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The Psalm for the Day
1 Chronicles 16:7
I shall use this text illustratively, rather than literally and grammatically. There is a song in the heart of it; we are in quest of that song. The picture is full of colour, the picture is almost alive. Let us regard the incident as typical and ideal.
I. In very truth there is a special psalm for every day in the week. We should expect the psalm as confidently as we expect the dawn. But who looks out for David with his psalms, for Asaph with his harp and his attendant choir? Yet there they are, and they are often wasted upon us, and we say it is very oppressive, melancholy and ghostly silent. If we only knew, the air is alive with music, but we do not hear it, our ears are waxed heavy that they should not hear, and the festival proceeds every day unseen, unheard, an anonymous and neglected providence. The psalm for the day would suit no other day quite so well. Unless, therefore, we sing the psalm on the very day for which it was intended, it will drop into prose, it will be as a bird with its wings closed, when it might have been as an angel flying in the midst of heaven. The psalms are being distributed, where are the Asaphs that stretch out corresponding hands and receive the great gifts of God? We are prone to turn life into moan and threnody and winter wail; we find a species of melancholy joy in being joyless; affectation makes a trade of its own disappointments and dejections; vanity seeks to create a reputation by showing you how it can weep over its own degradation; resist the devil and he will flee from you! Get hold of the psalm, make room for David; he has a right to sit in every house.
II. Take this David as typical and ideal, and this Asaph in the same light, and regard the text as suggesting that there are memorable psalm-days in life; then you will get a great lesson that will go with you through all the week of time and sing you out of your despair.
1. When the child was born David delivered a psalm to the Asaph of the time. The incoming of the child was the incoming of the psalm; the psalm was waiting, and the moment the cry went up, A man-child is born into the world! the psalm followed.
2. When the child died David delivered a psalm to Asaph. The poets can write in darkness; the poets do not ask for candle-light in which to inscribe their pages with immortal verse. Poets can see in the dark: to God there is no darkness. When the child died David handed this psalm: While the child was yet alive I fasted and wept, for I said, Who can tell whether God will be gracious unto me, that the child may live? but now that he is dead, wherefore should I fast? I will arise and take sacramental bread, and praise the Lord that the centre of gravity has changed, and that my soul is not here but there.
Never miss the psalm for the day. To repeat, expect the psalm as surely as you expect the dawn. Sometimes the psalm will come just as the dawn comes; the dawn comes quietly, silently, growingly, every few minutes the light seems to secure a further conquest upon the darkness and the shadow, and then the brighter morning, and then the zenith flame: such is the growth of the psalm in the consciousness and in the heart of men.
Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. I. p. 105.
Consecration of the Commonplace
1 Chronicles 16:37
'So he left there, before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, Asaph and his brethren, to minister before the ark continually, as every day's work required.' That was the law of service in the tabernacle, and that is the law of service in the lives of all who would give themselves to God. The temple service was the day's work; the day's work was the temple service.
I. The tabernacle and its symbolism have passed away. We have heard of another temple, even the temple of the heart; of another altar the unseen altar of sacrifice. But we do not understand, or we but imperfectly understand, how that the law of that altar is written in the day's work. Too often we think of the law of that altar as something remote and separate. Ever and again we let the thick of the world come between us and it. We look on the day's work as something that stands between us and the way of worship. We do not understand that the law of the altar is written in life just as we have to live it. It is bound up in the daily demand. It is involved in our immediate circumstance. The shadow of the Cross lies on all our toil for bread; and the manifold imperatives of earth are but the laws of heaven translated into a language that all who would do right can understand.
II. We cannot hear too much about the divinity of toil, as long as we know what we are talking about. There is no divinity in toil for toil's sake. There is no spiritual glory and beauty in mere effort. Let us not deify labour. A man may work like a slave, and never catch a glimpse of God in all his toiling. But once let a man see the altar where the ultimate requirement of his work is written and the whole doing of it may be laid, and the seeming gulf between work and worship disappears.
'As every day's work required.' That is the defining line of the service of faith. That is the measure of God's demand. Sometimes we do not understand this. We feel the consecrating power of solemn duties and great sorrows; and of those days that bring us face to face with definite and final moral choices. But every day is not a great day in this sense. More often life's demands are monotonous, and the situations it creates for us day by day are unheroic, fretful, and even belittling. The very toils and troubles and besetments of our lives seem essentially commonplace. Sometimes the littleness of it all makes us sick at heart.
'As every day's work requires.' The day's work! The thing you are tired of; the thing you think you know so well; the thing that holds for you no surprises, no revelations, no thrills of joy, no abiding satisfactions of spirit. The face of God, the peace of Jesus Christ, the light of the Spirit you may find all these in the day's work if only you will believe it. This is God's way into our lives. This is our way into His life. This is the secret of sainthood serving the Divine Master as every day's work requires, recognizing the Divine law in all human necessity.
P. Ainsworth, The Pilgrim Church, p. 192.
1 Chronicles 16:37
That was the law. 'So he left there before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, Asaph and his brethren, to minister before the ark continually, as every day's work required.' Not as yesterday's work required, not as tomorrow's work might require, but as every day's work required within its own twelve hours or twenty-four.
I. 'As every day's work required.' There is only one time Now. 'Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation.' Now is God's great opportunity given to us all. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow is unborn, today is now, and the golden portal rolls back to let us into the larger liberty. Things are not to be done at any time. That is where so many people go into confusion and into final bankruptcy, and spend their days at the public expense, and complain that it is very hard to go to the workhouse at the last. There is no need for any man to go to the workhouse; if every man will do as every day's work requires, he need never bend his head under the doorway of a workhouse. To so many people there is no regular time; that is the reason of failure, that is the leak. The great secret of successful life is discipline, promptitude, military obedience now! altogether! the best I can; as every day requires.
That was the way that Jesus Christ lived. In that apparently coldly ethical doctrine there is a great evangelical gospel; the Son of God is hidden in that disciplinary prose: I must work the works of Him that sent Me: are there not twelve hours in the day? I must work while the light lasts; the night cometh wherein no man can work: I must not postpone Monday's duties to be done in Tuesday's light. That is success, mastery; he who obeys that rule is king, no man can take his crown. That was Christ's rule, and he that obeys in one obeys in all must do it or his soul would be ill at ease till he had struck the last blow due on the day's responsibility.
II. Let us enlarge the meaning of the word 'day'. The term day is one of the most flexible terms in Holy Scripture, in poetry, and in general experience. 'In six days the Lord made heaven and earth.' I have no doubt of it; but I do not know what 'day' means. We speak of 'our day': does it mean from eight o'clock in the morning until eight o'clock in the evening? is the word 'day' there a term of clock-time, or does it relate to centuries, eras, epochs? We say, 'Our little systems have their day': does that mean a chronometer day? or a larger and variable period? Evidently it means the latter. So the text may be expanded without a change of word. 'As every day's work required' as the time needed, as the exigency demanded, as the epoch called for, as the century required.
We read of men who fell asleep after serving their generation 'and having served his generation, he fell on sleep'. And he serves the next generation best who serves the present generation well.
What is it that covers and sanctifies all days? the little day of twenty-four hours or twelve, and the great day of long centuries and piled millenniums? That permanent and all-sovereign quantity or force is Jesus Christ. It is said of Him, He is the same yesterday, today, and for ever; He describes Himself as He that is and was and is to come Alpha, new as the dawn; Omega, venerable as the sunset of millenniums, He abides in the Church, He is ever on the throne, He gives the order of the day, He has a message for every morning. If we could lay hold of that great truth we should have a united Church at once.
Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. II. p. 165.
Reference. XVI. 41. Prof. Charteris, Christian World Pulpit, 1890, p. 195.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 16". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany