The Biblical Illustrator
2 Chronicles 7
2 Chronicles 7:1-10
Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven.
God among His people
I. Prayer for God to come. This prayer was marked--
1. By its publicity.
2. By its specialty.
3. By its success.
II. God among His people.
1. By symbol.
3. A source of blessedness. If God be among His people--
3. His providence will wear a very different aspect; in the darkest day we shall feel that all is well
4. The realisation of His presence will give the best idea of heaven--fits them for it and makes them desire it.
III. Praise to God.
1. The theme of their praise: God’s mercy.
2. Its timeliness.
3. Its acceptableness.
1. Learn the value of public worship.
2. Make it a test of your character.
3. Learn the privilege of true worshippers. It is a delightful employment. “Come thou with us, and we will do thee good,” etc.
4. You may ask, “What can we do to benefit by public worship?” Come to meet with God. Come in a prayerful spirit. Come with a thankful heart. Take heed what you hear. Be not forgetful hearers. Follow all with prayer that “the Word of the Lord may have free course and be glorified.”
5. What can we do to promote it?
A dedication service
The light and fire, “the glory of the Lord,” that came down were symbols.
I. Something supernatural. Solomon with all his wisdom, and Huram’s artisans with all their skill, could not have invented that. The king was as impotent before it as the lowest slave from his provinces was before him. So there is an “unprogrammed” part of the service which is being conducted by the powers of another world. Strange forces have made the edifice their dwelling.
II. That glory was not merely a supernatural phenomenon, something sent from God; it symboled God Himself. Shekinah means dwelling. When our version reads, “I will dwell among Israel,” the Hebrew says, “I will shekinah among them.” God is here.
III. The Divine presence came in response to a man’s consecration prayer; its great Amen.
IV. The shekinah remained in the temple. Though the outer glow of it was withdrawn, a gleam of it lingered within the Holy of Holies, illumining that windowless apartment, dropping its softened light upon the ark of the covenant, with its tables of the law, its golden mercy-seat, and the cherubim of life. So God will remain with us; and the sign of His presence will be that a light falls upon the Bible, our ark of covenant, making its laws of righteousness gleam into our consciences, its assurance of grace fill us with peace, and its promise of life glow in our hopes until we enter that temple where “the Lamb is the light thereof.” (Homiletic Review.)
2 Chronicles 7:12-16
And the Lord appeared to Solomon by night, and said unto him, I have heard thy prayer.
The answer of God to the prayer of Solomon at the dedication of the temple
1. How strikingly does the answer meet the prayer. Solomon anticipated days of sorrow. He asked of God, “If we call upon Thee, wilt Thou hear us?” “I will,” says God, “I will.” Solomon asks that God’s eye and ear may be open to his house. God exceeds the prayer of the king. Not only shall Mine eyes and Mine ears be there, but My heart shall be there also.
2. God not only declares that He has heard the prayer of Solomon, He says something more encouraging: “I have chosen this house for Myself, for a house of sacrifice.”
3. God affirms national judgments to be the work of His own hand. “If I shut up heaven,” etc.
4. God supposes that always in national calamity the people will come running to Him.
5. God regards His house as pre-eminently a house of prayer. “Mine ears shall be attent unto the prayer that is made in this place.”
6. God gives a promise of His perpetual presence in His house.
Conclusion: What duty devolves upon us having such abundant mercies?
1. Personal religion.
2. Family religion.
3. Liberal offering to the Lord. (T. Mortimer, B.D.)
If I shut up heaven.--
Pestilence God’s retribution for sin
I. God claims to Himself the authorship of the calamity for whose removal we entreat.
II. The direct connection which is pointed out between the visitation of the pestilence and a people’s impiety as the provocation which has caused it.
III. Though pestilence be of god’s sending, yet will he be entreated for its removal (Robert Bickersteth, M.A.)
The cessation of the cholera
I. There is no one truth that is more universal in its application, or which more commends itself to every man’s conscience, than that guilt is followed by punishment, most certainly in the next world, and most probably in this.
II. That as true repentance will always be accepted, for Christ’s sake, for the putting away of sin, so will it often avail, in the mercy of God, to the removal of the temporal calamity which may have been the consequence and punishment of the sin. (F. O. Morris.)
The means and method of healing in the Church
I. The supposition of judgments.
1. Judgments light not on a people casually or by chance, but by the overruling command and commission of God (Job 5:6-7).
2. The Lord hath variety of judgments whereby to reduce froward and stubborn sinners. God’s method in these various judgments usually is--
II. A direction unto duties. Consider--
1. The quality of the persons who are to perform them: “My people that are called by My name.” All men are His creatures, only a select and peculiar inheritance that bear His name and are in covenant with Him are called His people (Ezekiel 16:8; Psalms 4:3; Isaiah 43:21; Isaiah 63:18; Acts 15:14). To be called by His name noteth to be His adopted children. We are God’s people--
2. The duties required for the removal of judgments.
(a) By this we honour God in acknowledging Him the fountain of all our good, the inflicter of all evil. As a diamond is cut only by a diamond, so God is pacified only by Himself.
(b) By this we ease ourselves. Prayer lighteneth affliction where it doth not remove it. The heart is meekened to accept the punishment of sin, as wool or mud deadens the force of a bullet.
III. A gracious promise of mercy.
1. A promise--
2. Touching these promises, observe--
Sin and judgments
1. The sins of God’s own people may provoke and procure judgments.
2. Their sins have some aggravations in them that other men’s have not. They are sins against--
If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves.
Humiliation, its obligation and nature
I. It is a duty called for by prophets and apostles and specially respected by God (Micah 6:8; James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6; 2 Kings 22:19; Leviticus 26:41-42).
1. It emptieth the heart of self-confidence and is the root of the fundamental duty of self-denial.
2. It fits for approach to God.
3. It disposeth to a confession of sin (Luke 15:17-19; Luke 18:13).
4. It prepares the heart for the entertainment of mercy.
5. It makes way for the forsaking of sin; the more a soul is humbled for it, the more it is fearful of it and watchful against it.
II. It is twofold in its nature.
1. Passive, when God breaks the heart by the hammer of His Word (Jeremiah 23:29), or by some sore affliction.
2. Active, when the soul humbleth itself under sin and wrath. This may be--
III. This is a perpetual duty. As long as sin remains there must be a sense of it, and sorrow for it. But in some times and cases it is to be specially renewed. In times--
1. Of extraordinary sins and provocations.
2. Of public dangers and distresses.
3. Of great enterprises attempted.
4. Of successes and blessings desired (Ezra 8:21). (Edward Reynolds, D. D.)
Helps to the performance of the duty of humiliation
I. Take a view of God.
1. In Himself.
Such considerations have humbled the holiest of men. Moses (Exodus 3:6); Job (Job 42:5); Elijah (1 Kings 19:13); Isaiah (Isaiah 6:5); Ezra (Ezra 9:15); Peter (Luke 5:8).
2. In His relations to us. He is our Maker, King, Judge, Father, Master.
3. In His dealings with us.
II. Take a view of yourselves, of your own hearts and lives. This is a duty of singular use and benefit. It enlargeth the heart in godly sorrow for sin past, upon the discoveries which this scrutiny maketh. (Edward Reynolds, D. D.)
Fruits and evidences of humiliation
1. A godly sorrow, so called because it sets the soul God-ward. Cain, Judas, Felix, all sorrowed, but they ran from God. As a ship in a tempest ventures not to any shore, but gets further into the sea, so the soul, when it is humbled by God, betakes not itself unto any carnal shore, but still runs closer unto Him.
2. A justifying of God, ascribing to Him the glory of His righteousness if He should condemn us; and of His mercy, that He absolves us (Psalms 2:4; Daniel 9:7-9).
3. A self-judging and subscribing to our condemnation (Deuteronomy 27:15). As St. Austin saith of the poor publican, “He judged and accused himself, that God might deliver and defend him.” Also Bernard, “This is a good judgment indeed which withdraws and hides me from the severe judgment of God.” (Edward Reynolds, D. D.)
The Divine philosophy of revivals
This is a revival text. It contains the germs of the whole Divine philosophy of revivals. A revival implies religious declension, and is itself such a waking up of the spiritual life of the Church as leads to the conversion of sinners.
I. An explicit description of the proper method for promoting a revival.
1. The first duty of a people seeking a revival is humiliation before God. This state of mind is produced by our contemplating the purity: and perfection and loving-kindness of the Lord, in contrast with our own sinfulness, unworthiness, and ingratitude.
2. Prayer is the next divinely prescribed means in promoting a revival of religion. Prayerfulness is one of the main characteristics of a godly life. But our prayers are sometimes prayerless. They are an unwritten liturgy, made up of hackneyed phrases in which there is hardly a spark of vitality. They lack the strong pinions of faith and ardent desire without which they cannot reach the third heaven. They lack the Divine electricity. When God’s people beseech Him, as John Knox did when he prayed, “Lord, give me Scotland, or I die,” then their prayers are effective.
3. We must seek God’s face. He never intended that His people should pray to Him as strangers. He wants us to draw near to Him as children go to a loving father or mother.
4. There must be a forsaking of sin.
II. Some definite and good reasons which we have for expecting a revival.
1. God’s intimate relation to the Church.
2. God’s explicit promise.
The duty of a people under Divine chastisements
I. There are three modes in which it has pleased Almighty God at different periods of the world to inflict His righteous judgments on national delinquency: by the sword without, the famine and pestilence within.
II. The duties enjoined upon a people under the afflictive visitation of a pestilence..
III. The encouraging assurance of the God of mercy to a humbled, praying, and converted people. (James Williams, M.A.)
It seems to have been after an interval of thirteen years that the Lord signified in detail that He had listened to the solemn prayer that Solomon offered at the dedication of the temple. God notifies the possibility of His punishments falling on the land in the event of their sinning against Him, and then adds, “If the people shall humble themselves,” etc.
I. This passage is only one of many which point out how entirely nature is ruled by God. Take such examples as these: the flood; the destruction of Sodom; Elijah fed by ravens; the destiny of Jonah, etc. They all proclaim that the whole world is under the immediate control of a personal God who regulates it in reference to man.
II. National trouble should cause a people to consider their ways, and to seriously reflect upon their national sins.
III. A proper consciousness of national sins ought to bring a people to their knees in humble submission, and lead them to acknowledge that national chastisements are of His appointment. In reply to the objection that might be urged against this teaching, “Why ascribe to God what may easily be traced to natural causes?” I observe, the more science the better. Trace out the causes as best you can: discover the laws of rain and sunshine, of temperature and weather. But, after all, these are not the first cause. They are only second in order. There is still the sphere in which God rules supreme. It is only too obvious in a case of personal sickness. A man may be laid upon a bed of affliction: the illness may upset his plans--deepen his reflections--bring him to a true repentance--and, in fact, alter his whole career for the better; in this the first cause is God, in His mercy and love to a wayward soul; the second cause is, perhaps, that one day he caught a chill But then that chill does not exclude God. It is worthy of special remark, moreover, that our Lord’s teachings and miracles were pointedly in this direction. He did not deny that the tower of Siloam was a judgment, though He repressed self-righteous inferences on the part of others. He adduced the flood and the destruction of Sodom as warnings to His own generation.
IV. It may be objected that better days will come whether a people will humble themselves and pray or not. It may be so. Just as a sick man may refuse to repent, and yet will in due time get well again. But the moral loss is well-nigh beyond recovery. It involves the blunting of the moral sense, the deadening of conscience, and the loss of the higher benefit which God willed to bestow. A nation which cannot recognise the correcting hand of God must be indeed estranged from Him. Conclusion: Our personal duty.
God sets His mark of love and protection upon them who “sigh and cry for all the abominations.” No one can tell how much he may do by himself” returning to God. (C. A. Raymond, M.A.)
In anthropomorphic language eyes are ascribed to God; thus we read “that the eye of the Lord is on them that fear Him” (Psalms 38:18). Thus again, “I will guide thee with Mine eye” (Psalms 32:8). He is said to be of “purer eyes than to behold evil” (Hebrews 1:13). A similar form of speech ascribes “ears” to God. Thus we have these words--“In Mine ears, saith the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 5:9); “The cries of them which have reaped are entered into the cars of the Lord of Sabaoth” (James 5:4.) What does this language mean? Why are eyes and cars ascribed to a Spirit that has no limits and no form? The language is used for two purposes.
I. To express His cognizance of man. Through the eye and the ear we derive our knowledge of all outside of us.
1. He knows us directly.
2. He knows us thoroughly.
“To him there is nothing old appears, to Him there is nothing new.” A sense of His knowledge of us should make us frank, solemn, circumspect, devout.
II. To express His interest in man. God’s interest in us is shown--
1. In the various capacities of enjoyment with which He has endowed us, and the provisions He has made for them. We have capacity for every species of enjoyment--sensuous, intellectual, social, religious. We can drink of all the rivers from the eternal ocean of joy. For the sensuous there is matter, for the intellectual there is truth, for the social there is society, for the religious there is Himself.
2. In the preservation of our existence, notwithstanding our sinfulness. We have transgressed His precepts, warred against His arrangements, yet He preserves us year after year. The patience of an Infinite Love is here.
3. In our redemption by Jesus Christ. “God so loved the world,” etc. “He spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up,” etc.
Conclusion: “Thou God seest me,” we unite with the blessed fact, “Thou God lovest us.” It is His interest in us that prompts Him to watch our movements and listen to our words. (Homilist.)
Wednesday, October 26th, 2016
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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