Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THAT IT IS THE ACCOMPANIMENT OF A RIGHT STATE OF HEART TOWARD GOD. Obed-edom had taken the ark into his house when God "made a breach upon Uzza" (1 Chronicles 13:11). He then and thus gained the favour of Jehovah, not indeed by the mere fact that the ark of the covenant was under his roof, but because his readiness to receive and preserve it was the expression of a true and genuine piety (see homily in loc.). If our "heart is right in the sight of God," so that we are eager to render to him or to his cause any service we can bring, we are then in that spiritual condition in which we may look for the Divine blessing. It is not any one single action, but a right relation of soul to God, that draws down his abiding favour.
II. THAT IT TAKES VARIOUS FORMS WITH US, AS IT DID IN ANCIENT TIMES.
1. The temporal forms it assumed then. These were:
(1) Family mercies - God blessed Obed-edom by enlarging his household (vers. 4, 5), and giving him descendants of whom he could be proud (vers. 6-8).
(2) Military reputation-some were "mighty men of valour" (ver. 6.)
(3) Bodily vigour - others were "able men for strength for the service' (ver. 8).
(4) Posts of special honour - others were "over the treasures of the dedicated things" (vers. 20-28). God may grant us his blessing in much the same way now; but while we gratefully accept it and conscientiously use it, if he does so bestow it, we must not reckon on these lower manifestations of his Divine regard. We are on sure ground when we speak of:
2. The spiritual forms it assumes now. They are such as these:
(1) Concord and piety in the home;
(2) reputation for devoted service of Christ;
(3) capacity for holy usefulness;
(4) trustfulness. These are blessings which correspond with those of the older dispensation, but which take a more spiritual form. They are blessings which fill the heart rather than the hand, benedictions of "the kingdom of heaven" rather than bestowments of the monarchy of earth. If it can be said of any of us, in any large and full sense, that "God blessed him," such a one will be the recipient of other bestowments beside these - of
(5) rest of heart in Christ;
(6) joy of faithful and loving service;
(7) hope of eternal glory. - C.
1 Chronicles 23:4). One spiritual lesson may be learned from the twenty-seventh verse of this chapter: "Out of the spoils won in battles did they dedicate to maintain the house of the Lord." The spiritual points may be suggested by the following heads: -
1. The house of the Lord - God's spiritual kingdom - whether it be in a man's own soul or whether it be a Church or nation, must not only be set up by the Spirit of God, but it must be kept up or "maintained."
2. It is maintained by fighting - fighting our worse than Canaanitish foes - the corruptions of our nature, the self-will, pride, and evil of our hearts, the 'world, the flesh, and the devil within us and around us.
3. The "spoils" of this spiritual warfare - every victory over sin, every triumph over passion, evil inclination, and temptation - these are all trophies or "spoils" which we must "dedicate" to God, from whom they have all come. His the power, the strength, the victory. All are to be laid at the Saviour's feet and used for his glory.
4. This, not one battle, but "battles" - many of every kind. The armour continually on, the fight continually maintained. "Wherefore take unto you the whole armour or' God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand (Ephesians 6:13).
5. Thus, and only thus, can the house" or kingdom of God in a man's soul be "maintained." - W.
blessed in the trust of work to do for God, the work of caring for his sacred, ark-symbol. We may dwell on God's design in relation to the moral and spiritual characters of men by his putting them in trust, pressing them under the sense of responsibility.
I. MEN PUT IN TRUST. Life is full of these trusts from its beginning to its close. The Divine idea for all men is exhibited in the two great heads of the race. The first Adam was put in Eden, and trusted to dress and keep it, and not to touch the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The second Adam was set in our human spheres, and trusted with the great work of revealing God to men, and redeeming men from their sins. We may trace the same dealing with men at every stage of life. Man is not his own; he is under authority, trusted with his Lord's goods, and his Lord's commissions.
1. We deal with our children on this principle. We train character by trusts of increasing value. It is only the bad child that may not be trusted.
2. In youth-time there are foretastes of the grave life-responsibilities which help to prepare us to undertake them. In youth-time we begin to feel the gravity of life, and there is a deepening thoughtfulness, the overshadowing of the seriousness of full manhood.
3. The beginning of manhood brings larger and heavier trusts and responsibilities, which call out our best powers. These trusts concern business, the family, society, and religion.
4. And advancing life provides constant addition of trusts, until our middle manhood sometimes seems to be overweighted, and flesh and heart almost fail. Illustrate by a few special cases: e.g.
(1) A man waking up to the consciousness of power, in knowledge, skill, influence, position, or wealth: if he be a true-hearted man to feel - I can - brings a solemn sense of responsibility, and a great longing to be found faithful.
(2) A girl changed into a woman by the responsibility of becoming's wife and a mother.
(3) The case of accepting a religious life. The religious man goes every day under the pressure of this trust - "a God to glorify." And if there is any peculiar nobility and power about the life of the religious man, it comes out of his "trust," and is cultured by his "trust." Then we are no true men or women until we have found out our holy burden, and are taking it up, and bearing it cheerfully, as our Lord's yoke laid upon us. When a man views life on earth aright, he finds it to be no play-scene, in which mere appearances meet the eye and the ear. He finds it full of awful realities and possibilities - a life, not a pastime.
II. MEN CURSED OR BLESSED THROUGH THEIR TRUSTS. A design of blessing is in them, and a tremendous possibility of curse. Lest they should become a curse, they are only given up to the measure of a man's ability. If more were entrusted to us than we could undertake, our natures could only be crushed. In this view some may be thankful that they have only one talent; and some warnings come from the careers of those whom we call "men of genius." Men are blessed by their trusts when their whole natures open to accept them, - as flowers, responsive to sun and shower, open to receive, and are blessed. In lifting ourselves up to meet trusts is found the repression of all evil, and the culture of all good - the very blossoming of our nature. The true conception of the angel is not with folded wings, standing, but with poised, or outspread wings, ready to obey, rising to meet his trust. Men are cursed by their trusts, when they despise or neglect them; when they are unwilling to belong to another; when their natures are shut up to pleasure, not to duty; to self, not to God. Do you say - But my trusts seem such little things? So they are. So must all human trusts be. It is a little thing just to take care of God's ark. Nevertheless they are arranged in the heavenly Father's wisdom, and they may - if we will let them - culture the earth-children for their heavenly home. Let us be "faithful over the few things." - R.T.
1 Chronicles 9:19), but another outline may be suggested.
I. MAN'S ESTIMATE OF THE LOFTY AND THE LOWLY IN SERVICE. On what considerations does it rest? And what decisions does it involve? Indicate some of the mistakes men make, especially in undervaluing kinds of service that do not gain prominence.
II. THE SUPERIOR PRACTICAL NECESSITY OF LOWLY SERVICES IN ACTUAL LIFE. Illustrate that for our physical and moral good we could much better dispense with the few great services than with the thousandfold lowly ones. On these the real sum of human happiness depends. And it may some day come to light that our Lord's blessed kingdom was more prospered and advanced by Christian faithfulness in little things, than by the great doings which won men's attention and praise.
III. THE POSSIBILITY OF FINDING EXPRESSION FOR HIGH CHRISTIAN CHARACTER IN ALL KINDS OF SERVICE - BOTH IN THE LOFTY AND IN THE LOWLY, Porter and priest may both show themselves, and utter their sanctified characters, in their several work.
IV. THE SUPERIOR OPPORTUNITIES FOE EXPRESSING CHARACTER WHICH ARE FOUND IN THE LOWLY PLACES. Because a certain self-consciousness tends to spoil all public work. In the lowly spheres no "eye of man" attracts our attention. We work altogether "in the great Taskmaster's eye;" and so we can be altogether more simple and genuine. There is too much of self always tempting men who toil in what are called the higher kinds of service. In conclusion, show the Divine estimate of place and work, and how it stands in the second place, subordinate always to the Divine estimate of character. God, we may surely say, is chiefly concerned, not with what we did, but with how we did it. The welcome is given at last to character. To priest and porter God will only say at last, "Well done, good and faithful." - R.T.
I. THE EVENTS OF HUMAN LIFE OFTEN CALL FOR THE EXERCISE OF WISDOM IN COUNSEL. It is SO in the Church, in order that provision may be made for spiritual wants, that employment may be found for spiritual gifts, that differences may be composed and strength consolidated, It is so in the world; for human society presents so many difficult problems, and folly and ignorance are so general, that only a leaven of wisdom can preserve mankind from corruption and dissolution.
II. THOSE NOT PERSONALLY CONCERNED IN ANY BUSINESS ARE SOMETIMES MOST FITTED TO ADVISE, A wise man is not only wise for himself; his wisdom is intended by Providence to be placed at the service of others. And the impartiality of an onlooker often enables him to take a wider view and to form a fairer judgment than can be possible to others more interested and excited.
III. THERE ARE QUALITIES WHICH ARE SPECIALLY CONTRIBUTIVE TO WISDOM. These may be enumerated - natural sagacity, prolonged experience, knowledge, impartiality of mind, sympathy with human feelings, insight into character, etc. Such gifts and acquirements make a man "a wise counsellor."
IV. GOD, IN HIS PROVIDENCE, IS EVER RAISING UP SUCH COUNSELORS FOR THE SERVICE OF MANKIND. It has often been observed that, in the conduct of great movements, Providence employs men of impulse and energy, and conjoins with them in service men of deliberate, calm, sagacious judgment. And it is not only in what are called great affairs that this arrangement is observable. Wise men may be found in all conditions of life.
V. THE HAPPIEST RESULTS FOLLOW THE COUNSELS OF THE WISE. They are the means of directing the young, of succouring the tempted, of guiding the affairs of state, of promoting the peace of Churches, of advancing the gospel of Christ. - T.
I. ALL TREASURE IS THE LORD'S. He created all that men use and prize. It is his own property. If we give to him, we can only give "of his own."
II. IN THE HANDS OF THE LORD'S PEOPLE TREASURE IS A TRUST. The irreligious cannot be expected so to regard it; but it is marvellous that enlightened Christians can ever lock upon the matter in any other light. God lends men their possessions that they may use them for his glory, and prepare to give in an account to himself, approving their fidelity and piety.
III. TREASURE MAY BE CONSECRATED TO THE LORD'S TEMPLE. What in the olden time among the Jews the temple at Jerusalem was regarded as being, that the Church of Christ is in this dispensation. And money may lawfully and wisely be expended in the erection of churches, chapels, schools, mission-rooms, etc., and in the maintenance of pastors, teachers, and evangelists. Christian wisdom may define the limits and extent of generous gifts. But, although in the ages of superstition there may have been danger of excess in donations and endowments, there is very little danger in our days, when large sums are spent on personal luxuries and ostentation, and when there is an impression that the one special department for economy is religion.
IV. IT IS IMPORTANT THAT THE LORD'S TREASURE SHOULD BE IN SAFE KEEPING. It is an honourable office to have charge of religions and benevolent funds. It should be regarded as a stewardship from Heaven. Many who cannot preach or teach may render service in Christ's Churches by acting as treasurers and almoners, and by their faithful custody and wise disbursement of funds may serve the body of Christ and please the Divine Head. - T.
themselves to God; and though this is most true, it may be presented so as to hide away the fact that God requires the Christian to dedicate to him all he has, as well as all he is. Still, as in the older times, God is to be served by things as well as by persons. In the text it is noticed that "Ahijah was over the treasures of the house of God, and over the treasures of the dedicated things. It may be well to point out the important relations which things bear to persons.
(1) The sense of possession in things.
(2) The selection and preservation of things as expressing character.
(3) The power of representation in things; a gift may carry a man himself to his friend.
(4) The use of things to indicate feeling. It may be said that God does not really care for things," and that all "things" are already his; that he even refuses sacrifice and offerings, and only asks for men's devotion, love, and trust. But if God permits us to have the sense of possession, and, in ever so limited a sense, to call things our own, we may be sure that he does care for things, because they can do just what our voice in worship can do -
(1) reveal man to him; and
(2) express man's particular emotions to him. We can translate into their fitting meanings other signs than verbal ones; and we can make our acts, our gifts, and our possessions speak his praise, directly, and through others whom we may influence and inspire by the devotion to God of what we have. Then show what our things may be made to express, illustrating from the devotion of our property and acquirements to God's service.
(1) Dependence on the living God, who giveth to us "all things richly to enjoy."
(2) Thanksgiving to him, whose gifts so manifestly pass our deserts.
(3) Consecration of self; for to be acceptable everything must carry to God ourselves - his "living sacrifices."
(4) Zeal in his honour, that keeps us anxious to devote to him our best. Plead - where are our "dedicated things"? Are they worthy of us? Are they worthy of the God whom we love, who has done such great things for us? - R.T.
I. CIVIL SOCIETY AND CIVIL ORDER ARE Or GOD. Jehovah is the supreme Governor, the Lord and King of all. Subordination and obedience are principles in the Divine government. Earthly governments are all imperfect, yet they contain in them elements of Divine significance. "The powers that be are ordained of God;" not that all rulers act righteously, or that there are no cases where resistance is justifiable; but that so far as governments embody the principles of peace and order they have the sanction of the King of kings.
II. IT IS LAWFUL FOR RELIGIOUS MEN TO SERVE IN THE STATE. Just as labour, trade, navigation, etc., are all lawful, and are sanctified by the Word of God and by prayer, so is it with the office of the magistrate, the servant of the state.
III. IT IS FOR THE ADVANTAGE OF ALL PARTIES THAT RELIGIOUS MEN SHOULD TAKE CIVIL OFFICE. For the officers and judges themselves, as the position will enlarge the area of their influence, and promote the soundness of their judgment and the widening of their sympathies. For the subjects generally, who will benefit when Christianity is brought to bear upon the discharge of duties which involve the general interests.
IV. GOOD RULERS SHOULD BE SUPPORTED BY THE CONFIDENCE, CO-OPERATION, AND PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE. We cannot be too thankful when men of Christian character are appointed to public positions. It becomes us, remembering the special dangers and temptations to which such persons are exposed, to plead on their behalf at the throne of grace, that they may be taught by the Holy Spirit to speak the truth fearlessly, to rebuke iniquity, to act righteously, and so to secure the public tranquillity and well-being, and the glory of God. - T.
I. THAT THEY ARE CLEARLY DISTINGUISHABLE, ONE FROM THE OTHER. It is one thing to "serve God" and another thing to "honour the king." We may remember those who have been most devoted courtiers, but indifferent servants of God. "Had I but served my God," etc. (Wolsey). There have been very consecrated men who have lived a life of protest or even of hostility to the "reigning house." Indeed, it may be the bounden duty of a good man to disobey the mandates of his earthly sovereign. The honours we pay to the "noble army of martyrs" are the best witness that we do make this distinction in our minds. It is a possible thing that we may find ourselves citizens of a country where the laws of the land are directly at variance with the will of God. But it is also true -
II. THAT THEY ARE COMMONLY FOUND TO BE CONSISTENT ONE WITH THE OTHER. Happily it is not often the case now that a man has to choose whether he will "love the one and hate the other," etc. Usually both may be honourably and faithfully served at the same time. Indeed, it will be found:
1. That we never serve the king better than when we are actively serving God. To be engaging in Divine worship, and thus encouraging piety and the good morals which are its invariable attendant; to be evangelizing, and thus to be elevating and enriching those who have fallen into sin and vice; to be occupied in any of the thousand forms of philanthropy which distinguish this age of ours; to be thus occupied in the "business of the Lord" is to be taking a very true and useful part in "the service of the king." Indeed, the monarch of a land has no more loyal and serviceable subjects than those whose piety prompts them to "every good word and work" among their fellow-subjects. It may be equally true:
2. That we never serve God more truly than when we are serving the king. With the Jew, patriotism and piety were inseparably united. He who wished to please and honour Jehovah strove to serve Israel. He who injured the people of God was an enemy of the Most High. And so with us. The statesman who is faithfully and conscientiously serving his country may be pleasing and serving God quite as much as the minister in the pulpit, or the writer of sacred hooks at his desk. And not only the statesman who is charged with great and high things: all of us in our humbler ranks, when we join with our fellow-citizens in promoting the welfare of our common country, may be "serving God acceptably." Only, if we wish to enjoy his smile and win his Divine blessing in the act, we must do our work
(2) devoutly. - C.