Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
: 1 Kings 5:3; 1 Kings 6:12; 1 Kings 8:17-19; 1 Chronicles 22:7-10; 1 Chronicles 28:2-7; 1 Chronicles 29:1-3; 2 Chronicles 6:7-9.) The king's palace of cedar on Mount Zion had been completed. In the adjacent tabernacle or dwelling place of Jehovah (ver. 6) the ark had found rest, and a regular order of public worship had been instituted. Surrounding enemies had been subdued, and there was at least a temporary cessation from war. Jerusalem was the civil, military, and ecclesiastical centre of the kingdom. And now another step in advance was taken. Whilst contemplating the lowly abode of the ark of the Lord in comparison with his own palace, the thought arose in David's mind of building a splendid and durable temple for the Name of the Lord God of Israel (1 Kings 8:17), a house of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and for the footstool of our God (1 Chronicles 28:2), "exceeding magnifical of fame and of glory throughout all countries" (1 Chronicles 22:5); and "when the king sat in his house" he intimated his wish (for it scarcely amounted to a distinct and definite resolution) to Nathan the prophet, doubtless in order to obtain his advice concerning its propriety and accomplishment. What followed was of the highest importance in relation to the permanence of his dynasty, the prosperity of his people, the worship of God, and the development of Messianic purposes. "The word of the Prophet Nathan and the thanksgiving of David mark the culmination of David's history" (Baumgarten). This chapter affords a glimpse into his innermost heart, and reveals the devotional feelings, patriotic desires, and lofty aspirations and hopes that dwelt therein. In him we here see an example of -
I. DEVOUT OCCUPATION IN THE RETIREMENT OF HOME. Such retirement, necessary for all, is not always spent wisely and well; but often in sensuous indulgence, frivolous amusement, self-adulation (Daniel 4:29, 30), envious discontent (1 Kings 21:4), or meditating secular and selfish schemes (Luke 11:17, 18). The godly man not only "returns to bless his household," but also:
1. Meditates on the best things: the Name of the Lord, his greatness and goodness, his works, his ways, his Word, his worship, and the welfare of men. He considers "the days of old," and "communes with his own heart" (Psalm 77:5, 6) of his benefits, obligations, condition, and prospects (Psalm 55:17; Matthew 6:5; John 1:48).
2. Talks of these things in a right manner.
3. Cultivates social intercourse with good men," the excellent, in whom is all his delight" (Psalm 16:3; Psalm 119:63). He prefers their society to any other, befriends them, and makes them his friends (Luke 16:9). Nor is there any greater treasure on earth than a faithful friend, such as David had in Nathan. The manner in which men spend their leisure hours is a sure indication of their real character.
II. ARDENT GRATITUDE TO GOD FOR SUCCESS in his undertakings, labours, conflicts (ver. 1), and whatever rest and prosperity he enjoys.
2. He is deeply affected by his exceeding kindness, so condescending, undeserved, and inexpressible (vers. 8, 9, 20)! While he muses the fire burns (Psalm 39:3).
3. And he is constrained to testify his thankfulness in word and deed. "Those who stretch themselves upon beds of ivory (Amos 6:4-6), and were not grieved for the affliction of Joseph, though they had David's music had not David's spirit" (Matthew Henry). "Though the Prophet David was guilty of many of the most deadly sins, yet he was said to be a man after God's own heart, because he abounded more with thankfulness than any other that is mentioned in Holy Scripture" (Isaac Walton).
III. TENDER CONCERN FOR THE DIVINE HONOUR. "See now I dwell in a house of cedar," etc. The devout and grateful heart fuels:
1. That with the honour of God the house of God is intimately connected. No material fabric, however stately, can now possess the same significance or relative importance as the tabernacle or temple (1 Samuel 1:3, 9). But wherever God's children meet for Divine worship and spiritual fellowship (thus constituting the true temple and Church), the place is "hallowed ground." Standing amidst other dwellings, the house of God is a constant witness for him; and, by its sacred associations, religious exercises, and the holy influences therein received and thence diffused, it greatly conduces to his glory, as well as to the good of men.
2. That it ought to correspond with its declared purpose, and the circumstances and abilities of those by whom it is erected and attended. All "temples made with hands" fall infinitely beneath the dignity of the Eternal (1 Kings 8:27; Acts 17:24); yet it is becoming that "strength and beauty should be in his sanctuary," that men should offer their best in his service (2 Samuel 24:24), and that, while they dwell in "celled houses," his house should not "lie waste" (Haggai 1:4).
3. That it is a duty and a privilege to employ the gifts bestowed by God for the improvement of his house and the promotion of his honour. When he has done much for us we should do much for him. "Four great means for administering the religion of Christ have been divinely appointed: the Book of God, the day of God, the worship of God, and the house of God. This last is for the sake of the former three. Without it they cannot be upheld. In the house of God the truth of God is proclaimed, the day of God is hallowed, and the worship of God is solemnized. All good gathers into and around God's house. 'I will make,' saith he, 'the places round about my hill a blessing.' There gather pious families. There arise schools for neglected children. There benevolent activities prevail. There spring up fountains of missionary liberality. And from humble sanctuaries in England, gospel light streams forth to distant regions of the earth - the wilds of Southern Africa, or the populous hives of Chinese idolatry" (Algernon Wells).
IV. HIGH ESTIMATION OF FRIENDLY COUNSEL. Unlike some successful and powerful men, who take counsel of their own hearts and despise the advice of others, David valued, sought, and received the advice of Nathan as the counsel of God himself. "The first great office of a friend is
(1) to try our thoughts by the measure of his judgment, and to taste the wholesomeness of our designs and purposes by the feelings of his heart. As this office of a good friend is to guard us against the imperfections of our own nature, and protect the world from the effects and ourselves from the responsibility of our folly, the next office of a friend is
(2) to protect us from the selfish and wilful and malicious part of our nature. A third great office of friendship is
(3) to awaken us and lift us up, and set us on nobler deeds. The fourth good office of a friend is
(4) to rally us when we are defeated or overtaken with adversity. And so much is the world alive to this office as to have chosen it out as the true test; it being one of our best proverbs that 'a friend in need is a friend indeed'" (E. Irving). - D.
I. WHAT WAS THE KING'S DESIRE? To erect a solid, permanent building, of suitable magnificence - a temple - in which the ark should be placed, and where the services of worship should be constantly maintained. Most likely he contemplated what was afterwards effected, the reunion on one spot of the ark and the altars; and the presentation of the daily and other sacrifices and offerings at their proper place before the symbol of the Divine presence - the revival, in fact, of the Mosaic ritual under circumstances and with accompaniments adapted to the existing condition of the nation. The purpose was good and tended to good. It was time that the irregularity and negligence which had prevailed should come to an end, and the requirements of the Law should be obeyed. It was fitting that the unity of the people should be fully symbolized, expressed, and promoted by such a united worship as the Law enjoined. It was also suitable to the more settled state which, under David, the people had reached, that a solid fixed building should supersede the tent which was adapted to the time of wandering and unsettlement; and, as the nation's resources had increased, it was right that the building to be reared should be proportionately costly.
II. HOW IT ORIGINATED.
1. A time of peace favoured it. (Ver. 1.) Giving the king leisure for thought as to how he could further promote the nation's welfare; awakening gratitude; affording means and opportunity. Times of war are greatly unfavourable to such enterprises, forcing minds and hearts into other channels, and swallowing up the resources which might otherwise be expended on them.
2. The solidity, beauty, and comforts of David's own house suggested it. "I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwelleth within curtains." David had known for years what it was to have no settled abode, but to wander about the land, taking refuge in woods and caves; and afterwards he was much away from home, engaged in wars. Lately he had built himself a handsome palace, and now for a time he was able to sit quietly in it and meditate; and as he did so, it one day struck him that his abode was superior to that of the ark of God, and the desire was kindled to put an end to the incongruity. Not every one would have been thus moved. How differently the rich man of whom our Lord speaks in Luke 12:16, et seq., "thought within himself"! And how many prosperous people there are, professing to have given themselves to God, who, as they increase in wealth and enjoy comfort and luxury, never turn a thought towards God's house or cause, or inquire what they can do for them! They reflect much, it may be, on the question how best to invest their increasing gains; but it never seems to occur to them that the most suitable and profitable investment might be in the cause of religion or charity. A more fervent piety would suggest such thoughts. Gratitude for the abundance bestowed on them; the contrast presented (see Haggai 1:4) between their residences and their churches, between what they spend on their establishments and, what they spend in the promotion of the kingdom of God; the witness which their mansions and surroundings bear to the ample means with which God has endowed thrum - the large trust he has committed to them; - all would be fruitful of thoughts and emotions to which they are now strangers, and of a style of giving which they have never allowed themselves. It was David's piety more than the surrounding circumstances that originated his generous purpose.
III. HOW IT WAS TESTED. As to its propriety and probable acceptance with God. He consulted his friend and adviser, Nathan the prophet: The more important the steps we contemplate, the more needful is it, before we are openly and irrevocably committed to them, that we should ascertain how they appear to others, especially to the wisest and best whom we know. Feeling is not a sufficient guide, not even pious feeling; and our own judgment may not be of the soundest. Another may put the matter in a new light, which shall convince ourselves that, however good our motives, our purpose is not wise or not practicable. We cannot directly consult a prophet, but we may find good and enlightened and trustworthy men who will be glad to aid us to a fight conclusion. And what joy it gives to Christian ministers to be consulted by such as come saying, "God has prospered me, I have done well for myself and my family, and I should like to do something proportionate for my God and Saviour: advise me as to how I may best fulfil my desire"! Such applicants are few and far between; such a style of thought and purpose is rare. But it ought not to be. It is a sin and shame that God's work should be hindered for want of money in a thriving community which can spend freely in all other directions.
IV. HOW IT WAS REGARDED BY NATHAN. He approved and encouraged the desire, assuring David of the Divine approval add cooperation (ver. 3). He spoke on the impulse of the moment, with the feeling natural to a pious Israelite and prophet, thankful that his king should cherish such a design. He did well, but had he paused and proposed to "sleep upon" the matter, he would have done better, as appeared next day. We should ever be ready to encourage others in good thoughts and purposes, yet in important matters it is well to take time to consider before we advise as to definite proposals.
V. HOW IT WAS REGARDED BY GOD. The proposal was approved, commended, rewarded, and - rejected. The refusal was softened by the terms in which it was conveyed, and the representations and promises by which it was accompanied (vers. 4-17; 2 Chronicles 6:8); declaring that it was well that it was in his heart to build a house for God's Name, although it was a matter of indifference to the Most High what sort of dwelling places men provided for him; reminding David of what he had done for him; assuring him that he would continue to favour the nation, that he would build a house for him as he had sought to build one for himself, and that his son should fulfil the father's desire, and the throne should continue in his family forever. This was the greatest promise David had received, greater than he himself could then understand, for it looked forward to the everlasting kingdom of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. But though his knowledge of its purport was imperfect, his pain at the rejection of his proposal was more than soothed; his heart was filled with adoring gratitude and joy.
VI. HOW ITS SINCERITY WAS PROVED. If he might not do all he desired, he would do all he might and could. He, therefore, prepared plans for the building, accumulated materials for its erection, and urged the work on his son Solomon and the chief men of the nation. An example for us if, setting our hearts on some particular work for God, our purpose is frustrated. Let the diverted energies be employed all the more in such services as are within our reach. A contrast to the conduct of many who, disappointed in reference to some cherished desire (e.g. to become clergymen or missionaries), allow their zeal to decline to the common level, if it do not pass away altogether. In conclusion:
1. Christian piety will kindle earnest desires to do the greatest possible work for God. Such desires should be cherished in subordination to the Divine will. For though approved of God, they may be denied (Proverbs 10:24 notwithstanding). If denied, we should be content, assured of the perfect wisdom and goodness of the purpose of God which has frustrated ours, and that for us and others he has some better thing in store than we had thought of. Though denied, our desire may be fulfilled (as David's by Solomon). Whether denied or gratified, goal desires (such as are really good, and not mere idle wishes) are always valuable, for what they indicate in ourselves, for the Divine approval they elicit, for their influence on ourselves, and their influence on others (as David's on his successor and on the chiefs of the nation).
2. The desire to build or aid in building a house for the worship of God is good.
3. We may all assist in the erection and adornment of a nobler temple than that which David sought to build. "The house of God is the Church of the living God" (1 Timothy 3:15), and all who labour for the conversion and spiritual improvement of men are helping in the glorious work of building and adorning this spiritual house. Let all Christian workers realize the dignity and glory of their work. Let us all ask ourselves whether we have any heart for it, are doing anything towards it; whether we are capable of doing anything in it that shall be acceptable to God, having first given our own selves to him, and received his Spirit. - G.W.
References: 2 Samuel 12:1, 25; 1 Kings 1:10, 22; 1 Kings 4:5; 1 Chronicles 17:1; 1 Chronicles 29:29; 2 Chronicles 9:29; 2 Chronicles 29:25; Zechariah 12:12.) This is the first mention of his name. He may have been trained by Samuel at Naioth, and become acquainted with David there; was now the confidential friend and spiritual adviser of the king; subsequently reproved him for his sin; gave him counsel concerning the accession of Solomon; aided him in the reorganization of public worship; and wrote annals of his reign. It was his vocation to interpret and announce the Divine mind to others (see 1 Samuel 4:1). "The calling of a prophet was that of a preacher or pastor with reference to the congregation as a whole and its individual members; but was distinct from our modern ideas with reference to the calling as thus explained in his drawing directly from Divine revelation. The prophets have been rightly called 'the conscience of the Israelitish state.'... They held intercourse with God by means of prayer. They questioned God (Habakkuk 2:1), and he answered; but they did not receive Divine disclosures until they had first occupied an attitude of waiting and praying" (Delitzsch; Oehler, 'Theology of the Old Testament;' Riehm).
1. All men, and especially those who are in authority, have need of wise and faithful counsel. The king himself is only a man; his position is apt to blind his judgment and corrupt his heart; whilst his responsibilities and the consequences of his actions are very great.
2. Even the wisest of counsellors are liable to err in judgment. (Job 32:9.) "All that is in thine heart go, do." But herein Nathan spoke "out of his own mind, and not by Divine revelation" (J.H. Michaelis). The prophet, like the king, was only a man (Acts 10:26), imperfect and fallible, and often mistaken, when giving counsel according to his natural judgment and first impressions, without seeking and obtaining the counsel of God. It is not said that he spoke by "the word of the Lord," as he did afterwards (ver. 4). "Ofttimes our thoughts, although springing from motives of real religion, are not God's thoughts; and the lesson here conveyed is most important - not taking our own impressions, however earnestly and piously derived, as necessarily in accordance with the will of God, but testing them by his revealed Word" (Edersheim).
3. The errors of human judgment are rectified by Divine communications. Such communications have been actually made; and they are unspeakably precious. The prophet clearly distinguished them from his own thoughts, and had an inward assurance and overpowering conviction that he was the organ of God. It is the privilege of all Christians to be "taught of God," and "led by the Spirit;" but unless their convictions and impulses accord with the revealed Word, they must be rejected.
4. The Word of Divine revelation admits of no questioning or contradiction; but should be received "with meekness," uttered with simplicity and fidelity (Deuteronomy 12:32), and obeyed humbly, cheerfully, and fully. The prophet hesitated not to acknowledge his mistake, nor the king to lay aside his purpose in obedience to the will of the Lord (vers. 17, 18). - D.
1. It describes an invaluable privilege. "Jehovah," the Eternal, the Unchangeable, the Faithful, the Covenant God of Israel, "is with thee;" not simply in his special presence, but also in his effectual grace, approving, directing, protecting, qualifying, helping, prospering thee. "I am with thee" (Genesis 26:24; Exodus 20:24).
2. It expresses a personal assurance. "With thee." Such assurance is given by the word of the prophet, the covenant of God, the argument of experience (ver. 9; 1 Samuel 18:32-37), and the conviction of the heart in the way of faith and, obedience.
3. It furnishes a powerful incitement to thanksgiving, prayer, conflict, labour, perseverance, hope (Haggai 2:4; 1 Corinthians 15:58). "Lo, I am with you always." The spiritual presence and fellowship of Christ are the secret of all spiritual strength and success. - D.
Thou shalt not build me a house to dwell in" (1 Chronicles 17:4). The purpose of a good man is often "broken off" (Job 17:11; Job 29:18); not always, however, because of the clearer knowledge of the mind of God vouchsafed to him, but more commonly because of the difficulty and opposition he meets with in seeking its accomplishment, and his inability to overcome them. Of the purpose of David (as illustrative of that of others) observe that —
I. ALTHOUGH FORBIDDEN IT WAS NOT ALTOGETHER DISAPPROVED. "Thou didst well that it was in thine heart" (1 Kings 8:18); spoken of:
1. The spirit, in which his purpose was formed - grateful devotion and sincere desire of honourmg God and benefiting men. This is always the chief thing "in the sight of God, who searches the heart."
2. And the object toward which it was directed. It was not in itself displeasing to God, but received his sanction (Deuteronomy 12:10, 11; ver. 13). Yet:
3. How seldom is a human purpose, though in the main good, entirely unmingled with human imperfection! The language in which the purpose of David was forbidden seems to indicate that "his generous impulse was outrunning God's commandment, and that his ardour to serve was in some danger of forgetting his entire dependence on God, and of fancying that God would be the better for him" (A. Maclaren).
II. IT WAS NOT FORBIDDEN WITHOUT SUFFICIENT REASON (vers. 7, 8), viz.:
1. The dealings of God with his people in past time; showing that it was his pleasure that his dwelling place should be adapted to their unsettled condition; and that "a house of cedar" was not indispensable to his presence and blessing. He was satisfied to share their wanderings.
2. The absence of a Divine direction to build a permanent house. "It was not because of any negligence on the part of the former leaders of the people that they had not thought of erecting a temple" (Keil). Until the "word" should be spoken, no one might enter upon such an undertaking.
3. The unsuitableness of the present time - the still disturbed and warlike state of the kingdom (ver. 11). "Inasmuch as these wars were necessary and inevitable, they were practical proofs that David's kingdom and government were not yet established; and therefore that the time for the building of the temple had not yet come, and the rest of peace was not yet secured."
4. The incongruity of his career with the nature and design of the building. An abode of peace should be erected by a man of peace. "Thou hast shed blood abundantly, and hast made great wars; thou shalt not build a house to my Name," etc, (1 Chronicles 22:8; 1 Chronicles 28:3; 1 Kings 5:3). "From whence could so sublime a precept descend, amidst a people constituted as the Jews were, unless from the Father of love and mercy?' (Milman). "War, however necessary it may be in certain circumstances for the kingdom of God, is only something accidental, the result of human corruption. The true nature of the kingdom of God is peace" (Hengstenberg). Still other reasons appear in what was promised to David (vers. 11, 12), without which the accomplishment of what he purposed in his heart was impossible.
III. IT WAS FORBIDDEN IN THE MOST GRACIOUS MANNER, (Vers. 8-11.) For God:
1. Assured him of the regard in which he was held by him. "David is here called God's servant, who is King of kings - the fairest flower in any king's crown, and highest title he can claim" (Guild).
2. Reminded him of the great things which he had already done for him; and which were an earnest of "still greater things than these" (Psalm 78:70-72).
3. Informed him of the safety and stability, the peace and prosperity, which (in continuance of his former mercies) he was about to grant to his people under his rule.
4. Promised to him rest from all his enemies, and an enduring dynasty (ch. 1:1, 2), "Jehovah telleth thee that Jehovah will make thee a house" (Psalm 132:11). What an abundant compensation was thus afforded for any disappointment that might be at first experienced! "Our own plans, though well intended, are often fit for nothing but to be laid aside to make way for the Lord's purposes respecting us, of which perhaps we had no conception" (Scott).
IV. IT WAS FORBIDDEN ONLY THAT IT MIGHT BE MORE EFFECTUALLY FULFILLED. (Vers. 12, 13.) "'Thou shalt not build a house for me' (vers. 5-7); but I, who have from the beginning till now glorified myself in thee and my people (vers. 8-11), will build a house for thee (ver. 11); and then thy son shall erect a house for me" (Thenius).
1. The purpose of man depends for its fulfilment upon the purpose of God.
2. The purpose which one man is unable to accomplish is often wrought out by another, who comes after him, under more favourable circumstances.
3. Although the former is not permitted to see the execution of his purpose, he may contribute greatly towards it, and does not go unrewarded.
4. Many a seeming failure is a real and glorious success; and "heaven is made for those who fail in this world." - D.
2 Samuel 7:9. - (JERUSALEM.)1 Chronicles 14:17). "Glory consists in the honourable and widespread reputation of numerous and important services rendered to one's friends, his country, or the whole human race" (Cicero). It is:
1. A desired possession. The love of human esteem, praise, and honour is natural, universal, beneficial, though often perverted to unworthy ends, and not subordinated to the voice of conscience and of God. "That characteristic of man which is at once the most unworthy and the most exalted is his desire of glory. It is the last passion that becomes extinct in the heart of man. There is such a charm in glory that, whatever we connect with it, even death itself, we love it still" (Pascal). "Desire of glory is the last garment that even wise men lay aside" (O. Felltham).
2. A Divine gift. "And in thine hand it is to make great" (1 Chronicles 29:12). Although it necessitates, in most instances, strenuous human endeavour, it is never attained apart from or in opposition to the working of Divine providence; which in this, as in other things, is frequently mysterious, but always wise and just and good. How many strive after it in vain!
"Some sink outright; Like a flag floating when the bark's engulf'd - 3. A weighty responsibility. As it is given by God, so it should be ascribed to him and used for him, according to his will, not for selfish but beneficent ends (2 Samuel 5:12). Even when righteously gained, it is not always righteously maintained. Some of "the great men that are on the earth" have, by its abuse, fallen from their nest among the stars (Obadiah 1:4), like "Lucifer, son of the morning" (Isaiah 14:12). 4. An unsatisfying portion. In the midst of its enjoyment the soul craves something higher, and can find rest only in the approbation and fellowship of God (Psalm 4:6; Psalm 73:25; Psalm 119:57). It cannot impart inward peace; it endures but for a season, and then passes away. "Where are those rulers of the earth gone, with their guards, armies, and carriages, of whose departure the earth stands a witness unto the present day?" ('The Hitopadesa'). "The noise Live in the mouths of mankind, if thy flesh (1) A great name is not always a good name. (2) A good name may be possessed, though a great name may be unattainable. (3) To some men (like David) it is given to possess both.
Like a flag floating when the bark's engulf'd -
3. A weighty responsibility. As it is given by God, so it should be ascribed to him and used for him, according to his will, not for selfish but beneficent ends (2 Samuel 5:12). Even when righteously gained, it is not always righteously maintained. Some of "the great men that are on the earth" have, by its abuse, fallen from their nest among the stars (Obadiah 1:4), like "Lucifer, son of the morning" (Isaiah 14:12).
4. An unsatisfying portion. In the midst of its enjoyment the soul craves something higher, and can find rest only in the approbation and fellowship of God (Psalm 4:6; Psalm 73:25; Psalm 119:57). It cannot impart inward peace; it endures but for a season, and then passes away. "Where are those rulers of the earth gone, with their guards, armies, and carriages, of whose departure the earth stands a witness unto the present day?" ('The Hitopadesa').
"The noise Live in the mouths of mankind, if thy flesh (1) A great name is not always a good name. (2) A good name may be possessed, though a great name may be unattainable. (3) To some men (like David) it is given to possess both.
Live in the mouths of mankind, if thy flesh
(1) A great name is not always a good name.
(2) A good name may be possessed, though a great name may be unattainable.
(3) To some men (like David) it is given to possess both.
2 Samuel 7:12. - (JERUSALEM.)
"Death comes with irrespective feet,
2. An end of allotted time. "When thy days be fulfilled." There is "an appointed time to man upon earth" (Job 7:1; Job 14:5; Psalm 31:15), in which to pass his probation, form his character, and perform his work. Unknown to him, it is determined by God, and, however brief, it is sufficient for that purpose. Happy is he who therein "serves his own generation by the will of God" (Acts 13:36).
3. An exit from earthly cares, labours, conflicts, and sorrows. "Thou shalt sleep," and be at rest (Job 3:17; John 11:11; 1 Thessalonians 4:14); not necessarily in absolute unconsciousness and inactivity. Death is a "decease" (2 Peter 1:15), departure, exodus of the spirit from "this tabernacle" to an eternal home (2 Corinthians 5:1, 8).
4. An entrance into heavenly fellowship. "With thy fathers;" in the possession of conscious, personal, immortal life, of a common heritage in God, and happy communion with each other (2 Samuel 12:23; Psalm 16:11; Psalm 17:15). David's hope of this, indeed, was dim, in comparison with the Christian hope, as the morning twilight compared with the perfect day (2 Timothy 1:10; Matthew 8:11).
5. An enlargement of beneficent influence. "I will set up thy seed after thee," etc. He lives in his children; his words; his works; the manifold influences which he exerted on others, and which continue operating after his decease, and contribute to the building up of the temple and kingdom of God. His departure is even expedient and necessary in order to the activities of others;. and, instead of becoming extinct, his power for good is thereby extended and exalted. His name "liveth forevermore" (Ecclus. 44:14).
6. An object of profitable contemplation. By meditating on it, especially in its moral and spiritual aspects, he learns to moderate earthly attachments, sanctify earthly relationships, to be humble in prosperity, patient in trial, and diligent in duty. "Thou must shortly die! O man, set thy house in order. There is a house of thy conscience, a house of thy body, a house of thy family, a house of eternity. All these must be set in order" (Christopher Sutton, 'Disce Mori'). Learn to die. Learn to live. Learn to pray. - D.
"And thy house and thy kingdom shall be permanent;
1. The position of David was a very exalted one. He was the chosen earthly head of the theocracy, or kingdom of God; and on him rested the hope of its glorious consummation. He was the Lord's messiah - "the mediator through whom Jehovah dispensed help, safety, and blessing" (Riehm).
2. But was the hope of Israel to be completely realized in him? And were his dynasty and kingdom to be permanent, or to pass away, like others?
3. To these questions the promise now given furnished an adequate answer. David would be succeeded in the theocratic throne by his posterity, and his dynasty and kingdom would endure forever.
4. This promise, the great charter of the house of David, was "the foundation of all Messianic prophecies and hopes in the prophets concerning the completion of the kingdom of God, its revelations of grace and its blessings of salvation" (Erdmann). It was -
I. AN EXPRESSION OF ABOUNDING GRACE. The free, condescending, unspeakable favour of God toward David, this it was which so deeply affected him (vers. 19-21). The good pleasure of the Lord had been shown in "the word of the Lord by Samuel," in David's exaltation to the throne after long suffering and trial (ver. 8), and in his subsequent prosperity (ver. 9); and it was further manifested in this great promise of continued grace to his house, "for a great while to come;" whereby his noblest aspirations would be fulfilled (2 Samuel 23:5), and through him and for his sake blessings would abound unto many. In like manner "the exceeding riches of his grace" are apparent in all the promises pertaining to eternal life and salvation, and the whole history of the progress of the kingdom of God from its commencement to its consummation. "The progress of God's kingdom, or of true religion, should be the progress of David's line, This point constituted the Messianic element in the prophecy. It limited the hopes of the world's redemption to David's line, as Jacob's prophecy had long ago limited it to the tribe of Judah" (P. Thomson).
II. AN ASSURANCE OF EXTRAORDINARY GOOD. To the view of David the future was, by means of the promise, lighted up with glory. He beheld:
1. The existence of the royal house, of which he was the founder, made sure by the Divine oath. "Jehovah telleth thee that Jehovah will build thee a house" (ver. 11; Psalm 132:11; Psalm 89:3, 4). This was the general substance of the promise. "The royal office was elevated to the position of being the controlling and centralizing point of all the theocratic main elements of the national life."
2. The elevation of his posterity, and especially of one of his sons, to the royal dignity. "I will set up thy seed after thee" (ver. 12; 1 Chronicles 17:11). "Behold, a son shall be born to thee... Solomon," etc. (1 Chronicles 22:9; 38:10; 1 Kings 5:5; 1 Kings 8:19).
3. The establishment of the kingdom in security, peace, and happiness, all enemies being subdued; "and I will establish his kingdom;" which was necessary to the fulfilment of David's purpose.
4. The erection of the temple and the dwelling of the Divine King in the midst of his people. "He shall build a house for my Name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom forever" (ver. 13). "The building of the house here goes hand in hand with the eternity of the kingdom.... The essence of the temple consists in its being a symbol - an outward representation of the kingdom of God under Israel. The real import of our passage, then, is that henceforth the kingdom of David and the kingdom of God should be closely and inseparably linked together" (Hengstenberg, 'Christology'). "The idea of a number of descendants following one another (a line of kings) is evidently contained in the promise" (Keil); and in this sense David must have understood it. "The collective he (vers. 13, 14) includes in itself (like Genesis 3:15) the Son of David in the highest sense and the Founder of the true temple of God, which is his Church."
5. The relation of Father and son subsisting between God. and the theocratic king. "I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a son." Such was the relationship between Jehovah and Israel (Exodus 4:22; Deuteronomy 14:1; Deuteronomy 32:6; 1 Chronicles 29:10; Isaiah 64:8; Jeremiah 31:9; Hosea 11:1), and it would be made specially manifest in the head and representative of the chosen people. A son
(1) derives his being from his father, bears a close resemblance to him, stands near him, represents him, and shares his possessions;
(2) is an object of his tender affection, under his protecting care, and subject to his merciful discipline; and
(3) is bound to reciprocate his affection, to honour him, and obey. his commandments. The fatherly love of God is here more particularly presented to view; and "whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth" (Hebrews 12:6). "If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him," etc. (ver. 14).
6. The unchanging mercy of God, founded on this relation. "But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul," etc. (Ver. 15). If, indeed, the individual king should forsake the Lord, he would be "cast off forever" (1 Chronicles 28:9). "The contrast is that between the punishment of sin in individuals and the favour that remains permanently with the family, whereby the promise becomes an unconditional one" ('Christology'). The kingdom of God is a kingdom of righteousness.
7. The eternal duration of his dynasty and kingdom once more assured, with all the advantages of a government faithfully exercised according to the will of God. This was "the everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure;" and these were the "sure mercies of David" (Isaiah 55:3). "This revelation was an epoch making one for his inner life. It brought an entirely new element into his consciousness, which, as his psalms show, moved him powerfully. He received the promise of the perpetual ascendency of his tribe, of the establishment of his kingdom amid the changing of all earthly things" ('History of the Kingdom of God under the Old Testament'). "This promise, like that made to Abraham, has a twofold aspect. One points to David's natural posterity and temporal kingdom; the other to the Messiah and the kingdom of Jehovah, which respected the former only as types and pledges of the latter."
III. A FOUNDATION OF IMPERISHABLE HOPE. The promise was one of an eternal monarchy rather than directly of an eternal Monarch, "the King Messiah;" but it could only be completely fulfilled in such a Person, "since the eternity of a purely human kingdom is inconceivable;" and it became the basis of a hope of "his power and coming," which, notwithstanding repeated failure and disappointment, was to be renewed with undying strength. David was himself the centre of the Messianic idea and hope. "He regarded himself as the messiah of God; although, through his experience and words, he was only a means for representing the future One before his coming" (Delitzsch, 'Messianic Prophecies'). And, amidst the glorious prospect which the promise presented before him, he perceived (all the more clearly because of his own conscious infirmities) the ideal theocratic monarch; "a kingly image, in which all that the present manifests is far surpassed, and the kingship of David and Solomon seen in typical perfection" (Oehler, 'Theology of the Old Testament.' See ch. 23:4; Psalm 2.; 110.; 72.; 45.). The promise "refers neither only to Solomon nor only to Christ; nor has it a twofold application; but it is a covenant promise, which, extending along the whole line (of David's posterity), culminates in the Son of David, and in all its fulness applies only to him" (Edersheim). "Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end," etc. (Isaiah 9:6; Luke 1:82, 33; Acts 2:25-36). Observe that:
1. Men's views of the glory of the future age are naturally and necessarily formed according to the facts and ideas with which they are already familiar.
2. The Word of God, in promise and prophecy (being the gradual unfolding of his eternal purpose), had a larger signification than was understood by those to whom it at first came (1 Peter 1:11). "Divine prophecies are of the nature of their Author, with whom a thousand years are but as one day; and therefore are not fulfilled punctually at once, but have a springing and germinant accomplishment throughout many ages, though the height or fulness of them may refer to one age" (Bacon, 'Advancement of Learning').
4. The hope of humanity is in "the Root and the Offspring of David, and the Bright and Morning Star!" (Revelation 22:16). - D.
I. THE GREAT KING.
1. Is David's son. He is much more than this; but he is this. A man is at the head of God's kingdom!
2. Is God's Son. (Ver. 14; comp. Hebrews 1:5 and Romans 1:3, 4.) Both as to his human and his Divine natures, Jesus Christ is the Son of God as none other - "the only begotten Son of God." This shows his greatness, and accounts for his triumphs. The Eternal and Almighty Father recognizes and proclaims him as his Son; declares by the miracles accompanying the personal mission of Jesus, by his Word, Spirit, providence, through the ages, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: hear ye him."
3. And this illustrious person is King. King over God's people, his true Israel; King of men; "King of kings, Lord of lords;" King of angels, King over all things in heaven and earth. The kingdom of David has expanded till it extends over the universe.
II. THE PERPETUITY OF HIS REIGN. It shall be literally eternal. "He shall reign forever and ever" (Revelation 11:15). It is surely more than a coincidence that a system of dominion over men, originating in a Man who had sprung from the reduced family of David, and was accepted by many of his fellow Jews as the Son of David, the Messiah foretold by the prophets - a system proclaimed at the first as the kingdom of God - should have taken root in the world, have spread so widely and lasted so long; that it should have proved to be the system in and through which especially the best influences of Heaven operate, and the divinest principles rule the hearts and lives of those who receive it; and that it should today be more extensively prevalent than ever, and that amongst the most enlightened and powerful nations (to whose enlightenment and power it has largely contributed), and giving promise of becoming the ruling power everywhere. It is a veritable kingdom, uniting all who belong to it as one "holy nation" which acknowledges Jesus of Nazareth as its King, and submits to his rule. It has continued nearly nineteen centuries, and gives no sign of decay. In all this the Christian recognizes the fulfilment of the promise made to David and repeated so frequently afterwards by the prophets; and through his faith in that promise he anticipates the everlasting duration of the reign of Christ, the eternity of the King, and the eternity of his reign. We are sure that he must reign forever; and our assurance rests on:
1. The promises of God. The "God who cannot lie," and who has power to fulfil all his Word, and subdue all that opposes.
2. The nature of the kingdom. "A kingdom which cannot be moved" (Hebrews 12:28). It is spiritual, and cannot be put down by the material forces which destroy other reigns. It is the reign of Divine truth, righteousness, and love; and we cannot doubt but that these will triumph and be perpetuated.
3. The nature of the King. "The First, and the Last, and the Living One," who, though he "was dead," is "alive forevermore" (Revelation 1:17, 18, Revised Version). This King literally "lives forever." He is Divine as well as human. His reign is the reign of the Almighty God, which cannot be destroyed.
4. Past experience. The kingdom of Jesus Christ has survived in spite of all opposition. All possible hostile powers have done their utmost, and have failed. Christianity has outlived many kingdoms, which to human appearance promised to survive it. It has been assailed by brute force in a variety of forms, and by the forces of intellectual subtlety, of Political power, and of spiritual error, and it has conquered. It has seemed to be seriously endangered by the folly and wickedness of its professed friends, but still it survives and flourishes. In a word, the prince of this world has used all arts and energies at his command to crush the power of Christ, but in vain. "He that sitteth in the heavens laughs" at all that opposes his Son, saying, "Yet have I set my King on my holy hill of Zion" (Psalm 2:4, 6). And in the everlasting future this kingdom will continue. A great change is, indeed, predicted in 1 Corinthians 15:24. But as the kingdom of the Son is the kingdom of the Father, so the kingdom of the Father will still be that of the Son. Let, then, all the loyal subjects of Christ cast away fear for his kingdom, whatever forms opposition to it may take, and however formidable they may appear. And let all be concerned to be his loyal subjects.
III. THE GREAT WORK HE WOULD EFFECT. "He shall build a house for my Name" (ver. 13). The words may be taken as applicable not only to the temple which Solomon built, but to the nobler structure which our Lord is rearing, of which he is the chief Cornerstone (1 Peter 2:4-6) - "the temple of the living God" (2 Corinthians 6:16), built of "living stones" quickened and consecrated by the Holy Spirit - "the habitation of God through the Spirit" (Ephesians 2:20-22). From age to age the work of erecting this spiritual temple goes on in the conversion of men to Christ, and their addition to his Church; and, when completed, the building will be for the everlasting honour of the Builder. May we all have a place in it! - G.W.
(1) the royal office of David and Solomon (in its typical significance), and
(2) the promises and prophecies uttered more or less directly in connection therewith, especially as recorded in the last words of David (ch. 23.) and in the Psalms, clearly pointed to the coming of an extraordinary, theocratic, Divine King. They indicate that he would be:
"Once thou spakest in vision to thy beloved, and saidst:
"Jehovah hath sworn unto David
"Jehovah saith unto me: Thou art my Son:
"He shall cry unto me: My Father art thou,
4. The King of righteousness and peace; Prophet and Priest; the Conqueror of all opposing powers (through conflict and suffering); the Saviour and Benefactor of those who trust in him; the supreme Lord (ver. 13; Psalm 22; Psalm 40; Psalm 61; Matthew 22:45; Hebrews 1:8).
"The oracle of Jehovah unto my Lord:
"Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever;
"Thou hast received gifts among men,
"He shall have dominion from sea to sea,
"His Name shall endure forever;
spirit in which "the sacrifice of thanksgiving" should be presented.
I. DEEP HUMILITY before the presence of God. "Then went King David in" from his palace of cedar to the lowly tent (the palace of the Divine King of Israel), "and sat" on the ground in a lowly posture, according to Eastern custom (expressive of his lowly state of mind), "before Jehovah," the symbol of whose presence stood veiled before him. "And (after devout thought on the communication)he said, Who am I, O Lord God?" etc. (ver. 18). Although in comparison with other men he "might have whereof to glory," yet in the conscious presence of God he had a profound sense of his weakness, insignificance, dependence, and unworthiness (Genesis 32:10; Job 42:5, 6; Isaiah 57:15; Ephesians 3:8; 1 Peter 5:5, 6). The proud heart is never a thankful heart. The poorer we are in our own estimation the more disposed we are to "praise the Lord for his goodness." Humility is the first step of a ladder whose top reaches heaven (Matthew 5:3).
II. CALM REFLECTION on his benefits. "And this was yet a small thing in thy sight, O Lord God," etc. "And this [which thou hast graciously promised concerning my house] is the law [established order or decree] of [or pertaining to a mortal] man, O Lord God!" (ver. 19). "Is this the law of one who is a mere man created from the dust as I am, that I should be elevated to such a glorious altitude as this?" (Wordsworth). "Thou hast regarded me according to the estate of a man of high degree" (1 Chronicles 17:17). An expression of humble astonishment. The more he pondered it in his heart, the more he was humbled, surprised, and filled with thankfulness. We have not less cause for gratitude (Psalm 8:4, 5; 1 Corinthians 2:9, 10). "Forget not all his benefits," past, present, or to come. We are apt to forget them, and therefore should contemplate them frequently, enumerate them one by one, and endeavour to estimate their exceeding worth. Meditation is like a lens, by which the rays of the sun are collected into a focus and produce so intense a heat that coals of fire are kindled by it (Psalm 39:3; Psalm 48:9; Psalm 77:11, 12; Luke 2:19).
III. INTENSE CONVICTION of his claims. "And what can David say more unto thee? for thou knowest thy servant, O Lord God!" (ver. 20). The great things which had been promised, the obligations under which they laid him, and his conviction and impression thereof, were all indescribable. Words failed him; and he could only appeal to Omniscience to witness the sincerity and depth of his grateful feeling (John 21:17). Every additional benefit conferred upon us increases the claims of our Divine Benefactor on our love and devotion. His mercies are "new every morning" (Lamentations 3:23); and the debt we owe is ever accumulating.
"How can I repay to Jehovah
IV. FERVENT GRATITUDE for his grace. "For thy Word's sake;" in fulfilment of thy purpose and promise formerly expressed, "and according to thine own heart," of thy spontaneous, sovereign, unmerited favour, "hast thou done all these great things to make thy servant know them," for his consolation and encouragement (ver. 21). It is the disinterested love and abounding grace of God, displayed in his gifts, that more than anything else touches the heart and constrains it to fervent gratitude. "To my eye the workings of a heart oppressed and overflowing with gratitude are painted stronger in this prayer than I ever observed them in any other instance. It is easy to see that his heart was wholly possessed with a subject which he did not know how to quit, because he did not know how to do justice to the inestimable blessings poured down upon himself and promised to his posterity; much less to the infinite bounty of his Benefactor" (Delany).
V. LOWLY ADORATION of his perfections. "Wherefore thou art great, O Lord God," etc. (ver. 22). The greatness of Jehovah, the incomparable One, the only God, was manifested in his dealings with his servant, as in the whole history of Israel, "according to all that we have heard with our ears." David had the most exalted views of his character as the All-wise and All-powerful, the Condescending, Faithful, Gracious, Merciful, and Just (1 Samuel 2:2; Psalm 113:6); and he delighted in the contemplation and praise of his infinite excellence. God himself is greater than anything he has done or promised to do; but by means of his doings and revelations we are enabled to know him and draw nigh to him in worship and adoration, wherein the soul finds its noblest activity, rest, and joy.
VI. GENEROUS SYMPATHY with his people. "And what one nation in the earth is like thy people," etc. (vers. 23, 24)? An incomparable people!
1. Redeemed by mighty acts.
2. Designed for a special purpose - to be his possession or property, and to "show forth his praise."
3. Established in covenant relationship forever (ver. 16; Revelation 21:3, 7). David "glorified God" in them; and in doing so he showed his love for them, his sympathy and identity with them (2 Samuel 5:12). His thanksgiving and praise were large hearted and disinterested. The selfish heart (like the proud heart) is never a thankful heart. The more we esteem others the more numerous the occasions we find for gratitude to God, and the more we abound therein,
VII. ENTIRE CONSECRATION to his service and glory. He avowed himself the servant of God (ver. 21), freely and gladly surrendered his will to him, sought what he promised, and desired that his Name might be "magnified forever" (ver. 26). This is the essence of the sacrifice of praise. "Father, glorify thy Name" (John 12:28; Philippians 1:20).
"As of their will, the angels unto thee
I. THE CONDITIONS FAVOURABLE, AND INDEED ESSENTIAL, TO RIGHT THOUGHT AND WORSHIP WHICH ARE FOUND IN THE FELT PRESENCE OF GOD.
1. The exclusion of the world and its influences. "Before the Lord," the world, with its gains, pleasures, opinions, applause, or disapproval, vanishes from view, or appears as nothing; and thus we are delivered from its blinding and perverting influence.
2. Intense consciousness of God. He is for the time our All. His character, works, relation to us, dealings with us, claims upon us, judgment respecting us, stand forth glorious and impressive.
3. Intense consciousness of ourselves, our real nature, relationships, responsibilities to God and man. In the light of the Divine presence these things appear quite otherwise than when we regard only the material and the human.
4. Greater susceptibility to Divine influences, and receptivity of Divine gifts. Our hearts are prepared to receive more of the Holy Spirit; and we do receive more.
II. THE SPIRITUAL PROFIT THUS SECURED.
1. Fuller and truer knowledge. "In thy light shall we see light" (Psalm 36:9), which includes knowledge and much besides. "Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end" (Psalm 73:17). In the presence of God we obtain deeper insight into his nature and character, understand better his plans and methods. Our thoughts of him are enlarged and quickened. And in knowing him we come to know ourselves; his greatness reveals our littleness; his holiness, our sinfulness; and his fatherly love and redeeming grace, the true worth and dignity of our souls. Coming to him, as the disciples to Christ, to tell him what we have been doing and teaching, the poverty and imperfections of our lives become manifest to us. In his presence, too, we learn the relative values of holiness and sin, time and eternity, this world and the next.
2. Richer and deeper emotions and affections. Penitence and humility, gratitude and love, confidence and hope, peace and joy, are all nourished best in the presence of God. Coming to him to confess our sins and failures, we shall, as we look into his face, be inspired with new and more hopeful resolve. Bringing our cares and fears to him, as Hezekiah the letter of Sennacherib (Isaiah 37:14), we shall be relieved of them, and gain new courage and patience.
3. Ever better worship. Which will naturally spring from an enriched and spiritual life. Worship which is not offered "before the Lord" is not worship at all; and the more his presence is felt the worthier will our worship be.
4. Ever growing power to live according to our convictions and resolutions. "Before the Lord," his children grow brave and strong to do and endure. His eye felt to be upon them, they act nobly; his love realized by them, their hearts are filled with a love mighty to serve him and their brethren, and to conquer the evil powers. Finally: The measure of our disposition to go before God for converse with him, instruction, stimulus, consolation, etc., is the measure of our actual piety. We lose much of the highest happiness and profit through negligence in this respect. All that occupies our minds and moves our hearts becomes sanctified and elevated as we go aside and bring it "before the Lord." On the other hand, the greatest attention to religious observances which are not, through faith and love, done in the presence of God, is worthless, dishonouring to God, and useless, yea, worse than useless, to the worshipper. - G.W.
I. THE MERCIES CONTEMPLATED.
1. Past leading. "Thou hast brought me hitherto." How much this included in David's case! How much in the case of every one of us! Each should recall in God's presence the particulars of his own life. Life itself, reason, health, preservation, supply of wants, home surroundings and comforts, the love of parents, etc., education, advancement in life, deliverances from perils and sicknesses, honours, the advantages of living in a country civilized, free, Christian; the Word and ordinances of God, connection with his Church and ministers, and all that has flowed therefrom - the life of God in the soul, pardon, peace, hope, the Spirit of adoption, love to God and men, access to God, the communion of saints, growth in grace, victory over temptations, opportunity and will to do good, success in Christian labours, support in troubles and benefit from them. Also the blessings of one's "house" - wife, children, good children especially, and their happiness. It is an endless task to remember and recount all the mercies of God; but the attempt is always salutary.
2. Promises as to the future. "This was yet a small thing in thy sight, but thou hast spoken also of thy servants house for a great while to come." Astonished and grateful as David was in view of his past experience of God's goodness, the promises he had now received respecting the perpetuation of his kingdom into the distant future still more affected him We also have "given unto us exceeding great and precious promises," stretching onward into the eternal future. The kindness of God in the past is but "a small thing." Even his spiritual gifts, great as they are, and the necessary preparation for the eternal, are but a slight foretaste and pledge of the exaltation, perfection, glory, and bliss which be will bestow upon his children in increasing abundance forever and ever.
II. THEIR GIVER. The contemplation of our history and prospects will bare a beneficial or injurious effect as we do or do not recognize God as the Giver of all. Some men regard themselves as the architects of their own fortunes, and are correspondingly filled with self-satisfaction. David ascribed all to God; and we ought to be like him in this. For if we have done much for ourselves, the power, opportunity, and will to do so came from him; if friends have greatly aided us, these also were God's gifts. In spiritual things it is especially obvious that "by the grace of God" we are what we are.
III. THEIR RECEIVER. "Who am I," etc.? The thought of David's insignificance and that of his family rendered the Divine goodness to him more conspicuous and impressive. So we shall more duly estimate the goodness of God to us, if we think rightly of ourselves; and a due impression of the greatness of his goodness will lead us to a just estimate of ourselves. At every step of our review of the past and anticipation of the future shall we be reminded of the many exhibitions of our own unworthiness. "Who am I?" - a frail and insignificant creature, a sinner, a great and persistent sinner; at best, a very imperfect Christian; proved to be such by innumerable instances - that I should be so favoured now, and should have such hopes of everlasting blessing set before me?
IV. THE EMOTIONS AWAKENED BY THEM.
1. Astonishment. At the Divine goodness, sovereign, free, unbounded, condescending. At the return made, which would appear incredible were it not for the sure testimony of memory and consciousness.
2. Gratitude and love. Expressed in praise and self-consecration (Romans 12:1).
3. Humility. The mercies of God revealing the more our unworthiness. The perception of his hand in our lives making our own part in the good they have contained seem insignificant. "Not unto us," etc. (Psalm 115:1). "Who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive?" (1 Corinthians 4:7).
4. Benevolence. His loving kindness producing loving kindness in our hearts, as we contemplate it; and prompting to a return of benefits, which, as they cannot be conferred on God himself, we bestow on his representatives. "Be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love" (Ephesians 5:1, 2, Revised Version). "Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another" (1 John 4:11). - G.W.
John 21:17). So David, with his heart too full for adequate utterance, finds satisfaction in the thought that God knew what his thoughts and feelings were.
I. THE FELT INADEQUACY OF LANGUAGE TO EXPRESS THE DEEPEST THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS OF THE GODLY SOUL. In our ordinary condition we feel not this difficulty. Our expressions are more likely to go beyond our thoughts and feelings, especially when we use forms of devotion prepared by others. But when the soul is deeply stirred, as David's at this time, we struggle in vain to express fully what is within. It is thus with
1. Our sense of the value of God's gifts. Christ, God's "unspeakable Gift" (2 Corinthians 9:15). Salvation. Everlasting life. Gifts of God associated with these which are from time to time bestowed - special help in temptation, comfort in trouble, guidance in perplexities as to truth or duty, etc.
2. Our sense of the love which bestows them. We can only say, "How great is thy goodness!" "How excellent is thy loving kindness!" "God so loved the world;" "The love of Christ, which passeth knowledge" (Psalm 31:19; Psalm 36:7; John 3:16; Ephesians 3:19). Or, as David (ver. 22), "Thou art great, O Lord God; for there is none like unto thee."
3. The emotions excited by them. Our gratitude, affection, penitence, humility, confidence, joy ("unspeakable," 1 Peter 1:8), longing for fuller experience of them ("groanings which cannot be uttered," Romans 8:26), anticipations of their perfect enjoyment (2 Corinthians 5:2-4). In our times of intense devotion we feel how utterly impossible it is fully to express what is in our hearts.
II. THE SATISFACTION WHICH ARISES FROM GOD'S PERFECT KNOWLEDGE OF US. "What can David say more unto thee?" I cannot express what I feel; and I need not labour to do so, "For thou, Lord God, knowest thy servant." It is the same thought which St. Paul expresses, when, speaking of the unutterable groanings with which the Holy Spirit intercedes in the Christian soul, he says, "He that searcheth the heart knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit" (Romans 8:27). God knows much more about us than our words express; is not dependent for his knowledge of us on our own account of ourselves. As we cannot by any words conceal from him the evil which is in us, so our deficiencies of expression will not hinder his discernment of the good. Even earthly parents see the meaning which their children try to express in stammering words and broken sentences; how much more does the heavenly Father, who is not at all dependent for his knowledge of us on our words, see beyond the poor utterances of his children, into their hearts! This is
(1) a comfort under the consciousness of imperfect and unworthy utterance in our addresses to God; and
(2) a reason for not labouring too much to express ourselves fully and worthily. But it is not a reason for either
(1) declining to speak to God at all, - David did not actually sink into silence because he felt that he could not adequately express himself, and that God knew him (see what follows); or
(2) accustoming ourselves to careless expression before him. Since
(1) the endeavour to speak aright aids right thought and feeling, these grow in the endeavour to utter them;
(2) in family and social worship our language aids or hinders others; and
(3) we should ever offer to God our best, poor as we may feel it to be. And we may indefinitely improve both in thought and expression by the careful employment of the helps presented in Holy Scripture and uninspired devotional books. Christian poets, too, may much assist us to find suitable, though it may be still inadequate, utterance for our deepest thoughts and emotions. Finally:
1. David's emotions on this occasion are at once an example and a reproach to us. For the gifts and promises of God to us, if not greater than those to him, are greater than his understanding of them could be. They stand out to us in the light which streams from Jesus Christ, unfolding into all the precious revelations and assurances of the gospel, and all the happy experiences which the Holy Spirit produces. Yet how seldom are we so affected as to feel language too poor for the expression of the wonder, love, and gratitude which we feel!
2. How sad to be utterly insensible to the goodness of God and the greatness of his gifts to us! - G.W.
I. GOD DOES GREAT THINGS ON BEHALF OF HIS PEOPLE. The works of creation are great and according to his own heart, originating in himself, and on a scale proportionate to his own greatness. So with the works of his providence. But we will apply the words to redemption. The works included in this are indeed great. They are on a scale of grandeur worthy of God.
1. The methods employed are great. The Incarnation - the union of God and man in one Person. The display of the glory of God in the earthly life of Christ, and at his death, resurrection, and ascension. His exaltation to be "Lord of all." The descent and operations of the Holy Spirit.
2. The work effected on behalf of man is great. The atonement especially, and all involved in it. The conquest over sin and Satan and death. The opening of the way to God and heaven.
3. The work wrought in and towards men is great.
(1) In respect to each believer. Illumination, regeneration, pardon, peace, holiness, perfection, glory everlasting, together with the special guidance and government of God's providence tending to and issuing in these great results.
(2) In respect to the multitude redeemed and saved.
II. GOD DOES THESE GREAT THINGS "ACCORDING TO HIS OWN HEART."
1. They spring from his heart. They are done spontaneously, of his own free grace and will "his own good pleasure." Not at the prompting of others, for none other could have conceived them. Not under a sense of obligation, for we had no claim upon him, except that our sin and misery appealed to his compassion. They originated in the Divine mind, sprang from the Divine love.
2. They befit his heart. They bear the stamp of the Divine nature; are worthy of his infinite wisdom, righteousness, benevolence, and power; are the grandest display of them. "It became him," etc. (Hebrews 2:10).
"All thy ways III. GOD DOES THESE GREAT THINGS IN FULFILMENT OF HIS OWN WORD. "For thy Word's sake." 1. He announces them by his Word. "To make thy servant know them." The things which God has done and will do he makes known. It is thus they become available to each and all to whom the Word is communicated. For the knowledge is the chief part of the means by which salvation is wrought. "The gospel... is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth" (Romans 1:16; see also Romans 10:13, 14; 1 Corinthians 1:17, 18, 23; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:22, 23). Thus also we are assured of the completion of the work of redemption. For by the promises our God lays himself under obligation to perfect the salvation of all believers. It is, therefore, a great privilege to know these great things which God works. 2. He accomplishes them according to his Word. He cannot do otherwise. He "cannot lie" (Titus 1:2). "He abideth faithful; he cannot deny himself" (2 Timothy 2:13). Moreover, "what he hath promised, he is able also to perform" (Romans 4:21). Now that he has given his Word, "for his Word's sake" if there were no other reason, he will do "all these great things." Then: 1. Let us, like David, adore and praise our God for his wondrous works, and for making them known to us. How glorious he appears in these works! Let us ascribe glory to him. 2. Let believers rest assured of the complete accomplishment of the work of their own redemption. They have the Word and the heart of God, and his actual works for them and in them, to give them assurance. 3. Let us fear, lest we should fail, through negligence and unbelief, to appropriate the redemption so wondrously wrought for us, notwithstanding our knowledge of it. (See Hebrews 2:1-4.) - G.W.
III. GOD DOES THESE GREAT THINGS IN FULFILMENT OF HIS OWN WORD. "For thy Word's sake."
1. He announces them by his Word. "To make thy servant know them." The things which God has done and will do he makes known. It is thus they become available to each and all to whom the Word is communicated. For the knowledge is the chief part of the means by which salvation is wrought. "The gospel... is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth" (Romans 1:16; see also Romans 10:13, 14; 1 Corinthians 1:17, 18, 23; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:22, 23). Thus also we are assured of the completion of the work of redemption. For by the promises our God lays himself under obligation to perfect the salvation of all believers. It is, therefore, a great privilege to know these great things which God works.
2. He accomplishes them according to his Word. He cannot do otherwise. He "cannot lie" (Titus 1:2). "He abideth faithful; he cannot deny himself" (2 Timothy 2:13). Moreover, "what he hath promised, he is able also to perform" (Romans 4:21). Now that he has given his Word, "for his Word's sake" if there were no other reason, he will do "all these great things." Then:
1. Let us, like David, adore and praise our God for his wondrous works, and for making them known to us. How glorious he appears in these works! Let us ascribe glory to him.
2. Let believers rest assured of the complete accomplishment of the work of their own redemption. They have the Word and the heart of God, and his actual works for them and in them, to give them assurance.
3. Let us fear, lest we should fail, through negligence and unbelief, to appropriate the redemption so wondrously wrought for us, notwithstanding our knowledge of it. (See Hebrews 2:1-4.) - G.W.
I. THE SURPASSING GREATNESS OF GOD.
1. God is great.
(1) In his nature. Infinite in all his perfections. Great, not only in power and knowledge, but in righteousness and love. "His greatness is unsearchable" (Psalm 145:3).
(2) In his operations. In these his greatness is exercised and displayed. In his works of creation, preservation, redemption, and government, we see how great he is. David saw it in his dealings towards himself and his posterity. In the nature of his plans and purposes; in his ability to rule a free world through successive ages, so as to effect their accomplishment; and in the power to predict and promise the result with certainty, God appears unspeakably great. Thus prophecy as well as creative energy manifests the greatness of God, both in the Divine plan itself - a grand scheme of justice and love stretching from the beginning to the end of time, and on throughout eternity - and in the revelation of it to man.
2. God is great beyond all others. "There is none like unto thee, neither is there any God beside thee." He has no equal, none that approaches him in majesty.
(1) No creature. All are at an infinite distance beneath him. He has made some creatures to resemble him in a measure in their intelligence, goodness, and position over other creatures; but their resemblance is like that of the image of the sun in a dewdrop to the sun itself. Whatever his creatures may be, they and their capacities are derived and dependent; he is underived and independent ("from everlasting"); their powers are very limited, his unbounded; none of them can create or give life; he is the "Fountain of life" (Psalm 36:9); they are mutable, he immutable; they mortal, he "only hath immortality" (1 Timothy 6:16).
(2) No god. David would think of the divinities worshipped by the peoples around; we may think of all the objects of worship in idolatrous nations, ancient and modern. Regarding them as they exist in the minds of men, producing certain effects upon them, how utterly unlike our God! We feel it almost profane to compare them with him. But in reality they are nonentities, "vanities," as they are so frequently called in Holy Scripture. There is no God beside our God.
II. HIS IDENTITY WITH THE GOD MADE KNOWN TO US FROM FORMER TIMES. "According to all that we have heard with our ears" (comp. Psalm 78:3, 4). David recognizes that the God who was so wondrously and graciously revealing himself to him was the same God whom he had been taught to revere and trust on account of the great things he had done for Israel in former days. The form of manifestation was different; the things done were different; but there were the same Divine perfections apparent, the same care for the people whom he had chosen. It was a joy to the king to discern that Jehovah, the God of the fathers, was communicating with him; and that what he was doing and promising corresponded with what he had heard of him. The revelation which God has given of himself in Christ differs in many respects from the old revelations; the operations of God under the new covenant differ from those under the old. But as we come into living communion with God in Christ, and become ourselves the subjects of his grace; as also we learn the great things which God has done and is doing under the gospel, and the promises he makes to those who receive it; - we too shall rejoice to discern that our God is the same as was worshipped by the faithful of old, and all through the ages - Jehovah, the living God, still righteous and merciful and almighty; still doing wonders of power and grace; and doing them on a vastly wider scale, no longer chiefly in Israel, but amongst all nations. One God unites all generations, is to unite all peoples. The God of our fathers is our God, and our experience of him corresponds with theirs. Thus the records of his revelations and proceedings in all the past become available for instruction, and the encouragement of faith and hope, in the present and the future. From the whole subject let us learn:
1. To rejoice in and praise God. It is matter for just thankfulness that we have a God so great and glorious to worship and confide in, One who lives and works evermore, and is throughout all ages the same God.
2. To expect great things from One so great, for ourselves and the whole Church. He "is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power which worketh in us" (Ephesians 3:20); and which has ever wrought among and on behalf of his people "according to all that we have heard with our ears."
3. To realize conscious communion with the saints of all ages. And so with all saints in earth and heaven.
4. To abjure tile folly, sin, and peril of declining the friendship of this great Being, and living in enmity with him. - G.W.
I. THEIR REDEMPTION. (Ver. 23.)
1. The nature of it. Israel was redeemed from bondage in Egypt, and afterwards from the Canaanite "nations and their gods." A wonderful and happy deliverance. Christians are the subjects of a higher redemption. They are delivered from sin, from a bondage more cruel and degrading than that of Egypt;, They are redeemed "from all iniquity" (Titus 2:14), "from this present evil world" (Galatians 1:4); "from their vain manner of life handed down from their fathers" (1 Peter 1:18, Revised Version). They are redeemed from the consequences of sin. They have "redemption, even the forgiveness of sins" (Colossians 1:14); they are redeemed "from the curse of the Law" (Galatians 3:13); from the power of the devil, and so from the power and the dread of death (Hebrews 2:14, 15); they await "the redemption of their body" (Romans 8:23); they are delivered "from the wrath to come" (1 Thessalonians 1:10). Such are some of the statements of Scripture respecting the "redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:24).
2. The manner of it. The deliverance from Egypt was effected by marvels of Divine power. God "went" forth to their rescue, doing "great things and terrible," in which the people themselves had and could have no part. In the destruction of the Canaanitish peoples they did take part, but their deliverances were by the power of God as really as their redemption from Egypt. For the spiritual and eternal redemption God has interposed in ways yet more marvellous. By wonders of love and righteousness and power combined, he delivers men from sin and death and hell. "He sent his Son to be the Propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:10). "We have redemption through his blood" (Ephesians 1:7); and so the saints on earth and those in heaven unite in praise of him who, by his blood, washed them from their sins, and redeemed them to God (Revelation 1:5; Revelation 5:9). Mere power could not effect this redemption.
(1) God must, in redeeming men, "declare his righteousness.., that he might be just," as well as "the Justifier" (Romans 3:26); and this is effected by the death of Jesus, "the Just for the unjust" (1 Peter 3:18).
(2) Men are to be delivered from sin by moral suasion; and this also is effected by the manifestation at once of the evil of sin, and the greatness of the Divine love, in the sacrifice of Christ. Thus the great redemptive act is the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus. But this is rendered effectual in the experience of men by
(3) the power of the Holy Spirit, revealing to the heart the gospel of redemption, which then becomes "the power of God unto salvation" (Romans 1:16). To have thus realized redemption is the greatest blessedness and honour, and those who have this experience are the true "Israel of God" (Galatians 6:16).
3. The glory which this Redemption brings to the Redeemer. "God went to redeem,.., and to make him a Name." This aspect of the deliverance of Israel is not unfrequently presented in Holy Writ (see Exodus 9:16; Isaiah 63:12, 14). Similarly, the Christian redemption is said to be "to the praise of the glory of his grace" (Ephesians 1:6, 12; Ephesians 2:7; 2 Corinthians 4:15). It is not that, like some ambitious human hero, he cares for a great name for his own sake; but by his Name he is known, and men are drawn to him and saved (see John 17:26). In like manner, our Lord is said to have acquired through his humiliation and obedience unto death "a Name which is above every name," even "the Name of Jesus," and this also" to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:9-11).
II. THE RELATION ESTABLISHED BETWEEN THEM AND GOD. (Ver. 24.) This also distinguishes them above all others. They are constituted the people of God; he becomes their God. It is for this purpose they are redeemed. This representation of the relation between God and his people appears first in a promise made to Abraham (Genesis 17:7, 8), is repeated in promises given through Moses (Exodus 6:7, etc.), is adopted by David here, reappears in the prophets (e.g. Jeremiah 31:33), is applied in the New Testament to Christians (2 Corinthians 6:16, etc.), and is finally used in a description of the perfect blessedness of the inhabitants of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:3). It comprehends all that the most enlightened and holy can desire.
1. They are constituted the people of God. Thus to Israel it is said by Moses, "Thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth" (Deuteronomy 14:2; see also Deuteronomy 26:18). St. Peter employs similar language to describe the position of Christians (1 Peter 2:9); and St. Paul says (Titus 2:14) that our Lord "gave himself for us, that he might... purify unto himself a peculiar people ['a people for his own possession,' Revised Version]." The representation includes:
(2) Appropriation. God takes possession of the people who are his; in the case of Christians, by his Spirit.
(4) Homage, including trust, love, worship (while other peoples worship other gods, the people of God worship him), and obedience.
2. He is their God. All that men expect from their God he is to his people, and far more. He is theirs by covenant and promise. He gives himself to them. He exercises authority over them. They enjoy his love, his presence, the employment of his power to teach and guide, to purify, to comfort, to chastise, to protect, to employ, to perfect, to honour, to save.
3. The relation is eternal. "Forever." This is true in a sense of the relation between Israel and God. Although no longer a nation, they still are used to witness for him as no other people; and by their inspired men, and especially by him who is of them "according to the flesh," they have become the chief religious teachers and benefactors of mankind. And the day is coming when they will accept their Messiah, and, "with the fulness of the Gentiles," form one people of God. The real, spiritual Israel of all ages and lands are God's, and he is theirs forever and ever. Then:
1. Happy are the people thus favoured by the Most High! He confers on them greater honour and blessing than on any others. This is true of Israel; of any nation who have the Word and ordinances of God amongst them; of the visible Church of Christ; and emphatically of the true spiritual Church. The distinction and glory become more marked as the reality of what is included in the title, "people of God" increases. To have a Divine revelation is a great privilege; but greater to receive and be renewed by it, and thus be heirs of all its promises.
2. Be concerned to be one of the true people of God, who have Jehovah for their God forever.
3. Take heed to live in a manner becoming your relation to him whom you acknowledge as your God. (See Leviticus 19., passim.) The people of a God of holiness and love should be distinguished by these qualities. Only thus can they prove themselves to be his. Only such people are his in any lastingly happy sense. Would that it were possible to point to every Christian Church, and challenge the world to produce any communities equal to them in all that is pure, righteous, and benevolent! - G.W.
2. He has spoken in the way of promise (ver. 28). A large portion of Divine revelation consists of promises, "exceeding great and precious" (2 Peter 1:4), pertaining to the life that now is, and that which is to come.
"A breath that fleets beyond this iron world,
I. PROMISE SUPERSEDES NOT THE NECESSITY OF PRAYER; inasmuch as the latter is commonly the expressed or implied condition of its fulfilment. As a bank note must be presented that we may obtain the gold which it represents, so the Divine promise must be sought in prayer that we may receive the good of which it gives assurance. A child does not refrain from asking his father for what he wants because it has been promised, but rather asks him all the more. David prayed for what he had been promised. "I will yet for this be inquired of," etc. (Ezekiel 36:37). "Ask, and it shall be given you" (Matthew 7:7; Psalm 50:15; Zechariah 10:1). "The prayer that prevails is a reflected promise."
II. PROMISE CONFIRMS THE DUTY OF PRAYER; by indicating the will of God concerning us. To neglect the condition of receiving the blessing, or to refuse to comply with it, is to despise the blessing itself. Why such a condition?
1. To give to God the honour which is his due.
2. To teach a spirit of dependence.
3. To promote personal and direct intercourse with God.
4. To call into exercise the noblest principles of our nature.
5. To incite cooperation towards the attainment of what is promised.
6. To make its bestowment more beneficial to the recipient.
Some things may be beneficial in connection with prayer that would not be so without it.
III. PROMISE AUTHORIZES THE PRIVILEGE OF PRAYER. What greater privilege can there be than that of "making known our requests unto God"? But who, without his promise, could venture to believe that these requests would be heard; especially when made for the "great things" contained in it? Even now, how doubtful and timid are we in claiming the privilege! The promise gives encouragement and confidence; and should, therefore, be pondered in the heart, as it was by David; who was thereby emboldened (Authorized Version, "found in his heart ") "to pray this prayer" (ver. 27). "Thy words are truth" (ver. 28). "When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, O Lord, will I seek" (Psalm 27:8; Psalm 119:49; Genesis 32:12).
IV. PROMISE TEACHES THE MATTER OF PRAYER. "We know not what we should pray for as we ought," and are apt, in this respect, to "ask amiss." But the promises constitute an invaluable, directory of prayer," teaching us:
1. The things for which we ought to ask, both temporal and spiritual.
2. Their relative importance.
3. Their application to others as well as to ourselves (vers. 25, 29).
4. Their chief design (ver. 26). If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, etc. (John 15:7; Revelation 22:20). "Pause over each promise, and let your faith in it blossom into a prayer for it. This will be the true, responsive reading of the sacred Scriptures, wherein there shall be not simply the answering of voice to voice as among men, but the responding of your heart to God. Happy are they in whose souls there is thus a continual recurring 'Amen' to the benedictions of the Lord" (W.M. Taylor).
V. PROMISE INCITES THE SPIRIT OF PRAYER.
1. A reverent regard for God.
2. A lowly estimate of ourselves.
3. Fervent desire for the blessing of God.
4. Childlike confidence in his Word.
5. Unreserved submission to his will.
6. Patience and perseverance. Wait on the Lord, etc. (Psalm 27:14; Luke 11:1-13; Luke 18:1). "Prayer is nothing else but the language of faith, love, and hope: of faith, a believing of God's being and bounty, that he is willing and able to succour us; of love, which directeth us to the prime Fountain of all the good we have and would have, and to the end and glory of God, and regulateth all our choices by it, and to those means which conduce to the enjoying of God; and of hope, which is a desirous expectation of the promised blessing" (T. Manton, 'Works,' 18:72).
VI. PROMISE ENSURES THE ANSWER OF PRAYER; not always in the immediate and conscious experience of the petitioner, but always at the proper time (Daniel 10:12), the delay being needful and beneficial; not always in the literal terms of the promise, but often in a more spiritual and glorious manner; and never wholly withheld (1 John 5:14, 15). "He is faithful that promised" (Hebrews 10:23). "The promises of God are the free expressions of his goodness and beneficence; but then their meaning has in it something of that Divine attribute. Nothing that he says can be in the mere narrow proportions of man. The words are necessarily those used by man, but the meaning is that of God; and we may be confident that what will be given in fulfilment of them will be according to the magnitude of the Divine goodness; as far, at least, as the faculties of the recipients will admit, and these can be enlarged. The Divine goodness being transcendently above all other goodness, the gifts of it will be according to its own manner, and not limited to the human import of the words, as if merely preserving the bare truth of the words. So that he will surprise his servants, as they find the earthly terms of his promises translated as it were into celestial language, when they arrive in his presence and have those promises acknowledged" (John Foster, 'Literary Remains'). - D.
I. THEY FURNISH A GUIDE TO OUR PRAYERS. What God has said shows us what we should ask. His promises indicate:
1. The kind of blessings which we should most earnestly seek. The promises of God - those given us in Christ especially - assure us of temporal good so far as is needful; but relate chiefly to spiritual and eternal blessings. The "good things" of Matthew 7:11 are interpreted for us by Luke 11:13 to be mainly "the Holy Spirit," which comprehends all good for our spirits, all the best things for time and eternity. While, therefore, we may pray for things temporal with moderated and submissive desire, we should most earnestly and constantly pray for things spiritual. In praying according to what God "has said," we are guided by infinite wisdom and love; we are asking "according to his will" (1 John 5:14). To permit ourselves to be prompted in prayer by our own worldly, carnal inclinations, is to turn our worship into sin, and to ask for evil instead of good.
2. The degree of these blessings which we should seek. The promises of God encourage us to open our mouths wide for him to fill (Psalm 81:10). They are without limit in extent and duration of blessing. Let us not limit ourselves in our desires, nor limit in our thoughts the bounty or power of God (Psalm 78:41). What he "has said" includes all we can need, but no more than we need for our highest blessedness; let us not be content with less. Let us study the promises, stretch our minds to grasp them, and then turn them into prayer; and, certain that our thoughts have not attained to the full extent of their meaning, let us yield ourselves to the influences of the Holy Spirit, that he may intercede within and "for us with groanings which cannot be uttered," but which "he that searcheth the hearts" can interpret and respond to (Romans 8:26, 27).
II. THEY FURNISH AN ALL-POWERFUL PLEA IN OUR PRAYERS. "Do as thou hast said" is an appeal to the faithfulness and kindness of him to whom we pray. "Thou canst not break thy word ('Thy words be true,' ver. 28); thou art too kind to trifle with those who confide in it. For thy Name's sake, therefore, fulfil thy promises."
III. THEY ASSURE US OF A FAVOURABLE ANSWER TO OUR PRAYERS. When our prayers are according to the Divine promises, we should be absolutely certain of their success. For:
1. God is able to do as he has said.
2. He is most willing. His promises spring from his love to us, and express what he is most desirous of conferring upon us, and which only our indifference, unwillingness, unbelief, and consequent unfitness prevent our receiving.
3. His word binds him. "God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or bath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?" (Numbers 23:19).
4. He has given confirmations of his promises and pledges for their fulfilment, especially in the gift of his Son (2 Corinthians 1:20; Romans 8:32). Therefore "let us ask in faith, nothing doubting" (James 1:6, Revised Version). Were it not for what he has said, we might reasonably hesitate to ask for such great things as we are taught to pray for; but, having his word, there is no room for hesitation (ver. 27). However conscious of sinfulness and unworthiness, we may and should "come boldly unto the throne of grace" (Hebrews 4:16; also Hebrews 10:19, 22). Let us, then:
1. Familiarize ourselves with the promises of God, that we may pray with understanding and largeness of heart, and with confidence, importunity, and perseverance.
2. Use the promises when we pray, whether for ourselves, our families, our country, the Church, or the world.
3. Abandon whatever would turn the words, "Do as thou hast said," into a fearful imprecation. For think of what God has said as to what he will do with the impenitent, the unbelieving, the disobedient, the unforgiving, etc., even if they offer prayers to him (see e.g. Matthew 6:12, 14, 15). - G.W.
I. HOW GOD'S NAME IS MAGNIFIED IN AND BY HIS PEOPLE. This is effected by:
1. The work wrought for them.
"'Twas great to speak a world from nought; 2. The revelations made to them. In the Person, teaching, miracles, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord Jesus; and by the teaching of the Holy Spirit through the . evangelists and apostles. In these God is manifested more fully and clearly than by all his works besides. Never before did his Name appear so great and glorious. 3. The work wrought in them. The regeneration and sanctification of souls is a more interesting and illustrious display of Divine power than the creation of suns and stars, and reveals more of the Divine nature. The spiritual beauty and glory thus produced surpass all the beauty and glory of the natural world, and in them more of God appears. In "the fruit of the Spirit" (Galatians 5:22) God is magnified more than in all other products of his power. 4. The works done by them. The witness they bear for God by their worship and teaching, and sometimes their sufferings as confessors and martyrs; their godly and loving endeavours for the good of others; the courage and self-sacrifice, faith and patience, with which many of them labour for the spread of the gospel; and the good thus effected; - all magnify, the Name of God, from whom all proceed, and to the fulfilment of whose gracious purposes all conduce. The changes wrought by the labours of Christians - the whole influence and results of Christianity, notwithstanding all drawbacks (serious as these are), are of such a nature and magnitude as to exalt the Name of God more than anything else in the world. 5. The condition they at length attain. Their ultimate moral and spiritual perfection, their perfect happiness, their vast number. "He shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe" (2 Thessalonians 1:10). 6. The praises which are given to him on their account. From themselves, from the angelic hosts; on earth, in heaven; forever. In these ways God appears great and ever greater because of his relation to Christ and the Church. II. THE PRAYER OF GOOD MEN RESPECTING IT. "Let thy Name be magnified;" let it become greater and greater in the sight of the intelligent universe, and become more and more admired and praised, through what is done in and for and by thy people. 1. Such a prayer is natural to good men. Because they love God, because they have received so much from him, and because they desire the welfare of others, which is involved in the magnifying of the Name of God, 2. There is much to intensify such a prayer. (1) The condition of the Church. In which there is so much that does not glorify the Name of God, so little comparatively that does. To say that the Lord of hosts is God of such a people does not tend to honour him so greatly as his zealous servants desire. The prayer from their hearts and lips will mean, "Let Christ's people become so Christ-like as to make it manifest that their religion is from God, that they themselves are specially his, and that be is indeed a Being glorious in holiness and loving kindness." (2) The condition of the world. In which God is so little thought of, his Name so little esteemed; in which idols and all manner of vain and even wicked things are magnified more than God; in which men give to themselves and their fellow men the honour which should be his; and whose salvation and whole well being would be ensured by those changes which would magnify the Name of God. (3) The slow progress of the kingdom of God. The apparent weakness of the Church in reference to her great work, and her real insufficiency for it, should lead all Christians to pray that God would so "arise" and "let his work appear" in the spread and establishment of his kingdom that his Name may be magnified in the earth as it has never yet been. 3. Let the prayer be accompanied by practice. Let each of us who pray, "Hallowed be thy Name," so live as to aid in fulfilling our prayer; first, in our general character and conduct, and then by faithful endeavours to promote the honour of God amongst professing Christians and throughout the world. Also by hearty praise to God for all he has done in connection with Christ and Christianity to make his Name great and glorious. Observe, finally, that the Name of God is magnified in the punishment of his enemies. Let us beware lest we be made in this manner to glorify him. Let us rather honour his Name as it appears in Jesus Christ by our faith and obedience; then he will honour it in our salvation. - G.W.
2. The revelations made to them. In the Person, teaching, miracles, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord Jesus; and by the teaching of the Holy Spirit through the . evangelists and apostles. In these God is manifested more fully and clearly than by all his works besides. Never before did his Name appear so great and glorious.
3. The work wrought in them. The regeneration and sanctification of souls is a more interesting and illustrious display of Divine power than the creation of suns and stars, and reveals more of the Divine nature. The spiritual beauty and glory thus produced surpass all the beauty and glory of the natural world, and in them more of God appears. In "the fruit of the Spirit" (Galatians 5:22) God is magnified more than in all other products of his power.
4. The works done by them. The witness they bear for God by their worship and teaching, and sometimes their sufferings as confessors and martyrs; their godly and loving endeavours for the good of others; the courage and self-sacrifice, faith and patience, with which many of them labour for the spread of the gospel; and the good thus effected; - all magnify, the Name of God, from whom all proceed, and to the fulfilment of whose gracious purposes all conduce. The changes wrought by the labours of Christians - the whole influence and results of Christianity, notwithstanding all drawbacks (serious as these are), are of such a nature and magnitude as to exalt the Name of God more than anything else in the world.
5. The condition they at length attain. Their ultimate moral and spiritual perfection, their perfect happiness, their vast number. "He shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe" (2 Thessalonians 1:10).
6. The praises which are given to him on their account. From themselves, from the angelic hosts; on earth, in heaven; forever. In these ways God appears great and ever greater because of his relation to Christ and the Church.
II. THE PRAYER OF GOOD MEN RESPECTING IT. "Let thy Name be magnified;" let it become greater and greater in the sight of the intelligent universe, and become more and more admired and praised, through what is done in and for and by thy people.
1. Such a prayer is natural to good men. Because they love God, because they have received so much from him, and because they desire the welfare of others, which is involved in the magnifying of the Name of God,
2. There is much to intensify such a prayer.
(1) The condition of the Church. In which there is so much that does not glorify the Name of God, so little comparatively that does. To say that the Lord of hosts is God of such a people does not tend to honour him so greatly as his zealous servants desire. The prayer from their hearts and lips will mean, "Let Christ's people become so Christ-like as to make it manifest that their religion is from God, that they themselves are specially his, and that be is indeed a Being glorious in holiness and loving kindness."
(2) The condition of the world. In which God is so little thought of, his Name so little esteemed; in which idols and all manner of vain and even wicked things are magnified more than God; in which men give to themselves and their fellow men the honour which should be his; and whose salvation and whole well being would be ensured by those changes which would magnify the Name of God.
(3) The slow progress of the kingdom of God. The apparent weakness of the Church in reference to her great work, and her real insufficiency for it, should lead all Christians to pray that God would so "arise" and "let his work appear" in the spread and establishment of his kingdom that his Name may be magnified in the earth as it has never yet been.
3. Let the prayer be accompanied by practice. Let each of us who pray, "Hallowed be thy Name," so live as to aid in fulfilling our prayer; first, in our general character and conduct, and then by faithful endeavours to promote the honour of God amongst professing Christians and throughout the world. Also by hearty praise to God for all he has done in connection with Christ and Christianity to make his Name great and glorious. Observe, finally, that the Name of God is magnified in the punishment of his enemies. Let us beware lest we be made in this manner to glorify him. Let us rather honour his Name as it appears in Jesus Christ by our faith and obedience; then he will honour it in our salvation. - G.W.
2 Samuel 7:27. - (ZION.)
1. Found in the right place. If only on the tongue it is not really found at all Its proper abode is the heart; yet it is not always found there, even when renewed, as the heart must be for its dwelling.
2. Possessed of priceless worth; in contrast with other things that are often found in the heart (Matthew 15:19). A rare flower among weeds, a fountain in the desert, a treasure in poverty, a friend in need! "I have no earthly friend," said one; "but I have a praying heart."
3. Derived from a Divine source. It is not indigenous. Its orion is in "the Father of lights," from whom comes "every good gift and every perfect boon;" its production is due to the teaching of his Word and the operation of his Spirit (Zechariah 12:10).
4. Destined for a proper use. Not to be neglected, repressed, or restrained (Job 15:4); but appreciated, guarded, cherished, freely and fully "poured out" at the feet of the Giver, that he may be glorified. - D.
I. THE GREATNESS OF GOD'S PROMISES. They set before us blessings so precious, vast, and enduring, that, apart from the declarations of God, we should never have dared to think of them as possible for us, or to pray for them. From the goodness and power of God in general we might have ventured to hope and pray for some blessings, but not such as are now the common subjects of Christian prayer. Look in this view at some of the Divine promises, or declarations which are equivalent to promises.
1. As to the believer himself. Promises as to:
(1) Pardon of great and numerous sins, long practised. Repeated pardons.
(2) Renewal of nature and character. Deliverance from slavery to sins the most natural, the most habitual. "A new heart," etc.
(3) Adoption into the family of God. The Spirit of adoption. Participation of the Divine nature. Free access to God. Fellowship with him.
(4) Victory over the mightiest enemies.
(5) "Grace sufficient" for all circumstances, and highest good from them.
(6) Fulness of spiritual life, of knowledge, holiness, strength, joy. "Filled unto the fulness of God;" "Filled with the Spirit" The indwelling in the heart of Christ, of God, by the Holy Spirit. Truly there are heights of godliness, goodness, and blessedness attainable in this life, to which most of us are strangers.
(7) Heaven. Seeing God face to face; being with Christ, being like him in body, soul, condition; reigning with him as kings; experiencing "fulness of joy, pleasures forevermore." Let any one examine the statements of Holy Scripture on these subjects, and consider what they mean; and he must perceive that they set forth blessings which, apart from the assurances thus given, men could not have conceived of, much less imagined that they could ever be their own.
2. As to the future of the kingdom of God on earth. The attraction of all men to Christ; the universal spread of the knowledge, worship, and service of God; and consequently of peace, union, and brotherhood; obedience on earth to God's will as it is obeyed in heaven. In opposition to such a prospect is the whole history and experience of the world, with the exception of a small fraction; the depravity of mankind, the power of error, superstition, idolatry, priestcraft, old habits of wickedness, etc. Such a vision could never have appeared to men; or, if it had occurred to an active imagination, could never have been regarded as a matter for serious prayer and endeavour, if God had not given it by his prophets and by his Son.
II. THE EFFECT WHICH THESE PROMISES SHOULD HAVE ON OUR PRAYERS. They should:
1. Impel us to pray. Not lead us to neglect prayer, as if the Divine purpose and promise superseded all need for prayer. "Thus saith the Lord God: I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them" (Ezekiel 36:37). The blessings promised are for these who seek them.
3. Greatly encourage them. Leading us to pray with confidence and importunity. Petitions that would have been presumptuous without the promises are now sober and reasonable. We need not and ought not to be deterred either by:
(1) Our sinfulness and God's holiness and threatenings.
(2) Our insignificance and God's majesty.
(3) The greatness of the blessings promised, and our or incapacity to receive them; the difficulties in the way of the fulfilment of the
(4) the difficulties in the way of the fulfilment of the promises. Sufficient that they are the promises of God, and he
(1) "Jehovah of hosts," having all things under his control, unchanging and eternal and;
(2) "God of Israel," our God, our covenant God, who has taken us to be his, and given himself to be ours in Christ Jesus. All that he has promised appears only to befit such a sublime relationship. (See further in homily on ver. 25.) - G.W.
I. THE GROUNDS OF OUR ASSURANCE OF THE TRUTH OF GOD'S WORDS. "Thou art God."
1. His nature and character.
(1) His universal knowledge. He cannot, like men, be mistaken, and honestly assert that for truth which is untrue.
(2) His essential truthfulness. Because he is God we are intuitively sure of this. As he cannot be mistaken, so he "cannot lie"
(3) His goodness. Which of itself would prevent him from misleading and deceiving his dependent creatures.
(4) His unbounded power. Men who are not untrue to their promises may be unable to fulfil them. Not so God.
(5) His unchangeableness. As well in faithfulness as in goodness and power. He can never become either unable or unwilling to fulfil his Word.
2. His doings. The actual fulfilment of his words.
(1) In the history of the world; especially the promises respecting the Christ, the blessings he would bestow, and the changes he would effect. The faithfulness of God to his Word, as shown in the previous history of Israel, would assure David of the fulfilment of the promises to himself.
(2) Within the range of our own observation and experience. The words of God as to the results of faith and unbelief, of holiness and sin, of prayerfulness and prayerlessness, are continually being accomplished. Our personal experience testifies to their truth, and we can witness their fulfilment in others.
II. THE WORDS RESPECTING WHICH WE HAVE THIS ASSURANCE. All declarations that can be traced to God, whether ascertained by unaided reason (as we say, though the living God through the eternal Word is ever working in the human reason) or by the inspired Book. God speaks in nature as well as in the Bible. Scientific truth, and moral truth known by the conscience, are from him as well as religious. But as Christians we have to do with the words of God in Holy Scripture, and especially with the "truth which is in Jesus." As he declared in language almost identical with David's, "Thy Word is truth" (John 17:17), so he said of himself, "I am the Truth" (John 14:6). And it is of unspeakable importance to be assured that he is and gives the revelation of God; that all that he is and says is the truth. And as he declares of the Old Testament that "the Scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35), we have his warrant for full Confidence also in the more ancient revelation. God's words as thus ascertained relate to:
1. Existences. God himself, his Son, his Spirit. Inhabitants of the invisible world - angels, Satan, demons. Mankind - the nature of man, purposes of his creation, the relations he sustains, his fallen condition, etc. For our knowledge of the invisible beings and things we depend on the Word of God, mainly the Scriptures; and the knowledge thus acquired is, we may be sure, truth.
2. Moral laws. Known partly by reason, partly by Scripture. However ascertained, we know them to be truth.
3. Spiritual truths and laws. The redeeming love and works of God and our Saviour; the way in which they become effectual for ourselves; the duties thence arising.
4. The results of our conduct in respect to these truths and laws. That is, the promises and the threatenings of God, as to both the present life and the eternal future. Observe, that it is the words of God about these things which are the truth; not necessarily the assertions of men - individuals or Churches - respecting them. It is for human teachers, not to require of their brethren unquestioning faith in their statements, but to lead them up to where they may hear the utterances of God himself. And this is to be done, not merely by proving their assertions by the letter of Scripture, but by cherishing themselves, and fostering in others, the spirit which enables communion with "the Father of spirits" (Hebrews 12:9). If God's words be truth:
1. We should seek full knowledge of them.
2. We should exercise undoubting faith in them.
(1) The faith which realizes the invisible and eternal; apprehends and feels them to be as God says.
(2) The faith which is full confidence in the Divine promises and threatenings, assurance that our own future and that of others will be according to them. We have such a faith only when our belief sways and rules our hearts and lives.
3. We should imitate God as to our truthfulness and the actual truth of our words. Being true and sincere in our character and utterances, and taking care that what we truly say shall be truth. - G.W.
I. THE PRAYER. That God would bless the family. A Christian father offering this prayer would have regard to:
1. Temporal blessings. Prolonged life, good health of body and mind, success in worldly pursuits, competence. Asking for these as a blessing from God implies the desire that they should be granted only so far as they will be blessings; that they should come as the result of God's blessing on upright means (not from fraud, injustice, or violence; see Proverbs 10:22); and that they should be accompanied with God's blessing, so that they may not ensnare and injure the soul, but promote its prosperity and highest happiness. Thus regarded, such a prayer is not unbecoming the heart and lips of any good man.
2. Spiritual blessings. That the family may be worthy the name of a Christian household, all being truly the children of God, worshipping and serving him faithfully and to the end. A Christian parent will be more desirous that his house should be good than great - "rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom" (James 2:5) rather than possessed of material wealth. For such blessings he need not restrain his desires, as they are good in and for themselves, good always and forever. The poorest may seek these for his children, who may enjoy them equally with the wealthiest: they are open to all.
3. Eternal blessings. That he and his may "continue forever before God" (comp. Genesis 17:18), and "be blessed forever" numbered with the saints in the glory everlasting. The words translated, "let it please thee to bless," may be more literally rendered "begin and bless" (Revised Version, margin). As if David's thoughts reverted from the distant future to the present; and he became acutely alive to the fact that, for the accomplishment of the promise in the future, it was necessary that Cod should be with him and his at once and all along. In the heart of a Christian the meaning may well be, "Let thy blessing come at once, without any delay, on my house, to correct what is wrong, to increase what is right, to produce those conditions which are most favourable to all good, as they most fully ensure thy constant favour."
II. WHENCE IT ARISES.
1. Godliness. Sense of the value of God's blessing; preference of it over all else; confidence in God's fatherly love and sympathy with the love of earthly parents for their children; and faith in his promises.
2. Parental feeling. Love for his family; longing for their true and lasting happiness and well being.
3. Regard for his own happiness. Which is necessarily bound up with the goodness and happiness of his children. Finally:
1. Such prayer, when real, will be accompanied by Christian instruction and training. (Ephesians 6:4.)
2. Let children thank God for praying parents. Let them keep before them the image of their fathers and mothers daily kneeling before God, and imploring his blessing on them. Let them, however, not trust to their prayers as sufficient to ensure their salvation; but pray for themselves. (See more on 2 Samuel 6:20.) - G.W.