Lift up your eyes on high: Who created all these? He leads forth the starry host by number; He calls each one by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.
for the same reason, "by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power" - he has a perfect mastery over all the particulars of his creation. He not only summons the mighty armies of the skies and marshals the whole host of heaven, but he is familiar with each separate star: "He calleth them all by names." This individual attention applies to:
1. The inanimate creation (text).
2. The sentient, unintelligent creation: "Not a sparrow falls to the ground" etc.; and this fact constitutes a strong reason for forbearing from cruelty towards every living creature, and for treating all the members of the animal world with constant kindness.
3. The whole human world. Even if this doctrine were not true in other realms, it certainly must be in this. As we could not think and feel as we wish to do of the human father who failed to distinguish his children from each other, so also could we not reverence and love the heavenly Father if he failed to distinguish us. But he does not fail; "he mils us all by names;" he is the true and good Shepherd, who "calls his own sheep by name." Each one of us is:
(1) The object of his Divine thought and care. Every child of man can say, "The Lord thinketh on me.
(2) The object of his parental yearning. Away in the far country, each prodigal may be sure that there is a wronged, waiting, expectant Father, who is grieved concerning him, and who earnestly remembers him still.
(3) The object of his redeeming and self-sacrificing love. He loved me, and gave himself for me," we can all say, after the apostle.
(4) The object of his disciplinary dealing. "Whom the Lord loves he chastens, and scourges every son," etc.
(5) The object of his desire that we should share his work and his glory. To each of his disciples he says, "Follow thou me; Go [thou], and work in my vineyard.' - C.
Seneca says, "They all continue, not because they are eternal, but because the watchfulness of their Governor protects them: imperishable things need no guardian; but these are preserved by their Maker, who, by His power, controls their natural tendency, to decay." And Hume, though his. philosophy was irreligious in comparison with that of either Roman, could raise his hands to the starry sky and show that he too had a human heart, by exclaiming to Fergusson, "Oh, Adam, how can a man look at that and not believe in a God!"
savants who had convinced themselves, and thought they could convince others, that there is no God. The great commander found them discoursing boastfully on their favourite theme, and, calling them upon deck, while the heavens above were bright with innumerable stars, he said to them, "Tell me who made these." Napoleon was no philosopher, no metaphysician, no theologian. But he was a man of great common sense. We are not content to be told conjecturally of any processes through which things have passed into their present forms of existence. Nebular hypotheses and atomic theories explain nothing. If assumed as true, we demand to know whence the nebulae and whence the atoms came. Nor are we content to be cheated out of an answer to the question, "Who made these?" by a metaphysics which ends by leaving us in doubt as to whether these stars have any existence except in our own thoughts and thought-processes. There was a time when the children of men, lifting up their eyes on high, saw in the hosts of heaven not creatures of God, but gods. And we scarcely wonder. The living God once forsaken and forgotten, who or what so worthy of adoration as sun, moon, and stars?
lift up your eyes on high.
I. THIS THOUGHT GUIDES US TO THE PROPER UNDERSTANDING OF PROVIDENCE. God works on a large scale. His purposes, like Himself, inhabit eternity. In His government there is nothing small, arbitrary, merely local. Every passing movement is part of a big design. And the man who would read even the plainer words of that purpose must get his light from a wide study of God's ways. Providence cannot be interpreted by details. We get a glimpse of this truth when we engage in retrospect. Looking back over a long stretch of years, we are enabled to perceive merciful meanings in crises which at the time perplexed and burdened us. The same truth impresses us when we take a panoramic view of nations and movements in history. To the man of downward look and narrow view, few things are more perplexing than the oftentimes apparent breach between moral worth and material progress. He sometimes becomes cynical over it. He has been heard to say that righteousness has nothing to do with prosperity. He looks down at the few facts lying near his feet, and this is what he makes of them. Think you that the resources of civilisation have banished for ever the dispensations of righteous, all-controlling providence? Read history. You will find that virtue, truth, honour, are more than mere sentiments — are vital elements of victorious power. God works on a grand scale. We must look far if we would adequately see. To this grandeur of purpose, which is the glory of providence, must be traced our many perplexities. Higher intelligence and larger aims must ever work in a manner ill understood and misunderstood by lower capacity. There will ever be need for trust and patience, but there may be moments of insight and realisation. But these can only come to the man who attains the broad outlook. In this matter we multiply our inevitable perplexities by the persistence of our downward look. Our thoughts and interests are so centred in the passing day and the current event as to narrow both our views and our sympathies. The things of to-day are what we are eager for; and on God's relation to us through them do we often misjudge His character and purpose. Give scope to your eyes. The tree will then sink to small proportions. It will become a pleasing detail on the broad expanse which stretches away to the horizon. The men to whom the text was first spoken needed this exhortation. They had been trying to see the landscape while placing their eyes upon the tree.
II. THIS THOUGHT GUIDES US TO THE PROPER STANDPOINT FROM WHICH TO LOOK AT MAN. The downward look tends to the denial of God. It tends equally, and as a consequence, to the degradation of our thought of man. It is by enlarging our vision, by taking in a wider view of facts, that we shall rightly see God, and through Him, ourselves. In a word, as we must look at life's facts in the light of God's great purposes, so must we look at man, not as he merely is, but as he is ideally in the redeeming thought and design of the Father. Man, looked at only from below, does not inspire great expectations or reverential regard. Before us looms a being of measurable height, of weight and bulk definable, acting under the impulse of appetites and desires which he holds in common with the brutes, showing now and again the possession of genius and virtues clearly not brutish, but for the most part failing to rise above sheer commonplace alike of power or sympathy. The natural man of ordinary proportions is not impressive. And the observer who looks downwards at him will soon lose all heroic conceptions of life, all sense of man's high origin and destiny. We become the victims of a delusion. The eye tricks us into the belief that we see, and under that belief we begin to cherish low views of man's worth. Man, like providence, to be seen aright must be looked at on high. Here we come under the tyranny of his too obtrusive parts. It is "in Christ" that we must look at our life, judge its possibilities and its worth, its character and destiny. Looking at man in Him, we behold a being God-like in the proportions of power and quality. If God, looking upon the very imperfect disciples of His Son, calls them "saints," while yet they are a long way from sanctity, I will be guided by the example.
III. THIS THOUGHT GUIDES US TO THE PROPER INSPIRATION OF WORK. Never yet was great work done by the man of mere downward look. The eye, to be sure, must look steadily at the object and instrument of its toil, must look down and around at the place and conditions of the work to be done; but nothing much will come of it till the eye kindles the soul, and the soul rekindles the eye to wider vision. The artist who painted for eternity had mastered the secret of most patient and potent work for time and man. In the same spirit of lofty consecration did the men work who planned and reared our great cathedrals. Not for pay, not for fame, not by regulating rule of trade society did the chisels chip, and the hammers ring, and the trowelsiply their busy task. The workmen consciously worked for God. And nothing less than a renewal of this vision can redeem the work of to-day from insignificance or degradation, or lift men into the confidence and joy of patient well-doing. The busy housewife, engaged in an endless round of detailed tasks, would surely fail through very weariness, did not the large vision and love of home and family give great value to small activities and lifelong significance to patient fidelity. It is when the preacher or the Sunday-school teacher looks at his work from on high, and sees before him not so many recognisable people about whom he knows everything, but a company of immortal spirits whose life passes measurement or comprehension, that he is strengthened for the drudgery attaching to his vocation, and rises to the height of passionate enthusiasm. The commerce and industry of the day are to some extent smitten with debility through the narrowing of their outlook, consequent upon hot competition and vigorous clashing of rights and claims. The downward look has resulted in the blight of worldliness. Only the broader vision can raise the tone and quality of life. It is the business of the poet, the preacher, the leader, to bring and keep these loftier inspirations within the practical spheres of life. The tendency of work is always towards absorption in its own immediate occupation.
IV. THE PROPER EFFECT OF THIS UPWARD LOOK IS THE RENEWAL OF OUR FAITH AND RESOLVE. It is to grace we must look for the secret of all that is beneficent in providence and bright in the prospects of man. And as we recall these blessings, we do but emphasise the work of Jesus, through whom man is crowned with favour and immortality. We lift up our eyes on high, and there we behold Jesus crowned with glory and honour, all dominion granted to Him, holding the reins of power while bearing the marks of conflict. In Him we see the Father.
(C. A. Berry, D. D.)
I. IT IS THIS OLDER FAITH WE FIND IN OUR TEXT — not obscurely, but with the positiveness of knowledge. And it is not in this text alone, but horn the beginning to the end of our Bible. Its writers, in succession to one another, explicitly maintain the faith of a living God, Maker and Ruler of all And in doing so, they stood alone in the world. The wisdom of Egypt and the wisdom of Assyria gave them no countenance. The teaching of these Hebrew writers, through all the ages, from Moses to Christ, is like a pure crystal stream flowing through a vast desert, unabsorbed by sand or sun, and undefiled by the ten thousand impurities on its banks. The old Hebrew faith stands as firmly in the light of modern science as it did when science in its modern sense was a thing almost unknown. Sir Isaac Newton, in closing his exposition of the system of the universe, worshipped and declared that its cause could not be mechanical; it must be intelligent, it must be found in a voluntary agent infinitely wise and mighty. But while these men of the old Hebrew race knew less of the vastness of the universe than we do now, they did not feel it less. The man of science, with his telescope and mathematical reckonings, must feel himself utterly bewildered when he attempts to imagine the distances which his demonstrations reveal But it does not follow that his impression of that vastness, or his awe in the contemplation of it, is in proportion to his knowledge. A child, with a true child's heart, may be more deeply impressed with the glory of the over-hanging heavens, than a full-grown man who exercises all his intellectual power in endeavouring to understand them. The Hebrews knew enough and saw enough to produce the profoundest feeling. Perhaps the chief explanation of the feeling with which the Hebrews contemplated nature is that they saw God in everything.
II. THIS IS THE SECOND POINT TO WHICH OUR TEXT INTRODUCES US. "He calleth them all by names by the greatness of His might; for that He is strong in power not one faileth." But what of the laws of nature? The Hebrew Scriptures, instead of denying the constancy of nature, seem to affirm it more consistently than some modern scientists. Take, e.g., these primitive statements: "God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after its kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth; and it was so. And God saw that it was good. But the Bible, While explicit in regard to the constancy of nature, asserts with equal explicitness a continued Divine agency in nature (Psalm 104:14; John 5:17).
III. ALL THIS IS MADE THE FOUNDATION OF AN ARGUMENT OF COMFORT PRIMARILY TO THE ANCIENT ISRAEL OF GOD, AND EQUALLY TO ALL THE SPIRITUAL ISRAEL. "Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel?" etc. Galileo approached this idea, whether he got it from Isaiah or not, in a very significant form. "I would not that we should so shorten the arm of God in the government of human affairs, but that we should rest in this, that we are certain that God and nature are so occupied in the government of human affairs, they could not more attend to us if they were charged with the care of the human race alone." The prophet goes a step beyond this, and draws an argument from God's care over the universe to assure us of His care over us. Christ said, "Behold the fowls of the air; for they sow not, neither do they reap nor gather into barns; yet your Heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?" But the prophet seems to argue from God's care over the greater to His care over the less. As if he said, He watches over suns and stars, therefore He will watch over you. More than this, the Bible story of creation gives us the keynote of the Bible idea of man. Man is not merely one of innumerable living creatures made to people the earth; the earth was made for him. He was the end for which and towards which progressive changes, spread over vast ages, were effected. Glorious as that star may be, and wonderingly as I contemplate its brightness, I am more to God than it is; I am nearer of kin to God than it is; and if God cares for it, much more will He care for me, His own child.
(J. Kennedy, D. D.)
(Sir E. Strachey, Bart.)
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