So the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, along with the priests and Levites--everyone whose spirit God had stirred--prepared to go up and rebuild the house of the LORD in Jerusalem.
I. THE CHIEFS OF THE FATHERS OF JUDAH AND BENJAMIN RESPONDED.
1. Happy the people whose magistrates lead them nobly.
(1) In politics. The voice of the king. The purpose of that voice.
(2) In religion. The voice of God. The purpose of that voice: immediate; ulterior with respect to fulfilment of prophecy, etc.
2. Politics cannot be divorced from religion.
(1) God has joined them in the constitution of our nature.
(2) He holds citizens, as such, responsible to himself.
(3) Experience proves that godly men are the best citizens.
3. Evil rulers are scourges of God to wicked peoples.
(1) Not appointed without his providence (see Isaiah 3:4).
(2) Rulers are no worse than their people.
Representative governments - responsibility of the franchise. In hereditary magistracies (see Isaiah 1:10). "Rulers of Sodom" associated with "people of Gomorrah" (see Isaiah 1:25, 26). When the vices of a people are purged away, then worthy magistrates are raised up to them.
II. THE PRIESTS AND LEVITES RESPONDED.
1. Priests, leaders in religion.
(1) Sons of Aaron - type of Christ, also of Christians.
(2) Offices at the altar.
(3) Offices in the sanctuary.
2. Levites, leaders in literature.
(1) Scattered in Israel - schoolmasters, scribes of the law (2 Chronicles 34:13).
(2) Services about the temple. Literature should be the handmaid of religion. When otherwise, inversion of God's order fearfully mischievous.
III. SKILFUL ARTIFICERS RESPONDED. Those whose spirit God hath raised to go up and build the house of the Lord.
1. All useful labour is from God.
(1) He is the Author of our faculties.
(2) His providence furnishes opportunities for their culture.
2. All talent should be devoted to God.
(1) In building up his material temple.
(2) In furthering the building of his living temple.
(3) In our secular calling (see 1 Corinthians 10:31).
IV. A WILLING PEOPLE RESPONDED.
1. All they that were about them.
(1) Not all the nation. Some elected to remain in Babylon. Gain of merchandise, etc., etc. So it is still when God calls us to forsake the world.
(2) Those responded whose sympathies were true - "about them." Frequently the children of godly persons elect the service of Christ.
2. These strengthened their hands.
(1) True sympathy is help. Moral influence of virtuous citizens strengthens the hands of magistrates.
(2) Where sympathy is true it will furnish active help. Gifts from the wealthy - viz., things of "gold and silver," "goods," "beasts," viz., for transport (see Ezra 2:66, 67); "precious things." Gifts from the multitude - "freewill offerings." All is precious that comes from a loyal heart.
1. Learn that religion and politics may be harmonised without resorting to compulsion. The response was voluntary. Uniformity is not unity. Endless variety in living things.
2. Harmony in religion and politics is truest when free. With compulsion comes resistance and contention. Admit the principle of coercion, then the question is not between religion and politics, as abstract principles, but becomes often an ambitious and unholy strife. - J. A. M.
Let the men of the place help him with silver.
(H. W. Beecher.)
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