1 Kings 7:22
And on the top of the pillars was lily work: so was the work of the pillars finished.
1. Strength. These pillars were deemed of such importance as to deserve a name, a name for each. The one was called Jachin, which means "He will establish"; and the other was called Boaz, which means "in strength." The two ideas are near akin, and together express stable strength. Why these names were given we are not told; whether to indicate the magnitude and fixedness of the pillars, or the stability of the religion which was to be represented in that temple, we cannot say. But we read — and probably in allusion to these pillars with their crowns of lily-work — "strength and beauty are in His sanctuary." These pillars are symbolic, or may be considered as symbolic, of truth, not merely in the world of grace, but in the world of nature. The world in which we live may be justly regarded as a temple reared gradually and progressively through long ages under the ever-active hand of the Divine Architect. But look at the order. It did not begin with what we call beauty. No doubt every atom of it was beautiful to Him whose eye seeth all things, but relatively to us the beauty was not at the beginning. The strength and firmness came first. "The world is established that it cannot be moved." "The earth He hath established for ever." Here, indeed, you have the Jachin and Boaz of our text, the two kindred and complementary ideas of "strength" and "stability." You have the firm, deep, compact rock, hidden for the most part beneath your feet, or piled in massive mountains. Then in due time come the living things, which could only live on firm foundations. Let the foundations be destroyed, and all the beauty will perish with them; as when an earthquake swallows in its devouring abyss gardens and orchards which were laden with the richest flowers and the sweetest perfumes. Now man is a temple, as the earth may be viewed as a temple. He is designed to be the temple of the Holy Ghost; and in this temple are meant to be strength and beauty, the pillars of Jachin and Boaz, and on their top "lily-work." And the religion of Christ starts with the conceptions of strength and stability. Its very first notion and foundation-idea is that of "a stone laid in Zion, a sure foundation-stone, a stone elect and precious." It is a rock on which God builds His Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Great pains are taken to set forth this as the first idea, on which all the others depend. The same idea in another form is found in the fact that the Gospel is called a kingdom and therefore a thing of power and strength. The Christian, therefore, is to be, and must be in proportion as he is a Christian, a man in whom strength and stability are to be found in conspicuous force and play. For he is in a world in which he cannot hold his ground without them. It is not an uncommon thing for men of the world to look on the Christian Church as if it were a refuge for the weaklings of the race. What is it that the Christian does which shows his weakness? He confesses his sins; but is that weakness or is it strength when a man is a sinner and brazens it out before the face of Almighty God? He asks for mercy; but is that weakness when to ask for mercy is to acknowledge the righteous claims of God? He seeks for Divine guidance; but is that a weakness in a world like this in which it is so easy to err and lose oneself, and in which "it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps"? And what are these robuster graces, these rocky principles of the Christian life? There must be truth, the lip that will not lie. There must be honour and justice, which will not swerve to the right hand or left from fear or for reward. These things there must be as the primary formation at the basis of a Christian life. The pillar of the Christian character must be upright whatever else it be, and sound in its structure from base to capital and from side to side. Jachin and Boaz were of this character.
2. Beauty. We have looked at the elements of strength, let us now glance at the elements of beauty as set forth in the lily-work which crowned and glorified the heads of the two columns. As we have seen, the world itself has grown up from strength to beauty. Hiram did not invent his decorations. They were furnished to his hand from another and more skilful hand. "Behold the lilies of the field, how they grow," etc. He borrowed his art from nature, that is, from God, from whom, indeed, all the noblest and purest art has ever been borrowed, and must be to the end of time. The Greeks, pagan though they were, seem to have seized this secret with a firm hand, for their name for the world was "Beauty." They saw beauty everywhere, and they saw it because it was there. They saw what God had seen before them, and had put there that it might be seen by them. Oh, what infinite beauty there must be in the Divine nature, seeing that all the beauty of the world comes from it as from a fountain, and still comes from year to year! And just as the world has grown from strength to beauty, and just as the pillars of Jachin and Boaz were not finished till their capitals bloomed, as it were, in "lily-work," so must it be with a true human life and character. This is not completed without its capital, a capital which need not be of lily-work, but must be the reproduction of some Divine flower. It is a still more mournful imperfection and defect when men are dead to the sense of what is beautiful in the moral and religious life. And some are thus dead. They believe, and they do well to believe, in the sterner qualities of that life. They believe in the firm grit of character, granitic compactness and strength. They like the heroic nerve which never shakes, the eye which blenches at no danger, the tongue which can utter boldly unwelcome words to an age which needs them though it hates them, the valiant courage which dares not lie, but dares to die. These are the only forms of character for which they care. They have a touch about them of stern sublimity, like bold headlands that shatter the waves into spray, or mountains that challenge and defy the storms of heaven. Still it must be repeated that Christian character is very incomplete until it rises up to the efflorescence which crowns strength with beauty. It may be thought that the two are incompatible, that you may have your choice between men whose characteristics are those of strength or those of beauty, but you cannot have them both in one. But this is a mistake. We have them both in one, and in perfect union and harmony in Him who is the Son of man, and the type of that perfect humanity which by His redemptive work He came to create. The full, true man was Christ, and to become a perfect man in Christ is to become transformed into His image, and to re-embody in ourselves all the elements of His character. And what were these elements? Were they not strength and beauty? Now, the more tender, gracious, and softer aspects of the Christian life are to find their authority, inspiration, and nourishment in the example and work of our blessed Lord. And if you read the Epistles carefully, you will observe how deeply their writers had drunk into the spirit of their Lord. The strength is there, and also the beauty. We are not to lie, to defraud; we are to abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul; we are to endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ; we are to put on the whole armour of God, to watch, to stand in the evil day, and having done all to stand, These ideas form the pillar of the Christian life. But the lily-work is also set forth again and again. "Be kind one to another, tender-hearted, forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, even as God in Christ hath forgiven you." "Above all things, have fervent charity among yourselves, which is the bond of perfectness." "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ." "Be courteous." "Use hospitality one towards another without grudging." It is not enough to speak the truth, we must speak it in love. It is not enough to be just, the justice must be tempered with compassion.
(E. Mellor, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And upon the top of the pillars was lily work: so was the work of the pillars finished.