguarded human spirit falls, and is badly bruised, if not broken. If the tide of success should set in, whether of wealth, or honour, or power, or affection, let there be unusual watchfulness and multiplied devotion; for the hour of prosperity is that hour when the archers of the enemy will be busy with their arrows.

IV. THE VALUE OF WHOLE - HEARTEDNESS IN THE SERVICE OF THE SUPREME . Where shall we look to find the fatal flaw that accounts for this royal failure? We find it here ( 1 Kings 15:3 ). Abijah's heart was "not perfect with the Lord his God;" that is to say, his heart was "divided," and therefore he was "found faulty" ( Hosea 10:2 ). He did not seek God "with his whole heart." He was willing enough to try and charm with the Divine Name and the Divine will and Law (see 2 Chronicles 13:5-10 ), but he was not prepared to walk uprightly and faithfully, as "the heart of David his father," before the Lord his God. If our devotion be nothing more than a desire to have God on our side in the day of battle, we shall show small consistency of conduct and little excellence of character. The religious character that will stand the test both of sunshine and shadow is that of the man who realizes the supreme claims of God, his Father and his Saviour, and who solemnly and determinately dedicates himself, heart and life, to "the Lord his God." It is only whole-heartedness in the service of Christ that will ensure us against the perils of adversity and prosperity.—C.

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