2 Chronicles 2:1-16
And Solomon determined to build an house for the name of the Lord.
Solomon’s predestined work
Solomon was born to do this work. There is no need for the rose to say, “Now I am going to be beautiful and fragrant.” There is no need for the nightingale to say, “Now I have fully made up my mind to be musical and tuneful, and to fill the air with richest expressions and melody.” The flower was born to bloom, and to throw all its fragrance away in generous donation; the nightingale was made in every bone and feather of it for the sacred singing throat to sing to astonish the world with music. Solomon came into this work naturally, as it were by birth and education. (J. Parker, D.D.)
2 Chronicles 2:5-6
And this house which I build is great: for great is our God above all gods.
The house of God
1.The worship of God, the creator and governor of the world, commenced with the creation of man; but in the patriarchal ages it partook not of that formal and settled character which it afterwards, by God’s direction, assumed. Nor, as far as we can learn from ancient history, does it appear that there were ever any regular buildings erected as temples before the Jewish tabernacle was set up. Noah, and the other patriarchs, appear simply to have erected altars for their sacrifices, and these often only for immediate and temporary use; or to have planted groves, as Abraham did in Beersheba, “and called there on the name of the Lord, the everlasting God.” But when God had chosen a people to be called by His name, and had given them His law, and taught them to offer Him regular stated services, He further commanded that there should be a particular building set apart for the same. Now, the objects of all such buildings are twofold. They are to be built to the honour of Him who is to be worshipped therein, and they are to be used by those who are to meet there for the purpose of joining in that worship.
2. And this feeling which led Solomon to build “a great house because God was great above all gods” has had its proper influence in all ages and countries, and is based upon true and proper principles of religion, as well under the dispensation of the gospel as under that of law. History, no doubt, tells us that in the days of persecution the faithful were wont to meet for Divine worship amidst the tombs and burial.places of the dead, or in the secret eaves of the earth. But, when persecutions cease, and days of prosperity come round, when, as David says, they themselves begin to “dwell in houses of cedar,” then surely it is “no longer meet that the ark of the covenant of the Lord should remain under curtains.” When mansions of costly price, and embellished within and without with all the skill of experienced artists, grow up on every side--when the halls of justice, the palatial buildings of the money-changers, the marketplaces, and public works which denote and advance the worldly greatness and prosperity of our citizens, are multiplying around us, then too, surely, it is meet that the house which we build for the service of God should be great and, as nearly as we can make it, the chief glory of all; reminding us, by its beauty and magnificence, of the greatness of our God, who is above all gods.
3. It has been too much the custom, in the age in which we live, to endeavour in every way to serve God at as cheap a rate as possible, at the same time that men serve themselves willingly at the costliest sacrifice. While in your private lives luxury has been increasing, any expenditure in connection with the building of a church or the service of God is too often denounced, very much in the spirit of Judas, as a waste of that which might have been turned to better account in some other way. Now, for myself, I wish loudly to protest against such a system.
4. What use are we going to make of the house of God, now that we have built it? “If there is one thing more than another for which we have a perfect loathing,” says an able lay member of the Church, “it is that most disgusting of all unrealities which attempts to make things external and earthly the substitute for what is internal and heavenly--which considers fine churches and complex services a sufficient compensation for general laxity of morals--the formalism of lip-worship an atonement for deadness of hearts and unrestrained luxurious living.” All the outward acts of s religious life may be performed, where there is an established character, and yet every one of them be an offence to God. They hear sermons, join in a litany, join in Divine worship, come to the communion once a month--all like a decent garment: things outside, nothing within. God forbid that such should be our case: that we should allow any self-complacency on account of this house which God has permitted us to build for Him, or any admiration of the services to be offered therein, to blind us to the depths of our sad spiritual necessities, or make us indifferent about these necessities being supplied. And when we draw nigh to offer our own sacrifices, let us ever bear fresh in our stricken hearts the recollection of that One Great Sacrifice once offered up as a peace-offering for us all, and which alone gives any of us sinners the right of access to the throne of grace. (Bp. Fulford.)
A great house
“The house is great, for great is our God”--that is the reason. That is the key of all Christian life. Our conception of God controls everything. A little God means a little life, a little morality, a little service, a little petty, miserable effort altogether; but a great conception of God is a great life--great loving, great service for others. I do not fear about God in the Church. God is great. We have dismissed Him from our thought. We are agnostics without the courage of our convictions. We say “God”; but do we mean it in all its light and music and beauty and moral necessity? Is not the Word of God a mere convenience in speech? We must put it in. Is it the ruling thought, the dominating idea, the sovereign force? Christ never ignored God. Christ lifted up the Father, the God, the Sovereign, When you get a real conception of God you will preach well. There will be no fear of man before you. Do not sit back and say, “We cannot know Him.” That is intellectually true; it is sympathetically false--we cannot know God intellectually. No man’s eyes can accommodate the whole sky, but we know God lovingly, pityingly, healingly, forgivingly; we know Him intuitively. The sun rules all things. Haste thou, take heed of that, O man! It is the sun that tells them what coat to put on; the sun tells them what to eat; the sun cures and smites, and rebukes thy poor botanies and minor sciences, showing them that the Kew Gardens of one nation are the weeds of another. The sun tells you when to go out and when to hasten home again. And as that teaches you, so the great Teacher of the mind, the Spirit of God, will teach them, control them, guide them! We “live and move and have our being” in God. The house is great, for great is our conception of God. God is greater than our conception--we struggle towards Him, and our struggle is victory. A great God means a great morality: Shall I tell you of the knaves that are trying to carve morality for the people? They have schedules and stipulations and social arrangements and indications and manifold endeavour and effort after something that is to be millennial and glorious. If that is morality, we can make it, shape it, manufacture it, sell it, appreciate it, prize it, barter it, nail it to the wall like a wooden idol. Talk they of morals? Oh, Thou bleeding Lamb, true morality is love of Thee! If that were morality which I have just described in my own words, it would be worthy of its own little etymology--an attitude, a manner, a posture, a trick. Away! It is a soul, an inspiration, a flame, an incarnate holiness. “Mr. So-and-so is a good man, though he is not a Christian.” No! he is not a good man. “My neighbour is an excellent man, though he does not believe anything about God.” No! he is not an excellent man. There thou art in the little etymological morality, the manner, the attitude, the posture. All thou seest is silver, but the base metal is inside. To be silver-covered is not to be silver. He only is good who is the temple of God by consent, by honour, by daily worship, by continued trust in His name and service in His kingdom. A great God means a great service--not a little service written out on the paper as to what shall come first, and next, and last, but an enthusiasm that dares the sea, the wilderness, and the place of danger, the cannibal, the savage, the devil “Why, missionary, dost thou so go forth? Remain at home.” “I cannot.” “Why not?” “God is great; my service for Him must be great also.” Your house exists for one thing--you must find out what that one thing is. You shut the window for some one, you keep up the house for some one. It is always an impulse. We must find the motive and governing thought. Only let that be worthy, and all the rest will come. “Oh, my Father, the message preached was poor and feeble, but Thy broken-down old servant could not do better.” He says, “That was the best discourse thou didst ever deliver; it shall be made mightier than the others on which thou hast lavished thy poor vanity. It was the best thou couldst do, and weakness may be strength, poverty may be wealth.” Oh, to do the best you can! that is to do a great thing in the esteem of God. And that mumbling, stumbling prayer of thine at the family altar--only God knows what that prayer cost. Can you tell me the meaning of the word “great”? I will ask my young friends to tell me what great means, and to illustrate it in some general way. I hear the answer already--the mountains are great, the sky is great, the sun is great! There is the great mountain, and here at its base is a little child picking spring’s first daisy. Which is great? The child! And a man standing on the great mountain says, “That is greatness. What am I, a poor little creature compared with that great rock?” Why, that great rock is insignificant, and thou art majestic. Thou canst tunnel it, bore it, climb it--that is greatness, not magnitude. Get the right definition of greatness, and all your troubles will subside and all your love will fall into its right prospective, and you shall say the Lord reigneth. Now I will tell you where greatness is to be found. It is to be found in compassion. You said great mountain; I say great pity--“And his father saw him whilst he was yet a great way off, and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.” All the consolidated planets never totalled up to that greatness. And thou canst be great in that way. I will tell you what is great--great patience, patience that sits up all night and says, “He will be here in the morning; he has been mistaken as to distance, but he will be here in the morning”--a patience that looks at the midnight clock as if by chance, as if it did not mean to look, but simply got its tearful eye on that significant dial. Patience says, “The child will do well by and by. He is poor at his learning now, but he is going to be a good scholar in a year or two.” Ay, that is greatness; not the rocky mountains of the Alpine heights--not these, but heights of patience, depths of love, rivers of tears. “The house is great, for great is our God.” This house will be famous for the deliverance of great messages. This house has no small message to deliver. The messages delivered here will deal with great subjects, with God, and blood, and sin, and pardon, and holiness, and destiny--themes that cannot be discussed anywhere else. They would be out of place in the Lyceum, in the political hall, in the House of Parliament. I speak of this house not in its locality, but in its typical relations. This house must be unique in its messages. Men must hasten to God’s house to hear God’s Word which they can hear nowhere else in the same sense, degree, and quality. My brother ministers, you are not hardly driven for subjects; the Cross still stands. You need not look up a paper to see what is the question of the day. The question of the day is, “How can a man be forgiven, how can a broken heart be healed, how can the lost be brought home?”--that is the question of the day. This house will be great in its welcomes. There will be as it were a genius, a spirit at all the doors, saying, “Come and welcome; O every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters.” Great welcomes will make the house warm--people love welcomes. Speak God’s welcomes to human hearts, and men will bless thee and mothers say there never was such a man. And this house will be known as great for its great remedies--the house of God treats nothing superficially. There be those in the world who cry “Peace, peace!” where there is no peace. There be those who say, “There, that will do,” when they have not touched the heart-sore, the devil-spot. The remedy declared here will be the old, old remedy of blood. And this house, though great, is not final. Nature hates all buildings. Nature hates everything that does not grow. We know Mother Nature is very gentle to a nettle, and gives a nettle room and says, “Let this nettle grow”; but Nature has already begun to take off your roof. Long before you have paid half of your £9,000 you will have a bill sent in for repairs. Nature will not let the place alone--she will take it down. Build thou in God, build thou the temple-life. Every man is the living temple of God that cannot be taken down--that is a house not made with hands. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Sermons in stones
So far as we are able to discover from archaeological research and the details in Scripture, it seems beyond controversy that the temple of Solomon was the most splendid and magnificent building the world has ever seen. There have been larger buildings, but no building represented in itself so much splendour. The gold and silver and precious stones, besides the marble and timber and workmanship, amounted to about £100,000,000 sterling, equal to the annual revenue of this kingdom. And so far as we know, with all this luxurious outlay, there was no one in the congregation of Jerusalem who raised the Judas cry: “To what purpose is this waste?” Solomon said, “The house which I build is great,” and he gave as a reason, “because great is our God above all gods.” What did this temple mean to Solomon?
I. The temple was great to Solomon because it stood for the visible sign of God’s presence among the people. God had forbidden the children of Israel to make any image representing Himself. Yet there is an underlying spirit of worship that is inherent in all of us, a longing for some objective thing upon which we can cast our eye. Out of that desire, which seems to be a very part of our nature, and not a result of superstition, has grown, by the misdirection of it, all idolatry. God manifested Himself early in the garden of Eden with a flame of fire. When He spake with Moses He appeared in a burning bush. It was an objective sign of His presence. Consider how natural it is to build such signs as these in the land. We have on the Embankment a great Parliament House, a magnificent building, one of the finest in the world. That Parliament House is the visible sign of the sovereignty of the people. In the same way Buckingham Palace stands as the visible sign of royalty. The Courts of Justice in the Strand are a visible sign of the rights of man and the defence of man in his rights. So we might go all through the land and note that the great manor houses and castles are the embodiment of that subtle thing which we call nobility. Everything in this world has its concrete sign. We look upon the things that are seen, not as being the actual thing, but as the sign of the thing.
II. When Solomon said, “The house I build is great,” the inadequacy of his ability to express his idea was also present with him. How shall I build a house great enough for the great God? The only justification of the Infinite falling short of any house is that it shall be a place where we shall come into His presence and offer sacrifices to His great name. That purpose sanctifies the inadequate efforts we make to embody our ideal. God does not receive thanks from us because they are worthy of acceptance, but because they are responses to His grace. Little things become big, and sometimes great things become very small, just as their attitude is towards God. Bethlehem, for instance, was the least of all the cities, and yet it became great because it was sanctified and glorified by the birth of the Son of God. It was not the town, but what was associated with it. Nazareth was a despised, contemptible, mean little village; so contemptible that it came to be a byword, and yet Nazareth is one of the famous towns in the history of the world, and always will be. The things we offer to God are great, not because of the money they cost, not by the splendour of them that may meet the eye, but because they are given to God. God makes them great.
III. The temple was great because of what it symbolised. It was the great type of the Incarnation. There is instinctively in man a spirit which craves for an objective representation of God. But for us Christ is the real Incarnation. Our churches stand as an embodiment of our thankful recognition of promises fulfilled. We meet for instruction, for prayer, for praise, for fellowship and goodwill, and to give forth our witness to God. It would be an irreparable loss to us if Westminster Abbey were rased to the ground; and so with all the old cathedrals of England. They are an embodiment of doctrine in a sense. A true cathedral is laid out on the plan of the Cross, the nave and the transepts making a cross. The spire tells of the aspirations of worship, and if we come into the choir we have an expression of praise. The old mediaeval idea was to work out in stone and in building the foundations of our faith. I would fill the land with buildings that should be in the highest sense great buildings, expressing the great inheritance which has come to us from God by Jesus Christ. (G. F. Pentecost, D.D.)
Solomon’s conception of God
By the sentence, the heaven and heaven of heavens, that is the heaven in its most extended compass, cannot contain God, Solomon strikes down all rationalistic assertions that the Israelites imagined Jehovah to be only a finite national God. The infinitude and super-mundane exaltation of God cannot be more clearly and strongly expressed than it is in these words. That, however, Solomon was addicted to no abstract idealism is sufficiently apparent from this, that he unites this consciousness of the infinite exaltation of God with the firm belief of His real presence in the temple. The true God is not merely exalted above the world, has not only His throne in heaven (1 Kings 8:34; 1 Kings 8:36; 1 Kings 8:39; Psalms 2:4; Psalms 11:4; Psalms 103:19; Isaiah 66:1; Amos 9:6), He is also present on the earth (Deuteronomy 4:39), has chosen the temple for the dwelling-place of His name in Israel, from which He hears the prayers of His people. (C.F. Keil.)
2 Chronicles 2:7-16
Send me now therefore a man cunning to work in gold.
Huram and Solomon
Learn from this intercourse--
I. That friendship in life is helpful.
II. That co-operation among men is desirable.
III. That men may know God, yet not serve him.
IV. That when God’s people are consistent in their life, their influence upon others is for good. (J. Wolfendale.)
No temple should be built by any one man. Blessed be God, everything that is worth doing is done by co-operation, by acknowledged reciprocity of labour. Your breakfast-table was not spread by yourself, although it could not have been spread without you. Sometimes we may almost bless God that we cannot identify the authorship of some books in the Bible. It is better that many hands should have written the book than that some brilliant author should have retired into immortality on the ground of his being the only genius that could have written so marvellous a volume. (J. Parker, D.D.)
2 Chronicles 2:17-18
And Solomon numbered all the strangers that were in the land of Israel.
Naturalisation of foreigners
I. A good government will tend to make a country attractive to foreigners.
II. Foreigners thus attracted are amenable to the laws of the state.
III. Thus protected, they may contribute materially to the enrichment of a state by the importation of foreign industries. Silk-weavers of Spitalfields.
V. Be kind to strangers. (Bibical Museum.)
Strangers in the city
I. Strangers in a city are in danger from the temptation to explore the underground life of the community. I believe that three-fourths of the young men of our cities are ruined for the simple reason that they went to look at iniquity. In 1794, during the Reign of Terror in Paris, there were people who, to hide from their persecutors, got into the sewers under the city, and went on mile after mile amid the stifling atmosphere, poisoned and exhausted, coming out after a while at the river Seine, where they washed and breathed again the pure air. But, alas! that so many men who attempt to explore underground New York life never come to a river Seine, where they can wash, and they die horribly in the sewers. I stand on a mountain of Colorado, six thousand feet high. There is a man standing beneath me who says, “I see a peculiar shelving to this rock,” and he bends towards it. I say, “Stop, you will fall.” He says, “No danger; I have a steady hand and foot, and see a peculiar kind of moss.” I say, “Stand back”; but he says, “I am not afraid”; and he bends farther and farther, and after a while his head whirls and his feet slip--and the eagles know not that it is the macerated flesh of a man they are picking at, but it is. So I have seen men come to the very verge of the life of this city, and they look away down in it. They say, “Don’t be cowardly. Let us go down.” They look farther and farther. I warn them to stand back; but Satan comes behind them, and while they are swinging over the verge, pushes them off. People say they were naturally bad. They were not? They were engaged in exploration. No man can afford to sail so near the coast of eternal fire for the purpose of discovering how hot it is. Stand off from that exploration. If you are a good swimmer, and you see a man drowning, leap for him and bring him ashore; but if you are merely going to jump in to see him drown, stand back.
II. Strangers in a city are in danger from the temptation to desecrate the Sabbath. There is not one in ten who knows how to keep the Lord’s day when he is away from home and absent from all Christian influences.
III. Strangers in a city are not safe without Christian restraint. (T. De Witt Talmage.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "2 Chronicles 2". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany