Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Exodus 25., where it is placed first as the most important of all the furniture of the tabernacle. Describe its connection with the people's entrance to Canaan, leading them through the Jordan, and heading the procession round Jericho. A superstitious sanctity was attached to it later. The outward symbol was supposed to have the efficacy which belonged only to that which it symbolized. It was carried into battle (1 Samuel 4.) under this delusion, but the ark could not save a people from whom God had withdrawn. Their superstition was rebuked by the defeat of the army, and the capture by the Philistines of the ark itself. Show how often in Church history the sign has been substituted for the thing signified, to the injury of God's cause. Though the superstitions belief in the ark was always rebuked, its sanctity was vindicated: by its avenging progress through the cities of Phllistia, and by the punishment of Uzzah. Moreover a blessing came with it to those who received it aright, e.g., to the house of Obed-Edom. The ark had been brought up to Jerusalem by David amid national rejoicing and placed in a tent prepared for it; now it found its abiding place in Solomon's temple. Throwing on the ark the light of the Epistle to the Hebrews, let us remind ourselves of certain religious truths to which it bore silent witness. These will be suggested by the contents of the ark, by its covering, by the mode of approaching it, and by its uses in worship.
I. THE ARK SUGGESTED THAT THE COVENANT RESTED ON LAW. The safe custody of the material tables of stone implied the moral observance of the precepts inscribed on them. "There was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone," etc. (If we are to understand Hebrews 9:4 as asserting that Aaron's rod and the pot of manna were actually inside the ark, they had probably disappeared by Solomon's time.) The term "a covenant" is only used by way of accommodation, when applied to the relation between man and God. Such a "covenant" is merely a promise, which God makes dependent on the fulfilment of certain conditions; e.g., the promise after the flood is called a "covenant." So the covenant of Sinai was a promise on God's part, conditioned by the observance of the ten commandments on man's part. This was proclaimed by the presence of the tables of the law in the ark of the covenant. Show from Scripture and experience that bliss is conditioned by obedience. There is nothing lawless either in morals or in nature. II. THE ARK PROCLAIMED THAT MERCY CAME BETWEEN MAN AND THE BROKEN LAW. "The mercy seat" covered "the tables." The value of mercy was typified by the pure gold of the capporeth. Exhibit the necessity of mercy to men who are prone to evil and forgetful of good. Illustrate it from God's dealings with Israel, and Christ's goodness to His disciples. The publican struck the keynote of true prayer when he exclaimed, "God be merciful to me, a sinner" Compare Psalm 51. Show how the sense of our want of mercy grows with our sensibility to the sinfulness of sin. Paul the apostle an example of this: "of sinners I am the chief." III. THE ARK DECLARED THAT AN ATONEMENT MADE MERCY POSSIBLE. Describe the day of atonement; the sacrifice offered; the high priest entering the holy of holies with the blood which he sprinkled on the mercy seat. Even he could only draw near to the mercy, seat after the sacrifice (compare Hebrews 9.) "Without the shedding of blood there is no remission? Apply this to the sacrifice of "the Lamb of God," who was "wounded for our transgressions," whose "blood cleanseth from all sin." Describe him as the High Priest in the Holiest of all, having opened the way for all sinners to the abounding mercy of God. IV. THE ARK ENCOURAGED MEN TO DRAW NEAR TO GOD. The law (represented by the tables) was broken; but the mercy of God (represented by the capporeth) was revealed; and the atonement (represented by the sprinkled blood) was provided; so that God fulfilled promise about the mercy seat. "There will I commune with thee." Apply the teaching of this subject to those conscious of guilt, burdened by sorrow, etc. "Let us, therefore, come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." - A.R.
II. THE ARK PROCLAIMED THAT MERCY CAME BETWEEN MAN AND THE BROKEN LAW. "The mercy seat" covered "the tables." The value of mercy was typified by the pure gold of the capporeth. Exhibit the necessity of mercy to men who are prone to evil and forgetful of good. Illustrate it from God's dealings with Israel, and Christ's goodness to His disciples. The publican struck the keynote of true prayer when he exclaimed, "God be merciful to me, a sinner" Compare Psalm 51. Show how the sense of our want of mercy grows with our sensibility to the sinfulness of sin. Paul the apostle an example of this: "of sinners I am the chief."
III. THE ARK DECLARED THAT AN ATONEMENT MADE MERCY POSSIBLE. Describe the day of atonement; the sacrifice offered; the high priest entering the holy of holies with the blood which he sprinkled on the mercy seat. Even he could only draw near to the mercy, seat after the sacrifice (compare Hebrews 9.) "Without the shedding of blood there is no remission? Apply this to the sacrifice of "the Lamb of God," who was "wounded for our transgressions," whose "blood cleanseth from all sin." Describe him as the High Priest in the Holiest of all, having opened the way for all sinners to the abounding mercy of God.
IV. THE ARK ENCOURAGED MEN TO DRAW NEAR TO GOD. The law (represented by the tables) was broken; but the mercy of God (represented by the capporeth) was revealed; and the atonement (represented by the sprinkled blood) was provided; so that God fulfilled promise about the mercy seat. "There will I commune with thee." Apply the teaching of this subject to those conscious of guilt, burdened by sorrow, etc. "Let us, therefore, come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." - A.R.
Acts 2:2). Compare these two manifestations: the splendour of the temple, with the poverty of the upper room; the narrowness of national rejoicing, with the breadth of worldwide preaching, etc. Let us seek the changeless inward truth underlying the changeful outward form which embodies it.
I. THE PREPARATION FOR THE DIVINE PRESENCE. Read the account of that which, on the part of the people, had preceded this display.
1. Sacred memories were recalled. The worn tent, the ark, the holy vessels, had just been brought in (ver. 4), and glorious yet tender associations were connected with each. The revival of old impressions made in youth, etc., makes the heart sensitive to the Spirit of God. Give examples.
2. Divine law was enthroned. "Nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone" (ver. 9). Disobedience to God's commands, forgetfulness of them, unfits us for seeing Him. It deteriorates character, debases the heart. "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? he that hath clean hands and a pure heart," etc.
3. God's claims were recognized. By the completion of the temple, by the multitudinous sacrifices (ver. 5). The willingness to give our. selves up to God prepares us to see Him as our God. Not the intellectual research, but the reverent submission discovers Him. "Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter the kingdom of heaven." "He that doeth the will of my Father shall know of the doctrine." "We beseech you, there. fore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present yourselves a living sacrifice," etc.
4. Earnest prayers were offered. Solomon's prayer, which follows, was but the formal and public utterance of many secret prayers on the part of himself and others. See how often he spoke to God about this building, and how often God spoke to him. He and his people prayed above all things that the special glory of the tabernacle might be granted to the temple. Now the prayers were answered. "Ask and ye shall receive," etc. The apostles expected the Holy Spirit; but in order to receive the fulfilment of the Lord's promise, "they continued, with one accord, in prayer and supplication."
II. THE EFFECTS OF THE DIVINE PRESENCE. We do not refer to the special and immediate effects of the cloud, but to the moral and religious effect of the presence thus symbolized.
1. It restored significance to old symbols. The ark had lost much of its sanctity in the eyes of the people, as the conduct of Uzzah showed. This naturally arose from its frequent removals, its uncovering, its capture by the Philistines, and most of all from the absence of the Shechinah. Now the old veneration was restored to it, because its real significance was reestablished. Apply this thought to churches, to their organizations, to their sacraments, etc. How often these are like the cloudless ark. They want the realized presence of God to make them vivid with life.
2. It testified to God's acceptance of the new building. Reverence and awe fell on all the worshippers. True" consecration" arises from the signs of the Divine presence given to the faithful. The conversion of a sinner, the uplifting of a fallen disciple, etc., these are the evidences we look for that worship and work, place and people, are accepted of God.
3. It confirmed the faith of some, and inspired faith in others. From childhood they had been told of the appearance of the glory of the Lord in olden days. Now, for the first time, they saw it, and doubt vanished before the light. A great turning to God on the part of the unrighteous, or some similar spiritual evidence of the Divine power amongst us, would do more than all controversy to destroy scepticism.
4. It proclaimed God's readiness to hear prayer. With what confidence Solomon could pray after this! The realization that God is near us is our highest encouragement to speak to Him. "Because he hath heard me in time past, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live." If such be the glory and bliss of God's presence on earth, what will it be to stand before His throne in heaven? - A.R.
2 Samuel 7. with 1 Chronicles 22:8). He stood not alone in his disappointment, therefore the following thoughts which arise from considering it may help others to bear the unfilfilled purposes of their lives.
I. DAVID PROPOSED TO DO SOME GREAT THING FOR HIS GOD. We too often seek to effect great things for ourselves, or for our children, rather than for God. David wished to erect the temple. It was to be
(1) an expression of his own gratitude for his election, protection, and exaltation.
(2) A memorial to the people of the Divine goodness which had so wondrously constituted them as a nation.
(3) A recognition that God was the centre of the nationality, as His temple was of the city. As to it all the tribes should repair, so to Him should all their hearts be turned. Suggest some of the tendencies which hinder men from indulging and accomplishing great purposes for God; e.g., the love of money, self-indulgence, materialism, scepticism.
II. DAVID HAD IT IN HIS HEART TO DO MUCH FOR THE BENEFIT OF OTHERS. He lived for his people. He shrunk neither from the perils of war nor the anxieties of rule that they might become a strong and noble nation. He did not wish to build the temple for himself, but for them and their children. Had he been allowed to begin it (when alone he was able to do so) in extreme old age, he would probably never have seen its completion; but he was content that generations yet to come should have that as their place of worship. Rebuke the tendency of men to ignore their responsibility to posterity. Sometimes in national finance, in ecclesiastical arrangements, etc., the fact that the benefit would only lie in the future and not in the present, is enough to check effort and sacrifice. Who has not heard the question, "What has posterity done for us?" Show the fallacy of this reasoning, and its sinfulness, because of the selfishness and ingratitude it reveals. Indicate some of the blessings we enjoy as a nation, and as churches, from the labours and sacrifices of our predecessors who did not count even life dear to them.
III. DAVID WAS PREVENTED BY CIRCUMSTANCES FROM FULFILLING HIS PURPOSE. Wars, unsettlement, infirmities of age, etc., were some of these. They were beyond his control, but not beyond God's. Still the purpose was, as we have said, a right one. Give examples from modern life: e.g.,
(1) The young man who longs to become a minister of God's truth, but is compelled to labour for the support of himself and others.
(2) The Christian whose heart goes out with yearning over the lost, who lies a helpless invalid in some solitary room.
(3) The child disciple, stirred with noble enthusiasm, with splendid promise of future power in the Lord's kingdom, taken away in youth from the home and the world which seemed so sorely to want him, etc.
IV. DAVID MADE IT POSSIBLE FOE OTHERS TO DO WHAT HE COULD NOT DO. See an account given of the treasures he accumulated for the house of the Lord, the musical service he prepared, the plans for the building, etc. How unlike those who say, "if I cannot do this no one else shall;" or, with less selfishness, "I cannot do it, let others take all the burden if they are to have all the honour." Show how we can help others in doing their work, and so indirectly serve our God. It may not be possible for you to go abroad amongst the heathen; but you can support those to whom it is possible. Perhaps you cannot, from want of time, or suitability, teach the children or visit the sick; but you can invite others to do this, or encourage and sustain them in it.
V. DAVID'S NOBLE PURPOSE WAS FULFILLED BY HIS SON. This was God's design and promise (ver. 19).
(1) Encouragement to parents. We live again in our children. "Instead of the fathers shall be the children," etc. By training a child for God, we may carry out, through him, the wish we could not execute. Parents multiply thus the possibilities of their own lives. Special encouragement here for weak and overburdened mothers. They cannot do public work for Christ, but through their children they can, e.g., Eunice and Monica moved the world through Timothy and Augustine.
(2) Lesson to children. What your parents used to do for God, you are to continue; what they could not do, you are to fulfil.
VI. DAVID'S UNACCOMPLISHED PURPOSE WAS RECOGNIZED AND RECOMPENSED BY THE LORD. "Thou didst well that it was in thine heart." God knows what is in us of good as well as of evil. He approves the motive even when the effort fails. He sees the issue of every right purpose in all its width and depth. When Mary anointed her Lord she did more than she imagined; for she was the high priest anointing the Priest and King of Israel. In the day of judgment the righteous will be amazed at the issues and the rewards of their humble services, and with astonishment will ask, "Lord, when saw we thee?" etc. "And the king shall answer, and say unto them, Verily, I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me." - A.R.
i.e., to rulers of thought in literature and science. How heavy the responsibility of those who use their kingliness to lead men from God into the dreariness of scepticism; how glorious the powers they may employ to exalt the Lord our God. Solomon is a proof that wisdom is better than knowledge. On this occasion he prayed as the representative and leader of others. A prayer so prominent in Scripture, so remarkable in circumstances, so acceptable to God, deserves consideration, that we may see its elements. It presents the following characteristics:
I. GRATEFUL ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF THE PAST. "In everything give thanks" (1 Thessalonians 5:18). "By prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, make your requests known" (Philippians 4:6). "It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord" (Psalm 92:1). "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits" (Psalm 103:2.) Notice the causes of Solomon's thanksgiving:
(1) God's goodness to his father (ver. 24). Home blessings so wholly unmerited, so richly beneficial.
(2) Divine deliveranve from bondage (ver. 51). Egypt a type of sorrow, slavery to evil habit, etc.
(3) Separation and consecration for God's purposes (ver. 53). The honor of this. Its responsibilities. Its signs.
(4) Rest and quietude (ver. 56). "He hath given rest unto his people Israel." The blessedness of peace to a country, exemplified by the contrast between Solomon's and David's reigns. The freedom from harassing anxieties experienced by many is from God. The rest of heart, which may be ours amidst the distresses of life, is from Him. "Peace I leave with you" (John 14:27). "Heart quiet from the fear of evil" (Proverbs 1:83). See also 2 Corinthians 4:8. For all such blessings we should give God thanks.
II. CONFIDENCE IN THE PROMISES. (See ver. 29 as example.) Show how the patriarchs ever reminded God of His promises. Illustrate also from the pleadings of Moses and the prophets. Prove from Christ's own words that the promises are renewed and enlarged for us, and that only on them cat. our expectancy of blessing be founded. The utility of prayer cannot be demonstrated by reason, but by revelation. In the spiritual realm we know Divine laws by Divine declaration, the truth of which is confirmed by the experience of those who fulfilling the required conditions, test them. "Ask and it shall be given you" (Matthew 7:7) is a promise. But appended to it is the requirement of faith. "Without faith it is impossible to please God" (Hebrews 11:6). "According to your faith, so be it unto you." See also James 1:5-7; Matthew 21:22, etc.
III. ENLARGEMENT OF HEART (ver. 41, "moreover concerning a stranger," etc.) The prayer is remarkable on the part of a Jewish king. Give evidences of the narrowness and selfishness of the nation. We might expect this feeling in all its intensity on such an occasion as the consecration of this temple. But Solomon's sympathies overflowed national prejudices. The tendency of prayer is to enlarge the heart. Christians pray together who never work together. They who are nearest to God's throne are nearest to each other. As we pray, our yearnings go further afield, and we think kindly of the erring, pitifully of the lost, forgivingly of the wrong doers.
IV. LONGING FOR THE GLORY OF GOD. Solomon's chief wish in regard to the temple is expressed in verse 60, "that all the people of the earth may know that the Lord is God, and that there is none else." Our Lord's prayer is like Solomon's in this, that it ends in an ascription of "the kingdom, and the power, and the glory," to God. So with all true prayer. It ends in praise. See how David, in the Psalms, prayed himself out of sadness into joy; out of confession into thankfulness and praise. If we ask something for ourselves, or for others, it should be with the implied wish that it may be granted or withheld, as may be, for our welfare and God's glory. The yearning of each Christian should be that of the Lord Jesus, "Father, glorify thy name." - A.R.
I. THE SENSE OF NEED, etc. It is the "plague of the heart" - the burden resting heavy there, the haunting sense of want or sadness in the secret soul, coupled with some kind of faith in Divine power - that moves men to pray. All true prayer is the utterance of these inward impressions. If much of our so called praying were subjected to this test, it is to be feared that it would be found very hollow and unreal, mere "words," a mere formal homage to custom - no deep, earnest, irrepressible longing of the soul inspiring it. Solomon begins to enumerate different calamities that may impel the people to pray, and then, as if overpowered by the mere vague, distant imagination of these possibilities, he says, "Whatsoever plague, whatsoever sickness," etc. How soon are we lost in the attempt to realize the manifold troubles of human life. We can understand and sympathize with individual griefs, but who can comprehend at all adequately the general sum of human woe, and take the weight of it sympathetically upon himself? Every man, however, knows where the universal evil specially touches himself. "Every heart knows its own bitterness." And with God there is both an infinite acquaintance with the whole and a special sympathy with each. There are some griefs that you lock up in your own bosom as secrets that none else must look upon.
"Not e'en the dearest heart, and next our own, II. THE RECOGNITION OF SOMETHING OUT OF ONE'S SELF AS THE GROUND OF HOPE. This essential element in true prayer is suggested by the words, "And shall stretch forth his hands towards this place." An interesting view is here given us of the relation of the temple to the individual religious life of the people. It was intended to be a witness to the unseen, a help to faith, an incentive to all holy thought and feeling. It stood through all the changes of time, the shifting lights and shadows of the world around it, as an impressive symbol of the "everlasting covenant." It enshrined the "sure mercies of David." Within its hallowed enclosure were gathered the sacred historic records and relies, and the types and shadows of "better things to come." It told both of what God had done and what He had promised - the monument of the glorious past, the prophecy of the brighter future. There was deep meaning, then, in the suppliant "stretching forth his hands towards that house," as expressive of the attitude of his soul towards that which it symbolized. When some lonely worshipper in a distant corner of the land, some patient sufferer, some soldier in his agony on the field of battle, some captive, like Daniel, in a strange country, directed his eyes towards the holy place, it was a sort of pathetic appeal to God's own faithfulness, a silent but eloquent plea that He would not forget His covenant, would fulfil the hopes that He Himself had awakened, and not for their sakes alone, but for His own truth and mercy's sake, would hear and save. In all this the temple was a type of something nobler, diviner than itself. The temple was the shadow, the substance is in Christ. "In him are hid all the treasures," etc. The cross of Christ, in which all the promises are confirmed and sealed; the cross, which is both the altar of the Redeemer's sacrifice and the throne of His sovereignty, is the shrine of "truth and grace" to men. The glory alike of the past and of the future is centred, focussed there. "All the light of sacred story
II. THE RECOGNITION OF SOMETHING OUT OF ONE'S SELF AS THE GROUND OF HOPE. This essential element in true prayer is suggested by the words, "And shall stretch forth his hands towards this place." An interesting view is here given us of the relation of the temple to the individual religious life of the people. It was intended to be a witness to the unseen, a help to faith, an incentive to all holy thought and feeling. It stood through all the changes of time, the shifting lights and shadows of the world around it, as an impressive symbol of the "everlasting covenant." It enshrined the "sure mercies of David." Within its hallowed enclosure were gathered the sacred historic records and relies, and the types and shadows of "better things to come." It told both of what God had done and what He had promised - the monument of the glorious past, the prophecy of the brighter future. There was deep meaning, then, in the suppliant "stretching forth his hands towards that house," as expressive of the attitude of his soul towards that which it symbolized. When some lonely worshipper in a distant corner of the land, some patient sufferer, some soldier in his agony on the field of battle, some captive, like Daniel, in a strange country, directed his eyes towards the holy place, it was a sort of pathetic appeal to God's own faithfulness, a silent but eloquent plea that He would not forget His covenant, would fulfil the hopes that He Himself had awakened, and not for their sakes alone, but for His own truth and mercy's sake, would hear and save. In all this the temple was a type of something nobler, diviner than itself. The temple was the shadow, the substance is in Christ. "In him are hid all the treasures," etc. The cross of Christ, in which all the promises are confirmed and sealed; the cross, which is both the altar of the Redeemer's sacrifice and the throne of His sovereignty, is the shrine of "truth and grace" to men. The glory alike of the past and of the future is centred, focussed there.
"All the light of sacred story
1 Kings 8:381 Kings 8:38. The consecration of the temple was the grandest religious ceremony of the old covenant. It is important -
I. BECAUSE IT CENTRALIZES THE WORSHIP OF THE THEOCRACY.
II. BECAUSE IT SUPPLIES A TYPE OF THE SPIRITUAL TEMPLE which is to be reared in the Church and in every Christian soul. Solomon, as the king chosen of God, represents in this service of consecration the entire theocracy. The temple is essentially a house of prayer, as is manifest from the words of the consecration. "What prayer and supplication soever be made by any man, or by all thy people Israel, which shall know every man the plague of his own heart... hear thou in heaven." It is the sanctuary of the invisible God, and its gates stand open to the multitude, who come to worship and to offer sacrifice. Instead of a statue, such as was found in the idol temples, the priests of the true God place in their sanctuary the ark of the covenant, containing the law, the Divine expression of the holy will of God. The altar of sacrifice, placed in front of the sanctuary, reminds the people of their transgressions, while at the same time the sacrifice of the victims is prophetic of the future redemption. The consecrating prayer opens and closes with adoration. It spreads before God all the wants of the people, and asks from Him deliverance in every time of need (1 Kings 9:8). It enumerates first temporal distresses, but the whole petition culminates in the ever-recurring pleading for forgiveness. This is the burden of the whole temple service, and this character is reproduced in Christian worship. In the time of its highest spirituality there were no properly consecrated Christian temples. Aras non habemus said Minutius Felix. A temple is nevertheless a necessity of worship; and we are free to recognize this apart from any superstitious notion, and remembering that while the heaven of heavens cannot contain the Most High, He yet condescends to dwell in the humble and contrite heart. There has been no longer a sanctuary in the old exclusive sense, since the blood was shed which has redeemed the whole earth to God. Our houses of prayer are not now more holy in themselves than our homes. Let us consecrate them by consecrating ourselves to God, and rendering to Him the worship which is His due - the sacrifice of our whole being. Let our prayers, like that of Solomon, begin and end with adoration, and let the burden of them be the expression of our repentance for sin. Let them have, like the prayer of the theocratic king,'s breadth of intercession for the whole people of God, and let them lay at the foot of the cross the burden of the woes of humanity and the needs of the Church. - E. de P.
Exodus 22:21), to relieve his poverty (Leviticus 25:85), even to "love" him as "God loveth him in giving him iced and raiment" (Deuteronomy 10:18, 19), and all this in memory of the fact that they themselves were once "strangers in the land of Egypt." Strangers, moreover were to be permitted to hear the solemn reading of the law in the "year of release" (Deuteronomy 31:12), and to offer sacrifices on the same conditions as themselves. "One law and one manner shall be for you and for the stranger that sojourneth with you" (Numbers 15:16). So that Solomon gave expression to the spirit of the dispensation to which he belonged when he thus prayed. Certain broad truths underlie this prayer -
I. JEHOVAH'S UNIVERSAL SOVEREIGNTY. He is the "God of the whole earth," and not merely of any particular portion of it (Isaiah 54:5). "Is he the God of the Jews only and not of the Gentries?" (Romans 3:29.) "The God of the spirits of all flesh" (Numbers 16:22). The whole Mosaic economy was built on the grand truth of the unity and absolute worldwide supremacy of Jehovah. The heathen according to their principle of local deities, might acknowledge the God of the Hebrews as having authority over his own, but a Hebrew who should in any way recognize the gods of other nations and think of Jehovah merely as a national deity could be a traitor to the commonwealth. The only living and true God can have no rival. The gods of the nations are idols, and "an idol is nothing in the world" - "a lying vanity," a vile "abomination." "The things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God" (1 Corinthians 8:4, 5; 1 Corinthians 10:20). To "know God," to have "him whom they ignorantly worship" declared to them, is "eternal life" to men. The absence of this knowledge is death. The curse and misery of the world is that it "knows not its God." Solomon here dimly recognizes this truth; and the case he contemplates is that of some child of the Universal Father in whom the sense of need has been awakened, "coming from a far country" to "seek the Lord, if haply he may feel after him and find him" (Acts 17:27, 28).
II. THE REPRESENTATIVE CHARACTER OF ISRAEL. They were a representative people in two respects.
(1) Inasmuch as they were called to bear witness to the glory of the "great name" of Jehovah. His name is the symbol of His personality, the attributes of His being and character - spirituality, purity, righteousness, love, etc. Their mission was to make known to mankind the God who had revealed Himself in wondrous forms to them. How they failed to rise to the height of this mission their national history only too sadly tells. The utterances of the psalmists and prophets are full of the spirit of it, but all this was far above the comprehension of the great mass of the people. They utterly mistook the meaning of the distinction conferred upon them, and God taught them by the discipline of subjection and captivity the lesson that in the day of their national glory they failed to learn. In this mission as a witness Israel was a type of the Christian Church. Christ declared the Father's name to His disciples and He sent them forth on an errand like His own (John 17:18-26). How grand a vocation, to reflect the glory of His "great name" on the world's darkness, to say to the nations, "Behold your God!"
(2) They were a representative people also in the sense that in their history God illustrated the general method and the uniform laws of His moral government. The "strong hand and the stretched out arm" here suggests the marvellous manifestation of Divine power that marked the career of the people from the beginning, the whole course of providential training and moral discipline through which they passed. But the principles on which God deals with one nation are the principles on which He deals with all. He is no "respecter of persons." The history of the "chosen people" unfolds His universal purpose and plan, illustrates unvarying laws, the conditions of all personal, social, and national life. And so it comes to pass that after every review of Israel's experiences we may say, "Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples," etc. (1 Corinthians 10:11).
III. THE ATTRACTION OF THE TEMPLE FOR ALL LONGING HUMAN HEARTS AS THE SCENE OF GRACIOUS DIVINE MANIFESTATION. That which made it the centre of interest to pious Jews made it so also to earnest souls of other lands. The truth and mercy symbolized and enshrined there - promises, atoning sacrifices, benedictions - answered to universal needs of humanity. Solomon supposes a case in which the vague sense of this should lead the "stranger in a far off land" to look with longing eyes, or to bend his steps, towards "the house over which God's name is called." We have no historical record of strangers actually worshipping in the first temple as they did in that built after the captivity; but God said, "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all people" (Isaiah 56:6, 7; Mark 11:17); and there may have been many who, with a far reaching hand of faith, "took hold of His covenant" as established there.
IV. THE RESPONSE GOD GAVE TO EVERY TRUE SUPPLIANT, WHOEVER HE MIGHT BE. "Hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place," etc. This intercessory prayer, we may be sure, was answered. God does not awaken holy yearnings in any soul that He will not satisfy. "In every nation, he that feareth him," etc. The sovereignty that reigns over all lands is that of Almighty Love. There is room in the infinite Father's heart for all, even the far. off "stranger," and "the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him." - W.
I. WHEN MEN MAKE VOWS AND PROMISES. Compare ver. 31 with the ordinances of Moses (Exodus 22:7-9). The oath was taken in the presence of God, because the thought of Him as the Searcher of hearts would induce serious consideration and careful exactitude, and because He was tacitly invited by His providence to confirm or to punish the spoken word. Show how the principle, right in itself, became abused and vitiated, so that Christ condemned the practices of His day (Matthew 5:33-37). Learn from the ancient practice
(1) that our utterances should be made as by men conscious of the nearness of the God of truth. Apply this to the immoralities of some business transactions, to the prevalence of slander in society, etc.
(2) That our resolutions should be formed in a spirit of prayer. How vain the pledge and promise of amendment, unless there be added to the human resolve the help of God's providence in circumstances, and the grace of His Spirit in the heart! Give examples of each.
II. WHEN MEN ARE INJURED OR DEFEATED BY THEIR ADVERSARIES. "When thy people Israel be smitten down before the enemy" (ver. 33). National defeat in war should lead to self examination on the part of those smitten. Too often the investigation is applied only to material resources: incompetent officials are dismissed, weakened regiments are strengthened, new alliances are formed, etc. The mischief may lie deeper. Sometimes God is calling the people not to redeem national honour, but to seek national righteousness. The teaching of the verse may be applied figuratively to defeats suffered by Christian controversialists or by philanthropic workers, etc. Every check in onward progress is a summons to thought and prayer. "In the day of adversity consider." Illustrate by examples.in Scripture, e.g., by the defeat of Israel at Ai, and its issues.
III. WHEN MEN ARE TREMBLING UNDER NATURAL CALAMITIES. Reference is made in ver. 35 to the withholding of rain; in ver. 37 to "famine, pestilence, blasting, mildew, locust, and caterpillar." Such troubles were sent in vain to bring the Egyptians to repentance. Compare those plagues with Elijah's message to Ahab, and with the threats of other prophets. Such statements as Deuteronomy 11:17 enshrine an abiding truth. In the long run the violation of God's laws do bring disasters of the very kind specified here. If the law of industry be violated, the harvests fail; if the law of mutual dependence be ignored by nations, commerce is crippled, and impoverishment comes; if the laws against self indulgence, pride, ambition, etc., be defied, the spendthrift has the result in poverty, the proud nation in the miseries of war, etc. Even the disasters which are accounted "natural phenomena," then, should lead the wise hearted to prayer, the sinful to penitence; and God will hear in heaven His dwelling place, and answer and forgive. Show how, during the ministry of our Lord, the cripples, the blind, the diseased came to Him. Their misery made them feel their need of what He alone could give, and many of them became conscious of their spiritual wants from considering first the want that was physical. As they were thus led, so the Church has been which in the Old Testament was oppressed most by the earthly wants, and in the New by the spiritual. Those in the far country learn, by beginning to "be in want," that God is calling them to arise and return to Him.
IV. WHEN MEN ARE CONSCIOUS OF THEIR SIN. All through this prayer reference is made to sin and to the consequent necessity for pardon (vers. 38, 46-50). Point out the climax in ver. 47:
(1) "We have sinned" - have not kept in the ways of God - sin in its negative aspect;
(2) "have done perversely" - acts of perversity;
(3) "have committed wickedness" - the overwhelming passion which drives into corruption. The necessity of humble confession as an integral part of prayer from the lips of fallen man can readily be shown from Scripture. Examples of conscience of sin impelling to prayer seen in David (Psalm 51.), the publican (Luke 18:18). "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).
V. WHEN MEN ARE GOING FORTH TO CONFLICT IN GOD'S NAME. "If thy people shall go out to battle against their enemy whithersoever thou shalt send them," etc. (ver. 44). We must not forget that Israel was a theocracy. David, for example, spoke of his foes as being God's foes. So had it been with Moses, Joshua, etc. The consciousness of that gives almost superhuman power. "Man, being linked with Omnipotency, is a kind of omnipotent creature," says Bacon. Even when the belief that one is on God's side is false, the belief itself is an inspiration. Examples from history of such belief well or ill founded - Joan of Are, the Puritans, etc. In actual war no nation can fairly put up this prayer unless the cause of war is that of which we can say, "whithersoever thou shalt send." No mistake need exist in reference to foes whom Christ came to destRomans The promise, "Lo! I am with you," was the inspiration of the apostles as they confronted false philosophies, crass ignorance, brutal customs, degrading superstitions. Hence, if they were going forth to battle with such evils, the prayers of the Church went up on their behalf. Men were set apart for their Christian mission by prayer (give examples), and in their work they often turned to their intercessors, saying, "Brethren, pray for us!" Feeling our insufficiency to overcome the adversaries of the gospel, let us, like the apostles, "continue in prayer and supplication" till we are "endued with power from on high." - A.R.
I. THE RELATION BETWEEN TRUE PRAYER AND PERSONAL RIGHTEOUSNESS. Solomon felt that all the impassioned supplications that he had been pouring out before the Lord, and all the sympathetic enthusiasm of the people in these temple services, would be but a mockery unless he and they were prepared to walk with all fidelity in the way of God's commandments. They would soon be leaving the sacred shrine of worship. They could not always be amid the ecstatic and rapturous associations of the temple. They must go back to the matter of fact, prosaic world, to their posts of honour and responsibility, to the privacy of their homes, to their haunts of busy life, to their paths of commerce and of labour. Let them worship there. Let them dwell with God there. Let them embody there, in all the forms of practical virtue, the spirit of devotion that has inspired them amid these hallowed scenes. The "statutes and commandments" of the Lord had reference in great part to the due observance of the ritual of temple worship, but they also claimed, as much then as now, to control the whole spirit and conduct of human life in all its aspects. The relation between prayer and conduct is of a twofold character. They act and react the one on the other. True prayer sheds a hallowing influence over the entire field of a man's daffy activity. When his soul has been face to face with God, absorbed in Divine communion, the inspiration of holy thought and feeling of which he has been conscious will inevitably betray itself in the way in which he acts when he mingles with the things and the beings of earth. The glory of heaven that has shone upon him cannot fail to be reflected in the beauty of his character and deed. A prayerful spirit is an earnest, pure, upright, loving spirit, and such a spirit will govern the whole form and method and aim of a man's life. Prayer solves difficulties, clears one's vision of the path of duty, draws strength from Divine sources for all toil and suffering, raises the tone and level of moral action, fortifies the spirit for any emergency, fills the heart with the peaceful joy of a better world. On the other hand, the conduct of life necessarily affects for good or ill the spirit and efficacy of prayer. If it is needful to pray in order that we may live as Christians, it is equally needful that we should live as Christians in order rightly to pray. The importance of prayer as one chief function of spiritual life doubles the importance of all our actions, because our prayers are so much as our doings are. According as we stand towards the world, with all the social relationships and duties that belong to our place in it, so do we stand before the mercy seat. Think, for instance, how the beneficial effect of family prayer may be nullified by the prevailing spirit of family life. By the discord that may be allowed to reign in it, by its lack of the graces of mutual respect and loving self sacrifice, by the worldliness of its associations, the meanness of its ambitions, the frivolity of its pleasures, the vanity of its cherished societies - how completely may the soul of domestic devotion be destroyed. Let a man be morally reckless in the intercourse and transactions of daily life, and all freedom, "boldness," gladness in prayer is at an end. Anything like loving, confiding converse with the "Father who seeth in secret" is impossible to him. If he cannot look without fear and shame in the face of his fellow man, how shall he dare to look in the face of God? The "heavens become as brass" above his head which no voice of prayer can penetrate. When Saul's heart is thoroughly set in him to do evil it is vain for him to inquire of the Lord. "The Lord answers him no more, neither by Urim, nor by prophet, nor by dream." Let there be a Divine unity and harmony in our life. Let our conduct in all human relationships show us to be what, in our hours of devotion, we seem to ourselves to be. Let it be our ambition every day" to live more nearly as we pray."
II. THE RELATION BETWEEN PRACTICAL VIRTUE AND THE STATE OF THE SECRET HEART. A man's heart must be "perfect with the Lord" before he can walk acceptably in the path of His commandments. The old legal economy was not after all so superficial as it seemed to be. God's commandment was "exceeding broad." Literal as the moral laws were, and formal as the ceremonial precepts, they touched at every point the life of the spirit within. "Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man who doeth these things shall live by them" (Romans 10:5), but the righteousness was not in the mere doing. David, the noblest representative of the spirit of the law, well knew that as it is from the fountain of the evil heart that all transgression proceeds, so from the purified heart springs all practical righteousness. "Create in me a clean heart, O God," etc. (Psalm 51:10). The glory of Christianity is that it not only recognizes this principle, but actually brings to bear on the heart the renewing, healing power. It cleanses the fountain of life within. The law could disclose the secret evil, convince of sin, rebuke, restrain, but it could not make men righteous. The gospel does. "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness," etc. (Romans 10:4). "What the law could not do," etc. (Romans 8:8, 4). Keep your heart in habitual contact with the highest sources of spiritual inspiration - in familiar converse with Him who is the fountain of truth and purity and love. Watch over its most secret thoughts and impulses. Guard its sensibilities from the contaminations of the world and the hardening influences of life. Seek to preserve the freshness of its Divine affections and the integrity of its allegiance to Christ, if you would walk as He did, "in loveliness of perfect deeds."
III. THE BENEFICIAL INFLUENCE OF A SACRED MEMORY. "As it is this day." Solomon would have that day to dwell in their memories and hallow all their days. Times of special Divine manifestation and highest religious consciousness show us what we may be, what God would have us to be, what is the true level of our spirit's life. - W.