It is the glory of God to conceal a matter and the glory of kings to search it out.
I. CONTRAST BETWEEN DIVINE AND HUMAN GOVERNMENT. Divine government is a mystery in its principles and its ends. Partial revelation only is given of its method in the Scriptures and in the actual course of the world. Actual relations are one thing, their secret spring another. The former may be known, the latter is veiled from our scrutiny. On the contrary, human government should be founded on principles intelligible to all and commendable to the conscience and reason of all. In the kingdom of God, says Luther, we must not seek to be wise, and wish to know the why and wherefore, but have faith in everything. In the kingdom of the world a governor should know and ask the why and wherefore, and trust in nothing.
II. THE RESERVE OF RULERS. (Ver. 3.) If the heart in general is unsearchable, much more must theirs be who have not their own merely, but the secrets of nations in their keeping. The lesson is taught of abstaining from hasty censure of the actions and policy of those in power; the grounds of that policy may be far deeper than anything that meets the eye.
III. THE DUTY OF DISCERNMENT IN RULERS. (Vers. 4, 5.) As the refiner separates the dross from the silver, which mars its beauty and purity, so should the king exclude from his presence and counsels the profligate and the base. A pure or vicious court has immense influence on the manners and morals of the community. Christ speaks in like manner of gathering out of his kingdom at the day of judgment all offenders and workers of iniquity.
IV. THE TRUE FOUNDATION OF AUTHORITY. (Ver. 5.) Not force, but moral power; not might, but right. How often in our time have thrones tottered or the occupant fallen when physical force alone was recognized as the basis of security 1 Justice is imprinted upon the nature of man. And let rulers who would maintain their power ever appeal to reason and to right. He who takes the motto, "Be just and fear not," for the maxim of his policy lays the only stable foundation of law and government. - J.
I. THE MEANING OF THE PASSAGE IS SUPPOSED TO BE THAT GOD CONCEALS MUCH, AND THAT IT IS HIS GLORY TO DO SO. There is a truth in this. We often try to find out God. God is the profoundest mystery in the universe, and yet all is mystery without Him. No creature knows God. There is much concealed in nature. It is not wonderful that there should be much in God's providential procedure that is concealed from us. God's ways are not our ways. If He has not given us light, it is better for us to be in darkness.
It is the glory of God to conceal a thing.
I. THE DIVINE BEING IS ACCUSTOMED TO CONCEAL MUCH. Specify some instances.
1. In relation to His own nature, and the manner of His existence. His essence is altogether hidden from the most profound investigation, the most laborious research, the most subtle penetration, of His creatures. We ascribe to Him attributes and virtues; but how He exists, in an essential and eternal nature of His own, no man can know. His perfections are impressed on the works of nature, but in such a manner that we learn them only by inference.
2. In relation to the structure and constitution of His works. The scenes of nature lie open to our view. But the mysteries of nature, with regard to the essences of things, and indeed to a multitude of subtle operations, are kept in a kind of sacred reserve, and elude the utmost efforts of philosophy to surprise them in their concealments, and bring them to light. Those that have devoted themselves to an investigation of the laws of nature perceive that the meanest work of God is inexhaustible; contains secrets which the wisdom of man will never be able to penetrate.
3. In the dispensations of His providence. By which is meant that series of actions which the Divine Being is continually carrying on in the government of the world which He has made. There exists such a decided connection between well-doing and happiness on the one hand, and between wickedness and misery on the other, as sufficiently to show, even independently of revelation, that the Divine Being is the patron of rectitude and the enemy of vice. But the natural course of things is frequently interrupted and suspended by incidental causes; so that particular exceptions are continually occurring to the ordinary rule. God conceals the design for which many events are permitted to take place. And He is accustomed to throw much obscurity over the future. The most important events of human life, on which our happiness greatly depends, are, for the most part, concealed from our view.
4. In the economy of grace and redemption. The revelation contained in the Scriptures extends only to facts, not to the theory of those facts, or their original causes. The most important truths are communicated in a dogmatic, not a theoretic, manner.
II. THE DIVINE BEING PROMOTES HIS GLORY, BY SUCH A TEMPERATURE OF LIGHT AND SHADE AS THAT WHICH DISTINGUISHES ALL HIS DISCOVERIES OF HIMSELF, AND HIS DISPENSATIONS TOWARDS HIS CREATURES.
1. The concealment of things tends to glorify Him, as it is, in part, the necessary consequence of His infinite superiority to all finite beings in wisdom and understanding. His purposes and designs cannot be adequately scanned by the wisdom of men.
2. It evinces His entire independence of the wisdom, counsel, or co-operation of any or all of His creatures. He may, with infinite safety and propriety, retire within Himself, into the secret recesses of His own essence.
3. Such a degree of obscurity as attends the partial manifestation of the Divine will, the progressive development of the Divine purposes, is eminently adapted to the state, exigency, and condition of men. The prophetic parts of Scripture are proverbially obscure. By not explaining His doings, God trains us to submission, and cultures humility and vigilance, while at the same time exciting to diligence and exertion. While there are many things which God conceals, and thereby advances His glory, He has made manifest all that it is essential for man to know. And among the things fully revealed is the placability of God, His readiness to receive the chief of sinners who repent of their sins and believe the gospel.
(Robert Hall, M.A.)
1. There are mysteries in the Divine nature and government that bear direct witness to the glory of God's person. The silence He maintains is a sign of His self-sufficiency. As a matter of privilege, God may permit us to enter into sympathy and co-operation with Himself and His work. But He does not need our help, and by the stern reserve in His revelations He asserts the separateness and the sufficiency of His own mighty power. If He employ us at all, it is for our good. His power is separate, sufficient, solitary. God conceals many things, to remind us of the gulf that separates the glory of His nature from the dimness of all finite natures. Man is destined to more exalted and intimate communion with his Maker than any other being in the universe, and yet there are limitations upon his privilege necessitated by the very supremacy of God. There are secrets we cannot enter, counsels we cannot share, age-long problems, the solution of which we are not permitted to see. God conceals many things, so that throughout the successive stages of our destiny He may bring into our contemplation of His nature and works elements of inexhaustible freshness. Reservations that are determined by motives of this type have an intimate relation to the glory of the Divine name. The revelations of the life to come will be gradual and progressive. If God's revelation were a revelation of exhaustive fulness, a revelation with no reserved questions in it, the very enchantment of God's nature would be gone.
2. God is glorified by mystery, because mystery has its place in the discipline and exaltation of human character. The veiled truth sometimes calls out a higher faith, a more chastened resignation, a more childlike obedience in God's people, than the truth that is unveiled. God conceals many things, so that He may be magnified through His people's trust in darkness and uncertainty. No genuine spirit of trust can spring up in ignorance. In God's dealings with us, profound silence and ringing oracle, the hidden and the revealed, the mystery and the defined truth, alway alternate with each other. It is "the glory of God to conceal a thing," because by the very shadows in which He hides it we are cast with a more pathetic dependence upon His sympathy and care, and come into truer and more childlike contact with His spirit. God conceals many things, so that He may protect us from needless pain and fear, and magnify His own gentleness. Many a thing must be hidden from a child, and the more sensitive he is, the stricter must be the concealment. God conceals some things from us to excite us to nobler and more strenuous endeavour in our search after the truth. There are truths that we shall come to know through our own thought and struggle, and deepening spirituality of life, temporary mysteries that it is best for us to know through conflict, experience, sustained contemplation. God hides many things from the world, so that He may have secrets with the custody of which He can honour His own chosen servants. And He conceals some things from us, so that He may impress us with the solemnities of the unknown. God never conceals what may be necessary to furnish His people for the work and service of life. Let the revelation inspire your faith, and let the mystery awaken your awe.
(Thomas G. Selby.)
II. THE GREAT PRINCIPLE CONTAINED IN THE TEXT. The text is a whole. One part must be taken with reference to the other. The wise man says it is the glory of God to do that which is not the glory of kings to do. Government is necessary to the very existence of society. There can be no government without law. It is the glory of all governments to frame wise and salutary laws for the well-being and true happiness of society, to guard these by sanctions, and by all the majesty of power. Governments do not originate that which is moral in law. They do not create the distinctions between right and wrong, good and evil. Magistrates are the representatives of law. They are to see that it is respected and maintained, and they are to punish law-breakers; if not, it is because offenders baffle pursuit, and hide themselves. If kings do not search out a matter, it is because they are indifferent to the conduct of their subjects, and care not whether they are virtuous or vicious; and then the hour of revolution is at hand; the kingdom will fall. The glory of God is the very opposite to the honour of kings. God is a law-giver. His will is the law of all morals. His being is the foundation of all law. And yet He has made provision for pardoning men. He hides, He conceals their sins. He does this by an atonement. It is the glory of God to save men by the death of Christ, because by saving them thus He may magnify His own law, and honour His own government. Governments have no gospel for criminals. God forgives sins.
(H. J. Bevis.)
(H. G. Salter.)
(W. Arnot, D.D.)
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