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CRITICAL NOTES.] Close parallelism of this chapter and 1 Kings 8:12-50; 2 Chronicles 6:13 only important variation.
2 Chronicles 6:1 (cf. Leviticus 16:1), darkness, not cloud, but of holy of holies, into which cloud entered.
2 Chronicles 6:3-11.—Solomon’s address to people. Face, from looking towards the temple. Congregation, men, women, and children. Blessed, offered blessings probably in form of Numbers 6:23-25. 2 Chronicles 6:4. Spake (2 Samuel 7:0). 2 Chronicles 6:5. Chose until David’s time. 2 Chronicles 6:10-11. The promise is fulfilled.
2 Chronicles 6:12-42.—Solomon’s prayer. Before, eastward of it, with face towards temple, as speaking for the people. 2 Chronicles 6:13. Scaffold, brazen platform. Kneeled, in solemn posture. The prayer sublime and orderly in arrangements. 2 Chronicles 6:15. Preface; then three petitions. First, perpetuate the line of David. 2 Chronicles 6:16. Keep good the promise. Second, regard the house where name is put. Thy word (1 Chronicles 17:9-12). 2 Chronicles 6:18. A conception of God’s condescension not limited to the temple. 2 Chronicles 6:19. Prayer, next verse. 2 Chronicles 6:21. Third petition. Forgive in general, not limited sense.
We have now seven different cases in which Israel turns to the temple in prayer. 1st case. A man wronged by his neighbour (2 Chronicles 6:22-23). Oath of self-purgation usual when no witnesses. Requitting, returning equivalent. Do justice to the innocent. 2nd case. When worsted by the enemy (2 Chronicles 6:24-25). Worse in defensive war (Joshua 7:5). Defeated on account of sin. Hear when they repent. 3rd case. Suffering from drought (2 Chronicles 6:26-27). Rain, heavens like a storehouse, may be shut up (1 Kings 8:35) when good way forsaken. 4th case. Visitation by death or any other calamity (2 Chronicles 6:28-31). Seven kinds of affliction. Dearth, scarcity from other causes than rain. Pestilence, which often sweeps over Eastern lands. Blasting, various forms of danger in crops (Deuteronomy 28:22). Locusts (Deuteronomy 28:38). Enemies in gates, none therefore able to go in or come out. Plagues, sore or sickness of every kind, recognised as Divine chastisement. 5th case. The stranger coming to pray (2 Chronicles 6:32-33). As thy people (2 Chronicles 6:33). Rights and privileges of Israel thrown open to all. May know, godly fear in O. T. the foundation of piety; the temple the only place where God is worshipped. 6th case. Aggressive war undertaken by Divine permission (2 Chronicles 6:34-35). Prayer for God to maintain their cause. 7th case. If in captivity (2 Chronicles 6:36-39). If captives in war, on account of sin. Bethink, reflect, “bring back their heart” (marg.). Consider seriously exact words of Deuteronomy 30:1-3, then hear and forgive. Conclusion.—2 Chronicles 6:40-42 wanting in Kings. Arise, words spoken probably when ark was brought into Jerusalem (cf. Psalms 132:8-10). Resting-place, Holy of Holies. Turn not, i.e., reject his prayer and cause him to be ashamed. Mercies towards David (Psalms 89:2).
THE TEMPLE THE FIXED DWELLING-PLACE OF GOD.—2 Chronicles 6:1-10
To reassure priests and people, Solomon reminded them that the cloud, instead of being a sign of evil, was the fulfilment of promise. “The Lord hath said,” if not in express words yet by continual course of action, “that he would dwell, &c.” Hence a token of approval, a method of taking possession of the house, and this prayer a petition that God would for ever keep possession.
I. The temple now a fixed residence for God. “A settled place for thee.”
1. In opposition to the tabernacle. Which was temporary and provisional. A tent, a mutable and fragile dwelling; but a house of stone and cedar, durable and solid.
2. As required by the circumstances of God’s people. The dispensation made a fixed place needful. Man required locality, visible signs, and special adaptations. Now not a question of place, but of being; not in Jerusalem nor Mount Gerizim. God is spirit and worshipped not by material representation, nor ritual, but by the heart, the spirit of man. Not hands, not wood and stone, but living souls must become God’s abode.
II. The temple as a fixed residence built in fulfilment of God’s promise. “God hath fulfilled that which he spake” (2 Chronicles 6:4).
1. A promise made to David. Reference to 2 Samuel 7:11-14, where is promised that David’s dynasty should continue for ever, and David’s son should build a house. Thus the promise established the royal house by its connection with the royal seed. “I will set up thy seed after thee.”
2. A promise fulfilled in Solomon. “I am risen up in the room of my father” (2 Chronicles 6:20). Not in pride, as Ahasuerus made his feast and Nebuchadnezzar built his city; but in a spirit of gratitude Solomon built the temple and finished his father’s work. Traced the providence of God, and urged the people to praise him.
III. The design of this fixed residence to perpetuate the presence of God. The temple a permanent centre of worship to Jehovah. Neither city for worship, nor king to govern chosen before David’s time. Now God has chosen a residence and purposed to abide in it for ever. “This is the hill which God desireth to dwell in; yea, the Lord will dwell in it for ever” (Psalms 88:16). Hence God accessible, Zion secure and communion attractive and blessed. “God is known in her palaces for a refuge” (literally a high place for shelter and defence, Psalms 46:7-11; Proverbs 18:10) (Psalms 48:3).
THE PERFORMANCE OF GOD’S PROMISE.—2 Chronicles 6:4-11
God had made good one part of his promise, Solomon prays that he would perform the other. Concludes, as he began, with thankful acknowledgment of Divine goodness in performance of promise.
I. That God deals with his people in all ages by way of promise. With Adam, Abraham, and David. Throughout the O. and N. T. dispensation, with individuals and nations we have promise after promise. “Exceeding great and precious promises,” to encourage and help. Here we have—
1. Promise to build a house.
2. Promise to raise up a king.
II. That the performance of this promise is a source of joy to God’s people.
1. In revealing God to them. God never compelled to act; enters into engagements and covenants with perfect freedom; and never reluctant to bestow what is promised. Hence the goodness and grace in giving the word, and the veracity, power, and providenee in its fulfilment. God may be trusted, for “He cannot deny himself.” In this the true God stands contrasted with the “lying vanities” of heathen deities and weak, sinful man. “He is not man that he should lie, &c.”
2. In the actual bestowment of good to them. Providence on their behalf; power exercised for their deliverance, and actual fulfilment in their history and experience. The covenant kept and mercy bestowed (2 Chronicles 6:14). “There failed not aught of any good thing which the Lord had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass.”
III. That there are special seasons to testify to God’s goodness in the performance of his promise. “As it is this day” (2 Chronicles 6:15). In conversion, restoration from sickness and danger; in dedication of places of worship and in times of special favour, we may testify to God’s mercy and truth. Numerous are the occasions in which we may “abundantly utter (lit. bubble forth as from a fountain) the memory of his great goodness and sing (lit. with loud eulogies) of his righteousness” (Psalms 145:7).
INVOCATION OF DIVINE FAVOURS.—2 Chronicles 6:11-24
Solomon had dedicated the temple, now offered the consecration prayer to God. “He stretched forth his hands in the gesture of Oriental prayer, as if to receive the blessings for which he sought, and at the same time exchanged the usual standing posture of prayer for the extraordinary one of kneeling, now first mentioned in the sacred history, and only used in Eastern worship at the present day in moments of deep humiliation. The prayer itself is one of unprecedented length, and is remarkable as combining the conception of the infinity of the Divine Presence with the hope that the Divine mercies will be drawn down on the nation by the concentration of the national devotions, and even of the devotion of foreign nations, towards this fixed locality” [Stanley]. Learn—
I. That God is infinitely great. “Heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee” (2 Chronicles 6:18). To be infinite is literally to be unbounded, unlimited. This includes omnipresence and incomprehensibility. His immensity extends infinitely beyond the boundaries of space. God fills heaven, earth, and hell. No place, no temple contains him as a house is built for man. He was not confined to the Jewish people, nor “chiefly to the narrow bounds of the Jewish land,” as some think; not a mere “God of the hills,” a patrial or Gentile Deity. His settled abode is eternity, “inhabiteth eternity.” “Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord” (Jeremiah 23:24). “Where is the house that ye built unto me? and where is the place of my rest?”
II. That God is infinitely faithful. “Kept that thou promisedst” (2 Chronicles 6:15). The truth of God makes it impossible for him not to fulfil whatever he hath spoken. He is “the faithful God” (Deuteronomy 7:9). “It is impossible for God to lie.” Performance of threatening and promise not impracticable. God not liable to forget nor to change. We may be persuaded that “there shall not fail one good word of all that the Lord our God hath spoken.”
III. That God is infinitely good. This attribute may be termed the glory of God. Moses desired to see the glory of Jehovah; the answer was, “I will make all my goodness pass before thee.” In this narrative goodness is distinguished by different names, and exercised in different ways. “Goodness is the genus that comprehends mercy, grace, long-suffering, kindness, and truth in it; these are branches from that as the root” [Goodwin on Exodus 33:19].
1. In answering prayer. Heathen gods had eyes, but could see not; ears, but could hear not. God is accessible, has not hid himself from men, nor retired into the bosom of eternity. “O thou that hearest prayer,” “Hear thou in heaven thy dwelling-place.”
2. In dwelling with men. In the hearts of those who love him, and walk before him in daily life. In the temple with those who worship him in sincerity and truth. “Though the Lord be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly.” “I dwell in the high and holy place with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit.”
3. In the bestowment of mercy. “And shewest mercy” (2 Chronicles 6:14). Mercy suggests misery (Latin miseria), wretchedness. God relieves in distress, confers favours on undeserving, forbears to punish, and bestows innumerable favours. “Thou art good, and doest good.”
THE SOLEMN QUESTION.—2 Chronicles 6:18
Will God dwell with man? The question of all ages, the dream, the desire of humanity. Irrepressible anticipations in the deification of heroic men, the incarnations of Hindoo gods, and in the Messianic hope of the Jews.
I. Where the answer? Not in ancient philosophy, even with its moral teachings and intense longings. No God for the poor and illiterate, only for noble and learned if for any class. God was thought too great to regard man. Not in modern philosophy. Ungodly science substitutes some abstract principle, “Infinite Wisdom,” “the Ruling Principle of the Universe,” or talks of “law” and “omnipotent power.” God is not a living personal God, accessible to man, and willing to dwell with him.
II. What saith the Scripture? Manifestations of God in O. T. symbols in tabernacle and temple. Promises in abundance, not merely to sojourn as a stranger, to tarry for a night (Jeremiah 14:8), but to settle in fixed residence among men. “There shall be a place which the Lord God shall choose to cause his name to dwell there” (Deuteronomy 12:11). “The hill which God desireth to dwell in; yea, the Lord will dwell in it for ever” (Psalms 68:16). “I will dwell in the midst of them for ever” (Ezekiel 43:9). God with men in Christian worship; in the incarnation of Christ, “God manifest in the flesh;” in the human heart by his Holy Spirit; in heaven by special presence.
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
2 Chronicles 6:6-8. David’s intention to build the temple. I. Man’s purposes are sometimes greater than his power. Limitations of—
4. Circumstances—want of means or liberty.
6. Life. II. The importance and value of these gracious but unfulfilled intentions. Earnest purposes, sincere desires, are facts, and as facts will be recompensed.
1. They are facts to God.
2. They are facts to those who cherish them.
3. Unfulfilled intentions are not without their practical influence upon society. III. The comfort which those considerations are calculated to afford. This theme is full of comfort to—
1. The poor and uneducated.
2. The suffering.
3. Those who are called to premature death.
4. All good men in the presence of their imperfect lives [W. L. Watkinson].
2 Chronicles 6:10. In the room of my father.
1. A succession of men. Joshua after Moses; Solomon after David.
2. A succession of office. To some high responsibility—priesthood, government—by election, by hereditary descent. No mere form to fill the same place and be surrounded by the very circumstances and associations which inspired our predecessors. “He took up the mantle of Elijah.”
3. A succession of work. Work should be carried on and finished, if possible, by those called to it. Thus ideas, liberties, and institutions are handed down from generation to generation. Thus have we the true continuity of the Christian church, the true communion of saints, and the true identity of man’s life with God’s work.
2 Chronicles 6:15-16. The stability and perpetuity of the Davidic throne, the sonship of the Davidic King, and the consequent heirship of all nations (cf. 2 Samuel 7:13-14).
2 Chronicles 6:14-15. “Lord God of Israel. This was a worthy precedent for princes, who, if they would imitate Solomon in devotion, might likewise share with him in blessing. This is a long prayer and full of affection to the end. So to pray is hard and happy. It is a precedental prayer, as one calleth it. Kept with thy servant David. We may pray to good purpose though in the self-same words as before. Christ himself did so in his agony, when he prayed most earnestly. Let this comfort those who complain that they cannot vary their petitions” [Trapp]. Be verified, 2 Chronicles 6:17. He reiterateth and reinforceth his former request; this evinceth his holy importunity. This he learned of his father (cf. Proverbs 4:4) [Ibid.].
2 Chronicles 6:18. Will God, &c.? The great contrast—
1. Between the heaven of heavens and the material temple.
2. Between the infinite grandeur of God and the unworthiness of man (creature and sinful creature).
3. The deep humility which this contrast should create in our approach to God.
“The more thy glories strike mine eye
The humbler I shall lie,” &c.
2 Chronicles 6:18-21. The Sanctity of God’s House.
1. As the residence of a great God.
2. As the house of prayer.
3. As the place consecrated to worship. God’s name there. The centre and core of all fellowship,
2 Chronicles 6:12-21. Solomon’s Prayer.
1. Position from whence offered. Stood on scaffold where he could be seen and heard.
2. Solomon’s attitude. Reverent, kneeled; expectant, “spread forth his hands.” Looked up to heaven in dependence; kneeled in humility. “Kneeling never spoiled silk stockings” [Herbert].
3. Its length. Longest recorded in Scripture.
4. Its spirit. Hopeful on the ground of fulfilled promise; humble on account of unworthiness.
5. Its language. Beautiful and scriptural.
6. Its purpose. That God would fulfil the remainder of his promise. That God would regard and honour the temple, by watching over its interests, dwelling in its courts, answering prayers and pardoning sins. “Hear thou to thy dwelling-place in heaven”—a pregnant expression for, hear the prayer which ascends or is sent to thy dwelling place, to heaven. The last words, “hear and forgive,” are to be left in their generality, and not to be limited by any complement. Forgiveness of sins alone can remove the curse which transgression draws after it” [Keil].
JUSTICE EXECUTED.—2 Chronicles 6:22-23
The first specific case of petition is doubtful. A man has sustained injury and charges a suspected person, though not able to prove the fact. Petition that false oath may not be taken; but that the innocent may be discovered, and the guilty punished.
I. The injury charged. A “trespass against his neighbour.” If goods or money to be kept be lost; cattle to have died, driven away, or injured (Exodus 22:7-9); if any one over-reached another (Leviticus 4:21-25), be suspected of theft, fraud, and wilful damage, he might be sued at law to make oath of integrity.
II. The solemn appeal made. Punishment could only be made after discovery of guilty person.
1. An oath was made by accused. Witnesses could not be found. Dispute or difference to be settled by oath of accused. Hence party brought before the altar to swear in all due solemnity.
2. God appealed to. “Hear thou from heaven.” Many false oaths might be taken and guilty escape, who then could justify the innocent? God above sees all, hears all, and never errs. This appeal accords with our instinct of justice and revelations of Scripture. “The works of his hands are verity and judgment.”
NATIONAL DISASTER.—2 Chronicles 6:24-25
Worsted by enemy making inroads upon them, defeating them as predicted (Leviticus 26:3-7; Deuteronomy 28:15-25).
I. Sin is the cause of national reverses. “Because they have sinned against thee.” Forgetting, forsaking, denying God, creating displeasure by neglecting his worship and becoming idolatrous.
II. Forsaking sin may ward off national reverses. Judgments bring to penitence, and those that slight God often solicit his mercy. “In their affliction they will seek me early.”
1. With earnest prayer. “Pray and make supplication.” Afflictions remind of neglected duties, and kill corruptions bred by prosperity.
2. With humble confession. “And confess thy name.” This opposed to forgetting, extenuating, or denying sins. They must be acknowledged, not in cold, formal expression; but with deep, humble, and sincere penitence.
3. With practical amendment. “Shall turn again to thee.” There is utter renunciation, abandonment. The wicked man “forsakes his way.” Then comes mercy, restoration, and new life. “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth them and forsaketh them shall have mercy.”
PERILS TO AGRICULTURE.—2 Chronicles 6:26-31
Various plagues dangerous to growing crops. Grain blasted, cities besieged, and sickness of every kind upon transgressors themselves. Hence we have—
I. A rebuke to rationalism in natural evils. Mildew and caterpillars, with their terrible ravages, traceable by modern science to natural causes. But who originated the causes, laws, or conditions? All meteorological phenomena, all providential dispensations ascribed to God and under his control. This the only adequate and satisfactory reply to the question, “Is there not a cause?” The heavens are store-rooms to shut up or open at God’s pleasure. He commands locusts to devour, and smites the land with pestilence (2 Chronicles 7:13). In all afflictive events God speaks to cities and nations. “The Lord’s voice crieth unto the city, and the man of wisdom shall see thy name.”
II. A moral design in the infliction of natural evils. “When thou hast taught them the good way.” Sufferings to nations, as to individuals, disciplinary, sent to humble, correct, and restore to God.
1. To requite justice. Retributions inevitable; nations corrupt and idolatrous cannot escape. God will not reverse his law.
2. To lead to God. “That they may fear thee.” God must be acknowledged, to believe in whom is not superstition. The progress of art and the applications of science must not thrust him out from events. God smites to deliver, that we may pray to him, stand in awe of his justice, and adore his goodness.
III. A place for prayer in removing natural evils. This denied by many. Prayer may be necessary for man’s highest culture. “But no good can come of giving it a delusive value, by claiming for it a power in physical nature,” says Prof. Tyndall. We do not classify it with powers in physical nature. It is not a natural but a moral power, and may have influence over the will of One above nature, viz., “Nature’s God.” God’s laws do not interfere with human will and human choice. The ordination of God leaves room for prayer. Prayer may be one of the laws of the universe as certain in its sphere as the laws of heat or of gravitation in their peculiar realms. Neither history, scripture, nor experience forbid us to pray in times of national distress. “Hear thou in heaven thy dwelling-place, &c.”
“More things are wrought by prayer
Than the world dreams of” [Tennyson].
PRAYER FOR THE STRANGER.—2 Chronicles 6:32-33
Prayers in the temple to be answered in such a striking manner that unbelievers were to see proof of Jehovah’s mercy. Probably many resident foreigners amongst the Jews. The number would increase by the attractions of Solomon’s reign. This prayer indicates growing liberality to those “not of the people of Israel.”
I. The benevolence of O. T. spirit. This prayer larger and more comprehensive than that for the Israelites, a proof of benevolent and public spirit. Kindness to strangers argued—
1. From Israel’s own experience. Springing from humble origin; delivered from a strange land and great oppression, they were to love, pity, and relieve the stranger. Events in their history which might lead to feelings of rancour and revenge, such as in later periods brought upon them the stigma of being hostes humani generis, were the very ground on which the Mosaic law taught them benevolence to the wretched and defenceless of every nation. “The stranger that dwelleth with thee shall be unto thee even as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thine own self. For ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:33).
2. From the known character of Israel’s God. For special purposes in the interests of humanity the covenant God of Israel. Yet no mere local, national divinity. “The Lord your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords.” “He loveth the stranger.” Every nation teaches hospitality and kindness to strangers, not as a civil and social, but sacred duty. In a higher sense than Zeus, God is “the stranger’s God.” Homer’s touching language almost the sentiment of scripture. “Love ye therefore the stranger: for the Lord loveth the stranger.”
“Love’s special care
Are strangers poor and friendless.”
II. The catholicity of O. T. spirit. The spirit of the petition beyond Jewish exclusiveness. Often said Jewish religion taught that benevolence should be confined to the narrow circle of families, tribes, or the nation; while the Gospel expands into wider fields and sets forth a brotherhood, a “religion of humanity.” But, says one, “Little as we may have heeded the fact, yet certain it is, that expressions of the most expansive philanthropy echoed in the anthems of the Jewish temple.” In the Pentateuch and in the Psalms the feelings often overleap the ritual and challenge all nations to partake of Jewish privileges. A striking contrast to exclusiveness of after times, when Samaritans were indignantly excluded from sharing in the rebuilding of the temple (Ezekiel 4:2-3); and when Jews persecuted Paul for speaking of his mission to the strangers for whom Solomon prayed (Acts 22:22).
III. The prophetic element of O. T. spirit. Great anticipations expressed in the prayer.
1. When strangers would be led to believe in God. They would hear of the marvellous deeds of Jehovah for his people, be drawn to the temple, worship and join in the devotions of the chosen people. “When he shall come and pray toward this house.”
2. When strangers would enjoy equal rights with the Jews. In religious matters, when all surrounding nations were exclusive, Israel were commanded to admit strangers to equal privileges, in the offerings of the tabernacle (Numbers 15:14-16); and at the solemn reading of the law once in seven years (Deuteronomy 31:12). In the spirit of this law Solomon anticipates, if not predicts, the time when from the remotest nations strangers shall come to pray and hope for acceptance before God on equal conditions with His people, without becoming citizens of the Jewish state, without submission to civil law or Mosaic ritual. “And fear thee, as doth thy people Israel.” “O thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
2 Chronicles 6:26. Heaven shut up.
1. All things controlled by God. Atheism, Pantheism, and Materialism, all philosophy which sees nothing but law, nothing distinct from and above matter, reproved.
2. All things controlled by God in the interests of men. “All things work together,” work in harmony, and subserve the ends for which they were made for the good of his people.
3. These interests are secured by prayer and submission to God. Not by science, education, or human industry without God. A regular system of agency connects results with the sovereign will of God. An unbroken link between the natural and moral world, between the conduct of men and the conditions of nature. The principle of mediation seen in all departments of God’s government. “I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth; and the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil, and they shall hear Jezreel.”
2 Chronicles 6:26; 2 Chronicles 27:1. The path forsaken. “The good way.” Good in itself, end, and consequences to travellers.
2. The method of return to it. Discovery of wandering, confession of sin, and return to God. “Confess thy name, and turn from sin.”
3. The cause of this return. “When thou dost afflict them.” Some like metals, which nothing but fierce fire can purify (Malachi 3:2-3). Severe corrections reclaim. Manasseh (2 Chronicles 33:12-13), Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:34-37). “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now have I kept thy word.” “The order of Solomon’s prayer is very observable here. First and chiefly, he prays for their repentance and forgiveness, which is the chief blessing and the only foundation of all other mercies, and then he prays for temporal mercies, thereby teaching us what to desire principally in our prayers, which also Christ hath taught us in his perfect prayer, wherein there is but one petition for outward, and all the rest are for spiritual blessings” [Benson].
2 Chronicles 6:29-31. Heart Disease. Special instances not given. Grievances innumerable. “Every man the plague of his own heart” (1 Kings 8:38).
1. The diagnosis of the disease. The heart the seat of sin; fountain from which issue sinful thoughts, words, and actions; “deceitful above all things,” restless and dissatisfied. “Who can know it?” Many acknowledge it; few really feel, discover, and confess it.
2. The cure of the disease by the great Physician. Incurable by man. “Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased?” When we enter the sanctuary, lament and seek deliverance, the sore will be healed. Bodily sufferings may be endured, but remorse of conscience, convictions of sin, wound of spirit, God alone can remove. “The spirit of man will sustain his infirmity, but a wounded spirit who can bear?”
1. God’s omniscience discerns. “Thou only knowest the hearts of the children of men.”
2. God’s justice rectifies. “Render unto every man according to his ways.”
3. God’s mercy encourages. “Hear thou and forgive.”
2 Chronicles 6:32-33. The stranger.
1. The attractive force of God’s house. Not beauty of architecture or furniture, not members nor ritual, but God’s presence revealed to devout worshippers.
2. The wonderful provision made for those who come. Prayer and praise, the reading and exposition of Scripture. Every ordinance helpful and needful. “I will abundantly (surely) bless her provision, and satisfy her poor with bread” (Psalms 132:15).
3. The missionary spirit in which we should return. What we hear of God should be told to others. His mighty deeds should be proclaimed to all nations. “That all people of the earth may know thy name and fear thee.”
DIVINE COMMISSION IN WAR.—2 Chronicles 6:34-39
Israel not permitted to war for self-gratification, unlawful or ambitious ends; only in just cause, and by divine warrant. “Thou shalt send them.”
I. Israel engaged in wars for God may be delivered into the power of the enemy. Commission alone would not preserve from sin, might lead to pride and self-reliance. Then foreign armies would enter the land, take them captives, and lead them into countries far away. God may send us, but through apostasy may withdraw and leave us to war alone.
II. Earnest prayer would restore them to liberty. Captivity would lead to reflection, repentance, and prayer.
1. Prayer offered in great distress. “Carried captives,” “in the land of their enemies,” &c. “Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses.”
2. Prayer offered in deep reflection. “Bethink themselves.” Consider their ways, and reflect on the cause of their distress. Men thoughtless, and receive no correction from affliction. “In the day of adversity consider.”
3. Prayer offered with humble confession. “We have sinned, we have done amiss.” Confession should be full and free. Forgiveness only promised upon confession. “I said I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord, and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.”
4. Prayer offered with earnest spirit. “With all their heart and all their soul.” With understanding, affections, and will; without delay, with zealous and undivided hearts. “With my whole heart have I sought thee.”
5. Prayer offered in given direction. “Toward the city chosen, and toward the house.” Thus originated the favourite custom of ancient and modern Jews of turning towards Jerusalem in devotions. Prayer should ever be upwards, direct to the presence of God. Not to man, not without aim, but straight as an arrow to its centre. Not at random, but with orderly words and definite purpose. “In the morning will I direct (set in order as wood upon the altar, and shew-bread upon the table) my prayer unto thee, and will look up” (Psalms 5:3). Only by this kind of prayer could they be delivered. Continuance in sin would increase their misery, prolong their captivity, and add to their griefs. By repenting and turning to God, restoration and peace would follow. “I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the Lord; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.”
THE ARK AND THE RESTING-PLACE.—2 Chronicles 6:40-42
These words not found in Kings. There seems to be a return to the third great petition in expressions borrowed from the Psalms, and from the ancient song in the Wilderness (cf. Numbers 10:35).
I. The ark the symbol of divine strength. The sign and pledge of power exerted on behalf of his people; the symbol of his glory (cf. Psalms 78:61); for when the ark was taken “the glory” was departed. God’s presence to awe, help, and overcome. “For the ark was not a dead ghost, but really showed that God was nigh to his church” [Calvin]. God present now in his word—“the rod of his strength” out of Zion, the centre of government from whence the word to overcome ignorance, prejudice, and opposition; to subdue rebels and win to Christ.
II. An earnest prayer to locate this divine strength. “Arise, O Lord, into thy rest.” God desires an abode, a resting-place with men; should not be absent, nor driven away. Power everywhere displayed; but power of divine truth concentrated in God’s house and in spiritual worship. Here should be “the resting-place,” the fixed, permanent habitation of God. In the Christian Church and in human hearts the power of God should be felt and displayed. For this we should pray. Without God the ark even of no avail. “Thou and the ark.”
III. When this divine strength is exhibited in localities great blessings result. Miraculous deeds and brilliant victories distinguished the Jews when God was with them; so now revivals and abundant signs of divine presence. “The name of the city from that day shall be, the Lord is there.”
1. In the full equipment of ministers. “Priests,” all officials “clothed with salvation.” Not merely adorned with outward garments of sacerdotal beauty, but with spiritual gifts, righteous character and life, acceptable in persons and services before God and the people.
2. In the exultant joy of saints. “Let thy saints rejoice in goodness.” Joy pure and holy, springing from God’s presence and successful work. Not that trivial, fleeting, superficial thing which often bears the name; runs out in noise like the crackling of thorns. But serious, solid feeling which fills the soul as God fills the universe; satisfactory, inspiriting, and exultant. “And her saints shall shout aloud for joy.”
THE MERCIES OF DAVID.—2 Chronicles 6:42
I. Remembrance most sacred. “Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David” (Psalms 89:35). God is holy, infinitely above falsehood and deceit. To break his promise would profane his essential attribute. “He demands, on the part of his people, truth and fidelity towards himself, only on the ground of his own truth and fidelity towards them” [Hengstenberg].
II. Remembrance most unalterable. The unfaithfulness of man cannot alter the faithfulness of God. “My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.” “The sure mercies of David.”
III. Remembrance most powerful. For David’s sake God raised up Solomon and spared then kings of Judah. For the sake of David’s greater Son and seed he will bless the world. Blessings shall abound on earth, the influence of his covenant shall last to the end of time. “His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
2 Chronicles 6:36-39. Sin.
1. A description of human nature. “No man which sinneth not.”
2. A moral difficulty between God and man. “Thou be angry with them.”
3. A cause of great trouble in man’s experience.
4. A bitter experience in man’s history. Sin in the universality of its existence, in the moral consciousness of men, in its prejudicial influence to human interests. Pray toward the land.
1. Conditions of its enjoyment.
2. Cause of its loss.
3. Method of its restoration. Hear and forgive.
1. Forgiveness the great need of man. No happiness and rest, no heaven and fellowship with God without.
2. Forgiveness the prerogative of God alone. Nature, conscience, and law know nothing of forgiveness.
3. Forgiveness bestowed through prayer and confession of sin. This answers God’s character and man’s need, upholds moral order, and argues infinite risk in refusing to seek it in Christ. “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.”
2 Chronicles 6:39. Maintain their cause. The rights, interests, and cause of God’s people at stake. Require defending, clearing up, and preserving.
2. This only done by God’s help. Human swords and hands grow weak and get broken. Standard-bearers faint and die. Impossible for holiest and mightiest to equal God’s “mighty hand and stretched out arm.” “With me,” said Luther, “moral effort is an alternation of rising and sinking, of advancing and retreating.”
3. This help must be enlisted by prayer. “Hear and maintain.” Prayer and contest combined. The bravest commanders men of prayer. Prayer a means of divine fellowship and training, imparts strength, courage, and victory in conflict.
“In all thou dost, first let thy prayers ascend,
And to the gods thy labours first commend;
From them implore success, and hope a prosperous end” [W. Fleming].
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 6
2 Chronicles 6:7-8. Wishing and willing. To wish and to will are very different things. There are a thousand men who wish, where there is one man that wills. Wishing is but a faint state of desire. Willing is a state of the reason, and of the affections, and of the will in activity, to secure what one desires. A man may wish and yet reject all the steps and instruments by which that wish can be carried into effect. No man wills until he has not only made up his mind to have the end, but to have all the steps intermediately by which that end is to be secured [Beecher].
2 Chronicles 6:19-20. The greatness of God. Will he indeed, whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain, take up his abode with men? What heart among us but glows with gratitude and love at these joyful tidings! Let us, at the head of our several families in a transport of devout affection, welcome this kind and generous Guest into our houses. Let us give him the entertainment he demands, even that of a cordial love and obedience. Let us present him the sacrifices he requires, even those of daily prayer and praise. And let us tremble at the thought of so demeaning ourselves in the habitations he has thus honoured, as ever to provoke him to depart thence [S. Stennett].
Solomon’s Prayer. He prayed for wisdom at the outset, and he has verified the answer to prayer by the wonderful structure he put up. But the blessing did not end in architectural skill; that great proof of the blessing given to Solomon is to be found in the prayer which he prayed at the dedication of the temple. No man could have prayed that prayer without help. This we should have said about it in all honesty if we had found it in Sanscrit; if we had exhumed it out of Indian libraries, it would have been due to the author to have said, “You never dreamed that dream; it was a vision of God.” Read the prayer from beginning to end, and say if this be not so. How majestic in conception! how beauteously eloquent in expression! how wise, how tender, how patriotic, how philanthropic! How it grows and swells, and abounds in all elements of spiritual sympathy! Probably there is no such prayer in all literary records. If ever that prayer be excelled it will be by the Son of God alone, and his excelling of it will be by contrast rather than by comparison [Dr. Parker].
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 6". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20