No nemesis here - Amalek not eradicated!

The Amalekites — Seventh in a series

Before Moses died, he recalled to the Hebrews the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments (Deut 6:1) that the Lord wanted them to perform in the promised land. It was a lengthy discourse —nearly all of Deuteronomy — and included orders regarding the Amalekites:

Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt; How he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, [even] all [that were] feeble behind thee, when thou [wast] faint and weary; and he feared not God. Therefore it shall be, when the LORD thy God hath given thee rest from all thine enemies round about, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee [for] an inheritance to possess it, [that] thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget [it]. Deu 25:17-19

Not long after Israel's first king had been anointed, the moment arrived to eradicate Amalek. It had been about four centuries since the incident at Rephidim and the Amalekites had continued attacking Israel over the years (Judg 6:3, 10:12; 1 Sam 14:48).

An expression, not biblical, now comes to mind: The mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding fine. God never forgets to exercise justice, and in his providence he may begin with his own people. In this way, the refining retributions sift his own household (1Pet 4:17), even as they punish his enemies. So it was with King Saul. He had disappointed the Lord by his disobedience at Gilgal, and was sifted in the matter of annihilating the Amalekites. Again he disobeyed, and thus was rejected as king though his reign did not in fact end at the time.

At Gilgal, Saul offered the burnt offering rather than waiting for Samuel to do so. (1 Sam 13:9-14) Samuel warned him then …thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart (vs 14).

Again, when instructed to destroy the Amalekites, Saul disobeyed and disappointed. The Lord said to him through his prophet, I remember [that] which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid [wait] for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass. (1 Sam 15:2, 3) But Saul spared the Amalekite king Agag and the best of the sheep, oxen and lambs. He only destroyed what he considered to be vile.

Then the Lord told Samuel he was sorry he had made Saul the king, and Samuel reprimanded Saul,

Hath the LORD [as great] delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey [is] better than sacrifice, [and] to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion [is as] the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness [is as] iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from [being] king. (1 Sam 15:22, 23)

Another expression comes to mind: The Lord is doing many things at one time. In this incident, He punished Amalek severely while proving Saul was unfit for command, and importantly, he arranged a lesson for us, To obey is better than sacrifice. This brings up a question: Am I willing to remove or destroy the object or subject in my surroundings that offends the Lord?

In the passage cited, many things are equated with disobedience: rebellion, witchcraft, stubbornness, iniquity, idolatry and rejection of God's Word. Though presumably sparing many sheep for the purpose of sacrificing them in thankfulness to God, Saul failed in his mission. He attributed the oversight to his followers (1 Sam 15:24), but is held responsible for failing to command them.

Obedience is required in all things, particularly in offering sacrifices properly. In Old Testament days, a king was never to usurp the role of the priest; likewise, for us in New Covenant days, there must be a godly presentation and handling of the doctrine of Christ's perfect sacrifice. If a pastor were to tell us he could forgive our sins or that our sins could be forgotten if we would follow a prescribed regimen of prayer, Bible reading or good works, he would be mishandling truth and promoting error.

A last expression is pertinent, this one from the Bible: To whom much is given, much will be required. (Luke 12:48) In context, this passage speaks of a servant who knew the right thing to do, but did not do it. The one who is aware of God's laws and specific commands will be held fully responsible for complete obedience. Those less knowledgeable will enjoy lenience. Leaders are doubly responsible to set an example in obedience. They have power to guide people into truth or into error.

The defeat of our enemies before we begin to fight them

The Amalekites — Sixth in a series

At the end of the last post, Israel was marching north, near the Moabites whose king had hired Balaam to curse them, but Balaam could not resist the Lord's power and blessed them instead. God had promised Abraham that Canaan would belong to his progeny and was close to fulfilling that promise.

The Moabites were not to be disturbed (Deut 2:9); they were cousins not Canaanites. But they were persistent in their desire to confound Israel. At Balaam's counsel (Num 31:16), Moab's daughters drew the Israelites into whoredom and idol worship (Num 25:1, 2), helped by their neighbors, the Midianites. (Num 25:6)

God told Moses to slay each Hebrew who had fallen to their schemes. When one man brought a Midianite woman into their midst and then into a tent, Moses' great nephew, Phinehas, followed them in and speared both in one thrust. For his zealous deed, God's anger was turned away, and Phinehas was promised God's covenant of peace, And he shall have it, and his seed after him, [even] the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel. (Num 25:12, 13) Indeed,

the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of [them] whose heart [is] perfect toward him. (2 Ch 16:9)

The Lord commanded Moses, Vex the Midianites, and smite them. (vs 17) This was to be Moses' final work before he died. We recall that Moses' wife was a Midianite: the Lord is not sentimental.

For the Israelites to take the land, there was urgent necessity that they honor and obey all of God's commands and punish any among them who would not. As they did so, victories began to mount up: first, Jericho, then Ai, though there was a step backward for the disobedience of Achan who hoarded some of the spoils from Jericho.

Again and again, the Lord urged them to victory, saying, The LORD your God has delivered them into your hand (Jos 10:19) or giving similar encouragement. All the battles had been won before the fight if obedience were at hand.

Finally, the enemy nations (except for the Gibeonites of the Hivites who deceived Israel to gain their protection) were defeated — there stood not a man of all their enemies before them; the LORD delivered all their enemies into their hand. (Jos 21:44)

However, small pockets of enemies were left to test the Israelites' faith and zeal for obedience, and after a time, as God's people joined with those remnants in idol worship, they had no strength to hold their land. (Judg 2:14) Even so, if they cried out for deliverance, God was faithful to restore their possessions.

When Deborah and Barak called the Israelites to battle against the Canaanites, many of the tribes, but not all, responded. The ones who did were commended in Deborah's song (Judg 5). Ephraim was praised for battling the Amalekites, who once again had joined the Canaanites to defeat Israel, (Judg 5:14) as they had done many generations prior in their second attack on Israel.

We recall that Moses had built an altar after the Amalekites' first attack, to mark God's promise to war against the Amalekites from generation to generation (Ex 17:14-16). Evil is persistent, but is never as determined, irresistible and successful as the LORD in all his plans.

As we consider these lessons from the Old Testament, we can see their application to us:

  1. God's people must be wholehearted and careful in their obedience to all of his commands.
  2. Amalek, the personification of presumption and arrogance, must be leveled in every generation. For us, this is a charge to defeat these tendencies from ruling our hearts.
  3. Those in Christ have been given a land, the kingdom of heaven, a place of our security in the Lord here on earth and for all eternity, and by our obedience, its borders and walls are retained or reestablished.
  4. To the Lord a thousand years is as a day (2 Pet 3:8), and we are never to overlook any of his commands, no matter how long the world goes on. They do not change.

As we are obedient, we will be empowered to resist the devil and to win each battle. (Jas 4:7; 1 Pet 5:8-10) We cannot be obedient without God's love and help.

Of things hoped for

Nineteenth in the Solomon Series

Some commentators have assumed that Psalm 45 is an "epithalamium" – a song or poem in honor of a bride and bridegroom – written for Solomon to celebrate his marriage to his Song of Songs bride. Others see it strictly as a prophetical psalm, a wedding song for Christ and his bride, the church.

The 1599 Geneva Study Bible states that it was a song:

Of that perfect love that ought to be between the husband and the wife… Verse 2, "Thou art fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into thy lips: therefore God hath blessed thee for ever" speaks of Solomon’s beauty and eloquence to win favour with his people, and his power to overcome his enemies.

Verse 6, Thy throne, O God, [is] for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom [is] a right scepter likens Solomon's just reign to the perfect judgments of God. Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. (vs 7) Solomon is lauded for his exemplary kingship; his subjects rejoiced for him on his wedding day.

To the bride, the psalmist sings, Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father's house; So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he [is] thy Lord; and worship thou him. (vss 10, 11) This princess should forget her roots.

The expressed hope for greatest blessing was: Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth. (vs 16) The Geneva Study Bible explains that their children "will have greater graces than their fathers."

In a general sense, Solomon's descendants born after the coming of the Lord did have greater graces. However, of those born to him, we never hear about any but Rehoboam, the son of an Ammonitess (1 Ki 14:21). If Solomon and his bride of Psalm 45 had children, we know nothing of them. Was the singer's hope for that blessing unfulfilled?

King Rehoboam probably was Solomon's first son, since he began to reign at age 41 (2 Ch 12:13), and Solomon reigned for 40 years (1 Ki 11:42).

The epithalamium ends with the prophecy, I will make thy name to be remembered in all generations: therefore shall the people praise thee for ever and ever. (Ps 45:17) This must refer to the Father's desire and power to lift up the name of his son, Jesus Christ, whose likeness faintly glimmered in Solomon, the imperfect type.

Psalm 127 was also written for Solomon. It is a "Song of Degrees," to be sung as one ascended the mountain to Jerusalem. About this psalm, Charles Spurgeon wrote, We are here taught that builders of houses and cities, systems and fortunes, empires and churches all labour in vain without the Lord; but under the divine favour they enjoy perfect rest. ... It is THE BUILDER'S PSALM. Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep. (Ps 127:1, 2)

One can picture Solomon walking up the mountain to work on the temple, and comforting himself with these thoughts. It was such a massive project; only the Lord could complete it. All of his hard labor could never amount to anything if the Lord did not help him. Perhaps he did stay up late and rise early, hardly eating, to figure out how to complete what needed to be done that day.

And then, to think — that God would cast this temple away from His sight — that it would be destroyed! Oh, the vanity! The vanity of vanities — the epitome of all vaporous results of devilment. The agony!

Had Solomon not proclaimed that God alone would preserve the temple? He set up the pillars in the temple's porch, calling them "Jachin" and "Boaz," or "God shall establish strength in it." (from John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible)

Where is the strength! Where is the Lord?

The purposes of the Lord will be established and his own people preserved, for the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. (2 Tim 2:19) In God's house there are two aspects of a sure foundation: God knows his children, and they must obey his law.

Christ has recompense for hopes that are disappointed. God had something even better planned for Solomon who had shown himself a man of faith, even though one who also disappointed. The Lord designed that he should not be made perfect without us. (Heb 11:40)

Over many generations we proceed to the wedding supper of the Lamb. We can learn from history and from the failures of our ancestors in the family of Christ. The Bible is wonderful in the way it reports all the sins and failures of God's people so that we can hope!

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. -Mat 5:14

Hochosterwitz 01052004 04

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