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"No Man Layeth It To Heart" (Isaiah 57, 1)

The apostle Paul, after a lengthy survey of the lives of men and women of faith, near the end of the Epistle to the Hebrews' wrote

"And considering the issue of their manner of life, imitate their faith" (Hebrews i3. 7, R.V.M.).

It should be profitable to consider a few Old Testament characters and seek to draw some simple lessons from their experiences, having regard to the issue of their lives. This does not mean the conclusion of their lives, but the result from the time they came into contact with divine things.

We begin with Mordecai the Benjamite, whose activities are seen in the book of Esther. We know little of his early upbringing, but in his life at Shushan we perceive evidences of a godly upbringing as we observe his steadfastness of purpose and the strong' influence he brought to bear upon Esther from early days, the impression of which was unaffected by changed circumstances.

It may be that his early days were spent in rather tragic circumstances as he beheld the enemy of his people come in like a flood and take the people of God into captivity among the nations, and beheld the house of God brought to ruin. When in a position of privilege and responsibility it may be that we do not value our place and portion as we ought and so we may handle divine things lightly. This the people of God did in Mordecai's days and soon their decline was complete and he, with others, was carried away into captivity and thus lost the wonderful privilege of collective testimony.

A noticeable feature in the experiences of the people of God in captivity is that they never made any attempt to establish collective testimony according to the revealed will of God as made known through Moses. Mordecai and others knew that God had only ONE place where He had placed His name. The will of God for His gathered. people could not be carried out in Babylon or any other place, save only in Jerusalem.

When Mordecai, in the time of Esther's danger and distress, passed on to her the word of encouragement to take her stand, he said- "Who knoweth whether thou art not come to the kingdom for such a time as this ? "

He did not visualize the establishment of the kingdom of God in Shushan, nor thought of it as being in existence. He reminded her that now was her opportunity, as Queen in that earthly monarch's kingdom, to work a w6rk that would ensure the salvation of the Jews in captivity from the hands of their implacable foe, Haman the Agagite. His early training bore fruit.

Perhaps we can learn from Mordecai and his experiences that there could be no collective worship of God in captivity. That was only. possible in Jerusalem when His people were, together according to the pattern delivered to them, with the house of God rebuilt.

Happy the believers in Christ who have such truths as frontlets between their eyes, for they are as applicable to-day as then! They will see that the time to build a house for the God of heaven is to-day.

Concerning Mordecai, it is recorded that he was

"nest unto king Ahasuerus;

And great among the Jews;

And accepted of the multitude of his brethren;

Seeking the good of his people;

And speaking peace to all his seed" (Esther 10. 3).

God will not forget the activities of His children even though they be in divided camps to-day. The good seed is being sown and the wheat will be seen in the coming day when men and women, boys and girls, out of every tribe and tongue and nation will swell the chorus of the redeemed. But it is well to lay to heart that whilst God takes notice of those who work for Him according to the light they have, even in captivity, in systems of men to-day, happier far is the portion of those saved by faith who can truly say as did David,

"Lord, I love the habitation of Thy house,

And the place where Thy glory dwelleth" (Psalm 26.8),

and seeking such a place, are able eventually to say,

"Our feet are standing within thy gates Jerusalem"

(Psalm 122. 2).

Perhaps we shall be repaid somewhat if now we consider a little of the life of Jehoiada the high priest, a man who stood within the house of God and wrought there for God (2 Chronicles 23.). He was a man in the kingdom of God who sought with all his power to honour Him. A rot had set in connected with the service of the house of God. Failure to give Him His rightful place was having the effect of the nation continually being disturbed and threatened by forces, without and within. A wretched queen was on the throne, and progress within the house of God was impossible so long as she reigned and persisted in her antagonism to divine things. The wife of Jehoiada kept the young heir to the throne hidden in the house of God for six years. That was a godly upbringing for him which bore precious fruit in later days. Who can assess the value of an early godly upbringing?.

Then Jehoiada strengthened himself along with others. We must be men and women of vision and we must work. To drift along aimlessly is fatal to our spiritual experience in the house of God. Oh that children of God would lay it to heart that the rightful place for them to be in is the house of God worshipping Him, the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ and giving an example to others!

Jehoiada did not regard the spears, shields and bucklers that were in the house of God simply as ornaments to decorate it, He took them out and delivered them to the captains of hundreds and set every man with his weapon in his hand in his place. That place is described as

"From the right side of the house to the left side of the house, along by the altar and the house, by the king round about "(2 Chronicle" 23.10).

Note these two points

1.-By the king round about

2.-Along by the altar and the house.

Jehoiada was a man who not only talked good, but certainly also did good. How lovely it is to see this divine balance which was so marked in the life of the Lord Jesus! Perfect harmony was always found in His words and deeds. So Cleopas and his companion spake of Him as "a Prophet, mighty in deed and word before God and all the people" (Luke 24.19), and in Acts 1. Luke describes what he had written previously in his gospel as being about "all that Jesus began both to do and to teach."

You can never properly estimate the power of a steadfast example. Jehoiada could not be diverted from his work for God and, pursuing it with vigour, his example had such weight with the young king, Joash, that he "did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD all the days of Jehoiada the priest" (2 Chronicles 24.2). Alas that later influences prevailed and turned Joash aside from the good way in which he had been brought up!

The house of God had fallen into disrepair through the wicked sons of Athaliah and all the dedicated things of the house, had been bestowed upon the Baalim, but "Joash was minded to restore the house of the LORD" and "they made a proclamation through Judah and Jerusalem to bring in for the LORD the tax that Moses the servant of God laid upon Israel in the wilderness, presumably the half-shekel referred to in Exodus 30. 12-16. Thus money was gathered in abundance whereby the masons, carpenters, and such as wrought iron and brass were paid, and enough left over" whereof were made vessels for the house of the LORD." "So the workmen wrought, and the work was perfected by them, and they set up the house of God in its state, and strengthened it." Also "they offered burnt offerings in the house of the LORD continually all the days of Jehoiada." At the exceptionally old age, for that period of history, of one hundred and thirty years Jehoiada died and he was buried in the city of David among the kings "because he had done good in Israel, and toward God and His house.

Now Joash comes under the influence of the princes whose attitude to God and His house is very different from that of the departed priest, and the king yielded, so that not only was the house of God again forsaken, but when God sent prophets to testify against them they would not hear. Empowered by the Spirit of God Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, witnessed against them but, far from his words bringing them to repentance', they. conspired against him and stoned him to death, and so it is written-" Thus Joash the king remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but slew his son." Retribution soon overtook Him, his own servants conspired against him and when he was in great diseases they. slew him on his bed, and though buried in the city of David he was not buried' in the sepulchres of the kings, the honour that had been conferred upon the godly Jehoiada.

Some of the kings had not only, as Joash, a had ending, but lived all their lifetime without one good thing being recorded of them, but only evil. Such was Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat. "He made high places in the mountains of Judah, and made the inhabitants of Jerusalem to go a whoring and led Judah astray." He also slew his brethren of his father's house, men who were better than he. When he died his people made no burning for

"He departed without being desired."

To this sad testimony regarding the son of a godly father the Spirit adds, as in the case of Joash,

"they buried him in the city of David;

but not in the sepulchres of kings"

(2 Chronicles 21. 11, 18, 19, 20).

Shall we lay these matters to heart?