Today’s Bible reading took me to another sad and sordid chapter in the history of God’s people in the Old Testament (I Kings 16-18). King Elah, comfortable and secure after two years of ruling Israel, is working on getting himself good and drunk. Zimri, his traitorous servant, seeing his chance for power and glory, kills Elah in his stupor. Zimri installs himself as king and in a bloody, seven-day reign executes every possible heir to the throne. But the nation rises up against Zimri who seeing imminent defeat, torches his house and dies in the flames (I Kings 16:8-28).
It’s not a pretty picture, but it is a realistic one. The Bible never paints Man as basically good, not even those who are enlightened by the Word of God and called to be His people. We still struggle with what one of the Puritans called “the dark guest within whose hidden presence makes my life a hell.” That same writer called on God to destroy that unwelcome and sinister boarder recognizing that though his sins are crucified they are not yet mortified. He confesses:
I am not yet weaned from all created glory, honour, wisdom, and esteem of others, for I have a secret motive to eye my name in all I do. *
Are we not a lot like Zimri, hating all that threatens our own security and glory? Do we not take whatever steps are most promising to exalt ourselves or that are least uncomfortable to avoid being diminished before the eyes of others?
Yet in Christ there is hope of progress in our war with sin. In Him, we find forgiveness and mercy which is new every morning (Lamentations 3:21-24; Ephesians 1:7) . In Him, we find security because His righteousness is credited to the account of His people (I Corinthians 1:30). In Him, we find true glory because He has gone to prepare a place for us and has prayed that His own may be with Him in glory (John 14:1-3;17:20-26).
Though there is a dark guest within, we may have confidence to cry out with our anonymous brother:
There is no treasure so wonderful
as that continuous experience of thy grace
toward me which alone can subdue the risings of sin within:
Give me more of it.
Christian brother or sister, do not despair. Your dark guest is going down. Glory is nearer than ever.
Doubting and skeptical friend, do not take solace in the struggles and failures of professing Christians. They will ultimately be victorious through Christ. Repent and believe in the only One God sent who can save doubters and skeptics who turn to Him.
(*The Valley of Vision:A collection of Puritan prayers and devotions, ed. Arthur Bennett, Edinburgh, Carlisle, Banner of Truth Trust, 1975, p. 126-7)