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GOD’S RELATION TO HIS PEOPLE
1 Chronicles 17:24. The Lord of hosts is the God of Israel, even a God to Israel.
A SENSE of God’s kindness to us will invariably inspire us with a zeal for his glory. The more deeply we feel our obligations to him, the more ready we shall be to speak good of his name, and the more desirous that he should be honoured by every child of man. It was David’s happy lot to be eminently favoured of his God. He had been taken from the sheep-folds, to feed God’s people Israel; and he had received a promise from God, that the kingdom should be perpetuated in his family to very distant generations. Overcome, as it were, with the contemplation of these stupendous mercies, he adores his God with the profoundest gratitude: “O Lord, there is none like thee, neither is there any God besides thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears [Note: ver. 16–20.].” Then, looking for the establishment of God’s blessed word in relation to himself and his descendants, he prays that God himself may be glorified by means of it: “Let it even be established, that thy name may be magnified for ever, saying, The Lord of hosts is the God of Israel, even a God to Israel;” that is, “I have found thee a God to me: and I desire that thou mayest be known to Israel, and acknowledged by Israel, under that endearing character, to the latest generations.”
Let us, for the illustrating of these words, consider,
The relation which God bears to his people—
He is here called “The God of Israel.” But there seems, at first sight, to be nothing very peculiar in that, since he is “the God of the whole earth [Note: Isaiah 54:5.],” yea, and of all his creatures, whether in heaven or hell; all being alike subject to him, and all equally under his control. The title here given to him must evidently import something of a more restricted nature, something that more immediately connects him with Israel as his peculiar charge. Its real signification is,
That he has chosen them out from amongst the world, which lieth in wickedness—
[This he did, when he called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees. Abraham was an idolater, in the midst of an idolatrous family and nation. And God, of his own sovereign will and pleasure, chose him, and called him out from his family and nation, and “separated him for himself [Note: Psalms 4:3.].” And it is precisely thus that he calls all his people, whether those who were Abraham’s lineal descendants, or those who are heirs of Abraham’s faith. What was said to Israel in the wilderness, may be said to God’s Israel to the very end of time: “Thou art a holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth [Note: Deuteronomy 7:6.].” Nor, in one instance more than another, can any reason for this choice be assigned, but simply God’s sovereign will and pleasure [Note: Deuteronomy 7:7-5.7.8.]. In every instance, he is found of them that sought him not, and made known to them that inquired not after him [Note: Romans 10:20.].”]
That he has given himself to them in a peculiar way—
[He gave himself to Abraham and the nation of Israel, as their God, in a more especial manner; so that he watched over them, and revealed himself to them, and exerted himself for them in a way that he never had done for any other people. The same he does for his chosen people at this time, only in a less visible manner. He takes them under his special protection: he orders every thing for them: and he makes himself known to them, as their Father and their Friend.]
That he avows that relation to them before the whole universe—
[This he did to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, calling himself their God: and when he would afterwards make himself known to their posterity in Egypt, he particularly commanded Moses to say to them, “The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, hath sent me unto you. This is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations [Note: Exodus 3:15.].” And though the names of his people be not, nor can be, severally mentioned, he is as much their God, as ever he was Abraham’s God. Wherever there are any persons who have been called out from the world to “seek after a better country, that is, an heavenly, he is not ashamed to be called their God [Note: Hebrews 11:16.].”]
But let us inquire more distinctly,
What, under that relation, we may expect at his hands—
“The God of Israel, is a God to Israel:” and whatever a God can do, that he will do for them. Hence, then, they may assuredly expect from him,
The care of his providence—
[See what he did for Israel of old. They needed a deliverer from their bondage: and he delivered them with a mighty hand, and a stretched-out arm. They needed guidance through the wilderness: and he himself went before them in the pillar and the cloud. They needed food: and he gave them bread from heaven to eat, and water from the stony rock for their refreshment. And will he not provide for us also whatsoever we stand in need of? “Is his ear heavy, that it cannot hear? or is his hand now shortened, that it cannot save?” No: he is the same gracious God as ever, and has pledged himself, that “they who seek his face, shall want no manner of thing that is good [Note: Psalms 34:10.].”]
The communications of his grace—
[Without these, it were to little purpose that he were called our God: for it would be impossible for us ever to behold his face in peace. “Without him we can do nothing.” We should still continue slaves to sin and Satan; and perish for ever amongst the enemies of God. But we need not fear. “He will give us both grace and glory [Note: Psalms 84:11.].” As our necessities increase, “he will give us more grace [Note: James 4:6.]:” and however great our trials may be, he engages that “his grace shall be sufficient for us [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:9.].” Yea, so effectual shall be his communications, that, “through him strengthening us, we shall be able to do all things [Note: Philippians 4:13.].”]
The manifestations of his love—
[Who that would approve himself as a father, would withhold from his child the tokens of his love? And will God, when he promises to be “a God unto us,” be so unmindful of us, as never to lift up the light of his countenance upon us? No: He will give us “a Spirit of adoption, whereby we may cry, Abba, Father [Note: Romans 8:15.].” He will give us also “the witness of the Spirit, as the earnest of our future inheritance [Note: Romans 8:16.].” And to such a degree will he “shed abroad his love in our hearts [Note: Romans 8:5.],” as to fill us with “a joy that is unspeakable and glorified [Note: 1 Peter 1:8.].”]
The possession of his glory—
[This is particularly declared by our Lord himself, as inseparably connected with the relation we are now considering. When a doubt was entertained, whether there was ever to be a resurrection of the body, our Lord referred to the very name of God, as “the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob,” as a demonstration of the point in question. For, if he was their God, he was the God of their whole persons, of their bodies as well as of their souls: and if their bodies should not be raised again, he would cease to be their God, as far as their bodies were concerned. But that relation should never cease: and, consequently, their bodies must be raised from the dead, in order that they might participate in the promised bliss [Note: Matthew 22:31-40.22.32.]. No doubt, therefore, he will exalt to glory all his chosen people: for can he be a God to any in hell? There he will be only an avenging Judge. It is in heaven alone that he can execute all that that relation imports: we maybe sure, therefore, that, as he is the God of his people, so “he will be their portion, and the lot of their inheritance” for evermore.]
Whilst, however, we contemplate our privileges in consequence of God’s relation to us, we must bear in mind,
What, under that relation, he is entitled to expect from us
Beyond a doubt, if he considers himself as bound to us, we also are bound to him: and if he is our God, we must be his people. The one is comprehended in the other: and, wherever one is mentioned, the other, if not absolutely mentioned, is always implied. Just before the text it is said, “Thy people Israel didst thou make thine own people for ever; and thou, Lord, becamest their God [Note: ver. 22.].” In the Epistle to the Hebrews, not only is the mutual relation specified, but it is stated precisely in our text; “I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people [Note: Hebrews 8:10.].” This, then, may God expect from us:
That we “be a people to him”—
[We are not to be satisfied with calling ourselves his: we must be really his. A servant considers himself, his time, his talents, his all, as at the disposal of his master: and from day to day he inquires how they can be improved for him. He never, for a moment, considers it sufficient to compliment his master with the name of master: but he waits upon him to receive his orders; and he departs from him only to execute them. Thus, then, we must “be a people to” the Lord. We must inquire what we can do for him. We must diligently learn what is the duty which he has appointed us to perform; and we must strenuously set ourselves to the performance of it — — —]
That we give ourselves to him, as he has given himself to us—
[We must do it freely, and cheerfully. There was no constraint on God’s part in giving himself to us: he did it of his own mind and will. Thus must we surrender up ourselves to him. We must not wait till we are beset with the terrors of hell, and then give ourselves to him by compulsion. We should rather, from a view of his excellency, and from a sense of the unspeakable privilege of serving him, desire to be numbered amongst his favoured people [Note: Isaiah 64:9.]. We must do it also wholly and unreservedly. Jehovah is not our God in part; doing some things for us, and not others: there is nothing that he has not done; for he has given his only dear Son to die for us: nor is there any thing he will not do; for “having given up his own Son for us, we may be assured he will much more do for us every thing else that we can need [Note: Romans 8:32.].” On no consideration, therefore, should we withhold any thing from him. “Our whole body, soul, and spirit, should be sanctified to him [Note: 1 Thessalonians 5:23.].” Nothing should be accounted too much to do or suffer for him: if the sacrifice even of life itself should be called for, it should be freely made; and we should rejoice that we are counted worthy to render him so honourable a service. We must also do it unchangeably and for ever. God never repents of what he has done for us [Note: Romans 11:29.]: he tells us that he will not forsake his people, “because it hath pleased him to make us his people [Note: 1 Samuel 12:22.];” but that, “having loved us, he will love us to the end [Note: John 13:1.].” And so should it be with us: “after having once put our hands to the plough, we should never look back again [Note: Luke 9:62.].” We should “never faint or be weary in well-doing [Note: Galatians 6:9.].” We should give our ear to be bored in his service; and never relinquish it, till we are called to serve him in a better world [Note: Exodus 21:6.].
This, I say, is what God may justly expect from us: and I conceive there is not a person upon earth so stupid and brutish, as not to see and acknowledge that it is “a reasonable service [Note: Romans 12:1.].” If our expectations from God are greater than those of others, our services also should be greater. The services of others are no rule for us. The question that will be put to us will be, “What did ye more than others?”]
Let me, then, conclude with two proposals:
That we, at this very hour, accept Jehovah as our God—
[He offers himself to us under this endearing character. He calls on every child of man to “lay hold on his covenant;” and in that very covenant he makes over himself to us as our God [Note: Jeremiah 11:2-24.11.4.]. Let us from this moment renounce all other gods, and say, “Thou, O God, shall be my God for ever and ever [Note: Psalms 48:14.].” In accepting him, however, let us accept him for all the ends for which he gives himself to us. It is not to save us only that he gives himself to us, but to “be a God unto us;” to be the one source of all our joy; the one object of all our love; the one end of our very being. Let us then, open our hearts to receive him under this character. If there be any other that is more worthy of this place in our regards, or that can better fulfil the office committed to him, then will I consent that you shall take him for your God in preference to Jehovah: but if Jehovah alone can answer all the necessities of your souls, then, I say, accept him now as your God, and avouch him to be so in the presence of the whole universe [Note: Deuteronomy 26:17-5.26.18.].]
That we now consecrate ourselves to him as his people—
[This, as you have seen, must accompany the former: nor is there any man so blind, as not to see that the two are, and must be, inseparably connected. Let us, then, at this hour, “join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant, that shall not be forgotten [Note: Jeremiah 50:5.].” Unite with me now, my Brethren, in a solemn surrender of ourselves to God.
O Lord, our God, thine we are by every tie. To thee we owe our very being, for thou hast created us To thee we owe our well-being, for thou hast upheld us every moment, and supplied us with all things needful for us. Above all, to thee we owe our hopes of happiness in a better world; for thou hast redeemed us by the blood of thine only dear Son. “We are not our own; we are bought with a price: and are therefore bound in every view to glorify thee with our bodies and our spirits, which are thine [Note: 1 Corinthians 6:19-46.6.20.].” We acknowledge with shame that “other lords besides thee have had dominion over us: but by thee will we henceforth make mention of thy name, even of thine only [Note: Isaiah 26:13.].” Behold, O Lord, we now dedicate to thee all that we are, and all that we have. We know it to be our duty: we believe it to be our privilege: we are assured that it is our highest honour and happiness. Make us sincere in this, we pray thee: and “keep it for ever in the imagination of the thoughts of our hearts [Note: 1 Chronicles 29:18.]!” Oh, let us never go back from thee, nor ever alienate from thee any portion of those regards which are due to thee alone. Let the measure of our expectations from thee be the measure of our dedication to thee: and, as we hope that thou wilt be fully and for ever ours, so enable us to be fully and for ever thine!
Beloved Brethren, do you truly add to this your hearty “Amen [Note: At the Lord’s table, we all do what is here done. “Here we offer and present unto thee, O Lord, ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and lively sacrifice unto thee.”]?” The Lord grant you may! and may what we have now done be accepted of our God, and be for ever ratified in heaven! Amen, and Amen!]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 17". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany