I. EARTHLY CROSSES. What significance in the terms "fatherless" and "widows"! They tell of death, of war and pestilence and famine, of desolated homes and broken hearts and innumerable sorrows. Then in "the solitary," all the ills of life seem gathered up.
II. HEAVENLY COMFORTS. It is a great comfort to believe that there is a God who made the world, and cares for the world that he has made. But there is much more here. God is represented as not only great, but kind; not only as mighty, but merciful; not only as ruling over all his works in righteousness, but as making the weak and the sorrowful his special care. There are three great comforts here.
1. God's Fatherhood. (Jeremiah 49:11.)
2. The brotherhood of man.
3. The blessedness of home. God setteth the solitary in families. This is in part fulfilled here. Perhaps "the solitary," like Moses in the desert, finds a home. instead of wandering alone, he is blessed with a wife and children, and the sweet joys of family life. Again, "the solitary" may have friends raised up to him. In the Church and in society he finds true companionships and healthy occupation, and walks no more with aimless feet. Or it may be that God works such a change in his heart that he rises superior to circumstances. There are "spiritual presences" with him. Though alone, he is yet not alone, because God is with him (Acts 8:39; 2 Timothy 4:17). But the highest fulfilment is to come. Heaven is the eternal home. There is no "solitary" there. It is the house of God, of many mansions, of happy families, and of endless fellowships and joys. While the text shows the Divine origin and the manifold blessings of "the family," it hints also at its immortality. It has withstood the greatest shocks of time, and it may, in some higher way, survive in the eternal world (Proverbs 12:7; cf. Ephesians 3:15, Revised Version). - W.F.
O God, when Thou wentest forth before Thy people, when Thou didst march through the wilderness.
Homilist.I. IT COMMENCES WITH THE DIVINELY TERRIBLE (vers. 7, 8). As a rule, if not always, the very first step of the soul on its moral march is preceded by visions of God that startle and alarm. God seems to enwrap the soul in "blackness" and "darkness" and "tempests," to roll thunders and flash lightnings on the conscience, as on Sinai of old; so that the soul cries out, "Lord, what shall I do to be saved?" (Isaiah; St. Paul; people on day of Pentecost.)
II. IT PROCEEDS UNDER THE LEADERSHIP OF GOD HIMSELF.
1. He supplied Israel's needs (ver. 9).
2. He conquered their enemies (vers. 11, 12). And this is what God is always doing for His people. No moral progress can we make unless He leads us on, supplying our needs and striking down our foes.
III. EVERY STAGE CONDUCTS TO HIGHER PRIVILEGES. Three stages in the march of the Hebrews are indicated here. From Egypt they advanced to the wilderness, and the wilderness, with all its trials and inconveniences, was better than the land of despotism. From the wilderness they entered Canaan. Every stage that a man reaches in moral progress is better than the preceding. He moves on "from strength to strength," from "glory to glory." The glories reached are nothing to be compared to the glories yet to be enjoyed.
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