Then the LORD will create over all of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud of smoke by day and a glowing flame of fire by night. For over all the glory there will be a canopy,
I. THAT GOD TAKES A DIVINE PLEASURE IN HIS PEOPLE. We know from other Scriptures that the Lord's portion is his people (Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 32:9; Psalm 47:4). Here the people of God are spoken of as "the glory" of the Lord (ver. 5). There are aspects in which it must appear to us the extreme point of Divine condescension to use such terms of his redeemed ones. But there are other aspects in which we can see that they are not altogether inappropriate. God's ancient people were, and his regenerated children are, the witnesses and instances of his glorious redemption. Redeemed from political or spiritual bondage, they rejoice in a blessed freedom; raised from dark depths of misery and despair, they sing the psalms of joy and hope; purged from vanity and folly, they walk in the ascending path of heavenly wisdom.
II. THAT GOD PROMISES HIS PEOPLE HIS DIVINE PROTECTION. "Upon all the glory shall be a defense." As in the old desert days the tribes of Israel were led by the pillar of cloud by day and all the night by a pillar of fire, so shall the Divine Leader guide his people in the path which is still before them (ver. 5). From the burning heat and from the pelting storm there shall be found a covert for those who put their trust in him. God's promised defense extends:
1. To his people in their various relationships; whether gathered in the family "dwelling-place," or met in their sacred "assemblies," or, we may add, whether journeying in that solitariness of spirit with which we must all. be familiar (Galatians 6:5) along the path of life; - that is, in their domestic, ecclesiastical, and individual relations.
2. To his people in the checkered experiences of their career. God will be their defense from
(1) the perils peculiar to prosperity (pride, selfishness, contemptuousness, worldliness, etc.) - there shall be "a shadow in the daytime from the heat;" and
(2) the dangers incident to adversity (sullenness, rebelliousness, moroseness, despair, etc.) - there shall be "a covert from storm and from rain."
III. THAT THESE DIVINE PROMISES ARE CONDITIONAL ON OUR CONTINUED OBEDIENCE AND BELIEVING PRAYER. God speaks peace unto his people, "but let them not turn again to folly" (Psalm 85:8; see Ezekiel 33:13). The Divine promise proved good in this particular instance just so long and so far as the conditions which were implied were faithfully observed. God's promises are "exceeding great and precious," and we may "live thereby," if we will. But we must not fail
(1) to walk in the way of his commandments, nor
(2) to plead his Word in expectant prayer; if we do, we shall fail to enjoy in its fullness the defense of the "almighty arms." - C.
1. Experience has amply shown the true glory of a Church does not consist in outward pomp or splendour. Even Solomon confessed that the magnificence which adorned his temple in all its untarnished glory was unworthy to become a residence, or to receive the manifested tokens of Jehovah's presence. In rich and stately decorations even the heathen may enshrine his lifeless idol, and outvie the splendour of the ancient Jewish sanctuary. On the other hand, the patriarchs in their wandering, and the persecuted Christians, convened in woods and caves and retired chambers, have beheld the manifested light of God's countenance, and have seen His power and glory as graciously displayed as in the most splendid sanctuary.
I. It refers to the Church of God IN ITS PRIVATE AND DOMESTIC CHARACTER. These are denoted by the expressions — "every dwelling place of Mount Zion." It is one among the many beautiful descriptions of the true Christian, with which the Bible abounds, not simply that he does approach to God, but that he takes delight in doing so; and having "tasted that the Lord is gracious," he will strive to realise, in his own parental character, the exalted qualities, which God ascribed to Abraham, and which doubtless were even then in the course of development, though "as yet he had no child." Happy is that parent, happy is that child, with respect to whom it can be truly said, "The fathers to the children shall make known Thy truth."
A cloud and smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night.Exodus 13:21, 22): — It was good for the Israelites that they were so long in the wilderness. There the most impressive intimations of a present Deity followed their every step. Miracles were wrought, to feed them when hungry, and to satisfy their thirsty souls. Jesus was in the manna — "I am the living Bread which came down from heaven." There, in the form of a vast column of mingled fire and smoke, is the mysterious yet faithful guide of the Lord's people. When it is stationary, they rest; when it advances, they journey. The pillar cloud was typical of Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ ever liveth as the Church's Prophet, Priest, and King. "And the Lord will create upon every dwelling place of Mount Zion," etc. If the pillar cloud was the shadow of good things to come, Jesus Christ is the glorious substance; and we shall endeavour to show in what manner the Redeemer leads His Church.
I. JESUS LEADS THE CHURCH BY HIS WORD. Not more certainly was there one pillar cloud than there is one Bible. The Word stands alone in its authority. It is the sole director of our faith; it is the sole regulator of our walk. The Word is the sole standard in all matters pertaining to the worship of God, and if human opinions or imperial statutes should oppose its high demands, "we must obey God rather than men."
II. JESUS LEADS THE CHURCH BY HIS SPIRIT. How precious the promise which He made to His disciples. "The Comforter, who is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." The Word is a lamp to the feet and a light to the path; but what if the hands of men are so feeble that they cannot hold the heaven-sent lamp? What if the darkness which shrouds their minds is so dense that all the rays shining from the Word serve only to render the darkness visible? In such circumstances how desirable to have a living guide to expound the infallible directory! The cloud which was in the tabernacle by day, and the fire by night, formed a guiding pillar, but for which the people of Israel must have wandered and lost their way In the desert. Yet there was an imperfection arising from its very nature. The fiery pillar taught seeing men where to go; but it could not give sight to the blind. It pointed to the direction in which the pilgrims were to advance; but it could not make the lame man leap as an hart. We do not say that the Spirit of Christ did not impart inward light, saving knowledge, in the days of Moses. Wherever holiness adorned any character, He, the Sanctifier, was its source. The crowning excellence of the New Testament economy is, that it is the dispensation of the Spirit. While it does not dispense with forms, it specially inculcates the power of godliness. While it commends the Word, it holds the Word to be powerless without the Spirit of God.
III. JESUS LEADS THE CHURCH BY HIS PROVIDENCE. The Saviour whom we adore, is Ruler of all worlds. Supreme in heaven, He is not less so on earth. The Author of salvation, He is the regulator of all the complicated wheels of providence. Providence is a volume which is often hard to be understood. And the reason why we put providence after the Word and Spirit of Christ is, that no man is able to explain providence aright until he has studied the Word, and been taught by the Spirit of the Lord.
(J. Patrick, M. A.)
II. The second aspect, under which the Church of God is here presented to us, is IN ITS SOCIAL AND COLLECTIVE CHARACTER. This is indicated by the expressions "her assemblies." The expression refers to the union of the servants of God in public worship: corresponding exactly to that of which our Saviour spoke, when He said — "Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them." There can be no doubt, that from the very earliest ages of the Church, the rest of the holy Sabbath was observed; and the more the spirit of genuine religion diffused itself, the more did men of similar tastes and feelings seek pious association with each other.
(G. Weight, M. A.)
2. The true and essential glory of the Church principally consists in the spirituality, holiness, and unity of its members.
3. The doctrine of the restoration of the image of God in the soul of man, by the agency of the Holy Spirit, challenges for the Church which prominently exhibits it, the title of a glorious Church.
4. Of the varied glories of the Church, none in its early days was more conspicuous than that of unity in government, discipline, worship, and spirit. Long has Satan prevailed in his endeavours to divide and conquer.
II. GOD WILL EXPRESS HIS APPROVAL BY MANIFESTATIONS OF HIS PRESENCE. The benefits of the Jews from the Shechinah were a type of the benefits of Jesus among us. What were these?
1. The manifestation of truth — the Urim and Thummim. Jesus Christ is the only medium through which we can have knowledge of God, redemption, and the way of worship.
2. The display of holiness. Wherever the Shechinah appeared there was an impression of holiness. Moses and the bush. The Holy of Holies. So in the Gospel, we have not only a display of truth, hut of holiness also.
3. Communication of comfort. The cloud covered Israel in a heated atmosphere; it dropped dew, and they were baptized in the cloud. Is not this the end of the spiritual manifestation? The Holy Ghost is called the Comforter.
III. THESE MANIFESTATIONS OF THE DIVINE PRESENCE CONSTITUTE THE GLORY OF THE CHURCH. What was the temple without it? And how is this house filled with glory? It is not in the altar, the shewbread, the ark, or the manna, but in Jesus' presence walking among the candlesticks.
(J. Summerfield, M. A.)
Upon all the glory shall be a defence.
1. What is here expressed as to the type and figure. For the glory and defence two pairs of things seem to be intended: the ark and the mercy seat; the tabernacle and the pillar of fire.(1) The ark is oftentimes called the glory of God (Psalm 78:61; 1 Samuel 4:21). The word which we have rendered "a defence," properly, signifies "a covering"; as was the mercy seat the covering of the ark. So that "upon the glory shall be a defence," is as much as, unto you the "mercy seat shall be on the ark," or you shall have the mercy represented and intimated thereby.(2) The tabernacle and cloud, or pillar of fire, are also called to mind; so the words are expressive of that figure of God's gracious presence with His people, which we have recounted (Exodus 40:34). "Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle."
2. What is here intended, as to the substance of the mercy promised. All those things were typical of Christ. Apply, then, this promise to Gospel times, and the substance of it is comprehended in these two propositions:
I. THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST WITH ANY PEOPLE IS THE GLORY OF ANY PEOPLE. This is the glory here spoken of, as is evident to anyone that will but read verse 2, and consider its influence unto these words. This is their glory, or they have none. Is it in their number, that they are great, many, and populous? God thinks not so (Deuteronomy 7:7; Psalm 105:12). You know what it cost David in being seduced by Satan into the contrary opinion. There is nothing more common in the Scripture than for the Lord to speak contempt of the multitude of any people, as a thing of nought. Is it in their wisdom and counsel, their understanding for the ordering of their affairs? Is that their glory? Why, see how God derides the prince of Tyrus, who was lifted up with an apprehension hereof; and counted himself as God, upon that account (Ezekiel 27; Jeremiah 9:23, 24).
1. Now, Christ may be said to be present with a people two ways.
(1) (2) 2. This is the glory of any people upon a threefold account. (1) (2) (3) II. THE PRESENCE OF GOD IN SPECIAL PROVIDENCE OVER A PEOPLE ATTENDS THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST IN GRACE WITH A PEOPLE. ( J. Owen, D. D.) II. A DEFENDER OF THE CHURCH. Upon "all her assemblies," as well as in every "dwelling place," rose the symbols of His presence. Eli trembled for the ark of God, and men now tremble for the safety of the Church in this wilderness world. But it is safe as the children of Israel under the cloud and the pillar. III. A DEFENDER OF THE PERSON. We need personal protection. A shade in the heat of calamity; a tent in the storm of adversity. This Christ is to His people. 1. In temporal matters. 2. In the interests of the soul. (J. S. H.)
(2) 2. This is the glory of any people upon a threefold account. (1) (2) (3) II. THE PRESENCE OF GOD IN SPECIAL PROVIDENCE OVER A PEOPLE ATTENDS THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST IN GRACE WITH A PEOPLE. ( J. Owen, D. D.) II. A DEFENDER OF THE CHURCH. Upon "all her assemblies," as well as in every "dwelling place," rose the symbols of His presence. Eli trembled for the ark of God, and men now tremble for the safety of the Church in this wilderness world. But it is safe as the children of Israel under the cloud and the pillar. III. A DEFENDER OF THE PERSON. We need personal protection. A shade in the heat of calamity; a tent in the storm of adversity. This Christ is to His people. 1. In temporal matters. 2. In the interests of the soul. (J. S. H.)
2. This is the glory of any people upon a threefold account.
(1) (2) (3) II. THE PRESENCE OF GOD IN SPECIAL PROVIDENCE OVER A PEOPLE ATTENDS THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST IN GRACE WITH A PEOPLE. ( J. Owen, D. D.) II. A DEFENDER OF THE CHURCH. Upon "all her assemblies," as well as in every "dwelling place," rose the symbols of His presence. Eli trembled for the ark of God, and men now tremble for the safety of the Church in this wilderness world. But it is safe as the children of Israel under the cloud and the pillar. III. A DEFENDER OF THE PERSON. We need personal protection. A shade in the heat of calamity; a tent in the storm of adversity. This Christ is to His people. 1. In temporal matters. 2. In the interests of the soul. (J. S. H.)
( J. Owen, D. D.) 1. In temporal matters. 2. In the interests of the soul. (J. S. H.)
( J. Owen, D. D.)I. A DEFENDER OF THE HOME. It is "upon every dwelling place of Mount Zion" that there shall be "the cloud and smoke by day," and the "pillar of fire by night." What is a house without Christ?
1. In temporal matters.
2. In the interests of the soul.
(J. S. H.)