Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THAT A NOBLE LIFE IS CROWNED BY ONE SUPREME EFFORT AT THE LAST. Thus did Moses crown his illustrious career (Deuteronomy 31-33.). Thus did Joshua worthily close his honourable course (Joshua 23., 24.). So, indeed, we may speak of our Lord himself; for by his passion and his death he wrought for the human race a far greater work than even he had accomplished by all the words and works of his life-ministry. It may well be our ambition to act in this spirit, if we do not adopt this particular method. "So much the more as ye see the day approaching" (Hebrews 10:25).
II. THAT A TRUE AND RIGHTEOUS MAN WILL EARNESTLY CONCERN HIMSELF AS TO THAT WHICH COMES AFTER HIM. David was most solicitous to leave nothing undone that he could do to secure the happiness and well-being of Israel after his death; therefore he convened this great assembly and gave this solemn charge. In the same spirit he adjured them to do the one right thing, in order that, in their turn, they might "leave the good land for an inheritance for their children," etc. (ver. 8). The spirit of indifference respecting the days that will succeed our own is one which the disciples of Jesus Christ should be ashamed to cherish. It is profoundly unchristian; it is as far as it can be from the spirit of him who died that, after and through his death, there might be righteousness, joy, life, upon the earth.
III. THAT AUTHORITY AND AFFECTION GO WELL TOGETHER. "Hear me, my brethren and my people" (ver. 2). The king addresses his people as his brethren; it is in the fulness of his heart that he thus speaks. His soul is filled with an earnest and loving regard for them, and for the nation they represent; hence the affectionate term which he employs. It is well for all who are in authority to assure those whom they direct that they "have them in their heart" as well as in their hand; that they love them as "brethren" while they rule over them as their "people."
IV. THAT IT IS A GREAT THING TO BE WILLING TO SERVE THE LORD, "I had it in my heart to build an house of rest," etc. (ver. 2). "And the Lord said unto David... thou didst well that it was in thine heart" (1 Kings 8:18). When a man purposes, with pure and complete integrity of soul, to do anything for the cause of Christ - to give largely, or to go far afield, or to work devotedly at home, or to spare some loved one, and when the providence of God interposes to prevent, is it not written in the record which is on high, "Thou didst well that it was in thine heart"?
V. THAT IT IS A GREAT THING TO DO WHAT WE CAN WHEN OUR STRONGEST WISHES ARE DENIED. Perhaps it spoke most for the genuine piety of David that, when God said to him, "Thou shalt not build an house for my Name," etc. (ver. 3), he did not cease to "make ready for the building" (ver. 2), but continued to the end to store up all manner of precious things, that his son might have his labour lightened and might do his work with more completeness. So far from sulkily retiring because he could not have the very thing which he desired, David did the thing that he was permitted to do - the laborious but comparatively unhonoured work of preparation - cheer-fully leaving the glory of building to one that should succeed him. How many are there who live in this later and brighter dispensation who might learn a lesson of cheerful continuance in well-doing from this Hebrew king!
VI. THAT MUCH IN HUMAN LIFE IS DECIDED BY THE ELECTING GRACE OF GOD. (Vers. 4-7.) He who chose the tribe, the family, the individual man, for the sovereignty of Israel, now chooses individual souls to be kings among men. By the mental and spiritual endowments he is pleased to bestow, by the teaching and training he is pleased to grant, by the privileges and openings he is pleased to afford, he marks out one rather than another for office, influence, power. He still "chooses our inheritance for us" (Psalm 47:4). Let the fact that he does so condemn pride, ingratitude, and envy.
VII. THAT MUCH IN HUMAN LIFE IS LEFT TO OUR DECISION. "If he be constant,' etc. (Ver. 7.) "Now therefore... keep and seek for all the commandments... that ye may possess," etc. (ver. 8). God proposes and arranges, but not without regard to our response to his invitation, our obedience to his commandments. Nothing in his ordering interferes with the conditions he has imposed. We reap that which we sow. - C.
1 Chronicles 27:16-22; the princes of the divisions which served the king (1 Chronicles 27:1-15); the princes of thousands and hundreds; the chiefs and captains of the twelve army corps (1 Chronicles 27:1); the princes of the domains and possessions of the king (1 Chronicles 27:25-31). The king "stood up upon his feet" to address this assembly. Previously, on account of age and feebleness, he had sat in bed. The first part of David's address we have had previously (1 Chronicles 22:7-13). In the fourth verse he states how his election to be king was of God who had chosen Judah to be ruler, and that in the same way God had chosen Solomon from among his sons to be heir to the kingdom, and had committed to him the building of the temple, and concludes it by exhorting the whole assembly to continue faithful to God. Observe, the blessings of the throne and kingdom are linked to an inseparable condition (ver. 7) - that Solomon be "constant to do my commandments and my judgments." Thus temporal prosperity is inseparably connected with faithfulness to God's truth. Without this neither king nor kingdom, man nor his work, can prosper in the true sense of the word. In this consists real "establishment." What the foundation is to a house God's truth is to a king's throne, and to a man's soul and all his ways. David goes into particulars as to how this is to be done. "Keep and seek for all the commandments of the Lord your God." The soul must hold fast to the truth, must treasure it up within the inmost recesses of its being. This is to keep the truth. And it must "seek for" it - looking out for it in everything as for special treasure, setting the heart on it and gathering it up for use. The degree and earnestness with which we seek for it will depend upon the way in which we "keep what we have gathered. To him that hath shall more be given," is God's universal law in nature and in grace. Keeping is digestion, by which the appetite is stimulated to "seek." Mark, also, it is not seeking some truths or some favourite truths; it is "all the commandments." It is whole-heartedness to the whole truth. Pet doctrines and pet passages make us half-Christians - narrow, one-sided, harsh, and sectarian. It is the heart's preparedness for every message from God that makes a whole Christian - such a one as God would have us all to be. Mark the two results. "That ye may possess this good land." It was one thing for an Israelite to be in the land; it was quite another to possess it. It is one thing to be in Christ; it is quite another to possess so as to make our very own all the treasures of grace and truth that are in Christ. Some Christians, like some Israelites, are all their lives in the land without possessing a foot. Have you life in Christ? "Lay hold on eternal life." Are you one of God's elect? "Make your calling and election sure. Have you that Divine faith that will carry you into the kingdom? Add to your faith," so that you may have an "abundant entrance into the kingdom.' This is to "possess the land." It was Joshua's continued exhortation to Israel; it has need to be ours too. Look at the second result: "And leave it for an inheritance for your children after you for ever." Mark, it. is only those who possess the good land who shall "leave it for an inheritance. It is your half-Christians, your narrow-souled, crooked, unwise Christians, who leave no spiritual influences behind. Their children get soured by the caricature of religion they see in their parents. When parental restraint is over, there are no deep spiritual principles laid in the soul in early life, and they cast off what they feel has been a yoke. As a rule, most parents have to blame themselves for what they mourn over in their children. - W.
2 Samuel 23:1-7) is full of mingled regret and hope; over the scenes of his shame he lingers for a moment sadly, but from them he turns to look up to the faithful God, whom he had ever desired to serve, and assured his heart of the permanence of that everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure. In those closing words the old prophet-power came back to him, and we wish that such sentiments of humility, trust, and joy in God were the only dying utterances of his that had been preserved for us." The occasion of the effort recorded in our text was a public one: the solemn commendation of Solomon to the people, and closing public instructions for Solomon himself. The subject suggested is the moral influence exerted by the aged godly man, who has behind him the varied experiences of a long and checkered life. The importance of the witness of such a man's life, and of such a man's own expression of the results of his life, and of his moods of mind on coming to its close, need to be pointed out, as these may bear on the men of his own age, and as they may bear on the young generation that is growing up to take the place of those who are "passing away." As the treatment of these divisions must directly depend on the feeling and experience of the preacher, we prefer to give only the barest outline, at most suggesting lines along which the development and illustration of each point may run. As far as possible the treatment should be made cheerful and hopeful, the experience of those who see more good than evil in life being preferred.
I. THE OLD MAN'S TESTIMONY CONCERNING LIFE. He will say that he has found it other - but, on the whole, better - than he expected. Contrast the sunny anticipations of the youth with the serious reviews of the aged. A thousand anticipations have never been realized, but more than a thousand good things, of which youth could not have dreamed, have crowned the passing days with beauty and joy. Many an old man speaks brightly of the "good way wherein the Lord his God has led him."
II. THE OLD MAN'S TESTIMONY CONCERNING MAN. Looking back, he can to some extent know himself and judge his fellows. This at least the old man has learned. Man imagines and even purposes more than he can ever accomplish, and he lives, works, and dies with scaffoldings all about which were but beginnings of buildings that were never built. He has to shelter in the great hope that God will accept his purposes. And so God will, if the unwrought schemes were no mere sentimental dreams, but resolves as serious as David's, to build a temple for the Lord his God.
III. THE OLD MAN'S TESTIMONY CONCERNING GOD. He says he is the Wonder-worker who always gets his will over man's. And he is the faithful One, who keeps covenant and fulfils promise, and may be wholly trusted. He says, "I have been young, and now am old, yet have I never seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread." The light of the old men's experience may well brighten and cheer the young men's toil, and make easier the yoke of those who bear the burden and heat of the day. - R.T.
Psalm 99:5; Psalm 132:7; Isaiah 66:1; Lamentations 2:1; Matthew 5:35. We must not imagine that the ark contained God, or that in any sense he dwelt in the ark. He came, in the gracious symbol of the bright cloud, above the ark, between the attendant angel-figures, only resting, as one rests his feet on a footstool, upon the lid of the ark. This lid, from another point of view, is regarded as the propitiatory, or mercy-seat. Some idea of an Eastern throne may aid in the proper realization of this figure. Van Lennep says, "Solomon's throne was" made of ivory, overlaid with the best gold; it had six steps, and the top of the throne was round behind. And there were stays on either side of the place of the seat, and two lions stood beside the stays." It is generally supposed that this description implies a form of chair similar to ours, in which the feet rest upon a stool. There were such chairs in Egypt, and there is a picture of Rameses seated upon a throne, bearing, apparently, a close resemblance to that of Solomon, with the exception of some peculiarly Egyptian emblems. The Assyrian kings also sat upon thrones of this kind. It should, however, be remembered that this mode of sitting has ever been exceptional in the East; and though it cannot be denied that princes sometimes sat in state, after what we call the European mode, yet the analogies of the case favour the supposition that the king's throne was more commonly in the form of a sofa, or divan, upon which he sat cross-legged." It may be well to point out that, in this figure, we have an instance of anthropomorphic representation, or God's way of graciously aiding our apprehension of himself and of his relations, by speaking of himself, or allowing himself to be spoken of, as if he were a man. What is suggested by such figures, rather than the form of the figure, requires our attention. Three things are suggested by the figure on which we are now dwelling.
I. GOD'S FOOTSTOOL IMPLIES THAT GOD IS THERE. Evidently the footstool is in use. David conceives of God as really present, and in his time the "glory-cloud" did rest between the cherubim, and the high priest might even see it on the ark-lid, which is regarded as the footstool. All the interest David felt in building the new temple depended upon his strong assurance that God, as the great King, was "making his abode with them." He wanted the palace to be worthy of the King. Show how this presence of God is now spiritually realized. Our Lord made so much of it in his teaching, even promising that his Father and he would come, and sup with, and dwell with, the open and trusting heart, making it his footstool. Such promises should make us also anxious that the uprising temple of our character and life should be in every way worthy of the indwelling Deity. "Know ye not that ye are the temples of the Holy Ghost, which is in you? '
II. GOD'S FOOTSTOOL IMPLIES THAT HE IS THERE IN CONDESCENSION. This seems a prominent point in the message sent by Isaiah," Heaven is my throne, the earth is my footstool." We think properly of the footstool as having a lowly office, and so easily regard willingness to put a foot upon it as a condescending act. We cannot think any temple we can build is worthy to be God's throne. He must condescend to enter our very noblest. And so of the temple of our character and life, it can be no more than his footstool. "Will God in very deed dwell with man on the earth?" It is wonderful grace that he is found willing to rest upon it his foot.
III. GOD'S FOOTSTOOL IMPLIES THAT GOD IS NOT LIMITED TO THE PLACE WHERE HIS PRESENCE IS APPREHENDED. His throne is not there. Only his foot is there. We must keep the sublime thought that he is above all things, though he fills all things. Show in what senses God may now be thought of as present in our churches. And earnestly impress the need of keeping up the sense of his non-limitation by any human places or human forms. All earth can at best be but a footstool, which he may touch if he will. - R.T.
natural duty; the duty that necessarily attends upon the dependent relation in which he stands towards God. But such is man's deterioration, through sin, that now he needs to be urged to his duty by all kinds of inspiring persuasions.
I. GOD'S GRACIOUS PROMISES ARE A PERSUASION, (Vers. 6, 7.) David urges that those promises rest upon Solomon, and the grace of them should ever lead him to say, "What manner of person ought I to be?" But David realizes that even the promises are conditional upon man's constant, so they always urge to faithfulness.
II. GOD'S PRESENCE IS A PERSUASION. Illustrate the moral influence exerted by the actual presence of the schoolmaster, the farmer, the business man, or the king. "Thou God seest me" ought to be to us, not a terror, but the inspiration to all goodness. For our moral culture no assurance is more important than this: "Certainly I will be with thee."
III. SURROUNDING PEOPLE BECOME A PERSUASION TO EACH ONE. David has this scene enacted publicly that Solomon may feel how every man's expectations and hopes rest on him, and every eye will anxiously watch his career. For others sakes we must be true, obedient, and faithful, for we "are made a spectacle unto men and unto angels."
IV. THE CONDITIONS OF OUR RELATIONS WITH GOD ARE A PERSUASION. Their maintenance depends entirely on our obedience (ver. 9). They are not sovereign relations, but distinctly conditional. It we forsake God, he will cast us off for ever. So the burden of responsibility is made to lie heavily on our own shoulders. We must "take heed;" we must" seek for" and "keep" the commandments of our God, the all-comprehensive commands of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. - R.T.
I. THE NATURE OF EARLY PIETY. It does not consist merely in outward associations or in outward observances.
1. The basis of such piety is knowledge. "Know thou the God of thy. father." Hence the importance of early instruction in religious truth.
2. The substance of such piety is a cheerful service of God. The practical energies of youth need to be employed in doing the Lord's will. Willingness and cheerfulness should characterize all work done for God. It is well that the young should be trained to find their delight in the practical service of their God and Saviour.
II. THE MOTIVES TO EARLY PIETY.
1. The obligation of duty. It is right to "remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth."
2. The assurance of the Lord's perfect knowledge: "For the Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts."
3. The encouragement of promise: "If thou seek him, he will be found of thee." There are many similar assurances in Scripture fitted to encourage the young to seek the God of salvation.
4. The fearful alternative: "If thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever." - T.
1 Chronicles 22:5) kneeling before his father, the outpouring of royal and parental tenderness and solicitude, - everything combines to make the occasion one of greatest interest. And what can be more impressive than the last injunction given by a departing father to the son who is his destined heir: who will, if any one does, carry on his work when he himself is removed? David's supreme desire is that Solomon shall be a faithful servant of God, and do the special work which awaits his care. We are invited to consider -
I. IN WHAT TRUE PIETY CONSISTS. It embraces two things.
1. A practical knowledge of God. "Thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God," etc. And this knowledge of God includes
(1) an intelligent understanding of his nature and his attitude toward the children of men. We must have some mental apprehension of him; we must understand that he is a holy, pure, ever-present, all-observant Spirit; claiming our reverence, love, obedience, and submission; condemning our ingratitude, our departure from himself, our sin; ready to receive, forgive, restore all who return to him in penitence and faith.
(2) A direct, practical acquaintance with him. Such acquaintance as is gained by coming to him in personal approach; by contact of our spirit with his Spirit; by the prayer, the pleading, the surrender, which is not formal but spiritual - not "after the flesh," but from the soul; for "the Lord searcheth all hearts," etc.
2. Continuous spiritual service. "Serve him with a perfect heart and a willing mind." Having found his favour and entered into his kingdom, we must live continuously in his service. We must render this "with a gladsome mind," not constrainedly and as of necessity, not hypocritically, not servilely, but cheerfully and heartily - the obedience of love, of those who are satisfied if he is pleased. This our service is (1) to be lifelong; (2) to cover all the particulars of our life, extending to all our human relationships and all our various spheres of activity.
II. WHAT POWERFUL INDUCEMENTS WE HAVE TO DEVOTE OURSELVES AT ONCE TO GOD. These are four in number.
1. Strong filial considerations urge us to do so. David pleaded with Solomon to" know the God of his father." The young prince must have felt that if he gave his life to the service of God, he would be
(1) delighting the heart of his beloved father, and
(2) treading closely in his honoured parent's footsteps; in both ways acting worthily and "as became his father's son." The same or similar considerations should be potent and prevalent with ourselves.
2. By so doing we may hope to accomplish great things. Solomon had the prospect of "building a house for the sanctuary." We may not anticipate such an achievement, but we may hope to do good and even great things for our God and our race, if we devote our whole powers from the beginning to the service of Christ. We may
(1) influence, during a long course, many hundreds or even thousands of souls for good;
(2) help many a good and beneficent work;
(3) render invaluable aid to some one useful cause or Church.
3. Honest and persevering effort to find his favour is certain to be rewarded with success. "If thou seek him, he will be found of thee" (see Matthew 7:7-11).
4. Neglected opportunity has a disastrous end. "If thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever." Those who in youth are conscious of the heavenly call, but who give not heed to the voice Divine and to parental earnestness, but yield to the lower and ignobler impulses, enter on a course of folly and sin, which too often runs on to an evil end, to a life without nobility and without achievement, to a death without hope, to a future without the joy of home. - C.
as his father David had experienced. It is this deeper knowledge of God that is spoken of in the New Testament. St. Paul, though he knew Christ well, still says, "That I may know him." However much we know there is always more to be known. It is this knowledge of him that our Lord refers to when he says (John 7:17), "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine." There is a knowledge of Christ as the Saviour from sin; there is a still further knowledge which springs from obedience in all things to his will. But David continues, "And serve him with a perfect heart and a willing mind." Mark here, service and the character of it depend on the knowledge of God, and this knowledge a deepening one. This is ever the Divine order. All the graces of the Christian character act and react on each other. True knowledge ever begets service, and faithful service deepens real knowledge. But there are always two conditions attached to real knowledge and true service, viz. "A perfect heart and a willing mind." A perfect, or as the word means, an "undivided" heart, is one that is whole-hearted. Not "a heart within a heart" which God hates. Not a heart that will follow and serve the Lord when it is convenient but not when it is inconvenient. Not "in season" only, but also "out of season." Next to this is a "willing mind," or a mind that desires only that which will please God. A mind that will say always and in everything, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" A heart devoted and a will given up - this is what David means, and this is what God asks for. David enforces this by the statement of God's omniscience. Solomon might deceive men by having the outer life fair, while inwardly the other might be lacking, but he could not deceive God; and to him Solomon and every man will have eventually to render account. David further enforces these words by a solemn warning: "If thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever. Take heed now." It reminds us of Paul's solemn words to Timothy: "Take heed to thyself, and to the doctrine; continue in them: for in so doing thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee." The soul must be watched and kept, and then the doctrine will be sound. If we seek the Lord he will ever be found; but if we turn our backs on him, then we shall experience that spiritual darkness and misery within that will be practically, though to one saved in the Lord may never be judicially, a casting off from God. Though a true believer may never fall from God, he may fall from the grace of God; and this, though not judicial, is yet practical and experimental exclusion from God. David enjoins Solomon to "take heed" because he is "chosen." It is the dignity conferred that demands the responsibility and gives the power to rule. Is it not so with men put into high places over our land? Before men get into office, what do they not say? and how do they not act? But when they are in office the dignity controls and directs, and gives wisdom and judgment. So is it in the Divine ]tie. God's grace chooses a man, makes him one of his children, puts upon him the highest dignity, and thus he possesses a motive power for holiness which nothing else can give him. David's final words to Solomon at the close of this chapter are equally solemn and suggestive. "Be strong and of good courage, and do it: fear not, nor be dismayed." What a string of holy exhortations! On what are they built? On God's presence with his people; "for the Lord God, even my God, will be with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee, until thou hast finished all the work for the service of the house of the Lord." God's presence is the believer's joy; it is also his strength and power for work. The expression "my God" reminds us again of Paul: "My God shall supply all your need." It was the personal and experimental acquaintance with God's unchanging love and faithfulness, and that alone, which gave to David and Paul such confidence, and made them speak thus. But Solomon might have said, as many others often say, "These are precious promises and encouragements, and I am but 'young and tender,' and the work is so great; how shall I get the means, and who will help me, and how shall I know they will be ready and willing?" These and a thousand other questions rise up in the soul when God sets a clear path before us, or a plain duty. How often we stand, we hesitate! We are already taking one step back. God comes in again to strengthen our faltering faith. "The priests and Levites shall be with thee,... and there shall be with thee every willing and skilful man,... the princes and all the people will be wholly at thy commandment." What a promise - "All things are yours"! So it is always. Having the Lord with us, we shall have everything else: "life and death, things present and things to come," yea, "all things are ours." How completely every question of the soul is met from the unchanging faithfulness and love of our God! - W.
1 Samuel 16:7; Psalm 7:9; Psalm 139:2; Jeremiah 11:20; Jeremiah 17:10; Jeremiah 20:12. The expressions of the text suggest the accuracy and intimacy of the Divine knowledge of men's affairs. Apprehend God rightly, and his interest in us fills us with grateful surprise. Illustrate David's feeling, "When I consider thy heavens... what is man that thou art mindful of him?" Solomon's, "Will God in very deed dwell with man on the earth?" Isaiah's, "To whom then will ye liken God?... He giveth power to the faint," etc. See the Divine interest:
1. In the spheres of natural life; i.e. in us as beings. He is near as Creator, Sustainer, Provider. Birth, preservation, and death are all his.
2. In the spheres of associated life; i.e. as beings in relations. Government, family, and Church are all under his Divine inspections.
3. In the spheres of mental life; i.e. as intellectual beings. All movements of mind he presides over.
4. In the spheres of spiritual life; i.e. as moral beings. God knows and watches all unfoldings of character and religion. All spheres are accessible to him. "All things are naked and open to the eyes of him with whom we have to do." Dwell on the subtlety of the human heart; its labyrinths and hiding-places and self-deceivings. How imperfect, at its best, is a man's own knowledge of his heart! How impossible it is for one man to know the intricate workings of the heart of another man! Searching the heart is required, that its subtle evils may be discovered. But all depends on who it is that does the searching work, and with what aim and purpose the searching is done.
I. GOD CAN SEARCH THE HUMAN HEART. He can, for he designed it, and knows all its possibilities. He can, for he has never let it slip away from his observation and. control, and so all its "latent mazes" he knows, and all its wilfulnesses he controls.
II. GOD SEARCHES THE HUMAN HEART WITH A DEFINITE AND GRACIOUS PURPOSE. Even its deliverance from evil and perfecting in holiness. This purpose makes good men regard the Divine searching as a most precious thing. In view of it David can pray, "Search me, O God." He feels, "God does not know me as a mere ordinary matter of knowledge. He is graciously and lowngly interested in me, and so he knows me helpfully, that he may adapt his grace to my various and subtle needs." This personal interest in our highest good, which gives tone to his searching, is brought home to our hearts by the tender interest shown in humanity, and in individuals of humanity, by the God-Man, the Lord Jesus Christ. We feel that we never can resist his searching us through and through, and knowing us altogether. The close inspections of God may be:
1. A terror to us. Illustrate the influence of the words, "Thou God seest me," sometimes on little children. They are even used to frighten them into goodness. Compare Jacob's, "How dreadful is this place!" From Job, Isaiah, and John we learn that solemnity and awe should always attend the consciousness of God's near presence.
2. It may be a real practical help to us, as David expected it to be to Solomon, He who knows us so well, does not only know; he also gives strength. David, who trembles at God's searchings, can only say, "It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect."
3. It may be cherished as our holiest joy. No harm can come to us, for God's eye and hand are always on us. No good thing can fail us, for God knows all our real wants. Our Lord taught so often about the intimate knowledge and care of the heavenly Father, who keeps the sparrows, clothes the grass, watches over the seeds, paints the lilies, waves the harvests, and knows that we are of more value than flowers or sparrows. Show that this truth, of God's knowledge and heart-searchings, bears upon men's tendency to self-deception. It is only possible to sin on when we have deluded ourselves into the idea that "God doth not see." - R.T.
I. CARRYING OUT DIVINE DIRECTIONS. David formally entrusted to his son "the pattern of all that he had by the Spirit "(ver. 12) - " all that the Lord made him understand°" etc. (ver. 19); particulars of the temple furniture, which was to be made after the mind and according to the will of him who was to be worshipped in its "most holy-place." When we enter upon any great enterprise for God, whether we "arise and build," or whether we go forth and preach, or whether we organize and establish, we must seek to act according to Divine instructions. But we must not now look for patterns, but for principles. In our New Testament we have the broad principles of all holy action, of all Christian association, of all missionary enterprise. These are not far from sight, and if we honestly and earnestly seek them, we shall find them and may apply them.
II. GAINING DIVINE HELP. "The Lord God will be with thee... he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee" (ver. 20). If we proceed in a devoted and prayerful spirit, we may claim these words as applicable to ourselves. We want, and can secure:
1. The inspiration which will prompt us to faithful work.
2. The effectuating power which will make our work succeed and endure.
3. The upholding grace which will carry us through all difficulties to the end.
III. SECURING HUMAN CO-OPERATION. Solomon would receive
(1) help in material from the rich stores of his father (vers. 13-18);
(2) the sympathy and assistance of
(a) priests and Levites,
(b) skilful workmen,
(c) the people generally, from the prince to the peasant (ver. 21).
We must not aspire to do God's work alone; it is in every way better that we should share the privilege and the responsibility with others. It is so for our own sake, for theirs, and also for the sake of the more perfect accomplishment of the work itself. We may ask and accept aid in material and in men; from those whose special function it is to render service in sacred things ("priests and Levites"), and those who are not thus professionally obligated; from those who are "skilful" as well as "willing" (ver. 20), and from those who are willing but have skill to acquire, who will gain something of skilfulness in Christian work by taking a humble part in the work in hand; from those who are "princes" in social station and religious reputation, and from those who only belong to the "common people;" from all who are willing, and who will act, and thus learn to act more perfectly.
IV. MAINTAINING OUR SPIRITUAL STRENGTH. "Be strong and of good courage" (ver. 20). We want the strength which accompanies courage. Timidity is weak; fearlessness is strong. And courage is not merely a matter of strong nerves; when of the noblest order, it is the outcome of spiritual excellency; it is the fruit of faith in God. "Be strong and of good courage" means this: maintain your integrity before God; abide in Jesus Christ, that his Spirit may abide in you (John 15:4); nourish the sustaining assurance that God is with you, to befriend and inspire you; go forth and hold on in the strength of the Strong and in the wisdom of the Wise, and you will not fail nor be discouraged. "They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength," etc. (Isaiah 40:31). - C.
breath of God. And, lastly, it is through the "hand of the Lord laid upon us that the Word becomes effectual and operative. As David handed the patterns to Solomon, so should these be the patterns handed down now, through the Word and the Spirit, and applied with power by the hand" of the Lord. Solomon could not lay a single stone, nor make a single beam, nor deviate one hair's breadth from this pattern thus handed to him. No more may we. There is one truth more in this narrative. It is a very precious one. It is brought before us in the fourteenth verse, and again in 1 Chronicles 29:2-5. "Gold for things of gold, and silver for things to be made of silver, brass for things of brass, iron for things of iron, and wood for things of wood." In other words, whatever golden things were needed, David had the gold provided for them; or whatever things of silver, brass, iron, or wood, David had the silver, brass, iron, and wood ready for them. It is so still in the Church of Christ as well as in the individual Christian's own history. What is our need? Do we occupy a golden position, or one of iron or wood? In Christ, the true David, there is the fulness to meet it. There is all we need for every position, every duty, every want, every hour of need. These needs may be great or small, lofty or lowly, corresponding to the "gold" or the "wood;" but he has exactly what is suited to meet the emergency or the need, whatever it may be: "My God shall supply all your need out of his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." How truly the teaching of the New Testament is contained in the Old! - W.
I. THE PLAN OF EVERY GREAT AND GOOD WORK IS FROM GOD. That is, so far as it is good and great. There is human ignorance and human folly discernible in many noble enterprises; but the impulse of piety or benevolence to which they owe their being is from above. This is so either, as probably in the case before us, from a direct inspiration, or, as is usually the case, in a more ordinary manner. The inspiration of the Almighty giveth man understanding; and every high and holy purpose, every inspiriting truth and influence, should be traced up to the Giver of every good gift and every perfect gift.
II. SUCH PLANS SHOULD THEN BE FORMED WITH REVERENCE AND WITH PRAYER. If we would have the Spirit's guidance, we must ourselves be "filled with the Spirit;" we must seek his teaching in humility and docility of heart.
III. SUCH PLANS SHOULD BE CARRIED OUT WITH EARNESTNESS, AND WITH A LOWLY DEPENDENCE UPON THE GRACE AND AID OF GOD. In these respects the kings of Israel, who were concerned in the erection of the temple, stand before us as a bright example. It is only as all our works are "begun, continued, and ended" in God, that we can justly hope for blessing and prosperity. - T.
I. A VIEW OF LIFE AS PRACTICAL AND STRENUOUS SERVICE. There is work for all true and loyal hearts, for all willing, active hands. We are all, as Christians, builders in the house, the temple, of the most high God. The edifice of our life and happiness, our influence and usefulness, is not to rise by chance or magic; it is to be reared by our own labour and diligence, our own perseverance and prayers. What dignity, beauty, and interest are lent to our life by the conviction that we are building in the Lord's house I Whether our life be public or private, whether our sphere of influence be home, or profession, or business; whether our relations to others be official or social, - we may all be builders under God.
III. ADMONITION AND ENCOURAGEMENT TO FULFIL LIFE'S WORK. As David spoke to his son in terms of fatherly sympathy and good cheer, so let the elder encourage the younger in the service of their God and Saviour.
1. Observe the disposition which is to be avoided. "Fear not, nor be dismayed." Some minds are naturally timorous. A nervous temperament, a diffident habit of mind, depressing circumstances, may account for this. Some are ever in dread of adversaries; others are more apprehensive of their own weakness and insufficiency. Accordingly, Scripture contains many dissuasives from timidity and faint-heartedness. "Fear not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God?"
2. Observe the disposition to be fostered. "Be strong and of good courage." To many of his servants, placed in critical positions, has the supreme Lord addressed such admonitions. "Be strong and of a good courage," Jehovah had said to Joshua and to Israel, in the prospect of their entering upon Canaan as their inheritance. A courageous heart can do wonders; it can ever bear up a feeble body, contend with adverse circumstances, defy malignant opposition. We are not taught to place confidence in ourselves, but we are taught not to shrink from duty because of our felt inadequacy. Strength comes with a brave heart, a fixed resolution, a calm confidence in Divine grace and aid.
3. Observe the admonition to action. "Do it." David had prepared for the building of the temple; it was for his son to carry out the plans which had been made. It is for us all, as followers of Christ, not to dream or to purpose, but to act. We are gifted with active powers, and are called to an active life. "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might."
III. PROMISE TO ANIMATE THE TRUE-HEARTED WORKER. Mere admonition and advice from fellow-men is insufficient. The question of practical moment for us, in our endeavours to serve, is this - Is there help from above? We have the answer in the text.
1. Divine presence and aid are assured. "The Lord God will be with thee." How far better than the presence and counsel even of a faithful earthly friend, a judicious earthly father I "Vain is the help of man." But "if God be for us, who can be against us?'
2. The same God who has been the dwelling-place of his people in all generations, is our God. It is very significant that David says, "Even my God." The memory of former interpositions, of the great works which God did in the days of our fathers, should hearten and cheer and comfort us. He is neither an unknown nor an untried God.
3. He will not fail or forsake his people until their work is finished. Other helpers may fail us, may be summoned from earth, or may prove unfaithful. We may fear lest God himself should depart from us. But he is faithful to all his promises. "The mountains may depart," etc. Solomon enjoyed the countenance, protection, and guidance of Cod until the temple was completed. God only knows what our life-work is to be; but we may all be assured that, if he has entrusted to us any service, he will not withdraw from us, he will not abandon our undertaking, until his purpose is fulfilled, until our work is done.
1. Let every hearer of the gospel obey the call, and enter without delay upon the Lord's work.
2. Let God's servants who are dismayed by difficulties and a sense of insufficiency betake themselves to the Word of God and to prayer. - T.
my God. The work of Christ is, in great part, the bringing about of this relation, and the persuasion of the man to recognize it fully. Man lost says, "I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, and hid myself. Man redeemed, and standing right with God, says, I flee unto thee to hide me. For thou art my God.
I. How CAN GOD BE THUS PERSONALLY APPREHENDED?
1. By accepting the revelation of his fatherhood which he makes in Christ the Son, and entering into the privilege and duty which it involves.
2. By winning the trustful, thankful love of those who know they are forgiven and redeemed.
3. By maintaining those close and intimate communions with God which bring freshly to us the joy of his care.
II. WHAT IS INVOLVED IN SUCH PERSONAL RELATIONS?
1. On God's part. Just what God loves, and what he is sure to meet with the fullest bestowments of his grace, is man's love and trust expressed in the words my God.
2. On man's part. The relation becomes the most hallowing force exerted on the whole life. The man wants to be worthy of, wants to be like, his God.
III. WHAT MAY IMPERIL SUCH RELATIONS AFTER THEY HAVE BEEN APPREHENDED? This may be treated in detail, or in the general principle. To say, my God," involves maintaining the trustfulness of full and obedient submission; and, therefore, the peril lies in some returning form of wilfulness. This separates us at once, in feeling, from God, so that the words "my God" will not rise to our lips. - R.T.