Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
achievement in which the end is so honourable and so desirable.
I. IT IS GROUND FOR CONGRATULATION. We may congratulate ourselves and receive the felicitation of our friends that we have been spared long enough in health and strength; that we have had patience to endure all the vexations, skill and determination to surmount all the difficulties, resolution to proceed in spite of all the disappointments that we have been called to confront; that we have had the steadfastness of soul that enabled us to pursue our aim until the goal was reached and the work was done. The path of human life is strewn with failures, with abortive attempts to do what was unattainable, with half-built towers which those who began but were unable to finish (Luke 14:28-30); well will it be for us if those who shall speak or write of us are able to record that we finished what we took in hand. Persistency is a characteristic to be carefully cultivated, and to be exemplified all through our life.
II. IT IS AN OCCASION FOR THANKFULNESS.
1. That we have been able to conclude any work on which we have set our heart, if it be a right and worthy ambition we have cherished, is reason enough for gratitude to God. For all bodily health, all mental faculty, all moral vigour and capacity, have come ultimately from him.
2. And if we have been able to do something that will last, we have especial reason for thankfulness. What better thing can we hope for or deserve than that we should be the means of effecting that which will be speaking and working when our tongue is silent and our hand is still in death? We should bless our God with peculiar fervour that he has thus employed us; that, through his grace and power resting upon us and our endeavour, we have so wrought that, when we are dead, we shall still be speaking (Hebrews 11:4); that, perhaps, long years and even generations after we have been forgotten, the work we did will be imparting a blessing to the children of men, to heal, to comfort, to enlighten, to renew.
III. IT MAY BE A SOURCE OF INSPIRATION. When Solomon finished the building of the temple he had many years to reign; there was abundance of strength and energy remaining in him to begin and finish other works. And if we are rightly affected by what we have wrought, we shall not say, "I have accomplished something; I will now take my ease and spend my time in enjoyment." On the contrary, we shall say, "I have proved that it is in my power to do one good thing for my Master and my fellow-men; I will commence another. I will still further trust the kindness of my heavenly Father, and draw upon his resources with which to labour and to persevere, until the end again crowns the work." So the conclusion of one solid achievement will be an inspiration to begin another, as it has been in very many instances in the lives of the good and true. - C.
2 Chronicles 5:1 (latter part)
I. THE DEDICATION WHICH GOD PERMITTED. God did not allow David to build the temple, because he had been "a man of war, and had shed blood" (1 Chronicles 28:3); it was fitting that the house of the Lord, the "God of peace," should be built by a sovereign whose very name spoke of peace, and whose reign was pacific. But God permitted David to dedicate to the service of the temple the spoils he had taken in war. It was, apparently, those spoils which he had taken from Syria, Moab, Ammon, etc., after his successful battles, that he "dedicated unto the Lord," which Solomon now "brought in" (see 2 Samuel 8:9-12). But they do not seem to have had the higher honour of being used in the services of the temple; they were stored "among the treasures of the house," only to be occasionally brought out and admired. Some things there were which might not, on any conditions whatever, be accepted as offerings to the Lord. But these spoils were taken in wars which were honourably conducted, and which at that time, in that twilight of history, were fought out with a perfectly clear conscience; they might, therefore, be dedicated to the Lord, and "put among the treasures" of the temple. We may be right in carrying our trophies and depositing them in our churches and cathedrals, but it is only by a gracious Divine permission that we can dedicate to him that which has been wrested from our brother's hands by violence. This is the lowest, the least precious and acceptable form which our dedication of substance can take. We must look about for that which is worthier of ourselves, more consonant with the peaceable and spiritual economy under which we live, more pleasing in the sight of the Lord of love.
II. THE DEDICATION WHICH GOD DESIRES. There are three things which our God not only allows us to dedicate to himself, but desires that we should do so.
1. Of the products of our peaceful industry. These may be in kind, as they were, very largely, under Judaism - the creatures taken from flocks and herds, or the produce of the field and garden; as they still are in semi-civilized communities, in islands recently reclaimed from idolatry and barbarism. Or they may be in current coin, in money. There is no precept requiring Christian men to devote a particular proportion of their earnings to the cause of Christ and man. But they are at liberty to do so; and if they do this, freely, conscientiously, and in the spirit of gratitude and attachment to the Person and the kingdom of their Lord, they do that which will be acceptable to him - a source of continual sacred satisfaction to themselves, and a material contribution to the welfare of others.
2. Of the culture of our faculties. We may dedicate to the cause of Jesus Christ generally, and to the service of the house of the Lord particularly, the trained power and skill we have acquired - in music and sacred song, in oratory and persuasiveness, in architecture and ornamentation. But it may be said, speaking more broadly, that our God is desiring and demanding of us the dedication:
3. Of ourselves and our whole life. Our will, that it may be subjected to his will; our heart, that its affection may be yielded to our Divine Friend; our understanding, that our mental powers may be exercised for the glory of his Name and the furtherance of his kingdom; our days and hours, that they may all be spent consciously in his presence, and continuously in his service and honour. This is the true dedication; and the little child that thus dedicates its powers and days to the service of its Saviour may be doing more for God than the royal king setting apart golden vessels to be "put among the treasures" of the sanctuary. - C.
I. THE PREPARATION FOR THE CEREMONY. (Vers. 1-4.)
1. The completion of the temple furniture. The manufacture of the various articles having been described in the preceding chapter, it is here briefly recorded that the whole work which Solomon made for the house of the Lord was finished - a happy illustration of the proverb, "Better is the end of a thing," etc. (Ecclesiastes 7:8). The work, difficult and varied as well as laborious and costly, had been carried to a successful termination, Of how few human undertakings can this be affirmed!
2. The placing in the temple of the dedicated treasures. These were the gold, silver, and brass David had taken from the nations he conquered; the spolia opima he had piously consecrated to Jehovah, to be used for sacred purposes (2 Samuel 8:7-12; 1 Chronicles 18:7-11). So immense had been the quantity of precious metal prepared beforehand by David for the house of the Lord (1 Chronicles 22:14 16), that it had not been all used. What remained after the temple and its utensils had been constructed was brought into the sacred edifice and lodged among the treasures of the house of God, probably in one or more of the side chambers of the building. An act of filial piety on the part of Solomon thus to respect the will and purpose of his deceased father, who had designated, not a part merely, but the whole of the just-mentioned wealth to the service of Jehovah, it was also an example of strict conscientiousness on the monarch's part to abstain from either appropriating the surplus wealth to himself or employing it for civil purposes. The money, given by David to Jehovah, was Jehovah's and not Solomon's. Having been meant for the service of Jehovah, it was not free to be diverted to other ends and uses. Hence it was solemnly laid up among the treasures of the house of God.
3. The selection of a date for the ceremony. The time fixed was the Feast of Tabernacles, which commenced on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, called Ethanim in Hebrew, but in Aramaic Tisri. This was one of the three principal religious festivals of the Jews (Exodus 23:14, 17). Intended to commemorate the birth-night of Israel as a nation (Leviticus 23:33-43), and the goodness of Jehovah to his people year by year in giving them rain from heaven and fruitful seasons (Deuteronomy 16:13-15), it was a period of special and intense rejoicing. Commonly esteemed the greatest feast of the three, it was sometimes spoken of as "the feast" (2 Chronicles 7:8, 9), was usually attended by large numbers of the people, and "was kept by the Hebrews as a most holy and most eminent feast" (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 8:4. 1). It was thus peculiarly appropriate for the dedication of the temple, in the successful erection of which God's goodness to the nation had culminated. In this light, doubtless, it was regarded by Solomon, who observed it "splendidly and magnificently" (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 8:4. 5), protracting it for twice seven days, instead of eight as the Law enjoined, and himself feasting together with his people before the temple. From a statement in 1 Kings 9:1, 2, that Jehovah appeared to Solomon in answer to his prayer of dedication only after the erection of his palace, it has been inferred (Thenins, Keil) that the dedication did not take place till thirteen years after the temple was finished; but this, to say the least, is far from probable. Another unlikely suggestion is that the Feast of Tabernacles referred to was that of the eleventh year, i.e. of the year in which the temple was finished (Ewald, Bertheau); but as the building was not ended till the eighth month of that year (1 Kings 6:38), the dedication must in this case have taken place before the structure was completed. The best conjecture is that the date was the Feast of Tabernacles in the following year (Bahr), which would allow sufficient time for all necessary arrangements, in particular for the step to be next mentioned.
4. The assembling of the people's representatives in Jerusalem. As the transportation of the ark from the city of David to Mount Moriah and its permanent settlement in the temple was designed to be a national act, it was requisite that the people's official heads should be convened for that purpose. Accordingly, the king issued orders that on the day fixed for the momentous ceremonial, the fifteenth day of the seventh month of the following year, "the elders of Israel, and all the heads of the tribes, the chief of the fathers of the children of Israel," should meet with him in the capital. In answer to the royal summons, "all the elders of Israel came," "from the entering in of Hamath," the northern boundary of Palestine, "unto the river of Egypt," its southern frontier. Few spectacles are more impressive or becoming than that of a monarch and his people co-operating in works that aim at the good of the commonwealth, and especially at the advancement of true religion in the land.
II. THE STEPS IN THE CEREMONY. (Vers. 5-13.)
1. The fetching of the ark from the city of David to the temple. This was done by such of the Levites as were also priests (vers. 5, 7; cf. 1 Kings 8:3), to whom on high occasions the duty belonged (Joshua 3:6; Joshua 6:6); though, while the Church was in the wilderness, the task of bearing about the sanctuary from station to station devolved upon the sons of Kohath, who at the same time were charged not to touch any holy thing lest they should die (Numbers 4:15). In David's day also, when the ark was brought from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David, the work of carrying the sacred symbol was performed by the priests and Levites (1 Chronicles 16:1-15). Now, when it required to be removed to its permanent resting-place on Mount Moriah, the same religious officers were deputed to the honourable service of uplifting and bearing it along. The city of David, the original Jebusite fortress (2 Samuel 5:7), lay upon Mount Zion, on the opposite side of the Tyropcean valley from that on which the temple stood, the distance being probably about three quarters of a mile. While one detachment of priests and Levites proceeded to Mount Zion in search of the ark, it is probable that another went to Gibeon for the old Mosaic tabernacle which still stood in that ancient city, upon which Solomon had offered sacrifice in the beginning of his reign (1 Chronicles 1:3), and which it was now desirable to fetch into one place with the ark. The two companies, it may be imagined, arranged to meet at the temple gate - the one with the ark of the covenant, to be established in the holy of holies between the cherubim; the other with the sanctuary or tabernacle of the congregation, with its sacred vessels, to be laid up in one or other of the already mentioned side chambers of the house.
2. The offering of sacrifice before the ark in the temple court. Before the sacred chest passed out of sight and into its sunless retreat within the veil, this ceremony presided over by the sovereign, was carried through by another company of priests, and in presence of "all the congregation of Israel." The sheep and oxen laid upon the altar could not be told for multitude. The First Book of Kings and Josephus mention that the king sacrificed twenty-two thousand oxen, and a hundred and twenty thousand sheep. In any case, the offering was munificent, and corresponded to the magnificence of the occasion. The monarch probably felt that Jehovah's grace to himself and his people demanded generous acknowledgment. Cf. David's offerings on bringing the ark to Mount Zion (2 Samuel 6:6, 18) and Josiah's on a similar occasion (2 Chronicles 35:7).
3. The placing of the ark in the holy of holies. While the blood of the sacrificial victims was flowing in the outer court, the priests at a given signal once more uplifted the symbol of Jehovah's presence, and, advancing with it towards the dwelling, passed in through the holy place, entering the inner shrine and reverently setting it between the wings of the colossal cherubim there erected. So immense were these figures that their wings overshadowed both the ark and its staves. It is probable that the staves were in the long side of the ark (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 3:6.5), and that this ran from north to south of the holy of holies. As, moreover, the staves were designed to be inseparable from the ark (Exodus 25:15), they were not removed, but merely drawn out, perhaps two in each direction; or they were so long (Revised Version), i.e. extended so far in each direction, that their ends might be seen by one standing in the doorway or immediately in front of the oracle, but not by one who stood without or at a distance in the holy place. Thus located, the ark remained in its shrine until the temple was destroyed. The phrase, "unto this day" (cf. 2 Chronicles 9:21; 2 Chronicles 12:19; 2 Kings 8:22), need only signify that the Chronicler used a manuscript composed before the destruction of Jerusalem, and deemed it unnecessary to alter words which were accurate enough from the standpoint of the original writer. Whether the ark was at any time borne before the Israelitish armies to battle, as in the days of Samuel (1 Samuel 4:4), cannot be determined; but it seems to have been removed from its place in the days of Manasseh, as it underwent a kind of second consecration at the hands of Josiah, who, in the eighteenth year of his reign, replaced it in the temple with imposing ceremonies (see 2 Chronicles 35:3). In Solomon's time the ark contained nothing but the two tables of stone, which Moses put therein at Horeb. There is no reason to suppose it ever contained aught else, the golden pot and Aaron's rod (Hebrews 9:4) having been originally appointed to be laid up before the Lord (Exodus 16:33), and before the testimony (Numbers 16:10), not necessarily inside the ark.
4. The giving of thanks before the altar. On emerging from the holy place into the court, the priests united with the rest of their brethren, and the Levites who were singers, in raising an anthem of praise to Jehovah, who had enabled them to carry forward their work to a successful termination. The whole body of the priesthood were present, the divisional arrangements made by David (1 Chronicles 24:3), by which they waited in turns, having been suspended, and the entire force consecrated for the occasion. The Levites, marshalled according to their families, the Asaphites on the right, the Hemanites in the centre, the Jeduthites on the left, each with their sons and brethren, were arrayed in byssus, or white linen - a dress not prescribed by the Law for the singers, but not forbidden (Bertheau) - and furnished with cymbals, trumpets, and other instruments of music (cf. 1 Chronicles 25:1). The priests, a hundred and twenty in number, and the Levitical singers, probably two hundred and eighty-eight (1 Chronicles 25:7), standing on the east of the great altar of burnt offering, while the trumpets, cymbals, and other instruments discoursed what was meant to be melodious music with one voice, praised and thanked the Lord, saying, "For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever." Cf. the jubilation of David on fetching the ark from the house of Obed-edom (1 Chronicles 15:28).
III. THE CONCLUSION OF THE CEREMONY. (Vers. 13, 14.) "The house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the Lord;" and again, "the glory of the Lord had filled the house of God;" concerning which may be noted:
1. What this was. The notion that this was the smoke-cloud from the offerings on the brazen altar, which swept into the holy place as the priests emerged (Bertheau), is untenable. The phenomenon which now occurred was manifestly the same which had taken place on the completion of the tabernacle (Exodus 40:34). The cloud was not the "bright and streaming cloud" called by the rabbins the Shechinah (Thenius), nor was the "glory of the Lord" the same thing as the "cloud" (Bahr); but the "glory of the Lord" was the beaming radiance of fire (Exodus 24:16), the resplendent appearance of light with which, as a heavenly Being, Jehovah is surrounded (Exodus 3:2; Exodus 13:21); the "cloud" was the robe of darkness in which that "glory" was wrapped, and by which it was veiled from mortal sight (Exodus 19:9, 16; Leviticus 16:2).
2. What it signified.
(1) That Jehovah graciously accepted the finished structure which had been laboriously prepared for his dwelling, as formerly he had accepted the tabernacle at the hands of Moses and his contemporaries (Exodus 40:34), and as he still accepts at the hands of his believing people their works of faith and labours of love (Hebrews 6:10).
(2) That God would condescend to establish in it his presence, as of old he had done in the tabernacle, and as afterwards he would do in the temple of Christ's humanity (John 1:14), yea, as he still does in hearts that open to receive him (2 Corinthians 6:16).
(3) That God would considerately accommodate the manifestations of himself to the feebleness and imperfection of his worshippers, then as in the days of Moses, coming to them in a cloud as he did to the Church in the wilderness, as in the fulness of the times he came to men in the Person of his Son, with glory veiled and majesty concealed, and as he still reveals himself to his worshippers, according to the measure of their capacities (Ephesians 4:7), and in every instance "through a glass, darkly" (1 Corinthians 13:12).
3. When it happened.
(1) When the priests had come out of the holy place. "This is the way of giving possession. All must come out, that the rightful Owner may come in. Would we have God dwell in our hearts? We must leave room for him, let everything else give way" (Henry).
(2) When the priests and Levites had arranged themselves at the east end of the altar. The choice of this as their situation, probably dictated by local convenience, was nevertheless significant. It symbolized that only on the basis of sacrifice, or through the mediation of atoning blood, could either men come to God or God approach to men (Hebrews 9:7, 22; Hebrews 10:19).
(3) When the whole company were of one mind. This also an indispensable preliminary to either Church or individual receiving a Divine visitation. The Church of Pentecost was of one accord when it obtained the baptism of the Holy Ghost (Acts 1:14; Acts 2:1). Being pre-eminently the God of peace (Romans 15:33; 2 Corinthians 13:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 13:20), and having called his people to peace (1 Corinthians 7:15), God cannot dwell either in the midst of communities (sacred or civil) that are torn by strife and marred by faction, or in the hearts of individuals that are distracted by care or divided by worldliness.
(4) Whilst the anthem was ascending. At the moment the trumpeters and singers were engaged in thanking and praising God for his goodness and mercy. That showed the proper attitude of soul for all true worshippers, and in particular for such as are expectant of favours. Faith in the Divine existence and Divine goodness there must be (Hebrews 11:6), but gratitude for past mercies is no less indispensable (Philippians 4:6).
4. How it operated. "The priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud" (cf. 2 Chronicles 7:2). It inspired them with awe, filled them with such fear as became sinful creatures in the presence of a holy and a jealous God (Exodus 40:35; Leviticus 16:2; Deuteronomy 4:24). Thus it symbolized the reverence that ought to characterize all who venture before him, whether in the public or private exercises of religion (Psalm 33:8; Psalm 89:7; Hebrews 12:28; 1 Peter 1:17). Christ's disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration feared when they entered into the cloud (Luke 9:34). Then it hindered their ministrations in the holy place. In this respect it served as an emblem of the dark dispensation under which they lived (2 Corinthians 3:13, 14), in comparison with which that of the New Testament is a dispensation of light, as well as of those obstructions arising from imperfect knowledge (1 Corinthians 13:12) which still hamper the worship of believers in the heavenly places of the Christian Church. Learn:
1. The importance of order in all things connected with religion (1 Corinthians 14:40).
2. The settlement of religious ordinances in a country a true occasion of joy.
3. The high place assigned to music, vocal and instrumental, in Divine worship (Ephesians 5:19).
4. The highest theme of praise for either Church or saint - the goodness and grace of God.
5. The true glory of land and people, of state and Church - the indwelling in both of the Divine glory (Psalm 85:9). - W.
I. THE TRUE NATIONAL CONTINUITY. This was not found at all in the permanence of one form of government, for that had passed from a theocracy to a monarchy; nor was it found only or even chiefly in the descent by blood of one generation from another; nor in the continuance of the same social customs. It was found in the faithfulness of the people to the Lord their God; in the perpetuity of the national faith and, consequently, of the national morals and habits of life. The code of religious and ethical law which God gave to them through Moses was to remain the statute law of the realm. It was to be placed, on the most solemn occasion, under the most striking and memorable conditions, in the most sacred place of the sacred building in the holy city (vers. 7-10). The nation that changes its faith is itself changed; it is not the same, but another nation. The people that remain loyal to their God and true to their ancient convictions are the same people, however their institutions and customs may be modified by "time and change."
II. THE TWO GREAT COUNTERPARTS OF DIVINE SERVICE. Much was made of the altar of sacrifice; indeed, the temple was the place of sacrifice. There, and there only, could offerings be presented and sin be expiated. But in the most holy place, beneath the "mercy-seat," at the very point where the blood was sprinkled on the great Day of Atonement, was the ark which held the tables of stone; and on these was inscribed the epitome of law, the demand for obedience. Sacrifice (or worship, as it is now) and obedience are the two great complementary parts of the service of God (see homily on 2 Chronicles 1:3-5).
III. THE BEST SERVICE OF WORLDLY DIGNITY. We learn (ver. 2) that "the elders of Israel, and all the heads of the tribes," assembled on this occasion; they lent the weight of their social dignity to it. They did well to do this. There is nothing in which any kind of earthly distinction can be so well engaged as in promoting the piety of the people, in attaching them more firmly to their sacred principles, connecting them with and committing them to the service of the living God. Sad is it indeed when rank uses its influence to undermine the faith; admirable and honourable is it when exalted station spends its strength in advancing the devotion and the integrity of the people.
IV. THE JOYOUSNESS THAT BELONGS TO DIVINE WORSHIP. It was surely right that the first act of worship associated with the temple should be accompanied by a feast rather than by a fast (ver. 3). It was right that the choir should unite "in praising and thanking the Lord" (ver. 13). In the service of One to whom such ascription can be rendered as is offered to the Lord (ver, 13), the sound of holy gladness should be the prevailing note.
V. THE NEARNESS OF HUMAN APPROACH AND DIVINE MANIFESTATION. (Vers. 13, 14.) Let us draw nigh unto God in praise and prayer, and he will draw nigh unto us in the best proofs of his presence, in the most valuable manifestations of his power and grace. - C.
I. GOD'S PRESENCE IS REALIZED BY THOSE WHO WORSHIP WITHIN THE HOUSE. When they who meet one another there are profoundly conscious that they have come to meet God; that the Lord of all power and truth and grace is present in the midst of them - as truly, though not as manifestly, present as he was in the temple when "the house was filled with a cloud." It is a deep and strong sense of God's nearness to us that makes that to be "holy ground" on which we stand.
II. GOD'S SPIRITUALITY IS RECOGNIZED AND HONOURED. God is glorified when he is truly and acceptably worshipped by his human children. And he is thus worshipped when he is approached and honoured as a Divine Spirit (John 4:23, 24; Philippians 3:3); when worship is essentially and predominantly spiritual; when the service is not merely or mainly that of the lip or the hand, but of the mind, of the heart, of the will; of the intelligent, fervent, determining spirit; when prayer and praise and "inquiry" (Psalm 27:4) are the devout actions of the soul.
III. GOD'S NATURE AND CHARACTER ARE PRESENTED IN THEIR FULNESS. When he is not represented in a way that is needlessly and culpably partial and misleading, but when he is made known with the fulness with which he has revealed himself to us; when the message that is declared concerning him is that "God is light, and in him is no darkness at all," and also that "God is love," love being the chief, the commanding, the crowning feature of his character; when he is presented as the Author of law, and also "the God of all grace," and "the God of our salvation;" when he is made known as the Divine One, who punishes all iniquity (both in the body and in the spirit), and who also pardons sin and restores the offender to his favour and his friendship; when not only the grandeur of his holiness, but also the glory of his goodness (Exodus 33:19) are upheld before the eyes of men; when he is preached as the universal Sovereign, holding all hearts and lives in his control, and also as the Divine Father, deeply interested in all his children, and seeking their return to his likeness and to his home; - then the "glorious God" is seen by those who have "eyes to see" the highest and the best.
IV. GOD'S GRACIOUS POWER IS MANIFESTED. When, in the Person and by the power of his Divine Spirit, he takes possession of the mind and heart of those who are gathered in his presence; when he thus inspires the teacher who speaks in his Name, quickens and animates the hearts of his people, renews the will and regenerates the spirit of those who entered his house unreconciled to his rule. This, his gracious action, is that manifestation of his glory which we should most eagerly desire and should most sedulously seek; it is to be found by purity and prayer (see Matthew 5:8; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19; Luke 11:13). - C.