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Consecration (for St. Matthew's Day)
1 Chronicles 29:5
This old-time question comes to us with special force and fitness on the day on which we commemorate the life of St. Matthew. At the call of the Master 'Follow Me' he rose and left all and followed Christ; he consecrated his service, his life, himself unto the Lord. As a result of that call the current of his life branched out in two great directions the direction of devotion and the direction of service. It was nothing but intense devotion to the personality of Christ as revealed to him that could have enabled St. Matthew to have lived the life he did.
Some Characteristics of Service.
( a ) A matter of obligation. Let us be quite sure that all service is a matter of obligation. No one has ever yet been compelled to serve God, and there are plenty of people today who quite forsake the idea of ever serving God. But the Church never ceases to raise her voice the voice of the holy Head of the Church calling them in and reminding them of their obligation.
( b ) A matter of responsibility. Being a matter of obligation, it is a matter of responsibility. It is a matter of responsibility first, as to whether we think of it as a matter of obligation at all, and as to how we discharge that obligation if we at all recognize it as such.
( c ) A matter of fitness. There is the law of fitness. This is a wonderful world, and we are wonderful people. It is mysterious how we fit into a certain niche and do a certain sort of work. It seems to us such a very little service, yet amongst all the great services rendered to this world, there we are in God's eyes fitting that very niche that He has called upon us to fit. Do not you think that all labour is ennobled by the belief that we ourselves are given a work to do, which no one else could do. If we do it badly, the people with whom we mix, and those coming after us, must suffer.
( d ) A matter of care. Then there is the law of care in service. After all, what was there in the service of St. Matthew? Not, surely, How little can I do for Christ? but, How much? Only those who thus consecrate their work are doing their proper service to God and their generation.
( e ) A matter of diligence. Again, there is the law of diligence. You know some people who are diligent never weary in well-doing, hiding their weariness, spending themselves in the service of others, by one idea to do that which their hand finds to do, and to do it with their might.
( f ) A matter of loyalty. All service is consecrated to a person the person of Christ Himself. Therefore, there must be loyalty in the performance of it. What caused the great sin of the betrayal? People say it was covetousness, and many other things. But what underlay it all? Absolute disloyalty. We have all to learn in serving the sacred person of Christ that the first essential is that we should be loyal. So let it be with us. May we learn the lesson of loyalty to the person of a living Saviour.
The Temple and the Church
1 Chronicles 29:5 ; 1 Chronicles 29:9
We have the distinct authority of the New Testament for regarding the temple of Solomon as a type and figure of the Christian Church. 'Ye are the temple of God.' 'Ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house.'
I. The Beauty of the Type, This appears in its fullness when we come to study the symbolism of the temple. In almost every single detail there is a striking harmony between the material fabric itself and the Church of Jesus Christ. The pattern was of Divine origin. Nothing was left to human skill or contrivance; the pattern of all that David had was by the Spirit. In other words, the design emanated from the mind of the great Architect Himself, and was communicated to the human instrumentality for carrying into effect. Is not this exactly what is taking place in the erection of the spiritual temple? God has decreed the place and purpose of each living stone, though He makes use of human help to bring the stones into their right position. The foundation of the temple on the threshing floor of Oman the Jebusite! What memories were associated with the very name! Here we have first the thought of judgment against sin, and secondly mercy prevailing through sacrifice. The two thoughts were linked together in the mind of every Jew as he passed into the worship of the temple. But is not this again the leading feature of the Church today? Her foundations are laid on the atoning sacrifice of Calvary. Judgment and mercy blend together as one when we survey the wondrous Cross. 'Out of the spoil won in battles did they dedicate to repair the house of the Lord' a faint representation this of the materials of which the Church is built, for is not our Lord taking the spoils of spiritual conflict and suffering and transforming them into heirs of salvation? Even our degraded powers are rendered serviceable to the cause of Christ.
II. God's Temple a Ruin. As we look around today the sight that meets our eyes everywhere is sad and deplorable in the extreme. God's temple is a ruin! Man has fallen from his high estate! The evidence is continually before us. With the Bible in our hands we have no hesitation in tracing the world's misery to the advent of sin. Our opponents ridicule the theological interpretation of earthly suffering and wretchedness. We are told that by a gradual process of evolution man is bound to advance ever upward in the scale of being until there is the complete elimination of all kinds of social disorder. Do facts justify the anticipation? We grant at once the progress due to discovery and research, but when we take the greatest of all tests, as directly concerned with the well-being of the race, how few signs we find of real progress. Is the world's happiness increased by the spread of knowledge? The fact is, every increase in scientific discovery leading to the displacement of labour is only making the struggle for existence harder still for those who are to come after us. The battle of life in its competitive aspect was never so fierce as it is today. Our streets are filled with unemployed. The science of which we boast seems likely to become a very juggernaut, crushing its victims with ever-increasing violence. It is harder to live now than it was even twenty or thirty years ago. The Christian explanation is the only feasible one. God's temple is a ruin, like some of those old desolated mansions which we see scattered throughout the land. All the signs of former greatness are there, but decay has gradually done its work. Until man finds his true life in God the ruin is bound to go on unchecked.
III. To be Built by Human Effort. Once again for the erection of His temple God is making use of human effort. The Gospel is still the power of God unto salvation. By saved men, men are saved. The call as of old comes to willing helpers, 'Who then is willing to consecrate his service this day unto the Lord?' Voluntary service is in demand for this great work not conscripts, but volunteers are invited to come to the help of the Lord against the mighty. The word 'consecrate' means literally to fill the hand, but before the hand can be filled to the Lord it must first be emptied. The Church today requires to undergo an emptying process. We are too selfish, too worldly, too unspiritual. Our religious controversies are only proofs of our lack of the true anointing. We can only fill our hands for God when they are emptied of all that defiles.
IV. Service to be Rendered 'Unto the Lord'. It is not merely done at the invitation of a minister; it must not be undertaken to please a fellow-man. Rise to the high dignity of your calling. The Lord entreats and solicits aid for His cause in the extension of His kingdom in the world. The time of service is 'this day'. Opportunity is passing from us. He who invites will one day reward. The result of consecration in service was joy. 'Then the people rejoiced for that they offered willingly.' We wonder at the absence of true Christian joy. How can there be joy when God's people see the ruin of His temple, and make so little effort to build it up? The luxury of doing good is known only to those who engage in it. We starve our souls when we hold back from compliance with the Divine requirement. Many a Christian heart today is parched and withered simply because religion has become a mere question of the salvation of self. We shall reach the fullness of joy held out to us in the Gospel when we think more of the salvation of others.
1 Chronicles 29:9
Why is it that we are asked to sustain and to adorn a fabric and services like our own? On what principle is it that we ought to continue here without stint and without doubt the work of twelve centuries? In this search our best guide will be the conviction that our worship like our life our worship which is our highest life corresponds with our whole nature. It is the complete service of men linked to earth and linked to heaven, born with a passion for God, for truth, for honesty, and born to confess it.
I. We are too much inclined to forget that public worship is not simply an instrument of individual edification. We come together here day by day, and week by week, not simply to ask something but also to give something, for praise as well as for prayer. Worship, then, is a showing forth of God's glory, an open acknowledgment of our sense of His bounty, an interpretation in some measure of our view of His works. In this way we become able to understand that there is room, that there is need for the utmost effects of architecture and music in our ideal worship.
II. But let us not be mistaken. Such worship, such forms of praise are not an end. They are a sign. We do not rest in the most majestic material forms or in the most solemn strains which are dedicated to God's honour. These in themselves are not religion. But they have a religious function. They bear testimony to the possibility of the complete transfiguration of life. They follow us with a hallowing influence into our social work, and into our homes. It is easy to overlook or underrate such an influence. But no one, I think, can have watched even chance visitors to a building or a service like our own without seeing that they do teach lessons which are needed and suggest great thoughts which cannot be without fruit.
III. To this end our offerings, whatever they may be, personal service or special gifts, or free contributions ought to bear four marks truthfulness, proportion, sacrifice, love.
( a ) Truthfulness is of the very essence of serving and of giving. Our measure must not be the impression which we produce. In teaching, or singing, or worshipping, or waiting we must strive to do our best.
( b ) Proportion. No devotion to our special charge must lead us to forget or to disparage other parts of Christian service.
( c ) Sacrifice. There is an aspect in which service is not pleasurable. It costs us something to make an effort when perhaps we are weary, to forego that which otherwise we might have enjoyed, to watch heedfully lest that which is habitual should become mechanical. But the kingly answer may cheer us. 'Shall I offer unto the Lord my God of that which costs me nothing?'
( d ) Love. Sacrifice is transformed by love; and love is the soul of service. If our work, if our offerings are to be blessed, they must be rendered not because men expect them of us, but because we know that we have received much and that we have been forgiven much, because we feel the inspiration of a Divine motive, because we are conscious of participation in a larger being.
B. F. Westcott, Peterborough Sermons, p. 373.
Reference. XXIX. 10-13. C. Wordsworth, Occasional Sermons (3rd Series), p. 17.
The Argument for Praise
1 Chronicles 29:13
David preeminently was the writer on praise, and surely no one had greater need to praise God than he.
It may be thought that David was a disappointed man. At the end of his life he had longed with a holy yearning to build the house of the Lord. But God said to David: 'No; you have been a man of blood and war. My house must be built by a man of peace.' But was David disappointed? Instead of being disappointed, as would have been somewhat natural, we observe that David praised God: he praised Him for permitting him to put together the various jewels, with silver and iron and stone, for the building of the temple. He was perfectly satisfied to leave the actual building in the hand of his son Solomon, whose name signified Peaceable, and who was ordained by God to build the temple which was the wonder of the world.
The subject before us is not merely the building of the earthly temple, but in its beautiful typical significance the erection, the perfecting, the beautifying of the spiritual house; and we have to ask ourselves, amongst other questions: (1) whether we are part of the spiritual temple; (2) whether we are really being brought into union with God, into union with the One foundation once laid, even Jesus Christ; (3) whether we are doing what David did in making preparation for the further rearing up and beautifying of this spiritual temple. For it is true is it not? that when once the soul of man gets right with God, that soul becomes keenly anxious for others; and one of the evidences that we are part of the spiritual temple of God is shown in the intense longing with which we yearn to see more and more of our fellow-men rejoicing in David's God, rejoicing in what Christ has accomplished for them. Let us consider our text in the following way:
1. There is the argument for praise 'Now therefore'. This brings us, of course, clearly back to the beginning of the prayer. David begins: 'Blessed be Thou, Lord God of Israel, our Father, for ever and ever. Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is Thine; Thine is the Kingdom, O Lord, and Thou art exalted as Head above all.' Now notice the first argument for praise which we see in these words: David recognized the personality of God. Take away the personality of God, and what have you left? See how David thinks on this occasion: 'Blessed be Thou, our Father, for ever and ever'; and so we see a second argument for praise namely, the perfections of God. You notice He is spoken of as our Father. Here, then, is an argument for our praise, that in Christ we sinful men and women, notwithstanding the awful sin of our lives and none of us knows the extent of our sin are permitted not only to have our forgiveness assured, but we are brought into perfect relationship with our Triune God. Then notice the other perfections: 'Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty'. The more we study our God as He is revealed to us in the Scriptures, the more will our hearts well up in praise unto Him. David points out another argument for praise, the perpetuity of God: 'For ever and ever'. Our God never can change. He is for ever and ever eternally the same. Is not that an argument for praise? There is another great argument, and this is brought out very clearly by David: 'Thou art exalted as Head above all'. Hence the pre-eminence of God is an argument for praise. Our God is preeminently the Highest of the high, the King of kings, Lord of lords. Notice once more: David writes that the providence of God is an argument for praise. He points out that if he had collected this wonderful, almost fabulous, amount of wealth for the building of the Temple, it was, after all, only because God had provided it. God had led the people to give, God had inclined their heart to give willingly. Then notice, David brings out another argument for praise in the poverty of man. He says, 'Who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer?' We are paupers. Whatever we have we have of Him, through Him. Were it not for His grace which David magnified in this prayer, and which is another argument for praise, we should not be where we are today.
2. Let us notice the analysis of praise: 'Now, therefore, our God, we thank Thee'. Thankfulness comes from thoughtfulness, and we say, 'Praise Thy glorious Name'. The word 'praise' means 'value,' 'price'. Praise is the price or value we put upon God hence the old English word 'appraiser,' a man who puts a price on goods. When we think of our God, oh, what cannot He do!
( a ) We will praise Him first for His pardon a present perfect one: 'Thy sin and iniquities will I remember no more'.
( b ) Then praise Him for His righteousness, the imputed righteousness of Jesus.
( c ) Then we thank Him for His acceptance. He has accepted us.
( d ) We praise Him for His inheritance. What does He not give us? As a loving Father He lavishes His gifts upon His children, temporal, spiritual, physical. The more we try to praise our God, the more we see what is the fullness of blessing that He deserves from His people.
( e ) We praise Him because He calls us into His service. Earthly people think it a high honour to serve an earthly king, to be an ambassador for a king. Look at us (2 Corinthians 5:20 : 'Ambassadors for Christ'), going forth with a message of reconciliation as ambassadors, proclaiming to the world, 'Be ye reconciled to God'.
( f ) We will praise Him for His exceeding grace. Some day we shall understand that that loving Father of ours Who sent a Saviour to die for us is just simply anxious to give all to us on one solitary line of argument that is, the argument of grace. It is because we are nothing and doing nothing that He will give everything.
References. XXIX. 14. J. Baldwin Brown, The Sunday Afternoon, p. 362. XXIX. 15. J. Keble, Sermons for Christmas to Epiphany, p. 202. XXIX. 18. Archbishop Benson, Boy Life; Sundays in Wellington College, p. 148.
A Perfect Heart
1 Chronicles 29:9
There are two things which ought to be as near as can be synonymous terms the heart of God and the heart of man. How can this be?
I. Turn to the Old Testament, and consider the heyday of Israel's prosperity and devotion. The sun of David, the man of war, is setting with all the mellowed radiance of peace, The king, the rulers, and the people offered willingly to the Lord, with a perfect heart, and offered a sum as large, probably, as was ever spent upon any one sacred edifice at any one time (1 Chronicles 29:1-10 ). Both parties who thus worked for God did so with sincerity. The king and his people had each all they desired, in the peace which had come at last, and in the enlarged territory and the universal prosperity of Israel. Each was sincere; there was no 'behind thought' as the French would say. The people were sincere (1 Chronicles 29:9 ); the king was sincere (17); and further, the king prays that the Lord will continue this uprightness of heart to his people and their children, and to his own son (18, 19).
II. The dispensation went down before the bringing in of some better thing to take its place. The old law is to give way not only to a new law, but one which shall be obeyed by a new creation. The hearts of men underwent no organic change, but only a change in their aspirations. Hitherto the best of them had desired to acquire a certain blamelessness by conformity to statutes; but when they had performed these, they were still unprofitable servants. They had desired to be perfect in themselves and for themselves. They were to be perfect only in Another and for Another (St. Matthew 5:48 ). They were to qualify for the friendship of the Son of Man by obedience not to their own will, but to Another's. 'Ye are My friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.' The 'perfect heart,' under the New Covenant, will belong only to him who can say 'Abba, Father,' in any language, indeed, provided that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks; and who can say it not on the strength of what he himself has done, but because of something which Another has done, and which he has received.
III. Observe the contrast between the Old and the New.
( a ) David's verdict upon himself and his doings (1 Chronicles 29:2-3 ). St Paul's verdict: 'Ye have received the Spirit of adoption' (Romans 8:15 ). The one has given to God what was God's before. The other has received as a free gift the 'adoption,' which no deed, no sacrifice, no property of his could claim in return.
( b ) How fleeting the satisfaction of obedience, and sincerity, and 'perfection' under the Old Dispensation: 'We are strangers before Thee, and sojourners' (1 Chronicles 29:15 ). The gold and other offerings outlast the 'perfect heart' that offered them; the givers go their way, the gifts remain. But under the New Covenant the sons are joint-heirs for eternity with Him 'Who only hath immortality,' and from whose love neither 'things present nor things to come' shall separate them.
( c ) Once more, 'the perfect heart' finds a standard for its perfection even in 'this present time'. Its sincerity will appear not only in its dependence upon its Author, in being led by His Spirit rather than going its own way, but in its 'works'. By our 'fruits' men shall know us. 'He that doeth... shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.'
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 29". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26