Who are these who fly like clouds, like doves to their shelters?
Haggai 2:7-8; Malachi 3:1). Rendered literally, the sentence would read, "My house of beauty will I beautify." Foreshadowings of this spiritual truth are found in God's presence making the charm of the Eden-home; God's presence abiding as a glory between the cherubim in the holy of holies; and God's presence coming in the symbol of the descending cloud on Solomon's temple. It was the great glory of Herod's restored temple, that the God-Man walked and worshipped and taught within its courts. It is the exceeding great glory of the Church, the spiritual temple, that God the Spirit comes to it, dwells in it, is the inspiration of it, and glorifies it. There is no glory in a shrine without the Deity. The sunshine, streaming through the windows of the old cathedral, fills the whole place with wondrous and solemnizing lights and shades; and the sunshine of the Divine presence fills the heart and the sanctuary with the only true glory and beauty and joy. "The Church is the house of God's glory, where he manifests his glory to his people, and receives that homage by which they do honour to him."
I. WE OUGHT TO GLORIFY GOD'S HOUSE. One idea of the text is that the restored temple at Jerusalem would be honoured by abundant supplies of sacrifices. That old way of worshipping has given place to spiritual forms, such as prayer and praise and instruction; then we should give the best possible attention to these, that in so doing we may honour God's house. The best song, the best gifts, the best architecture, all should be devoted to the glorifying of God's house. And the best, most regular, most reverent, attendance at public worship may be our way of honouring God. "What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the Name of the Lord." That is the way to glorify God for his goodness.
II. GOD ALONE CAN TRULY GLORIFY GOD'S HOUSE. If he is not present, accepting the worship, inspiring the worship, and sanctifying the worship, then it is all vain show, empty form, deluding ceremony. Write up "Ichabod," for the "glory is departed." God's presence is known in the enduement of his ministers with righteousness, and in the making of his chosen people joyful. - R.T.
I. THE MOVEMENT WHICH IS HERE STATED. It is a flight. The expression is intended to signify the coming of men from the distant regions of the earth to the Church of God, of which such glorious things are here said.
Who are these that fly as a cloud?Job 30:15; Psalm 4:6, 7; Hosea 11:11; Jeremiah 4:13).
(J. A. Alexander.)
1. The movement signifies that state into which these men are transformed, and in which they come to the enjoyment of the designs of mercy. It is the abandonment of all their idolatrous worship; it is the renunciation of all that is opposed to God and to salvation; it is their coming back to "the Shepherd and Bishop of souls"; it is their looking to God as the alone source of happiness and peace; it is their believing in Him, who alone is able to save and to bless them.
2. It is under the Gospel dispensation that this is to be exemplified.
3. Divine influence must be imparted to effect this.
4. This change arises from the statements of Gospel truth as they are contained in the written Word.
II. WHAT IS INTENDED BY THE MANNER IN WHICH THIS MOVEMENT IS SAID TO BE MADE? The figures denote —
2. Their number.
3. Their unity. The clouds are supposed to fly in one body, and to be driven to one part of the horizon: the doves fly together to attain one home. So it will be with all who have been conducted by the Spirit into the way of life everlasting.
III. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN THE INQUIRY WHICH THE CONTEMPLATION OF THIS MOVEMENT EXCITES.
I. BECAUSE THEY FLY LOW. The eagle darts up, as if to strike its beak into the sun. There are birds that seem to dwell under the eaves of heaven; you see them as little specks against the sky, so far off that you cannot guess the style of their plumage or the shape of their bodies. They float so far away that if the hunter's gun be discharged at them they do not change their course. Not so with the doves or pigeons; they never take any high excursions. They fly around your roof and alight on the fence, and seem to dislike great altitudes. So these souls who come to Christ and to His Church fly low. They ask no great things; they seek a humble place at the feet of Christ.
II. BECAUSE THEY FLY FOR SHELTER. The albatross makes a throne of the tempest; the sea-gulls find their grandest frolic in the storm. Not so with doves; at the first blow of the north-easter they fly to the coop. Eagle contends with eagle in mid-air, and vulture fights vulture on the bosom of the carcass; but doves at the first dash of the bird of prey speed for shelter from fiery eye and iron beak and loathsome talon. So these souls come for shelter. Christ is the only shelter of the soul in trouble.
III. BECAUSE THEY FLY HOME. Most of the winged denizens have no home; now they are at the north and now at the south, as the climate indicates. This year a nest in one tree, next year a nest in another tree. But the pigeons alluded to, summer and winter and always, have a home in the dovecot. And so Christ is the home of those who come to Him. He is a warm home I they rest under the "feathers of the Almighty."
IV. BECAUSE THEY COME IN FLOCKS. The buzzard, with dripping beak, fluttering up from the carrion, is alone. You occasionally look up against the wintry sky and see a solitary bird winging past. But doves or pigeons are in flocks; by scores and hundreds do they fly. So to-day we see a great flock coming into the kingdom.
(T. De W. Talmage, D. D.)
II. In connection with our sacred rite, the emblem suggests a PUBLIC PROFESSION. The prophet is arrested; or, possibly, in the poetical imagery here employed, a chorus of spectators — in which he veils his own personality — are arrested by the spectacle. The doves are not spoken of as flying under screen of night or darkness; neither were they beheld winging a solitary or circuitous flight, as if dreading and evading observation. But the midday sun looked down on a whole cloud of them, their golden iridescent plumage flashing in his beams. It is no unimportant or insignificant feature in your Divinely-appointed ordinance, this open, dove-like flight to the Covenant Ark.
III. The cloud of doves, as here represented, betokens THE CHARACTER OF CHRISTIANS AND OF CHRISTIAN COMMUNICANTS. They are, or ought be, dove-like. The dove has these among other characteristics —
1. It is the complex symbol, in sacred poetry and art, of peace and love, of meekness and gentleness, purity and harmlessness (Song of Solomon 1:15; Song of Solomon 6:9; Matthew 10:16). In the rude, early Christian symbolism of the Roman catacombs, the dove, as the bird of hope, is generally represented in connection, variously treated, with the olive branch. What a lesson for us all as believers in Jesus.
2. A second characteristic of the dove is, that it is swift of wing. The prophet saw them, not sailing like a cloud, or drifting like a cloud, but flying; borne along with whirlwind speed. The carrier dove is well known for the swiftness — the length and steadiness — of its arrowy course, surpassing the proverbial flight of the eagle. This, coupled with Isaiah's figure, surely suggests the activities of the Christian life.
IV. The figure of the dove fleeing to its window reminds and suggests that it is a bird which requires A SAFE SHELTER. It does not, like some others, cower in hedgerows or furrows. The wild pigeon may build its nest on the forest tree; but the tame one seeks its secure dovecot. The Eastern dove, which had no artificial home, had its equally secure dwelling in the rock-clefts (Song of Solomon 2:14). A little way from the north-west shores of the Lake of Gennesaret there is a recess in the hills called the "Wady Hyman," or "Valley of Doves," the sides of which are perforated with their retreats. You who are communicants have been fleeing anew to-day for refuge to the "Rock of Ages." It is a special characteristic of the dove, that, however far it goes — though at a distance of hundreds of miles — it will fly back with unerring aim, sureness, and safety to its abode. So with "the dove of Christ."
V. The cloud of doves on wing to their windows reminds one of Young COMMUNICANTS. In the LXX the words of this verse are remarkable! "Who are these that fly like doves with their young?" The doves fly to their dovecot, but not alone; they have their offspring with them. Not the least beautiful thing about a Communion Sunday is the spectacle of young doves; those who have just risen from their early perches, the perches of the morning of life, and are winging their way, bright and unsoiled, to the Rock!
VI. One other thought is suggested, by the remembrance of a large class of those who are always to be found at the Sacrament of Communion — I mean THE AFFLICTED. This image of doves flying to their windows reminds of storm. They were seen flying; drifting along like a tempestuous cloud. The dove flies to its dovecot, or to the rock-clefts, when the storm is brewing.
(J. R. Macduff, D. D.)I. THE DESCRIPTION GIVEN OF CONVERTS IN EVANGELICAL TIMES.
1. Whence do they fly? These persons are represented as coming from among the Gentiles, the Pagan world.
2. Whither do they fly? They repair to Him, who is designated in the sixteenth verse as "the Lord, the Saviour and Redeemer, the Holy One of Jacob." But this is not the whole. These converts are also represented as repairing to the Church as to their rest and home.
3. What is the mode in which they are represented as flying from their former position, to Christ and to the Church? The images are very beautiful and impressive.(1) "As the cloud," which overspreads the heavens; intimating the vast numbers who should turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God. As the cloud," with great speed and celerity. "As the cloud," openly and conspicuously; not as though they were desirous of concealment, but in the spirit of those who arc ready to deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Christ, or of him who exclaimed, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth." "As the cloud," powerfully; so that nothing shall resist their course. "As the cloud," which drops many a shower as it passes along the sky, and which refreshes and fertilizes the earth, so shall these converts be useful in their advancement, like those of whom we read in the history of the Gospels, who as they travelled through the towns and villages and different parts of the country, spread the name of Jesus, and pressed others to become His disciples also.(2) Look also at the other admirable similitude: "As the doves." This not only expresses some similar ideas, such as that of numbers and of rapidity and of strength — but some others which we must not omit carefully to notice. It denotes, then, general unanimty. They arc all bent on one grand object — "What must I do to be saved?' They have all one Saviour to whom they look — one method of salvation which they embrace. The multitude is, in this respect, of one heart and one soul. It describes their cordial fellowship. In the happy days when the Gospel shall thus win its way among men, not one or two of a family and of a tribe alone, scattered here and there, shall hold communion with each other, but the body of believers shall be joined together in the unity of the spirit and in the bond of peace. And in fine, as the doves repair to their windows, and enter their cote, as their rest and home, when wearied with their long flight; so the subjects of Divine grace take refuge in the Church from the storms without, and there find a repose which is not to be obtained in the world.
II. THE SENTIMENTS AND EMOTIONS WITH WHICH WE SHOULD VIEW THESE ACCESSIONS TO THE CHURCH. "Who are these, that fly as a cloud, and as doves to their windows?"
1. This is the language of surprise and admiration; for the conversion of a soul to God is in all eases a wonder.
2. It is the language of gratitude and pleasure.
3. It is the language of complacency.
4. This is the language of prospective hope. For, if it be admitted that already many have come and yielded themselves up to Christ, it is a pleasing thought that they are only as the early drops of the copious shower.
(J Clayton. M. A.)I. A SWEET SIGHT THAT THE OLD TESTAMENT CHURCH GETS OF THE STATE OF MATTERS UNDER THE NEW TESTAMENT, upon the revelation of Christ in the Gospel among the Gentiles. She sees poor souls upon the wing, in great multitudes, flying to a Saviour; and a sweeter sight cannot be seen upon earth.
II. THE MANNER OF THEIR FLIGHT. "AS a cloud, and as doves."
III. THE TERM OR OBJECT OF THEIR FLIGHT. They fly to the windows for their relief. Like the window of the ark of Noah, whereat the dove entered, when she could find no place for the sole of her foot, because of the deluge.
IV. THE PLEASANT SURPRISE THAT THE OLD TESTAMENT CHURCH IS PUT INTO AT THIS SIGHT.
1. The Church wondered at the number of her converts.
2. The Chaldee has the idea in it of swiftness. "Who are these that fly as swiftly as a cloud?"
3. The Targum has another idea, that of publicity. The cloud flies so that everybody can see it. So do these converts fly openly before the world.
4. There is another idea here, which Dr. Gill gives us in his very valuable commentary. "Who are these that fly as a cloud," for unanimity? Not as clouds, but "as a cloud"; not as two or three bodies, but as one united and compact mass!
5. Again, there is the idea of power. Who is he that shall bridle a cloud and stop it in its march?
1. The Church is exceedingly pleased at the character of those who come to her. "Doves."
2. The Church feels pleasure in their condition: They "fly."
3. The translation of the LXX gives us another idea. "Who are these that fly like doves with their young?" The Church rejoices at the company that the converts bring with them.
4. The Church feels pleasure at the direction in which these doves move. "To their windows." The joy of the Church is that the poor sinner does not fly to man, nor to the law, but to Christ, the dovecot.
III. ANXIETY. "All!" says the Church, "it is all very well their flying like a cloud; it is all right their going as doves to their window-s; but who are they?" She anxiously desires to be sure that it is all gold that is put into her treasury. "Who are they?" I address myself to an anxious Church to answer it.
1. They are those that fly. They fly because they cannot stop where they were, and they are flying, somewhere else for refuge. 2. They fly, not on the ground, but like a cloud, up high. They were persons that did not care about the world, but wanted heaven.
3. They were persons driven by the wind, just as the clouds are — who have no power of themselves to move, but have something driving them behind.
4. They are persons who have been regenerated, for they are "doves." They are changed from ravens into doves, from lions into lambs.
5. They are those who have fled to their windows, and found a refuge in Christ.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)I. WHO ARE THEY THAT THEY SHOULD BE SO MANY? The answer to that inquiry is another question: Why should they not be many?
1. There are a great many sinners in the world; why should not a great number be converted? When many souls are brought to Christ, they are only relatively many. Usually, alas! they are relatively small.
2. Has not Christ brought into the world a great redemption?
3. Why should they not come ill crowds when the spirit of God is quite able to lead them to come?
4. Heaven is very great, and the preparations which grace has made are very large.
II. WHO ARE THEY THAT THEY SHOULD FLY?
1. They fly to Christ, because they are driven, and cannot help flying to Him.
2. They may well fly, because they are in danger.
3. Besides, these flying sinners have strong desires within them. I sometimes see a man throw a pigeon up into the air, that it may find its way home. It usually wheels about for a little while, as though it were uncertain which direction it should take; but, presently, its quick eye catches sight of some familiar landmark, and by instinct it knows which is its way home, and then, away it goes. So is it with a soul that the Spirit of God has once quickened. It longs for Christ. It may hesitate, and look about to find the way it is to go to find Him; but at last, it says within itself, There He is, and away it goes, like the doves to their windows.
4. They may well fly, because they have such a short time in which to reach the Saviour.
III. WHY DO THEY FLY AS DOVES, that is, in a covey, so that they look like a moving cloud?
1. Because they are all in one common danger. They are too much taken up with the solemnities of their condition before God to have time or wish for contention; and, therefore, they do not quarrel and fight, as a number of hawks might do, but they fly together in one band.
2. Because they are seeking one common refuge.
IV. WHO ARE THEY THAT THEY SHOULD FLY THIS WAY? I mean, what makes them fly to Christ? What makes them fly to His Church?
1. Because they are seeking safety, and there is no safety for them except in Christ.
2. They also need rest, and a dovecot is a place of rest to a dove.
3. You like to come where God's people assemble because your food is there.
4. Our companions are there.
5. Some of us fly there because our young are there.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
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