"And the King of Israel said unto his servants, Know ye that Ramoth-Gilead is ours, and we be still, and take it not out of the hand of the King of Syria?"
i Kings xxii. 3.
Ramoth-gilead, an important fortified post on the east side of Jordan, had been captured by the Syrians, who had bound themselves to restore it, among other conquests, by a subsequent treaty. The promise was not kept, and the Northern Kingdom had not been strong enough to enforce it, till an alliance with Judah secured them from attack from that neighbour. Thus safe on the southern frontier, Ahab sought to rouse his "servants" to make a bold dash for possession of what was theirs and yet not theirs.
Every Christian has large tracts of unannexed territory, unrealised possibilities, Dlessings that are his and yet not his. "Ramoth" means heights, and we all have high places unclimbed. How much more of God we might have !—we draw but a tiny cupful from that great ocean. How much more of inward peace we might have! We might possess— nay, in truth, we do possess, in so far as the purpose and gift of God can make it ours—a peace deep as life, like the stillness of the mid-ocean in its unsounded depths, which yet is not stagnant, because a tide runs through it, and every drop is being drawn upwards to the sunlit surface. But let some petty annoyance befall us, and how quickly the waves run high, and toss white crests! We have, and yet how sadly we have not, the peace of God. Heights of consecration are ours, according to God's purpose. A life of continual, utter surrender is possible to a Christian soul using the grace that God gives. Yet our experience is far too much marked by reluctance to obey or to submit, regret at providences, Self dominant or struggling hard against the domination of the will of God. The mind which was in Christ who came to do not His own but the Father's will, is ours by virtue of our being Christians; but, alas, in practical realisation how sadly it is not ours! Noble possibilities of, and power for, service are ours, by gift from Him to whom all power is given, and who sends His servants as the Father sent Him. Yet the world's sin has been too strong for the Church's power to cast out the demon, and to-day men are turning away from all Churches, and looking for the cure of the ills of humanity elsewhere, and too many Christians are standing idle, despairing of being able to cope with social evils. The world belongs to Jesus Christ, and therefore His Church should claim it for Him. All these things, spiritual endowments of peace, and safety, and purity, and joy, of religious elevation, and consecration, and power for service, and the like are ours by a threefold title and charter.
God's purpose, which is nothing less for every one of us than that we should be " filled with all the fulness of God," and that He should "supply all our need, according to His riches in glory "—that is the first of the parchments on which our title depends. And the second title deed is Christ's purchase; for the efficacy of His death, and the power of His triumphant life, have secured for all that trust Him the whole fulness of this divine gift. And the third of our claims and titles is the influence of that Holy Spirit that Jesus Christ gives to every one of His children to dwell in them. There is in us, if we have any faith in that Lord, a power that is capable of making us perfectly pure, perfectly blessed, strong with an immortal strength, and glad with a "joy that is unspeakable and full of glory." But there is an awful contrast between what is ours and what we have. It is ours by the divine intention, by the divine gift with its fulness and allsufficiency, and yet what a poor, partial realisation of it has passed into our experience!
Ahab tried to rouse his servants out of apathetic contentment with their non-possession of Ramoth. Their passivity looked as if either they did not "know" that it was theirs, or as if they were too fond of being "still," to dare the effort to take it. That unfamiliarity with the vision of unattained possibilities paralyses the lives of many Christians. They do not keep clear before them what they might be, and are therefore bound to aim at being. Their eyes seldom are lifted to the heights which do belong to them, if only they would aspire. Is not that condition of passive acquiescence in their small present attainments, and of careless indifference to the great stretch of the unattained, the characteristic of the mass of professing Christians? They have got a foothold on a new continent, and their possession of it is like the world's knowledge of the map of Africa when we were children, which had a settlement dotted here and there along the coast, and all the broad regions of the interior undreamed of. The settlers huddle together upon the fringe of barren sand by the salt water, and never think of pressing forward into the heart of the land. And so too many of us are content with what we have got—a little of God, when we might have Him all; a settlement on the fringe and edge of the land, when we might traverse the whole length of it, and behold! it is all ours.
Love of ease kept Israel from marching on Ramoth. It was far off; there was a river to ford and heights to climb, and no doubt there would be many hard blows going before the walls—so, on the whole, it was more comfortable to "be still," and let Ramoth alone.
"We be still, and take it not out of the hands of the King of Syria." Then these things that are ours, by God's gift, by Christ's purchase, by the Spirit's influence, will need our effort to secure them. And that is no contradiction, nor any paradox. God does exactly in the same way, with regard to a great many of His natural gifts, as He does with regard to His spiritual ones. He gives them to us, but we hold them on this tenure, that we put forth our best efforts to get and to keep them. His giving them does not set aside our taking. However much we tried, we could not take them out of His hand if it were clenched. Open as His hand is, and stretched out to us as it is, the gifts that sparkle in it are not transferred to our hands, unless we ourselves put forth effort. One large part of the discipline by which men make their own their own is by familiarising themselves with the thought of the larger possibilities of unattained possessions which God has given them. That is true in everything. To recognise our present imperfection, and to see stretching before us glorious and immense possibilities, opening out into a vista where our eyesight fails us to travel to its end, is the very salt of life in every region. And whosoever has once lost, or found becoming dim, the vision before him of a possible better than his present best, in any region is in that region condemned to grow no more. Any Kind of advancement is only possible for us when there gleams ever before us the untravelled road, and we see at the end of it unattained brightnesses and blessings.
Andwe have an endless prospect of that sort stretching before us. If we looked at it oftener, "having respect unto the recompense of the reward," we should find it easier to dash at any Ramoth-Gilead, and get it out of the hands of the strongest enemies. Let us familiarise ourselves with the thought of our present imperfection, and of our future, and of the possibilities which may become actualities, even here and now. "To him that hath shall be given," and the surest way to lose what we have is to neglect to increase it.
But above all, let us live more in fellowship with our Lord, and that will help us to deny ourselves ungodliness and worldly lusts. It is the prevalence of these, and the absence of self-denial, that ruins most of the Christian lives that are ruined in this world. If a man desires to be what he is not, he must cease to be what he is. Self-sacrifice, and the emptying of our hearts of trash and trifles, is the only way to get our hearts filled with God and with His blessing. Let us keep near Jesus Christ. If we have Him for ours we have peace, we nave power, we have purity. "He of God is made unto us" all in all; and every gift that may adorn humanity, and make our lives joyous and ourselves noble, is given to us in Jesus Christ. Let us put away from ourselves, then, this slothful indifference to unattained possessions. "Know ye that Ramoth is ours?" let us be "still" no longer.