Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THAT THERE IS A VAST DIFFERENCE IN THE LIFE AND CHARACTER OF PRIVILEGED MEN. We might suppose that men who have come under the same class of influences would be much like one another in spirit and behaviour. But such a supposition would be a great mistake. It is true that there is much of human nature in us all, and that the best men have their failings while the worst have their redeeming points; but it remains true that between man and man, having the same advantages, there is often a great gulf found. In the same list of names of the sons of Levi we have Moses and Samuel, who were holy among the holy, and also the sons of Samuel, who accepted bribes and perverted judgment (vers. 3, 28). It is painful to think that, while among the children of privilege may be found some that are like God himself in, their spirit and their life, there are others in whose heart the basest passions dwell, and whoso lives are pestilent and shameful. It is sadly possible for those that are "exalted to heaven" in privilege to be "cast down to hell" in guilt and condemnation.
II. THAT THERE IS A CLOSE INTERMINGLING OF GOOD AND BAD UPON THE EARTH. This is a list of men belonging to different generations, but we are reminded by contrast of the truth that good and bad are contemporaneous and closely intermingled. Here the wheat and the tares grow together. Dwelling beneath the same roof, sitting down to the same hearth and table, working in the same shop, writing at the same desk, walking the same street, are the holy and the profane, the pure and the unclean, the generous and the selfish, the wise and the foolish.
1. What a reason for watchfulness and prayer!
2. What opportunity for usefulness!
III. THAT OUR RECORD WILL BE WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF GOD AS WELL AS IN THE LIVES OF MEN. Not much is written in the Book of God respecting most of these; we know nothing of them but their names. A deeper obscurity than this will be our portion; not even our names will go down one century, certainly they will not descend to thirty centuries. We need not regret that; but we shall do well to remember:
1. That not only our names but our actions are written in some imperishable record in God's unerasible handwriting.
2. That our lives are written and are repeated in the hearts and lives of men whom we have influenced. Fame is rare enough and vain enough. Lasting work, abiding influence, is common enough and serious enough. - C.
I. THE HIGH PRIESTHOOD IN NATIONAL PROSPERITY. Azariah executed this very important office during that part of the reign of Solomon which saw the dedication of the magnificent first temple. This was the very culmination of the splendour of the Hebrew monarchy, and the office and duties of the national pontiff would be encompassed with peculiar glory. As the religious representative of the nation, Azariah had sacred functions to discharge, especially on the day of atonement, when the sins belonging to the people's prosperity were brought and confessed before the Lord, and favour shown to the sacrificing and repentant nation.
II. THE HIGH PRIESTHOOD IN NATIONAL ADVERSITY. Jehozadak, as in the succession, nominally filled the same office when the Jews were carried into captivity. He shared the lot, the exile, of his countrymen. It was well that he should go with the others and rather share the fate of the nation, than remain in Jerusalem to fulfil the form of his office. Where the nation was, it became its religious head to be also.
III. THE CONJUNCTION OF THESE TWO HIGH PRIESTS TEACHES A VALUABLE LESSON. Ministers of religion should dwell among the people, partake their lot, interest themselves in their concerns, and be their leaders in praise, in obedience, in submission. Touched, like their Master, with the feeling of the people's infirmities, they are thus able to "rejoice with those who do rejoice, and weep with those who weep." In such sympathy lies their true, their spiritual and legitimate, strength. Not as lords over God's heritage, but as shepherds, sharing the lot of their flock, may they follow Christ, serve the people, and do the will of God. - T.
Jehozadak, meant "Jehovah is righteous;" but the man who bore it "went into captivity, when the Lord carried away Judah and Jerusalem," "It has been noted as remarkable that the heads of both the priestly and the royal stock carried to Babylon should have had names (Zedekiah and Jehozaoak) composed of the same elements, and assertive of the 'justice of God,' which their sufferings showed forth so signally."
I. THE WITNESS OF A SIGNIFICANT NAME. This was a singular recurrence to the ways of an older time, when children's names were given as embodying circumstances of birth, feelings of parents, etc., and when names were changed to express new relations of the life. In those earlier times names became elements of Divine revelations and agents of Divine witness and teaching. Ab-ra-ham taught men by his name, and so did Is-ra-el. Other instances of revival of this witness by names may be found in the prophetic names given by the later prophets to their children, such as Immanuel, Shear-jashub, and Maher-shalal-hash-baz. It is interesting to add that, among the glories of the future held out before the faithful, is this, "And I will give him a new name. So Jehozadak had his mission in his name. Down into captivity he went, but in all his intercourse with the humbled and captive people, he pleaded with his name, saying, Jehovah is righteous." And so we may learn that the least thing about us, a matter as seemingly unimportant as our name, may be taken up into God's service, and used by him. Therefore we "present our bodies" (our entire selves) "a living sacrifice."
II. THE POSSIBLE CONTRAST BETWEEN A MAN'S NAME (OR THE PROMISE OF A MAN'S BIRTH) AND HIS CIRCUMSTANCES. It looked to be a most unlikely thing that a man whose very name declared that "Jehovah was righteous" would ever go into captivity, and be remarkable for a suffering and humiliated life. And yet this is the contrast often observed. It puzzled Asaph and the writer of Job and the writer of Ecclesiastes, in the olden time. It puzzles God's people still. Men born in sunshine spend lives in the ever-deepening shadows; and sufferers for life, lying in their sick-beds, are the noblest of all witnesses that "Jehovah is righteous." Illustrate by the exquisite reference in the life of Dr. Arnold of Rugby, to the beautiful witness for God made through long years by his invalid sister. Can there be Jehovah's righteousness seen even in the sufferings which come upon men as the natural fruitage of their own wrong-doings? for that is precisely the case with Israel crushed under the Babylonian tyranny. The presence of Jehozadak and Zedekiah among the captives declared that there can be. Look below the train of causes of which captivity seems the natural effect, and we may see God's purposes being accomplished, God's laws being vindicated, and God's Judgments being executed. Ever we may turn away from the mere course of history and details of events, and watch the "Judge of all the earth doing right." If, however, the suffering of the good troubles us, we may find rest in an appeal to the great case - our Lord suffered. He was not merely "smitten of God and afflicted." There was Divine righteousness in the affliction. He was man's Sin-bearer, and judged for others. Here is a firm foundation-truth, then, which no earthly appearances or strange human experiences can shake. Proclaim it once again, and proclaim it ever - "Jehovah is righteous." - R.T.
I. SINGING IS THE NATURAL EXPRESSION OF EMOTION. The outburst of joy, the fervour and rapture of love, the pathos of sorrow, find their form and utterance in song.
II. MAN'S NATURE MAKES SONG THE SUITABLE EXPRESSION OF RELIGIOUS FEELING. The highest form of human feeling impels to the expression vocally appropriate. Psalmody, especially choral and congregational psalmody, forms the most inspiriting vehicle of religious gratitude, adoration, and praise.
III. SCRIPTURE HISTORY RECORDS SEVERAL DEVELOPMENTS OF PSALMODY. The lyric outbursts of joy which took place when the Lord confounded Pharaoh and delivered his chosen people, were the first recorded instances. But David himself was the true leader of psalmody, both Hebrew and Christian. Christ and his disciples "sang an hymn," and Paul and Silas sang praises at midnight in the gaol of Philippi. The early Christians were accustomed to sing God's praises in their social assemblies.
IV. SCRIPTURE REPRESENTS THE SERVICE OF SONG AS ACCEPTABLE TO GOD. Presuming that the service, the homage, the love, are sincere, the inspired writers summon all God's people to join in thus celebrating his praises. "Sing ye praises; praise God, all ye people," is the admonition of the psalmist; and the apostle thus directs us: "Is any merry? let him sing psalms."
V. SCRIPTURE SANCTIONS THE CONSECRATION TO PSALMODY OF LABOUR, ART, AND DEVOTION. We find that, under the old dispensation, there was a regular ministry consecrated to "the service of song." It would be strange if it were lawful to spend time, money, strength, skill, upon exercises intended to give pleasure to men, and at the same time unlawful to offer aught to God save that which cost us nothing. God will have our best; and when we have offered this, of his own have we given him.
VI. SCRIPTURE REMINDS US THAT THE EFFICACY AND ACCEPTABLENESS OF THE SERVICE OF SONG DEPEND UPON THE WORSHIPPER'S SPIRITUALITY AND SINCERITY. The form without the substance, the art without the spirit, the song without the love and faith it should express, - these are vain and worthless. Let us offer acceptable sacrifices, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks unto his Name. - T.
I. AN APPROACH TO GOD IN EVERY VARIETY OF SPIRITUAL ACCESS. In our hymns:
1. We shall adore him, as when we sing, "Great God, how infinite art thou!" etc., or "My God, how wonderful thou art!" etc.
2. We shall praise and bless him, as when we sing, "Oh for a thousand tongues to sing," etc.
3. We shall confess cur sin to him, as when we sing, "Oppressed with sin and woe," etc.
4. We shall make supplication to him; for there is no essential distinction between "praise" and "prayer." In the latter we frequently bless God for his mercies, while in the former we often supplicate him for his blessing, as when we sing, "Guide me, O thou great Jehovah," etc.
5. We shall reconsecrate ourselves to him, as when we sing, "My Saviour, I am thine," etc., or "Lord, in the strength of grace," etc.
6. We shall intercede with him on behalf of others, as when we sing, "O Spirit of the living God," etc.
II. A SACRED SUMMONS, AS IN HIS HOLY PRESENCE, TO FIDELITY AND DEVOTION. We shall call upon ourselves and one another to illustrate our truest and highest convictions as Christian men and the soldiers of Christ, as when we sing, "Stand up, stand up for Jesus!" etc., or "Ye servants of the Lord," etc. We shall have holy and elevating fellowship with the whole Church of Christ, as when we sing, "Come, let us join our friends above," etc.
III. SPIRITUAL AS WELL AS VOCAL PARTICIPATION. Our service of song will be only a hollow sound, unmusical in the Master's ear, if we rise no higher than the harmony of blending voices. There must be living, spiritual sympathy. All souls must join together as well as all tongues. In this great matter of the service of song, as in all other things, "the Lord looketh upon the heart." We must "make melody in our hearts" unto him, or the sound of our song will rise no higher than the roof of our building; it will not reach his throne.
IV. UNIVERSAL PARTICIPATION. Choral singing may find its place in the new dispensation as it did in the old; but it must take the "lower room." Congregational psalmody is the desideratum, the perfect thing, the standard at which to aim. "Every creature in heaven and on the earth" did John hear saying, "Blessing, and honour, and glory" etc. (Revelation 5:13); "A great multitude, which no man could number... stood.., and cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God," etc. (Revelation 7:9, 10). Let the Church on earth anticipate the Church in heaven, by every voice, the voice of a great multitude, being heard in the accents of praise, participating in "the service of song in the house of the Lord." This will be:
1. A source of joy to each participant.
2. A service to fellow-worshippers.
3. An acceptable offering to the Saviour. - C.
(1) The service of rest (ver. 31);
(2) the service of song (ver. 31);
(3) the service of waiting (vers. 32, 33);
(4) the service of work (ver. 48).
This is the Divine order of every believer's service.
I. THE SERVICE BEST. Christ Jesus, the true Ark, rests in his own finished work on the cross. "This man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of the throne of God." His people find their rest also in that finished work. "We which have believed do enter into rest." This is the first in the Divine order. There can be no service of song till we know the service of rest. You cannot praise God till you know your sins are forgiven. You have nothing to praise him for. This, then, is the first service in which you are called to engage - the service of rest. Rest in Jesus, rest in his finished work for your soul, rest in his full and free and ever. lasting salvation. Header, have you thus found rest in Christ?
II. THE SERVICE OF SONG. After the service of rest, you can enter on the service of song. And what is that song? "There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus;" "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen; ' "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing." These are some of the notes in that service of song which they can sing who have entered on the service of rest. Reader, can you sing them?
III. Next is THE SERVICE OF WAITING; for "They also serve who only stand and wait." Indeed, it is one of the highest services in which the redeemed soul can engage. What is this service of waiting? It is that spirit that waits upon God continually, in each day and each hour looking up and saying, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" It is renouncing our own will, our own way, our own inclination, our own pleasure, and as "the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress, so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God." The cloud may tarry long, but wait for it. Waiting time is not only never lost time, but it is most blessed discipline for the soul. "For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry" (Habakkuk 2:3). Reader, are you waiting thus upon God?
IV. Lastly, we have THE SERVICE OF WORK. Mark what is said of this: "Their brethren also the Levites were appointed unto all manner of service of the tabernacle of the house of God" (ver. 48). Yes, "all manner of service." There are all kinds of work in the great spiritual temple of God, and work for all. And this work may be of the very humblest kind. One day the disciples may be summoned to hold converse with Moses and Elias, and to behold their Saviour transfigured. What a privilege! some will say. A few days afterwards they are sent to unloose a colt and foal - to do what had all the appearance of an act of robbery! Yet it is the same Master who sends on both errands. Some of the eminent ones of Israel, while passing through the wilderness with the tabernacle, had to spend whole years in taking care of pins, others in taking care of curtains, some of boards, and bars, and pillars, and sockets (Numbers 3.). Yet all was God's work. It was to the Lord they did it, not to man. Look not at the work, but at the Master. It is the Master that makes the meanest service grand and noble. "Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ." This makes the "cup of cold water" grand. Jesus! - this makes a tattered thought glorious. Jesus! - this ennobles every work, makes the meanest honourable, the smallest great. And the mightiest work that has not this motive is lighter than the small dust of the balance. Reader, never forget the Spirit's order of service: resting, praising, waiting, working. - W.
things to the sacrifice of praise, the utterance to God of thankful, trustful, and loving feelings; man offering to God the sacrifice of his own emotions, and finding such sacrifice accounted a "sweet savour." It will at once be recognized that the poetical and musical endowments of David prepared him to serve his God and his fellows in this particular ministry. And his own practice and culture of the gifts enlarged his preparation, and so his fitness for the work, when the providential time for it came. The service of song was commenced in the new tabernacle erected by David on Mount Zion, but probably not until after the ark was restored and made to rest within it; and the service was greatly extended and elaborated to fit in with the more gorgeous surroundings of Solomon's temple. Many of the psalms were composed for use in the public worship, and are arranged for solo and chorus, or for answering choruses. "David put the musical part of the service under the direction of Asaph. Distinctions are made between the different kinds of instruments for which different psalms were suited, indicating that bands composed of stringed instruments, and other bands composed of wind instruments, were employed. We have also notices of trained men and women singers. The singing was managed by responses, or by solo and chorus, many of the psalms lending themselves readily to these forms of music." Taking the references in these verses as suggestive of a general truth, we dwell on -
I. THE FACT THAT SONG IS A DIVINE GIFT. Among the pagans it was so recognized, as it was also in David's time. It is singular to find how small a place poetry and music took in the apostolic Church. The power of song is found characteristic of individuals, and it often follows in family lines, as is illustrated in the cases of Asaph and Heman. It becomes, for the individual, the entrusted talent, the inspired gift, the faculty which is to be put out to the Lord's use, the speciality which gives a man his niche and his work.
II. SUCH A GIFT MAY BE CONSECRATED TO THE DIVINE SERVICE. It has its distinctly fitting place in relation to public service; and the modern developments of worship give it a most prominent and important place. This is true of all forms that public worship takes, and may be precisely illustrated in relation to each form. The importance of song as attracting to the house of God, as interesting and spiritually benefiting those engaged in worship, add as finding audible expression for devout feeling, should be fully enforced. It therefore becomes the duty of all who have the gift to lay it on the altar of God's service in the sanctuary.
III. SUCH A GIFT MAY BE USED FOR THE COMFORT AND HELP OF OTHERS. There is a sphere for the ministry of song in our homes, in society, at sick-beds, in visiting the poor, and among the children. Illustrate by references to Philip Phillips, the singing pilgrim, and to Ira Sankey, the companion of D. L. Moody.
IV. SUCH A GIFT MAY BE TRAINED AND SET IN ORDER FOR THE MOST EFFICIENT SERVICE, both in public worship and in private spheres. We are responsible to God for faithful and wise use of such a gift, and for the efficient culture of it. Impress on all who have the endowment the duty of using it for all gracious and loving and helpful ends in all the spheres where they may be set. - R.T.
2 Chronicles 5:12; 2 Chronicles 29:27-30; 2 Chronicles 35:15). Perhaps nothing at once more simple and more significant can be said of any men or any class of men than is here said in description and to the credit of the families of Heman, Asaph, and Jeduthun: "They waited on their office according to their order." The language may fairly be taken as applicable to all true servants of God, to all true friends and followers of Christ.
I. PROVIDENCE APPOINTS FOR EVERY ONE OF US AN OFFICE TO FILL, A SERVICE TO RENDER.
1. Mark the divinity apparent in every human life. It is only within limits that we choose or that others choose for us. "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord." "Our times are in his hands."
2. Mark the individuality of every man's vocation. The Levites did not perform the priests' service; and amongst the Levites all were not appointed to "the service of song." So is it with us and our several positions in the Church and in the world. Nothing is weaker and more foolish than to say, "How well I could fill the position and do the work of my neighbour!" It is your duty to which you must look, that there may be no lack of service through your failure.
II. GOD EXPECTS US TO RENDER OUR APPOINTED SERVICE UPON A PROPER SYSTEM AND IN AN ORDERLY WAY. The Levites had their regulations to which they were obedient. And the same is true of us all. "Order is Heaven's first law." We have not only a duty to fulfil - we have to fulfil it at the right time and place. Qualities necessary for efficiency in ordinary business or professional life are requisite in the service of God. Take these three:
Without these it is scarcely possible to glorify God in a practical and active life. Without these we shall lose our self-respect, and we shall lose our influence over our fellow-men.
III. FOR SUCH SERVICE WE ARE RESPONSIBLE TO THE DIVINE LORD AND JUDGE.
1. The watchful eye of God is always upon us.
2. By providential appointment, careful fidelity makes its mark upon our character.
3. "We must all of us appear before the judgment-seat." "The fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is."
IV. IN OUR ENDEAVORS TO RENDER SUCH SERVICE, WE HAVE A MODEL AND A MOTIVE IN OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST.
1. Consider how Christ "waited upon his office." He came to do the will of God. "He took upon him the form of a servant." He was found faithful. It was only when he could say, "It is finished!" that he consented to die. In life and in death it was his meat and drink to do his Father's will. Thus he left us an example.
2. Consider that his humiliation, his cross, are the inspiration of the service and obedience of his people. It is the love of Christ which constraineth us. Do not suppose that Divine love cannot work according to the principles of human order and system; these are the machinery, but that is the motive.
APPLICATION. We have here a rebuke to the irreligious, and a summons to a better life. We have also an admonition and encouragement to those who are endeavouring to serve their Saviour, and glorify their God. - T.
I. ATTRACTIVE IN FEATURE. The tabernacle service (ver. 32), and subsequently the temple service, was made inviting and enjoyable with sacred song (ver. 32). The singers sang the praises of Jehovah, and care was taken that they should not be absent from their post. Music, pleasant and attractive, was to make the heart more glad when the Israelites were summoned to go up to the house of the Lord. We are not only at liberty, but are under obligation, to draw as large a company as we can attract to the sanctuary by making its services agreeable and inviting. Good reading, good singing, appropriate prayer, simple and short enough to be entered into by the people, earnest and faithful exhortation, provision for all bodily needs, - these are rightful and desirable things; they should be religiously provided.
II. WELL ORGANIZED. "They waited on their office according to their order" (ver. 32). Every necessary arrangement was made that, when one course had concluded, another should begin: the temple would never be without those who were wanted to take up what others were laying down. Things must not be left to the impulse of the hour or to happen as they may: everything is to be carefully and systematically arranged in the service of God, in the culture of the soul.
III. VARIED IN MANNER OF SERVICE. "The Levites... were appointed unto all manner of service," etc. (ver. 48). These were
(1) of many kinds; and they were probably
(2) of many degrees of importance.
Certainly there were many that were menial, and there must have been some that were valuable and high. The priests, we know, had nearer access to God, and engaged in the more sacred offices (ver. 49). In the Church of Christ there must be these varieties in kind and in degree. We can only cover the whole ground of sacred service, of religious culture, by dividing the work into many parts, and by some taking higher while others take lower posts. Let us feel that
(1) any work done for God and at his bidding is highly honourable;
(2) those who are apportioned to the simpler offices are least burdened with responsibility;
(3) they who undertake the most sacred functions have especial need of human devotedness and Divine direction.
IV. BASED ON POPULAR INTELLIGENCE. Here we have the cities through which the Levites were distributed. They were to be scattered throughout the land, to be mingled with every tribe, in order that they might impart religious instruction to all (Deuteronomy 33:10; and see 2 Chronicles 17:9; 2 Chronicles 30:22; 2 Chronicles 35:3). It was their function to "teach the good knowledge of the Lord," to make known and understood the Law of God. The service of Jehovah was to rest on popular intelligence. Ignorance is not the mother of devotion; it is the fruitful parent of superstition and folly. Religion builds on knowledge, thrives on intelligence. It is the aim of those who wish for a land well cultivated for God that in every town and every smallest village the instructor in Christian truth shall be found:
1. Making known the will of God in Christ Jesus.
2. Interpreting and explaining, so far as may be, the mind of the Divine Master.
3. Enforcing his will by earnest words, and by a blameless, beautiful life. - C.
I. LESSONS PECULIAR TO THE OLD COVENANT. Nothing was more prominent or important in Israel than the provision alluded to in this passage. We are reminded:
1. That amongst the chosen people there was a consecrated tribe, and within this a consecrated family.
2. That thus a provision was made for perpetual temple worship and appointed sacrifices.
3. That, in obedience to these prescribed ordinances, Israel abode beneath the favour of Jehovah.
II. LESSONS GENERALLY APPLICABLE TO THE RELIGIOUS LIFE.
1. Order and decency are becoming in the service of a righteous and holy God. It is possible to regard the form and neglect the substances but it is also possible to despise the form and so to lose the substance.
2. In the service of God, the most menial office is honourable, whilst the loftiest office can never be executed by man otherwise than imperfectly and unworthily.
3. Under the Christian dispensation, all believers are ministers and priests, daily serving in God's spiritual temple, and offering, through the Divine Mediator and Intercessor, spiritual and acceptable sacrifices. Every. family and every individual has an appointed office and ministration. - T.
I. MAN'S ESTIMATE OF THE GREAT AND SMALL. To him the great is that which makes a large figure to the eye, and man has in every age a set of arbitrary standards by which he judges the great and small.
II. GOD'S ESTIMATE. To him its mere world figure and relation are of little significance. Things are judged according to their capacity for expressing character, quality, principle, virtue. To God a thing is miserably small that can offer no sphere for the utterance of a soul's love, and loyalty, and obedience, and unselfishness, and trust. So often to God man's high things are low, man's first things are last. Nothing has character in itself. It gains character only by the spirit in which it is done. Then we ask what spirit is it which can give greatness or littleness to our human actions. There are certainly these two:
(1) loyalty to God and the right; and
(2) service to others.
St. Paul argues that the "lesser services" have the honourable stamp of superior necessity and usefulness. Porters' work in the temple bore directly on decency and cleanliness, and cultivated the idea of the pure and the orderly in God's worship. As well do without priests as without Levites. "Careful less to please thee much than to serve thee perfectly." - R.T.
at-one-merit, but does not carry over the idea of covering transgression by a sacrifice or a loyal act. The appointment of Aaron and his sons for this particular work emphasizes the fact that, under the older dispensation, there was constant need for atonement. Every individual needed that it should be made for him again and again, and every year a great public atonement was made for the sins of the people. The reason appears to be this: every fresh act of wilfulness and sin imperilled the standing of the individual and the nation as within the Divine covenant, and brought down upon them all the penalties of the broken covenant - penalties involving even the surrender of life. It would help greatly to clearness of view if we recognized that atonement always bears relation to man's standing before God, and not to man's personal cleanness or cleansing. The constant atonement covered the sin which broke the covenant-relations, and restored, for the individual and the nation, the old covenant-conditions. The daily burnt offering was a daily atonement, or vindicatory act, which covered the people's sin and set them again in full covenant-standing. The private burnt offerings did the same thing for the individual. And the "day of atonement" did it, in a sublime way, as a grand national spectacle, for the due impression of the entire nation. As carried over into Christianity, and gaining its moral and spiritual aspects, we must duly conserve the features illustrated in the Old Testament atonements. These are:
1. Man's lost standing with God by reason of his transgressions. This is fully argued by St. Paul in the earlier chapters of the Epistle to the Romans. Beyond and besides other effects of human sin, this must be fully recognized - it sets us all out of our true standing with God, out of the covenant-relation which is conditioned by our obedience and faithfulness.
2. Man's standing recovered on the ground of something offered to God that is infinitely acceptable to him. In Judaic symbol, the spotlessly pure and absolutely complete animal presented entire. In Christian history, the offering of the person of the Son of God and Son of man, the Lamb without blemish or spot, on the altar of the Divine will.
3. The full acceptance of the atoning sacrifice, by the offerer, as the representation to God of his own will and purpose. This declared the sincerity of a Mosaic atonement; this makes Christ's offering to be for us. There is, however, for us no need of a constantly renewed atonement. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews argues this from the surpassing dignity and worth of the atonement offered by Christ, and from the relation in which he, the Divine Son and Divine man, stands both to God and to us. But that one sacrifice is our constant daily pledge to God that we will keep in the covenant of holy service to him. Every morning to name Christ's Name is to do, in effect, what the Jew did every morning by sharing in the burnt offering. It is to declare our standing within the new covenant, and to pledge ourselves afresh that we will be true and faithful to all its responsibilities and claims. - R.T.
I. THE DIVINE DESIGNATION OF MEN TO SPIRITUAL WORK. Seen in Aaron and his descendants, in the prophets, in the Lord Jesus Christ himself, in apostles, and equally in the Christian Church. A designation recognized in
(1) the demand for such work;
(2) the Divine endowment of men for such work; and
(3) the call of men to undertake such work,
by the inward impulses of the Holy Spirit, by the leadings of Divine providence, and by the recognition of fitness on the part of our fellow-men. Spiritual work has in every age formed a sphere of its own, and those engaged in it have been wisely separated from common business responsibilities. Good reasons are found in
(1) the absorbing character of spiritual duties;
(2) the prolonged and continuous preparations which such duties demand;
(3) the relation of efficient spiritual work to personal soul-culture;
(4) the exigencies of human life making demands on spiritual men at all hours and seasons;
(5) and the tendency of thorough occupation with spiritual things to unfit men for the stress and toil necessary to achieve success in business life. Some forms of spiritual work (as Sunday school, visiting, etc.) are found compatible with a life amid ordinary carnal scenes; but it is well that some should leave "serving tables," and give themselves "to the Word and prayer."
II. SUCH DESIGNATION TO SPIRITUAL WORK DOES NOT RELIEVE MEN FROM CARNAL NECESSITIES. The whole circle of personal and family needs remains; and God has never seen fit to employ any miraculous means for the supply of such needs for Levites, prophets, or apostles. The exception seems to be Elijah. But even God's own Son, the world's spiritual Redeemer, might not make stones bread, though he felt hunger, thirst, weariness, and want.
III. THE RESPONSIBILITY RESTS ON MEN TO ARRANGE THE CARNAL PROVISIONS. God sends us back on two principles:
(2) gratitude for blessing received.
Each should find for the other what that other lacked. Those who are constantly receiving spiritual blessings are bound to acknowledge them by kindly and thoughtful gifts and provisions. Such should ever be arranged on liberal and generous scales, and such provision is sure to prove a means of grace to those who provide. St. Paul's teaching and example on this matter are opposed. He distinctly claimed full temporal support for all Christian teachers; and he refused such aid in his own case for such sufficient reasons as make his case an exception that proves the rule. Show wherein lies the distinction between the spiritual and the carnal, and carefully urge that it must not be unduly pressed, or the spiritual man will exaggerate his separateness, and the carnal man will feel freed from all claim to be spiritual. The carnal man is to become spiritual, learning how to be "in the world, and not of it;" and aid in attaining this the spiritual man is called to provide. So there is to be mutual helpfulness. - R.T.
I. A CASE OF NEED AND DANGER. The cause of the peril and alarm is sin. And the righteous Law and retributive government of God render the case of the sinner one serious in itself and its issues. This appears from the gospel admonitions to repentance.
II. A PROVISION OF MERCY AND WINDOW. As the city of refuge was appointed for the innocent manslayer's escape from vengeance and death, so the guilty sinner is the object of the Divine compassion which has provided in Christ a safe and eternal shelter. In the Divine Redeemer is refuge from sin and condemnation, is the favour and life of God.
III. AN ACTION OF FAITH AND ENERGY. The city was of no use except the imperilled Israelite fled unto it for safety. So with Christ, whose almighty sufficiency avails for those, and those only, who accept him and shelter themselves in his riven side. They are saved who have "fled for refuge to the hope set before them in the gospel."
IV. A DIVINELY PLEDGED SECURITY FOR THOSE WHO ARE IN CHRIST. The Jewish Law assured of safety those who made use of the provision for refuge. And the Divine word and faithfulness are pledged to those who confide in Christ, that they shall never perish, but shall have eternal life.
V. A TRUE GOSPEL. It is the office of the Church of the Redeemer both to warn sinners of the danger to which they are exposed and to point them to the one only Refuge provided by Divine wisdom for their security and peace. It is a refuge accessible to all and sufficient for all, and there is no reason in the heart of God why any poor sinner should remain outside this refuge and spiritually perish. - T.
Exodus 21:13; Numbers 35:6, 11, 14; Deuteronomy 19:1-10; Joshua 20.) The severity of the Mosaic laws and institutions has often been dwelt on, but a careful estimate of the prevailing sentiments of surrounding nations, in those early times, would rather impress us with the mercifulness of Judaism, and the ways in which customs which pressed with undue severity on individual rights and liberties were toned and modified, in the East two things are familiar which appear strange and unworthy to us:
(1) irresponsible governments, usually involving tyrannous dealings; and
(2) a very light estimate of the value of human life. The mercifulness of Judaism is plainly seen in the Mosaic appointment of the refuge cities. The laws relating to murder are clearly defined, and the different forms of the crime are duly recognized. Premeditated murder is distinguished from unintentional homicide, and the man who accidentally kills another is secured until he can prove the circumstances of the accident. But in the arrangement made for him Moses wisely retains the older sentiment of justice, which called upon the nearest relative of a slain man to act as his blood-avenger, or goel. Amongst the other nations, as the Arab tribes of the present day, "any bloodshed whatever, whether wilful or accidental, laid the homicide open to the duteous revenge of the relatives and family of the slain person, who again in their turn were then similarly watched and hunted by the opposite party, until a family war of extermination had legally settled itself from generation to generation, without the least prospect of a peaceful termination." Moses allowed the goel still to pursue; but the homicide had his chance of escape. Cities conveniently situated on both the west and east of Jordan were made refuge cities, and the roads to them were kept clear. Once within the gates a calm consideration of the circumstances was assured; and only if proved guilty of wilful murder could the man be delivered up to the goel = -avenger.
I. THE SOCIAL WORKING OF THE REFUGE SYSTEM. Its influence may be shown in:
1. Its cultivation of a worthier sense of justice.
2. Its teaching as to the relation of motive to crime, such motive giving the act of crime its serious quality.
3. Its tendency to relieve the individual from the thought of executing his own vengeance.
4. Its claim to have a fixed authority for the settling of all social laws, and their vindication by due punishments. A worthy and strongly enforced legislative system lies at the very foundation of the peaceful order and stable progress of every nation. The element of personal passion must be removed if punishment is to be wisely administered; men must be willing to put aside their own avengings if social order is to be secured. Nations need to be very careful to secure purity in the administration of justice.
II. THE RELIGIOUS SUGGESTIONS OF THE REFUGE SYSTEM. These will differ according to the school of thought to which the preacher may belong. From the evangelical standpoint, the city of refuge symbolizes Christ. The avenger represents the law-penalty under which the sinner comes, which seeks his death. There is made by Christ Jesus a free and open road to himself, the Refuge. But the sinner must himself arise and flee, running into the shelter of the ever-opened gates. When "in Christ," if a due examination be made of his sins, the all-sufficing answer which secures eternal safety is this: "Jesus has already borne the penalty of them all, and the Law cannot revive its satisfied claim." There is "no condemnation" for those who have "fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before them in the gospel." More generally treated, we may learn:
1. The Divine righteousness in affixing a natural and necessary penalty to every act of sin.
2. The fallen state of man, in that he so readily makes holy avenging into passionate revenging.
3. The mercifulness of the Divine administration, in that God puts man's passions under wise restraints; and secures the fair, considerate, and honourable treatment even of the sinner. - R.T.
The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database.
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