“. . . . How long halt ye between two opinions?”
I Kings 18:21bElijah’s time is dark.
Historical Israel was under the dominion of the prince of darkness.
Its king was spiritually an adulterer: the wicked Ahab.
Its queen: the heathen princess Jezebel.
The people: “walked in vanities.”
Its spiritual leaders: 450 Baal priests, while Elijah fled to the deserts and the God-fearing Obadiah hid God’s prophets in companies of fifty. From the wrath of wicked doers.
Certainly a sorry plight.
And the worst shadow of this picture is that the people bowed themselves before the golden calves at Bethel and Dan and cried: Thou art Jehovah who led us out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. The very worst was that they still called themselves with the name of the God of the heavens and the earth.
This last sin is greater than open and exclusive idolatry.
It made the people halt before God and man.
And to halt is ridiculous, it even partakes of the ludicrous.
So that Elijah would call the elders and the officers of the people together and ask them: How long halt ye between two opinions?
Literally speaking, halting is the result of walking on two different planes. When the right foot is walking on a plane that is a few inches above the plane of the left foot, we halt. And the result is seen in the waddling and limping and swaying of the entire body.
Notice in the first place that this halting in a spiritual way is only, found, can only be found, in the sphere of the covenant. For there the two planes are revealed. The one plane is the way of God and the other the way of the devil.
The way of God is in His sanctuary where we learn to know His will, statutes, ordinances and judgments. It is the high way. It is the walk in the light.
The way of the devil is the way of the lie and the false prophecy. It is the dark way of sin.
Now, from the cradle to the grave, we solely, wholly and exclusively walk on the way of the devil—if nothing happens to change us.
With both our spiritual feet we walk on the way of darkness and the lie: as a child, young man and greybeard. There is no halting there. All the thoughts of the imaginations of our heart is only evil continually. We simply hate God and hate our fellowmen. I say simply, and I mean with that word: single-mindedly we persist and endeavor to please self and the devil. We are in covenant with the prince of darkness, his willing slaves. And we walk. We are at peace with our state and condition.
There is no doubt about it. Our entire manifestation of life is a loud cry: We belong to the devil, the lie, the false prophecy. And what of it! “Merrily we go to hell!!”
There is no halting there. There is only one plane. Principally it is the plane of hell. It is the plane that will cause no surprise to its sojourners thereon when it will find them in outer darkness.
But no halting on that plane.
Entirely different it is, however, when we are born in the line of continued generations of God’s covenant people. Then we see before our eyes an entirely different plane. Principally the plane of that covenant is heaven. Our walk is in heaven. And even as little children we notice in the eyes, the face, the words, the songs, the dress, the behavior in a thousand ways of God’s regenerated and converted people.
Then we see the light of the world and that is Jesus.
Moreover, from morning to night, from the early chanting, of our children’s songs to the pastor’s visit at our deathbed we are taught to say and to walk and to behave on that plane of the heavens of heavens. Before we are aware of it, we are as smiling the outward manifestation of a walk that is in the clouds.
And when the heart is not renewed through God’s everlasting mercy, we become halters. We become of all people the most miserable. It were better never to have been born, than to be born and live unregenerated among God’s chosen ones on earth.
Then we become a double mockery to the world. It’s awful.
You see, we love, the devil and sin: our hearts never changed but, you see, eternity is so long, so awfully long. And the lurid flames of hell with the tortuous writhings of the damned are so terrible. From our youth on we listened to the plaints and wailings of the rich man in the flame. “That he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue!” No, we better stay with the church!
Yet, the heart and flesh lust and hunger and yearn for Baal and Ashtaroth. Church and the word of God is so insipid and dry. I would almost vomit of the ever recurring theme of that Jesus on the cross: the heart of the gospel. And my opinion is that the world and all its lures and promises of the thrill are not so bad after all.
And slowly on, we are in the pew on Sunday and in the dancehall on Saturday night. Or, to speak in the language of Elijah’s time: I am bowing before the calves in Bethel and have Jehovah’s blessed name on my lips. “Thou, who broughtest us up out of Egypt, the house of bondage . . . !”
Ludicrous and ridiculous halting? Attend to this: Here is my dollar for the budget, Oh, Jehovah! ‘Tis Sunday. And: Here is my $5.00 for the glee of devils! With one foot I try to walk in heavenly spheres and with the other foot I walk on hell’s dance floor. Or: On Sunday I sit in the pew and shiver when I hear from above the language of the light; but during the week I sit in the theater and laugh and scream with riotous glee: it’s so funny!
No, it is necessary that I make a choice.
This cannot go on. Jesus said: I would thou wert cold or hot. It is all the same thing: to be halting on two opinions or to be lukewarm. Both will be spewn from His blessed mouth. This cannot go on.
Hence, Elijah says: If Jehovah be indeed God, follow Him; but if Baal be, follow him.
Notice, first of all, there is no third alternative. It’s either Jehovah or Baal. You either walk with both feet on the plane of heaven or you walk with Baal on the plane of the devil. When someone therefore halts, it is not because he really walks with God and also with the devil. That is impossible: No, this halting is really also a walk of darkness. But is the worst manifestation of it. As the walk of the Pharisees and scribes: they walked in complete darkness and really hated God. But they said: We are children of God and have Abraham for a father. No, halting is only a matter of opinions. Their testimony was: We love God. But they killed His Son. They were the worst manifestation of the walk of hell.
Also, notice, that to be hot, or to walk on the plane of heaven does not mean that we are without sin. That the world does not have snares for us or that the devil has no access to our hearts at all.
No, but here is the difference. The halter loves sin from the heart and is merely afraid of God. But he who is walking on the plane of heaven, even in spite of all his sinning, loves God from the heart and loves all God’s virtues. He has really and essentially only one desire and that is: to dwell in the house of the Lord and to search in His tabernacle.
No, the choice must be made. Why halt ye on two opinions? Make the choice. And usually when the choice is made, that choice is hell. It seemed different in Elijah’s time. But the crying of the multitude when fire devoured the water soaked sacrifice was more of terror than of love. As subsequent history shows. No matter how much and how purely we hear and see the gospel. We finally and in the last analysis choose sin and the devil.
If we do not, it is because eternal mercy gave us a better choice.
If we embrace Christ, it is because He embraced us first.
But choose we must. And ministers and teachers and parents do well to talk much about this choice, when history reveals a halting church life or offspring.
It is necessary. First of all for God’s sake. When the membership are so devilish as to partake of the bread and wine, but also of the harlot and the devil, it is time that the knife of Christian censure bring the choice about. When children pray by the table but curse expressly the name within the camp, it is well that Elijah’s prophecy is quoted and the choice be born.
For God’s sake. Because His name is slandered as the day is long. It does not escape the eye of the out and out world when those who bear the Triune Name on their forehead are seen in the dance and the riotous living. And the, foolish world reasons from the children to the Father. Are these God’s children? What a farce is the church of God! And hell keeps holiday when God’s name is slandered. Make the choice for God’s sake.
But also for your own sake.
It seems to me that the mixture of the theater and the church make for a miserable life. I do not envy the three years of Judas’ walk with Jesus. It must have been awful. Imagine yon Pharisee. He enters the home of the widow. With pious words and “pious” countenance he says: Let us pray. And while he prays a very long prayer he is studying ways and means to eat her home. It is not nice to have the ever recurring reminder of Jehovah’s name about you and to love sin and the world’s pleasures within. It is abominable to the world even. They hate us, but they despise the hypocrite. Oh, be cold or hot.
This does not mean that to be cold is pleasing to God. But it does, mean to be lukewarm will call for greater condemnation and stripes. No, to be cold is also sin. But to say: Lord, Lord! While loving sin and the devil is abominable.
Neither does it mean that we would not say and preach: be hot! That is the demand, the command of God. Even the devil has no business to be devil. All things ought to praise God and love Him. For that is good and praise is comely.
Finally: follow Him. If Jehovah is God, follow Him.
Be ye followers of God as beloved children and walk in love.
That is good. Oh, to love the Lord and to love your neighbor: how sweet a walk. To be imitators of the most high: how unspeakably blessed.
Oh, no, I do not mean first of all the reward of such a walk in the sweet bye and bye. I mean here and now. To be cold or lukewarm is to be miserable as the day of life is long. And to be hot, to walk in love, to walk on heaven’s plane is sweet and pleasurable even now. In the keeping of His law there is a great reward. A reward of peace in the heart. And with all our miseries because of the sin in our members that we hate, we sing. And our song improves with the singing. Angels accompany us.
When we begin to be merry.
In the Father’s House.