Then I set apart twelve of the leading priests, together with Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten of their brothers,
I. THE TRUST GIVEN. "And weighed unto them the silver, and the gold, and the vessels, even the offering of the house of our God" (ver. 25).
1. Their nature. As the men appointed by Ezra had costly and sacred vessels committed to their care, so men have given to them money, time, genius, and influence to carry through life.
2. Their purpose (ver. 28). These vessels of gold and silver were given for the use and adornment of the temple at Jerusalem. Men must hold their sacred trusts for God.
3. Their measure (ver. 26). The gold and silver given were carefully weighed; all the capabilities of men are weighed by God: to some he gives two talents, to others five talents; to each man according to his several ability.
4. Their responsibility. The comrades of Ezra had the responsible task of safely conveying the vessels of the temple to Jerusalem; human talent is a solemn gift.
5. Their registration (ver. 34). The gifts of man are written in the book of God.
II. THE FIDELITY REQUIRED. "Watch ye, and keep them" (ver. 29).
1. Their peril. The men conveying the costly vessels of the temple would be exposed to many enemies by the way (ver. 22); men of talent are liable to many moral enemies - pride, indolence, misuse, and neglect of culture.
2. Their safety. The prayers of these men were their protection. Ezra says, "So we fasted and besought our God for this: and he was entreated of us" (ver. 23). Devotion is the safeguard of talent.
3. Their inspection. "Weighed in the house of our God" (ver. 33). At the last God will judge men for the use of their talents; then every man will be morally weighed in the unerring balance of truth.
4. Their fidelity. The comrades of Ezra were faithful to their trust; happy if at the close of life we are found faithful to the trusts we have received. - E.
And weighed unto them the silver and the gold, and the vesselsI. THE TREASURES TO BE GUARDED.
1. Valuable in themselves.
2. Valuable as being consecrated to God.
3. Valuable as being the spontaneous gifts of friends and well wishers.
II. THE GUARDIANS OF THE TREASURES.
III. THE CHARGE TO THE GUARDIANS OF THE TREASURES.
IV. THE ACCEPTANCE OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF THE TREASURES. Conclusion —
2. To all who have charge of public funds or the property of others.
3. To all men (Matthew 25:14-30).
I. Consider: THE PRECIOUS TREASURE ENTRUSTED TO OUR KEEPING.
1. The treasure is first our own selves, with all that we are and may be under the humiliating and quickening influence of His grace and spirit. That which we carry with us — the infinite possibilities of these awful spirits of ours, the tremendous faculties which are given to every human soul, and which, like a candle plunged into oxygen, are meant to burn far more brightly under the stimulus of Christian faith and the possession of God's truth, are the rich deposit committed to our charge. The precious treasure of our own natures, our own hearts, our own understandings, wills, consciences, desires — keep these until they are weighed in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem.
2. The treasure is next — This great word of salvation, once delivered to the saints, and to be handed on without diminution or alteration to the generations that are to come. Possession involves responsibility always. The word of salvation is given to us. If we go tampering with it, by erroneous apprehension, by unfair usage, by failing to apply it to our own daily life, then it will fade and disappear from our grasp. It is given to us in order that we may keep it safe, and carry it high up across the desert as becomes the priests of the most high God.
II. Next, THE COMMAND, THE GUARDIANSHIP THAT IS HERE SET FORTH. Watch ye and keep them. That is to say, Watch in order that ye may keep. This involves —
1. Unslumbering vigilance.
2. Lowly trust.
3. Punctilious purity.It was fitting that the priests should carry the things that belonged to the temple. No other hands but consecrated hands had a right to touch them. To none other guardianship but the guardianship of the possessors of a symbolic and ceremonial purity could the vessels of a symbolic and ceremonial worship be entrusted; and to none others but the possessors of real and spiritual holiness can the treasures of the true temple, of an inward and spiritual worship be entrusted, "Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord," said Isaiah long after. The only way to keep our treasure undiminished and untarnished, is to keep ourselves pure and clean.
4. Constant use of the treasure. Although the vessels borne through the desert by those priests were used for no service during the march, they weighed just the same when they got to the end as at the beginning. But if we do not use the vessels that are entrusted to our care they will not weigh the same. There never was an unused talent yet, but when it was taken out and put into the scales it was lighter than when it was committed to the keeping of the earth. Gifts that are used fructify. Capacities that are strained to the uttermost increase. Service strengthens the power of service; and just as the reward of work is more work, the way for making ourselves fit for bigger things is to do the things that are lying by us. The blacksmith's arm, the sailor's eye, the organs of any piece of handicraft, as we all know, are strengthened by exercise, and so it is in the higher region.
III. THE WEIGHING IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD. Though it cannot be that we shall meet the trial and the weighing of that day without many a flaw and much loss, yet we may hope that by His precious help and His pitying acceptance we may lay ourselves down in peace at last, saying, "I have kept the faith," and may be awakened by the word "Well done, good and faithful servant."
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
I. THE SETTING OUT FROM AHAVA.
1. From captivity to liberty.
2. From exile to their ancestral home.
3. From the land of idolatry to the scene of true worship.
II. THE PROGRESS ON THE JOURNEY.
III. THE ARRIVAL AT JERUSALEM. This was characterised by —
1. Grateful rest.
2. Joyful welcome.
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