Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. Observe his NAME. Scripture names are often significant. This was given by the mother, in token and memory of the sorrow in which she bore her son. "In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children," was the primeval sentence upon the mother of mankind. Yet, as Christ reminds us, it is usually the case that a mother "remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world." The mother of Jabez did not forget, and accordingly named the child in memory of her pains.
II. Observe his PRAYER. It is an interesting fact that we know some Scripture characters chiefly by their prayers. Thus we know Agur as having besought the Lord, "Give me neither poverty nor riches." And we know Jabez by the comprehensive petition which he is recorded to have presented to Heaven.
1. It was a prayer to a covenant God - the God of Israel.
2. It was a prayer for blessing; i.e. for good as the expression of Divine favour and approbation.
3. It was a prayer for prosperity; "Enlarge my coast." We know nothing of Jabez's way of life, whether he was a husbandman, or a warrior, or a ruler; but it is clear that he asked for enlargement of means, or authority, or territory, etc.
4. It was a prayer for strength: "That thy hand might be with me."
5. It was a prayer for safety and purity. The evil from which this good man would fain be kept was, probably, both temporal and spiritual. How suitable a petition for us all!
6. It was a prayer for freedom from sorrow. If disasters should befall him, or if he should be tempted to apostasy or sin, such a fate would be fraught with grief to his heart.
III. Observe THE ANSWER to his prayer. The petition was large, but it was offered to a King, who was the rather pleased with its magnitude. There was no hesitation, no withholding. A lesson this as to God's willingness to hear and answer the supplications of his people.
IV. Observe HIS HONOUR AMONGST MEN. Who the brethren of Jabez were we know not. The verse contains nothing in disparagement of their character or position. But Jabez was more honourable than they. The Lord is wont to honour those who honour him. Jabez acknowledged God as the Source of his prosperity, and God rewarded Jabez, by raising him to a position of authority and esteem in his family and amongst his countrymen. - T.
Jabez we have only this brief record. He is only known by his prayer. Yet the prayer is a sufficient revelation of the man. His character is revealed in it, as is the character of every man to him who is able to read man's prayers aright. His name means "He causes pain," and it was attached to him on account of his mother's sufferings at his birth; but it is designed to seal a certain gentleness, lack of vigour and self assertion, and almost melancholy tone, which characterized his whole life. From the occurrence of the same name in 1 Chronicles 2:55, it has been assumed that this Jabez was the founder of the schools of colleges of the scribes. The date at which he lived cannot be fixed with certainty. Possibly the sorrow of Jabez's birth was, that his mother lost her husband when she gained her son. If so, she might well name her fatherless boy "Sorrowful. Yet he rose above the sadness of his birth; he belied his very name by becoming more honourable than his brethren. The shadow which had fallen upon his birth was dispelled by the uprightness, the nobility, the God-fearing, the prayerful spirit of his life. And God made to rest on him gracious signs of his acceptance. Regarding the prayer as giving indications of the character of Jabez, we may see -
I. THAT JABEZ WAS HUMBLE. Estimate the tone of the prayer. He has such a sense of personal helplessness, and such a trembling fear of responsibility, that he asks for guidance and keeping, and the true enrichment of the Divine blessing. He prays for strength, preservation, success, and blessing, as though a very deep sense of his own weakness and insufficiency rested upon him. Such humility" is the marked feature of every truly good and great and wise man; and it is sure to find its fullest expression when, for purposes of prayer, he goes into the presence of God. Illustrate from Abraham's intercession for Sodom, Solomon's prayer at the dedication of the temple, and Daniel's and Nehemiah's prayers for their nation. And, combined with other characteristics, the same "humility" is found in our Lord's great intercessory prayer; and we know that it was a marked and striking feature of his beautiful life. Such "humility" is a first and essential characteristic of acceptable prayer; and the attitude of kneeling is the bodily expression of it.
II. THAT JABEZ WAS INTELLIGENT AND THOUGHTFUL. The prayer shows that he had formed a sensible estimate of life. To him it was a scene of toil and struggle and evil; it seemed to be full of work, duties, responsibilities, cares, and trusts; and for it all he recognized the need of a guiding and upholding hand. Illustrate by our Lord's figure of the man who proposed to build, sitting down first and counting the cost. The man may discover no need for prayer who rushes heedlessly into life, only intending to do the best he can under the various circumstances that may arise. But he who looks thoughtfully out over life, and intelligently anticipates its duties and cares, will be sure to feel the importance and helpfulness of prayer, and, with Jabez, will turn to God, saying, "Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed!" Compare Moses praying, "If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence;" and Joshua's resolve, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
III. THAT JABEZ WAS, IN A GOOD SENSE, AMBITIOUS. His piety did not crush down the high imaginations and glowing hopes of his young heart. He prays God to help him "enlarge his coast," or landed estate; to extend his possessions, to increase his wealth, and to advance his influence. Religion seeks to sanctify our ambitions, but not to crush them. We may pray to God about our plans and schemes for worldly advancement, if only we keep the spirit of full loyalty to God and submission to his will; and to pray freely and constantly about our common human affairs is the best way to ensure our winning and keeping the right spirit whatever we may attain.
IV. THAT JABEZ WAS HAPPY. In spite of the melancholy tone that was on him; in spite of the sorrow clinging to him from his birth. This ensures our happiness - the accomplishment of our life-aims, when those aims are right ones. "God granted Jabez that which he requested." He had:
1. Success in life given him, so that he might add field to field, and become "more honourable than his brethren."
2. Evil warded off from him. In "going out and coming in," the preserving hand of God kept him safe.
3. God's blessing sanctifying his successes; by that term meaning the satisfying and comforting sense of the Divine approval and acceptance. It may be impressed that such a prayer indicates the personal piety of Jabez, and suggests that he made a full consecration of himself to the God of his fathers in early life. Plead for such a wholehearted decision, and such a spirit of prayerfulness, on the very threshold of life. It is well if, before the foot falls on the first step of life, the heart goes up to God, saying, "Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed!" - R.T.
as a man of prayer; famous for the directness and simplicity of his appeal to God and for the success attending it. Probably he gave his name to Jabez, the town mentioned in 1 Chronicles 2:55, as Bethlehem, Ephratah, Tekoa, and many named in these genealogies did. If so - and the identity of several names in the respective genealogies, and the singular eminence and honour of the man, give great weight to supposition - then we know something of his ancestry and something of his descendants. Of his ancestry; for then 1 Chronicles 2:55 makes him a Kenite, and a descendant of Jonadab the son of Rechab, one of the early sect described in Jeremiah 35., who, probably called into existence by the testimony of Elijah, cultivated simplicity of creed, rejecting all idolatry; simplicity of life, dwelling in tents; simplicity of food, drinking neither wine nor strong drink. A sect ready to help Jehu in his reformation (2 Kings 12:15, 16); respected by those who could not copy them; blessed and honoured by God. And we know something of his descendants; for he was in that case the founder of the school of scribes, who did so much in the later centuries of Jewish national history to revive and maintain the purer worship of God. A sect of married monks, whose only vow was simplicity of life, they seemed to exemplify all the advantages derivable from special callings, consecration, and brotherhood, while free from all their defects. Their earnest faith turned them to the Bible as the best preservative of a people from error. And their simple tent-life gave them leisure. Probably Jabez was a sort of William Tyndale of his generation, bent on giving his people the Bible in their homes. Tyndale by translation, Jabez merely by transcription, both gave the priceless treasure to multitudes who before had lacked it. Assuming these things, there are some lessons from his character and from his prayer that are worth observing.
I. FIRST, A GOOD SOIL HELPS TO MAKE A GOOD PLANT. In all self-denial there is advantage. Power of will, energy of purpose, security against temptation, are all furthered by it. These early total abstainers had some of the vigour marking the class in all ages. The poet had not in their case to lament that "the days of simple living and high thinking were no more." But there they were. The John the Baptists of their time in simplicity of life and profundity of thought and faith. The home moulds the child. Let your children find in their parents' life purity, brightness, love, and they will more easily copy it. Like as Milton and Cromwell rose among the Puritans, so Jabez rose among the Rechabites. Observe -
II. SOME LIVES BEGIN IN GREAT SORROW THAT LEAVE BEHIND THEM GREAT JOY. What the mother's grief was we do not know. It may have been unusual pain and danger at his birth. It may have been (the father is not mentioned) that she lost her husband before she bore her child. And the melancholy of her heart made her despair of any brightness, and give her boy (an unfair thing to do) a depressing name. It is possible, too, that some sorrow may have arisen out of this prayer. If it did, we may observe that a dull morning often opens into a bright day. The early life may be obscure, pressed with disadvantages, all uphill, and yet we may reach a stately usefulness and comfort.
"The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, III. LOOK AT HIS PRAYER. There are many points about it worthy of remark. 1. That whatever touched his life he took it to his God. 2. That he blends in his prayer the requests for moral and the outward mercies which make up well-being. "That thou wouldest bless me indeed," is probably a prayer for highest spiritual mercies; for God's smile, God's grace, forgiveness, peace. "And enlarge my coast." This was prayer for outward advantage. Large lands not needed for their simple living; probably they were needed only for the increasing number of disciples. "That thy hand may be with me" seems again a spiritual petition; a prayer for guidance pre-eminently, and for God's aid. The worldly don't want God's hand with them; it is apt to stop the flow of their purposes and schemes. But the devout want God to be a partner in all their business. "And to keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me." Here is an illusion to his name. And probably the prayer means, "Disappoint a mother's fears, and let not harm overtake me." In estimating aright the worth of this prayer, the following suggestion may be of value: - Only those prayers are vital and real which, like this, combine requests for outward and inward good. When you pray, say," Give us daily bread, and forgive us our debts." If you omit to ask for the bread, you may be pretty sure it is not the greatness of your spirituality that omits the request, but only the littleness of your faith, which makes you imagine God can do nothing so substantial as bless you in your common needs. What is wanted by all of us is goodness rather than spirituality, and a religion of common life rather than a strained, unnatural pietism. Jabez had grand faith that God ruled in common life, was lowly enough to bless him, and to help him in his work. Observe, lastly - IV. THE LORD'S ANSWER. It came to him. Came so palpably that all could see it, that it was a matter of history, that it taught others that they had a Friend above, and led them to the throne of grace. Blessed is the circle in which somebody prays! Pray on. You will not need to proclaim the answers you receive; your neighbours will see it for themselves. And your prayer will thus be doubly blessed. It will secure for you the good you desire, and will guide many another to the throne of the heavenly grace, to get there the blessings which they require. - G.
III. LOOK AT HIS PRAYER. There are many points about it worthy of remark.
1. That whatever touched his life he took it to his God.
2. That he blends in his prayer the requests for moral and the outward mercies which make up well-being. "That thou wouldest bless me indeed," is probably a prayer for highest spiritual mercies; for God's smile, God's grace, forgiveness, peace. "And enlarge my coast." This was prayer for outward advantage. Large lands not needed for their simple living; probably they were needed only for the increasing number of disciples. "That thy hand may be with me" seems again a spiritual petition; a prayer for guidance pre-eminently, and for God's aid. The worldly don't want God's hand with them; it is apt to stop the flow of their purposes and schemes. But the devout want God to be a partner in all their business. "And to keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me." Here is an illusion to his name. And probably the prayer means, "Disappoint a mother's fears, and let not harm overtake me." In estimating aright the worth of this prayer, the following suggestion may be of value: - Only those prayers are vital and real which, like this, combine requests for outward and inward good. When you pray, say," Give us daily bread, and forgive us our debts." If you omit to ask for the bread, you may be pretty sure it is not the greatness of your spirituality that omits the request, but only the littleness of your faith, which makes you imagine God can do nothing so substantial as bless you in your common needs. What is wanted by all of us is goodness rather than spirituality, and a religion of common life rather than a strained, unnatural pietism. Jabez had grand faith that God ruled in common life, was lowly enough to bless him, and to help him in his work. Observe, lastly -
IV. THE LORD'S ANSWER. It came to him. Came so palpably that all could see it, that it was a matter of history, that it taught others that they had a Friend above, and led them to the throne of grace. Blessed is the circle in which somebody prays! Pray on. You will not need to proclaim the answers you receive; your neighbours will see it for themselves. And your prayer will thus be doubly blessed. It will secure for you the good you desire, and will guide many another to the throne of the heavenly grace, to get there the blessings which they require. - G.
I. THREE FEATURES OF HIS LIFE. We learn that:
1. It was begun in special sorrow. His mother called him Jabez because she "bare him with sorrow." Possibly his father had died before his birth, or their estate may have been so reduced as to make another child seem a burden rather than a blessing.
2. It was characterized by special piety. He made his future the subject of earnest prayer to God; he earnestly desired that God would bless him in all his doings, that the Divine hand might be upon him; he evidently believed and felt that all things were ruled and overruled by the Lord himself. He "committed his way unto the Lord."
3. It was crowned with special peace and honour. "God granted him that which he requested" (ver. 10). He was "more honourable than his brethren" - had a larger estate, was held in higher esteem, attained to greater eminence. God did "keep him from the evil" from which he sought Divine deliverance, and it did "not grieve him." He did "enlarge his coast." Peace and honour were his portion in an unusual degree. His life must have had its shadow as well as its sunshine, but it was brighter with earthly honour and less clouded with worldly troubles than are the lives of most men.
II. THE LESSONS WE MAY GLEAN THEREFROM. We learn:
1. That that which has an unpromising beginning may stand among the best. How little did the mother of Jabez imagine that the child of her sorrow would have so honourable a career! The most successful and even glorious enterprise may be begun in weakness and in trembling of heart. That which was once only a small gathering in a back slum has grown into a magnificent and beneficent institution. They that sow in tears may reap in joy. If God prosper a human life or a good cause, its early insignificance will prove of small account. Many a time the widow's child, for whom it has been hard to find food and education, has grown to be a man of weight and honour, filling a large space and doing a great work in the world.
2. That it is right to ask God for material blessings in the hope of obtaining them. These were earthly favours which Jabez asked for, and which he received of God - enlargement of his estate, immunity from trouble and loss, etc. We have no authority for asking God for wealth or immunity from sorrow with a positive assurance that we shall have those things. We do not know that they will suit us; it is quite possible, or even probable, that they would prove the very worst things we could have. But we may ask God for temporal blessings, in the hope of receiving them, if we ask in a subject spirit, desiring him to withhold from us what he knows it would be best to keep back. We are to pray for daily bread; that "his hand may be with us;" that he will be with us in our going out and our coming in.
3. That God is never served in vain. God granted Jabez that which he requested. He may not give us our heart's desires in the form in which we cherish them. The "cup" did not "pass from" the Saviour, but he "was heard in that he feared" (Hebrews 5:7). God has ways of blessing us of which we have little thought when we are on our knees. But if we ask we shall have - if not sooner, later; if not in our way, in his better way. - C.
1 Chronicles 2:55). We have seen the pre-eminence given to the tribe of Judah on account of its connection with the promised Christ. Before tracing further the genealogy of the sons of Israel, an entire chapter is devoted to the family of David. This is just as it should be - still further prominence being given to every one and everything that foreshadowed the true David, the Lord Jesus Christ. The line of David is drawn all through the third chapter, through a succession of good and bad monarchs. The Lord's eye is on his beloved Son; and the stream that leads to him winds its way through wastes and stagnant pools and dark morasses lying on either side - everything marked which in any way stands connected with it, but beyond this as unworthy of notice. We can now devote attention to one of God's children in particular, and recorded in this chapter - Jabez. In the midst of a genealogy of some extent, the Spirit of God singles one out for notice, and lingers over it with delight. It is a bright gem on an apparently hard and uninteresting surface shining with brilliancy. It is a name, however, fully confirming all we have hitherto referred to. It would have no notice in the inspired Word but for what there is of God in it. We know much of God in Jabez, very little of who or what he was. Of what he was in relation to the world, in relation to his fellow-men, or to society, or to business, we know little. Of what he was to God there is much said and much known. What matters the rest? We may be sure that was all right. For if men are right towards Christ we may take the rest for granted. It is this that gave Jabez a name in heaven. This made him worthy of a record in the Book of God. But for this he would have been unnoticed and unknown. And what is said of him? "Jabez was more honourable than his brethren: and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, Because I bare him with sorrow." God's sorrowing ones are generally God's more honourable ones. It is through sorrow we reach our joys. "Ye now therefore have sorrow, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy." It is God's order - sorrow the portal to joy. The darkness first, then the light; tribulation here, then the kingdom; discipline here, then the glory. God's secret place is darkness. The pavilion round about him are "dark waters and thick clouds " - the dark waters of sorrow, the thick clouds of baffling enigma and unfathomable mystery. But inside this pavilion of darkness and cloud there is always a brightness (Psalm 18:11, 12). This brightness is the unchanging love of him who is "the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person." Under his shadow the dark waters and thick clouds will all in due time disperse. Yes, every thick cloud and every dark waterflood will melt before his love, who is "the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever." Before the air can be cleared and the calm stillness of nature be felt, the thunder-clouds must gather and the lightning-flash be seen. The stillness of nature comes heralded by tokens of terror. It is the order of God, both in nature and grace. We see the darkness first, and call it "Jabez." We meet with bereavement and write "Jabez" upon it, though God makes it a blessed means of drawing us to fix our affections on a world that can never pass away. We meet with disappointment and vexation and worry, and write "Jabez" upon one thing after another. Yet all these things come out, in the wonder-working of God's providence, in the deep riches of his grace, as dealings "more honourable," as blessings in disguise. They are the discipline of his hand, bringing glory to him and blessing to our own souls.
"Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
I. Mark the first line of his prayer: "Oh that thou wouldest BLESS ME INDEED!" He needs the blessing of his covenant God. He pleads for it. He pleads earnestly. It is real prayer. It is such prayer God bears, such prayer he loves to hear and to answer. But oh] there is many a blessing which may not be a blessing "indeed. Of this Jabez is aware. He asks not for a blessing, but a blessing indeed - for that which will be a real blessing. He asks not for that which may come in the form of a blessing and in the end prove a curse. He asks for that to come which will be a real, permanent, abiding blessing. Let it come in what shape it may. That, Lord, I leave to thee. Let it come in darkness or in light, in suffering and sorrow or in health and gladness, in the abundance of wealth or the desolation of poverty - any way as best may seem to thee, Lord; only let it be a blessing to me, a blessing 'indeed.'" Ah, this is prayer, and the right sort of prayer. There was something like it, only in an infinitely higher degree, in the Garden of Gethsemane: "Father, thy will be done." There was just this difference between the Son of God in the bosom of the Father and those who are sons of God only by adoption. He did not need the strengthening angel from heaven to give him that submission of will. It was not till after that submission the angel appeared to strengthen him. The angel was sent, not to produce submission of spirit, but for the weakness of the body, and to carry out the work of redemption. His holy soul was always submissive. It was his nature to be so. With us, however, it is different. We need the strengthening angel to help us to submission to the Father's will as well as to do the work of God. Our nature is essentially rebellious. We require the discipline of God's hand to bring us to submit. His holy soul was submission itself. There is a passage in the New Testament which corresponds exactly with this distinction I have drawn in the prayer of Jabez between a blessing and a blessing "indeed. Our Lord said to the Jews (John 8:31, 32), If ye continue in my Word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." It is one thing to be a "disciple," it is another to be a "disciple indeed. Many were disciples" in our Lord's time; how few were the "disciples indeed! Many followed him, but from what motives? How few continued in the Word," "knew the truth" with that deeper knowledge of the heart, and were "made free" by that knowledge - " free" from the bondage of guilt and sin, "free" from the power of sin over their lives, "free" from all that which they felt was contrary to the glory of God! Ah, how little of this freedom there may be with all our discipleship! This is what it is to be a "disciple indeed. This is what it is to be blessed indeed. Reader, are you a disciple indeed?
II. Mark the next petition: And wouldest ENLARGE MY COAST." Probably the coast which he prays may be enlarged was some earthly possession. He speaks as one who had to recover from the hand of the enemy his portion of the promised land. For the recovery of this he was about to engage in war. And what a spiritual lesson we learn from it! It is by conflict the child of God obtains more and more of the blessings laid up for him in Christ. The Word of the Lord is to him what it was to Israel of old: "Go ye up and possess the land;" "There remaineth yet very much land to be possessed. Oh, what blessings are laid up for us in Christ! Why do we not enter into our inheritance? God has indeed blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ," but have we possessed them? Have we drunk deep of these wells of living waters? Are our souls living upon the riches that are hid in Christ for us? Why do we not possess the land which Jesus has won for us? Because, dear reader, there is no conflict. We must fight to enjoy. We must know what it is, hour after hour, to engage in conflict - yes, in a bloody conflict - with the world, the flesh, and the devil. We must grapple hour after hour with flesh and blood - with" the lust of the eye, and the pride of life." We must know keenly what it is to pluck out a right eye, and cut off a right hand or a right foot. We must know the struggle with sloth and indulgence, with natural inclinations and desires, with unholy dispositions, and harsh tempers, and unkind words, and a fault-finding spirit. Have we entered into, are we daily engaged in, a conflict like this? Ah, you will never be a "disciple indeed unless you know something of this agony. It is through conflict, through warring a good warfare, that God opens the floodgates of the soul for all the treasures of his grace to flow in. You may know them and talk about them; but have you possessed the good land? Is it not true that there remaineth yet" - yes, yet after all these years of Christian discipleship - "very much land to be possessed"? Oh I no warfare, no conflict, no struggle; then no deep joy, no sweet peace, no uplifting communion with God, no realized sweetness of the Word, no real growth in grace, no likeness to Christ. Jabez's coast would never have been enlarged without a deadly struggle with the foe. There will be no enlargement of coast with you, Christian, without this. It is thus we see it in the Lord's address to the seven Churches. Every promise is made there not to the Christian as such, not to the disciple, but "to him that overcometh. They are made to the disciple indeed" - to the one who knows something not only of what it is to fight, but to win. Yes, Christian, your soul has been saved by Christ's finished work; but every inch of the ground beyond must be fought for. You will pass into God's presence a naked soul - just saved. Where are the laurels you have won? Where is the ground around you bedewed with your tears from struggling in prayer? Where is the inward struggle against indolence and sloth, against yielding to natural inclination, against a censorious spirit, against some unkind word at your fireside, against some light or frivolous thought? Where is the holy anxiety to redeem time for God? Where is the agony and bloody sweat against temptation and sin? Where is the soul's inward yearning after God? Where is the surrender to him hour after hour - the full consecration of self and all things to his glory? Oh, this is the warfare with the foe; and the man who knows something of this alone knows what it is to have "enlargement of coast." Precious prayer! Lord, "enlarge my coast"! Make more room in my heart, in my life, for thee! I am so narrow, so cramped, so straitened, so wretchedly little! Oh, enlarge this straitened soul of mine! Make more room for thyself in me and in everything about reel Yes, in my time, my pleasures, my duties, my cares, my aims, my household, my children, my servants, - in all make more room for thyself! Come, Lord Jesus, "enlarge my coast." And do it now! Let me not wait another day, another hour. Reader, are you ready for this? Will you to-day make this your prayer? Believe it, you will not be a stranger to the joy of the Lord any longer if you will. Oh, make this your prayer and your aim! "Go ye up and possess the land," for "there remaineth yet very much land to be possessed."
III. What is the next petition? "That THINE HAND MIGHT BE WITH ME." The band of God is the presence of God. But it is more. It is God in activity. It is God in life and power. It is the psalmist's holy longing: "My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God." The hand of God is God in power on our behalf. What was the hand of Jesus? What mighty works were done by it! It touched the leper, and all disease fled. It touched the dead, and made it start into life again. It was laid on a sinking disciple, and held him amid the boiling water-floods. It was laid on a loving disciple who had fallen prostrate before the glory of the Son of man, and it raised him to his feet again, and enabled him to stand in the midst of all the unveiled glories of the Apocalypse. Oh, the hand of the God-man Jesus, what power there was in it! Thus Jabez prays, "That thine hand may be with me. Thus the child of God may ever pray. It is just what we need - him with us in all his glorious power; him to put away our leprous sin; him to raise our dead souls to life; him to uphold our sinking souls amid the storms and tempests of life; him to raise us out of the dust of grovelling earthliness, and make us look into the glory before us; him to bless us; him to do all. That thine hand may be with me." Reader, it is just what you need - a living Jesus at your side from day to day, and hour to hour.
IV. Mark the concluding petition: "That thou wouldest KEEP ME FROM EVIL, that it may not grieve me." Observe, reader, it is not a prayer to be kept from evil. It is a prayer to be kept from the effects of evil. "That it may not grieve me." "Have we received good at the hand of the Lord, and shall we not receive evil?" "Shall there be evil in a city, and I have not done it?" The Christian cannot pray to be delivered from evil. He will have sorrow and suffering and trial here. The eye must often weep over sin; the heart must often mourn over its depravity. Temptation must be constantly endured. But this the soul may pray for - that the sin within us and the temptations around us may not grieve or hurt the soul. This he may pray for - that his evil heart may not draw him from God; that an evil nature may not be yielded to; that an evil spirit may not deaden his soul, and leave him cold and heartless to the Saviour and his glory. There is no exemption from evil here. It is in us and around us on every side. But, blessed be God, we have One dwelling within us, even the Holy Spirit, and through his mighty working evil may be turned into a blessing. It is for this we may pray, we must pray. Your danger is not in possessing an evil heart, but in yielding to it. Your danger is not being on the verge of a precipice, but in being unwatchful there. Oh, pray this prayer, Christian reader! - W.
I. THAT OBSCURITY IS BETTER THAN PROMINENCE FOR MOST OF US. In this long table we have one or two celebrated men, such as Caleb (ver. 15) and Othniei (ver. 13), but most of them are men of no repute. We only know their names and their relationship to those that preceded and followed them. It is a mere truism to say that the generality of men must spend their lives in obscurity, that it is only a few who can be conspicuous. But it is a truth worth treasuring, that lowliness of position is far better for most of us than elevation would he. But few men can bear distinction without spiritual deterioration. The graces which the Master most loves to see (and those which are most acceptable to man also) flourish in the quiet valley far better than on the lofty mountain. If God ordain prominence, "Be not high-minded, but fear." If obscurity be our portion, let us say with the psalmist, "Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty," etc. (Psalm 131:1). Let us not be envious of the exalted, but rather be thankful that we are not exposed to their peculiar perils.
"He that is down need fear no fall, II. THAT GOD PUTS HONOUR ON THE USEFUL ARTS. It is specially mentioned of some "that they were craftsmen;" of others that they were members of the" house of them that wrought fine linen" (ver. 21). It is significant enough that, in this brief recital, these two industries should have honourable mention. We should feel that when we cut and carve, when we spin and weave, when we are occupied in manufactures, when we are turning, by industry and knowledge, the materials around us into objects of service and of beauty, we are not only "making money," enriching our nation, gratifying human tastes, we are also fulfilling the will of God concerning us, we are doing that for which he placed us here; and we should engage in all useful arts as in his sight, serving him in all our labour. III. THAT CONTENTED INDUSTRY IS BETTER THAN SUCCESSFUL VIOLENCE. Two instances are given at the close of the chapter (vers. 39-41, 42, 43) of appropriation by violence. The sons of Simeon took forcible possession of" fat pasture and good," where "the land was wide, and quiet, and peaceable;" they established themselves there by "utterly destroying" the inhabitants. Others of them (ver. 42) repeated the same deed of violence. Possibly they may have been justified in their act by commands which were binding, or by a permission which was sufficient. Probably they satisfied their own conscience, and wrought their work without compunction. But we read with far greater pleasure of the craftsmen who gave their name to the valley by their industry (ver. 14) and of those who "wrought fine linen" and of those engaged in simple agriculture (ver. 23), and thus gained a peaceful, houourable livelihood. Feats of arms are brilliant things in their way, but beneath the surface are heartrending injuries, and long after they are performed comes a series of sorrows. The industry and energy which work no injury to the conscience, and which carry benefit and comfort in their train, are immeasurably to be preferred to "the pomp and circumstance of war." IV. THAT IT IS WISE TO CONSIDER OURSELVES IN THE LIGHT IN WHICH WE LOOK AT OTHERS. The chronicler remarks, shortly but significantly, "These are ancient things" (ver. 22). The events of his "modern" time are now very much more "ancient" to us than those old times of which he was writing were to his generation. We stand in the graveyard, and the sloping, timeworn tombstones speak to our hearts of the distant days in which once lived the generation beneath our feet. The day will come when we shall be separated by the same breadth of time from the living men that will then be walking where we sleep. We shall soon be nothing to the world but the people of a day that is passed. 1. How great is the folly of men who own no treasure but that of this transient time! 2. How true the wisdom of those whose portion no graveyard will hold, who in the far hereafter will live with God, and be rich with the wealth of Heaven (Revelation 2:15-17)! - C.
II. THAT GOD PUTS HONOUR ON THE USEFUL ARTS. It is specially mentioned of some "that they were craftsmen;" of others that they were members of the" house of them that wrought fine linen" (ver. 21). It is significant enough that, in this brief recital, these two industries should have honourable mention. We should feel that when we cut and carve, when we spin and weave, when we are occupied in manufactures, when we are turning, by industry and knowledge, the materials around us into objects of service and of beauty, we are not only "making money," enriching our nation, gratifying human tastes, we are also fulfilling the will of God concerning us, we are doing that for which he placed us here; and we should engage in all useful arts as in his sight, serving him in all our labour.
III. THAT CONTENTED INDUSTRY IS BETTER THAN SUCCESSFUL VIOLENCE. Two instances are given at the close of the chapter (vers. 39-41, 42, 43) of appropriation by violence. The sons of Simeon took forcible possession of" fat pasture and good," where "the land was wide, and quiet, and peaceable;" they established themselves there by "utterly destroying" the inhabitants. Others of them (ver. 42) repeated the same deed of violence. Possibly they may have been justified in their act by commands which were binding, or by a permission which was sufficient. Probably they satisfied their own conscience, and wrought their work without compunction. But we read with far greater pleasure of the craftsmen who gave their name to the valley by their industry (ver. 14) and of those who "wrought fine linen" and of those engaged in simple agriculture (ver. 23), and thus gained a peaceful, houourable livelihood. Feats of arms are brilliant things in their way, but beneath the surface are heartrending injuries, and long after they are performed comes a series of sorrows. The industry and energy which work no injury to the conscience, and which carry benefit and comfort in their train, are immeasurably to be preferred to "the pomp and circumstance of war."
IV. THAT IT IS WISE TO CONSIDER OURSELVES IN THE LIGHT IN WHICH WE LOOK AT OTHERS. The chronicler remarks, shortly but significantly, "These are ancient things" (ver. 22). The events of his "modern" time are now very much more "ancient" to us than those old times of which he was writing were to his generation. We stand in the graveyard, and the sloping, timeworn tombstones speak to our hearts of the distant days in which once lived the generation beneath our feet. The day will come when we shall be separated by the same breadth of time from the living men that will then be walking where we sleep. We shall soon be nothing to the world but the people of a day that is passed.
1. How great is the folly of men who own no treasure but that of this transient time!
2. How true the wisdom of those whose portion no graveyard will hold, who in the far hereafter will live with God, and be rich with the wealth of Heaven (Revelation 2:15-17)! - C.
Joshua 15:16, 17; Judges 1:12, 13; Judges 3:9. The point of the narrative, for the sake of which it is preserved, appears to be this: Othniel acted, vigorously and successfully, under the impulse of offered reward. The daughter of one so honoured as Caleb was a prize indeed worth winning, and she was to be given to the man who, by his valour and skill, could take the city of Kirjath-sepher. Compare the offer of reward which David made on the occasion of the siege of Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 11:6). Some interest attaches to Kirjath-sepher as meaning the "Book-town,' and suggesting the existence of a literature at that time among the Canaanites. Its earlier name (Debir, oracle) may indicate that it was a national sanctuary where the national records were preserved; and, if so, we may be sure that it was securely walled and stoutly defended. The incident may be used to introduce the consideration of the appropriateness of offering rewards, as an incentive to the doing of duty, and in the higher spheres of morals and religion, where all the quality of actions must depend on the motives for which they find expression. In relation to the education and training of the young, the subject of rewards is frequently discussed; some urging that childhood needs the help to effort and perseverance which may be found in the promise of reward; while others contend that a child is deteriorated, and led to adopt false sentiments for life, who is impelled to exertion by the hope of what is to be gained by it, and not to act or to abstain from acting because the thing required is right. It may, however, be fairly contended that, besides the proper and high motives of duty and right, we may thankfully accept the aid of auxiliary motives, and that among these may be set in a first place the promise and the hope of reward. But it would seem to settle the question, that we can show so fully how God has been pleased - in lesser spheres and in greater, in temporal affairs and in spiritual, throughout all the long ages - to use the impulse of rewards. This may be fully and impressively illustrated in the Bible story; and of the character of the illustrations we give a few suggestive instances.
1. In the first trial of humanity it was distinctly understood that the maintenance of all that was gathered up in Paradise was the reward of obedience.
2. To Abraham God offered himself, in his personal favour, and in his power to guide and bless, as "his exceeding great Reward," and even Abraham's faith and loyalty were upheld by the promise that in his "seed all nations of the earth should be blessed."
3. Israel was helped to endure the rigours of Egypt, and to make a great stand for liberty, under the assurance of a great reward, even the heritage of the land that flowed with milk and honey. And it has often been pointed out that temporal prosperity in Canaan was distinctly offered as the reward of obedience to the Law.
4. The prophets - as may be most impressively seen in Isaiah - held before the people most glowing visions of coming days as the sure reward of a full and hearty national return to Jehovah.
5. Our Lord himself fitted the impulse of reward into his most gracious invitation, "Come unto me... and I will give you rest.
6. The apostles urge the disciples to all earnestness in the Christian life and labour, by the assurance that we run for an incorruptible crown," and may hope to receive a "crown of glory, that fadeth not away." Our last sight of Christ in the Word presents him as saying," Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me." We may, then, use the promise of rewards; they appeal to sentiments and feelings in us that are good and useful. We may magnify the grace of God in even thus helping us to win "the holy." And we may reasonably expect present, and certainly look for future, gracious rewards of obedience and faithfulness. - R.T.
byssus, or fine linen. Others were occupied in tilling the estates and tending the herds and flocks of the king. Others, again, pursued the calling of the potter. Now, there is no reason for surprise in meeting with such references in a book of the canonical Scriptures. There is a religious side to all such useful and respectable vocations. Those who follow them may not always be aware of the fact; but a fact it certainly is.
I. HANDICRAFTSMEN AND HUSBANDMEN MAKE USE OF MATERIALS WHICH A KIND PROVIDENCE HAS SUPPLIED. The soil which is tilled, the vegetable substances which that soil produces, the minerals which are dug from it, are all of God. "The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof."
II. THE FACULTIES OF BODY AND MIND WHICH SUCH PERSONS EXERCISE AND EMPLOY ARE ENTRUSTED BY THE CREATOR. The limbs of the body, the strength of the muscles, the skill of the intelligent and designing mind, are all needed for the production of the results. Every artificer is himself a miracle of creative power and wisdom; and he who framed the workman is glorified in the handiwork.
III. THE WELFARE OF CIVILIZED HUMAN SOCIETY, WHICH IS THE CONSEQUENCE OF SUCH LABOURS, IS A PART OF THE DIVINE PLAN. The arts, useful and aesthetic, tend to the comfort and the development of humanity. All the conveniences of human life are instrumental in furthering the purposes of God.
IV. AMONG SUCH ARTIFICERS RELIGION OFTEN FINDS WARM ADHERENTS, SUPPORTERS, AND PROMULGATORS. The busy and useful classes of society furnish the largest proportion of strength to our Churches. These have often been the salt of society, when the wealthy, luxurious, and dissolute on the one hand, and the idle and predatory on the other, would have introduced corruption and death into the body politic. - T.
Acts 10:5, 6, where God gives these minute directions: "Send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter; he lodgeth with one Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the seaside. In these verses different occupations are honourably mentioned; some wrought fine linen; others were potters and gardeners and hedgers; and so is suggested to us the honourableness and usefulness of all kinds of work. There was no such sentiment among the Jews as unhappily prevails in all so-called highly civilized countries, that there is a kind of degradation in having to work for your own living. Every Jewish boy was required to learn a trade, and the greatest rabbis preserved their dignity and learning along with service to the community in some humble occupation. Consider -
I. WORK AS A CONDITION OF HUMAN LIFE ON THE EARTH. If there is one law more absolute for mankind than another, it is that they shall work. They are set in this earth-garden, as Adam was in Paradise, to win it, to use its forces, to dress it, to keep it. For work' man is endowed. He has muscles with the needed physical strength, and hands with the needed physical skill, and brains with the needed guidance and control. And he is in the midst of conditions that demand work; the earth will only yield her stores and her increase in response to man's work. If a man "will not work," then the law God has put into the very creation of the earth is, that, "he shall not eat." And this work-condition is designed by God to bear directly on man's moral training. Only by and through work can character grow and unfold. Toil is testing and trial, out of which alone can virtue be born. So all work is noble and holy.
II. WORK AS A CONDITION OF CIVILIZED LIFE. Here its simplicity is lost. It becomes a diversified and complicated thing. As men live together in cities a thousand fresh wants, real and fancied, become created, and trades are multiplied for the supply of the thousand wants. Work is divided and subdivided; sometimes it seems a higher kind, and sometimes a lower. While some must work by hand, others are called forth to work by voice, and pen, and brush, and chisel, and brain. Thousands must toil in various ways to supply the necessaries of life, and tens of thousands must toil to supply the ever-increasing demand for luxuries. And so, in civilized times, work seems too often to grow into man's curse; and he toils at sweat of brain as well as of face; and spends strength and health and life in winning bread from those who "fare sumptuously every day, and are clothed in purple and fine linen;" and we cannot greatly wonder that men should grow hard, and lose the high and inspiring thought of the "dignity of work."
III. THE ONE CONDITION THAT LIFTS ALL HUMAN TOIL INTO DIGNITY. Its usefulness to others. It must be done "not unto selL" And so God has "set the solitary in families," and put fathers and mothers under the pressure of family responsibility, that in toiling for others they may win the joy of work. Illustrate from the artist, the poet, etc., and see how the condition may apply to all workers.
IV. THE YET HIGHER CONDITION WHICH SETS WORK IN ITS TRUE PLACE. It must be done as service to God. Then work bears upon the culture of religious character, and becomes a stepping-stone upward to the heavenly. Character is both exhibited and cultured by it; and no kind of occupation can be regarded as mean into which character can be put, and by which others may be served, and God may be glorified. Potters, gardeners, hedgers, and workers in fine linen may all win the "Well done, good and faithful." - R.T.
Joshua 19:1). As Simeon had only a limited portion of the land of Judah, they were forced to seek accommodation elsewhere. In consequence of their sloth or cowardice, some of the cities within their allotted territory were only nominally theirs, and were never taken from the Philistines till David's time, when, the Simeonites having forfeited all claim to them, he transferred them to the tribe of Judah (see 1 Samuel 27:6). Let us learn two lessons from this tribe - first, with reference to this transfer, and second, with reference to the sad results that followed the supineness or cowardice which characterized it.
1. We learn from Genesis 49:5-7 that cruelty characterized this son of Jacob, and that righteous retribution followed. Also we see how one sin begets another. Cruelty has in its train cowardice. True bravery and magnanimity is the result of a nature ennobled by Divine grace. Wherever we find cruelty, there we may be certain to find cowardice and supineness. One strengthened grace strengthens every other in the man. One indulged sin weakens every grace, and begets sins which bear that sin's "image and superscription" at every turn and throughout many generations. Simeon's descendants, though not personally guilty of their father's sin, have the brand upon them. Their sins are but the outward ripple on the stream where their father cast in the first stone of crime. Thus Simeon's sin lived in his generations. Thus men live long after they are dead. All true living influence begins to be potent after we have disappeared from the scene. How solemn, then, how awfully responsible, is each one's life!
2. Now look at the sad results of their supineness. Inasmuch as they did not fight the Philistines and gain possession of their cities, David took them from them and allotted them to Judah. What a remarkable confirmation of our Lord's words, "To him that hath [Judah] shall more be given; and from him that hath not [Simeon] even that he hath shall be taken away"! See another consequence of this supineness. They sought larger territory, and found it in the pastures of Gederah. For a time all seemed bright and prosperous. But soon they were attacked by foes, and had to fly to Mount Seir. This would have been unnecessary had they been valiant, fought the Philistines, and become possessed in reality of what they had only nominal possession before. Reader, learn the solemn warning. "Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life;" "Make your calling and election sure. Make that nominal possession of Christ - that profession of religion you wear - a reality, a true and living possession. Thus will you, too, save yourself from similar results, and will reap your reward. - W.
I. A LOCAL HABITATION IS DIVINELY APPOINTED AND SANCTIONED. There are many who, as travellers and explorers, as soldiers and seamen, etc., may serve society without having any fixed abode; and homelessness may be profitable discipline in youth. But, generally speaking, a home is the best sphere of labour, the best pledge of diligence, the best guarantee of responsibility; and it is well for those who, from generation to generation, can retain the same feelings towards an ancestral abode.
II. FAMILY REGISTERS AND PEDIGREES, IN CONNECTION WITH SUCH DWELLING-PLACES, ARE OF UNDOUBTED SERVICE. The public census, the domestic register, the family tree, the civil and ecclesiastical registration of births, deaths, and marriages, are all valuable. They may be abused by pride, but they are more likely to foster humiliation. They are useful for civil purposes, contributive to family feeling, pro-motive of patriotism. The squire, the yeoman, the labourer, are all susceptible to the influence of hereditary feeling and local associations.
III. RELIGION DEALS WITH HOMES AND HOUSEHOLDS. Certain places and certain families have been noticeable and memorable for piety. And true religion is not content to deal with the individual; it seeks to leaven families with its influence, and to penetrate villages, cities, and nations with its light and spiritual power and grace. - T.
I. HUMAN AUTHORITY IS OF DIVINE APPOINTMENT. That this is so in the family will be admitted by all who believe in a Creator, and in his interest in the human race. It is also admitted by thoughtful persons with regard to civil and national life. It does not follow that rulers are always righteous, or are even always to be tolerated and obeyed. It is an absurd inference to draw from the fact that sovereignty and submission in some form are of Divine appointment - that kings have nothing to do but to command, and subjects nothing but to obey. The world has had enough of absolute monarchy, and theologians have too long inculcated "the right Divine of kings to govern wrong." Still, "the powers that be are ordained of God;" it was divinely intended that men should live in civil society, and that order should be maintained and authority upheld, and justice administered between man and man.
II. As a consequence, SUBJECTION TO CIVIL AUTHORITY IS, WITHIN CERTAIN LIMITS, A HUMAN DUTY. In ordinary cases, where conscience does not enjoin the express contrary, men are bound to obey the laws of the land. Especially is this the case where, as in our own country, the government is constitutional, and the people have power to amend unjust and inexpedient laws, and to reform abuses in administration. The immoral character of lawful governors is no religious ground of resistance to their decrees.
III. RULERS, SMALL AND GREAT, ARE THEMSELVES ACCOUNTABLE TO HIM WHO IS "THE BLESSED AND ONLY POTENTATE, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS." Let them remember this, and be wise and just. - T.
Gedor is not otherwise mentioned in Scripture. Ewald and Bertheau think Gerar is the true reading; and this is given in the Septuagint Version. Reference, then, is to a portion of the Philistine country, which was remarkable for its fertility (Genesis 26:6-12; 2 Chronicles 14:14, 15). We cannot tell whether these princes had any justifiable ground for their aggression. But we may dwell on this as an instance of "might" overmastering "right;" for the earlier occupiers may be fairly considered to have had the "right," and the point of the story is that these princes grew strong, and when they had "might" they used it to drive out, and possess the lands of, those who had only "right. The Eastern mode of keeping flocks by moving them to different parts of wide pasture-grounds should be explained, and the rivalry and the quarrelling which this too often entails may be illustrated in the relations of Abraham and Lot. And the way in which weakening and decaying tribes have to yield before strong and rising tribes and nations, may illustrate the modern doctrine of the survival of the fittest;" and instances may be found in the story of the great nations, such as Persia, Greece, Rome, etc.
I. MAN'S MIGHT IS OFTEN THOUGHT RIGHT. The two things are perfectly distinct. What we can do is not necessarily what we ought to do. And man's power must ever be held down under the mastery of a will guided by good judgment, right principles, sweet charity, and tender consideration for the claims and rights of others. The Nasmyth steam-hammer affords a good illustration of splendid power held in full control. Yet in the commoner spheres of life, as well as by kings and great men, might is often mistaken for right. It is often one of the easiest pieces of self-deception. One of the master principles swaying men is the love of power. Therefore do men get large numbers of servants, retainers, and workmen; they increase wealth and possessions; push into places of position and influence; and in every possible way seek to gain sway over their fellow-men. And this becomes a peril, and, for many men, the severest test of virtue and charity. Every true-hearted man will feel the peril of confusing might with right; and will accept the fact that these two will often be in conflict, and that, for such conflict, the issue must always be the triumph of the right. Man's might is a fatal force for the liberty of his fellow-man, unless it not only seems to be to him, but it actually is, the same as the right. So the practical question ever and again recurring in life is this: "I can, but may I? Will it be right?" Man's nobility is full loyalty to the right.
II. GOD'S RIGHT ALWAYS PROVES TO BE MIGHT. Always "in the long run," We make many mistakes by only seeing pieces and parts of things; so we sometimes say, "The way of the Lord is not equal. Yet right does always triumph, if we can properly discern the right," and properly appraise "triumph," Right is invincible. Nature, all the good there is in the earth, all the long ages, and God himself, are on the side of the right. This is true for the individual man when, in all simplicity and loyalty, he does God's right, whatever of seeming disabilities it may involve. He may have the most perfect confidence that God will make it might, and in the due time "bring forth his righteousness as the light, and his judgment as the noonday." It may be practically enforced that man's violence overreaches itself, as did Haman's. And that all forcings of his way and will by man imply a failing of trust in God's living love and lead. It is a spirit in striking contrast with that expressed in Jabez's prayer (1 Chronicles 4:10). - R.T.
I. PLENTY IS A DIVINE GIFT. The land itself is the gift of God. Its favourable situation, its chemical constituents, the sunshine and the moisture, which make up its fertility, - all are from him, and are proofs of his creative wisdom and goodness. The flocks and herds, and their increase, are his, whose are "the cattle upon a thousand hills." When the valleys are covered over with corn, when the sheep bleat in the pastures, when there is abundant provision for man and beast, then let our hearts ascend in gratitude to him who "openeth his hand, and satisfieth the desire of every living thing."
II. PLENTY HAS MANY ADVANTAGES. In communities which are abundantly supplied with the necessities and comforts of life, there is opportunity and leisure for the cultivation of arts and learning, there is stimulus for commerce and manufactures, there is capacity for benevolence and for evangelization. If it is well used, plenty is a blessing. Only let all things be received as immediately from God's hand, and be regarded as a sacred trust to be used for his glory and in his service.
III. PLENTY IS NOT WITHOUT ITS DANGERS. It was foreseen that when Israel quitted the wilderness, and entered upon possession of the land flowing with milk and honey, there would be a temptation to forget God, and to take credit for national prosperity and wealth. Against the perils of plenty and prosperity, let the fortunate and happy be ever on their guard. - T.
1 Samuel 15:7, 8). Indications of the existence of scattered portions of this people may be found in 1 Samuel 27:8; 1 Samuel 30:1; 2 Samuel 8:12. The Amalekites are first mentioned in connection with the aggressive expedition of Chedorlaomer (Genesis 14:7). They occupied the country between Palestine, Idumaea, and Mount Sinai, on the elevated plateau now called Er-Rakhmah. They were a nomad people, and their towns were but collections of tents; they were rich in flocks and herds, and seem to have acquired a vast power by their bold predatory habits. They were consequently most dangerous neighbours for Israel to have so close upon their borders. For the Scripture references to the Amalekites, see Exodus 17:8-16; Deuteronomy 25:17-19; Numbers 14:40-45; Numbers 24:20; Judges 3:13; Judges 6:3-5; Judges 12:15.
I. THE SIN OF AMALEK. This is distinctly stated in 1 Samuel 15:2: "I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt." The expressions used appear to indicate some peculiar treachery in the conduct of this tribe. Probably they regarded themselves as having the sole right to the pasture-grounds in the valleys and plains of the higher ranges of Sinai, and so thought to cut off the advancing hosts of Israel, by taking them in detail as they toiled through the several passes. It may also be urged that the knowledge of the deliverance through the Red Sea had spread among the tribes of the desert; it declared this people to be under Jehovah's lead, and increased the responsibility of all who attempted to hinder their progress. Amalek added to its sin by incursions in the time of the judges, and by constant annoyance, which in part may explain the severe manner in which it was dealt with. The principle of the treatment of Amalek's sin may be illustrated by our Lord's words, "Whoso shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depths of the sea."
II. THE DIVINE JUDGMENT ON AMALEK. Remarkable for its severity. Explain that the form and degree of Divine judgments must fit into the customs and sentiments of each age, if they are to exert the proper moral influence upon the age. The extermination of a race was not regarded in Saul's time as, with our Christian sentiments, we should regard it now. Human life is less valued in the East, and tribal, dynastic, and national changes have always been more sudden, frequent, and violent. Still, this would be, even in those days, so severe a judgment as to prove a solemn warning to the wilful who would try to force their own will against God.
III. MAN'S EXECUTION OF THE DIVINE JUDGMENT. It is of the utmost importance, for the due understanding of Old Testament Scripture, that God may use any of his creatures as agents in carrying out his judicial sentences; and man may be his executioner as well as plague, famine, or tempest. In such case what the man has to do for God is right, and the man only comes under the judgments of God for the spirit and the way in which he does it. Saul is not judged for slaying the Amalekites, but for not executing his commission fully and faithfully.
IV. MAN'S FAILURE IN EXECUTING THE DIVINE JUDGMENTS. Distinguish between man the agent, and man the individual God looks upon the man, and treats with him in both ways. Man's trusts from God become tests of man for God. And it may be that the more complicated and difficult the trust is, the more satisfactory it may prove as a moral test. Man is honoured in being permitted to carry out God's plans and purposes. He may even, from the gospel standpoint, be a "co-worker together with God." But God will not fail to carry out his plans to perfection, even when men may seem to fail him. - R.T.