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2 Chronicles 23:11-15 - Homilies By W. Clarkson

Sin surprised at its rapture.

The success of this revolution, so long prepared and so admirably accomplished by Jehoiada, involved the ruin of one "wicked woman" ( 2 Chronicles 24:7 ). It was inevitable that Athaliah must perish; here we have the account of her fall. We have before us—

I. SIN SURPRISED AT ITS OWN FAILURE . This coup d'etat evidently came upon Athaliah with surprise. The twelfth verse describes the action of one that is both astonished and alarmed, who takes hasty measures to learn what is happening, and to provide for her own interests. Suddenly and unexpectedly the blow fell upon her head. She was pursuing her evil course, reckoning on future years of power and possession, and in the very midst of her iniquity judgment overtook and overthrew her. How continually does this happen, though it may be on a smaller scale and in humbler spheres! Sin appears to succeed, holds up its head in triumph for a while, defies all justice, human and Divine; then suddenly the ground opens beneath its feet, and it is swallowed up. Its temporary success is only an incident in its abort-lived career; it is a stage on its way to failure and humiliation. The foolish man does not understand this; he thinks it is a proof that God is afar off or is quite indifferent; he takes it as a sign that he may safely disregard the solemn warnings of God's Word. But he is foolish; he does not understand the course of things. "When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed for ever " ( Psalms 92:7 ; see also Psalms 73:2-20 ). We may be surprised and pained at the prosperity of the wicked, at the enthronement of the sanguinary and the selfish. Where is God's righteousness? where is the penalty of sin, we ask. Wait, and we shall see. The end will come before long. The shameless usurper, man or woman, will perish; the guilty empire will be overthrown. Suddenly or gradually their fate will fall upon them. "How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment!" Nor is it only the man or woman that rises to eminence and to a great estate who will prove the truth of this. Any one who hardens himself against God stands in the most serious danger of being "suddenly destroyed, and that without remedy," like the guilty woman at Jerusalem.

II. ENTHUSIASM UNDER A WISE CONTROL . There must have been the greatest excitement raised and felt on this occasion. Everything contributed to kindle popular feeling and to raise it to its highest point. When they surrounded the little child and anointed him with the sacred oil, and put the crown on his young head and cried, "God save the king!" we may be sure that the emotion which on some supreme occasions fills and fires a multitude of people, was then as intense as it could be (see 2 Chronicles 23:13 ); but Jehoiada held it under a wise control. And when Athaliah appeared, and when they looked at her, and remembered what she had done and what a blight and a curse she had been to the land, they might well have slain her on the spot. But the priest of Jehovah would not have the sacred place profaned with her blood, and he stayed their hand; they conducted her beyond the sacred precincts, and not till then did they inflict justice upon her. Feeling should never rise too high to be controlled by our judgment, especially strong feeling against any individual, man or woman. If we let our feelings carry our judgment along with them, we shall be sure to do that which we shall afterwards regret and which may be quite irreparable. Nor is any man at liberty to say that he is constitutionally impulsive and cannot control himself. It may be a more difficult duty in some natures than it is in others; but it is every man's serious and sacred obligation to rule his own spirit, to maintain a mastery over his affections and his impulses and his resentments. This is to be the excellent result of daily discipline, cf strenuous endeavour, of constant prayer.

III. THE SERVICE OF DESTRUCTION . "Then all the people went to the house of Baal, and brake it down," etc. ( 2 Chronicles 23:17 ). As a rule, the way in which we serve Christ wisely and permanently is the act of construction, of building up. Better to sow a seed than to pluck up a root; better to raise a Christian sanctuary than to knock down a heathen temple; better to implant thoughts of reverence and love than to rebuke and wither the profane word or the evil habit. But there is a time to plant and also to pluck up; a time to kill as well as to heal; a time to break down as well as to build up ( Ecclesiastes 3:2 , Ecclesiastes 3:3 ). There are evil and hurtful people to be put out of the room, pernicious books and papers to be put into the fire, ruinous institutions to be suppressed by the strong hand of law, deadly practices to be sternly forbidden. There is a time when "slaughter is God's daughter," when the destructive hand is the organ of the will of Jesus Christ.—C.

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