So Jotham grew powerful because he ordered his ways before the LORD his God.
I. THE COMBINATION OF MANY CHRISTIAN VIRTUES. AS the "mighty" swordsman is the man who is strong at all points of attack and defence; as the "mighty" speaker is he who has all possible qualifications for interesting, convincing, and persuading men; so the "mighty" man of God is he who has acquired all the various excellences which we are able to secure. "Giving all diligence," we are" to add to our faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance," etc. (2 Peter 1:5, 6). "Whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report," we are to think upon and, of course, to pursue and to acquire. We are to "build ourselves up on our holy faith." And building up is a work that is not done in a day nor in a year. It is a Work of time. And the strong character thus formed is the accumulated result of many spiritual activities, protracted over many years.
II. THE WORK OF TIME IN MANY PARTICULARS. No man can be a mighty man, in a spiritual sense, who is not:
1. A large possessor of Divine wisdom. A superficial. knowledge of Divine truth may serve for a while in simpler and subordinate positions; but he who occupies an important post, to which large responsibilities and delicate duties belong, must be furnished with a large measure of spiritual sagacity. And this can only be gained by serving the Lord for many years and in many ways. It is the acquisition of one whose "ways have been firm before Jehovah;" who has been living before God, and learning of him from year to year, from period to period.
2. A man of much self-command. A hasty or impulsive man is necessarily a weak man. Only those who can control themselves can command their fellows or direct affairs. Patience, self-possession, the ruling of our own spirit - this is an essential condition of all real strength; and this, again, is the work of long-continued struggle and discipline. It is the harvest of strenuous effort and of earnest prayer; it is a steady, spiritual accumulation.
3. One that has acquired skill and strength in exercise and activity. No man can do a thing really well till he has first done it imperfectly and tentatively. Excellency is always the fruit of practice, of patient, continuous endeavour. And here, again, is gradual acquisition or accumulation.
4. One that enjoys a good measure of esteem. It is the man of whom we say, "We know the proof of him;" the man who has approved himself in many a field of labour and in many a flood of trial; to whose words we listen, whose will we obey, whom we permit to guide and rule us. And, of all things, esteem is the product of consistency and beauty in life, of much walking "in the ways of Jehovah."
III. A GOAL TO BE PURSUED AND ATTAINED. It is true that power, or might, is, to some extent, an endowment; it is a direct gift of God. But it is far from being wholly so. In the kingdom, large or small, over which we are placed, we may "become mighty;" we may rise to influence; we may make our mark, which will not soon, if ever, be erased.
(1) By a thorough consecration of ourselves to Jesus Christ and his cause;
(2) by consistency and excellency - by blamelessness and beauty of life and spirit;
(3) by earnestness of purpose and endeavour;
So Jotham became mighty, because he prepared his ways before the Lord his God.
Homilist.I. EVERY MAN IS UNDER GOD'S INSPECTION. How truly did the ancients realise this (Psalm 139.; Jeremiah 23:23, 24; 2 Chronicles 16:9; Job 34:22). We little consider this in the present day.
II. EVERY MAN SHOULD LIVE AS UNDER GOD'S INSPECTION. A man's conduct will be very different if he realises that God's eye is on him. He will avoid sin. He will bear in mind the love of his Father who is in heaven. He will try to please Him in thought as well as in deed.
III. THE RECOGNITION OF GOD'S PRESENCE IS THE FOUNDATION-STONE OF ALL PROSPERITY. It renders a man great, for —
1. It makes him careful not to do that which will disgrace him.
2. It entitles him to Divine protection and help.
3. It fills him with a consciousness of rectitude, which in itself is a panoply of defence.
I. HE WENT RIGHT WHERE HIS FATHER WENT WRONG (ver. 2). Even on the pinnacle of success and popularity, his head was cool, and his heart was clear, and his nerves were steady, for he prepared his ways before the Lord his God.
II. HE COVERED THE COUNTRY WITH FORTIFICATIONS (vers. 3, 4). The man who is spiritual to the core will not be a weakling in the city, and he will not be easily turned aside. This disposes of the idea that to be a praying man and to be a business man do not go together.
III. HE PREVAILED AGAINST HIS ENEMIES (ver. 5). Because, before he fought he prayed.
IV. HIS WEALTH INCREASED (ver. 5). Prayer to God brought him his fortune.
V. HIS HUMILITY EXALTED HIM (ver. 6). Conclusion: What was Jotham after all but a dim, distant, foreshadowing of Jesus Christ? If ever the text was true of any one, it was true of Him.
I. GODWARDNESS: THE TRUE MIGHT AND MAJESTY OF KINGS. Godwardness is the continuous shaping of our thoughts and deeds as under the immediate inspection of God. Let God be first in every consideration, consulted in every transaction, recognised and deferred to on all occasions and under all circumstances.
II. GODWARDNESS: THE TRUE STRENGTH OF EMPIRES. An empire's strength does not depend upon —
1. Riches. Ancient Tyre was rich.
2. Political ability and astute statesmanship. Sparta.
3. Learning. Greece.
4. Legions. Rome. Napoleon Bonaparte. The strength of an empire is in God. Also, the true strength of the soul's empire — the Empire of Self — is Godwardness.
III. GODWARDNESS: THE SECRET OF SUCCESS. The true cause of failure and weakness is often moral delinquency. "Jotham became mighty because he prepared his ways before the Lord."
(T. G. Selby.).
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