For from the rising of the sun even to the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles…
Two phenomena of the moral world severely task the faith of religious persons. One is, that so large a portion of the globe should not even be nominally Christian. The other is, that Christendom itself should be so corrupt and so scantily imbued with vital godliness. Attempts may be made to reconcile our minds to this difficulty in the moral administration of the world, by urging that the scheme of nature lies open to similar objections, and that much physical energy runs to waste in abortive efforts and through counteracting forces. But analogies of this kind are more ingenious than conclusive; they silence rather than satisfy. We may find comfort in such reflections as these —
1. It is the prerogative of an infinite Being to be deliberate and slow, whereas haste and precipitation are the characteristics of s limited nature.
2. Much may be going forward by secret and unnoticed processes, conducive and preparatory to the development of Messiah's kingdom.
3. God has consulted His own glory in thus far contracting the supply of His Spirit; since He has thereby made apparent the insufficiency of moral means, and the strongest objective inducements, although accompanied with common grace, to overcome the repugnance of the human heart to the humbling doctrines and self-denying precepts of the Gospel.
4. Contrasted with the stage of thick darkness or glimmering twilight between which the world has been so long divided, the glory of that unclouded day will be the more conspicuous, when "the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." But the prophecies have a special virtue, reviving our drooping faith. This text contains a sublime annunciation of that triumphant era when Messiah "shall have dominion from sea to sea." It is usual with the prophets to describe the dispensation of the Gospel by terms and analogies taken from the Mosaic ritual.
I. THE PREDICTION THAT "INCENSE SHALL BE OFFERED UNTO THE NAME" OF JEHOVAH. The "incense" denotes primarily the intercession of the Saviour. He hath given Himself for us, "an offering of a sweet-smelling savour." The Word is, in the original, the past participle of a verb which means to fume, and may properly denote any sacrifice which, being consumed by fire, was carried up in smoke. Its spiritual meaning should not be restricted to proper acts of worship, but should be held to comprise all those holy works which are the produce of a spiritual nature — those "sacrifices of righteousness" with which God is well-pleased. Then translate the passage, "In every place whatever is fumed shall be brought near unto Thy name," — then what else is represented to the mind save the universal reign of evangelical righteousness? What is meant by the phrase, "offered unto Thy name"? There is strong presumptive evidence for believing that this denomination of Jehovah is no meagre expletive, but carries a direct and explicit allusion to Christ the Mediator. This appellation of God is strictly associated with the character He sustains in redemption. The elder patriarchs appear to have understood the "name" as a sacramental term, by which Jehovah exhibited Himself conversing with guilty men through the promised Intercessor, the Word made flesh.
II. THE PREDICTION THAT A PURE OFFERING SHOULD BE EVERYWHERE PRESENTED TO JEHOVAH. We have considered the offering of incense to imply the benign effect of our Lord's pacification, in rendering the worship and service of mankind acceptable to Jehovah, and surely the "pure offering" will express the sanctification of the Church, and of each individual believer, and the consequent purity of those offerings which are brought near to Jehovah by His spiritual household. In this pure "offering" see —
1. The extraordinary extension and purity of the Church. Contemplate the entire extermination of the lewd and sanguinary rites of paganism, and the abolition of all bloody sacrifices, through the oblation of one great victim, who by actually putting away sin has annulled all symbolical immolations. Henceforth we are to render only unbloody offerings — the sacrifice of thanksgivings. We are warranted to contemplate the Catholic Church as one magnificent offering to Immanuel. The Church, indeed, teems with nominal Christians, self-deceivers, and hypocritical pretenders. But from this it shall hereafter, even in its visible pale, be wholly or extensively purged. Another thing constituting the adult Church "a pure offering " will be this — that its worship will be no longer debased with fiction and mummery. The doctrines of transubstantiation, indulgences, masses, penances, purgatory, and supererogation will fall to the ground, and with them will expire the adoration of images, saints, and angels. And the universal Church will be free from sectarian distinctions. We may also anticipate a considerable abridgment of ecclesiastical ordinances.
2. The religious worship of that brilliant age will have a peculiar purity, owing to the improved character of the individual Christians. They will have attained a much higher illumination. The conscience will then be thoroughly pure and undefiled. There will be none of that double-mindedness and self-delusion with which the purest minds of this silver age are more or less alloyed. We are even led to expect a state of perfect exemption from the dross of earthliness. The kingdom of Christ will be developed in their bosoms in all its purity and fulness; and to them it will be not less easy than delightful to have "their conversation in heaven." The promise of the text is most encouraging. What manner of persons, then, ought we to be? If the blessed Trinity is incessantly employed in this work of regeneration, shall we not help it forward as humble but zealous instruments, with the best faculties that we have?
(J. N. Pearson, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts.
WEB: For from the rising of the sun even to the going down of the same, my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering: for my name is great among the nations," says Yahweh of Armies.