The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
Thus all the work that Solomon made for the house of the LORD was finished: and Solomon brought in all the things that David his father had dedicated; and the silver, and the gold, and all the instruments, put he among the treasures of the house of God.2 Chronicles 5
1. Thus all the work that Solomon made for the house of the Lord was finished: and Solomon brought in all the things that David his father had dedicated [see 1Chronicles 18:8-10, 1Chronicles 18:11; 1Chronicles 22:3-5, 1Chronicles 22:14-16; 1Chronicles 28:14-18; 1Chronicles 29:2-5. The accumulation was enormous], and the silver, and the gold, and all the instruments, put he among the treasures of the house of God.
2. ¶ Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel, and all the heads of the tribes, the chief of the fathers [rather, "the chief of the clans (father-houses) "] of the children of Israel, unto Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of the city of David, which is Zion.
3. Wherefore all the men of Israel assembled themselves unto the king in the feast which was in the seventh month.
4. And all the elders of Israel came; and the Levites took up the ark.
5. And they brought up the ark, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and all the holy vessels that were in the tabernacle, these did the priests and the Levites bring up.
6. Also king Solomon, and all the congregation of Israel that were assembled unto him before the ark, sacrificed [were sacrificing] sheep and oxen, which could not be told nor numbered for multitude.
7. And the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the Lord unto his place, to the oracle of the house, into the most holy place, even under the wings of the cherubims:
8. For the cherubims spread forth their wings [rather, "and the cherubims were spreading forth wings "] over the place of the ark, and the cherubims covered the ark and the staves thereof above.
9. And they drew out the staves of the ark, that the ends of the staves were seen [rather, "and the staves were so long that the tips of the staves were seen "] from the ark before the oracle; but they were not seen without. And there it is unto this day.
10. There was nothing in the ark save the two tables which Moses put therein at Horeb, when the Lord made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of Egypt.
11. ¶ And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place: (for all the priests that were present [that could be found, those present in Jerusalem at the time] were sanctified [had sanctified or purified themselves, for the purpose of taking part in the ceremony (1Chronicles 15:12)] and did not then wait by course:
12. Also the Levites which were the singers, all of them of Asaph, of Heman, of Jeduthun, with their sons and their brethren, being arrayed in white linen [comp. 1Chronicles 15:27], having cymbals and psalteries and harps [These were the proper instruments of the Levites who formed the temple choir (see 1Chronicles 15:28; 1Chronicles 16:5; 1Chronicles 25:1-6); while trumpets seem to have been reserved for the priests (see Numbers 10:8; 1Chronicles 15:24; 1Chronicles 26:6; 2Chronicles 7:6; 2Chronicles 13:12-14)], stood at the east end of the altar, and with them an hundred and twenty priests sounding with trumpets:)
13. It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one ["And the trumpeters and singers, together as one man, sang with one voice of praise "] to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of musick, and praised the Lord, saying, For he is good [for this common liturgical form see 1Chronicles 16:34-41]; for his mercy endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the Lord;
14. So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of God.
The Work Finished
"Thus all the work that Solomon made for the house of the Lord was finished"(2Chronicles 5:1).
THAT word "finished" often occurs in the Bible. It would be a profitable exercise for the young, and indeed for persons of any age, to collate the passages in which the word "finished" occurs. Sometimes it points to a very imperfect result; sometimes it does not quite mean what we understand by finishing; and sometimes it seems to exhaust all imagination. In one instance it covers up the universe with darkness, and makes the strongest man as the weakest. Jesus cried, "It is finished." We can finish some things. Whatever we can finish is pitifully worthless. Solomon no sooner put up the temple than he began to take it down. That is always so. We scarcely take the scaffolding away from a new house before the elements begin to eat off the roof. We are scarcely born until we die. The loveliest decoration is conquered by the smoke; yet the smoke is not violent. There are some buildings that are never finished. We never finish our life-building; the life-temple goes up evermore,—let every man take heed how he buildeth. Do not suppose that you can finish your education. In the higher education you only finish that you may begin; you close one book as a pledge of your qualification to open another. How, as boys at school, we used to be discouraged by this process of advancement! Having closed the arithmetic, who was willing with his whole heart to open his algebra? Many persons could have comfortably left school without beginning it at all. But there is always a higher aspect of things to apprehend and apply. The table ends at twelve times twelve, but not multiplication. That is where you got wrong; you made "multiplication-table" into one word, whereas it is two: the table, the finished thing, the square, ended with a kind of rhythmic propriety at twelve times twelve; you could imagine that prosaic poet thinking he had rung quite a chime of bells when that notion came into his head; he thought it was a good point to stop at But multiplication goes everywhere; it is at home in astronomy as certainly as in agriculture. The table you may have left behind, but not its interpretations. Even within that table itself all multiplication is found. There is no tree that is not in the seed; there is no multiplication that is not in the table: there is no revelation of God that is not in the Bible; all providence is there, all history, all poetry, all spiritual dreaming, all that the heart can pray for. Heaven dawns in the Bible. So we can never finish reading the word of God. Solomon could finish his temple, but he could not finish the written record; it never ends, or it ends as the days end. How do the days close? To begin again. Each day the sun says as he westers in the golden clouds, not" Farewell," but only "Good-bye: we meet again presently; meanwhile, sleep well!" So with the Bible; when we have read it we want to read it. We can imagine a man who has never begun it not wanting to begin it, but who can imagine a man who is saturated with the spirit of the book that can be patient with any other book? You have read a commentary, say, on the Book of Job; the only way to get over the commentary is to read Job himself. No matter who the commentator may be, when he has finished his little nothings, you have only to go back to the book itself to feel that the man has been only fluttering, not flying. Thus the Bible is its own witness, its own continual prophecy, its own eternal promise. You can never finish love. If you can finish it, you never began it. Love grows. There are some persons who have run out of that passion and sunk into earthliness and coldness. Then they never knew the inspiration of love. It cannot die; it enlarges with the enlarging heart, it mellows with the swiftly adding years, it changes its tone, its voice somewhat; what was once firm, trumpet-like, may sink into hesitation, and experience some oppressiveness of breath, but it is still there, only waiting till heaven's gate fly back, that it may recover its youth and revel in its immortality. Solomon could finish his temple. Then it was not worth beginning, except for temporary purposes. So, we have just seen, he himself regarded it. Once he nearly gave up the whole idea of building it; he said, What can I do? The heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain him. At that point it was one of two things: either surrender of the idea, as men surrender an impossibility; or such an access of inspiration as seemed to touch the very fulness of the power of God.
Another thing that Solomon finished was the furnishing of the ark,—"there was nothing in the ark save"—and after that word comes the only thing that could really fill the ark; that is to say, there was nothing in the little chest but everything—"save the two tables which Moses put therein at Horeb, when the Lord made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of Egypt" (2Chronicles 5:10). "There was nothing save"—that is to say, there was nothing except, and behold the exception is as God himself, for power, righteousness, grace, mercy; for the lid of the chest was the propitiation, the mercy seat, the symbol of the eternal pity. Why not learn this lesson in the development of life? Let us hear some good father talk, and he will give us the music of the passage in the variation of personal experience. Speaking of his boy he says, He has nothing to start the world with save—a good education. That is enough, if the term may be accepted in its full sense,—nothing save a good education, save intelligence and the spirit of learning, which is greater than any learning itself can ever be; nothing save a desire to know, to inquire, to investigate, to accumulate wisdom. That boy will do; let him go; the world will know the step of its conqueror. Why did you say, "nothing save"? Simply because your sordid mind would fix itself upon the paltriest idea in the world, namely, that unless a boy has money he has nothing. When he has money he may be a pauper. Give him a good education; add two more years to it; he will thank you by-and-by; at present he will chafe a little perhaps, because when we are about sixteen to seventeen years of age what can possibly be added to us? If our father took great pains about us he could not add a cubit to our stature. If you gave your boy all the stars of heaven he would get through them and be a pauper at the last. But give him a mind that knows how to use its own faculties, an education that is really broad, vital, generous, sympathetic, and he will come back after his harvesting rich with riches no thief can steal. So the statement may be varied thus: My boy will start the world with nothing save a good character. Then he may be said to have ended the world as well as started it. What is a good character? Not a good appearance, not good clothing, not a polite outfit that can be carried in the hand: but a good character means in its fullest significance, a heart in sympathy with righteousness, a soul that scorns dishonour, a sense of justice and chivalry that will evermore vindicate itself in the estimation of the noblest judgment. Religiously, if you can add that element, good character means love of God, love of Christ, submission to the rule of God the Holy Ghost; a continual living in the eternal. Does your boy start with nothing save all that? He starts in a way that means honour, highest success, heaven, immortality.
"The house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the Lord; so that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of God" (2Chronicles 5:13-14).
Thus are all ministries reduced to insignificance and nothingness by the realised glory of the divine presence. Temples and altars, ritual and song, all come comparatively to nothing, when God himself consciously, almost visibly, appears in his house. What would the temple have been without this "cloud"? Just what the sky would be on a starless night—a great gloom, a tremendous frown. So it is with our life-building. Unless the house of our life is owned by the living God, dwelt in by him, illumined and sanctified by his presence, it comes to nothing, it is an empty house—the emptier because of its very grandeur. Sometimes we can bear a really solitary chamber, we can fill it with images created by fancy; but to be in a grand house, full of nothing but magnificence, without a tuneful voice, without a footfall, without a sympathetic presence,—and the very grandeur becomes an oppression: we had been happier in the wilderness, we might have had the liberty of the open-air, but in such a house we have imprisonment aggravated by splendour. The furniture does not make the house; it is love that turns the house into a home. What, a great ostentatious life, without real principle, solid conviction, visible apprehension of things infinite and eternal!—say, has any skeleton ever risen from a churchyard more ghastly and hideous than that? Nothing but outside, nothing but leaves, nothing but paint, nothing but elaborate decoration, nothing but a tinted lie! No matter how poor the house is if there be love in it: every chamber is magical, every window looks southward, every bird hovers over it just to bless it with one trill. What if we have surrounded ourselves with an impressive environment, and there be nothing in our souls, of pure love, honest trust, brave endeavour day by day to be better men? It is nothing but vain pomp, rich enough, golden enough, beautiful enough, but an aesthetic falsehood. When a man is all outside what can be done with him? When he is nothing until he has his clothes on, when he is absolutely less than a cipher until he is ringed and jewelled, what is the worth of him in plain figures, in arithmetical symbols? What does he come to? He comes to nothing.
Almighty God, our joy is that the tabernacle of God is with men upon the earth; it is not far away in the inaccessible heavens; it is here, close at hand, amongst our own houses, making all other habitations, if they will be so made, holy, and doors into heaven. May we understand so much of thy providence as will enable us to see that every place is praying ground, that not in this mount nor yet at Jerusalem shall men worship the Father, but everywhere men, with honest hearts, may address the throne of the heavenly grace. God is a Spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. May our hearts hold communion with heaven; may it be easy to us, by reason of reverent familiarity, to pray to the living God through the living Christ, that so we may receive grace to help in time of need, and all mercy for the recovery of our souls from sin. "We have heard of the cross of Christ, and we know that thy love was manifested therein as nowhere else; we have seen the dying Son of God, we have heard his expiring cry, we have listened to the appeals of his infinite heart; now may we enter into the mystery of his shed blood, and know the joy of pardon, the rapture of liberty. We have seen somewhat of thy way, and we are glad: we have been touched by the divine power, no longer are we in bondage; we stand before God as free men, having been released by the gracious and mighty power of the Son of God. We commit ourselves to thy tender care; thou knowest what is best for us: we know that we cannot cany all the burden of life, but thou canst reduce the burden, or thou canst increase our strength. Teach us that nothing happens by chance, that we are under the rule and government of a good Father, and that all things are meant for our purification, for our mental enlightenment, for our spiritual refining, and at the end we shall praise thee for processes we could not understand. We would have no will but thine; thou seest to-day, and tomorrow, and the third day, and all time lies nakedly before thy vision: why should we interrupt thy processes, or question thy providence, or kick against the pricks? We will say, God knoweth, God is wise, God is love, God will not suffer anything to befal us to our harm: not our will, but God's, be done. Upon all men let thy blessing rest—upon the old man who is nearing the end of the journey; upon the busy man who is full of plan and enterprise and strenuous endeavour; upon the young man whose life is all passion and enthusiasm and hope; and upon the little child, who lives the blessed life of unconsciousness; upon all estates, classes, and conditions of men let the divine blessing fall like a plentiful rain. This prayer we pray in the Name that is above every name. This weakness of speech we hide in the almightiness of Christ. Amen.