And the people came to the house of God, and stayed there till even before God, and lifted up their voices, and wept sore;…
I. IT IS NATURAL TO BE DISTRESSED AT THE TROUBLES OF OTHERS.
1. It is natural on personal grounds. We are members one of another, so that if one member suffer, all suffer. The Israelites felt that it would be a common calamity to the whole nation for one tribe to be blotted out. It would not only be a judgment on that tribe, it would be "a breach in the tribes of Israel." England suffers through the wars and famines and storms which devastate even remote countries. If adversity falls upon one great town, one trade, one class, the whole community feels the effect of it. It is foolish, on selfish considerations alone, for the rich and happy to ignore the distresses of the poor and wretched.
2. But it is natural to be distressed at the troubles of others on unselfish grounds. When we are not hardened by sin we must naturally feel sympathy. The law of Christ requires us to bear one another's burdens (Galatians 6:2). If Jews of old felt for their brethren in their trouble, how can Christians, who owe all their best blessings to the compassion and suffering of Christ for them, harden their hearts against the cries of the world's misery, when they in turn are expected to show the spirit of Christ in sympathy and vicarious sacrifice?
II. IF WE ARE CALLED TO PUNISH MEN FOR THEIR SIN, WE SHOULD ALSO PITY THEM FOR THEIR DISTRESS. Israel had punished the tribe of Benjamin, but the sight of the ruin thus wrought filled all the people with grief. It is right and necessary to be firm in repressing wickedness; yet this should not be done in hot hatred, in callous sternness, nor in complacent self-satisfaction, but with grief, mourning for the distress, and more for the sin occasioning it. So does God chastise, in grief, like a father loving his child, and therefore the more hating the iniquity which produces all the trouble.
III. DISTRESS FOR THE TROUBLES OF OTHERS SHOULD LEAD US TO GOD ON THEIR BEHALF. The people came to the house of God, and wept there before God. We should bring all our trouble before God, and, when we know not what to ask for, confide in him and relieve our souls by leaving the burden with him. If we are really and deeply grieved for others, we shall be constrained to do the same with the sorrow of sympathy. All Christians are called to be priests, intercessors for others. We should pray most earnestly for those who will not pray for themselves. We should humble ourselves for their sin, since the oneness of the human family brings shame upon all when any go astray. Such sorrow before God will incline us to fresh acts of self-sacrifice and dedication. As the Israelites offered burnt offerings, we shall consecrate ourselves to God, that we may be more capable of relieving those for whom we grieve. - A.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the people came to the house of God, and abode there till even before God, and lifted up their voices, and wept sore;