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This chapter fails into three divisions. The first (Ezekiel 46:1-15) gives supplementary directions for the prince and the people of the land when engaged in solemn acts of worship; the second (Ezekiel 46:16-18) furnishes the prince with instructions as to how he may dispose of his portion or inheritance; the third (Ezekiel 46:19-24) adds particulars about the sacrificial kitchens for the priests and for the people.
The supplementary directions contained in these verses relate to the worship of the prince and the people on the sabbaths and the new moons (Ezekiel 46:1-7) and at the appointed feasts generally (Ezekiel 46:5-15).
Like the preceding sections which introduced distinctly new enactments in Ezekiel's Torah (see Ezekiel 44:9; Ezekiel 45:9, Ezekiel 45:18), this properly opens with a Thus saith the Lord God, since it refers to the worship that should be celebrated at the gate of the inner court which looketh toward the east. Ewald, after the LXX. (ἡ πύλη ἡ ἐν τῇ αὐλῇ τῇ ἐσωτέρᾳ), changes the text so as to read the outer court gate, and understands the statement here made to be a qualification of that contained in Ezekiel 44:1-3. It is, however, the inner east gate to which the present clause alludes, and the announce-meat made concerning it is that, like the outer east gate, it should be shut on the six working days; literally, the six days of the business; but that, unlike the outer east gate, it should be opened on the sabbath (literally, in the day of the sabbath) and in the day of the new moon, both of which clays had been marked under the Law, and should in future continue to be marked, by special sacrificial celebrations.
The reason for the opening of this inner east gate should be that the prince might enter it as far as its threshold, and stand there worshipping by the posts of the gate, while his burnt offerings and his peace offerings were being prepared by the priests, who, rather than the prince, were the proper ministers for conducting the sacrificial ceremony. The prince should reach his station at the threshold of the inner gate, by the way of the porch of that (or, the) gate without; but whether this signified that he should pass through the eastern gate of the outer court, and so advance towards the inner east gate, as Ewald, Keil, Kliefoth, and Plumptre assume, or, as Hengstenberg, Schroder, and Smend suppose, that he should enter the inner gate by the way of the porch of the gate, i.e. from the outside, from the outer court into which he had previously entered through either the north or the south outer gates, cannot be decided. In favor of the former may be urged the consideration that it seems more natural to apply מִהוּץ to the outer gate than to the outer court, since no, one could enter the inner gate except from the outer court, unless he were already in the inner court; but in favor of the latter is
(1) the stringent character of the language in Ezekiel 44:1-3, which expressly declares that the outer east gate should not be opened, and that no man should enter in by it, thus scarcely admitting of an exception; and
(2) the statement in Ezekiel 44:9, Ezekiel 44:10 of the present chapter, that in the "appointed feasts" the prince and the people alike should enter the outer court either by the north or the south gate, since, if any of these "feasts" fell upon a sabbath, this regulation would not be practicable, if the prince and the people were required to enter by different doors. The question, however, in itself is immaterial. The points of importance are that the prince should worship in the porch of the inner gate, and that, on finishing his worship, he should retire, and that the gate should not be shut; until the evening.
Likewise (or, and) to the people of the land should be accorded permission to worship at this inner gate, only not like the prince, in its porch, but at its door, yet on the same occasions as he, in the sabbaths and in the new moons. Kliefoth, who takes "this gate" to signify the outer gate, through which, according to his interpretation of Ezekiel 46:2 (see above), the prince should pass so as to reach the inner east gate, conceives the import of the present verse to be that, while the prince should be permitted on the sabbaths and new moons to pass through the eastern gate, the people "should remain standing in front of the outer east gate, and, looking through it and the opened inner east gate, should pray before Jehovah." This, however, is unnatural, even on the hypothesis that the prince should pass through the outer east gate, and the view of Keil is greatly preferable, that "this gate" was the inner east gate, and that the people should reach it (even if the prince did not) by entering the outer court through the north gate or the south.
Ezekiel 46:4, Ezekiel 46:5
describe the sacrifices the prince should offer unto the Lord on the sabbaths.
(1) A burnt offering of six lambs and a ram, all without blemish. The Mosaic Law, or so-called priests' code, demanded two yearling lambs (Numbers 28:9).
(2) A meat offering, consisting of an ephah of fine flour for a ram, and for the lambs as he shall be able to give; literally, a gift of his hand—not a handful, but, as Ezekiel 46:7 explains, what his hand can attain unto (comp. Leviticus 14:31; Leviticus 25:26), i.e. as much as he can, with a hin of oil to an ephah, for which again the Law required two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mingled with oil (Numbers 28:9).
Ezekiel 46:6, Ezekiel 46:7
specify the corresponding sacrifices for the new moons.
(1) A burnt offering of a young bullock without blemish, six lambs, and a ram, with which may be compared the two bullocks, one ram, and seven lambs of the Mosaic Torah (Numbers 28:11-15).
(2) A meat (or, meal) offering of an ephah for the bullock, an ephah for the ram, and for the lambs according as his hand shall attain unto (comp. Ezekiel 46:5; and the similar expressions in Le Ezekiel 5:7, Ezekiel 5:11; Ezekiel 12:8), with a hin of oil to an ephah. This also is less than that which had been demanded by the Law, viz. three-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mingled with oil for each bullock, two-tenths for the ram and one-tenth for every lamb (Numbers 28:11-15). The Torah of Ezekiel omits the sin offering of a he-goat, which had a place in the Torah of Moses.
begins an ordinance relative to the mode of conducting worship at the appointed festivals (Ezekiel 46:9; comp. Ezekiel 36:38; Ezekiel 45:17; Le Ezekiel 23:2; Hosea 12:9), by indicating first how the prince should enter and depart from the temple. According to Kliefoth and Keil, the prince's entrance and departure should be by the way of the porch of the outer, according to Hengstenberg, Smend, and Currey, of the inner, east gate (see on Ezekiel 46:2).
But when the people of the land shall come before the Lord. As the preceding verse referred to the prince's entrance into and departure from the inner gate, this was intended to regulate the movements of the prince's subjects when they should enter the outer court at any of the festal seasons—not the high festivals alone, such as the Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles, which are usually denominated חַגּים, but the ordinary appointed feasts (מְוֹעֲדִים), including, besides the high festivals, the sabbaths and the new moons and such other religions celebrations as were or should be prescribed in the new Torah. In order to prevent confusion, and that all might be conducted with propriety, no one should depart by the gate through which he had entered, but by the opposite, i.e. he who had entered by the north gate should retire through the south gate, and vice versa. Hengstenberg thinks the reason for this regulation "cannot be sought in the endeavor to avoid a throng," since "in that case it must have been ordained that all should go in by the same gate and go out by the opposite one;" it must, he holds, have been "a theological one," viz. "to signify that each should go out of the sanctuary another man than he came in."
And the prince in the midst of them, when they go in, shall go in, etc. Schroder, but without reason, would restrict this regulation to the celebrations of the first and seventh days of the first month (Ezekiel 45:18, Ezekiel 45:20); Hengstenberg would confine it to the high festivals (Ezekiel 45:21, Ezekiel 45:25); Kliefoth, Keil, and commentators generally apply it to all the statutory feasts or appointed seasons and times for united sacrificial worship. The regulation seems to teach that in such observances at least the prince should stand on a level with the people, and both enter and retire by the same door as they.
specifies the meat (or, meal) offering which should be presented in the feasts (חַגּים), or high festivals, as the Passover and Feast of Tabernacles, and in the solemnities (מוֹעֲדִים), or appointed feasts generally, viz. an ephah to a bullock, and an ephah to a ram, and to the lambs as he is able to give (comp. Ezekiel 46:5, Ezekiel 46:7), with a hin of oil to an ephah. This is the same meat offering as was appointed for the new moons (see Ezekiel 46:7), but slightly different in quantity from, though the same in principle as, that stipulated for the seven days of the Passover (Ezekiel 45:24).
determines the procedure in case of the prince resolving to offer privately, on his own account, a voluntary burnt offering or peace offering; better, a free-will offering (נְדָבָה), a sacrifice prompted by the heart of the offerer, as opposed to one legally enjoined (Exodus 35:29; Le Exodus 22:23), which might be either a burnt or a peace offering. In this case the east inner gate should be opened to him as on the sabbath days (see Ezekiel 46:1), but, differently from what occurred on the sabbath, it should not remain open till the evening (Ezekiel 46:2), but should be shut immediately the prince's offering was done.
supply closing instructions for the daily sacrifice. The daily burnt offering should be a lamb of the first year; literally, a son of his year; whereas the Law of Moses required a lamb twice a day (Exodus 29:38-42; Numbers 28:1-8). The daily meat (or, meal) offering to accompany this should be the sixth part of an ephah, instead of a tenth as under Moses, and the third part of a hin of oil, instead of a fourth as prescribed by the earlier legislation, to temper with—לָרֹס (from רָסַס, a word peculiar to Ezekiel), to moisten or mix with—the fine flour. These sacrifices should be offered every morning; literally, morning by morning; but not every evening as in the Mosaic Law. This difference was not accidental, but intentional, though why in the new order of things the evening sacrifice should have been omitted does not appear. Currey thinks Ezekiel did not intend to enumerate all the sacrifices of the Law, but only a few of them, and that, though not mentioned, the evening sacrifice may have been designed to be retained. The presentation of these sacrifices was not to be the special duty of the prince, but should devolve upon the community as a whole, who are now addressed as "thou" (verses 13, 14) and "they" (verse 15), and who should act in its fulfillment through their priests.
Instructions for the prince as to how he should deal with his property are summarized in three regulations, introduced by the solemn formula of "Thus saith the Lord" (comp. Ezekiel 46:1; Ezekiel 45:9).
The first regulation. The prince might dispose of a portion of his royal property (see Ezekiel 45:7, Ezekiel 45:8) by presenting part of it as a gift to any of his sons. In this case what was gifted should belong to his son or sons in perpetuity, should be his or theirs as his or their possession by inheritance; it should never again revert to the prince.
The second regulation. Should the prince, however, bestow a portion of his inheritance on one of his servants, what was thus bestowed should not belong to that servant in perpetuity, but should be regarded simply as a temporary loan which should be his till the year of liberty, הֲדְּרוֹר שְׁנַת, i.e. the year of free flowing general—comp. Exodus 30:23, מָר־דּרוֹר, pure myrrh (Authorized Version) or flowing myrrh (Revised Version)—hence the year of release; after which it should return to the prince. Smend thinks Ezekiel could hardly have had in view the year of jubilee (Le Ezekiel 25:10; Ezekiel 27:24), else he would not have employed the term "liberty," which Jeremiah (Jeremiah 34:8, Jeremiah 34:15, Jeremiah 34:17) uses to denote the freedom regained by Hebrew bondmen in the seventh year (Exodus 21:2; Deuteronomy 15:12). But
(1) the seventh year was only a year of the release of bondmen, not of the reversion of property, and to this rather than to that Ezekiel refers.
(2) The year of jubilee might properly be called the "year of liberty," since in it both slaves were emancipated and property was liberated. And
(3) Ezekiel's phraseology is not framed (nor is Jeremiah's) in imitation of either Exodus or Deuteronomy, the latter of which in particular speaks of "the year of release" (שְׁמנת הַשְּׁמִטָּה), but adheres closely to the style of Leviticus, which, in fact, it presupposes. שְׁנַת הַדְּרוֹר can only signify the year of the release, i.e. the well-known year of emancipation. The last clause should be rendered, as in the Revised Version, "As for his inheritance (generally), it shall be for his sons," or, as Keil translates, "Only his inheritance it is," i.e. the prince's; "as for his sons, it shall be for them."
The third regulation. The prince in all cases should endow his sons (or others) out of his own, and not out of his subjects' possessions, of which they have been violently robbed. A good rule for other princes besides this, and for owners of property in general
The sacrificial kitchens for the priests and for the people. This passage has been transferred by Ewald to Ezekiel 42:1-20; and inserted after Ezekiel 42:14; but the Exposition will show it must have originally stood where it is.
After (or, and) he—i.e. the measuring man, who had hitherto acted as the prophet's conductor—brought me through the entry, which was at the side of the gate. This was the inner north gate, from which the prophet had been conducted to the front of the house in order to receive the sacrificial Torah (Ezekiel 44:4), and to which, when this was finished, he had been seemingly led back. From this gate, then, he was taken by his guide along the entry or passage (Ezekiel 42:9), which ran towards and extended in front of the holy chambers of (or, for) the priests, which looked toward the north, and which had already been described (Ezekiel 42:1-14). Arrived at the western corner of the chambers, he perceived a place on the two sides—or, on the hinder part (Revised Version)—westward. The translation in the Authorized Version was obviously suggested by the dual form יַדְכָּתַיִם, which properly signifies "on both sides" but when applied to the tabernacle (Exodus 26:23) or temple (1 Kings 6:16), always describes the back part or rear. That a similar "place" existed on the south side is more than probable; though Smend thinks there was not a "place" on the south. The LXX. omits the words after "place," and supplies κεχωρισμένος, "separated." Keil finds in the description here given of the passage towards the holy chambers a proof that this section could not have steed originally after Ezekiel 42:14, as in that ease no such description would have been needed. Nor would the language in Ezekiel 47:1, "and he brought me back," have been required or appropriate had the prophet not in the mean while changed his place, which he does to visit the holy chambers.
The "place" was designed as a kitchen where the priests should boil the trespass and the sin offerings and bake the meat (or, meal) offering, i.e. cook the portions of the sacrifices they should eat in their official capacity (see Ezekiel 42:13). The Law of Moses (Leviticus 8:31) required the flesh to be boiled (and probably also the flour to be baked) at the tabernacle door. The last clause, that they, i.e. the priests, bear them, i.e. the offerings, not out into the utter (or, outer) court, to sanctify the people, is by most interpreters understood in the sense of Ezekiel 44:19 (which see). To this, however, Kliefoth objects that the conception of deriving ceremonial sanctity from contact with such offerings is completely strange to the Old Testament (see Haggai 2:12), and accordingly he connects the words. "to sanctify the people," with the "baking" and "boiling" of the preceding clause.
Ezekiel 46:21, Ezekiel 46:22
The prophet next observed, as his guide led him round the outer area, that in every corner of the court there was a court—literally, a court in a corner of the court, a court in a corner of the court—and hat these were courts joined of forty cubits long and thirty broad. The word "joined" קְטֻרוֹת) has been variously translated: by Gesenins (see 'Hebrews Lex.,' sub voce), as "vaulted" or "roofed," with which Hitzig seems to agree; by the LXX; whom Bottcher and Ewald follow, μικρά, equal to contracts; by Kliefoth, "uncovered;" by Havernick, "firm," "strongly built;" by Smend," separated;" by Hengstenberg and Schroder, after the Talmudists (fumum exhalantia), "smoking" or "made with chimneys"; but is probably best rendered by the Revised Version, Keil, Currey, after Gesenius, "enclosed," meaning muris cineta et januis elausa. According to the last clause of Ezekiel 46:22, these four corners were of one measure; or, one measure was to the four cut-away places, i.e. corners, מְהֻקְצָעוֹת being the hoph. participle of קָצַע, "to cut off." This last word is omitted in the LXX. and the Vulgate, Hitzig, and Smend, the puncta extraordinaria showing that the Massorites regarded it as suspicious.
And there was a row of building round about in them; but whether טוֹר meant a "wall," "fence," or "enclosure," as Gesenius, Havernick, and Ewald translate, or "row," "series," "a shelf of brickwork which had several separate shelves under which the cooking-hearths were placed," as Keil explains, the obvious intention was to describe the range of boiling places which were built along the inside walls of these corner courts, as the next verse states.
These are the places (literally, houses) of them that boil—hence kitchens—where the ministers of the house (or, romple)—e.g. the Levites (see Ezekiel 44:11, Ezekiel 44:12)—shall boil the sacrifice of the people; i.e. the portions of the people's offerings which fall to be consumed by the priests.
The people's worship.
Although there was an elaborate hierarchical system in the Hebrew religion, care was taken that the people generally should take an important part in the service. They were not admitted to the most sacred parts of the temple enclosure, but they were expected to come up to the temple and share in its worship.
I. GOD LOOKS FOR THE PEOPLE'S WORSHIP. If this was expected under the Law, much more is it looked for in the gospel dispensation, according to which all the Lord's people are priests, and all are admitted to the most holy place through the rent veil God has personal dealings with each soul, and it is right for each soul to come up before him in grateful adoration. The service in which the people do not take part cannot be said to be of much use to them. It is true that there is value in intercession, and we should all plead one for another. Still, we cannot grant to any priest a power of attorney to execute our religious contracts in our stead.
II. THE PEOPLE CAN ENJOY WORSHIP. When the heart is in it, no joy on earth can be more rich and full.
"Lord, how delightful 'tis to see
A whole assembly worship thee!"
The dreariness of Sunday just arises from the fact that so many people who go to church really take no part in the service. It must be wearisome to sit as spectator of a feast of which one does not partake. But when once a living interest is taken in the worship, and the spectator becomes a guest at the table, the whole character of the scene is changed, and the joy of worship is experienced. Then it is possible to say, "How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! my soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord;" and "I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord."
III. WORSHIP SHOULD BE ADAPTED TO THE PEOPLE. It may not be possible to make it all that we would desire in form and external expression. Indeed, popular worship can never reach the standard of fastidious aestheticism. In trying to satisfy the refined taste of one or two cultured persons, we may simply destroy the means of worship for the majority of a congregation. In that case the service, while it reaches the perfection of art, loses its spiritual character and degenerates into a mere musical performance. We should always bear in mind the practical end of worship, always see that it is in touch with the people and expresses and helps the devotion of the congregation generally. The church should be the people's home of worship, not the shrine of a privileged aristocracy. Christ was one of the people.
IV. WORSHIP MUST NOT BE DEGRADED IN ORDER THAT IT MAY BE MADE POPULAR. There is considerable danger of running into this opposite extreme in the effort to attract and interest the indifferent. But then the whole object is defeated. We may get the people and amuse them for a while, but what is the use of doing so if we sacrifice the great end of assembling together—the reverent adoration of the holy God? Fine art may be sacrificed, but spiritual reality must be retained. Religion, the essence of which is reverence, cannot be helped by mere vulgarity. The people's worship must be worship.
The Prince in the midst of them.
The center of the glory of restored Israel was to be found in her prince. No prince appeared, however, who was able to accomplish the expectations of prophecy until the advent of Jesus Christ. He is "the Prince in the midst of his people."
I. CHRIST IS THE PRINCE OF HIS PEOPLE.
1. He is one of them. The Jew's Prince was a Jew, not a foreigner. Christ is "the Firstborn among many brethren." He is a true Man, the Son of man. He has been over the Christian course, and has himself lived the pattern Christian life.
2. He is their Head. Christ stoops to save, but he rises again to rule. Even during his earthly humiliation he plainly took the lead among his disciples. Now he is seated on his throne in heaven, reigning over his Church.
II. CHRIST IS IN THE MIDST OF HIS PEOPLE. During his earthly ministry he dwelt among men. Unlike John the Baptist, who retired to the solitude of the wilderness and to whom people had to come by leaving their homes, Jesus went about through the towns and villages of Israel, eating and drinking with all sorts and conditions of men. Although he is no longer visible, we have his assurance that he will be always with his true disciples (Matthew 28:20). Christ does not simply visit his people in moments of great need; he is always with them. He does not select some choice followers for his companionship, to the neglect of the great body of his people, like a prince who enjoys himself with his courtiers and takes little or no notice of the bulk of the nation. Jesus is in the midst of his people, right in the center of the population of the kingdom of heaven.
III. CHRIST ENTERS INTO HIS PEOPLE'S WORSHIP. When the people go in, i.e. to the temple, the Prince shall go in. The Prince must worship with his people. Prince and peasant must bow together before their common Lord. Every purely human prince needs to confess his sins as a penitent and to utter the publican's prayer, "God be merciful to me a sinner!" Christ the sinless cannot take part in our confession except by sympathy. But he is with us throughout our worship. Christian worship at its highest is communion with Christ. In that most sacred act of worship, the Lord's Supper, we seek especially for the living presence of Christ. For surely every Protestant must admit that there is a real Presence—not in the bread or wine—but in the hearts of Christ's worshipping people.
IV. CHRIST GOES WITH HIS PEOPLE INTO THE WORLD. When the people go forth their Prince is to accompany them. It would be sad if Christ only met his people in their worship. He is more needed in work, in temptation, in trouble. Christ is with us in the world as well as in the Church. He does not confine his sympathy to ecclesiastical circles. But when we have some hard task to accomplish or some severe trial to face his presence may be especially looked for. The good leader will be in the thick of the fight, cheering his soldiers just where the battle is hottest. Our Captain of salvation accompanies us in the holy war against sin. If courage fails, this should be our cheering thought—the Prince is in the midst of us!
The homing sacrifice.
I. THE MORNING SHOULD BE DEDICATED TO GOD. Then especially worship is fitting. It is sad to begin the day without prayer. But the fresh morning devotion has a preciousness of its own.
1. Then we awake from sleep. It is happy indeed to wake to some good thought of God. He has preserved us through the long hours of darkness. New strength has come by refreshing rest, and this is God's gift. Therefore grateful thoughts should rise with morning worship.
2. Then we commence a new day. Has the fig tree been fruitless hitherto? Yet in his long-suffering patience the Master has not cut it down. Here is another opportunity for fruit-bearing. Shall this new one be wasted as were so many of bygone clays?
"Lo! here hath been dawning
Another blue day:
Think, wilt thou let it
Slip useless away?
Out of eternity
This new day is born;
At night will return.
"Behold it aforetime
No eye ever did;
So soon it forever
From all eyes is hid."
II. EVERY NEW MORNING SHOULD BE DEDICATED ANEW. We may think we have dedicated our lives to God. Yet we need to renew the dedication—to dedicate our clays as well as our years. Every day brings its fresh duties, and these need the grace of Christ, that they may be rightly discharged. Every day also brings its new temptations. We cannot live today in the grace of yesterday. The manna fell daily to feed the Israelites in the wilderness, and it would not bear keeping for the morrow. Christ teaches us to pray for daily bread: "Give us this day our daily bread."
III. THE BEST DEDICATION OF THE NEW DAY IS BY SACRIFICE. The Israelites dedicated each day with morning burnt offerings. Although we have outgrown the necessity of using these symbolical offerings, we can never outgrow the requirement of sacrifice. It is well to begin the day in the spirit of sacrifice. First there should be the desire to slay all sin and renounce all bad habits. Then comes the positive self-denial and cross-bearing for the sake of Christ. Is there any new sacrifice of love that may be offered on the new day? Throughout the day this thought should pervade the mind of the Christian: "I am a servant of Christ. It is my part today to study my Master's will, and live for his glory."
IV. THE DEDICATED DAY WILL BE A BLESSED DAY. It may not see any great event. But it will be a day spent for God, in lowly service, perhaps, yet in holy living. Such a day is one sure stepping-stone towards heaven.
Ezekiel 46:16, Ezekiel 46:17
The son and the servant.
The Jewish Law made careful provision to prevent the alienation of land from the families to which it originally belonged. The son might inherit permanently; but the servant could only receive a gift of land for a time, which would cease at the year of jubilee. Here was a marked distinction between the privileges of sonship and those of service. Now St. Paul draws attention to this distinction from another point of view, when contrasting, the gospel with the Law. There is a religion of worship, and one of service.
I. THE LIFE OF WORSHIP HAS A PERMANENT INHERITANCE. This is the case with the spiritual experience of Christianity.
1. The Christian is a son.
(1) He is begotten by God.
(2) He is adopted by God.
(3) He owns Christ for his Brother.
(4) He is admitted into God's presence as a child at home.
(5) He has the liberty of a son and his privileges.
"The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him." God makes his counsels known to true Christians.
2. The son's inheritance is permanent.
(1) For life, the grace of God given to the true Christian child will not desert him in after-years if he still looks for it and follows its guidance. God does not treat his people as the favorites of a day, whom a prince pampers while the whim is on him, and then capriciously flings aside; his favor is enduring like his eternal love.
(2) After death. The Christian inheritance is but tasted on earth; the better part of it awaits us beyond the grave. It is like the inheritance of Israel, a small part of which was on the coast of the Jordan, while that river had to be crossed before the main portion could be reached. "Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come" (1 Timothy 4:8). We do not resign our Christian inheritance when we lie down to die; on the contrary, then we prepare to enter into the Promised Land in all its length and breadth.
II. THE LIFE OF SERVITUDE HAS BUT TEMPORARY PRIVILEGES.
1. The promises of the Mosaic religion were for this world, as Bishop Warburton proved with redundancy of argument, in his famous book on the ' Divine Legation of Moses' Therefore the Jew stood below the Christian in regard to his prospects of future good. But there are far lower lives of servitude than that of the pious Jew.
2. Christ spoke of the slavery of sin (John 8:34). Now, this degraded servitude has its rewards. Sin gives gifts to its slaves. But they are not enduring possessions.
3. The bondage of worldliness holds many men. This thraldom promises great rewards. Riches and pleasures come in its train. The chains are forged of gold, and at first the weight of them is not felt. But the rewards of sin and worldliness are of brief duration. Their fruits may be sweet at first, but the after-taste of them is unendurably bitter. Even if no disappointment is met on earth, the worldly inheritance must be resigned at death. The slave of sin and the world can carry none of his treasures with him to the unseen future.
A warning to the great.
I. THE GREAT ARE RESPONSIBLE TO GOD. The prince is the leader and supreme ruler of Israel. His rank and privilege lift him into the most exalted position. Yet he is responsible to God, and his duty is definitely marked out for him. Even the most "irresponsible" ruler of a despotic state cannot escape from responsibility in the sight of Heaven. Prince as well as peasant will have to give account of himself before the judgment-seat of God. Moreover, God directs and controls the movements of the most powerful earthly magnates. He who said to the sea, "Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further; and here shall thy proud waves be stayed," "put his hooks" in the proud ruler of Egypt (Ezekiel 29:4).
II. THE GREAT ARE TEMPTED TO EXCEED THEIR RIGHTS. Men who enjoy the largest scope and who own the widest possessions must come to the confines of their territory. The biggest park has its fence. Now, a common temptation is to despise the best things within a man's right, in envy for what lies beyond them. Thus, with all the wealth of the royal demesne, Ahab is sick with covetousness for Naboth's vineyard (1 Kings 21:4). The possession of considerable power aggravates the temptation of the great to go beyond their rights. It is difficult for the despot to avoid degenerating into a tyrant.
III. THE GREAT ARE WARNED AGAINST OPPRESSING THE PEOPLE. The danger of power passing over to tyranny is the besetting temptation of persons in influential positions. This danger alone raises a question as to the wisdom of entrusting overmuch power even to the best men. In the abstract, an irresistible paternal government might seem to be likely to secure the greatest good of a nation. But for this to be satisfactory we must not only endue the ruler with supreme wisdom, we must also eliminate from his character every atom of selfishness.
IV. THE GREAT ARE NOT MORE FAVORED BY GOD THAN ARE OTHER PEOPLE. They have unique privileges, but these are bestowed in the form of a solemn trust. God is no respecter of persons. He cares for all his children. He is the people's God, and the Friend of the poor. They who can find no earthly protector may look to Heaven for deliverance, for he who heard the cry of the Hebrews when they groaned under the oppression of the Egyptian bondage, and saved them from Pharaoh and his host, is still mighty to help the needy.
V. GOD'S EQUAL GRACE FOR THE PEOPLE AS WELL AS THE GREAT SHOULD LEAD ALL TO TRUST HIM. If God only favored the so-called privileged classes, the multitude might well turn aside from religion in despair. But since God has ever been on the side of the oppressed, and has ever cared for the people, it is foolish to distrust him, and ungrateful to disregard his goodness. Whatever else the great may seize upon, they cannot take away the poor man's religion. Here is a prize of permanent possession. It would be well if all knew and loved the God who cares for all.
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
The prophet, having described by anticipation the sacred city and temple, having represented the several duties of prince, priest, and people, having given regulations for sacrifices and festivals, now proceeds to depict the sacred services for which all this preparation has been undertaken. The rulers of the nation, the ministers of religion, and the people of the land are beheld uniting in the solemn function of spiritual worship. This is the loftiest exercise of the Church, whether upon earth or in heaven. The worship of the individual soul yields in beauty and in grandeur to that sacrifice of worship in which multitudes, willingly, gratefully, and joyfully unite.
I. THE OBJECT OF WORSHIP IS GOD ONLY. In this a distinction existed between Israel and the heathen people around; for whilst these worshipped gods many and lords many, the chosen people worshipped Jehovah, and him alone. In the Church of Christ, whilst many of the great and holy in former times are remembered with gratitude and veneration, worship, in the strict and proper sense of the term, is reserved for the Supreme and Eternal, who shares his honor with none beside. His glorious perfections demand the homage and adoration of his intelligent creatures; and the more his character is studied, the more will it appear worthy of all the admiration and reverence which can be brought into his sacred presence.
II. THE WORSHIPPERS ARE THE CHURCH OF THE LIVING GOD. The great and the small, the young and the old, the learned and the lay, are all qualified to present to the Eternal the spiritual tribute which is his due. For it is in virtue of their humanity, their participation in human nature, experience, and powers, and not in virtue of any peculiar possession or acquisition, that they are summoned to unite in the worship of their Creator. The idea of the prophet was one in a high degree expanded and comprehensive; yet even this fell short of the great reality as apprehended by the Apocalyptic seer.
III. THE SEAT OF ACCEPTABLE WORSHIP IS THE HEART. It is true that this spiritual doctrine is especially that of Christianity, of the New Testament. But the attentive reader of the Psalms and prophecies of the old covenant is aware that the enlightened Hebrews were superior to a merely formal and mechanical view of worship. Sacrifices and offerings were known and felt to be of no avail unless they expressed the deep and sincere emotions of the inner nature. Thus it must ever be; he who is a Spirit must be worshipped in spirit and in truth.
IV. THE CHARACTER OF TRUE WORSHIP CORRESPONDS WITH THE NATURE AND NEED OF THE WORSHIPPERS.
1. There must he acknowledgment of the Divine attributes, contemplated with reverence.
2. There must be humiliation and confession of sin.
3. There must be the presentation of the due offering of gratitude to him from whom all blessings proceed.
4. There must be petitions and intercessions for needed good.
V. THE EXPRESSION AND FORM OF WORSHIP MUST VARY WITH THE INDIVIDUAL WORSHIPPER AND HIS CIRCUMSTANCES. It is narrow bigotry to insist upon one form of spiritual service or of uttered adoration and prayer. There are occasions upon which worship may be spontaneous and ejaculatory; and other occasions upon which it may be elaborate, artistic, and protracted. The worship of the individual who is momentarily touched by what is beautiful in nature, or impressive in the Word of God, is as acceptable as the liturgy of a cathedral service, or as the fervent service of praise in which expression may be given to a nation's gratitude for signal favors.
VI. THE SEASONS FOR WORSHIP ARE BOTH OCCASIONAL AND CONTINUOUS. The text speaks of the "new moons" and the "sabbaths" as opportunities for solemn and public services of devotion. Yet we read a little later of the daily offering. The truth is that there is no season when worship is unsuitable on the part of man or unacceptable So God. Yet there is wisdom in the appointment both of regular and of special seasons and occasions of worship. None can worship God too much, or too reverently, or too fervently.
"From every place beneath the skies
Let the Creator's praise arise!
Let the Redeemer's Name be sung
In every land, by every tongue!"
Feasts and solemnities.
In all religions there are instituted festivals and public functions, which serve to manifest and to sustain the religious life of the community. This was especially the case with Judaism, which prescribed many stated solemnities. Even the Christian religion has its appointed sacraments, and, in addition to these, which were instituted by the Divine Founder, the Church has at various periods set apart times and seasons for certain public observances, participation in which has been found conducive to religious earnestness and vitality, as well as to ecclesiastical prosperity.
I. RELIGIOUS FESTIVALS AND SOLEMNITIES ARE JUSTIFIED AS HARMONIZING WITH THE VERY NATURE OF THE HUMAN MIND. It is not in human nature to proceed in one undeviating and monotonous course. Life is best lived when the regular and stated order of things is varied by occasional diversities. As in ordinary existence, so in the religious life, it is well that there should be variety, and that men should be invited to special engagements of a spiritual nature, whether of humiliation or of rejoicing, whether commemorative or anticipatory. Men do not cease to be men because they are Christians, and Christianity is not only compatible with, it is promoted by, special sacred festivals, fasts, and other observances.
II. RELIGIOUS FESTIVALS AND SOLEMNITIES ARE JUSTIFIED BY THE NATURE OF DIVINE INTERPOSITIONS WHICH ARE OCCASIONAL AND SPECIAL. The Jews had, in the course of their national history, experienced wonderful interventions of Divine mercy upon their behalf. And it is evident that the solemnities, which formed so beautiful a feature of the Jewish religion, were for the most part designed to celebrate the great things which God had done for his chosen people. The treatment of the nation by God had not been of a uniform and regular character; and it was natural that there should be a correspondence between the national history and the national religion, between what Jehovah had effected on behalf of his chosen people, and what that people did in acknowledgment of the Divine mercy. Similarly with our Christmas, Easter, and Whitsuntide; we celebrate the special mercy of God in the advent, the death, and the resurrection of our Savior, and in the fulfillment of "the promise of the Father" in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
III. RELIGIOUS FESTIVALS AND SOLEMNITIES ARE JUSTIFIED BY THE SUCCESSIVE GENERATIONS WHO NEED TO BE IMPRESSED BY THE SAME GREAT SPIRITUAL TRUTHS. With reference to the Jewish Passover, we are expressly assured that one purpose of its observance was to train the rising generation in the reverent memory of the signal favors of God. When the son of the household asked, "What mean ye by this service?" the answer was given that it commemorated the loving-kindness and faithfulness of the God of the Hebrews, who had delivered his chosen people from destruction and assured to them his lasting protection. How much more powerfully was such a lesson taught by such ordinances than by words! The youthful mind is especially impressed by sacred solemnities, and by their observance provision is made that the attention of successive generations shall be directed to the glorious truth that God has visited and redeemed his people.—T.
A free-will offering.
There were certain sacrifices and offerings which the pious Jew was bound to present. To omit compliance with certain regulations upon these observances would have been disloyalty. But there were other offerings which were optional, which were left to the feelings and to the circumstances of the worshipper. They were only brought when there was an especially lively sense of the Lord's goodness, and an especial desire to express consecration and devotion. Gifts prompted by gratitude and love are the only gifts which are of value in the sight of him who searcheth and looketh upon the hearers.
I. FREE-WILL OFFERINGS ARE BECOMING ON THE PART OF MAN. Man's nature is distinguished by the glorious prerogative of liberty. There is for him no moral excellence or beauty in constraint. The heart is free, and it is the only gift which in God's sight is precious; all other gifts have value so far only as they are the expression of the love and loyalty of the spiritual nature. Whatever is dedicated to God of the worshipper's free-will is a human and a worthy offering, such as a being with man's prerogative of liberty may justly offer.
II. FREE-WILL OFFERINGS ARE ACCEPTABLE TO GOD. False religions sometimes extort from devotees, by the motive of terror, gifts and offerings services and sacrifices which would otherwise be withheld. They must be fictitious' deities that are represented as gratified with such offerings as these. But the character of God is such as assures us of his willingness to receive what is freely and cheerfully presented. Not that he can be enriched by anything that his creatures can present. "Of thine own," they acknowledge—"of thine own have we given thee." But all is precious to him that reveals a loyal, loving, and grateful heart.—T.
The daily offering.
There is nothing inconsistent in the combination of special solemnities observed upon certain occasions with the regular daily worship. They are not contradictory of, but complementary to, each other. If there is an adaptation between annual festivals and one principle of human nature, there is an equal adaptation between another tendency of that nature and the constantly recurring daily sacrifice of prayer and praise. Accordingly, in this same chapter are found directions as to the yearly feasts and instructions concerning the daily sacrifice. How just and reasonable is this latter provision for our religious life is apparent from—
I. THE DALLY MERCIES WHICH HAVE TO BE ACKNOWLEDGED. The tokens of God's goodness and bounty, forbearance and grace, do not come to us at long intervals. They are incessantly bestowed. He daily loadeth us with benefits. He giveth us day by day our daily bread. The mind that is at once observant and sensitive is, at the contemplation of renewed, unceasing favors, ready to exclaim, "Every day will I praise thee, and I will bless thy Name for ever and ever."
II. THE DAILY SINS WHICH HAVE TO BE CONFESSED, AND FOR WHICH FORGIVENESS HAS TO BE ASKED. The offerings and sacrifices of the temple included not only thank offerings, but sin and trespass offerings. The Israelitish worshipper appeared before Jehovah as a penitent supplicating forbearance and pardon. There is no human worshipper who has not occasion to come into the presence of the God of holiness with shame and confusion of face. Daily transgressions and omissions call for daily acts of humiliation and daily entreaties for mercy. The self-righteous may conceal from themselves this fact, and the hypocritical may seek to conceal it from God. But those who know themselves, and are sincere in their devotions, will implore the clemency and the forgiveness promised by the righteous Sovereign to those who seek reconciliation through the mediation of the Divine Redeemer.
III. THE DAILY GUIDANCE AND STRENGTH WHICH ARE NEEDED, AND WHICH HAVE TO BE SOUGHT FROM GOD. Devotion is primarily the offering of the heart, its love and grateful praise, to God. But it includes also the seeking of blessings which it is his prerogative to bestow. There is no day which does not bring with it duties that can be properly fulfilled only with Divine assistance, trials which can only be passed through securely and beneficially through the direction which God's Holy Spirit alone can vouchsafe. If this is so, how reasonable is the provision for daily communion with God! Thus only can we be assured of that grace which will enable us so to pass through the discipline of earth that it may be the means of meeting us for the service and the joys of heaven.—T.
HOMILIES BY J.D. DAVIES
The consecration of time.
God has mercifully imparted to human life a pleasant variety. It might have been, especially as the result of transgression, a dull monotony. It might have been day without night; a continuous season, neither summer nor winter; working days in perpetual succession. But as in nature he has given to us the delightfu1 spectacle of mountain and valley, land and. water; as in the circumstance and experience of life we have youth, manhood and. old age; so also we have secular days and sacred.
I. NATURAL OBJECTS ARE APPOINTED AS LESSON-BOOKS IN RELIGION. Sun and moon and stare not only serve as luminaries of our earth, they are appointed as signs. They signify unseen and spiritual realities. The sun speaks to us of another Fount of light—the Sun of Righteousness, who illuminates man's soul. The moon, with her many phases, serves as an emblem of the Church, receiving her light and. heat from the Sun. Every mountain appeals to us to rise above the common level of a mortars life. Every flower points to spiritual beauty and. usefulness, while it preaches likewise a lesson of man's brief opportunity. So when the gate that looked towards the east was opened, it was that the worshippers might be moved and lifted heavenward, by the sight of the rising sun. This privilege was repeated on the day when the new moon appeared. Incarnate as we are in flesh and blood, we need to learn from every quarter lessons of spiritual moment. God deigns to instruct us by the service of a thousand, teachers. If our eyes are open wide we may learn gospel lessons on every side.
II. GOD IS SPECIALLY ACCESSIBLE TO MEN AT SPECIAL SEASONS. He came near to Jacob in a special manner by the vision at Bethel. He came down on Horeb, and. talked, with Moses as a man talketh with his friend. Especially he has ordained the sabbath as a time when he will commune with men. Even ignorant men have discovered that rest of body and. intellect one day in seven is a benefit to the man and. to the nation. But without doubt God sees a deeper reason for the institution of the sabbath than do we. Certain it is that in the olden time he regarded the observance of the sabbath as emphatically the maintenance of men's covenant with him. The violation of the sabbath obtained his withering frown. And the intrinsic value of the day is as great now, although its violation be not followed by the summary punishment of God. The sabbath day is peculiarly a day "in which he may be found." Having spread the banquet for human souls, the King comes near to see his guests.
III. FOR THE HIGH ENJOYMENT OF GOD'S PRESENCE THE INNER DOOR OF THE HEART MUST BE OPENED. The hindrance to intimate intercourse with God is on our side. On God's side there is eager willingness. "We are not straitened in him." He is prepared to make his presence a joyous reality as much as ever he did to saints in the olden time. We may walk with him as Enoch did, if we will. We may have communications with him as Abraham did, if we will. The hindrance is in our own will. If only the door of the heart be unbarred, if only our strongest affections wait on the threshold to give him welcome, he will meet with us, and give us all the comforts of his friendship. Other guests are often entertained, such as vain ambitions, animal inclinations, worldly cares, evil companionships, and we are ashamed to bring in the heavenly King. Alas! too often the door is locked on the inside.
IV. IN RELIGION ONE CAN BE HELPFUL TO MANY. The prince exerts an influence either for evil or for good over multitudes. His example is especially contagious. If he is sincerely pious, he can induce many to serve the Lord. But even the prince may not bring the sacrifice near to God. His rank and office are limited by Divine authority. In the service of the sanctuary he may not be supreme. Even the king must draw nigh to God through the offices of the priest. The priest likewise renders useful service to multitudes. He speaks for them to God. He conveys substantial good from God to them. So every man, in proportion to his faith and piety and prayerfulness, may win over others to the side of virtue—to the side of God. Each of us occupies a center, and by a holy character we can draw, by the magnetic power of love Godward, men and women from a wide circumference. As "one sinner destroyeth much good," so one saint may save alive a myriad of his fellow-men.
V. OUR HOLIEST WORSHIP ON EARTH IS ONLY ON THE THRESHOLD OF THE TRUE TEMPLE. So encompassed are we with a material nature, that we can get no further than the margin of the eternal kingdom. We can see the great realities "only through a glass darkly." Yet we make them more obscure by our spiritual indolence and our undue attachment to earthly pursuits. Above everything, candor and openness of soul are needed to allow the light of truth to stream in. We can make earthly and carnal all the sensibilities of our souls by the habitual neglect of God's presence. But if we wish honestly and earnestly to know God more, and to have friendly intercourse with him, we can. The open door of the heart will be a welcome to God well understood.—D.
The soul's growth in goodness.
The wisdom of God has been clearly evinced in the spiritual training of the human family. The forbidden fruit was the wisest test that God could impose on Adam. The simple sacrifice of a lamb was the fittest training of men's souls during the patriarchal age. And as the race developed from infancy into youth, and from youth to manhood, God's methods for unfolding and maturing the spiritual nature have been singularly appropriate. The highest good man can obtain is the development of his spirit—the expansion of his highest powers. To this end all religious worship is designed to contribute.
I. MAN'S SPIRITUAL LIFE BEGINS AT ZERO. In all God's works we see development from a simple germ to highest perfection. For high reasons God does not produce perfected natures at a single stroke. Even this unconscious earth passed through long stages of preparation before it was fit for human habitation. The rose does not reach perfection except by patient culture. Everything about us is in transition, and is moving onward in a course of development. Art is not yet perfected. Our bodily nature begins with a microscopic germ, and slowly develops towards maturity. If anything is plainly revealed in Scripture, it is this—that the life of the soul begins at the lowest point and is intended to reach the highest. We do not begin our earthly career with robust faith in the unseen God, nor yet with a sensitive conscience, nor yet with strong aspirations after moral excellence. All this is the result of research and self-discipline and prayer. Clearly there is an intimate analogy between all the varieties of life known to us. With respect to the grain there is first the seed, then the blade, then stalk, then ear, then full corn in the ear. With respect to the body there is babyhood, infancy, youth, manhood, maturity. And the life of the soul begins with a thought, a feeling, a wish, a prayer. It begins in the understanding, passes into the conscience, touches the emotions, moves the desires, constrains the will, moulds the life. It begins in feebleness and develops into world-controlling power. Probably the main reason for this is that the spiritual life, to have any beauty or excellence, must be the spontaneous desire and endeavor of the man himself. If, by the constitution of his nature, a man must be holy and benevolent, there would be no merit in holiness, no worth in benevolence. Therefore scope is given to a man, greater or lesser, to foster the young germ of spiritual life, and to develop it unto the noblest perfection. This is our supreme business during our mortal career.
II. MAN'S SPIRITUAL LIFE CAN BE NOURISHED BY ACTS OF PUBLIC WORSHIP. The temple in the olden time, and Christian sanctuaries now, are designed by God for this end.
1. Instruction is provided. In the former ages this was furnished in the form of rite and emblem; now, almost entirely, by oral utterance. There is conveyed information respecting God, his nature, his kingdom, his will, his doings; information respecting man, his nature, his fall, his redemption, his possible elevation to purity, his destinies in a future state.
2. Access to God is allowed. Self-inspection is encouraged. Interior sin, in inclination and desire, is detected. The eye is turned inward upon the soul. The best sensibilities of the heart are strengthened and expanded. A vision of holiness is obtained. New aspirations begin to bud. The sacred influence of God is felt upon the soul. True prayer is stimulated.
3. Right habits are confirmed. Every man is more or less influenced by his fellow-man, so contact with holy men produces salutary impressions upon every sensitive mind. The forceful presentation of truth upon the moral nature tends to elevate it. Convictions of religious duty are inwrought. Regard for God's revelation and for God's will is deepened. Resolution to follow a right course is often formed. The energies of the soul are braced up for high endeavor. Familiarity with God and with eternal things is increased. As a plant grows and buds under the influence of the vernal sun, so a man's soul unfolds amid the surroundings of public worship.
4. A Divine influence is present.
III. MAN'S SPIRITUAL LIFE IS EITHER HELPED OR CHECKED BY EVERY VISIT TO THE SANCTUARY. This is the main truth taught in this verse. Men were not allowed, in the second temple, to retrace their steps. They might not depart by the same path as that by which they approached the altar. Without doubt this was ordained in order to leave an impressive lesson on their minds. The law yet remains. It is written on man's spiritual constitution. It is written in the very structure of the temple. No man leaves God's house precisely the same man as he went in. He is either worse or better for his visit. If he has yielded in any measure to the claims of God, he is the better. If he has resisted them afresh, he is the worse.
1. Let us contemplate the foolish man.
(1) If he enter by the gate of self-righteousness he will in all probability leave by the gate of insensibility. His soul will be hardened under the process. The sun that melts wax hardens clay.
(2) If he enter by the gate of unbelief he will leave by the gate of despair. Foregone conclusions fasten like a bandage upon the eyes. The root of blindness is a perverse will. The man without God is without hope.
(3) If he enter by the gate of formal custom he will leave by the gate of bondage. His carnal fetters will have been more firmly riveted by the visit.
2. Let us contemplate the wise man—the beneficial visit.
(1) He who enters by the gate of inquiry leaves by the gate of knowledge.
(2) He who enters by the gate of penitence leaves by the gate of peace.
(3) He who enters by the gate of prayer leaves by the gate of triumph.
(4) He who enters by the gate of consecration leaves by the gate of immortal hope.—D.
The essence of religion.
Inasmuch as true religion is a daily help and solace to men, it was needful to impress this upon the minds of the Jews by a daily sacrifice. In order to obtain the highest good from God, we must dedicate our whole self to God. It is in giving that we receive. Our interests and God's interests are not distinct; they are identical. Yet this is a difficult lesson for men to learn. They persist in judging that time taken from secular pursuits is time misspent; that money removed from material fructification is property waste. Surely God does not need our poor gifts. And if he accepts them, it is in order that they may be made channels of blessing to the worshipper. The essence of religion is hearty self-sacrifice.
I. RELIGION CONSISTS IN COMPLETE SELF-CONSECRATION. The burnt offering was wholly consumed. Outward and formal acts of worship do not constitute acceptable religion. The ceremony may only be the show and not the substance, the shell without the kernel, the body without the soul, the channel without a living stream of love. If love be the central germ of piety, then love constrains the dedication to God of all I am—all I have. Such dedication is only reasonable. I cannot lay my finger on any organ of my body, or on any virtue in my soul, or on any item of my substance, which does not belong to God by right; hence in completest consecration I only fulfill my obligation; I give no more than is due. God has given to his children all he has—has not withheld his Son; therefore the obligation is intensified. No lesser repayment of the debt would be complete. Self-dedication is God-like. As when a man carries his gold to the royal mint that it may become current coin for exchange, he receives it back with the image and superscription of the sovereign upon it; so, when we give ourselves wholly to God, we get a nobler self; God's image is super-added. We're most our own when most completely his.
II. RELIGION IMPOSES ON MEN A PERPETUAL OBLIGATION. The burnt offering was to be repeated "every morning." The surrender of self to God is not an isolated act done once for all. It means the continuous habitude of the soul. As we open our shutters every morning or withdraw our blinds in order to let in the light, so every morning we need to open all the doorways of the soul afresh to give access to God. The tempter is ever at hand to induce us to forget God; our fleshly nature asserts itself—thrusts itself in between us and God; therefore there is daily need to renew our sacred vows. As the fields are refreshed every summer morning by another baptism of dew, so may our souls be refreshed by new communion with God. Each day God wisely requires fresh service; we cannot withhold it. Each day will bring new cares, new toils, new opportunities for making God known; therefore we require new strength. Each day God has some new blessing to convey: we should be ever ready to receive it. Self-devotement should be repeated with the dawn of every day. As new as God's gifts to us should be our dedication to him.
III. RELIGION AIMS AT PRODUCING HOLY CHARACTER. The lamb was required to be "without blemish." This was a daily and emphatic reminder that God expected, for his society and his service, a perfect character. Better still, this was a tacit promise that God would, by his gracious expedients, make us perfect. We aspire after perfection. We are ashamed of our imperfections. And we give ourselves up to God, that, by his creative Spirit, he may mould us unto perfection. This is our confident hope that perfect trust may lead to perfect holiness. By daily consecration of every thought and feeling and purpose, we shall step by step attain the likeness of our Savior. This is God's purpose, and it cannot be frustrated.
IV. RELIGION ASKS THE DEVOTEMENT OF OUR YOUNG LIFE, The daily offering consisted of a "lamb." Why this particular sacrifice was commanded can have but one explanation; viz. that our earliest years should be consecrated to God. While religion in its final end is sublime, in its essential principle it is simple enough. It is love—love to the worthiest Being, and a child has capacity to love. God takes especial interest in children. When Jesus took into his arms young infants and blessed them, he said substantially, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father!" Inasmuch as God regards things which are not as yet as though they were, he smiles with Fatherly complacency on faith in embryo—on the tiny buds of character not yet unfolded. The first breath of prayer ascends to heaven more fragrant than temple incense.
V. RELIGION REQUIRES FOR ITS ACTS DUE PREPARATION. "Thou shalt prepare." As considerable pains were required to prepare the burnt offering, so thought and self-inspection are required for acts of piety. To gain advantage and enjoyment from worship, we must bring to the exercise concentration of mind, tender feeling, intelligent expectation, steadfast trust. The farmer has to plough and pulverize his soil before he casts in his seed, and, unless our hearts have their farrows open, the seed of truth will disappear as soon as sown. The eye must be trained in order to gain vision; the hand must be trained in order to dexterous industry; so too the soul must be trained in order to enjoy high communion with God. Desultory talk is not prayer; for prayer is the outgoing of the whole man Godward.—D.
Earthly sovereignty not absolute.
Great temptations surround kings, inducing them to tyranny. Their own will is enveloped within military force. Obsequious flatterers pander to royal power. For self-interest, soldiers usually take sides with the prince. Hence a first lesson for princes to learn is that right is superior to might. The voice of justice is the voice of God.
I. THE PRINCE IS A SUBJECT OF A HIGHER MONARCH. No earthly king holds absolute sway over his subjects. In truth, the mightiest monarch is only a vassal-king. He rules in the place of God. He has to listen to the summons, "Thus saith the Lord." He is appointed to administer the laws of God. He is amenable to a superior authority, and must render an account of his rule at the judgment-bar of heaven. To no king has God transferred the right of absolute rule. The term of a tyrant's rule is entirely at the disposal of God. At any moment the King of kings can terminate a prince's rule, and require a report of his doings. At the very height of a boastful tyranny he has often suffered an humiliating fall. A prince is simply a superior servant.
II. THE PRINCE IS UNDER OBLIGATION TO HIS SONS. As he is not absolute master of his subjects, neither is he absolute master of his possessions. Even a king has no freehold in his property. It is held under lease. He has only a life-enjoyment in it. Death dissolves all earthly covenants. If he has sons, they are his heirs. By the indisputable law of God they have a right in reversion. As the prince had full enjoyment of his estates during his mortal life, so his sons shall have undiminished enjoyment of the estates during their life. By no principle of law or justice can a prince claim to extract from the ancestral estates more than a life-enjoyment, nor encumber his estates for successors. He must learn to identify himself with his children, to treat them as part and parcel of himself. Checks on selfishness God everywhere imposes. In the household of God sonship carries with it complete heirship.
III. THE PRINCE IS UNDER OBLIGATION TO HIS SUBJECTS. Obligations among men are mutual. Kingship has duties as well as rights. If subjects are under obligation to serve and support their 'prince, so too princes are under obligation to protect the lives and property of their subjects. Rightly understood, the prosperity of the people is identical with the prosperity of the king. The throne cannot be strong if the people are impoverished. The king and his people are united by a common bond of interest. The invasion of his subjects' rights is suicide to his authority—suicide to kingship. "No man liveth unto himself." A selfish and avaricious policy is moral madness. No other principle is so favorable to prosperity and joy as wise benevolence.
IV. THE PRINCE IS UNDER OBLIGATION TO HIS SERVANTS. No man is more dependent upon the service of others, no man so dependent, as a prince. His time and strength are as limited as any other man's, yet the demands of duty are enormous. For his personal needs he requires servants; for his family wants he requires servants; and for every department of public government he requires servants. In proportion to the value of the services, remuneration must be made. If the prince be accounted mean or parsimonious, he will lose dignity, reputation, and influence. Yet his generous impulses must never be allowed to violate principles of justice. He must never trench on others' possessions to discharge a personal debt. Yet, alas! this has often beer, done! Kings stand among the greatest criminals. Secret service to the king has been paid in stolen coin. Yet restitution must some day be made, for God is always on the side of righteousness. And to every prince he says, "Be just before you are generous."—D.
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
Ezekiel 46:2, Ezekiel 46:3, Ezekiel 46:10
Distinction and equality in the kingdom of God.
We have here a distinction drawn between one citizen and all the rest. The prince was to enter by the way of the porch of the east gate and stand by the post of the gate, "at the porch of the inner court," while the people were to stand at a distance, at the outer gate (Ezekiel 46:2, Ezekiel 46:3); yet on other occasions the prince and the people together were to enter in and to go forth together without regard to social distinction (Ezekiel 46:10). We are thus invited to consider that, in the coming kingdom, of which this whole vision was prophetic, there were to be both distinction and equality. And we have both.
I. DISTINCTION WITHIN THE KINGDOM. In the gospel of Jesus Christ there are:
1. Higher posts in the Church to be occupied by a few; there have been (or are) apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, deacons, etc.; and there is a sense in which these have a priority of position over the ordinary members of the Church.
2. Higher order of service to be rendered by some. While every citizen of the kingdom of God has to serve by living the truth, by illustrating its essential principles in daily action in every sphere, it is given to some to commend the saving truth by powerful and persuasive utterances, or by unanswerable and imperishable literature; and yet again it is given to others to contribute still nobler service by suffering, or even dying, "for the sake of the Lord Jesus" and in confirmation of the truth (see Acts 5:41; Philippians 1:29; Revelation 7:13, Revelation 7:14).
3. Longer period of service granted to some than given to others.
(1) There are those who are called and blessed from childhood to old age, who serve Christ and his cause through all the stages of human life, with the gathered wisdom of long and varied experience.
(2) There are those who have not heard the Divine summons until the greater part of life is over, and these can only bring their wasted and rapidly declining faculties to the altar of holy service. Yet is there essential—
II. EQUALITY IN THE KINGDOM. Inasmuch as:
1. All must enter at the same gate. To one and all alike, however favored or however denied, Jesus Christ is the one open Door by which to come (John 10:7).
2. All must advance by the same spiritual course—by means of watchfulness and prayer and holy usefulness, by learning of God, by gaining from God, by working for God.
3. All must give account of the? Christian life, and the use they have made of their the opportunity (Luke 19:12-26; 2 Corinthians 5:10).
4. All will be judged on principles of perfect equity (Matthew 25:20-23; Luke 12:48; 2 Corinthians 8:12).—C.
The optional and the obligatory in the kingdom of God.
1. Here are minute and positive prescriptions, requiring exact conformity and allowing no deviation. The burnt offering was to be six lambs and one ram—no more and no less (Ezekiel 46:4). In the day of the new moon—at that particular time—the offering was to include a young bullock (Ezekiel 46:6). They who entered in by the north gate were to go out by the south gate, and vice versa (Ezekiel 46:9). These (and other) instructions were in full and careful detail, and there was to be no departure from them.
2. On the other hand, the prince might, at certain hours and on occasion, bring an offering that was purely "voluntary;" one that was "voluntarily" presented unto the Lord (Ezekiel 46:12). Room was left for spontaneity, even in the midst of these very specific requirements. In the kingdom of Jesus Christ we have these two orders of service—the obligatory and the optional, the plainly and positively enjoined, and the voluntary; and that Christian life is not complete which is lacking in either.
I. THE OBLIGATORY. Of those things pertaining to our Christian life which are indispensable there are:
1. At its entrance:
(1) humility (or penitence); and
(2) faith, that living faith in Jesus Christ which includes the acceptance of him as the Savior of the soul and the Lord of the life.
2. Throughout its course:
(1) worship, or the approach of the human spirit to the Divine in prayer, in thanksgiving, in consecration;
(2) obedience, or the conformity of conduct to those precepts which are an essential part of Christian morals;
(3) love, including not only the "love of the brethren," or a special attachment to those who are the friends and followers of Jesus Christ, but also a genuine pity for those who are far from him and need to be brought nigh, and a practical determination to seek and to win these erring souls.
II. THE OPTIONAL. There is room for the voluntary as well as for the necessary in our Christian life.
1. In the particulars of our worship. We have one main principle binding upon all men everywhere (John 4:23, John 4:24), but it is left to our individual choice—to our own judgment and conscience—at what times, in what forms, within what buildings, with what kind of human ministry, we shall draw nigh to God in true and pure devotion.
2. In the minutiae of obedience. What shall be the rules and the regulations we shall lay down for the observance of the great principles of purity, of temperance, of equity, of veracity, of reverential speech, of courtesy.,—these are not to be found in any Christian directory; they are to be decided upon m the sanctuary of every consecrated spirit and of every cultivated conscience.
3. In the measure and methods of loving service. What proportion of our income, what amount of our time, what order of personal effort, we shall devote to the cause of Christ and in the interest of our fellow-men,—this rests with every individual Christian man to decide. These must be, in some sense and degree, "voluntary offerings."—C.
Losing and keeping the inheritance.
The subject of this commandment is "the inalienable nature of the prince's possession, and the sacred regard he must pay to the peoples'" its object was to legislate so that "no temptation might exist to spoil the people of their proper inheritances, as had been too often done in the days that were past." By the words of the text we are brought in contact with—
I. THE HEBREW IDEAL OF FAMILY INHERITANCE. The Mosaic legislation contemplated keeping the land in the occupancy of the same tribe and of the same family from generation to generation. It was not in the power of the occupier to sell it or to will it away from the family; and although it might be mortgaged, it reverted to the original possessor (or his family) at the year of jubilee. The ideal was that of all the families of the nation being interested and engaged in the happy, honorable, and fruitful employment of agriculture. In this case there would be no superabounding wealth on the one hand, and no degrading poverty on the other hand; while every Israelite would have the deepest interest in preserving the integrity of his country's freedom, and would be contributing to its wealth. Such an ideal as this is hopelessly impossible in such a time as this, but in a primitive and pastoral age it was one calculated to secure the largest possible measure of individual happiness, domestic comfort, and national prosperity.
II. ITS PARTIAL FAILURE AND ULTIMATE DISAPPEARANCE. Such a provision must have been attended with great difficulties in the way of realization. Dissipation on the one hand and avarice on the other would almost inevitably lead to loss and to appropriation. And there is no doubt they did. As time went by the land became lost to the families to whom it was originally apportioned (Joshua 19:51). And when the time came for the great and sad deportation to other lands, the entire arrangement was broken up; finally the Jews were "scattered, every man from his possession;" and, dispersed among the Gentiles, they became the least pastoral or agricultural, and the most trading and financing, of any people on the earth. Where, then, does this prediction find—
III. A PLACE IN THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST? It will find it, in substance, in—
1. Provision for the material well-being of the people of the land. As the result of Christian principle acting at both ends of the body politic, elevating the character and therefore the condition of those at the bottom, and leading those at the top to devote their resources and employ their (legislative and other) opportunities in the interest of the people, there will gradually ensue a wide distribution of comfort and prosperity. Abject poverty and superfluous possession will give place to universal competence, education, morality, piety—in fact, national well-being. Many forces will have to contribute to this result, and it may be a long time coming, but it must be the issue of a true and practical Christianity. There are other "inheritances" beside that of land and wealth which need to be preserved, and which a Christian family or a Christian Church should devoutly determine to maintain. There must be:
2. The perpetuation of the fair heritage of an honorable name, a reputation for family goodness or wisdom that has come down many generations.
3. The preservation of the precious deposit of sacred truth.—C.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Ezekiel 46". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany