And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament…
The sky is a magnificent object. This magnificent feature of creation has furnished the prophet with an illustration of the glory which awaits a certain part of the human race. The text has a climactic description of Heaven.
I. PIETY ALONE IS HONOURED IN HEAVEN. Men are removed to that blessed land only as a reward of piety.
1. Being in Heaven is itself the reward of piety, as it is an expression of God's approbation. To be there, is proof of being fit to be there. And, besides expressing fitness, it will be an honour conferred, a reward of service. To be there is to receive the reward of faith, integrity, courage, and patience.
2. The beauty of holiness will be there seen to constitute man's true glory. Everything else God has made is perfect in its kind and place; and when man shall recover his lost beauty there will be great splendour. There will be the perfectly restored image of God. Each one will look like Jesus. His beauty will be the beauty of holiness; which is love in place of selfishness.
II. THE PIETY MOST HONOURED IN HEAVEN WILL COME FROM THIS EARTH. It is God's purpose that where sin abounded grace shall superabound.
1. Their glory is a reward indirectly to them, directly to Christ. His suffering and mediation all have their recompense in man's salvation. Nothing is done directly on their own account. Thee piety will have in itself no peculiar excellence above that of angels; but it will have peculiar relations to the person and work of Christ.
2. They will appear in a peculiar lustre, as conquerors. The angels are represented as fighting; but they never fought an enemy within their own being. They never so taxed the resources of grace as we have.
III. USEFUL PIETY FROM EARTH WILL BE THE BRIGHTEST CREATED OBJECT IN HEAVEN.
1. Usefulness is the highest form of piety. There are two extremes in sincere believers. There may be an excessive cultivation of personal piety; and there may be too much outward activity; that is, disproportioned to personal cultivation. The height of all cultivation is to grow into useful piety. Love is the crowning grace. It has two phases, complacency and beneficence. Love has its perfection in exercise. Self-denial will be honoured in Heaven. The exercise of sentimental love and theoretical love does not disturb our selfishness. They flatter our conceit without taxing our self-love. Practical love develops the highest form of strength.
2. Their own blessedness, too, will be the greatest. The useful will shine in brightness of a peculiar happiness. Theirs will be the joy of seeing those saved for whom they cared. What treasures of joy is every weeping laboured now laying up in Heaven! Theirs is the joy of receiving the love and gratitude of those whom they have saved. Learn:(1) The world's wisdom, at best, is short-sighted.
(2) The study of the modes of usefulness is one of the most important branches of human pursuit.
(3) Believers can afford to wait, to toil, and to suffer. The glory that awaits them is an infinite compensation.
(E. N. Kirk, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.