And Caleb said, "To the man who strikes down Kiriath-sepher and captures it, I will give my daughter Acsah in marriage."
I. AN IDENTIFICATION OF HIMSELF WITH THE INTERESTS OF HIS TRIBE. Caleb was all Edomite, and might have enjoyed his own lot without such special effort or sacrifice. He is evidently deeply interested in the welfare and honour of his adopted tribe. This might be called a signal illustration of public spirit. And yet it is probable that Caleb himself was quite unconscious that there was anything singular in his action. As the greatest blessings to a nation arise from the public spirit of its citizens, so the greatest curses are frequently entailed by the want of it. As in warfare every soldier, however insignificant, is an influence that tells upon the success or failure of the campaign, so in a government, with representative institutions whose action hinds the nation and measures its progress, it is requisite that every citizen should actively interest himself in electing and supporting the legislative authority. The free play of an intelligent, generous, and enthusiastic public criticism will tend to the health of the whole body politic, and vice versa. Even more cogent is the need for public spirit in the church. Its honour and dishonour are ours, its success or failure. And it represents interests of the most tremendous importance. "England expects every man to do his duty" is a sentence of historic importance. Although not called upon to preach, or even to pray in public, the private member of the church ought to regard the affairs of Christ's kingdom with enthusiasm, and be prepared to make great sacrifices for its advancement:
II. HIS PROOF OF THIS IN BESTOWING ONE OF HIS MOST PRECIOUS POSSESSIONS. We do not know much about Achsah, but probably she was very beautiful. Her forethought and carefulness are described in the fourteenth and fifteenth verses. She was his only daughter, born to him in later life (1 Chronicles 2:49). That she was dear to her father we may take for granted. How much a daughter may be to a father history has frequently and strikingly shown. The grief of Jephthah for the consequences of his rash vow is recorded in this very book. Apart from the personal attractions of Achsah, the influence which might be obtained by intermarriage with the family of Caleb is not to be ignored.
III. IT WAS A SACRIFICE WHICH HAD IN IT THE SECURITY FOR ITS OWN REWARD. An offer like this was an appeal to the chivalry of the tribe. It suggested vividly that on account of which the bravery of the warrior is so necessary. The soldier who stormed such a fortress was sure to possess the noble and manly qualities and the religious zeal calculated to make a good husband. So in political and spiritual matters, generous offers and challenges appeal to what is noblest in the nature of men, and secure a loftier and more heroic response. - M.
I. HER CONSIDERATION OF THE MATTER BEFORE SHE WENT TO HER FATHER.
To him will I give Achsah my daughter.
Thou hast given me a south land; give me also springs of water
(F. Tucker, B. A.)
1. She naturally wished that her husband should find in that estate all that was convenient and all that might be profitable; and looking it all over, she saw what was wanted. Before you pray, know what you are needing. "Oh!" says somebody, "I utter some good words." Does God want your words? Think what you are going to ask before you begin to pray, and then pray like business men.
2. This woman, before she went to her father with her petition, asked her husband's help. When she came to her husband "she moved him to ask of her father a field." It is often a great help in prayer for two of you to agree touching the thing that concerns Christ's kingdom. A cordon of praying souls around the throne of grace will be sure to prevail.
3. Achsah bethought herself of this one thing, that she was going to present her request to her father. I suppose that she would not have gone to ask of anybody else; but she said to herself, "Come, Achsah, Caleb is your father. The boon I am going to ask is not of a stranger, who does not know me, but of a father, in whose care I have been ever since I was born." This thought ought to help us in prayer, and it will help us when we remember that we do not go to ask of an enemy, nor to plead with a stranger; but we say, "Our Father, which art in heaven."
4. She went humbly, yet eagerly. If others will not pray with you, go alone; and when you go, go very reverently. Thou art on earth, and God is in heaven; multiply not thy words as though thou wert talking to thine equal.
II. HER ENCOURAGEMENT. "Caleb said unto her, what wilt thou?"
1. You should know what you want. Could some Christians, if God were to say to them, "What wilt thou?" answer Him? Do you not think that we get into such an indistinct, indiscriminate kind of a way of praying that we do not quite know what we do really want? If it is so with you, do not expect to be heard till you know what you want.
2. Ask for it. God's way of giving is through our asking. I suppose that He does that in order that He may give twice over, for a prayer is itself a blessing as well as the answer to prayer. Perhaps it sometimes does us as much good to pray for a blessing as to get the blessing.
III. THE PRAYER ITSELF.
1. A good beginning: "Give me a blessing." Why, if the Lord shall hear that prayer from everybody in this place, what a blessed company we shall be; and we shall go our way to be a blessing to this City of London beyond what we have ever been before!
2. Notice next, how she mingled gratitude with her petition: "Give me a blessing: for thou hast given me a south land." Go back in grateful praise to God for what He has done for thee in days gone by, and then get a spring for thy leap for a future blessing or a present blessing. Mingle gratitude with all thy prayers.
3. There was not only gratitude in this woman's prayer, but she used former gifts as a plea for more: "Thou hast given me a south land; give me also," etc. Oh, yes, that is a grand argument with God: "Thou hast given me; therefore give me some more." Every blessing given contains the eggs of other blessing within it. Thou must take the blessing, and find the hidden eggs, and let them be hatched by thine earnestness, and there shall be a whole brood of blessings springing out of a single blessing. See thou to that.
4. But this woman used this plea in a particular way: she said, "Thou hast given me a south land; give me also springs of water." When you ask of God, ask distinctly: "Give me springs of water." You may say, "Give me my daily bread." You may cry, "Give me a sense of pardoned sin." You may distinctly ask for anything which God has promised to give.
IV. HER SUCCESS
1. Her father gave her what she asked. And God gives us what we ask for when it is wise to do so. But sometimes we make mistakes.
2. He gave her in large measure. The Lord "is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think." Some use that passage in prayer, and misquote it, "above what we can ask or even think." That is not in the Bible, because you can ask or even think anything you like; but it is "above all that we ask or think." Our asking or our thinking falls short; but God's giving never does.
3. He gave her this without a word of upbraiding. Now, may the Lord grant unto us to ask of Him in wisdom, and may He not have to upbraid us, but give us all manner of blessings both of the upper and the 'nether springs, both of heaven and earth, both of eternity and time, and give them freely, and not say even a single word by way of upbraiding us!
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. Every earnest Christian, realising the seriousness of life, the meaning of his profession, the destiny which is before him, ought to ask of God a field; that is, a vocation. God individualises His servants. He has endowed each one in His own wise way, and He expects each one to exercise His own particular endowment for the glory of the Master and Lord. At the same time it is also true that He allows us a great deal of liberty in adapting our vocations to our lives, or perhaps one should rather say, adapting our lives to our vocations. One who believes himself called to the ministry may not take up any other profession, yet may without sin choose whether he will devote himself to mission work or minister as opportunity may present itself in parish life. In like manner the less marked commonplace vocations of everyday Christian life are largely shaped by the earnest disciple himself following the bent of his own enthusiasm, though it must be always in deference to the will of God, when that is in any way specially manifested. Even in cases where there seems to be no possibility of individual choosing, where one's way seems marked out by circumstances, and there is nothing to do but to go on in it, there should still be conscious recognition of the opportunity of a willingly accepted vocation; there should be the asking for a field on the part of the loyal soul; that is, the asking for grace to do a true and useful work for God in the circumstances He has prepared for us.
2. It does not take us long to discover that our fields are in the land of the south — arid, hard to cultivate, lacking moisture. All true vocations are hard and trying. The purpose of the existence of the kingdom of heaven upon earth is the conquest and overthrow of the kingdom of evil; that means that all who will serve in the Master's service have to fight. It often happens that, because vocations are found to be very hard, the disciple comes to the conclusion that what he thought to be his calling is not truly so, that he has made a mistake.
3. What then? The undaunted soul betakes itself to prayer. The vocation is hard, almost unendurable; never mind, light down from off the ass and pray for a blessing. There is here no thought of surrendering one's calling; of saying, "This is too hard a thing for me; take it away, and give me an easier lot in Thy service." Caleb's daughter did not ask her father to exchange the arid field for a fruitful and better situated one; she asked him to give her something besides it, however. God loves to have us develop our vocations by prayer. We must have especial and particular times of prayer set apart for that purpose, wherein we light down, as it were, from our daily duties and make our petitions to the Most High.
4. Did Caleb respond to his daughter's petition? Aye, surely, but no more surely than God responds to the prayers of His children who are striving to live loyally in the vocations He has assigned them. She asked for springs of water, for with springs of water to irrigate it the south land might be made most fertile and profitable for every sort of good fruit. It is said significantly that he gave to her both the upper springs and the nether springs. For the lower springs, that is the wells, supplement the waters of the upper springs. These last coming down abundantly in torrents from the mountains, guided by the hand of man through the fields, make them exceeding fertile, and then the superabundance of their waters is stored, according to nature's wise provision, in the lower wells, which do not dry up with the long-continued heat of the summer, but remain an ever reliable and constant supply. If God has given to His children hard and arid fields of labour, in which they are to find their several vocations, we are not to forget that to those who seek His help in prayer He grants abundantly the upper and the nether springs.
5. What, then, are these upper springs, the fresh, cooling waters from the hills, flowing down in copious streams, for man's use and profit, that the dry ground may be refreshed by them, and made to blossom as the rose and to be fruitful with all manner of good things? Evidently these upper springs of God's gift are the waters of supernatural, sacramental grace; the waters that flow down from the delectable mountains, the heavenly provision in overflowing abundance for earthly spiritual drought. We were never meant to fulfil our vocations without the help of grace. We think so much of our own energy, gifts, work, money, as if these things earnestly and heartily applied were to make the arid south land of God's calling for us fertile. They are all very well, but do not anything more valuable than dig the irrigating trenches which shall carry the sparkling waters of the upper springs down through the dry land, and make it productive.
6. And the nether springs, the lower wells, what are they in the Christian life? They are those blessed reservoirs of the sacramental grace which has been drawn in and assimilated by the correspondence of earnest disciples, ready for use in the times when the upper springs do not seem to flow freely, and to make fertile the field of the soul's labour. They are living fountains of God-given water, staying us when the special help from on high seems for the time withdrawn.(1) There is the nether spring of love. As the wells in the lowlands are filled from the upper springs, so love of God, fed by sacramental grace, becomes a living fountain of perennial freshness in the soul.(2) The sacramental life teaches one patience; the graces which flow from Holy Communion fill up this deep fountain, so that it never runs dry.(3) There is yet another fine nether spring of precious value in the devout Christian life — the spring of confident expectation, the spring which combines faith and hope in one great wealth of unshaken trust. This too is filled by the upper springs of sacramental grace. One learns by his experience in confessing his sins how true and real is the pardon that comes through the precious blood. One learns, as the result of his communions, how mighty is the transforming power of the Christ-life so lovingly imparted to us. Thus he becomes sublimely sure, magnificently confident, with a sureness and a confidence that are not inconsistent with genuine humility.
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