Then Moses went up with Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel,
1 Peter 2:5). Consider -
I. THE NATURE OF CONSECRATION. Consecration, as a Christian duty, involves three ideas - separation from evil, devotement to God, and ceaseless pursuit of holiness in heart and life. It has its ground in the fact of redemption, and in the sense of God's mercies. The consecrated heart then becomes a sanctuary in which God dwells by his Holy Spirit; while this sacred indwelling in turn becomes a new source of obligations to holiness. The holiness we are to aim at is a holiness like God's own - nothing lower (1 Peter 1:15, 16). Consecration, if never so complete as the Christian could wish, may always be perfect, at least in aim, in spirit, in intention, in desire. We are expected, like Caleb, to follow the Lord fully. The Divine ideal is the absolute consecration of him who said - "Lo, I come to do thy will, O God." "My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work" (Hebrews 10:9; John 4:34). "I would rather," says Spurgeon, "my child had a perfect copy to write by, though he might never equal it, than that he should have an imperfect copy set before him, because then he would never make a good writer at all." The Scriptural idea of consecration comes out in the light of the usage of the cognate word - "sanctify." God himself is the fountain of sanctity or holiness. The whole Mosaic ritual was a grand apparatus for impressing this thought of God's holiness upon the minds of his worshippers. Everything to be used in his service, as contaminated by sin, required to be purged with blood (Hebrews 9:21). To this, in special cases, succeeded an anointing with oil (Exodus 30:25-32). Thus purged and anointed, the sanctuary, person, sacred vessel, or whatever it might be, was regarded as completely sanctified; in other words, as separated from common uses to the service of a holy God. The High Priests and Levites of the Old Covenant were all thus specially sanctified to God. But these things were only shadows; we have the realities corresponding to them under the New Covenant. If a man is really in Christ, he is already, by God's act, through the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ, and the holy anointing of the Spirit, a consecrated person, and ought to regard himself as such. This is the Divine side of the matter. There is clearly, however, a vast difference between the consecration of a mere utensil, say the golden candlestick, or the pots and vessels of the sanctuary, and the consecration of a living, moral, intelligent being. A material thing is sanctified simply by the act of setting it apart to sacred uses; its nature admits of nothing more. But the consecration of a moral being implies an act on his own part, as well as on God's, else the consecration has no reality; it is such only in name and form. The essence of it lies in a free, cheerful, self-dedication of the person (cf. Romans 12:1). Here, then, are two sides of this subject, the Divine and human - the ideal and the real - which two sides are constantly reappearing in Scripture, sometimes apart, sometimes blending together, sometime, "Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, even as ye are unleavened (1 Corinthians 5:7). In short, God's consecration gives us a standing and an ideal; but it is only as we consciously accept this standing and ideal as our own, and seek to give them reality by self-dedication, and the strenuous pursuit of holiness, that our consecration becomes truly effectual. God's consecration of us becomes, so to speak, the ground of our own consecration of ourselves, and of constant striving after that perfection which is implprocess, and a work of God's grace constantly going on within us.
II. ADVANTAGES OF CONSECRATION. We come back to the old point that consecration, regarded as a duty, is a personal act whereby, out of a sense of God's mercies, and specially his grace in redemption, a believer solemnly dedicates himself and all that he has to the service and glory of God. Such consecration, with the surrender of the obedient will, is already, as seen in the previous homily, implicit in every exercise of saving faith. Great moral advantages, however, accrue from making one's consecration to Christ a distinct solemn act, again and again to be repeated, each time, we shall hope, with more perfect self-surrender; and the remembrance of which is to go along with us in the discharge of every duty. This corresponds pretty nearly to the meaning of the Israelitish covenant. Consecration is the basis of acceptable service.
(1) Consecration of self precedes all other consecrations; as of time, substance, talents, service, etc. It is only where self is consecrated, that the consecration of anything else is acceptable. What St. Paul says of charity, that without it all special gifts and acts, even feeding the poor, or giving his body to be burned, are valueless, we may say with equal truth of self-dedication. It is self God wants - the love, reverence, devotion, service of self; not a mere share of self's possessions. On the other hand
(2) the consecration of self includes all other consecrations. If we are God's, then all is God's that is ours. Our time is God's; so is our money, our talents, our influence, everything we have. Let Christians ask, whether, in this view of the matter, consecration is in their case being carried out into all its legitimate results. Not that God desires a gift;" but he desires "fruit that may abound to our account" (Philippians 4:17). Consecration secures nobler service; it is likewise a source of immense strength in the active pursuit of holiness. In any course of conduct, we know the value of a definite purpose and aim. Most of all is it important to have as the clear, definite motto of our lives - "To me to live is Christ." We know then exactly what we are living for. Consecration invests a man's whole being with a sanctity from which evil shrinks back repelled. The same sanctity spreads itself over all he has and does. He feels that he must be holy "in all manner of conversation." Even on the bells of his horses he sees something written, "holiness to the Lord." He has "holy garments;" and his great business is to watch and keep his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame (Revelation 16:15). His body is the temple of the Holy Ghost; and he dare not desecrate with worldly pollutions the place where God dwells. He has definitely separated himself from evil; and he must not return to it. Consecration resolves questions of casuistry. How often do we find good people, or people who wish to be good, puzzling and perplexing themselves with questions of this kind - Dare I read this book? Should I go to this party? May I engage in this amusement? Can I take this profit? Unless we greatly mistake, most of these difficulties would disappear with more perfect consecration. A truly consecrated man carries in his breast a principle which easily guides him through all such cases, and makes many things right and pure to him which others would stumble at, while it leads him to discountenance and condemn much that they would pass unnoticed. Finally, consecration is absolutely essential to success in prayer. The heart that has not said - "All for Christ," is in no fit state to approach God's throne to supplicate blessings for Christ's sake. There must be iniquity hidden away in that heart somewhere; and "if I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me" (Psalm 66:18). But the consecrated man, as a true priest of God, has free access to the holiest of all. He asks what he will, and it is given him. Prayer, indeed, is no prayer, unless it is the outcome of a heart which is the seat of deep consecration, and where the Lord is habitually sanctified. Only to such prayer are the promises yea and amen. From all this, it is manifest that consecration pertains to the deepest essence of religion. Yet many feel as if sometimes they could almost close with Christ, were it not for this very matter of consecration. Their hearts are still clinging to something which God requires them to forego; and clinging to this, they rightly judge that they cannot be Christ's disciples. Let them reflect that for this something they sacrifice eternal life. - J.O.
I. GLORIOUS ASCENSION. Mountain climbing is always wholesome. The more we climb, the less will be our difficulty, on the summit of Divine mountains are gracious manifestations to reward the praying climbers.
They saw God, and did eat and drink.
I. I ask you to consider THE VISION OF GOD POSSIBLE FOR US. Jesus Christ is the Revealer. This generation is very fond of saying, "No man hath seen God at any time, nor can see Him." It is a pity, but they would go on with the quotation and say, "the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him." The eradiation of His brightness, "and the express image of His person," is that Divine man, God manifest in the flesh. The knowledge of God which we have in Jesus Christ is real, as sight is real. It is not complete, but it is genuine knowledge. We know the best of God, if I may use such a phrase, when we know what we knew in Christ, that He is a loving and a righteous will; when we can say of Him "He is love," in no metaphor but in simple reality, and His will is a will towards all righteousness, and towards all blessing, anything that heaven has to teach us about God afterwards is less than that. We see Him in the reality of a genuine, central, though by no means complete, knowledge. Our knowledge of God in Christ is as sight, in reference to certitude. People say, "Seeing is believing." I should turn it the other way about, and say, "Believing is seeing." For we may be a great deal surer of God than ever we can be of this outer world. And the witness which is borne to us in Christ of the Divine nature is far more reliable than even the evidence that is borne to us by sense of an external universe. Then remember, too, that where we have learned to know, and absolutely to rely upon, and vividly to realize our Father's presence through Jesus Christ, there we shall see Him in all things and everywhere. Then, remember, further, that the degree of this vision depends upon ourselves, and is a matter of cultivation. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." There are three things wanted for sight — something to see; something to see by; something to see with. God has given us the two first, and He will help us to the last if we like. But we have to bring the eye, without which the sunbeam is vain, and that which it reveals also. Christ stands before us, at once the Master-Light of our seeing, and the Object that we are to behold. But for us there is needed that the eye shall be pure; that the heart shall turn towards Him. Faith is the eye of the soul. Meditation and habitual occupation of mind and heart with Jesus Christ, the Revealer of God, are needed if we are to "see God."
II. Secondly, notice THE FEAST IN THE DIVINE PRESENCE. "They did eat and drink." That suggests in the singular juxtaposition of the two things, that the vision of God is consistent with, and consecrates, common enjoyment and everyday life. Even before that awful blaze these men sat down and fed, "eating their meal with gladness and singleness of heart," and finding no contradiction nor any profanity in the close juxtaposition of the meal and the vision. There is no false asceticism as the result of the Christian sight of God. It takes nothing out of life that ought to be in it. If we see God there is only one thing that we shall be ashamed to do in His presence, and that is to sin. For all the rest the vision of God blends sweetly and lovingly with common service and homely joys. It will interpret life. Nothing is small with such a background; nothing common-place when looked at in connection with Him. It will ennoble life; it will gladden life. But there is another thought here to which I must refer for a moment. That strange meal on the mountain was no doubt made on the sacrifices that had preceded, of which a part were peace-offerings. The ritual of that species of sacrifice partly consisted in a portion of the sacrifice being partaken of by the offerers. The same meaning lies in this meal on the mountain that lay in the sacrificial feast of the peace-offering, the same meaning that lies in the great feast of the new covenant, "This is My body; this is My blood." God spreads in His presence a table, and the food on that table is the "Bread which came down from heaven that it might give life to the world." The vision of God and the feast on the mountain are equally provided and made possible by Christ our Passover, who was sacrificed for us.
III. And so, lastly, we may gather out of this incident A GLIMPSE OF A PROPHETIC CHARACTER, AND SEE IN IT THE PERFECTING OF THE VISION AND OF THE FEAST. We know the apostle's wonderful statement of the difference between the beatific knowledge of heaven and the indirect and partial knowledge of earth. Here we "see in a glass darkly; there face to face." It is not for us to try before the time to interpret the latter of these statements; only this, let us remember that whatever may be the change in manner of knowledge, and in measure of apprehension, and in proximity of presence, there is no change in heaven in the medium of revelation. For heaven as for earth God is the King invisible; for heaven as for earth no man can see Him, the only begotten Son declares Him. Christ is for ever the Manifester of God, and the glorified saints see God as we see Him in the face of Jesus Christ, though they see that Face as we do not. Yonder there are new capacities indeed. When there are more windows in the house there will be more sunshine in the rooms. When there is a new speculum in the telescope galaxies will be resolved that are now nebulous, and new brightnesses will be visible that are now veiled. But with all the new powers and the extension of present vision, there will be no corrections in the present vision. We shall see Him as He is, and learn that what we knew of Him in Christ here is true for ever. And on that perfect vision will follow the perfect meal, which will still be the feeding on the sacrifice. For there were no heaven except "He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever," and there is no spiritual life above except a life derived from Him. The feast means perfect satisfaction, perfect repose, perfect gladness, perfect companionship.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
I. THE AWFUL GOD OF SINAI MAY BE APPROACHED BY SINFUL MEN THROUGH SACRIFICE. " Upon the nobles of Israel He laid not His hand."
II. THE AWFUL GOD OF SINAI IS SEEN BY SINFUL MEN THROUGH SACRIFICE. "Also they saw God."
III. THE AWFUL GOD OF SINAI IS COMMUNED WITH BY SINFUL MEN THROUGH SACRIFICE. "Also they did eat and drink." There is safety for the transgressor only under the shadow of the sacrifice — the atonement of Jesus Christ. Socrates once cried, "Plato, Plato, perhaps God can forgive wilful sin." You see the gospel of Socrates — "Perhaps." "But," he added, "I do not see how." In the gospel of Jesus Christ there is no "perhaps." "It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." There is no "perhaps" about that. Socrates said, "I do not see how." We do see how. "Through this Man is preached forgiveness of sins."
II. BLESSED VISION. "And they saw the God of Israel; and there was under" etc. Calm repose. We may rest sweetly on the Divine fidelity.
III. GLORIOUS PRESERVATION. God's hand will ever be laid on the spiritual nobility. They are under His protecting, preserving care.
IV. WONDROUS FESTIVITY. The saints shall eat and drink in the Divine presence. Heavenly manna. New wine.
(W. Burrows, B. A.)
II. That man's approach to God MUST BE THROUGH A MEDIATOR; "worship thou afar off, and Moses alone shall come near unto the Lord." So Jesus has entered into the holy place for us. He is the "one mediator," etc., "the new and living way" (John 14:6). We must remember that this was in answer to their own prayer (John 20:19).
III. That man's approach to God must be REVERENT. "Worship ye afar off."
IV. That man's approach to God is REWARDED BY A MANIFESTATION OF THE DIVINE GLORY (ver. 10). Not a literal or physical vision of "the king" — invisible (Deuteronomy 4:2; 1 Timothy 6:16); but spiritual (Isaiah 6.; Acts 9:3, 4, and refs.; 1 Corinthians 12:2).
V. That man's approach to God is NOT TO BE DREADED, BUT WELCOMED AND ENJOYED. "They find His presence no more a source of disturbance and dread, but radiant in all the bright loveliness of supernal glory: a beautiful sign that the higher religion and state of conformity to law, now established, shall work onward to eternal blessedness."
(J. W. Burn.)I. THE SIGHT OF GOD, TO WHICH THE NOBLES OF ISRAEL WERE ADMITTED.
II. THE SAFETY AND COMFORT WHICH THEY ENJOYED.
III. THE FEAST WITH WHICH THEY WERE PROVIDED. They ate of the peace-offerings which had been recently sacrificed, and drank of the libations which had just been offered, on the ratification of the covenant. Even thus are the disciples of Christ invited to partake of Him by faith, and that in joy and gladness, as the great peace-offering of the Church. Thus are they seated at the table of their adorable Lord, in token of gracious communion with the family in heaven; and thus is their fellowship manifested with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. In this fellowship His children truly see God in Christ. They behold, and they partake, the glory of His person, the glory of His covenant, the hidden glory of His Word, the glory of His redeeming and everlasting love.
(R. P. Buddicom, M. A.)
I. In the first place, then, let it be noted, THAT THERE ARE SOME WHO EAT AND DRINK WITHOUT SEEING GOD. This is true in the very lowest sense in which the words can be employed; for, unhappily, there are multitudes who partake of their ordinary food without any perception of the fact that they are indebted for it to a higher power. In the same way there are many successful men of business, who enjoy the blessings of prosperity without seeing that God has had any hand in the bestowment of them. They are, as the phrase is, "self-made." They have been the architects of their own fortunes. Similarly, there are those who have risen to places of power and influence, alike in the world and in the Church, who never think of God in their enjoyment of their eminence. It has come to them, so they say, all in the way of cause and effect. They have been able, diligent, and persevering, and, therefore, their prosperity or popularity is nothing more than the natural result of their use of appropriate means. And to mention only one other form of the same disposition: there are men among us whose delight it has been to unravel the secrets of the external world, and discover the operations of those forces which play so important a part in the physical universe. Their meat and their drink is to sit at the spectroscope, and by their wondrous analysis to bring out the composition of the sun, and of the various members of the planetary sphere. Their joy is to chain the lightning to their messages, and make it carry their words to the world's ends. They rise into ecstasies over the detection of some new fact which witnesses to the uniformity of law; and they become enthusiastic at the prospect of being able to trace the mystery of the universe a step farther back than their predecessors have gone. But all this while they see nothing of God. No thrill of affection vibrates in their hearts to any personal agent; and their emotions are similar to those which one feels as he looks upon a mighty machine moving on in rhythmic regularity at its unceasing work. I do not need to say that all our men of science are not such as I have now described, but every one acquainted with the recent utterances of some of them will admit that these confirm what I have said. Now I have grouped all these together because they are all alike practical atheists. They eat and drink, but they do not see God.
II. In the second place, let it be remarked THAT THERE ARE SOME WHO SEE GOD, BUT CANNOT EAT OR DRINK. They have a vivid sense of the personal existence of Jehovah, and they feel Him always near, but they take no comfort in His presence. Rather, it seems to haunt them as a spectre, and to threaten them as an executioner. Now how shall we account for this? The answer is not far to seek. It is caused by a sense of guilt. They have never entered, through Jesus, into covenant with God. But even among those who have done this, there are some who seem to have had their happiness poisoned by the thought of God. They see Him, they are always seeing Him: but the vision seems to have paralyzed them, and they go through life halting, solemn, and severe. If they would "see God, and eat and drink," they must rise out of service into sonship, and learn to think and speak of God as their Father in heaven. This will give sincerity and naturalness to their devotions, activity to their lives, happiness to their hearts, and cheerfulness to their deportment, so that men, as they behold them, will be won by the very radiance of their joy to Him from whom their gladness springs. But there are still others who, at certain times of their history, have had a vivid perception of the nearness of God, while yet they could neither eat nor drink. Affliction has come upon them. They have felt God very near them, but then they have felt as if He were having a controversy with them, as if, somehow, He were alienated from them, and that has made their sorrow all the deeper. But all this has sprung from a misinterpretation of His providence, and that again has its root in lack of faith in His fatherhood.
III. Finally, let it be observed, THAT THERE ARE SOME WHO, LIKE THOSE WERE DESCRIBED, "SEE GOD AND DO EAT AND DRINK." They are reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, His Son; they have learned to call Him Father, and the joy of their lives is that they have a constant sense of His presence. When they say, "Thou God seest me," it is not with a feeling of uneasiness, like that of a suspected person who feels himself watched by some detective; but rather with an emotion of satisfaction, because they know that One is beside them who can make provision for every emerging necessity, and find for them also, as for Hagar, a fountain in the desert. When they think of Him, it is not so much as the Great Creator, Ruler, and Judge, as the Father; and because they can say "Our Father," they have a sense of ownership in all His attributes and possessions. They have accepted His own assurance, "I am the Lord thy God," and His omnipresence is the very joy and rejoicing of their hearts. It is not a melancholy thing, which poisons every other experience. It is not, like the sword of Damocles, a threatening thing, that keeps us from sitting down to the feast. Rather it is itself that which gives the feast its real glory, and the festival to us is twice a feast because He is there. He makes the brightest element in our blessings; He gives to us the real joy of our prosperity. And when affliction comes He mitigates it with His sympathy and cheers us under it with His fellowship. He comes to us not as a spectre in the night, but as a father, to lap us in the mantle of His love. "Bane and blessing, pain and pleasure," alike are sanctified by His presence, and no darkness for us could be so dense as that which would envelop us if we were to be deprived of Him.
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
I. TO SHOW WHAT IS THAT SIGHT OF GOD IN CHRIST, WHICH IS THE PRIVILEGE OF HIS PEOPLE IN THEIR SOLEMN APPROACHES TO HIM. — There is a twofold solemn approach of God's people to Him. There is a right approach.
1. When God calls them up to the mount of myrrh, where our Lord abides till the day break (Song of Solomon 4:6); when He calls them to come up to the hill of God in Emmanuel's land, where stands the King's palace, namely heaven. This call comes to the believing soul at death.
2. When God calls them to come up to the mount of ordinances to meet Him at the sacred feast, as the nobles of Israel in the text, and as we at this time are called to feast on the great sacrifice in the sacrament. This is a solemn approach. Now, what is the sight of God in Christ which is the privilege here? As to this we observe —(1) That it is a believing sight of God in their nature (John 1:14.).(2) That it is a sight of this God in the place of His special residence; on the mount to which they were invited, where He stood, as it were, on a pavement of sapphire.(3) It is a sight of the glory of the place of His feet (ver. 10).(4) It is a sight of God as reconciled in Christ. They saw God, and did eat and drink as in the house of their friend (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).(5) It is a sight of God as their God. They saw the God of Israel. Here lay the surpassing sweetness of their sight.(6) It is a sight of transcendent glory in Him. Nothing is described but what was under His feet. For, search the universe, there is no person, no thing like Him. But the best things on earth are not sufficient to set forth the glory even of this, and therefore it is added, "as if it were the body of heaven in His clearness." They who see Him, see that of which they can never see the like. We are now —
II. TO SHOW WHAT IS THAT HOLY FAMILIARITY WHICH IS THE PRIVILEGE OF GOD'S PEOPLE IN THEIR SOLEMN APPROACHES TO HIM — It is a believing, holy, humble freedom before their Lord (Ephesians 3:12) "In whom we have boldness and access, with confidence, by the faith of Him."
1. They were allowed to come forward to God, when others must stand back (Isaiah 56:6, 7); when others must abide at the foot of the hill, believers may come up to the mount and are welcome.
2. They were allowed to feast on the sacrifice set before them. Christ the sacrifice typically slain, and believers are allowed to feast on this sacrifice, to eat His flesh and drink His blood; to make a believing application of a whole Christ to their own souls for their spiritual nourishment:" Take, eat, this is My body broken for you."
3. They were allowed to converse with God freely, as one at the table of his friends.
4. They were allowed to be in His secrets, to see what others have no access to. They saw God. Believers are allowed to see the glory of His person (John 1:14). The glory of His covenant (Psalm 25:14). The glory of His redeeming, His everlasting love to them (Jeremiah 31:3). The hidden glory of His word (Luke 24:32).
5. They were allowed to lay all their wants on Him.
III. TO MAKE SOME PRACTICAL IMPROVEMENT.
1. To show that it is a wonder of grace that sinful creatures are admitted to see God, and be familiar with Him. We think we need say little for proof of this. Only consider —(1) The infinite distance that there is between God and the creature in respect of perfection.(2) That it is the same God who is such a severe and dreadful avenger of sin (Psalm 5:5).
2. To show that it is a wonder of grace that sinful creatures, in their solemn approaches to God, and when they are thus favoured, come off safe. This will appear if we consider —(1) The infinite holiness and spotless purity of that God before whom the sinful creature appears. He is glorious in holiness, and fearful in praises (Exodus 15:11).(2) That the best carry a sinful nature even up into the mount with them.(3) That sinful creatures never miss to leave the marks of their foul feet, even when they are on holy ground (Romans 7:2).(4) The particular jealousy which God has manifested about His worship.
3. To explain how it comes to pass that the safety of God's people, when thus favoured, is secured. It is so —(1) Because they are God's covenant-people by marriage with His Son.(2) Because they come up under the covert of the Redeemer's blood (Hebrews 12:22-24).(3) Because God looks on them as in His own Son, and not as in themselves; and so after a sort He overlooks their infirmities (Numbers 23:21).(4) Because, though they be unclean creatures, they come up into the mount, to bathe in the fountain opened there, for sin and for uncleanness (Zechariah 13:1).(5) Because it is the end of the covenant, to bring them to God.
1. Let us, then, nevermore think lightly of solemn approaches to God, whether in private or in public ordinances.
2. Let this commend Christ and the covenant to us, especially to those who stand off from Him and His covenant.
3. Let us long for that day which will put an end to our sinfulness, weakness, and imperfection, when we shall see Him as He is, without any danger of sinning or suffering, which is far better (Philippians 1:23). It would be a token for good that we had seen the Lord, if we were now longing for that blessed day.
(T. Boston, D. D.)
(J. Parker, D. D.)
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