So they proclaimed this message and spread it throughout their towns and in Jerusalem, saying, "Go out to the hill country and bring back branches of olive, wild olive, myrtle, palm, and other leafy trees, to make booths, as it is written."
I. A NOTABLE INSTANCE OF NEGLECT. The commandment was plainly written, but "since the days of Jeshua the son of Nun the children of Israel had not done so. How much they lost? - gladness, fellowship, help to their remembrance of Divine mercy, food of faith. We should follow the directions of God's book without question. Much yet to break forth from the written pages.
II. An illustration of the DEPENDENCE OF GOD'S PEOPLE ON ONE ANOTHER. The council of fathers, priests, Levites, and Ezra the scribe gathered together to understand the words of the law." All cannot pursue the same inquiries. The progress of the Church is greatly advanced by the consecration of some to the study of the Scriptures. All councils and conferences should be held with a practical end in view, to understand in order to reformation of life and manners. Much of the deliberation of learned men has failed of God's blessing because it has been merely speculative or controversial. We can scarcely doubt that Ezra was the leading spirit. One eminent man of God can wonderfully animate and direct his Church in great crises. The true leader will never despise counsel, but be only primus inter pares.
III. A TYPICAL REPRESENTATION OF THE BELIEVING LIFE OF GOD'S PEOPLE. The festival in the green booths fetched from the mount.
1. Grateful memory and pilgrim expectation.
2. Free fellowship and happy intercourse, with Jerusalem as the centre. Church life ought to be real root of all other life. We go from our own cities to Jerusalem, and return with the sanctity of the feast, to be distributed over all the common ways and facts of an every-day existence.
3. Consecrated seasons, festival times, needed in all service of God. For the heart must be lifted up that the hands may be kept busy. Function of praise in the life. They of the captivity do well to recognise one another in their freedom. God invites us to turn nature into joy. Consecrate the very trees to him. Rejoice under the open heaven in his loving-kindness. Connect his holy mount with the simple tent that covers our head. He waits not for splendid ritual or temple, but delights in the homely praise of those who spread the beauty of his name over all the earth. - R.
So the people went forth, and brought them, and made themselves boothsI. WE ARE REMINDED HERE THAT THERE IS SUCH A THING AS BURIED TRUTH. True reformations and revivals of religion have always consisted in people's minds being directed to some portion of truth which, though contained in the Word of God, has for a time been lost sight of.
II. WE OBSERVE THAT IN THIS INSTANCE THE JEWS DARED TO FOLLOW GOD, APART PROM AND IN SPITE OF THE TRADITIONS OF A THOUSAND YEARS. It is not a valid argument against a view of truth that it has found no acceptance for long, or even that the testimony of successive generations is against it.
III. WEAK AND DESPISED INSTRUMENTALITY IS OFTEN USED OF GOD TO RECOVER LOST TRUTH. "It was reserved for the feeble remnant that returned from the Babylonish captivity to do what had not been done even in the bright days of Solomon." The Waldenses bearing dogged testimony against Rome for centuries. The Gospellers of Wycliffe's and other days in our own land. George Fox and his noble band of "Friends."
IV. IT WAS AFTER BITTER CHASTISEMENT OF CAPTIVITY THAT THE NATION WAS THUS MADE "WILLING AND OBEDIENT."
(W. P. Lockhart.)
I. THE "OLIVE" BRANCH IS ALWAYS USED AS A SIGN OF PEACE. The olive-tree grows in warm climates to the height of about twenty-five feet, has an upright stem, and many out-shooting branches which can easily be stripped off. If a twig of this tree, in time of war, is handed from one general to another, it means the unsaddling of cavalry horses and the hanging up of the war knapsacks. After hostilities have ceased, these branches are placed over doorways, and they are built into triumphal arches, and they are waved in processions. They spell out in verdurous letters that heaven-born word of "Peace!" Now in this gospel arbour which God sends us to build we must have two of these olive branches.
1. Peace with God.
2. Peace with each other.
II. My text, in the next place, suggests that in this arbour for our soul, on the way toward glory, WE OUGHT TO HAVE A GOOD MANY "PINE BRANCHES." Now, pine is healthful, aromatic, and an evergreen. It has often been the case that invalids have been sent into the regions where the pine grows, and they have come back thoroughly well. It is a frequent prescription, on the part of physicians, to say, "Go for a few weeks amid the pines, and you will be better." Now we want in this gospel arbour pine branches. We want something that means health, aroma, and evergreen. This is a very healthy religion. I have known an old Christian, with no capital of physical health, and carrying about him all the respectable diseases that one can carry, and yet kept alive by nothing at all but his religion. But this gospel is evergreen. What does the pine forest care for the snow on its brow? It merely considers it a crown of glory. You cannot freeze out the pine forest, and this grace of God is just as good in the winter of trouble as it is in the summer of prosperity. It is the religion you want — not dependent upon weather or upon change.
III. My text suggests still further that this arbour of Christian grace ought to have in it A GOOD MANY "PALM BRANCHES." You know that it is a favourite tree at the East. The ancients used to make it into three hundred and sixty uses. The fruit is conserved. The sap becomes a beverage. The stones are ground up as food for camels. The base of the leaves is twisted into rope. Baskets and mats are made out of it, and from the root to the tip-top of the palm it is all usefulness. It grows eighty-five feet in height, is columnar, its fringed leaves sometimes four or five yards long, and the ancients used to carry it in processions as a symbol of victory. Oh, for more palm branches in our gospel arbour! Usefulness and victory! Head, heart, tongue, pen, money, social position — all employed for God. Counsel is often given on worldly matters — about investments — that you must not put all the eggs in one basket; but in this matter of religion I wish that we might give all to God, and get in ourselves. "Oh," says some man, "my business is to sell silks and calicoes." Then sell silks and calicoes for the glory of God. Says another man, "My business is to edit a newspaper." Then edit a newspaper for the glory of God. Anything that a man cannot do for the glory of God he has no right to do. The vast majority of professed Christians in this day do not amount to anything. You have to shovel them off the track before the chariot of God's grace can advance. What we want in the Church now is not weeping willows, sighing and weeping by the Water-courses, admiring their long fringes in the glass of the stream; not hickories full of knots; not wild cherry, dropping bitter fruits; but palm-trees, adapted to three hundred and sixty purposes — root, trunk, branch, leaf, producing something for God and man and angels.
IV. My text demands that in the making of this gospel arbour we shall get "BRANCHES OF THICK TREES." You know that a booth or arbour is of little worth unless there be stout poles at the corners, or the wind will upset the booth; and you will be worse off than without shelter unless you have strong branches of thick trees. A gospel that is all mellowness and sweetness will have no strength to withstand the blast of temptation and trial and trouble. We want a brawny Christianity. We want a gospel with warnings as well as with invitations. While olive branches are good in their places, and the palm branches, and the myrtle branches, we want the stout branches of thick trees. The tempest of temptation will come down after a while; the hurricane of death will blow; and alas! for that man who has not his soul sheltered under the stout branches of the thick trees.
(T. De Witt Talmage.)
Also day by day... he read in the book of the law of God.I. WHY?
1. Because of its infinite preciousness and value.
2. Because of its tendency to build up the inner and spiritual life.
3. Because all great revivals of the power of religion have been associated with high reverence for the written Word.
4. Because by this Word you must be judged.
1. With reverence.
2. With special affection and prayerfulness.
3. Take time.
4. Keep the end in view.
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