Now when Solomon finished praying this entire prayer and petition to the LORD, he got up before the altar of the LORD, where he had been kneeling with his hands spread out toward heaven.
I. WHEN MEN MAKE VOWS AND PROMISES. Compare ver. 31 with the ordinances of Moses (Exodus 22:7-9). The oath was taken in the presence of God, because the thought of Him as the Searcher of hearts would induce serious consideration and careful exactitude, and because He was tacitly invited by His providence to confirm or to punish the spoken word. Show how the principle, right in itself, became abused and vitiated, so that Christ condemned the practices of His day (Matthew 5:33-37). Learn from the ancient practice
(1) that our utterances should be made as by men conscious of the nearness of the God of truth. Apply this to the immoralities of some business transactions, to the prevalence of slander in society, etc.
(2) That our resolutions should be formed in a spirit of prayer. How vain the pledge and promise of amendment, unless there be added to the human resolve the help of God's providence in circumstances, and the grace of His Spirit in the heart! Give examples of each.
II. WHEN MEN ARE INJURED OR DEFEATED BY THEIR ADVERSARIES. "When thy people Israel be smitten down before the enemy" (ver. 33). National defeat in war should lead to self examination on the part of those smitten. Too often the investigation is applied only to material resources: incompetent officials are dismissed, weakened regiments are strengthened, new alliances are formed, etc. The mischief may lie deeper. Sometimes God is calling the people not to redeem national honour, but to seek national righteousness. The teaching of the verse may be applied figuratively to defeats suffered by Christian controversialists or by philanthropic workers, etc. Every check in onward progress is a summons to thought and prayer. "In the day of adversity consider." Illustrate by examples.in Scripture, e.g., by the defeat of Israel at Ai, and its issues.
III. WHEN MEN ARE TREMBLING UNDER NATURAL CALAMITIES. Reference is made in ver. 35 to the withholding of rain; in ver. 37 to "famine, pestilence, blasting, mildew, locust, and caterpillar." Such troubles were sent in vain to bring the Egyptians to repentance. Compare those plagues with Elijah's message to Ahab, and with the threats of other prophets. Such statements as Deuteronomy 11:17 enshrine an abiding truth. In the long run the violation of God's laws do bring disasters of the very kind specified here. If the law of industry be violated, the harvests fail; if the law of mutual dependence be ignored by nations, commerce is crippled, and impoverishment comes; if the laws against self indulgence, pride, ambition, etc., be defied, the spendthrift has the result in poverty, the proud nation in the miseries of war, etc. Even the disasters which are accounted "natural phenomena," then, should lead the wise hearted to prayer, the sinful to penitence; and God will hear in heaven His dwelling place, and answer and forgive. Show how, during the ministry of our Lord, the cripples, the blind, the diseased came to Him. Their misery made them feel their need of what He alone could give, and many of them became conscious of their spiritual wants from considering first the want that was physical. As they were thus led, so the Church has been which in the Old Testament was oppressed most by the earthly wants, and in the New by the spiritual. Those in the far country learn, by beginning to "be in want," that God is calling them to arise and return to Him.
IV. WHEN MEN ARE CONSCIOUS OF THEIR SIN. All through this prayer reference is made to sin and to the consequent necessity for pardon (vers. 38, 46-50). Point out the climax in ver. 47:
(1) "We have sinned" - have not kept in the ways of God - sin in its negative aspect;
(2) "have done perversely" - acts of perversity;
(3) "have committed wickedness" - the overwhelming passion which drives into corruption. The necessity of humble confession as an integral part of prayer from the lips of fallen man can readily be shown from Scripture. Examples of conscience of sin impelling to prayer seen in David (Psalm 51.), the publican (Luke 18:18). "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).
V. WHEN MEN ARE GOING FORTH TO CONFLICT IN GOD'S NAME. "If thy people shall go out to battle against their enemy whithersoever thou shalt send them," etc. (ver. 44). We must not forget that Israel was a theocracy. David, for example, spoke of his foes as being God's foes. So had it been with Moses, Joshua, etc. The consciousness of that gives almost superhuman power. "Man, being linked with Omnipotency, is a kind of omnipotent creature," says Bacon. Even when the belief that one is on God's side is false, the belief itself is an inspiration. Examples from history of such belief well or ill founded - Joan of Are, the Puritans, etc. In actual war no nation can fairly put up this prayer unless the cause of war is that of which we can say, "whithersoever thou shalt send." No mistake need exist in reference to foes whom Christ came to destRomans The promise, "Lo! I am with you," was the inspiration of the apostles as they confronted false philosophies, crass ignorance, brutal customs, degrading superstitions. Hence, if they were going forth to battle with such evils, the prayers of the Church went up on their behalf. Men were set apart for their Christian mission by prayer (give examples), and in their work they often turned to their intercessors, saying, "Brethren, pray for us!" Feeling our insufficiency to overcome the adversaries of the gospel, let us, like the apostles, "continue in prayer and supplication" till we are "endued with power from on high." - A.R.
For Thou didst separate them.I. THE FACT. "Thou didst separate them from among all the people of the earth."
1. That separation commenced in the eternal purpose of God. Or ever the earth was He had set apart unto Himself a people whom He looked upon in the glass of His fore. knowledge, and viewed with infinite affection.
2. This first act of separation was followed up by a distinct act of grace, in which the chosen were given over to the Lord Jesus Christ. "Thine they were," says Jesus, "and Thou gavest them Me."
3. So far the separation is hidden from us, but what is hidden in the purpose in due time develops itself in the event, for all the people of God are at the proper moment called out by effectual caning, and in this way they are separated from among the people of the world.
4. Believers become separate from the hour of their conversion by possessing a new nature.
5. The separateness of the believer tomes out in his life.
6. There shall be a final separation by and by when the wheat shall be gathered into the garner, and the tares cast into the oven, when the great Shepherd shall come and set His sheep on the right hand and the goats on the left. Oh, in that day of final separation, may we be found among those of whom He has said, "They shall be Mine in the day when I make up My jewels."
II. THE DESIGN. What has the Lord aimed at by separating His people from among men?
1. The text tens us: "to be Thine inheritance." God has made choice of a people who are to be called "the Lord's portion, the lot of His inheritance," by which is meant that He would have a peculiar interest in them.
2. A man when he takes anything to be his inheritance expects to have it used for his own purposes.
3. A man will generally take up his abode in the spot which he has selected to be specially his own. "For the Lord hath chosen Zion; He hath desired it for His habitation. This is My rest for ever; here will I dwell; for I have desired it."
4. In a man's inheritance He takes His delight. "The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in His love, He will joy over thee with singing."
5. When a man takes a portion to be his inheritance he means never to give it up.
III. A PLEA. If you have realised that you are separated to belong to the Lord, this is a plea; and the plea applies in prayer to all your trials.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
The Twofold Life.The first duty is to attach ourselves, detachment comes afterwards. The chrysalis covering in which the butterfly was imprisoned only breaks and falls away when the insect's wings have grown — it is by opening that these burst their melancholy integuments. We only begin to detach ourselves from the world when we have learned to know something of a better. Till then we are capable of disappointment and weariness which are not detachment.
(The Twofold Life.)
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