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Penalties Of Compromise

We hear the term compromise arise today in subjects as diverse as nuclear disarmament and school discipline. The basic meaning of compromise is to come together on terms less than those originally desired. It involves accepting a degree of disadvantage. Some think of those who are uncompromising as unrealistic and thus they are frequently unpopular also. This viewpoint is taken occasionally because compromise is confused with compassion, but the latter does not equate to, or necessitate, the exercise of 'compromise. Faithful Christians will clarify this issue by reference to Scripture. In this the Old Testament record still provides examples "written for our admonition" (1 Cor. 10:11). This article therefore concentrates on Old Testament lessons which illustrate the consequences of compromise by disciples in the matter of separation from those who reject God's will.

Samson - a compromised vow

If we turn to the second chapter of the book of Judges we find it provides a sad rehearsal of the content of much of the rest of the Book, which includes the account of Samson. Let us review briefly the historical setting.

Because they failed to drive out the inhabitants of the land in accordance with God's command the children of Israel found themselves in frequent contact with the people of those nations. These earlier inhabitants stayed, and so did their evil practices. All too soon the Israelites assimilated these things, even to the point of practising idol-worship. They became subjects of the nations they should have destroyed. God raised up deliverers (judges) when His people cried repentantly to Him. The people enjoyed the deliverance from alien domination but did not adhere to the rule of God (Judg. 2:19). It was in such a setting that Samson was promised to his previously barren mother as a deliverer who should begin to bring release to the people from the Philistine yoke (13:1-5).

We do well to remind ourselves that Samson was a man of great faith whose exploits for God resulted in his inclusion in the "honour roll" of Hebrews 11. This should make us more sensitive to our own potential weakness; none of us stands so strongly that he ceases to be in danger of falling! In the case of Samson, the danger became greater in the home than on the battlefield. Compromise blurred his vision so that he did not see the evil enemy that lurked behind his would-be companions.

Samson's marriage and other close relationships with women of the Canaanite people of the Philistines were in direct contravention of the Law of Moses (Deut. 7:1-3). Thus he compromised God's stated requirements of the children of Israel to gratify his passions. Moreover he did not live up to his special duties as a Nazirite in which it was intended he should be separated to God all his life (Judg. 13:7). In particular, in assuming this vow he was not to have his hair cut because a Nazirite's long hair was a symbol of his separation to God (Num. 6:7). In Samson's case, his adherence to his vow was accompanied by blessing from God (Judg. 13:24) which included his immense strength.

But now listen in his room as Delilah nags him into telling the secret of that strength. At first he lies, then lies again, then in response to her rebukes, hear him approach the truth; "If thou weavest the seven locks of my head". Then he told all. This was not compassion for the troubled Delilah; it was simply the final step in compromising his vow. His aim was to achieve peace with his illicit lover, even by disregarding his vow of separation. So, along with his hair he lost the blessing of his vow. He lost his strength, his freedom and his sight. The Phillstines, as a result, were not driven out and there was limited success in reducing their yoke over Israel during Samson's twenty-year rule (16:27-31).

Is there a warning to us in this? A Christian is worthy of that name when he maintains his allegiance to Christ his Lord, when he keeps clear of things that can contaminate his spiritual life and when his separation to God is clearly witnessed to all. What if these things are compromised? Surely like Samson we will in a spiritual sense lose our strength, our freedom and our sight.

Solomon - compromised devotion

Solomon is another example of a leader who compromised God's principle of separation of His people from other nations, as evidenced particularly in marital relationships (1 Kin.11). Some have suggested that Solomon used intermarriage as a tactical means to secure foreign policy strategy. If this was so, then he was clearly acting not only in disregard of God's law but also in denial of the Lord's promises to him in regard to the strength of his kingdom (1 Kin. 3:13).

In the book of Proverbs (6:27), for the most part written by Solomon, the question is asked: "Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? This statement was made in the context of engaging in adulterous relationships, but has wider application. Playing with compromise in divinely set standards for human relationships is worse than playing with fire. Haggai 2:11-13 shows how it is all too easy to become defiled through getting too close to defiled things. Our holiness does not consecrate others but their sins can defile us. That is exactly what happened in Solomon's case. He compromised his devotion to the Lord. He reduced his commitment to the Lord in order to please his many wives, who caused him to follow their gods (1 Kin. 11:4).

The consequences affected not only Solomon but the whole nation, and in an enduring way. They faced adversaries (11:14,23,26) for the rest of Solomon's days (11:25) and after his death the kingdom was divided. Consider the heart wrenching suffering of the people as brother was set against brother. Importantly, the division of the people also marked the introduction of formal idol-worship in the northern kingdom of Israel under the rule of Jeroboam (12:26-28). We can see how Solomon's weakness in this matter facilitated the general acceptance of idols. This sin also deprived God of His position in the eyes of the people as the only true Elohim of Israel (Ex. 20:2,3). Solomon's compromise, then, resulted in compromises by the people as a whole, and with the compromises came judgement (1 Kin. 14:15,16). Instead of enjoying a continued glorious kingdom, eventually the people were taken into captivity, losing their land, their nationhood and their sanctuary.

For those in the house of God today, this is a salutary lesson. We need to be always aware of the fact that if we compromise God's standards of holiness for our own selfish ends this can have a wide-ranging effect on the people of God. Paul had to remind those in Corinth that when they boasted of their tolerance it was not a sign of compassion but of compromise in regard to God's demand for judgement, which if left undone would have harmed the whole community (1 Cor. 5:6). It is the same for us!

Jehoshaphat - compromise in battle

This man was commended for removing from Israel the idols Solomon had followed (2 Chron. 19:3). His kingdom was strengthened by the teaching of the Law and God brought peace to the land (17,9,10). Yet we turn to the account of Jehoshaphat to learn the principle that the people of God should not compromise His requirements in regard to warfare in our case, Christian testimony. In the pattern provided by God for His people, divine service is always the unique responsibility of those He first ~alls to a place of service. Jehoshaphat was in the right place. Moreover, he did not need Ahab, the apostate king of Israel, to help him, nor did he have God's direction to make an alliance to help Ahab. But that is what he did.

In the ensuing battle against Ahab's enemy, the king of Aram, Jehoshaphat found he was the primary target. He nearly lost his life and he endangered (and quite likely sacrificed) the lives of many in his army. The lesson he learned so forcefully on the battlefield was re-inforced by Jehu the seer when he returned home: "Should you help the wicked and make alliances with those who hate the LORD?" (19:2 NIV Mg).

If we are to serve the Lord effectively today and bring Him pleasure

we should note the lessons from Jehoshaphat's experience. We should

ensure we are in the place where God has called His people to serve. We

should not then seek alliances with those who reject this and who attempt to continue to do battle on the wrong battlefield. In this category we can

include ecumenism; the battle for unification of "Christian" churches won by compromising scriptural requirements for unity of believers.

To sum up, while God's infinite love could not change, neither could He compromise the demands of His righteousness, they must remain in perfect balance. Hence Calvary to secure a full and just salvation. So we must learn the dangers of compromise in the things of God.