Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Lord and Giver of life.
I. SPIRITUAL ENLIGHTENMENT REVEALS WHAT IS REAL BENEATH WHAT IS APPARENT. To other eyes no such vision as that which broke upon the sight of the inspired prophet was accorded. On the contrary, men might have looked upon Israel - part of the people in captivity, and part still occupying the land of their fathers - and have seen nothing but such misfortune and calamity as are incident to human history. To the prophetic, quickened, illumined mind of Ezekiel the real state of the nation was manifest. In like manner, a superficial observer might direct his attention to the human race without apprehending its spiritual condition as one of deprivation, of gloom, of death; he might be dazzled by external splendor and prosperity, and it might not occur to him that beneath the fair and glittering outside there was concealed from his eyes what, after all, is the most important characteristic of humanity, regarded spiritually.
II. THE REALITY TO BE RECOGNIZED IS THE PRESENCE AND THE POWER OF SPIRITUAL DEATH.
1. The cause of this is sin. Life flows from communion with him who is the ever-living Fountain of life. Severed from God, the soul cannot live.
2. The effects and signs of this death are numerous and evident. Insensibility to Divine truth, to virtue, to immortality, may be mentioned as most impressively brought before us in the vision which Ezekiel saw. The dry bones lay scattered about the plain, insensible to everything, to every presence about them, neither affected by any occurrence nor initiating any movement. Such is the state of the spiritually dead - the "dead in trespasses and sins."
III. HOPELESSNESS DISTINGUISHES THE STATE OF THE SPIRITUALLY DEAD. "Son of man, can these bones live?" If the answer depended upon human sagacity, if the means to awaken life were such as are available to human wisdom alone, such as are known by human experience, there can be but one answer "Life is impossible! ' Who that locked upon pro-Christian society could cherish the hope that from that necropolis there could start into vitality and activity a host of living, consecrated beings, filled with the life of God, eager to do the work of God? Could the Church have grown out of the world? The supposition is an absurdity. The prophet's reply to the inquiry was the only reply that was reasonable. All depended upon God; man was powerless and hopeless for revival. "O Lord God, thou knowest!" - T.
I. MARK ISRAEL'S DESPERATE CONDITION. Whatever may have been the fortunes of some individuals, as a nation their fortunes were deplorable. All that was distinctive about Israel had vanished. Tithings, temple ritual, priesthood, Passover, distinction in meats, - all had disappeared. They were fast becoming amalgamated, in language, habits, and occupation, with their conquerors. As a body, they were utterly dislocated. Their several orders had vanished. The organism was broken up. Their national life was destroyed. Their condition was deplorable, fitly symbolized by dry and dissevered bones. Prospect of restoration there was none. The faithful few were sinking into despair. Vivid picture this of human nature severed from the living God. Compared with the purity and nobleness that might be, the condition is aptly figured by death. Filial love and trust are dead. Conscience, the sense of right, is dead. Heavenly aspirations are dead. The hope of immortality is dead. Departing from God, men become "earthly, sensual, devilish." The captivity of the grave aptly symbolizes their estate. The high design of their being is frustrated. Severance from God is followed by the rupture of social ties, mutual discords, and mutual hate.
II. ISRAEL'S PROSPECT OF NEW ORGANIZATION. The prospect is due solely to the interposition of God. He proposes a tremendous question to his servant, "Can these bones live?" Devoutly the prophet refers the question back to God. By proposing difficult questions to his servants, God stimulates them to reflection, concentrates their attention upon salient points, teaches them a modest estimate of their powers.
1. In elevating mankind there is need for the prophet's mission. As the greatest enemy of mankind is man, so man can be a real friend and helper to his race. The world is deeply indebted to its teachers. All the ages are indebted to Moses, to Solon, to Socrates, and to St. Paul. The man who can lay his finger upon a plague-spot and. announce a remedy, the man who can lead a nation up to a higher level of life, is a benefactor to the face. Most of all, the man who can reveal to us God, who can unveil to us his character, his designs concerning us, our duty to him, he is of all men the most influential, the most kingly.
2. No real improvement in human nature can be achieved without God's power. Although the man of God was charged to prophesy, his message simply declared what God was about to do. "I will lay sinews upon you; I will bring up flesh upon you; I will cover you with skin," saith the Lord God. No amelioration is abiding that does not come from God. All political organization that is to produce benefit to a nation must be full of God. Every step in the process of moral elevation must have God in it. We can only act successfully while we act in the line of his Law, and have all the channels we create filled with a Divine force. God deigns to take a practical interest in the minutest affairs of men.
III. ORGANIZATION IS IMPOTENT WITHOUT LIFE. To the prophet's ecstatic vision the human organism was now complete. Every limb and member was articulated - was in its allotted place. But the great want was yet unmet. The highest endowment was lacking. Everything waited, in silent yearning, for life. Then the prophet is summoned to another duty. Having spoken to men, he must speak to God. He must invoke the vital breath of Heaven. For this great undertaking there is required all the fullness and force of the Divine Spirit. "Come from all quarters, O breath of life! Wind of the north, come and rouse men from their long slumber! Wind of the east, come and brace men's energies for new exertions. Wind of the west, come and bring fertilizing showers, that shall penetrate and soften the heart! Wind of the south, come, quicken the plants of grace and ripen the fruits of piety!" If only God be with us, the most difficult undertaking will succeed. If God did, at the first, create human nature out of nothing, the work of reconstruction cannot be more difficult. To God nothing is impossible. Omnipotence covers every task.
IV. A MAGNIFICENT RESULT. The prophet was not disobedient to the heavenly voice. As the echo responds to the speaker, so promptly did Divine influence attend the prophetic word. Under the direction and inspiration of God, human labor and prayer can produce prodigious effects. The scenes of death become scenes of life. A nation rises up as if out of its grave. By the manifested power of God's grace the highest personal life appears; the Church's life is created; national life is purged and elevated; and the resurrection to an imperishable life is assured. If God be on our side, no height of excellence is inaccessible; and if he has pledged his word, he will perform it in no stinted fashion. To have real childlike faith in God's word and in God's faithfulness brings the highest joy. To be in actual touch with God transfigures character and enriches human life. Heaven is begun on earth if we know God by personal and familiar experience. A grand climax of blessing is involved in the words, "Then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it." - D.
1. Israel was in a forlorn and hopeless condition in her dispersion and captivity; she seemed to be irrecoverably lost; as a nation she was as one dead, if not buried.
2. But God had a gracious purpose concerning her. He intended to exercise his Divine power on her behalf; the dead should be revived; the lost should be found; the scattered should be restored and united.
3. That which seemed so hopeless is seen to be accomplished; instead of "a valley full of bones" (ver. 1) is "an exceeding great army" (ver. 10); instead of a "lost hope" (ver. 4) is a revived, and recovered nation (ver. 12). The true analogue to this vision of the prophet is the revival of the lost and dead human soul under the renewing and inspiring power of the Spirit of God. What is suggested here on this vital theme is -
I. THE FATAL AND HOPELESS CONDITION TO WHICH SIN REDUCES US. Could we see our sin-stricken humanity as it appears in the sight of God, then where now we look upon fair scenes and shows of beauty or activity, we should see a "valley full of dry bones" - a valley of death. Let "the dead bury their dead," said the Master. "She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth," said his apostle. To be separated from God in thought and sympathy; to be living in selfishness, in vanity, in sin; to be forfeiting our fair heritage of righteousness and holy service, and to lose our life in human gratifications or earthly acquisitions; - this is to be lost to God and wisdom; it is to have entered at least the outer shadows of the valley of death; and when sin has (tone its worst, when it has led the man or the community down to its nethermost abyss, then is he (or it) in such a state of spiritual deathfulness and hopelessness that all recovery seems impossible, as impossible as for a great mass of dry and disparted bones scattered on some broad valley to be readjusted and to be reanimated with life. "Can these bones live? No," human intelligence replies, "they are dead beyond all recovery." Yet is it well to remember that "the things which are impossible to man are possible with God;" and it is well to make reply, as in the text, "O Lord God, thou knowest." For God's reply is not in the negative. He summons to activity; and we have -
II. THE THREEFOLD AGENCY CALLED INTO EXERCISE.
1. The human teacher. "He said unto me, Prophesy," etc. (ver. 4). "So I prophesied as I was commanded" (ver. 7). It is the bounden duty, the sacred privilege, of the human teacher - in the house, in the sanctuary, in the school, in the street, anywhere and everywhere that men will listen - to summon the lost ones to return, the fallen to rise, the slumbering to awake and to return unto the Lord their God.
2. The sinful souls themselves. "As I prophesied there was a noise, and behold a shaking," etc. (ver. 7). Men may seem as dead, and in a sadly serious sense they may be "dead in sin;" yet they are not so absolutely lifeless that there is no possible response in them when the word of Divine truth is spoken. On the contrary, they will respond; there is the spiritual movement which begins in being aroused, and which ends in the actual return of the heart unto its Divine Father, and its entrance into eternal life.
3. The Divine Spirit. "Prophesy unto the wind, breathe upon these slain, that they may live" (ver. 9). What the breathing wind in the prophet's image wrought, that now works the Holy Spirit of God. Vain the words of the teacher, the movement of the fallen and lost spirit, without the renewing and reviving energy that comes from God. But that does come. God waits to work with us and for us; and when there is honest effort accompanied' with earnest prayer, the breath of the Divine Spirit is not wanting; then comes -
III. THE BLESSED ISSUE IN NEWNESS OF LIFE. "They lived, and stood up... an exceeding great army [or 'force']" (ver. 10). The glorious issue of this agency, human and Divine, is
(1) life, - life in God's view, life in God, life unto God, life now and evermore with God; it is
(2) largely extended life, - an exceeding great army, innumerable, stretching over all lands and through all the centuries; it is
(3) powerful life, - the word translated army might be rendered force. The multitude of them that believe," and that have life by faith in Jesus Christ, should be a great force or power for good. If it did but realize its resources, and knew how strong it was in Christian truth and the power of God which is at command, it would do far "greater works" than any it has yet accomplished for its Master and for mankind. - C.
I. THE MINISTRY OF PROPHECY.
1. It presumes intelligent natures to which the appeal is made.
2. It presumes a Supreme Authority by which the prophet is selected, fitted, and guided in the discharge of his &rice.
3. It presumes a ministerial nature and character, on the one side open to communications from God, on the other side sympathetic with those for whose benefit such communications are vouchsafed.
4. It presumes an occasion and circumstances, suggesting the fulfillment of a spiritual mission.
II. THE POWER AND AUTHORITY OF THE LIVING GOD ACCOMPANYING TRUE PROPHECY.
1. The prophet speaks at the Divine command. There are times when he is silent, and times when he utters the thoughts, the warnings, the exhortations, that are in him. When the command is given, then the silence is broken.
2. The prophet utters a Divine message. He speaks for God, and they who listen to him hear the voice of God.
3. His utterances are therefore altogether without regard to what men would call probabilities or even possibilities. Nothing could have been further from all human likelihood than that anything should follow upon such a ministry as that here described. The prophet was directed to address "dry bones," and to summon dry bones to "hear the word of the Lord!" Had he been other than a prophet, he would have deemed such a mission an absurdity. "God's ways are not our ways, neither our thoughts his thoughts."
4. A higher than human wisdom and might breathe in the utterances of the prophet. The dignity of his attitude, the sublimity of his thoughts, are not of this world. He must be either a pretender and a fanatic, or else a representative of God himself, who can make use of such language as Ezekiel records himself to have used: "Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live."
III. THE MOVEMENT EFFECTED BY THE AGENCY OF PROPHECY. In this impressive vision the prophet witnessed the power of the words he was directed to utter. A thundering noise and an earthquake followed his prophesying, and to his own amazement he saw bones come together - bone to his bone; he saw the bones clothed with sinews, flesh, and skin. This marvelous transformation was still unaccompanied by life. Surely a revelation to us of the great things that may be and are effected through the instrumentality of a personal and spiritual agency, which yet fall short of the highest and most beautiful and blessed of all effects, viz. spiritual vitality itself. Is it not still and ever the case that by human agencies men are taught, admonished, trained to habits of rectitude, encouraged in a useful life, by a Divine Power indeed - for all good of every grade is from God - but by an exercise of power which is yet inferior to the highest of all?
IV. THE NEW LIFE WHICH IS, IN CONSONANCE WITH PROPHECY, BREATHED BY DIVINE SPIRIT. The result of the summons to the breath from the four winds was at once and most wonderfully apparent. The dry bones lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army! It is impossible to believe that the significance of this glorious conclusion to the vision is exhausted by the restoration of the sons of Israel to their native soil and ancient inheritance. We have the authority of the prophet himself for believing that in this event there was a fulfillment of the vision. And it probably seemed to many observers almost as incredible that the Jews should be bought back from their captivity and should as a nation again live and prosper, as that the bones of the dead, strewn upon a battle-field, should be restored to life and should become again an army of mighty warriors. To the mind that thinks deeply and justly it will seem still more surprising that our humanity, sunk in the slumber and the death of sin, should awake to newness of life, should receive the Spirit of God, and should become his living army of truth and righteousness. It was the purpose of Christ's coming that we might have life, and that in abundance. It is the Spirit that quickeneth. Thus it may be said that the production, fullness, and increase of spiritual life is the main result of the advent of the Savior and the gift of the Holy Ghost.
V. THE TRANSFORMATION AND CONTRAST BROUGHT ABOUT IN FULFILMENT OF PROPHECY. God speaks by his herald and representative, and his word is a word of power. The disjointed and sundered are united, the dry bones are clothed with flesh, the dead live, movement and the glad sound of life follow the stillness and the silence of the grave. An army of the living God is fashioned out of material the most unlikely. Thus the presence and operation of the Eternal is made manifest, the flagging faith of men is revived, and the future of humanity is irradiated with immortal hope. - T.
I. THE DEATH AND DESPONDENCY OF THE CAPTIVITY. The Jewish people had endured many afflictions and chastisements; but the Captivity was the sorest disaster which had overtaken them, the profoundest humiliation into which they had been plunged. To so earnest a patriot as Ezekiel the case seemed, apart from Divine commiseration and help, one utterly depressing to contemplate. Human deliverer there was not; way of deliverance opened not up; the prospect was dark. The whole house of Israel, contemplating the situation, summed it up in the mournful exclamation, "Our hope is lost; we are clean cut off."
II. THE COMPASSIONATE INTERPOSITION OF THE DIVINE DELIVERER. When human help there was none, the Lord looked in pity upon his own. "Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, O my people." Their state was as that of those dead and buried out of men's sight. But with God nothing is impossible. His voice can summon even the dead to life. The hearts of kings and rulers are in his hands. He deviseth means whereby his banished ones may return.
III. THE SPIRITUAL ENERGY CONDITIONING THE RECOVERY AND RENEWAL. Providential intervention is not all that is necessary. An internal as well as an external condition is requisite. No great work on behalf of a nation can, any more than a great work on behalf of an individual, be effected apart from the state, the character, the purposes, the voluntary cooperation of those who are to be benefited. We have an intimation of this in the present case in the promise, "I will put my Spirit in you, and ye shall live." To put a people in their own territory would be of no avail to the national life were not the people gifted with a spirit of patriotism, of unity, of hopefulness, above all, of true religion. A restoration such as that effected for Israel, in order to be a real thing, must be accompanied by the new heart, the new national endeavor and patience, the new devotedness to the higher aims of social and political existence. God, who gives the boon, gives also the preparation by which the boon may be appropriated and used.
IV. THE RESTORATION ITSELF. This was mainly, at all events in the general apprehension, a political movement. The capital was reoccupied, the temple services were restored in something like their former dignity and beauty; the reputation of the nation was in some measure retrieved. But beyond all this, in the apprehension of the more thoughtful there was a religious reformation of greater interest and importance. The life from the dead was life unto Jehovah and unto his laws and ordinances - a life not ceremonial, but spiritual. Idolatry, at all events, was forever abandoned; many of the temptations of former times were for ever outgrown. Some good was thus effected, and good of such a nature as to confer a real service and blessing upon mankind.
V. THE GIVING OF GLORY TO WHOM IT WAS DUE. In two respects especially the Lord assured the Israelites, by his prophets, honor should accrue to himself through the return of his chosen people.
1. His power should be recognized as the true cause of the redemption.
2. His faithfulness should be adored by those to whom the promise had been given, and by whom the fulfillment of the promise was enjoyed. - T.
i.e. we are "cut off from the source of power and influence, and. abandoned to ourselves." Taking these words apart from their connection (though quite in accordance with their spirit and tenor), our attention is directed to -
I. THE HOPELESS, BECAUSE THE ABANDONED. Many are they who have had, or still have, occasion to utter this most sad exclamation. It has been:
1. The remnant of a moribund race; or a dishonored community (like Israel in Egypt or in Babylon); or a people held in hopeless slavery or a company of men and women doomed to lifelong exile (Cayenne or Siberia).
2. Individuals, or families, or small groups of those who have once cherished hopes, perhaps high hopes, of a happy life, but who find themselves hopeless, cut off, away from all their resources, abandoned to themselves, with nothing but misery and death in view; it may be the marooned or castaway, left on some lonely island to pine and die; or it may be the condemned felon when the last effort to obtain a reprieve has failed; or it may be the family in the great city allowed to perish for lack of food; or it may be the helpless straggler whom the army has left behind to fall into the hands of a barbarous enemy. Sad and pitiable in the last degree is the fate of those who have to lament that they are "cut off (and abandoned) to themselves." Distinguished from these are:
3. The spiritually hopeless. Those who are perplexed and distressed in heart, because
(1) they cannot satisfy their minds as to the reality of sacred truths, as to the soundness of Christian doctrine; or because
(2) they cannot find the peace and. rest of heart they have been long seeking; or because
(3) they fancy that they have sinned beyond forgiveness and restoration. These souls cannot find the help they need; it seems to them that "no man careth for their soul," or can enter into their feelings, or go down to the dark depths of their necessity. They do not know what to do in their extremity; everything and every one has failed them; their "hope is perished;" they are "cut off" and abandoned.
II. THEIR ONE RESOURCE. When man fails us, we can turn to God and trust in him. In him the helpless and the hopeless find their Refuge. "I am alone, and yet not alone, for the Father is with me," said our Lord. And many thousands of his disciples have gained relief where their Master sought and found it. The great and supreme fact that God "remembered us in our low estate;" that when we were as a race utterly undone, "cut off" from all resources, with no hope whatever in man, he had compassion on us, and stooped to save us; - this is the strong, unfailing assurance that God will not desert us, even though we abandon one another. However low be our condition, and in whatever sense we may be hopeless, we may confidently count upon
(1) the near presence of God;
(2) the tender sympathy of our Divine Friend;
(3) his gracious and timely succor.
His will come to us, indeed, in his own time and way, which may not be after our choice or according to our expectation. But it will come; for it is quite impossible that the eternal Father will abandon his children, that the once-crucified and now exalted Savior will leave to their fate those for whom he died, and who turn earnest eyes to him for help and for salvation. - C.
I. UNITY IS BROUGHT ABOUT BY GOD HIMSELF. He is the God of peace, and delights in peace. "I," says he, "will make them one nation in the land." The kind of unity which is effected by the action of common human sympathy or interest is neither valuable nor permanent. True unity needs a Divine basis.
II. UNITY IS MANIFEST IN BROTHERLY LOVE AND SYMPATHY. That is to say, it is, first of all, unity of heart. When the same Divine Spirit works in many natures he produces similar effects in all; and his handiwork is nowhere more evident than in the prevalence of mutual love. The members of the same body, being obedient to the one Head, render one to another the tribute of mutual interest and kindly willingness to serve and help.
III. UNITY CONSISTS IN COMMON SUBJECTION TO ONE KING. "One King shall be king to them all; My Servant David shall be King over them, and they shall all have one Shepherd." The political unity of the Jews seems lost sight of m the Messianic reference of the prediction. The Church of Christ is one because there is over it but one Head, even Christ himself. All true Christians, every true Christian community in every place, acknowledge his sole sovereignty and confess allegiance to his sole authority.
IV. UNITY IS DISPLAYED IN THE ABANDONMENT AND REPUDIATION OF ALL UNFAITHFULNESS. When some of the children of Israel worshipped Jehovah, and others some one or other of the various hateful deities of the heathen, it was impossible that there should be unity. "How can two walk together except they be agreed?" There is thus a negative condition of spiritual oneness. The minds of men must be turned away from error and sin, in order that they may with one accord be turned Godwards and heavenwards. The unfaithful to God cannot be faithful one to another. They must have the same loathing and the same liking.
V. UNITY IS DISPLAYED IN A COMMON AND CONJOINT OBEDIENCE. This is a positive condition of spiritual oneness. "They shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes to do them." They who are one in heart will not find it difficult to be one in life. The laws are one, although the obedient are scattered far and wide, although the forms of obedience vary with varying circumstances.
VI. THE UNITY IS EVERLASTING. This can be true only of a unity which is Divine in its basis and its bonds. The language used in this portion of prophecy must refer to the spiritual kingdom of Christ. "David my Servant shall be their Prince forever;" "They shall dwell in the land for ever;" "I will make an everlasting covenant with them;" "I will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore." Such expressions are true. and they are true only of the kingdom which is "righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." No national, probably no ecclesiastical, unity upon earth is permanent. But the Son of God is King forever, and the subjects of his spiritual empire are bound together by the common ties which unite them to their Lord - ties which time cannot weaken and death cannot dissolve. - T.
I. REAL UNION CAN ONLY BE EFFECTED BY INWARD RENOVATION. Hence the gracious promise is repeated, "I will save them out of their dwelling-places wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them." This truth must be repeated times without number. So long as rebellion against God occupies the heart, so long there will be strife and hatred between man and man. Infidelity has always been hostile to society. But as men get nearer to God as their Center, the circumference diminishes, and they get nearer to each other. The uprooting of selfishness from the human heart is the removal of discord and war. If the fountain be made pure, pure will be the streams. Sin separates. Piety unites. After the descent of the Spirit at Pentecost, men were fused in brotherhood, and did not even count their goods their own. New-felt love swallowed up every other sentiment. "They had all things common."
II. UNION AMONG THE PEOPLE IS CEMENTED BY ALLEGIANCE TO ONE KING. "David my servant shall be King over them, and they all shall have one Shepherd." The rivalry of opposing kings in Rehoboam's day had been the root of endless mischief. "Like king, like people." This new Monarch has such incomparable claims that a rival is out of the question. His august worth will win from his subjects intense loyalty and love; and in proportion to their intense love for him there will develop attachment to each other. In his pure presence mutual suspicion and distrust hide away abashed. It is a part of his royal mission to foster all right sympathies. To be like their King is the high ambition of each. To serve and please their King is the common purpose of every true Israelite. To love one another is but another form of loving him.
III. UNION IS FOSTERED BY DOING GOD'S WILL. "They shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes." They that walk in the same road usually become good companions. And these new subjects of Messiah delight in these paths. They speak to each other of their joy. They delight to encourage each other to surmount such obstacles as appear, and to press on in the royal way. Their understandings being divinely illumined, they see such excellence in God's will that their wills become conformed to his. So, in becoming conformed to God's will, they become like each other. Among the children a common likeness appears. Fellow-soldiers on the same battle* field become fast friends. Common service and exposure to common dangers form a strong bond of union. In serving God we also serve one another.
IV. UNION SECURES GOD'S NEARER PRESENCE. "I will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore." If men feel that it is" good for brethren to dwell together in unity," God feels it still more to be both "good and pleasant." Our God is a God of order. Amid scenes of discord he will not abide. If men prefer his foe-the fomenter of hatreds - he will depart. But where true unity of spirit reins among men God will nearer come, wilt take up his abode, will make an everlasting covenant with them; his sanctuary is the sign of union and the security for union. Then the channel is open for the highest good to descend. God will become, in every practical respect, their God. His light shall be their light, his strength shall be their strength, his purity shall become their purity, his joy shall become theirs. God's fullness shall replenish their emptiness.
V. UNION IN THE TRUE ISRAEL SHALL PRODUCE A SALUTARY EFFECT UPON WORLD. "The heathen shall know that I the Lord do sanctify Israel." Here is the germ of the truth which was fully expanded in the intercessory prayer of Christ, "That they all may be one, that the world may believe that thou didst send me." It is little short of a miracle that the kingdom of our Lord should be maintained, much less grow, when so much division exists. That man contracts no light sin who uses his influence in keeping Christians apart. Real schism is a monstrous sin. And when the purity, the piety, the practical love, of the Church become eminent, these will produce a stupendous impression upon the world without. Holiness which is not austere, holiness expressed in its native form of sterling goodness, has an omnipotent charm which, once seen by men, fascinates all hearts. The love of money and of pleasure will fade and vanish when men discover the superior worth of true righteousness. God's manifest residence in the Church will win the homage of all the nations. "Then shall the heathen know," etc. - D.
I. ITS ONE ACKNOWLEDGED HEAD. The ideal "David (vers. 24, 25) is found, not in any future ruler like Judas Maccabaeus, but in Jesus Christ; in him who is exalted to be a Prince and a Savior," the Lord and Sovereign of his people everywhere. A far Greater than David is he (see homily on Ezekiel 34:23, 24). He will have no rival in the day of the Lord, when all the Churches of Christ shall know and love the truth, and exalt him in the eyes of the world.
II. ITS UNITY. (Vers. 21, 22.) The time will come when the Divine Head of the Church will look down upon a united people. There may be a great variety of organizations, but there wilt be no discord or disunion; none, because, while there will be no uniformity of method, but every order of spiritual life, there will be everywhere prevalent the spirit of a benignant charity, of Christ-like confidence, and love; all Churches and air hearts owning one Savior, teaching one redeeming truth, breathing one spirit, living one life, moving towards one goal, and looking for one prize.
III. ITS HOLINESS. (Ver. 23.) There shall be nothing to defile. What the entire absence of idolatry signified in the case of Israel is realized by the Church in the absence of all worldliness and iniquity of every kind from its pale. It is "cleansed" by the truth and power of God, so that vice and violence, oppression and injustice, covetousness and selfishness, uncharitableness and inconsiderateness, are banished from its midst.
IV. ITS GLORIOUS MAGNITUDE. "I will multiply them." If the largest promises made to Israel had been fulfilled to the letter, that fulfillment would have been small and slight indeed when compared with the realization they have had in the establishment and the growth of the Church of Christ. And it is extending its borders still, indeed much more rapidly now than in any century but the first. It has attained to a noble magnitude, and wilt "multiply and still increase," until that little stone of Nebuchadnezzar's dream shall have rolled and grown till it "fills the whole earth."
V. ITS JOY IN GOD. God's "sanctuary is to be in the midst." His "tabernacle shall be with them." He will "be their God, and they shall be his people" (vers. 26, 27). The picture is one of happy, holy converse between God and man. It is a great thing for a nation to rejoice because the Holy One is near, is known and felt to be near. In the "glorious future time," when the kingdom of Christ shall be established on the earth, it will be the very near presence of God that will be felt to be the source of the deepest satisfaction, of the largest and truest enrichment. To be with him, coming into his nearer presence in all the ordinances of religion, to live in the spirit and habitude of devotion, to walk with God all the day long, to be guests at his table, to lift up the face unto him as unto the heavenly Father, to lean on Christ as on the unfailing Friend of the heart and life, - this is the heritage of the good in the blessed kingdom of our Lord. - C.
I. GOD'S TABERNACLE WITH MEN REMINDS US OF THE UNIVERSAL PRESENCE OF THE DEITY UPON EARTH THROUGHOUT ALL TIME.
II. AND OF HIS SPECIAL AND CONGENIAL PRESENCE AMONG AND WITH HIS OWN PEOPLE.
III. AND OF HIS GRACIOUS PURPOSE TO REVEAL UNTO THEM HIS OWN CHARACTER AND WILL.
IV. AND OF HIS CONSTANT WILLINGNESS TO RECEIVE THEIR WORSHIP AND HOMAGE.
V. AND OF HIS DESIRE TO MAINTAIN CLOSE AND UNBROKEN RELATIONS OF CORDIALITY AND KINDNESS WITH HIS PEOPLE.
APPLICATION. The privilege of fellowship with God should be reverently cherished, prized, and cultivated. The means and occasions of such fellowship should not be mistaken for the fellowship itself. The truest dignity and sacredness of this earthly life consists in the opportunity it offers of communion with the unseen but ever-present God and Savior. The strongest attraction of the life to come lies in the prospect of a closer approach to God, a more uninterrupted fellowship with God, and a nearer assimilation to his perfect and glorious character. - T.