They have burned Your sanctuary to the ground; they have defiled the dwelling place of Your name.
Genesis 17:7, 8). It shows how the Church of God and individual believers are to conduct themselves in times when everything appears to be lost and to lie in ruins. The whole psalm may suggest two general points for consideration - the destructive work of man, and the constructive work of God.
I. THE DESTRUCTIVE WORK OF MAN. (Vers. 3-9.) The enemy had destroyed everything in the sanctuary, and burnt up the holy place itself. Look at some destructive work in our day.
1. The material tendencies of physical science. Leading to a denial of God and immortality, and striking at the foundation of morals by denying the freedom of man's nature. Ideas destructive, as well as conduct.
2. The critical spirit which is abroad. A spirit of denial, almost universally pulling down, and not building up. This and that not true - in history and creed.
3. The selfish spirit, wherever it rules, is destructive. In politics and commerce, and in our social relations - tending to antagonism and separation, and breaking all law - moral, Divine, and social.
4. The absence of true prophets - inspired men - is also a sign of the destructive process. (Ver. 9.) The true prophet is the constructor, and not the destroyer; the inspirer, and not the critic.
II. THE CONSTRUCTIVE WORK OF GOD.
1. God's greatest work of old was redemptive. (Vers. 12-15.) "For God is my King of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth." His work in Christ is reconstructive, building men up after the highest pattern. Christ came not to destroy, but to fulfil.
2. His work in the physical creation is constructive. (Vers. 16, 17.) He prepared the light and the sun, made summer and winter. The same mind ordained and continues the precious seasons as ordained the laws and works of redemption.
3. God's covenant is a covenant of salvation. (Ver. 20.) And the world is still in urgent need of redemption. "The dark places," etc.
4. The work of redemption is God's own - "his own cause. (Ver. 22). And therefore he will not abandon it. We can therefore pray as the psalmist did. - S.
A man was famous according as he had lifted up axes upon the thick trees.
I. His WORK. We must throw our minds back to the time when the temple was in course of building. This man had no gold, or silver, or precious stones to bring: it may have been that he had little or nothing of material substance at his command; but he had strength in his brawny arm, and he gave himself, his time and his labour, and all the ardour of a loving heart to the good cause. Now he is on his way to the stately cedars with a fixed purpose clearly set in his face; he selects those that are best fitted for the roof, or for beams, or pillars, or for the doors, or other finer parts of the work that must be carved with great taste and care; and if he can do nothing else for the national undertaking, he can at least do the rough work of felling trees.
II. His MOTIVE. Nothing is said about this in the text, but we may rest assured that his work would never have found a place in the sacred minstrelsy of the ancient Church, had there not been underlying it all a noble motive. It was the cause of God in the land that made him stand forth, and which brought him out of obscurity, just as it has done with many others in seasons of religious awakening, when the peasant and the artisan have come nobly forward to fight side by side, and generously to give of their substance for what was dearer to them than life itself. If the common people are not roused to action in the interests of true godliness, the heart of the nation will never be stirred to that combined effort, which must ever be put forth to secure any permanent good, and to give vitality and stability to any great religious movement. It is, therefore, a pleasing picture to us, to see "our man" with his axe, which he consecrates most heartily to the cause of righteousness and truth. The work he does with it is not for personal or selfish ends, but for the nation; yea, for the world — for God Himself. It is this that gives surpassing dignity to every stroke, and makes him stand out on the page of the sacred record as a striking example of unselfish service, and true, honest work.
III. HIS REWARD.
1. This he received, in the noble enthusiasm with which he inspired others. Such a man could not but have a large following. He was from the people, and many of his comrades, animated by a similar spirit, went forth with him to do valiant things. The man who can move others for good has received a great gift, and when he makes use of it he has his reward in the number of enthusiastic followers he draws into the same path.
2. In the consciousness that he was doing good. The commendation of one's own conscience, and the sunshine of God's approving smile, are no small part of the reward connected with any work of faith or labour of love.
3. In the sacred memorial of the text. Rough as the work of the man referred to appears to be, in the mere felling of trees, it reached the very depths, and at the same time rose to the sublimest heights of man's spiritual nature, for it was inseparably bound up with the glorious future that lies before the cause of God, in its fullest development in earth or in heaven. The marble may be broken up and crumble into dust, and every feature that genius has impressed upon it may pass away, but the influence and the record of true worth are eternal as the spirit of goodness itself, and like the word of the Lord must endure for ever. So shall it be with the memorial of this man.
4. In the "Well done, thou good and faithful servant: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." He did his work for God in a loving spirit, and was called home when it was done to enter into his rest, and to receive his reward.
IV. His LIFE-LESSONS.
1. It matters not whether we work with the axe or the pen, with hand or with brain; given but the power of true faith, there will be work done, and that of a kind to an extent that will surprise ourselves and others. We have all our daily tasks, and in doing them honestly and thoroughly well, we are doing nobly for ourselves, for others, and for God, and thus the toils of every day may be pervaded by the Master's spirit, and lifted up to a higher level, far above the mere drudgery of life.
2. Passing from this personal view of the work for Christ in our own hearts and in connection with His Church, let me remind you that you are all members of the general community, and as such should be deeply interested in its welfare, and ready to do your part in securing this.
(A. Wallace, D. D.)
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