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2 Chronicles 6:1-10
Then said Solomon, The Lord hath said that He would dwell in the thick darkness.
God dwelling in darkness
His dwelling in darkness has a symbolical meaning. It tells us of the darkness in which Divine and spiritual things are enveloped. It conveys to us this truth--that only a certain portion of light is given us in anything, enough to guide the conduct but not enough to satisfy the reason; and it suggests, that if we will accept nothing until we satisfy the doubts that may be raised concerning it, we shall end in accepting nothing.
I. In regard to God himself, any perfect knowledge of Him is impossible to man. The smaller must comprehend the greater, before man can comprehend Deity as He is in His absolute nature. This secrecy of God is one of the attributes and perfections of the Almighty. He who sees all and is Himself unseen must be the Creator. The words of the inspired writer contain a literal truth, “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing.”
1. Under this condition God has ever revealed Himself: to our first parents in the garden of Eden; to Moses in the bush and in the clouds of Sinai; to Elijah. He was present in each case, but could not be traced; revealed, but unseen. The answer of the old heathen philosopher respecting Him is the true one: “When I look for Him I find Him not, when I look not for Him I find Him everywhere.”
2. Not otherwise was it in the Incarnation. A light in a dark place, and the darkness comprehended it not. “There standeth One among you whom ye know not.”
3. It is the same with God’s manifestation through the Holy Spirit. He has been, and is, a Presence and a Power in the earth, working wondrously but inscrutably.
4. As with the Person, so it has been with the Word of God; an obscure light, enough to try faith, not to gratify human speculation. Take, e.g., prophecy. In its broad features the cast corresponds with the mould. But when we enter into details, the exact literal completion is difficult to trace.
5. It was the same with the parables of Christ. They were truth under a veil.
6. So it is in numberless instances of the deeper truths revealed in Scripture.
II. Pass now to the providence of God. It is a true idea that represents God as manifest in history, ruling the world in righteousness and justice. But immediately we leave this general truth and examine the case of particular nations or particular periods, what perplexity arises! Civilised nations falling back into darkness and degradation; eras of barbarism intervening; wars springing up and throwing a continent back fifty years in its progress; evil of all kinds permitted; wrong and injustice prevailing. “His way is in the sea, and His paths in the great waters.” “His footsteps are not known.” It would be easy to illustrate this in numberless other instances--in our individual lives; in moral science; in physical science. The lesson from all this is that all truth is beset with some obscurity, but must not be rejected on that account. “In this world there is little to be known but much to be done.” It teaches us in matters of right and wrong, in matters of religion, to trust but little to our reason, but much to our inward consciousness, the instinct of conscience and the aspirations of faith. (Archdeacon Grant, D.C.L.)
2 Chronicles 6:4-11
And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who hath with His hands fulfilled that which He spake.
The performance of God’s promise
I. That God deals with His people in all ages by way of promise. Adam, Abraham, David.
II. That the performance of this promise is a source of joy to them.
1. In revealing God to them.
2. In the actual bestowment of good to them.
III. That there are special seasons to testify to God’s goodness in the performance of His promise.
2. Restoration from sickness and danger.
3. Dedication of places of worship.
4. Times of special favour. (J. Wolfendale.)
2 Chronicles 6:6-9
Now it was in the heart of David my father to build an house for the name of the Lord God of Israel.
David’s intention to build the temple
I. Man’s purposes are sometimes greater than his power. Limitation of--
4. Circumstances--want of means or liberty.
II. The importance and value of these gracious but unfulfilled intentions. Earnest purposes, sincere desires, are facts, and as facts will be recompensed.
1. They are facts to God.
2. They are facts to those who cherish them.
3. Unfulfilled intentions are not without their practical influence upon society.
III. The comfort which these considerations are calculated to afford to--
1. The poor and uneducated.
2. The suffering.
3. Those who are called to premature death.
4. All good men in the presence of their imperfect lives. (W. L. Watkinson.)
The rejected service, but approved motive
I. A rejected service. Here is a good man bent upon a service which he is not permitted to perform. It is an instance of a man’s purposes outrunning the possibilities of his life. There are many reasons why a man should sometimes not be allowed to accomplish sell-imposed tasks, although they may be the outcome of very fine motives. There were reasons in David’s life. David had been a man of war, and as such had shed human blood (1 Chronicles 22:8). There was an incongruity which God recognised, which had escaped David’s attention, between shedding blood and building a sanctuary for God. Then, again, there may be some special hindrance in the age in which a man lives, or the circumstances by which he is surrounded, which makes the postponement of the work necessary. A man may live, as we say, before his age, he may project great purposes into human life, and yet God may say to him, “Stop, the motive is pure enough, and it is accepted as such, but the world is not yet ready; My providence must mature things, and we must wait.” Again, there may be something in God’s design--worldward: that design which includes time and eternity within the scope of its operation--which may put a veto upon any such scheme, his accomplishing tasks which are in themselves very praiseworthy, and which are prompted by pure and exalted motives. Now I have said that every man who has lived to a purpose must know some time or other what such a disappointment as this means. Why, this, book tells us that God has put eternity into a man’s heart. God has put eternity into a man’s heart; therefore the impulses of eternity, or the aims and purposes which take in eternity, are there. Man is not a mere creature of time: he strikes great outlines, not as the mere creature of time, but as one who is to live for ever. Thus, as long as it is true that God has put eternity into a man’s heart, and has only put seventy years, or at most eighty or ninety years, into his life, there must be an overlapping of purposes and designs in relation to attainments in this life. It is impossible, therefore, that he should fulfil all his designs, or fill up the outlines of these plans, in a brief life. David was bent upon building a house unto the Lord: he was denied that privilege: but who will say that his life was therefore a failure? David, after all, was permitted to do a nobler work than building a sanctuary for God, great as that privilege would have been. He sang out the hymns which were destined to become the inspired psalter for all ages. Now, there are some men who escape these disappointments; but at what cost! The men who never aim at high things, who never strike the outline of any noble work; men who never allow the immortal spirit which is within them to design immortal things, and therefore things which can never be accomplished in a mortal life, doubtless escape these disappointments, but at the cost of degrading that which is noblest and best in their natures.
II. The approved motive: “Whereas it was in thine heart to build an house for My name, thou didst well that it was in thine heart.” Many a man would have said, “Ah, poor David, all the inspiration of a great purpose, all the patient planning, and all the earnest endeavour to accomplish the task on his part, have been useless. The Divine veto has put an end to all.” Nay, not so. David does not occupy the same position Godward or manward which he would have occupied if he had never designed so devout and exalted a scheme.
1. It was well for David himself--well for his own soul that this thought took possession of it. Remember the circumstances. David had built for himself a house with cedared roof, but was then shocked with the thought of his dwelling in a palace while his God dwelt in the old tattered tabernacle of the wilderness. Surely that recoil itself was ennobling.
2. It was well, too, for David’s outward, as well as his inner, life. While engaged in gathering materials for the temple, he was saved from doing things less worthy of his calling and position as the anointed of the Lord. While engaged at this work he had less disposition to engage in conflict with his neighbours.
3. It was also well that this was in his heart, because by gathering the materials for the building of the temple ha had furthered the object by preparing the way for some one else to finish the task..
4. It was well, too, because, now that he knew that he himself would never be permitted to build the house, he would have an opportunity of exercising a self-denial which he would not have done if his had been the privilege of completing the task. Thus there was a spiritual blessing, an enriching grace, an ennobling providence in this denial. Now, we see this often in life. It is a law of human life that some men originate a work, and others accomplish it. There is nothing final about man’s work on earth; we pick up the thread where other hands dropped it, and soon will drop it into younger hands than ours. God’s designs cover millenniums. Look at daily life. There is a man who founds a house, or originates a business: a man who begins in a small room, and by dint of genius and perseverance, under God’s blessing, so extends his business that it well-nigh takes up one side of a street. That man passes away. But he has had dreams greater than his accomplishment. Among his later thoughts was that something else might be done, but he was denied the privilege of giving embodiment to those thoughts. His son takes his place. Ah, and when the motive is never attained, still, if it be noble, it is not fruitless. There is that child overboard: a man leaps after it, but the storm rages and the ocean heaves and lounges terribly, so that the man at length fails to rescue the child. Who shall say that it was not well that he thought of it, and risked his own life in the noble endeavour? It is heaven that will supply the final solution, and it is the future that will crown the edifice of tasks unfinished in this our mortal life, although they were originated with high motives and far-reaching purposes. David entered eternity, not as a disappointed man, but as one who was inspired with an exalted aim that he bequeathed to a succeeding generation, whose noblest activities it set going. (D. Davies.)
Pious purposes frustrated but rewarded
I. The Lord notices the pious purposes of the heart. And here the following points require attention.
1. He is omniscient. “All things are naked and open unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” “I the Lord search the heart.” We judge by external manifestations, and know the tree by its fruit; but He understands our thought afar off.
2. The omniscient Jehovah approves the godly purpose. It is acceptable to Him through Jesus Christ, as it springs from faith and love, as it means glory to God and goodwill toward man. The Lord knows and approves your desire to serve Him, whatever obstacles may arise to prevent the fulfilment. “The desire of a man is his kindness,” and is accepted as such.
3. He sees the effect of His grace. “From Him all good things do come.” And where is the believer who will not gratefully own, “Thou hast wrought all our works in us”? We have no purposes which, in the sight of God, are godly, until a good work is begun in us; for, as depraved creatures, we are all alienated from the life of God. Our purposes are worldly and sinful.
II. It may please the Lord, in the exercise of infinite wisdom and goodness, to disappoint us with regard to the accomplishment of our purposes of serving Him.
1. To impress us with the conviction of His independence. He is the “Lord God Almighty,” who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think. Such dispensations of Providence may be appointed to teach the Church of God that its great Head, when He thinks proper, can dispense with the instrumentality we expected Him to employ.
2. Another reason for the Divine conduct in the case in point is to induce the spirit of submission and resignation. And can you say, “Thy will, my God, Thy will be done”? We naturally like our own way. Our “purposes are broken off,” even “the thoughts of our heart.” God thwarts us, not to grieve, but to teach us deference to His will.
3. We may add another reason why God takes away the young and useful, to prevent idolatry.
III. If the Lord thus prevent the fulfilment of the pious purpose, He tenderly says, “thou hast well done in that it was in thine heart.”
IV. God graciously rewards the intention, even as much as if it had been accomplished. It is our painful duty to charge the sinner to remember that God notices and takes account of his evil devices. (S. Eldridge.)
The unfulfilled ideal
A religious ideal may be defined as a product of sanctified imagination, and sanctified imagination may again be described as faith considered in its free, intellectual expression. An ideal is the outline picture of possible usefulness and success, conceived under the incitements of faith, hope, and love inherent in the new life. An ideal that is born of pure religious life, and not of mere worldly ambition, is a child of God’s inspiration in the second degree of descent. Every Christian worker has his ideals. The ideals cherished by God’s people vary with the requirements of the age. David’s was to build a temple; ours probably concern the building of living stones into that peerless temple in which God shall be worshipped throughout all ages. The value of unfulfilled ideals is a lesson we all need to learn. Only a slight fraction of the zeal that promised so much at first ever seems to bear visible fruit. We see the ideals of fellow-labourers out short by the act of God, almost before they have touched their coveted tasks. The achievements of the best lives do not equal the measure of ardent aspiration, and God rewards for aspiration as well as for perfected deed. There are also ideals the secret of whose frustration is to be found in our own hearts. We had, perhaps, miscalculated our strength, or pride mingled with our ideals, and God was holding us back from their realisation till pride had been extinguished and faith and hope and humility had grown to proportions commensurate with the success He was about to give us. But we do not understand the meaning of God’s delays, and so our ideals of work and obligation and evangelistic success have been relegated to the lumber-room and have been lying there in ignoble dust and dry-rot for years. A famous traveller has written a book to tell us how remunerative the abandoned goldfields of Midian may yet become. Some of the most productive silver mines of South America are mines that were worked by Spanish conquerors, forsaken for two and a half centuries, and are now being worked again. Boundless spiritual wealth and possibility lie hidden in the half-forgotten ideals of our youth and early manhood.
I. The influence exerted by the unfulfilled idea upon the personal character. It is just conceivable that religious life may exist without the help and influence of ideals, but it will only be marked by feebleness and insipidity. It will find its appropriate emblem in the dead-level of the prairie rather than in the towering majesty of the forest. The moment you give up your large ideals you cease to feel the necessity for large sacrifice, large heroism, generous self-forgetting toll. An ideal occupies precisely the same relation to religious growth and power that the faculty of imagination in the child does to the character and success of the after-man. Students of social science tell us that the education provided in the parish workhouse supplies no element to stimulate the imagination of the child, and that the little ones placed under the regime grow up dull, sullen, void of interest in everything about them, and without a single ambition to improve themselves. In the course of time, after every potential interest and aspiration is battered down and deadened, the child is turned into the world; and it is almost invariably found, after a few years of indolence, stolidity, and mild crime, the child returns to the workhouse to shelter its incompetency and approaching age. Let imagination be denied its proper function in the religious life, and the result will be to limit that life to a very low and abject plane. The professor of religion who is without an inspiring ideal is spending the life of a creeping, torpid, spiritual pauper. All our religious virtues gain or lose as our ideals of religious work are grasped or abandoned. There is a logical impediment to the growth of faith in the heart of the man who has given up his ideals. All faith is twofold in its action, personal and vicarious, and the one type of action can no more go on without the other than the systole can be separated from diastole in the action of the heart. Decay in the faith you exercise on behalf of the world will bring decay in the faith exercised on your own behalf. Hence it is that in genuine revivals of religion the sanctification of believers and the conversion of the ungodly always proceed by equal paces. An ideal, if deferred in its fulfilment, or even unfulfilled in the precise form in which you first conceived it, will be a perpetual fountain of health and prosperity to your own soul. Doubtless the whole character of David was raised and ennobled by the ideal he had so long cherished within his heart. If you cannot see the worth of your unfulfilled ideals, God, who traces their influence upon character, can; and if the inward ear were not heavy with the world’s distracting babel, you would hear the testimony of His favour and approval, “Thou didst well that it was in thine heart.” Never weigh against your moral and spiritual interests the temporal sacrifices you make for your ideals.
II. These ideals move the mind of Almighty God. The ideal touches with some lasting impression the unforgetting God, and passes into one of the abiding motive-forces of the universe He governs to redeem. There is a spiritual doctrine of the conservation of energy which is the heritage of all the true people of God. When Providence puts its arrest upon the progress of our ideals, every fraction of the force lives on. Blessed doctrine of the conservation of energy! David held some clue to it when he exclaimed, “Are not my tears in Thy book?” Christ was recognising it when He spoke the words that immortalised Mary’s love: “Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached, there shall also this that this woman hath done be told for a memorial of her.” The writer of the Hebrews felt it when he exclaimed, “God is not unrighteous to forget your work of faith and labour of love which ye have showed toward His name.” There is a God-moving force in our own keeping. How is power to be brought out and applied? It must be stimulated and increased by temporary delay. There is a danger of one-sidedness in the action of our ideals. They sometimes stimulate the power of work without stimulating at the same time the twin power of prayer. You thrust on this side, and smite on that, and accomplish nothing. God seems to confound you, and you are ready to give up all your ideals in your vexation and impatience. God wants you to drop the rude staff and take up the jewelled weapon of all-prayer. Again, when our ideals are postponed in their accomplishment it is that faith may be made perfect, and that we may cast ourselves more fully upon God. What frightful infidels we should become if we saw our ideals leap up to immediate completion at our mere touch as by a process of rapid tropical growth! You lose power over the mind of God when you begin to throw away your ideals.
III. Think of the influence of David’s ideal upon the actual work of erecting the temple. David’s ideal became the accomplished work of his successor. Your towering ideals of to-day, if grasped with fidelity and followed up as far as God permits, shall be a secured platform for the action of the next generation. Conclusion:
1. You should pitch your ideals high enough to make sure they will be called extravagant by all those in whose hearts is the love of the world, and not the love of the Father. Never mind how daring they are, if the pure love of God and men enters into their deepest essence.
2. Above all things try to keep pride out of them.
3. Having once formed your ideals, hold them fast. Some men sneer at the ideals of their youth, as if they were a species of wild oats they had been sowing, and not God-begotten and immortal seed. Do not be satirist where God is admirer, and set your small, cynical sneers at yourself over against His word of approbation. “Thou didst well that it was in thine heart.” (Thomas G. Selby.)
2 Chronicles 6:12-15
And he stood before the altar of the Lord.
David’s charge to Solomon fulfilled
I. Solomon’s affectionate remembrance of his earthly father.
II. His reverence of his heavenly Father. What sublimity and yet what humility is there evinced in this prayer of the king! Had he been an outcast like Manasseh, praying to God for restoration to his lost throne, he could not have humbled himself deeper in the dust. Listen to his lowly words: “But will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee; how much less this house which I have built!” etc. Who is this on bended knees and with bended heart that offers up these lowly petitions? A king? Yea, I say unto you, and more than a king. ‘Tis Solomon in all his glory. True greatness is ever founded on humility. As it is in the natural world, so is it in the moral world--the higher the structure, the deeper the foundation. The lofty Alps, upon whose snowy head the stars of heaven seem to rest, have their foundations deep in the heart of the earth. Never was Solomon so exalted, never was he nearer heaven, than when on bended knees we behold him a suppliant at the footstool of God’s throne. The highest rank, the loftiest genius, the most splendid crown, receive a double splendour from the grace of humility. (H. Cay.)
The great proof of the blessing given to Solomon is to be found in the prayer which he prayed at the dedication of the temple. No man could have prayed that prayer without help. This we should have said about it in all honesty if we had found it in Sanscrit; if we had exhumed it out of Indian libraries, it would have been due to the author to have said, “You never dreamed that dream; it was a vision of God.” Probably there is no such prayer in all literary records. If ever that prayer be excelled, it will be by the Son of God alone, and His excelling of it will be by contrast rather than by comparison. There is not a selfish word in it. It is not a Jew’s prayer; it is a man’s prayer. (J. Parker, D. D.)
2 Chronicles 6:18
But will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth?
The condescending God
I. Let me call your attention to the fact of the Divine greatness; because it is only in the view of that that we can be prepared to appreciate the Divine condescension. “Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee!”
1. What a view have we here of the immensity of God! We ourselves are among the stars, careering through space, myriads of miles distant now from where we were at the beginning of the service, but though perpetually changing our place in the universe, ever surrounded by His presence, and enclosed by His essence.
2. Equally awful is God’s relation to duration, or His eternity.
3. Here is also a recognition of God’s infinite supremacy.
II. And will this uncontainable being actually manifest Himself to man? And here be it remarked there was but one religion in the ancient world that knew anything of a condescending God--but one--the Jewish. The so-called gods of Olympus could be mean, intriguing, self-debasing; but they had it not in their power to condescend. Morally, they had no height from which they could stoop. But the history of the Divine conduct, as recorded in the Bible, had been, from the first, a history of condescension. Look back to God’s first act of condescension. Sin might have produced eternal silence. Yet it was to man, the sinner, that He took the first step in His career of condescension by speaking to him. Time rolled on; and though the depravity and guilt of man went on increasing, there comes before us in the text another stage in the Divine regard. He appoints a place for the symbol of His presence to dwell in, and where man might be always welcome to approach and commune with Him. This was a vast advance in the condescension of God. All this, astonishing as it was, was only preliminary. What if He should take our nature and make a temple of that! This, indeed, was an act beyond human conception. What! will God in very deed dwell with man--as man--upon the earth?
III. Who does not feel the wonderfulness of the Divine condescension? And what part of His conduct is not condescending? and what part of His condescension is not a wonder? Ascend to the first act--creation--for here the wonder begins. But all this, a man might say--much as it enlarges my views of the Divine condescension--all this I can believe. It relates only to His natural greatness. Low and limited as His creatures may be, they are not as yet supposed to have revolted, sinned. What might have taken place we know; and it is that which makes what He has done so amazing. Here the real wonder begins. That He should have stooped to ask for a hearing in a world filled with noisy praises of itself and its idols.
IV. But this wonderfulness of the Divine condescension is no valid objection to its reality and truth. This is the very gist of the text, that, amazing as the conception is, it is yet a fact.
1. Let us not be told by a pretended philosophy that such a Divine interposition is out of all proportion to man’s importance in the universe. The objection rashly assumes that the incarnation of the Son of God can have no relation to any other part of the universe; for if it have, the objection fails. His relation to our world, indeed, will always be specific and unique. But we can conceive of no world to which His incarnation and death for the redemption of our fallen race can be made known, without having their views of God enlarged, and their motives to holiness increased. As an affair of moral government, it is fraught with interest for all the subjects of God’s universal empire. The planetary insignificance of the earth, the very circumstance which man makes a reason for disbelieving it, may be an element investing it, in the eyes of other worlds, with transcendent interest. They may behold in it only a further illustration of the principle on which God uniformly acts, of “choosing the things which are not to bring to nought things that are.” They may see in it a designed intimation that there is no world, however insignificant--no islet in space, however remote--which shall not be filled with His glory.
2. Neither let a mock humility pretend that such condescension is too great for man’s belief. The right point of view is not from the dust in which man is lying, but from the throne on which God is sitting. The reason of the whole is in God. Do you not see, then, that, wanting in wonderfulness, the Divine manifestation would have been wanting in analogy with creation and providence--wanting in the very means of authentication as a Divine act? It only stands in a line with other wonders. But the end to be obtained by it is incomparably greater. Creation and providence are but introductory and preparatory to it.
3. Nor let the mere formalist limit the displays of Divine condescension to the past. The ordinances of religion are with him memorials of past rather than means of present grace--tombs rather than temples. True, God has been in the past, and will be in the future, as we do not look for Him in the present. Looking back, Shekinah and vision are there, miracle, prophecy, and inspiration, an incarnate Saviour and a descending Spirit. We expect not now a repetition of such scenes. Looking forwards, we regard the future as stored with supernatural events. “Wherever two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” The history and the prophecy are only for limited times, the promise is for all time, large as the heart of God, and the fullest utterance of it. And is not every truly Christian Church a proof that the manifestation of God is still in process, and His condescension unabated? Wonderful as that condescension is, they can dispense with all formal proof of it.
V. What, then, are the means of securing the Divine presence, and the emotions suitable to it? (J. Harris, D.D.)
The condescension, of God
The temple which Solomon built may be viewed as a type of the body of our Redeemer. It pleased Him to tabernacle amongst us. This is a truth that seems to enter into the very rudiments of our religious knowledge; and we are ready to give immediate assent to the truth that Jesus took our nature upon Him. The more we dwell on this great truth, the more inclined are we to exclaim with something like the astonishment of Solomon, “Is this true? Will God indeed dwell with men on the earth?” In order that our examination may have its full weight on the mind, and lead to profitable thought and action, I appeal--
I. To the answer that would be prompted by natural fear. Think of the majesty of God--think of His holiness! The only thought which the fear of man’s natural heart suggests when he hears of God visiting the earth is the thought of wrath and judgment. There can be no breathing freely in the presence of God when there is the sense of unpardoned sin on the conscience.
II. To the answer brought to this question by the gospel of grace and salvation.
III. To the experience of God’s believing people. “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him” (Isaiah 57:15-19; Psalms 68:18).
IV. To the hopes of Christ’s waiting Church. All that hath been manifested as yet of the Divine condescension and glory is but a sample of the manifestations which this world is destined to receive.
V. Practical thoughts suggested.
1. What would be our deserving if God were to visit us according to our iniquities?
2. Will you not seek to experience the wondrous grace of God our Saviour? (W. Cadman, M.A.)
God manifest in the flesh
1. The mightiest monarch of his time hesitates not to appear in the midst of his subjects in the attitude of supplication, to lead the devotions of his people and to put himself on a level with the humblest individual in the congregation of Israel.
2. That the exclamation of the text primarily referred to the permanent abode of the cloud of glory over the mercy-seat in the temple is evident from the circumstances in which it was uttered, but though the words had never been intended to be otherwise applied, there was enough of the Divine condescension manifested even in that dispensation to call forth the tribute of admiration here offered by the King of Israel.
3. Of the state of the heathen world, and of the propensities of his own subjects, Solomon could not be ignorant; and when he reflected how little the character both of one and the other corresponded with the forbearance which they had experienced, and the revelations of the Divine will by which they might have profited, he had good reason to stand astonished at the Divine condescension, and to say, “But will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth?”
4. To what extent the mind of Solomon was enabled to foresee or understand the mystery of the Incarnation we do not venture to determine. But Christians cannot fail to perceive that if the whole scheme of redemption had been fully unfolded to him, he could not have more emphatically expressed the sentiments which that event was fitted to awaken than in the words which he has here applied to the appearance of the Divine glory in the temple.
5. Whatever might be the amount of the revelation granted to Solomon, we can be in no doubt about the practical application which it becomes us to make of the text. It was dictated by the Spirit of God, to be put on record as a portion of those Scriptures that testify of Christ. I would advert--
I. To the simple fact that the glorious event contemplated in the text has actually been realised in the appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ in the likeness of our sinful flesh; and that in His person “God has in very deed dwelt with men on the earth.” The symbol by which God gave intimation of His presence in the Old Testament Church, though fitted to keep alive in their minds an habitual impression of His being and supremacy, and to furnish to them a permanent pledge of security and protection, so long as they adhered steadfastly to His covenant, yet did not immediately address itself to the sympathies and affections of their nature. They were reminded in every act of religious worship of the infinite distance at which they stood removed from the High and Holy One of Israel. But when He condescended to appear in the likeness of sinful flesh, the barriers which had formerly shut up the way of approach were broken down; mankind were permitted to hold intimate converse with Him in the same way, and through the same medium, by which they hold intercourse with one another.
II. To the purpose for which God was manifested in the flesh. It was not only that, through the medium of human nature, He might convey to mankind a more distinct conception, and leave upon them a more vivid impression of the Divine character; but that He might take away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. (R. Gordon, D.D.)
I. To the certainty and evidence of the fact that God has dwelt, and still dwells with men on the earth. We cannot doubt the fact when we reflect--
1. On the essential omnipresence and universal agency of God.
2. That God has thus spiritually dwelt, and still does dwell with men on the earth.
II. To the greatness of His condescension and grace in this respect. (D. Dickinson, D.D.)
God dwelling with men
(for the opening of a place of worship):--We should make the erection of a house for God’s worship, and our first services therein to invite His presence, an occasion for contemplating the grandeur of His majesty, the wonders of His condescension, and bowing down our souls in profound abasement before Him.
I. The benevolent condescension of God. This is illustrated in the text, which suggests--
1. The type: Solomon’s temple.
2. The antitype: the body of Christ.
3. The consequence: God dwelling in the Church.
What is a Church? “A congregation of faithful men.” As if so many temples were placed together, window opening to window, and door to door; light answering to light, and warmth generating warmth, and the perfume of one apartment mingling with another, and songs responding to songs; so Christians, dwelling together, become one great temple, which we call a Church of the living God. Just as many single drops run into a mighty stream, so many believers, pardoned and regenerated and animated by the Spirit of God, become one glorious Church; and Christ is its Head, and He will dwell in it even while the world stands.
II. The prostration and humiliation of soul which so become us before this glorious God. When we contemplate the God whom we adore, we may justly ask--
1. What can we think of this building? It is a place for prayer, praise, and the preaching of the gospel.
2. What of the worshippers? We ought to have an ardent desire to become more fit for His abode, more enlarged, more heavenly, more intellectual, more spiritual, more fervent, more consecrated to Him.
3. What of the worship? (James Bennett, D.D.)
God dwelling with men
The whole Jewish dispensation was typical. Everywhere throughout the system things seen and temporal were employed as premonitory emblems of things not seen and eternal. It thus foreshadowed coming revelations at once by events, by offices, and by rites. The offices of the high priest, prophets, judges, and kings, with the extraordinary powers attached to them, all foretold the supreme authority of that Saviour in whom they terminated. And, as regards, finally, prefigurative rites, I need point only to the countless sacrifices which exhibited, by anticipation, Jesus, our passover, sacrificed for us.
I. We are to inquire what is implied in God dwelling with men.
1. The language is expressive of loving fellowship. When we traverse a country, and amid the rivers, and forests, and mountains, of the landscape, descry a human dwelling, we spontaneously ascribe reciprocal affection to its inmates, a harmony far more beautiful than that of Nature’s scenery by which it is surrounded. Besides, though one may dwell with another whom he disregards or even hates, because separation is not practicable or not convenient in the circumstances, it cannot be so with God, who is infinitely superior to all such restraints. When He takes up His abode with any, it must be in affection; for in all He does He consults exclusively His own good pleasure. The capacity in which He dwells with His people is that of a Father; and where He occupies this footing He will entertain its sympathies regarding those with whom He associates with more than the tenderness of paternal endearment
2. This phraseology is expressive of intimate fellowship. Now, affection necessarily prompts to fellowship. The objects of complacent regard engage the outgoings of the loving mind, and heart unbosoms itself to heart with freedom and confidence. Unless, then, God revealed Himself graciously to us, and heard our supplications to Him, and all this not coldly and formally, but kindly and familiarly, the language of the text would be inappropriate, and He could not be said to dwell with men on the earth.
3. The language is expressive of prolonged fellowship. A passing interview does not constitute dwelling. The designation is not applied even to frequent visits. And so for God to dwell with us is to be with us not now and then merely, but always--in the day to direct our steps, in the night to guard our slumbers, in prosperity to dispel forgetfulness, and in distress to avert despair--when youth impels and manhood invigorates and age enfeebles.
II. The apparent unlikelihood of God thus dwelling with men.
1. Men are insignificant before God. Viewed relatively to fellow-creatures, the human race occupies an elevated position in the scale of being. But all this elevation vanishes when we think of God. If we were to compare God and men by comparing their works, we would not easily find any accomplishment more commendatory of human resources than this same temple of Solomon, in all its magnificence and splendour. And whence, then, were its materials drawn? They were brought from the storehouses of Jehovah. He furnished every stone and timber; and if He had not they might have sought for them in vain. All the elements of this edifice they received from God--and whence did He derive them? He called them out of nothingness. Again, how many were engaged in building this temple? We learn from Scripture that there were about a hundred and eighty three thousand six hundred men. But where were these when God laid the foundations of the earth? Once more, how long was this temple in being built? After every stone was hewn and ready for its place seven years were still occupied, as we learn from Scripture, in rearing and finishing the sacred fabric. The period may have been requisite for the performance in the hands of feeble man; but, oh! how different from the achievements of Him whose mightiest deed follows instant on His word--“who says, and it is done--commands, and it stands fast”! But, finally, what were the dimensions of that erection on which the skill and toil of such vast multitudes were so long expended? Compared with the neighbouring dwellings of Jacob, it would, doubtless, appear vast and majestic. But measure the width of it, and say if it be as broad as the earth: stretch a line to its loftiest summit, and say if it be high as heaven. What proportion bears this capacious abode to the temple of the visible creation? As man enters its gates he seems, beside its massive pillars, and under its exalted canopy, to sink into less than his usual littleness. But think of placing God in it, and how diminutive it appears!
2. On the wickedness of men. And, after all, shall He love these persons? What can He love in them?
III. That, unlikely as it may seem, in some views, God wills to dwell with men on the earth.
1. God has dwelt with men in the person of Christ.
2. God dwells with men by the mission of His Spirit. (D. King.)
The dwelling-place of God
The temple of King Solomon has sown its seeds all over the world; has reproduced itself in every latitude and zone. “But will God in every deed dwell with men upon the earth?” Do we want the temple now? There are many men living today who could with truth make answer, “As far as we ourselves and our spiritual life are concerned, “No! We have outgrown the Testament; Christ is our temple, our way to God. Through the great mercy and grace of God, and His perpetual help, we have risen to that constancy and closeness of fellowship with Him that every place is holy ground; and we often find, in our solitude, a sweetness and depth of joyful communing that we never find amid the distraction of a public assembly.” To them God does indeed “dwell with men upon the earth,” but not in temples made with hands; they walk in the Spirit, and live in the Spirit. But was it always so with them? Did they never want the temple? Was it always as easy to them to find God in the street as it is now? Who of us, that can rejoice in this as his portion to-day, can tell how much he owes of his present realisation of God at all times, and in all places, to those temple walls which now have vanished from his spiritual sight? As in learning our first lessons, our letters, and the like, we are learning things whose use we know not yet, though by and by the alphabet and spelling-book are laid aside, so in the beginning of our spiritual life this temple is our alphabet and primer, where we do things that are not always full of our spirit, nor of our intelligence; but in process of time we grow up to them; we rise up to the spirit and comprehension of our own deed; and by and by the temple is not necessary to us for our own sakes, save as the voice of truth shall sound within its walls, and we go on learning the things which are our life. But are these the men who forsake the assembling of themselves together, “as the manner of some is”? No! They know that the temple wants them, if they do not want the temple; that they are the spiritual material of which the temple is composed; and that their presence and part in its worship is essential to the fulfilment of its end. Their hearts make the atmosphere that infects all weaker souls; their songs are the wings on which the younger and feebler ones rise up to God. They, with their temple and service of song, and their lowly prayers, are mighty antidotes--how mighty, God only knows!--to that perilous movement of the world’s life that would soon drag humanity down to the level of the dust, and blend our godless life with that of the beasts of the earth. (G. W. Conder.)
Will God dwell with men?
The human soul in its better moments longs for the knowledge and the friendship of God; and to many a heart the question comes as it did to Solomon, “Will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth?” I understand this question to have its own answer, and that answer to be, “God will indeed, most assuredly, dwell with men on the earth.”
I. The circumstances under which the words were spoken are full of interest.
II. In the whole history of revelation we have answers to this question.
1. The context.
2. The Incarnation of Christ.
3. The effusion of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.
III. How can we know that God dwells with men?
1. We may know this, as a matter of reason, by what we perceive of wisdom and design in the material world.
2. We may know this from what we find in His Word, and in the events of history of the fulfilment of prophecy, showing that a governor must evidently be present carrying out His own great plans.
3. The consciousness of His spiritual presence with us as individuals.
IV. God dwelling with us is marked in various ways.
1. He who has God dwelling in him will manifest externally the Spirit of God. He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God and God in him.
2. We recognise God ofttimes in what we term special providences--the special care which He exercises over us. I know when I speak of a special providence there may be some who at once revert to the feint of universal and immutable law, and say, “May I expect the laws of nature to be changed for me?” I do not so understand the special providence of God. There is in this immutability of natural law a spiritual influence that is over and above and beyond all that law. The mountain may tremble; its fall is not suspended because I go by; but just before I come and the mountain is about to fall I may be led to think of gathering some beautiful flower, or turning aside to see some peculiar formation of rock, and I stop to examine, and the mountain falls. No violation of law, and yet I am saved. I am saved because God touches my heart, because the Spirit of God communicates with the heart of man. There is no conflict here, there need be none thought of. God’s hand guides me safely through, by an influence simply on this heart of mine. And yet I may not be conscious of this influence. He leads me simply because He has me in His heart; He is dwelling with me; He knows all things and governs all things, and He knows how to guide me safely. Man is acted on in every part of his nature by the unseen. He steps off the roof of a house, and he will be dashed to pieces. What is it? A strange something you call gravitation, that holds him to the earth. This earth, the moon, the planets, we know, are so held; and yet no man ever saw the chain that binds the earth to the sun. If God binds every particle of matter in my body to the sun, the great centre a hundred millions of miles away, can He not bind my spirit to Himself? If the sun attracts every particle of matter in my frame, may not God attract me? Is there anything unreasonable here? Then, again, I go to the sea. I put my family on board the vessel. I am not at all disturbed; I know there may be storms; but the ship is staunch, and then the pilot knows where he is going. He is not going on rocks; the ocean has been sounded. He is not going to the wrong port; there is a needle in the compass that guides him. And what is that needle? A little piece of steel, that has no thought and no power of any kind, but it has been touched with a magnet, and now it turns northward. And relying on that which no man has ever seen, it sends its company safely across the sea. What is that power? It is invisible. And if God can touch a piece of steel that can neither see nor feel nor think, and it responds to the influence, may He not touch may mind, my soul, my thought, by His Holy Spirit, and make it respond to His mill? Is there anything unreasonable in it?
V. What are the effects that are to follow from our recognising God as dwelling with men? The erection of churches. Public worship. Hearts divinely prepared to hear. Divinely inspired preachers. (Bp. Matthew Simpson.)
2 Chronicles 6:26-31
When the heaven is shut up, and there is no rain.
Perils to agriculture
I. A rebuke to rationalism in natural evils. All meteorological phenomena are under God’s control. In all afflictive events God speaks to cities and nations.
II. A moral design in the infliction of natural evils.
1. To requite justice.
2. To lead to God.
III. A place for prayer in the removing natural evils. This denied by many. Prayer may be necessary for man’s highest culture. We do not classify with powers in physical nature. It is not a natural but a moral power. The ordination of God leaves room for prayer. Prayer may be one of the laws of the universe as certain in its sphere as the laws of heat or of gravitation in their peculiar realms. Neither history, Scripture, nor experience forbid us to pray in times of national distress. (J. Wolfendale.)
Pardon and punishment
(2 Chronicles 6:27, with 2 Samuel 7:14 and 1 Corinthians 11:32):--I take these passages in a group because they all set forth a similar view of a great subject. They all take a natural and what we may can an untechnical view of the subject of Divine forgiveness. The prophet Nathan and Solomon and the apostle Paul all saw that sin produced its natural consequences of pain and penalty in good men and bad men alike, and though all believed in the reality and triumph of mercy, and were quite sure of God’s readiness to forgive, yet they perceived that Divine forgiveness did not remove those consequences, at least in this life. Pardon does not mean immunity from punishment.
I. What is punishment?
1. “Behold,” says the apostle Paul, “the goodness and severity of God.” That there is an element of righteous indignation in God the whole frame of Nature testifies; the Scriptures frequently declare; and our own moral sense demands that it should be so. We cannot conceive of a perfect Being without the capacity of such indignation. The very methods of the Divine rule absolutely involve pain. But there are things in the world more to be dreaded than pain. There are evils so great--so great in themselves--that it is worth while enduring all the pain we can conceive in order to get rid of them. Righteousness is the one ruling principle of all life. In the interests of righteousness the universe is governed. Character, now and always, owes all its moral worth to the acknowledgment of the supreme majesty of the law of righteousness.
2. Now perhaps we can understand something of the meaning of punishment. It is--
(1) The expression of the indignation of a perfectly holy God. It is not an act of vengeance, nor anger which is excited by the thwarting of the Divine will. To God there is nothing so dear as justice, truth, love; and when men, from selfish love of pleasure, or equally selfish wilfulness, violate these, and become cruel, unjust, false, the holy indignation of the holiest of all beings springs forth in punishment, and God becomes a “consuming fire.”
(2) Punishment is the very guardian of life. If a man takes poison, or if he thrusts his hand into the fire, he suffers pain. Pain is not the evil to be feared, but the effect of the act upon the whole frame. The poison saps the life--the pain is the mere symptom of the fact. The fire is destroying the tissues of the body--the pain is the evidence of it. Pain is like the beacon which warns the mariner of the dangerous reef or the sunken rock.
(3) Punishment and pain are the means of healing. To any one ignorant of medical science, a surgeon performing an operation would seem cruel and unfeeling. But he cuts down into the living flesh with his keen knife and inflicts the sharpest pain because he knows that in no other way can the life be saved. In the hands of a benevolent God suffering is surgical.
II. When we have sought pardon and found mercy we may still have to suffer the consequences of past sin. Pardon consists of two parts--
1. The cessation of resentment.
2. The removal of consequences. These two parts are not always united in time. I may cease from anger, cease to feel resentment against my erring, disobedient child when he repents, and yet may allow him to suffer the natural consequences of his wrong doing. My love may be so deep and tender that I suffer in his suffering, and even more poignantly than he, but I let it go on. And God does so. Our duty is to bow submissively, to recognise Divine love, and to endure patiently the chastisement that seeks to cure us of our faults. (Philip W. Darnton, B.A.)
2 Chronicles 6:34-35
If Thy people go out to war.
The lawfulness of war
I shall take these words as a political maxim and moral precept comprehending these two propositions.
I. That here is couched a supposition, that upon just grounds and lawful causes any nation may declare and make war upon another, implied in the expression, “If they go out to war against their enemies, by the way that God should send them.” The just grounds of war according to the Laws of Nations and Arms are--
1. Those that concern the maintaining the public faith.
2. Those that respect the vindication of the honour of the Crown.
3. Those that relate to the prevention of the great and apparent dangers that threaten the general peace.
II. The positive duty and obligation that all nations lie under, in case of the declaration of such a war, to seek God with a solemn humiliation and repentance, for His assistance and succour to maintain their cause or right.
1. Because war is an appeal to God for the justice of a national cause.
2. Because of the great dangers and uncertainties that attend war. How many armies have their designs and themselves ruined by the little advantage of ground, the pass of a river, a sudden surprise, an undermining stratagem, the alteration of the weather, the fall of snow or rain, the misunderstanding of a word given, the spreading a false rumour or alarm; nay, the start of a horse, the mere error of the eye, or the information of a deserter! Which has overturned all policy, made power impotent, and victory unexpected. How many fleets have been dissipated with a mist, broken and sunk with a storm, and blown up with a spark of fire! (Ecclesiastes 9:11; chap, 14:11; Leviticus 26:8).
3. Because it will engage God to be on our side, and to vindicate our cause.
4. Because this solemn invocation of the Divine assistance, joined with a public humiliation and repentance, will be a means to avert those judgments that were otherwise due to our sins, and which we should have reason to fear might prevent the success of our arms, and provoke God to give us up to the will of our enemies.
5. Because prayer is an absolutely necessary and conditional means to success in war. (Henry Sacheverell, D. D.)
The wise man’s prayer for the warrior
(preached on a day of general humiliation on account of war):--Under most of the ordinary occurrences of life, there is the strongest tendency to overlook the relationship subsisting between ourselves as human beings and the providence of God. In many instances it is only on extraordinary occasions that individuals are first led to a practical recognition of the supremacy of God. It is when sickness produces its enfeebling effects on the frame; or when the angel of death gains admittance to their dwellings; or when adversity demonstrates to them the vanity of centring their affections on earthly treasures; or when pestilence extends its ravages throughout the land, or when war, with its horrors, thins their armies at home or abroad; it is often under such circumstances that men are primarily led to think of their souls and their Maker. An occurrence which shall generate in the minds of any a fitting sense of their dependence for succour on the Lord of heaven and earth, in whatever way that occurrence may have originated, must at least be, overruled by Providence for good.
I. That when a people are engaged in the chastisement of their enemies it is required that they should have recourse to united supplication, that their efforts might be crowned with victory. Men are as much bound as ever to make national entreaties for the bestowal of national mercies, and for the successful issue of legitimate national movements.
II. The spirit in which our united supplications should be offered. We should pray, as penitents for pardon; as sinners for salvation; as patriots for our country; and as followers of Him who has taught us to love our enemies, for those enemies themselves. (H. B. Moffat, M.A.)
2 Chronicles 6:40-41
Now, my God, let, I beseech Thee, Thine eyes be open, and let Thine ears be attent unto the prayer that is made in this place.
The dedication of the Temple
(a dedication sermon):--The text is a prayer to God--
I. For the notice of His eye. “Let Thine eyes be open towards this house.” That you may worship under His approving eye.
1. Your worship must be spiritual.
2. Your worship must be that of faith.
3. You must come with purity.
II. For the attention of His ear. “Let Thine ear be attent unto the prayer that is made in this place.” What prayers will be made here?
1. Personal prayers.
2. Prayers for ministers.
3. Prayers for the inhabitants of this town.
4. Prayers for our country.
5. Prayers for the extension of Christ’s kingdom.
III. For the instructions of His word. “Arise Thou and the ark of Thy strength.” We consider this part of the text a prayer for the administration of instruction; because the ark contained the tables of the ten commandments and a copy of the whole law, which the priests were appointed to teach.
IV. For a holy and successful priesthood. “Let Thy priests, O Lord God, be clothed with salvation, and let Thy saints rejoice in goodness.”
1. No minister can fully know the truth but by experience, and therefore cannot teach it.
2. No minister can conduct his office with a proper feeling, without experience, and that experience constant.
3. Success is promised to no unconverted man. (R. Watson.)
Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple
There are two things of which we are here reminded.
I. Our own sanctuary. “Let Thine ears be attent unto the prayer that is made in this place.” We must carry a home-feeling with us into the sanctuary, if we wish it to be to us the house of God and the gate of heaven. There are some who are utter strangers to this home-feeling; they have no place of worship which they can call their own. A wandering spirit in religion is destructive to vital religion in the heart.
II. Our earnest supplication. “Arise, O Lord God,” etc. This prayer is extremely suitable in the exercises of public worship, because it includes all that can be included both for minister and people. (R. C. Dillon, A.M.)
The dedication of the temple
I. An unequivocal recognition of the necessity of the Divine presence in order that a Church may be a source of real benefit to the people.
II. The indispensable necessity that ministers should have a Divine commission and suitable personal qualifications.
III. The paramount object as identified with the glory of God, worthy of the mighty apparatus provided and brought into action--the eternal benefit of the people. (J. Davies, D. D.)
God in His temple
I. A description of God’s house. “Thy resting place.” Rest is not used here in the sense of ceasing from labour, but in the sense of remaining or staying. Here we have the outward building for the worship of God represented.
1. As the heart of national life.
2. As the special place where God meets His people.
II. A prayer foe Christian ministers. Some look upon a preacher as a social reformer. Some as a lecturer on morality. Some as a well-directed pattern of propriety to keep up appearance and show. The true light in which to regard a preacher is that of a messenger o! salvation.
III. A petition for the people. “Let Thy saints rejoice,” etc.
1. An important state. A condition of joy.
2. A necessary condition. The only true ground of rejoicing is goodness. (Homilist.)
Solomon’s prayer for the sanctuary
I. Explain Solomon’s views of the sanctuary. He here represents it as the resting-place of God. Solomon was fully justified in this view by Psalms 132:1-18., which was supposed to have been composed in reference to the erection of the temple. There his father prays, “Enter Thou into Thy rest,” and affirms--“For the Lord hath chosen Zion, He hath desired it for His habitation: here will I dwell for ever, for I have desired it.” And further than this, the Divine presence had dwelt in the cloud that overshadowed the mercy-seat in the tabernacle. The presence of God was manifested in the temple, differently from everywhere beside. In hell, it is displayed by His frown--in heaven, by the unveiling of His glory--throughout the earth, in the exuberance of His goodness; but in the sanctuary, by the manifestation of His grace and compassion. It is called His “resting-place,” because He regards it with complacency and delight. This delight, however, did not arise from the splendour with which Solomon’s temple was adorned, for the Infinite Mind, which from its own vast resources could call into existence the temple of the universe, must be far superior to delight in any mere material edifice. God does not now dwell visibly in the midst of His people, nor does He confine the manifestation of His presence to one temple, as in the times of Solomon; for the resting-place of God is wherever His people meet together, whether in the mountain, den, cave, cottage, cathedral.
1. The sanctuary is the scene of the manifestation of His character as a God of grace. In the temple this was taught by God appearing reconciled by the sprinkling of the blood of the sacrifice on the mercy-seat. This appears more clearly in the Christian sanctuary, where God appears in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself by Jesus Christ, through the blood of the everlasting covenant.
2. The sanctuary is the scene of the worship of His people. The temple of old was thus distinguished.
3. The sanctuary is the sphere of the accomplishment of the purposes of Divine grace in reference to man. It was one great means of keeping alive the worship of the true God, and of preserving the existence of religion amongst them. Thus, on a limited scale, every Christian sanctuary is exerting a most salutary influence upon the present and eternal destinies of the children of men. These were reasons which induced so much delight in the mind of God in reference to the temple of Solomon, and in the scene of His people’s assembling now. These are objects worthy of affording delight even to the mind of the eternal God. Is the sanctuary His resting-place? We see the propriety of our being anxious that this house of prayer should be distinguished by attention to its external appearance. Is the sanctuary His resting-place? It ought to be the object of our warm affection. Is the sanctuary His resting-place? Then it ought to be the scene of our constant resort.
II. Solomon’s desires on behalf of the sanctuary. The blessings which true religion required in the days of Solomon for its extension and perpetuity are essentially necessary at the present time and will be through every age.
1. Solomon implores the Divine presence. He desires that the ark should occupy its appointed place in the temple. This was the appointed medium of Divine manifestation, and therefore he desired the entrance of the ark. But he is also anxious for the Divine presence, without which all external symbols would be in vain. He desires His presence as a God of mercy, from off the mercy seat; for this only is suitable to us as fallen creatures. A God of pure justice and immaculate purity would fill us with terror and insure destruction. Under the Gospel, the mercy seat is more distinctly revealed than under the law, and the blood of atonement is more precious. The Divine presence as a God of grace and mercy is absolutely necessary. The temple of Solomon would have been as worthless as a heap of ruins, as to any moral power and influence, without the Divine presence. This is equally necessary now; for we may have every part of sanctuary worship complete--the ordinances, the ministry, the assembly--but without the presence of God totally inefficient. It is the altar, the wood, and the sacrifice, without the holy fire. It is the Bethesda, the house of mercy, without the descending angel to impart efficacy to the waters. While we seek it, let us remember, that though it is thus essential to the power and efficiency of ordinances, it is graciously promised. He says, “In all places where I record My name, I will come unto you and will bless you.”
2. The efficiency of the ministry.
3. The benefit of the Church of God. One of the great designs of Christian ordinances is the advancing improvement of true believers as well as the conversion of sinners.
1. Let us be thankful for the institution and possession of Divine ordinances. The wisdom and grace of God has given existence to these ordinances, as the channel of His grace to the souls of men. “There is a river, the streams whereof” etc.
2. Let us learn our dependence upon the Divine blessing for the efficiency of ordinances.
3. Let us cultivate a deep anxiety for the Divine blessing. (C. Gilbert.)
The Divine presence entreated, for the efficiency of the ministry and the prosperity of the people of God
Throughout the inspired volume one uniform representation prevails touching the dignity, importance, and responsibility of the sacred ministry; Moses (Exodus 33:15); Elijah (1 Kings 19:4-14); Paul (2Co 5:18-20; 1 Timothy 1:11-12; 2 Timothy 1:11); and Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and other “watchmen of Israel” were keenly alive to the weight of the “burden of the Lord” which was laid upon them. If we would be upheld in our work, and labour for the Divine glory and the welfare of the Church of Christ, let us enter into the prayer of Solomon at the consecration of the temple.
I. The invocation of the Lord’s presence suggests how necessary that presence is for the prosperity of His Church.
1. It was manifested in those times by a visible symbol.
2. If the ark be regarded as typical of the Lord Jesus, as undoubtedly it is to be, then we may identify Christ with Jehovah and we may see in the entrance of the ark of God’s strength into the temple and into its most holy place a prefiguration of the abode of Christ in His Church, and of His entrance as our Great High Priest into the most holy place in the heavens, from which He manifests Himself to His people by His Spirit (Psalms 68:18).
3. This is the presence of God for which we are to look in the present state of the Church. All our endeavours will be in vain, all our labours abortive, unless attended by the grace and influence of the Spirit. “It is necessary,” says Augustine, “that the Holy Spirit should work inwardly, that the medicine that is applied from without may take effect. Unless He be present to the heart of the hearer, the word of the preacher is idle and vain.” “I once,” observes Cecil, “said to myself, in the foolishness of my heart, what sort of sermon must that have been which was preached by Peter when three thousand souls were converted at once? What sort of sermon? Such as other sermons. There is nothing to be found in it extraordinary. The effect was not produced by his eloquence, but by the mighty power of God present with His Word.
II. In connection with this blessing, and dependent upon it, we should fray for ministerial qualification. “Let Thy priests be clothed with salvation,” or “righteousness” (Psalms 132:9).
1. The beautiful garments of the sanctuary would not be sufficient without the inward endowment of truth and holiness. Still more should the ministers of the gospel be qualified for their office by an experimental knowledge of the great salvation and the adornment of a holy life (2 Corinthians 6:4-7; 1 John 1:3). It is a striking observation of Bishop Bull: “The priest who is not clothed with righteousness, though otherwise richly adorned with all the ornaments of human and Divine literature, and those gilded over with the rays of seraphic prudence, is yet but a naked, beggarly, despicable creature, of no authority, no use, no service in the Church of God.” “I will be sure to live well,” was the remark of G. Herbert when he entered upon his living at Bemerton, “because the virtuous life of a clergyman is the most persuasive eloquence to persuade all that see it to reverence and love.”
2. To be thus “clothed with salvation” will most effectually fit the Christian minister for the various departments of labour and trial through which he will have to pass (2 Corinthians 4:1-2; 2 Corinthians 4:5-7).
3. The habitual clothing of salvation and righteousness, for which we should pray, will indeed conduce to ministerial efficiency. Putting on Christ, arrayed in the garments of purity and truth, of meekness and love, we shall best “magnify our office.” Cecil says: “The zeal of some men is of a haughty, unbending, ferocious character. They have the letter of truth, but they mount the pulpit like prizefighters. It is with them a perpetual scold. This spirit is a reproach to the gospel; it is not the spirit of Jesus Christ. He seems to have laboured to win men. But there is an opposite extreme: the love of some men is all milk and mildness; there is so much delicacy and so much fastidiousness--they touch with so much tenderness; and, if the patient shrinks, they will touch no more. The times are too flagrant for such a disposition. The gospel is sometimes preached in this way till all the people agree with the preacher: he gives no offence; he does no good.” In “speaking the truth” we should do it “in love,” yet always maintaining its supremacy end never sparing the sin in our desire to spare the sinner.
III. The efficiency of the ministry will conduce to the prosperity and joy of the Church and people of God. (J. T. Broad, M.A.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "2 Chronicles 6". The Biblical Illustrator. https://studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany