Winter 2011: Your Unknown Self
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Summary: How well do you know your self? Explore your own heart and its temptations in this article.
 
 

“But what, is thy servant a dog?” 2 Kings 8:13

Major General Edward Braddock (1695-1755) was a British General who had become famous on the battlefields of Europe. He came to Virginia in February 1755 to command all the British forces in North America against the French.

In July 1755, Braddock and his troops were ambushed in a ravine by 254 French and 600 Indians, and Braddock was shot in the chest.

Just before he died, reclining in the arms of Lieutenant Colonel George Washington, Braddock exclaimed “Who would have thought it?”

Yes, who would have thought that the British General who had won so many battles in Europe would be defeated at the hands of so few French and Indian allies in the midst of that American bush.

“Who would have thought it?” is an expression that comes to mind not only when we think of military disasters but also of those crushing moral disasters and ambushes that suddenly overwhelm the souls of men and women today.

CC Kamyar Adl on Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/kamshots/456696484/in/photolist-2TLsoK-Maunx-GmFXj

The story found in 2 Kings 8: 7-15 serves as a good example of the point I wish to make:

And Elisha came to Damascus; and Benhadad the king of Syria was sick; and it was told him, saying, The man of God is come hither. And the king said unto Hazael, Take a present in thine hand, and go, meet the man of God, and inquire of the LORD by him, saying, Shall I recover of this disease?

So Hazael went to meet him, and took a present with him, even of every good thing of Damascus, forty camels’ burden, and came and stood before him, and said, Thy son Benhadad king of Syria hath sent me to thee, saying, Shall I recover of this disease? And Elisha said unto him, Go, say unto him, Thou mayest certainly recover: howbeit the LORD hath shewed me that he shall surely die. And he settled his countenance stedfastly, until he was ashamed: and the man of God wept.

And Hazael said, Why weepeth my lord? And he answered, Because I know the evil that thou wilt do unto the children of Israel: their strong holds wilt thou set on fire, and their young men wilt thou slay with the sword, and wilt dash their children, and rip up their women with child. And Hazael said, But what, is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing?

And Elisha answered, The LORD hath shewed me that thou shalt be king over Syria. So he departed from Elisha, and came to his master; who said to him, What said Elisha to thee? And he answered, He told me that thou shouldest surely recover.

And it came to pass on the morrow, that he took a thick cloth, and dipped it in water, and spread it on his face, so that he died: and Hazael reigned in his stead.

Benhadad was desperately sick. He feared for his life, and of course desired life. When he learned that “the man of God,” Elisha, was in Damascus, a flicker of hope arose in his heart that perhaps this man could make him whole.

Remember that shortly beforehand, this same king was searching for Elisha to kill him (2 Kings 6:8-15). But by this time all of Syria knew about Naaman’s healing of leprosy and word got back to Benhadad that there might be hope for him too. So, Benhadad sends Hazael to find out from Elisha whether he would recover:

And the king said unto Hazael, Take a present in thine hand, and go, meet the man of God, and inquire of the LORD by him, saying, Shall I recover of this disease?

And Elisha gives this reply:

Thou mayest certainly recover: howbeit the LORD hath shewed me that he shall surely die (2 Kings 8:8, 10).

In other words, Benhadad’s illness was not fatal, but he was going to die regardless. Hazael purposed in his heart to kill Benhadad and take his throne.

And he settled his countenance stedfastly, until he was ashamed: and the man of God wept. And Hazael said, Why weepeth my lord?

And he answered, Because I know the evil that thou wilt do unto the children of Israel: their strong holds wilt thou set on fire, and their young men wilt thou slay with the sword, and wilt dash their children, and rip up their women with child (8:11-12 ).

When Hazael heard Elisha’s awful prophecy, he drew back with horror and said, “But what, is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing? And to this the Prophet replied, “The LORD hath shewed me that thou shalt be king over Syria” (8:13).

When Hazael returned to the palace the sick monarch eagerly asked him what Elisha had said. Hazael replied, “He told me that thou shouldest surely recover” (8:14). He did not finish the sentence.

The king is relieved and falls asleep. He would have awakened to new life, completely healed, but guess what happens?

And it came to pass on the morrow, that he took a thick cloth, and dipped it in water, and spread it on his face, so that he died: and Hazael reigned in his stead.

Hazael kills the king, beginning a reign of crime and violence that far outdid Elisha’s predictions.

This story is an alarming comment on human nature. It teaches us how ignorant we may be of our own hearts and how evil may thrive and expand.

Then, when the evil has been done, we exclaim, “how in the world could I have done it?”

“Who would have thought it?”

The Lord knew better what Hazael would do in the future than did he himself.

Most people do not sit down and plan a vile, horrendous path of evil deeds. But this story shows us how one evil thought entertained leads to another, and one wicked deed leads to still more wicked deeds, until the one who consents to walk in the pathway of evil finds himself sinking to depths of iniquity he never would have planned for himself or have thought possible.

When the prophet sketched his future for him, Hazael drew back with horror and detestation and exclaims, “Am I a dog that I should do this thing?”

And, when we study the humanity of the Bible, we see this so clearly. Mere personal disinclination is no guarantee against any evil that men have done or will do.

The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it (Jeremiah 17:9).

He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool (Proverbs 28: 26).

The great doers of evil were the men who thought they could never do such acts.

As a youth, Napoleon wrote an essay for the Lyons Academy on “The Dangers of Ambition.” Nero said, “would that this hand had never learned to write” when asked to sign his first death warrant.

Robespierre, who during the reign of terror sent thousands to the guillotine, resigned his office as provincial judge because he could not bring himself to pronounce a sentence of death upon a man convicted of capital crime.

Tell the young King David that he would live to darken the closing days of his reign with murder and adultery, and what would he say?

Tell Solomon as he kneels that night, asking God for wisdom to discern between good and evil to judge his people, that he would forsake his father’s God and bend his aged knees to heathen deities and follow after strange women, and what would he say?

Tell Peter on that faithful night as he boasts of his fidelity to Jesus, that before the sacramental wine is dry on his lips he would deny his Lord, and what would he too have said?

If we could foresee the future and tell this man and that woman of the offenses they will one day commit, what would they say?

Who would have thought it?

Is it any wonder that the Bible says, “Who can understand his errors?”

How can we account for this? We may have within us an evil person, who will declare himself if he can.

He is there beneath the breast of the ripest saint and beneath the breast of the worst criminal.

It was this discovery Paul speaks about in Romans 7: 19–21:

For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.

When Paul describes himself, he describes you and me, too. This may not be very complimentary, but it is true.

When burglar has broken into your home, a detective goes carefully over the ground, determining the burglar’s purpose. How can he do that?

The detective is able to put himself in the place of the thief because in him there’s a possible thief.

Think of men on trial for murder. Attorneys describe the crime and declare that the killer acted in envy, jealousy, hate, or greed. He only knows this because in him, too, is a possible murderer.

If this were not so, the attorney could not prosecute, nor the jurors decide, nor the judge declare a sentence. We all share with one another the common nature of humanity.

Hazael must have been thinking about the possibility of becoming king.

Elijah had earlier predicted that he would become ruler of Syria. As Elijah looked into the face of Hazael and knowing the desire of his heart, he saw the shadow and reflection of evil deeds.

Hazael wanted to be king, and the sole obstacle to the fulfillment of his ambition lay there, weak and sick.

The dangerous thing about any repressed evil desire is that the opportunity to gratify it may suddenly arise. Actions that may seem unthinkable and detestable from a distance take on a far different appearance when our desire and an opportunity suddenly and unexpectedly meet each other in our life’s experience.

Most of us have been hiking in the woods and have stepped on a tree trunk, only to have our foot fall right through to the heart of a rotten log.

The final collapse was sudden, but the rotting of the tree was not sudden. It took years of summer rain and winter snow to decompose the wood. There are hearts today like that fallen tree. They are simply waiting for the pressure of the iron heel of temptation before they give way.

When they go down, the newspapers herald it in flaming colors, and agonized friends weep over it and exclaim, “How sudden! Who would have thought it?”

But it was not sudden at all. It was the last stage in a long process of corruption and deterioration.

Our prayer should be, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).

Remember, we are all tempted by our own desires. Then the desire, when it is finished, bringeth forth sin and sin when it is finished, bringeth forth death (James 1:14-15).

The tempter can never compel us to do evil...He cannot control minds unless they are yielded to his control. The will must consent—faith must let go its hold upon Christ, before Satan can exercise his power upon us (DA, 125).

Jesus said the devil came and found nothing in Him—no possible place of contact (John 14: 30). The trouble with you and me is that when the devil comes, he finds so many things in us, so many places of contact.

When sparks fall on ice, nothing happens. When sparks fall on water, nothing happens. When sparks fall on marble, nothing happens. When sparks fall on a gunpowder magazine, there is an explosion!

Temptation finds the Christ-filled heart like sparks on ice, but temptations to a Christless heart and life are like sparks falling on a keg of gunpowder.

In Christ is your safety. Pray that He might dwell in your heart. If you have fallen, remember, Jesus is still your Saviour. He came to rescue you.

Seek His forgiveness and ask Him to restore you and give you a new start.

For He is able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy (Jude 24).