Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
1 Samuel 2:1-10. (SHILOH)
1. Then her heart was full of grief; now it "rejoiceth in the Lord."
2. Then her "horn" (strength, a figure taken from animals whose strength is in their horns, and here first employed. 2 Samuel 22:3; Luke 1:69) was trampled in the dust; now it is "exalted," and she is endued with strength and honour "by the Lord."
3. Then her mouth was shut, in silent endurance, beneath the provocation of her adversary (1 Samuel 1:6); now it is "enlarged," or opened in holy exultation, "above her enemies."
4. Then she was petitioning for the help of the Lord now she "rejoices in his salvation," or the deliverance which he has wrought on her behalf; and it is "because" of this that she utters aloud her thanksgiving and praise. Her soul with all its powers, like a harp of many strings, touched by the Divine Spirit, gives forth exquisite music. "The Divinely inspired song of Hannah is like a golden key for the interpretation of the whole book" (Wordsworth's 'Com.'). Compare this song with the song of Miriam and of Deborah. "Those compositions are grand, indeed, and elevated, and worthy of that inspiration which produced them; but they have not that tenderness of spirit, that personality of devotion, and that eucharistic anticipation of good things to come which characterise the hymn of Hannah" (Jebb, 'Sac. Lit.,' p. 395). It is the model after which the song of the Virgin Mary was formed, though there are notable points of difference between them. Considered in relation to the circumstances, and in its general nature, her song was a song of -
1. Gratitude. Her prayer had been answered in the gift of a son; and, unlike those who look no further than the blessings bestowed upon them, she looked from the gift to the Giver, and praised him with joyful lips. Her heart rejoiced not in Samuel, but in the Lord.
2. Dedication. She had given back her child to God, and with him herself afresh. The more we give to God, the more our heart is enlarged, by the shedding abroad of his love therein, and filled with exceeding joy.
3. Triumph; remembering how she had been delivered from her adversaries in the past.
4. Faith in his continued help.
5. Patriotism. She sympathised with her people in their oppression by the Philistines; and, identifying herself with them, she almost lost sight of what God had done for her in the contemplation of what he would do for them. "From this particular mercy she had received from God she takes occasion, with an elevated and enlarged heart, to speak of the glorious things of God, and of his government of the world for the good of the Church." "She discerned in her own individual experience the general laws of the Divine economy, and its signification in relation to the whole history of the kingdom of God" (Anberlen).
6. Prophetic hope. She beheld the dawn of a new day, and was glad. In all and above all -
7. Joy in the Lord. "My heart rejoiceth in the Lord;" not merely before him (Deuteronomy 12:12); but in him, as the Object and Source of its joy; in communion with and contemplation of him, and in the admiration, affection, and delight thereby excited. "My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the Lord" (Psalm 104:34). "When I think of God," said Haydn (on being asked the reason why the style of his music was so cheerful), "my soul is so full of joy that the notes come leaping and dancing from my pen." More especially observe that Hannah rejoiced in -
I. THE PERFECTIONS OF HIS CHARACTER (vers. 2, 3). Such perfections must not, indeed, be thought of as existing in God separate and distinct from each other; they are essential attributes of his living personality, and are all really present in his every purpose and act. What is here declared of God is, that -
1. He alone is "holy."
(1) Supremely excellent; whatever excellence exists in any other being falls infinitely short of his (Isaiah 6:3).
(2) Morally perfect; invariably willing what is right and good; transcendently glorious in the view of conscience (Leviticus 11:44).
(3) Absolutely existent, which is the ground of his excellence and perfection. "For there is none except thee." "God is the most perfect Being, and the cause of all other beings." His moral perfection is a peculiar distinction of the revelation which he made to his chosen people, needs to be specially magnified in times of corruption, and can only be rejoiced in by his saints. The conception which men form of God is an evidence of their own character, and exerts a powerful influence upon it (Luke 1:49).
2. He alone is strong. "A Rock."
(1) Firm, unchanging, enduring; a sure foundation for confidence.
(2) None can be compared unto him. They may not be trusted in, and they need not be feared.
(3) Happy are those who can say, He is "our God." That which is a terror to others is a consolation to them. "The children of a king do not fear what their father has in his arsenal." "Let the inhabitant of the rock sing." But men often speak proudly and arrogantly (ver. 3), as if they were independent of him, and could do whatever they pleased. Let them not boast any more; for -
(2) perfect, and
(3) universal. And,
4. He is the Judge of human actions. He determines how far they may go before they are effectually checked by the manifestation of his power and wisdom (Thenius). "By strength shall no man prevail." He also forms a just estimate of their moral worth, and gives to every man his due reward. His righteousness and justice, as well as his strength and wisdom, when contemplated by the good, fill them with great joy.
II. THE OPERATIONS OF HIS PROVIDENCE (vers. 4-8). The operations of Providence are the operations of God in the natural world, the laws of which are the uniform methods of his activity, and more especially in human affairs; wherein, whilst there is room for human freedom and prudence, and the use of means, his will encircles and overrules all things, and his hand moves in and through those events which are commonly attributed to chance or accident, and directs and controls them for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). In and by these operations -
1. He manifests the perfections of his character: his holiness, power, wisdom, and justice. "The Lord is righteous in all his ways (Psalm 97:2 145:17).
2. He apportions the different conditions of men, and accomplishes the varied changes of their condition.
(1) Makes the strong weak and the weak strong (ver. 4).
(2) The full empty and the empty full (ver. 5).
(3) Increases the lonely and diminishes the numerous family.
(4) Brings into great distress, even to the verge of the grave, and again restores to health and prosperity (ver. 6).
(5) Makes poor and makes rich.
(6) Brings low and raises up. Prosperity and adversity alike, when received from the hand of God and used aright, become occasions of joy; and the changes of life are morally beneficial (Psalm 55:19; Jeremiah 48:11; James 1:9, 10).
3. He does great things, especially for the lowly (ver. 8). Stooping to them in their utmost need and shame (Psalm 113:7, 8), and raising them to the highest honour and glory. "God does nothing else," said an ancient philosopher, "but humble the proud and exalt the lowly." "Set thyself in the lowest place, and the highest shall be given thee; for the more elevated the building is designed to be, the deeper must the foundations be laid. The greatest saints in the sight of God are the least in their own esteem; and the height of their glory is always in proportion to the depth of their humility" (Thomas a Kempis).
4. He supports the earth and all that is upon it. His dominion is supreme; and he has therefore the power, as he has the right, to do whatever may please him. An unfaltering trust in Providence is a cure of undue anxiety and a cause of abounding peace and joy. "Certainly it is heaven on earth to have a man's mind move in charity, rest in Providence, and turn upon the poles of truth" (Bacon). "The prophets of the Old Testament inculcate with a remarkable perspicuity and decision the overruling agency of God's providence in the affairs of the world. Their whole prophecy is more or less a commentary on this doctrine What a basis is laid by it of peace and tranquillity to every thoughtful and most feeling mind; and how different the aspect of the world becomes when we have reason to know that all things in it, and every combination of them, whether in the fortunes of kingdoms or in a more private state, are under the control of an intelligent and gracious Ruler. Were we in the chains of chance, how gloomy would our case be. Were we in the hands of men, too often how fearful, how humiliating, how conflicting. But the impression of the scene is changed when we admit into it the direction of an all-wise and perfect Being, in whose rectitude and goodness we may acquiesce through the whole course of his providential dispensation" (Davison 'on Prophecy,' p. 59).
"One adequate support
III. THE ESTABLISHMENT OF HIS KINGDOM (vers. 9, 10). God is a moral governor, and directs his providential operations with a view to the setting up of a kingdom of righteousness upon earth. This kingdom existed from the first, was more fully exhibited in the theocracy of Israel, and culminated in the rule of Christ, who "must reign until he hath put all enemies under his feet." In every stage of development it involves conflict. But -
1. He will protect, its subjects; his saints (lit., pious, those who love God), against whom the wicked will contend in vain (ver. 9).
2. He will overthrow its adversaries (ver. 10); their overthrow being
(3) complete - "broken to pieces," - and
(4) signally indicative of the interposition of heaven (1 Samuel 7:10).
3. He will extend its borders to the ends of the earth.
4. And he will clothe with strength, honour, and majesty the king whom he appoints and anoints for the accomplishment of his purposes. Hannah commenced her song with rejoicing on account of the strength and honour conferred upon herself, and she closes it with rejoicing on account of the strength and honour which would be conferred on him who should be "higher than the kings of the earth." "Let the children of Zion be joyful in their king." "The anointed of the Lord, of whom Hannah prophesies in the spirit, is not one single king in Israel, either David or Christ, but an ideal king, though not a mere personification of the throne about to be established, but the actual king whom Israel received in David and the race, which culminated in the Messiah. The exaltation of the horn of the anointed of Jehovah commenced with the victorious and splendid expansion of the power of David, was repeated with every victory over the enemies of God and his kingdom gained by the successive kings of David's house, goes on in the advancing spread of the kingdom of Christ, and will eventually attain to its eternal consummation in the judgment of the last day, through which all the enemies of Christ will be made his footstool" (Keil). - D.
Psalm 113., and yet again in the song of the blessed Virgin Mary, commonly called the Magnificat, it may be said to have continued in devout minds, Hebrew and Gentile, for about 3000 years. The first verse is the introduction, and strikes the key in which all that follows is pitched - a tone of warm and grateful confidence in God. Then follow the praises of the Lord, with some anticipation of better days to come.
I. PRAISE OF JEHOVAH (vers. 2-8).
1. Because of his sublime attributes (vers. 2, 3). "There is none holy as Jehovah." The root idea of holiness is always that of separateness from what is evil or profane. The God of Israel was the Holy One, absolutely unique, immaculate, inviolate, and inviolable. None among the gods of the nations might be likened to him. So he called and required Israel to be a holy nation, i.e. separate from the nations of the world, who are idolatrous and unclean. So under the New Testament the saints are the separated ones who touch not the unclean thing. "Neither any rock like our God." His protection cannot be invaded. His purpose does not vacillate. His power does not fail. He is the Rock of Ages. This was what made Israel unconquerable so long as faithful to God. The "rocks" of the nations, i.e. the gods in whom they trusted, were not as Israel's Rock. "Jehovah is a God of knowledge." Let not the wicked boast proudly. No word of scorn cast at the humble, no haughty glance of the eye, is unobserved by the Lord; and nothing is more certain than that, sooner or later, he will abase the proud. "And by him actions are weighed." In his estimate of human conduct he holds the balances of a perfect equity.
2. Because of his mighty works (vers. 4-8). Ruling in holy sovereignty, God often reverses the conditions of men, lowering the exalted and exalting the lowly. He even kills and makes alive, leads down into Hades, and leads up from it again. Sheol or Hades was no mere pit of extinction from which there could be no uprising. God was able to raise even the dead. Such being his power, what could the boastful effect against Jehovah? What might not the humble hope from him? This is the central thought of Hannah's song, and it is still more finely expressed in that of the blessed Virgin. "He hath showed strength," etc. (Luke 1:51-53). Of the elevation of the despised, celebrated here and in Psalm 113., how many illustrations in sacred story! Joseph, Moses, Gideon, before the time of Hannah; and afterwards, David, and the great Son of David, the Man Christ Jesus, and his Galilean apostles. This fact is not to encourage contempt of, or impatience under, earthly dignities; but it is to cheer those who are or may be depressed by worldly disadvantage of poverty or obscurity. God's grace is no appanage of the rich or powerful. Was not Martin Luther a poor miner's son? David Brainerd a small farmer's son? John Bunyan a tinker's son, brought up to follow the same craft? Were not the good missionaries Carey and Knibb apprentices, the one bound to a cobbler, the other to a printer? And are not such men among the princes of God's people? The house of Elkanah was of no eminence in Israel; but thence God was raising up this child Samuel, whom Hannah brought to his courts, to be, if not king, king maker, and to stand at the head of a line of prophets who should be the guides of the kings and the people so long as the kingdom stood.
II. ANTICIPATION Of BETTER THINGS TO COME. The end of this prayer song has a prophetic strain (vers. 9, 10). Hannah was confident of God's preservation of his saints, and of the correlative truth of the perdition of ungodly men. Not that he has any pleasure in their death; but that if men will fight against eternal order and righteousness, they must fail in the struggle, they must perish. "As for Jehovah, those who contend against him are broken." The prophetic element shows itself in the closing expressions of the song. The government of Israel at the time may be described as that of a commonwealth, so far as concerns human administration. It was a theocracy, as it had been from the time of the exodus; but the actual administration was carried on through leaders, or judges. The eye of Hannah opened on a new epoch, foresaw a king to whom Jehovah would give strength as his Anointed. It is the first mention of a Messiah in Holy Writ. No doubt Hannah's words are a prediction of David, whose horn of power the Lord was to exalt, giving him a career of victory over all his enemies. But whether or not it was clear to Hannah's mind, the Spirit who rested on her signified a King greater than David, and a more illustrious kingdom. It is he of whom the angel said to Mary, "He shall be great," etc. (Luke 1:32, 33). We see not yet his kingdom. We see not all things put under him. But we see Jesus crowned with glory and honour; and we wait for his appearing and his kingdom. The longings of many generations, the hopes of many Hannahs, the visions of many seers and prophets, O may they come to pass speedily! - F.
1 Samuel 2:2. (SHILOH.)Genesis 49:24 - stone, eben, or rock), with allusion, perhaps, to Genesis 28:11, 22; afterwards by Moses (Deuteronomy 32:4, 18, etc. - rock, tzur = what is solid, firm, enduring; a support, foundation, as in the text), who was so familiar with the rocks and mountains of Sinai; frequently by David (2 Samuel 22:3 - rock, sela = height, cliff or crag, resorted to as a refuge) and the prophets. Notice -
I. HIS CHARACTER IS ITSELF.
1. His power. "To know thy power is the root of immortality."
2. His unchangeableness and faithfulness. "I change not" (Malachi 3:6), with reference to his merciful covenant.
3. His eternity. "From everlasting to everlasting." These attributes are ascribed to Christ: "all power" (Matthew 28:18); "the same yesterday, and today, and forever" (Hebrews 1:8-12; Hebrews 13:8). "That Rock was Christ" (1 Corinthians 10:4). He is the highest and the only perfect manifestation of God. "Jesus is that Divine Being to whom we can draw near without pride, and before whom we can be abased without despair" (Pascal).
II. HIS SUPERIORITY TO OTHERS. They are -
1. Weak. Their very strength is weakness compared with His infinite power.
2. Changeable. "All men are liars," false, unworthy, and disappointing objects of trust.
3. Transitory. They and their works pass away, whilst the rock endures forever (see Swinnock, - "the incomparableness of God, - 'Works,' vol. 4.). Expect not true or lasting satisfaction from any created object. "Cease ye from man" (Isaiah 2:22). Fear him not (Isaiah 51:12, 13).
III. HIS RELATION TO HIS PEOPLE. "Our God." His people are those who live in direct fellowship with him, and show the reality of their fellowship by walking in the light and keeping his commandments. To them he has promised to be all that their true welfare requires.
1. A support; "the immovable foundation on which they may stand firm, impregnable, secure."
2. A defence, protecting them against their enemies; "a shadow from the heat, a refuge from the storm;" bearing on himself the tempest that would have fallen on them. "He that believeth shall not make haste," or be terrified.
3. A source of strength, of peace, and of consolation. "Rabbi Maimon has observed that the word tzur, which we translate rock, signifies, when applied to Jehovah, fountain, source, spring. There is no source whence continual help and salvation can arise but our God" (A. Clarke).
IV. HIS CLAIMS UPON ALL.
1. To trust in him.
2. Abide in him; not merely fleeing to him in a time of trouble and danger (as a traveller may seek shelter in a hovel while the storm lasts, and immediately afterwards leave it), but making him our habitation and home.
3. To make him our portion and "exceeding joy." "Trust ye in the Lord forever; for the Lord Jehovah is the Rock of Ages" (Isaiah 26:4).
"Rock of Ages, cleft for me;
I. A PRESENT JUDGMENT. They are (now) weighed. According to the ancient Egyptians, there was erected at the entrance of the unseen world a balance or scales, over which the Judge of the dead presided, and by it the character of every man was tested as soon as he died. In one of the scales the figure or emblem of truth was placed, and in the other the heart of the deceased; and the result determined his destiny. This is not an unworthy conception of the judgment to come. But their religion pertained chiefly to what would be in the future, rather than to what exists in the present. And there are many at the present day who never think that they have anything to do with God or his judgment except when they come to die. They forget that the living and all-seeing God "pondereth their goings" (Proverbs 5:21), "judgeth according to every man's work" (1 Peter 1:17), and that to him they stand responsible (Hebrews 4:13 - "with whom is the account").
II. ACCORDING TO A PERFECT STANDARD. The estimate which men form of themselves and others is often false, because it is not formed by means of such a standard. As "weights and measures" need to be examined and to be rectified by an imperial standard, so the human judgment and conscience need to be examined and to be rectified by the righteousness of God as declared in the Law and the Prophets and the Gospel of Christ. What is our relation to this standard?
III. ACCORDING TO MOTIVES. The moral worth of actions does not depend upon their "outward appearance," but upon the heart. In the sight of God, who sees hearts as we see faces, the inward motives, principles, and intentions are in reality the actions which are weighed (Proverbs 16:2; Proverbs 21:2; Proverbs 24:11, 12; Isaiah 26:7). Our ignorance of these necessarily makes our judgment imperfect, even in relation to ourselves. But "he is a God of knowledge," "searches the heart," and perceives the motives which underlie all actions, and which are often so different from what they are thought to be (Psalm 139:33).
IV. UNIVERSAL. "The Judge of all the earth." It pertains to all actions that have in them a moral element; to the actions of every individual soul (for each soul stands before him in its separate personality, bearing its own burden of responsibility and of sin, and is dealt with by him as though there were no other); and to every one of its actions, however apparently insignificant, though it cannot be really such because of its relation to God, and its bearing upon character and destiny.
V. EXERCISED WITH A VIEW TO REWARDING EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS WORKS. It is not useless and ineffective; but is attended with important consequences (Jeremiah 17:10). This life is not simply one of probation; it is also, in part, one of retribution. The approbation or disapprobation of God is always followed by corresponding effects in the mind and heart and conscience of men, and often by startling providential occurrences; as when it was said, "Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting" (Daniel 5:27, 30); "The world's history is the world's judgment;" and, "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ" (Romans 14:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Application: -
1. "Let a man examine himself."
2. Seek forgiveness of the sins that are past.
3. "Walk before me, and be thou perfect." - D.
1 Samuel 2:9. (SHILOH.)
1. The term is sometimes used as one of reproach, by persons who are destitute of religious life, concerning those who bear the Christian name. Pointing to the inconsistency of some of the latter, they would thereby fain persuade themselves and others that there is no such thing as true godliness to be found in the world. There are, doubtless, many who "profess to know God, but in works deny him." But there would be no counterfeit money unless there were some genuine coin
2. The word is also used to designate those who have been "canonised;" and who, having gone into heaven, are supposed to have influence with God in the granting of petitions presented on earth. But such a use of it is unscriptural, and the doctrine is false and injurious.
3. The saints of God are those who have been accepted by him through faith in Christ, who do his will and walk in the way to heaven. Their way, indeed, is often difficult and painful, like the uneven, intricate, and stony paths of Palestine, and beset by numerous dangers. But, for their consolation and encouragement, it is promised that "he that keepeth Israel" will "keep their feet" firm and safe, so that they may not fall and perish. The promise is directly of preservation from temporal calamity, but it may be regarded as including also preservation from spiritual failure and destruction. Consider -
I. THE DANGER FROM WHICH HE WILL KEEP THEM.
1. From wandering out of the way. Obscurity may gather over it. Other ways may appear plainer, easier, and more pleasant, and tempt them to leave it. Or they may seem more direct and shorter than the circuitous and wearisome path they have to pursue. But kept by him they will not go astray.
2. From stumbling in the way. "It must needs be that offences (or occasions of stumbling) come." Some of them consist of
(1) The difficulties of Divine revelation: "things hard to be understood."
(2) The mysteries of Divine providence, which have led many to say, "As for me," etc. (Psalm 73:2).
(3) Direct solicitations to evil.
(4) "Afflictions and persecutions that arise for the word, whereby many are offended." But "great peace have they that love thy law, and nothing shall cause them to stumble" (Psalm 119:165)
3. From failing to reach the end of the way. Some start with bright hopes which are not afterwards altogether fulfilled in their experience: storms gather, enemies threaten, severe conflict must be waged; and they become weary and desponding, and ready to halt. "But the righteous shall hold on his way" (Job 17:19; Isaiah 40:31).
II. THE MANNER IN WHICH HE WILL KEEP THEM. By -
1. Providing means of help for them: the word, which is an instrument of guidance, refreshment, and defence; prayer; the fellowship of those who are travelling in the same way; the ministration of angels (Psalm 91:11; Hebrews 1:14).
2. Watching over them at every step. They are not alone; but he is with them; and they are kept by the power of God" (1 Peter 1:5).
3. Imparting grace and strength to them according to their need. "As thy day," etc. It matters not how great the need if "the supply of the Spirit" (Philippians 1:19) be equal to it. And, "My grace," he says, "is sufficient for thee."
III. THE CERTAINTY WITH WHICH HE WILL KEEP THEM.
1. He has a special interest in them, for they are "his saints," "the portion of his inheritance."
2. He has already done much for them, which is an earnest of continued preservation.
3. He has high purposes to accomplish in them and through them. And,
1. Rely upon the promise.
2. Presume not upon your security, nor think that without fulfilling his commandments you can receive his promises.
3. Use the appointed means of grace with all diligence. - D.
1 Samuel 2:10. (SHILOH.)
1. Her language was a direct prediction of the appointment of a theocratic king, for which Samuel prepared the way, and which, under Divine direction, he was the chief agent in effecting.
2. It was an indirect prediction of One who had been long expected (Genesis 3:14, 15; Genesis 12:1-3; Genesis 22:17, 18; Genesis 49:10; Numbers 24:17-19; Deuteronomy 18:15-19), and in whom the idea of such a king would be completely realised.
3. It marks the dawn of a splendid series of prophecies founded on the reign of David, and ever brightening to the perfect day (2 Samuel 7; 2 Samuel 23:1-7; Psalm 2; Psalm 110; Isaiah 9:9; Daniel 9:25; Micah 5:1; Malachi 4:2. Fairbairn, 'Typology,' 1:111; Pye Smith, 'Script. Test.,' 1:169). Consider -
I. HIS REGAL OFFICE. Its general purpose was -
1. To unite a divided people (Genesis 49:10). Nothing was more needed in the days of the judges.
3. To rule over them, judge them in righteousness, and establish among them order peace, and happiness. "The regal office of our Saviour consisteth partly in the ruling, protecting, and rewarding of his people; partly in the coercing, condemning, and destroying of his enemies" (Pearson 'on the Creed,' Art. 2.). It was the fatal mistake of Israel in all ages to look for an outward, worldly, and imposing, rather than an inward, moral, and spiritual fulfilment of this purpose. The same mistake has, to some extent, pervaded Christendom. "My kingdom is not of this world." "The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." "Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself have founded empires. But upon what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ alone founded his empire upon love; and at this moment millions would die for him" ('Table Talk and Opinions of Napoleon Buonaparte').
1. The choice was of God. "Chosen out of the people" (Psalm 89:19). Even Saul, a man after the people's heart rather than after God's heart, was selected and appointed by him. The invisible King of Israel did not relinquish his authority.
2. Founded on personal eminence. David. The ancient Persians believed that their ruler was an incarnation of the eternal light, the object of their worship, and therefore rendered him Divine honour. This was a reality in Christ.
3. Confirmed and manifested by the anointing of his Spirit (1 Samuel 10:1; 1 Samuel 16:13; 2 Samuel 2:4); the outward act being a symbol of the inward endowment (Matthew 3:16; Luke 4:18). "God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him" (John 3:34; Hebrews 1:9).
III. HIS GLORIOUS EXALTATION.
1. After a state of humiliation; implied in the language here used; also indicated in ver. 8; and typified by the lowly origin of David and his course to the throne.
2. By the right hand of God. "He will give strength;" "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth" (Matthew 28:18); exhibited in his resurrection, ascension, and possession of supreme honour, authority, and power.
3. To a kingdom universal and eternal. "The Lord shall judge the ends of the earth" (Psalm 2:8; Psalm 72:2-5; Psalm 132:18; Luke 1:31-33, 69). Whilst Jesus lives and reigns in heaven, he also lives and reigns on earth. He does so by the continued and ever increasing power of his example and teachings, his wondrous life, and still more wondrous death. The truths and principles which he declared and embodied are, at this moment, accepted by the loftiest intellects, the purest consciences, and the tenderest hearts amongst men. Who now reverses a single judgment which he pronounced upon men or things? Who can conceive any character more worthy of reverence and affection than his? The lapse of time has only served to invest his words and character with fresh interest and power. Other kings and conquerors are fading away amidst the shadows of the past; but he is ever rising before the view of mankind more distinctly, and living in their thoughts, their consciences, and their hearts more mightily. Yea, more, he lives and reigns on earth by his Divine presence, his providential working, and the power of his Spirit. Just as the sun, shining in mid-heaven, sheds down his rays upon the earth; so Christ, the Sun of righteousness (though no longer seen by mortal eye), pours down the beams of his influence upon us continually, and rules over all things for the complete establishment of his kingdom. - D.
1 Samuel 2:11. (SHILOH.)1 Samuel 1:24; 1 Samuel 2:18, 19, 21; 1 Samuel 3:1.) "Great is the reverence due to children." It is said of an eccentric schoolmaster in Germany, who lived about 300 years ago, John Trebonius, that he never appeared before his boys without taking off his hat and bowing very humbly before them. "Who can tell," said he, "what may not rise up amid these youths? There may be among them those who shall be learned doctors, sage legislators, nay, princes of the empire." Even then there was among them "the solitary monk that shook the world." But a much greater than Luther (with whom he has been compared - Ewald) was the little Nazarite, who with unshorn locks ministered in the tabernacle at Shiloh; and at a very early age he gave signs of his future eminence. "Even a child is known by his doings" (Proverbs 20:11). "The child is father to the man." But what he will be depends greatly on his early training; for "the new vessel takes a lasting tincture from the liquor which is first poured in" (Horace); "the soft clay is easily fashioned into what form you please" (Persius); and "the young plant may be bent with a gentle hand, and the characters engraved on the tender bark grow deeper with the advancing tree" (Quinctilian). Consider -
I. HIS EDUCATION, or the influences to which he was subject, consisting of -
1. Impressions under the parental roof. He did not leave his home at an age too early to prevent his receiving deep and permanent impressions from the example, prayers, and instructions of his parents. His destination would be explained to him by his mother, and made attractive and desirable; so that when the time came for the fulfilment of her vow he might readily make it his own. The memory of those early days must have been always pleasant to him; and the sacred bond of filial affection would be renewed and strengthened by the annual visit of his parents, and by the yearly present which his mother brought to him (ver. 19). The making of the "little coat" was a work of love, and served to keep her absent boy in mind, whilst the possession of it was to him a constant memorial of her pure affection. The first impressions which he thus received were a powerful means of preserving him from evil, and inciting him to good. "Every first thing continues forever with the child; the first colour, the first music, the first flower paint the foreground of life; every new educator affects less than its predecessor, until at last, if we regard all life as an educational institution, the circumnavigator of the world is less influenced by all nations he has seen than by his nurse" (Locke).
2. Association with holy things. Everything in the tabernacle was to his childish view beautiful and repressive, and overshadowed by the mysterious presence of the Lord of hosts. "Heaven lies about us in our infancy." And the veil which separates the invisible from the visible is then very attenuated. When he afterwards saw how much beneath the outward form was hollow and corrupt, he was strong enough to endure the shock, and distinguished between "the precious and the vile." Association with sacred things either makes men better than others, or else very much worse.
3. Occupation in lowly services. Even when very young he could perform many little services in such a place as the tabernacle, and in personal attendance on Eli, who was very old and partially blind. A part of his occupation we know was to open the doors (1 Samuel 3:15). By means of such things he was trained for a higher ministry.
4. Instruction in sacred truth, given by his kind hearted guardian in explanation of the various objects and services in the tabernacle, and, still more, gained by the perusal of the religious records stored up therein (1 Samuel 10:25).
5. Familiarity with public life. "There at the centre of government, he must early have become conversant with the weightiest concerns of the people."
6. Observation of the odious practices of many, especially Hophni and Phinehas. For this also must be mentioned among the influences that went to form his character. It as impossible to keep a child altogether from the sight of vice. External safeguards are no protection without internal purity. On the other hand, outward circumstances which are naturally perilous have often no effect on internal purity, except to make it more decided and robust. "The jarring contrast which he had before his eyes in the evil example of Eli's children could but force more strongly upon his mind the conviction of the great necessity of the age, and impel to still more unflinching rigour to act up to this conviction" (Ewald). But this could only take place by -
7. The power of Divine grace, which is the greatest and only effectual teacher (Titus 2:11, 12). The atmosphere of prayer which he breathed from earliest life was the atmosphere of grace. The Holy Spirit rested upon him in an eminent degree, and he grew up under his influence, "like a tree planted by the rivers of water," gradually and surely to perfection.
II. HIS CHARACTER, or the dispositions which he developed under these influences. He "grew on" not only physically and intellectually, but also morally and spiritually, manifesting the dispositions which properly belong to a child, and make him a pattern to men (Matthew 18:3).
1. Humble submission.
2. Great docility, or readiness to learn what he was taught.
3. Ready obedience to what he was told to do. How promptly did he respond to the voice of Eli, who, as he thought, called him from his slumber (1 Samuel 3:5). The watchword of childhood and youth should be "Obey." And it is only those that learn to obey who will be fit to command.
4. Profound reverence. For "he ministered before the Lord," as if under his eye, and with a growing sense of his presence. "He was to receive his training at the sanctuary, that at the very earliest waking up of his spiritual susceptibilities he might receive the impression of the sacred presence of God" (Keil).
5. Transparent truthfulness and guilelessness.
7. Sincere devotion to the purpose of his dedication to the Lord. In this manner he gradually grew into the possession of a holy character, and needed not, like many others, any sudden or conscious "conversion" from the ways of sin to the ways of God. Like John the Baptist, "he grew and waxed strong in spirit" (Luke 1:80); and his childhood is described in the very words employed to describe the childhood of our Lord:. "And Jesus increased in favour with God and man" (Luke 2:40, 51, 52).
III. HIS ACCEPTANCE, or the favour he obtained (Proverbs 3:4).
1. With God, who looked down upon him with delight, beholding in him the effect of his grace, and a reflection of his light and love. For "the Lord taketh pleasure in his people" (Psalm 149:4).
2. With men. The gratification which Eli felt in his presence and service appears in the benediction he uttered on his parents when they visited the tabernacle, and in accordance with which they were compensated with three sons and two daughters for "the gift which they gave unto the Lord" (1 Samuel 2:20, 21). Even Hophni and Phinehas must have regarded the young Nazarite with respect. And the people who brought their offerings to the tabernacle looked upon him with admiration and hope. So he was prepared for the work that lay before him. - D.
1 Samuel 2:12-17. (SHILOH.)Malachi 2:7); and their influence was great for good or evil. Whilst they reflected in their character and conduct the moral condition of the times, they a]so contributed in no small degree to produce it. The sons of Eli employed their high office not for the welfare of men and the glory of God, but. for their own selfish and corrupt purposes, and afford an example of "great and instructive wickedness." Concerning them the following things are recorded: -
I. CULPABLE IGNORANCE OF GOD (ver. 12). They had no proper conception of him as holy and just, and they did not consider that he observed and hated sin by whomsoever it was committed, and would surely punish it. They had no communion with him, no sympathy with his purposes, and no sense of their own obligations to him. They were unspiritual men, and practically infidel. And they were such notwithstanding the instructions they received, the opportunities they possessed, and the services they rendered. Although the servants of God, "they knew not God," and were "without excuse." Amidst a blaze of light men may be dark within. "And if the light within thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!"
II. OFFICIAL ROBBERY OF MEN (vers. 13, 14). Not satisfied with the liberal portions of the peace offerings which were legally assigned to them (the breast and shoulder), they claimed other and larger portions, to which they were not entitled, and robbed the people for the gratification of their own appetites. What they would have fiercely denounced in others they deemed venial offences in privileged men like themselves. How often do official positions and selfish indulgences blind men to the injustice of their conduct, and harden them in iniquity.
III. WILFUL VIOLATION OF THE LAW (ver. 15). It was required by the Levitical law that the fat should be burnt on the altar before the offering was divided between the priest and the offerer; but instead of doing this, the priest sent his servant beforehand to demand his portion with the fat, that it might be better fitted for roasting than boiling, which was not to his taste. He thus appropriated to his private use what belonged to the Lord, and "robbed God" of his due. It was a gross act of disobedience, sacrilege, and profanity, prompted by the same pampered appetite as his dishonesty toward men; and, in addition, it hindered the people from fulfilling their religious purposes, and made his own servant a partner in his sin.
IV. DESPOTIC EXERCISE OF AUTHORITY (ver. 16). When the people gently remonstrated, and promised to give up their own portion if the fat were first burnt on the altar, it was said to them, "Nay, but thou shalt give it me now, or else I will come and take it by force." Reason as well as right was overridden. Instead of regarding himself as a servant of God for the good of men, the priest made himself a "lord over God's heritage" (1 Peter 5:3). Having cast aside the authority of God, he made his own arbitrary dictum the law of others, and urged obedience to it by the threatening of force. By the same means, backed by spiritual terrors, he has often sought to accomplish his wishes in every age.
V. INJURIOUS INFLUENCE ON RELIGION (vers. 17, 24). Men abstained from presenting as many offerings as they would have given, or even from presenting them at all, being repelled from the service of God by the evil conduct of his ministers. "Ye make the Lord's people to transgress" (ver. 24). One unworthy priest has often made many unbelievers. Instead of strengthening what is noblest and best in men, he has destroyed it, and made its restoration impossible. And, generally, ungodly conduct on the part of professed servants of God is a great hindrance to the spread of truth and righteousness, and a powerful influence in extending error and evil in the world. "One sinner destroyeth much good." To complete the picture, two other things must be added, viz. -
VI. SHAMELESS INDULGENCE IN VICE (ver. 22). They knew nothing of self-control, gave the rein to their lusts, and indulged in vices which the heathen commonly associated with their idol worship, and which made that worship so terrible a temptation to Israel. The idol feasts at Shiloh were doubtless scenes of gross sensuality; and the sons of Eli scarcely cared to disguise their participation in similar indulgences, and made the tabernacle of the Lord like a heathen temple.
VII. SUPERSTITIOUS USE OF SACRED THINGS (1 Samuel 4:11). Having become insensible to the presence of the invisible King, they treated his services as a mere outward ritual, which may be performed without any felt inconsistency between it and any amount of immorality. Why should they observe it at all? From self-interest and from superstition. They still supposed that there was some mysterious benefit inseparably connected with the ark, and enjoyed by those who possessed it, apart from their moral and spiritual state. Their religion had become a superstition, like that of the heathen. And hence they took the ark into the battle field, in sure confidence of their safety, and were deprived of it by the heathen, and they themselves destroyed.
1. It is possible for men to possess the highest privileges, and yet sink into the deepest degradation.
2. The patience of Heaven toward sinners, is wonderful, and designed to lead them to repentance.
3. When men despise the goodness of God, and persist in transgression, they are certain to meet with signal punishment. - D
1 Samuel 2:22-25. (SHILOH.)Numbers 20:26), but which was now transferred to the younger, from some unknown cause, and which continued therein until the time of Solomon. At the age of fiftyeight he became judge, and "judged Israel forty years" (1 Samuel 4:18). When first mentioned he must have been at least seventy years old. His sons were children of his old age; for some time afterwards they were spoken of as young men (1 Samuel 2:17), and, as is not uncommon in such cases, he treated them with undue indulgence. He was hasty and severe in reproving Hannah, but slow and mild in reproving them. The inefficiency of his REPROOF appears in that -
I. IT WAS NOT ADMINISTERED IN PROPER TIME. The tendency to go wrong generally appears at an early age; and it must have been seen by him in his sons long before the rumour of their flagrant transgressions reached him, if he had not been blind to their faults. But he had no adequate sense of his parental responsibility, was old and weak, of a gentle and easy going temperament, and omitted to reprove them (1 Kings 1:6) until they had become too strongly devoted to their evil ways to be amenable to expostulation. A little plant may be easily rooted up, but when it has grown into a tree it can only be removed by extraordinary efforts. If some children are "discouraged" (Colossians 3:21) by too much strictness, far more are spoiled by too much indulgence. "Indulgence never produces gratitude or love in the heart of a child."
II. IT WAS NOT GIVEN WITH SUFFICIENT EARNESTNESS (vers. 23, 24). Gentle reproof may sometimes be most effective, but here it was out of place.
1. It was not sufficiently pointed in its application; being given to them collectively rather than individually, in indefinite terms, by way of question, and concerning things which he had heard, but into the certainty of which he had not troubled himself to inquire.
2. It exhibited no sufficient sense of the evil of sin (ver. 25). He spoke of the consequences rather than of the nature, the "exceeding sinfulness" of sin, and spoke of them in a way which indicated little deep personal conviction.
3. It showed no sufficient determination to correct it. He did not say that he would judge them for their injustice toward men; and with reference to their sin against the Lord, which was their chief offence, he simply confessed that he could do nothing but leave them to the judgment of a higher tribunal. "In the case where the rebuke should have descended like a bolt from heaven we hear nothing but low and feeble murmurings, coming, as it were, out of the dust. Cruel indeed are the tenderest mercies of parental weakness and indulgence. And the fate of Eli shows that by such tender mercies the father may become the minister of vengeance unto his whole house" (Le Bas).
III. IT WAS NOT FOLLOWED BY ADEQUATE CHASTISEMENT. The law of Moses in the case of disobedient children was very severe (Deuteronomy 21:18-21). But Eli neither observed this law "when they hearkened not to his voice" (ver. 25), nor took any further steps to prevent the continuance of the evil which he reproved. He had none of the zeal for which Phinehas the son of Eleazar was approved (Numbers 25:11-13); but as a father, a high priest, and a judge he was guilty of culpable infirmity and wilful disobedience (1 Samuel 3:13). "Osiers," says an old writer, "can never be pillars in the State or in the Church."
IV. IT DID NOT RESULT IN ANY IMPROVEMENT (ver. 25). Their contempt of reproof showed that they were already infatuated, hardened, and abandoned to destruction; or (reading for - therefore), it filled up the measure of their iniquities, and exposed them to inevitable judgment. "He that hateth reproof shall die" (Proverbs 15:10).
1. Reproof is often a solemn obligation.
2. It should be given in an effective manner.
3. When not so given it does more harm than good.
4. When justly given it should be humbly and obediently received. - D.
1 Samuel 2:27-36. (SHILOH.)
1. This message came from God, who observed, as he ever does, the sins of his people, and especially his ministers, with much displeasure, and after long forbearance resolved to punish them (Amos 3:2; 1 Peter 4:17).
2. It came through a man whose name has not been recorded, and who was probably unknown to him to whom he was sent. When God sends a message it matters little by whom it is brought. He often makes his most important communications in a way the world does not expect, and by men who are unknown to fame. The authority of the Lord invests his messengers with dignity and power. And their best credentials are that they "commend themselves to the conscience" (2 Corinthians 4:2).
3. It came through a "man of God," a seer, a prophet, and not directly from God to Eli, the high priest. He chooses for special service men who live near to him, and are in sympathy with his purposes, in preference to those who occupy official positions, but are possessed of little personal worth. For a long season no prophet had spoken (Judges 4:4; Judges 6:8; Judges 13:6); and when the silence of heaven is suddenly broken, it is an intimation that great changes are impending.
4. It came some time before the events which it announced actually transpired. "The Lord is slow to anger" (Nahum 1:3), and executes judgment only after repeated warnings. Predictions which are absolute in form must often be understood as in their fulfilment conditioned by the moral state of those whom they concern (Jeremiah 18:7; Jonah 3:4, 9, 10). The purpose for which this message was sent was to lead to repentance, and it was not until all hope of it had disappeared that the blow fell. In substance the message contains -
I. A REMINDER OF SPECIAL PRIVILEGES bestowed by the favour of God, and shown -
1. By the revelation of himself to those who were in a condition of abject servitude (ver. 27).
2. By his selection of some, in preference to others, for exalted and honourable service (ver. 28).
3. By his liberal provision for them out of the offerings made by the people to himself. Religious privileges always involve responsibilities, and should be faithfully used out of gratitude for their bestowment.
II. A CHARGE OF GROSS UNFAITHFULNESS (ver. 29). The purpose for which the priests were endowed with these privileges was not the promotion of their own honour and interest, but the honour of God and the welfare of his people. But they acted in opposition to that purpose.
1. By irreverence and self-will in his service. "Wherefore do ye trample under foot my sacrifice?"
2. By disobedience to his will. "Which I have commanded."
3. By pleasing others in preference to him. "And honourest thy sons above me." Eli's toleration of the conduct of his sons, from regard to their interest and his own ease, involved him in their guilt.
4. By self-enrichment out of the religious offerings of the people. "The idol which man in sin sets up in the place of God can be none other than himself. He makes self and self-satisfaction the highest aim of life. To self his efforts ultimately tend, however the modes and directions of sin may vary. The innermost essence of sin, the ruling and penetrating principle, in all its forms, is selfishness" (Muller, 'Christian Doctrine of Sin'). When men use the gifts of God for selfish ends they render themselves liable to be deprived of those gifts, and to be punished for their misuse.
III. A STATEMENT OF AN EQUITABLE PRINCIPLE, according to which God acts in his procedure with men (ver. 30). They have been apt to suppose that privileges bestowed upon themselves or inherited from their ancestors were absolutely their own, and would be certainly continued. But it is far otherwise; for -
1. The fulfilment of the promises of God and the continuance of religious privileges depend on the ethical relation in which men stand toward him. His covenant with Levi was "for the fear with which he feared me" (Malachi 2:6, 7); but when his descendants lost that fear they "corrupted the covenant," and ceased to have any claim upon its promised blessings. It was the same with the Jews who in after ages vainly boasted that they were "the children of Abraham." In the sight of the Holy One righteousness is everything, hereditary descent nothing, except in so far as it is promotive of righteousness.
2. Faithful service is rewarded. HONOUR FOR HONOUR. "Them that honour me I will honour." Consider -
(1) The ground: not merely his relationship as moral Governor, but his beneficence in bestowing the gifts of nature, providence, and grace.
(2) The method: in thought, word, and deed.
(3) The reward: his approbation, continued service, extended usefulness, etc.
3. Unfaithful conduct is punished. "Promises and threatenings are made to individuals because they are in a particular state of character; but they belong to all who are in that state, for 'God is no respecter of persons'" (Robertson). "He will give to every man according to his works."
IV. A PROCLAMATION OF SEVERE RETRIBUTION upon the house of Eli (vers. 31-34). Consisting of -
1. The deprivation of strength, which had been abused. Their power would be broken (Zechariah 11:17).
2. The shortening of life, the prolonging of which in the case of Eli had been an occasion of evil rather than of good. "There shall not be an old man in thine house forever;" the result of weakness; repeated in ver. 32.
3. The loss of prosperity; the temporal benefits that would otherwise have been received. "Thou shalt see distress of dwelling in all that brings prosperity to Israel" (Ed. of Erdmann).
4. The infliction of misery on those who continue, for a while, to minister at the altar, and of violent death (ver. 33; 22:18).
5. Although these things would not take place at once, their commencement, as a sign of what would follow, would be witnessed by Eli himself in the sudden death of the two chief offenders "in one day" (1 Samuel 4:11). If anything could rouse the house of Eli to "flee from the wrath to come," surely such a fearful message as this was adapted to do so. Fear of coming wrath, although it never makes men truly religious, may, and often does, arouse and restrain them, and bring them under the influence of other and higher motives. The closing sentences contain -
V. A PREDICTION OF A FAITHFUL PRIESTHOOD in the place of that which had proved faithless (vers. 35, 36). "I will raise up a faithful priest," etc., i.e. a line of faithful men to accomplish the work for which the priesthood has been appointed, and to enjoy the privileges which the house of Eli has forfeited. In contrast with that house, it will do my will, and I will cause it to endure; and it will continue to live in intimate fellowship and cooperation with the anointed kings of Israel. It will also be so exalted, that the surviving members of the fallen house will be entirely dependent upon it for a "piece of bread." The prediction was first of all fulfilled in Samuel, who by express commission from God acted habitually as a priest; and afterwards in Zadok, in whom the line of Eleazar was restored; but the true underlying idea of a priest, like that of a king, has its full realisation in Jesus Christ alone. The gloomiest of prophetic messages generally conclude with words of promise and hope. - D.
moral attitude assumed by men toward God, which is here described, observe -
I. THAT IT IS PLAINLY OF THE UTMOST IMPORTANCE. "Me." Our relation to others is a light thing compared with what it is to him. This is everything; and knowledge, power, riches, reputation, etc. nothing.
1. Because of his nature ("There is none holy as the Lord"), his government (moral, supreme, universal), and his claims.
2. It is the effectual test of our character, what we are really and essentially.
3. It is the principal means of forming and strengthening it. What are we in his sight? What does he think of me?
II. THAT IT IS NECESSARILY ONE OR OTHER OF TWO KINDS. "Honour me." "Despise me."
1. Honour; by reverence (the fundamental principle of the religious life), trust, prayer, obedience, fidelity, living to his glory.
2. Despise; by forgetfulnesss, unbelief, self-will, pride, selfishness, disobedience, sin of every kind.
III. THAT IT IS ALWAYS FOLLOWED BY CORRESPONDING CONSEQUENCES. "I will honour." "Shall be lightly esteemed."
1. Honour; by his friendship, appointment to honourable service, giving success therein, open acknowledgment before men here and hereafter. "Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."
2. Lightly esteemed; by himself, men, angels, despised even by themselves, and cast away among the vile. "He that sayeth his life shall lose it."
3. There is a strict correspondence between character and consequences, both generally and particularly, in kind and measure. And the joy and misery of the future will be the consummation and the ripened fruit of what now exists (Galatians 6:7).
IV. THAT ITS CONNECTION WITH ITS CONSEQUENCES IS ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN. Men often think otherwise. But "be not deceived." Consider -
1. The natural constitution and tendencies of things, as ordained by him who is "above all, and in all, and through all."
2. The recorded and observed facts of life.
3. The express declarations of him "who cannot lie." "I will honour." "They shall be lightly esteemed." - D.
I. THE PIOUS DIVINELY HONOURED. To honour God; think what this implies. To know him truly, to reverence and love him. In vain any verbal or formal homage without the honour rendered by the heart (see Matthew 15:8). He whose heart cleaves to God will show it in his daily conduct. He will be careful to consult God's word for direction, and observe his statutes. He will openly respect God's ordinances, and give cheerfully for their maintenance, and for the furtherance of righteous and charitable objects. He will honour the Lord with his substance, and with the first fruits of all his increase. He will worship God with his family, and teach his children "the fear of the Lord." In his place or station he will make it his aim, and hold it his chief end, to glorify God. And, without any vaunting or ostentation, he will show his colours - avow his faith and hope openly. The boy king, Edward VI., showed his colours when he sat - alas I for how short a time - on the English throne. So did Sir Matthew Hale on the bench, and Robert Boyle in the Royal Society, and William Wilberforce in the highest circles of political life. So did Dr. Arnold among the boys at Rugby, and Dr. Abercrombie and Sir James Simpson among their patients in Edinburgh; Samuel Budgett in his counting house at Bristol, and General Havelock among his troops in India. These men were not in what are called religious offices; but, in such offices or positions as Providence assigned to them, they bore themselves as religious, God fearing men. And others there are in places and callings more obscure who are quite as worthy of esteem; those who, in houses of business among scoffing companions, in servants' halls, in workshops, in barrack rooms, in ships' forecastles, meekly but firmly honour the Lord, and ennoble a lowly calling by fidelity to conscience and to God. The Lord sees and remembers all who honour him. Nay, he honours them; but after his own manner, not after the fashion of the world. He honours faithful servants in this world by giving them more work to do. He honours true witnesses by extending the range for their testimony. Sometimes he honours those with whom he is well pleased by appointing them to suffer for his cause. St. Paul evidently deemed this a high honour. Witness his words to the Philippians: "Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe in his name, but also to suffer for his sake." Some he calls away in early years out of the world, but they leave behind a fragrant honoured name, and they go to "glory, honour, and immortality" in a better land. It is right to value the good opinion of our fellow men; but there are always drawbacks and dangers in connection with honour which comes from man. In seeking it one is tempted to tarnish his simplicity of character, and weaken his self-respect. There is a risk of envying more successful, or exulting over less successful competitors for distinction. But it need never be so in seeking "the honour which comes from God only." We seek it best not when we push ourselves forward, but when we deny ourselves, honour him, and by love serve the brethren. And then in our utmost success we have no ground of self-glorying, for all is of grace. Nor is there room for grudging or envying. With the Lord there is grace enough to help all who would serve him, and glory enough to reward all who serve him faithfully.
II. THE IMPIOUS DESPISED. "And they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed." Despise the Lord God Almighty! Amazing insolence of the human heart, yet not infrequent. The sons of Eli openly slighted Jehovah by their rapacity in the priest's office, and their profaning the precincts of his house with their debauchery. Long after this, priests of Judah are reproved by the prophet Malachi for despising the name of the Lord of hosts, making his table contemptible by laying on it polluted bread, and dishonouring his altar by offering maimed animals in sacrifice. The warning then, in the first instance, is to those who bear themselves profanely or carelessly in sacred offices, and in familiar contact with religious service. But the sin is one which soon spreads among the people Ezekiel charged the people of Jerusalem with having "despised God's holy things, and profaned his sabbaths" (1 Samuel 22:8). This sin is a common thing in Christendom. Men do not in terms deny God's existence, but make light of him; never read his word with any seriousness; never pray unless they are ill or afraid; count Church service and instruction a weariness. The base gods of the heathen receive more respect and consideration from their votaries. Allah has far more reverence from the Moslem than the great God of heaven and earth obtains from multitudes who pass as Christians. They live as if he had no right to command them, and no power to judge them. They lift their own will and pleasure to the throne, and despise the Lord of hosts. With what result? They shall be lightly esteemed. Even in this world, and this life, the ungodly miss the best distinctions. They are not the men who gather about them the highest confidence or most lasting influence and esteem. After they leave the world, a few are remembered who had rare force of character or an unusually eventful career; but how the rest are forgotten! A few natural tears from their nearest kindred, a few inquiries among friends about the amount and disposal of their property, a decorous silence about themselves on the principle that nothing but what is good should be said of the dead, and so their memory perishes. But all is not over. A terrible hereafter awaits the despisers of the Lord. "As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image." The clear alternative in this text is one that cannot be evaded. One may try to assume a negative attitude, and allege that he remains in a state of suspense, and does not find the recognition of a Divine Being to be an imperative necessity; but this is practically to despise the Lord - making light of his word, and pronouncing his very existence to be a matter of doubtful truth and of secondary importance. Reject not wisdom's counsel; despise not her reproof. "Today, if ye will hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts." - F.
1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6). But taking the expression as equivalent to "a faithful ministry," consisting of men appointed by Christ to a special service for him (Malachi 2:6, 7; Acts 6:4; Ephesians 4:11; Colossians 1:7; 2 Timothy 2:2), and faithfully fulfilling the purpose of their appointment, it leads us to notice -
I. WHENCE IT IS DERIVED. "I will raise up."
1. He alone can do it. From him come natural gifts and, still more, spiritual graces, eminent faith and patience, humility, courage, meekness, tender compassion "on the ignorant and on them that are out of the way," etc.
2. He has promised and made provision for it (Jeremiah 3:15). "I will build him a sure (enduring) house." "The death of Christ hath a great influence unto this gift of the ministry. It is a branch that grew out of the grave of Christ; let it be esteemed as lightly as men please, had not Christ died for it we had not had a ministry in the world" (Owen, vol. 9. p. 441). He "will be inquired of" for it. If Churches would have "good ministers of Jesus Christ," they must seek them from God (Matthew 9:38).
II. WHEREIN IT APPEARS. "Shall do according to that which is in my heart and in my mind."
1. Supreme regard to his will as the rule of character and labour.
2. Clear insight into his mind in relation to the special requirements of the time, place, and circumstances.
3. Practical, earnest, and constant devotion to it in all things, the least as well as the greatest. Even as "Christ himself." "I have given you an example."
III. WHEREBY IT IS HONOURED. "And he shall walk before mine anointed forever."
1. Enjoyment of the King's favour (Proverbs 16:15).
2. Employment in the King's service; in continued, honourable, beneficent, and increasing cooperation with him.