2 Samuel 7:1-17
I dwell in an house of cedar, but the ark of God dwelleth within curtains.
Proposal to build a temple
1. The spirit of David was essentially active and fond of work. Even in Eastern countries, with their proverbial stillness and conservatism, such men are sometimes found, but they are far more common elsewhere. Great undertakings do not frighten them; they have spirit enough for a lifetime of effort, they never seem weary of pushing on. When they look on the disorders of the world, they are not content with the languid utterance, “Something must be done;” they consider what it is possible for them to do, and gird themselves to the doing of it. For some time David seems to have found ample scope for his active energies in subduing the Philistines and other hostile tribes that were yet mingled with the Israelites, and that had long given them much annoyance. When all his enemies were quieted, and he sat in his house, he began to consider to what work of internal improvement he would now give his attention. Was it right that there should be such a contrast between the dwelling-place of David and the dwelling-place of God? It was the very argument that was afterwards used by Haggai and Zechariah after the return from captivity, to rouse the languid zeal of their countrymen for the re-erection of the house of God. “Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your celled houses and this house lie waste?” A generous heart, even though it is a godless one, is uncomfortable When surrounded by elegance and luxury, while starvation and misery prevail in its neighbourhood. To the feelings of the godly a disreputable place of worship, contrasting meanly with the taste and elegance of the hall, or even the villa, is a pain and a reproach. What we have more need to look at is the disproportion of the sums paid by rich men, and even by men who can hardly be called rich, in gratifying their own tastes and in extending the kingdom of Christ. Wealth which remunerates honest and wholesome labour is not all selfishly thrown away. But it is somewhat strange that we hear so seldom of rich Christian men devoting their superfluous wealth to maintaining a mission station with a full staff of labourers, or to the rearing of colleges, or hospitals, or Christian institutions, which might provide on a large scale for Christian activity in ways that might be wonderfully useful. It is in this direction that there is most need to press the example of David.
2. When the thought of building a temple occurred to David, he conferred on the subject with the prophet Nathan. Nathan was to inform David that, unlike Saul, he was not to be the only one of his race to occupy the throne; his son would reign after he was gathered to his fathers, the kingdom would be established in his bands, and the throne of his kingdom would be established for ever. To this favoured son of his would be entrusted the honour of building the temple, God would be his father, and he would be God’s son. The proposal which David had made to build a temple was declined. The time for a change, though drawing near, had not yet arrived. The curtain-canopied tabernacle had been designed by God to wean His people from these sensuous ideas of worship to which the magnificent temples of Egypt had accustomed them, and to give them the true idea of a spiritual service, though not without the visible emblem of a present God. The time had not yet arrived for changing this simple arrangement. God could impart His blessing in the humble tent as well as in the stately temple.
3. But the message through Nathan contained also elements of encouragement, chiefly with reference to David’s offspring, and to the stability and permanence of his throne. To appreciate the value of this promise for the future, we must bear in mind the great insecurity of new dynasties in Eastern countries, and the fearful tragedies that were often perpetrated to get rid of the old king’s family, and prepare the way for some ambitious and unscrupulous usurper. To David, therefore, it was an unspeakable comfort to be assured that his dynasty would be a stable dynasty; that his son would reign after him. A father naturally desires peace and prosperity for his children, and if he extends his view down the generations, the desire is strong that it may be well with them and with their seed for ever. But no father, in ordinary circumstances, can flatter himself that his posterity shall escape their share of the current troubles and calamities of life.
4. The emotions roused in David by tills communication were alike delightful and exuberant. He takes no notice of the disappointment--of his not being permitted to build the temple. Ally regret that this might occasion is swallowed up by his delight in the store of blessing actually promised. And here we may see a remarkable instance of God’s way of dealing with His people’s prayers. Virtually, if not formally, David had asked of God to permit him to build a temple to His name. That petition, bearing though it did very directly on God’s glory, is not vouchsafed. But in refusing him that request, He makes over to him mercies of far higher reach and importance. And how often does God do so! How often, when His people are worrying and perplexing themselves about their prayers not being answered, in God answering them in a far richer way! Glimpses of this we see occasionally, but the full revelation of it remains for the future.
5. It is a striking scene that is presented to us when “David went in, and sat before the Lord.” It is the only instance in Scripture in which any one is said to have taken the attitude of sitting while pouring his heart out to God. Yet the nature of the communion was in keeping with the attitude. We seem to see in this prayer the very best of David--much intensity of feeling, great humility, wondering gratitude, holy intimacy and trust, and supreme satisfaction in the blessing of God. We see him walking in the wry light of God’s countenance, and supremely happy. The joy of David in this act of fellowship with God was the purest of which human beings are capable. It was indeed a joy unspeakable and full of glory. Oh that men would but acquaint themselves with God and be at peace! (W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
David’s desire to build a temple
I. David’s counsel and purpose to build the temple allowed by man but disallowed by God.
1. First, the moving cause of this counsel was the peace God had given him now round about.
2. Second, Nathan’s over-hasty approving of David’s purpose (v. 3) before he had well considered it in his own mind, or consulted with God about it. This was Nathan’s private opinion, but not by Divine revelation, which showeth, that the prophets did not always speak by prophetical inspiration, but sometimes as private men by a human prudence.
3. Third, God suffers not His servants to lie long under mistakes. He comes to Nathan that night to rectify both his and David’s error (2 Samuel 7:4-7), from whence:
II. The reasons God rendered to David why he was refused to build the temple.
1. He was a martial man, and had shed much blood. The temple was a type of the church built by Christ, that Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), therefore saith God, I reserve this piece of service for thy son Solomon, whose name signifies peaceable.
2. It was meet the shadow should be suitable to the substance.
2. A second reason is rendered by Solomon (1 Kings 5:3), that God had designed David soon after this transaction to wage war with the nations round about Israel, therefore could he look for little leisure to carry on so great and glorious a fabric.
3. The third reason of God’s refusing David for this work is found in this Divine oracle to David here, saying, there is no necessity or present haste for building Me a house, seeing that a tent has given Me content to dwell in, ever since Israel’s coming out of Egypt, and so will be still till My time be come; yet as I have been hitherto all-sufficient unto Israel, so will be as efficacious to them from the ark of My presence in the tabernacle, as if it were magnificently fixed in the temple.
4. The oracle of God secretly taxeth David for being too preposterous in his zeal, saying all the judges of Israel were willing to wait for a Divine warrant to this great work, none of them durst undertake it for want of my commanding warrant, and wilt not thou wait also? Zeal must be rightly timed (1 Chronicles 17:6.) (C. Ness.)
The sanctuary for the people
I. The sanctuary, in David’s view was the house of the Lord. The sanctuary signifies a holy or a sanctified place--a dwelling-place of the Most High--a place where people assembled to honour God and worship Him in the spirit of liberality and holiness.
II. In the sanctuary, work must be done for the world. The religion of Christ reaches out to the lost and the undone. Giving is not a hindrance but a help. The poorest as well as the richest feel that it is a blessed privilege to give. The widow’s mite has a right to a place in the aggregations which support missions and which build up the waste places.
III. The sanctuary is the training-place for the nobler nature. Business is laid aside. The sharpness, the grasping, the watching, the suspicious spirit may be banished.
IV. The condition of the sanctuary evidences our regard for God. What we do for friends at home attests our love for those committed to our keeping. So what is done for the sanctuary proves the regard cherished for every effort put forth to promote the glory of God and advance the interests Of our fellow-men. David felt this when he called attention to the fact that he dwelt in cedar while the ark of God dwelt within curtains. He did not desire to build the temple to save his soul, but because of his love for God and of his desire to promote the interests of His cause. (J. D. Fulton, D. D.)
The intended temple
David looking at his own personal comfort did not say, Let me now enjoy it; I have paid dearly for it; everything in my house cost me blood; if any man is entitled to a long quiet afternoon in life, I am the man; I am thankful for this tranquillity, and nothing shall disturb it. Men of David’s quality never made speeches of that kind: their peace is in their activity; their Sabbath is in their worship. So, said David, look at the condition of affairs: I dwell in a house of cedar, and the ark of God dwelleth within curtains, etc. Truly, he was a poet with a fine sense of rhythm. Were a syllable too-much in a line it would afflict him like the puncture of an edged instrument. Without studying letters, he knew when things swung in astronomic rhythm and balance and harmony. We may have lost that fine sense of unity and practical poesy; some men have lost it in speech. God has set all things in relation. He is a God of order. He has published the universe as a poem, and all his goings fall into noble sequence. We must study that spirit and pray for it, so that we cannot rest while a picture is out of square, whilst a pillar that ought to be upright is leaning a little to the right or to the left. We ought to be flung into disorder and sense of shame by a false colour, a false note. But while this is impossible to us in a practical way, what is possible to us is a sense of moral justice, a sense of righteous relation, a sense of what is due to God. To be at ease whilst His house is without a roof is to proclaim oneself no child of Heaven.
1. Having come into personal comfort, David will do good. That is the right expression of gratitude. What can I do for the Church? What can I do for the poor? Having read many books, and acquired some information, what can I do for the ignorant?
2. Nathan and David settled the matter according to their own will. Nathan was a man who might perhaps be not indisposed to agree with the king whatever he said. He may come to another temper under Divine ministry; for that we must wait. The idea struck Nathan as a good one. Nathan had no objection. He said, The idea is beautiful; carry it out instantaneously; the Lord is evidently with thee; that is a thought the image and superscription of which cannot be mistaken; and Nathan went home to sleep. There are some things that appear to need no judgment. There are some proposals that are so beautiful and precious that we at once accept them, endorse them, and pass them on to fulfilment, and then retire to rest. The Lord taught David another lesson; he said: This thing is all wrong; it is out of season; there is much more to be done before this man can advance in the direction he has proposed: my house must not be built by his hands; I have an interest in my house: I care for the masonry as well as for the sanctuary. No blasphemer ought to be engaged in building the walls of a cathedral; no flippant man ought to touch the meanest part of God’s house; and no man of blood should build s temple.
3. Yet how gentle is the Most High! Who can speak like God? It is the dignity that gives the value to the condescension. The lesson which God taught to David is to trust the providence which has been good from the very first:--“Now therefore so shalt thou say unto my servant David, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I took thee from the sheepcote,”--so I am not going to forsake thee; if I had taken thee from a throne, reasoning in another direction might have been at least partially justified, but “I took thee from the sheepcote, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people, over Israel.” God will have His providence judged as a whole--that is to say, he will have the mind thrown back to the point of origin, and have all the days linked, like loops of gold, like loops of light; then he will say to the subject of His gracious government: Look back at the beginning; count the days; read between the lines; study the whole, and see how all the time I have been building thee a house; and, until that house is finished, wait! What peace it would give to us all if we could adopt this holy method of criticism I Look at the beginning: Where were we? What were we? How have we been trained, watched, defended!
4. God further shows that all things are critically timed: “Thou shalt sleep with thy fathers” (v. 12)--But God never sleeps. He says: “I will put thee to rest, O brave soldier, chivalrous grand heart I will close thine eyelids, stained with rivers of tears; I bury the universe.” We must leave something for the future to do. All things are written down in God’s book. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Significance of the ark within curtains
Was not that long continuance in the humble tabernacle intended to make plain the contrast between this God and the gods who were enshrined in the massive structures that Israel had seen in Egypt? Was it not a lesson, even in the days when Israel needed some accommodation to its weakness in the shape of symbolical and ceremonial worship, that He “dwelleth not in temples made with hands?” Was it not an early gleam of the perfect day--a protest as strong as could then be made against localising the Divine presence and creating “sacred places?” The degree of religious development in Israel could not yet dispense with all localising, but the minimum of it was attained by the dwelling of the ark in the tabernacle; and there was a danger, which experience proved to be only too real, that a gorgeous temple should become the tomb of religion rather than the dwelling-place of God. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
The church contrasted with the palace
The cedar was largely used for decorative purposes throughout the whole East. In “Nineveh and its Remains,” Layard thus describes the internal appearance of an Assyrian building: “The ceilings . . . were divided into square compartments, painted with flowers, or with the figures of animals. Some were inlaid with ivory, each compartment being surrounded by elegant borders and mouldings. The beams, as well as the sides of the chambers, may have been gilded, or even plated with gold and silver; and the rarest woods, in which the cedar was conspicuous, were used for the woodwork.” (Zephaniah 2:14; Jeremiah 22:14; 1 Kings 6:15; 1 Kings 7:3.) The true relation of the houses of men to the house of God may be illustrated from Ancient Athens. The dwelling-houses of Athens were mean; its temples were the wonder of the world, abounding in all magnificence of wealth and art. (Sunday School Times.)
Remembering God’s house
Mathew Henry says: “Note: When God, in His providence, has remarkably done much for us, it should put us upon contriving what we may do for Him and His glory. ‘What shall I render unto the Lord?’” And John Trapp adds: “Ahab dwelt in a palace of ivory, and yet had no thoughts of heart for God and His service.” David and Ahab both have their like among the sons of men.
Purpose in life
The great Socialist, Robert Dale Owen, says: “I committed one fatal error in my youth, and dearly have I bewailed it; I started in life without an object, even without an ambition. Had I created for myself a definite purpose--literary, artistic, scientific, social, there would have been something to labour for, and to overcome. But the power is gone. I have thrown away a life. I am an unhappy man.” Lack of purpose has ruined more lives than has a deliberately-chosen bad purpose. It leaves that life at the mercy of every shabby influence without a guiding principle or unifying power. (H. O. Mackey.)
Communion with God
The narrative presents David--
I. Still concerned for the glory of God. Looking round upon the splendid house he has reared, the contrast between that and the place where was the ark of God grieves him. “I dwell in a house of Cedar but the ark of God dwelleth within curtains.”
1. The gratitude of his heart to the Giver of all his mercies is strongly characteristic of the man. His heart was tender as a woman’s and strong as a hero’s. True gratitude always acknowledges first the Band Divine. The grateful heart needs no constraint to bring the offering of the first-fruit to the Lord.
2. The piety of David is unmistakably shown here. The needle suddenly disturbed and forced from its centre trembles to return. David is never at rest, never restful, until he is obeying and serving God. A gracious soul will always revolt from meanness towards God’s house and luxury toward his own. Devoted souls love to consecrate wealth and leisure to God. Gracious hearts can never do enough for God. These remove the reason for the sarcasm of the infidel, “that, “judged by the houses they are said to dwell in, the Christian’s gods are very human.”
II. God’s reply and David’s reception thereof.
1. The purpose in David’s heart is accepted.
2. The actual building of the Temple is denied him. Generous impulses should be taken to God. He speeds not who tries to run before the Lord sends him. Impatient hurry is apt to lead astray.
3. A wonderful promise is given him. Dr. Kennicott, Bishop Horsley, and others point out that the Hebrew verb translated “If he commit iniquity” is not in the active but in the passive voice, and thus the passage would be rendered, “I will be his Father, and he shall be my son: even in his suffering for iniquity I shall chasten him with the rod of men (with the rod due to men), and with the stripes (due to) the children of men.” Another view is presented in Psalms 89:1-52. It is not the king himself but his children that are supposed to transgress and require correction, but out of faithfulness to them their chastisements are not to be destructive. Dr. Gifford, in his “Voices of the Prophets,” thus writes:--“The seed which shall be of David’s sons must be some descendant later than Solomon; “and the whole description is such as cannot be applied to a mortal king, or only as far as he is type of one greater than himself. It points to eternal and spiritual truth prefigured and embodied in the Kingdom of David to be realised in the Kingdom of his Son. David seems to have grasped the double application of this prophecy, to have risen to the prophetic within the promise. Reference to his Psalms will clearly establish this (62, 45, and 110.). And also study of David’s prayer and thanksgiving will establish this.
4. David’s reception of the promise. His heart is filled with warmest emotions of gratitude and delight. Large as the promise would be if confined to Solomon, it would scarcely account for the profound humility and reverence depicted in the language used by David. His emotions are irrepressible. (H. E. Stone.)
Concern for religious things
David’s self is all right, but in the nobility of the grace that God has given to him, his thoughts are away from self and upon God. What ails John Welsh that he rises at a most unseasonable time to wrap his plaid about him, and sob, and groan, and cry? The ark of God--that is, Scotland--is within curtains, is being buffeted by the winds of indifference, and that robs the eyelids of John Welsh of their sleep, and he tells his wife that he cannot rest, for he has the souls of three thousand to answer for, and he knows not how it is with many of them. John Welsh is like David, concerned not for himself, but for God. Ah, the times have been in this land when men were burdened with the public state, when a Christless generation would lie heavily on the hearts of the covenanted people, when sleep would fly, and groans and tears would come for the wickedness of the land. Campbell, of Kinnioncleugh, what ails you? You are in the covenant of grace, and the tears, bitter and salt, are running down your cheeks. What is the sorrow? What is the burden? Has the Lord forsaken you? They ask him, “Why this agony and groaning?” He replied, “It is the ‘ark’ in Scotland that I am concerned about. It is Scotland’s kirk that I am troubled about.” Ah! there are few now burdened about Scotland’s kirk. As prosperity and wealth come, the spiritual drought and spiritual darkness, and the awful indifference of a generation that will not have God, do not lie as burdens, as they should, on our hearts. We are content with the houses of cedar; we are content, and we rub our hands in a kind of competing glory in church extension. Denomination after denomination is rushing on for denominational objects, and the unholy fire is being spread abroad, while all the time God’s ark is within curtains, the people axe unsaved, and their hearts are empty of love to Jesus. (J. Robertson.)
Self-denying grace needed in the church
Do you know the problem in the heathen field? Do you know why those Chinese and those heathen tribes refuse to come to Christ? It is because they do not believe in our earnestness. For every commercial post there are a thousand applicants; for every chance to get the gold that perisheth, there are competitors by the score; but to tell the story of redeeming love, one is considered sufficient for a province containing two million souls. Oh, this awful blame that lies at the door of the professing Church of Christ! We are dwelling in cedar while the ark of the Lord is buffeted by the storms. Real grace cannot be content with self, with the house of cedar. Because our wealthy churches have no missionary spirit, have no self-denying, but are wasting their givings on self, the poorer parts of the cities and the heathen fields are left struggling and helpless. Verily God in His day will judge the so-called Christian communities. Oh, for more of the self denying grace that David had! He felt that the very house of cedar was about to tumble down upon him while the ark of God was exposed to the storms of the night. (J. Robertson.)
2 Samuel 7:5-17
Shalt thou build me an house for me to dwell in?
1. Let us understand that a purpose may be good, yet Providence may see fit to deny its accomplishment. That is to say, God may take the will for the deed. We may work up a sort of personal enthusiasm, and because the end appears right in our eyes, may expect that Providence will immediately accept it; but, the question is not whether the plan is good, but whether it is God’s plan for us in which to serve Him. These so-called crises of human existence are sometimes nothing more nor less than mere crises of human will, dictating to God what ought to be done.
2. Let us remember that a wish may be intense, and yet it is not on that account to be granted. We act so often from mixed motives that we are not always the ones to know whether wishes we cherish are not wiles of the devil. The day has been for many a child of God, when he struggled with some most eager and passionate desire of his heart; God denied it, and the believer has lived to thank Him on the bended knees of his grateful soul. God has promised to grant, not what we seek or crave or implore in set terms, but what we “need” (Philippians 4:19).
3. Let us acknowledge that sometimes a human heart is too full of unworthy feeling for success in high spiritual endeavour. Hence the Lord does not entrust this to such agents. This hard decision for David is not without its parallel in modern experience. Are none of us men “of blood”? It is related of Richard the Lion-hearted that for seven whole years he would not suffer himself to take the Sacrament, because he was conscious of real hatred in his heart towards the king of France. It is possibly a poignant experience, but it may be profitable to acknowledge, “There are things I cannot do, because God is holier than I am.” For this will leave the way open for fresh increases in holiness at once; and it also settles one’s mind down to give over impossibilities, and take up what is legitimately within reach.
4. Let us admit freely, that an intention may be excellent, and yet have to be surrendered into another’s hands. This plan of David was good, but Solomon was to carry it out; that was all (1 Kings 8:18). God may choose to have his work done by those whom he selects, and not by volunteers.
5. Let us believe that a human heart may be apparently broken, and yet remain full of joy. Every now and then we fall on some new chapter which shows King David’s frank delight in this lowly task permitted to him (1 Chronicles 28:2-8). He rouses the whole nation with his enthusiasm; and yet his first sentence of address is a candid statement of his purpose which the Lord had thwarted the moment he mentioned it, and now of the purpose which had come in the place of it, making him as happy as a child. Now let us add only an illustration of this whole thought, and finish. Two boys, Franz Knigstein and Albrecht Durer, once lived together in Nuremberg; they were going to be artists, and had entered Michael Wohlgemuth’s study for instruction. The parents of both were poor, and were struggling to keep their sons at their work, until they should be able to care for themselves. Of these two pupils, the master knew that Albrecht possessed genius, but Franz would never make a painter of whom he should be proud. But both were industrious and frugal and affectionate. They loved each other tenderly, and were kind and faithful unto all at home. Years passed on: one went to Italy, the other continued study in Germany. Ere long Franz married, and, by and by, Albrecht; and the old people died, and times were hard, and art was dull. Albrecht feared that Franz had not the artist spirit, and could never succeed. Once they planned together to make an etching of the passion of our Lord; when they came to show each other what had been accomplished, the picture of Franz was cold and lifeless, while that of Albrecht was full of beauty. Franz himself saw it then. He was in middle life, and so far as he knew he had been a failure. He must give it up; he could not be successful as an artist. But he did not complain; only for a passionate moment he buried his face in his hands. Then he said in broken tones, though still full of courage: “The good Lord gave me no such gift as this; but he has something yet for me to do; some homely work shall be found for me; I was blind so long, so much time I have lost; be you the artist of Nuremberg, and I ” “O, Franz! be quiet an instant,” exclaimed Albrecht; and a quick rush was made to the paper before him on the table. Only a few lines with a swift pencil: Franz thought he was adding another stroke to his etching, and waited patiently leaning over the mantel with his fingers twined and clasped. And then, next day. Albrecht showed his friend the sheet: “Why, those are only my own hands,” said Franz; “where did you get them?” And there was hardly need of an answer. “I took them as you stood, making the sad surrender of your life so very, very bravely; and I murmured to myself, those hands that may never paint a picture, can now most certainly make one; I have faith in those folded hands, my brother-friend: they will go to men’s hearts in the years to come!” And, sure enough, the prophecy was true; for over the artistic world has gone the tale, and over the worlds of love and duty has gone the picture; and the Folded Hands, by Albrecht Durer, are but the hands of Franz Knigstein once folded in sweet, brave resignation, when he gave up his dearest wish, and yet believed the good Lord had a homely duty for him to do, worth the doing. That is the picture which hangs up over my table, and has hung there for years; a mere copy of an etching that belongs in the gallery of Vienna. What it means is, there are some things, my Christian friend, you and I can never do! But there are others we can do, and we can always do something towards accomplishing a preparation for some one else to finish; and what matters all the humiliation, if only the dear Lord gets the glory? (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
2 Samuel 7:8
I took thee from the sheepcote.
God’s making of a life
Though he was a born king by nature and character, David was not born a king. His father was a simple farmer, and his childhood was spent in the quiet scenes of a humble village. Jesus was born in the same Judean village-city, little Bethlehem. It is exactly thus that God ever carries out His mighty programme of action in creation, providence, and grace. The Rev. W. L. Watkinson says that, on visiting an art gallery recently, he noticed that some of the greatest pictures had not a splendid thing in them. The ordinary artist, when he wants to be effective, paints in a breadth of golden harvest, or be portrays a kingfisher or some other iridescent bird, or a tree in bloom, or that captivating thing, a rainbow. But you will notice that some of the greatest painters that ever lived never touch these things. They take common things--a railway cut, a ploughed field--no conspicuous object, only the black earth, the brown earth, the red earth; but their touch is a supreme touch, so that you can see the blossom in the dust and the rainbow in the cloud; and the picture, although it contains not a brilliant thing, is bathed in imagination, poetry, and beauty. So Christ can take the most common human plants in His garden and develop them into the most indescribable beauty and interest. God can take our poor humble lives and crown them with dignity and glory, as He honoured David the shepherd boy, if we fall into the royal line of the servants of righteousness. Before honour is humility. David was not a self-exalted king. He was called to rule, and he followed the Divine call wherever it led him, whether into the desert or into the palace.
Filling present limits
If a man be not signally successful in his present field he cannot reasonably hope to be more successful in a larger field. He must first fill out to his existing limits before he will be able to expand into the area of larger boundaries. A man may indeed have abilities beyond the sphere he is in at present, but in every such case the first indication of this is his filling that sphere satisfactorily. If he lacks where he is, he ought not to feel that he could do better, or even as well, if he were in a larger place. It were folly to expect that there is milk enough for a gallon measure when it cannot fill a pint pot. (Great Thoughts.)
God the Giver of power
That God is the Giver of power and dominion is a truth which has always been recognized in the unchangeable East. Thus, in the inscription of Darius on the rock at Behistun, the ninth paragraph reads: “Says Darius the king:--Ormazd [the god] granted me the empire. Ormazd brought help to me so that I gained this empire. By the grace of Ormazd, I hold this empire.” Substitute “Jehovah” for “Ormazd,” and David might truthfully have written that inscription. Again, in the Annals of Assurbanipal which are preserved on terra-cotta cylinders, now in the British Museum, it is said: “I am Assurbanipal, the seed of [the gods] Assur and Beltis, son of the great king of the North Palace, whom [the gods] Assur and Sin the lord of crowns, raised to the kingdom, prophesying his name from the days of old; and in his birth have created him to rule Assyria. [The gods] Shamas, Vul, and Ishtar, in power most high, commanded the making of his kingdom.” (Sunday School Times.)
From obscurity to eminence
For purposes of sober illustration or intense appeal to the unselfish and heroic, nothing can surpass the life of David Livingstone, whom Florence Nightingale called “the greatest man of his generation.” The vision of the boy placing his book on the spinning-jenny and studying amid the roar of the machinery at Blantyre, or sitting contentedly down before his father’s door to spend the night, upon arriving after the hour for locking it; the old coat, eleven years behind the fashion, which he wore when he emerged at Cape Town after Kolobeng had been pillaged; the sadness of the scene when he buried his little daughter in “the first grave in all this country,” he wrote to his parents, “marked as the resting-place of one of whom it is believed and confessed that she stall live again”; his jocular letters to his daughter Agnes about his distorted teeth, “so that my smile is like that of a hippopotamus”; the meeting with Stanley when he was a “mere ruckle of bones”; the indomitable grit of the man whose last words in Scotland were, “Fear God, and work hard”--this life is full of such things as these, capable of use, inviting it. And when, before or since, has this world been swayed by eloquence comparable with that of his death? No pulpit has ever spoken with such power. The worn frame kneeling by the bedside at Ilala, pulseless and grill, while the rain dripped from the eaves of the hut, dead in the attitude of prayer, solitary and alone, sent a thrill through the souls of men which, thank God, is vibrating still, and is working out the redemption wrought once for Africa by the world’s Redeemer. (W. G. Blaikie.)
2 Samuel 7:8-17
Go, do all that is in thine heart.
Divine correction of a prophet’s mistake and Divine denial of a king’s desire
1. It is pleasant to glance at the circumstances which gave birth to David’s desire to build the temple. The regal position into which he passed on the death of Saul was no bed of roses. The land was still over-run by the Philistines, who held many of its strongest fortresses. Jerusalem was in the hands of the Jebusites. There was hard and long-lasting work to be done, but David gave himself to it with full purpose of heart; and his God who had called him to it did not suffer him to labour in vain. Victory after victory crowned his arduous struggles, until, at last, the Philistines were for ever banished; the Land of Promise was fully possessed by the Israelites; and David’s unresisted rule extended over all the twelve tribes. It was a happy time for the king and his people. Peace had come into the land, and prosperity was in her train. “The king sat in his house, and the Lord had given him rest round about from all his enemies.” We can scarcely enter into the joy which all this created, and the thankfulness it inspired; not because we know nothing of such circumstances, but because we have-always lived in them. Those who have never mourned on account of the deep darkness of midnight, cannot appreciate the beauty of the dawn and the splendours of the noon like men who through long hours of thick gloom have watched and waited for the morning. How can we estimate the blessedness of peace and security, as it was estimated by the Hebrews after nearly a life-time of constant disquiet and bloody strife, and well-grounded dread of national annihilation and of individual slavery or death? It may be asked, if David were so joyous and thankful, could he not have taken his harp of sweet and solemn sound, and have expressed his new-born praise in some new-born psalm? Doubtless he did this, but it was not enough to satisfy his gratitude. The truly thankful heart is glad to put on its singing robes, and lift its exultant strains to heaven; but it cannot be contented with words and music alone, even though another David should pen the hymn, and an inspired Handel should compose the melody. It will want to express its emotion in works, to put on the garb of a willing servant, and, in addition to saying great things about God, to do right and good and noble things for God. Let us be assured that if “we know and believe the love that God hath to us”--if His love have enkindled ours--we too shall be eager to embody our living thankfulness in deeds of truth, and kindness, and purity. The praise that expresses itself in action is not only the most acceptable to God, it is also the only praise which can give relief to the spirit burdened with a sense of what it owes to Him, whose mercy is like Himself--without beginning of days or end of years.
2. We must turn from the origin and nature of David’s purpose to Nathan’s mistaken sanction of it. A sympathetic heart is a great quickener of the brain. If your spirit be in unison with that of another man, how readily you and he can understand each other. Half words are enough, and either of you can fully discern the other’s desire or purpose long before his language has fully disclosed it. It is this taw of our nature which makes it so much easier for a man to find out the Divine Will when his heart is brought into living sympathy with God. Then his faculty of discernment is so perfect that to him God can say, “I will guide thee with Mine eye.” Between Nathan and David there was this sympathy, so that the latter had scarcely begun to speak about his purpose before the former divined all that be intended. Here is a most instructive case of the fallability of an always good and ofttimes inspired man! It is frequently difficult to distinguish between the inclinations of our own wills and the guidance of God’s hand. It is so easy to mistake the bent of our own desires for the intimations of Providence; and when our own hearts are in favour of a thing it requires little argument to convince us that God is in favour of it too. No matter how wise or right any course may appear to be, if we would be always safe we must always distrust our own unaided judgments, and cherish the dependent and teachable spirit, which cries, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” Nathan went home to his evening prayer, and his nightly rest, and was speedily made aware of his error.
3. We have now to look at the denial of David’s desire, and at the facts and promises which were set before him to reconcile him to his disappointment. There was neither disdain of his gratitude nor condemnation of his idea that the prospered nation ought to have a better house for holy service. The Lord in His great kindness was careful so to convey the denial that it could not possibly impair David’s faith in the Divine love, nor excite his hostility to the Divine plan. He testified that God’s gentleness had made him great. Of that gentleness he seldom had richer experience than on this occasion.
David’s proposal was so generous and so religious that the prophet Nathan didn’t have a question that its prompting was from the Lord. He was ready to bid the king God-speed, without a doubt as to the propriety of the thing proposed. But the sequel showed that David’s plan didn’t have the Lord’s approval. Nor was this the last time that a man of God made a mistake in supposing that because a proposition was a religious one it necessarily had the Lord’s approval. A young man comes to his pastor, and says that he has decided to give up everything else and study for the ministry. It doesn’t follow that the minister ought to say, “Go, do all that is in thine heart; for the Lord is with thee.” It is still a question whether this well-intentioned proposal is really of the Lord. So again, it may be, when a man comes with a proposition as to the use of his property, in establishing a local fund for the support of the ministry, in founding another college, or in building a new hospital. To show a religious purpose is one thing. To be sure that that purpose has the Lord’s approval, or that just as it is it deserves the approval of the Lord’s ministers, is quite another thing. Other men of God need to learn caution from the experience of Nathan. (H. C. Trumbull.)
A noble purpose unrealised
I. A conception of a noble purpose. It was a great thought that came to David. It was in part suggested by the exigencies of the situation. After the ark had come to its new home, Asaph and others had been appointed to celebrate, and thank, and praise the Lord, and minister before Him (1 Chronicles 16:4-37); and it is supposed that, at this period, the twenty-four courses of priests were appointed, an arrangement which lasted to the time of our Lord. It is thus, especially in young life, that great conceptions visit the soul; ideals of surpassing beauty cast a light forward upon the future; resolves of service for God and man brace the soul as the air from the glaciers does the dwellers in the plains; and all life assumes a nobler aspect, and is set to a higher key. Secretly that lad resolves to be a preacher, missionary, or philanthropist; and that girl, to be queen in an ideal home, or to go far hence to the zenanas of India. “I will do this great thing for God,” the young heart says to itself, altogether heedless of sacrifice, tears, blood. The bugle-notes of lofty purpose ring out gladly, summoning the soul to noble exploit; and it is saved from the low levels which satisfy others by the immortal hope that has already gone forward to occupy the future. Young people, never surrender your ideal, nor act unworthily of it, nor disobey the heavenly vision. Above all, when you come to the house of cedar, and God has given you rest, be more than ever careful to gird yourselves, and arise to realize the purpose that visited you when you kept your father’s sheep.
II. The ideal is not always realized. There is no definite “No” spoken by God’s gentle lips. He presses His promises and blessings upon us, and leads us forward in a golden haze of love, which conceals this negative. The plant is conscious of a great possibility throbbing within it; but somehow the days pass, and it does not come to a flower. The picture which is to gain immortality is always to be painted; the book which is to elucidate the problem of the ages is always to be written; the immortal song is always to be sung. The young man is kept at his desk in the counting-house instead of going to the pulpit; the girl becomes a withered woman, cherishing a faded flower; the king hands on to his son the building of the house.
III. God explains his reasons afterwards. What we know not now, we shall know hereafter. The blood-stained hand might not raise the temple of peace. It would have wounded David needlessly to have been told this at the time. It was enough to wrap up the Divine “No” in a promise of infinite blessing; but, as the years passed, the reason for God’s refusal grew clear and distinct before him. Meanwhile, David possessed his soul in patience, and said to himself: God has a reason, I cannot understand it; but it is well.
IV. An unrealized conception may yet be fraught with immense blessing. Solomon completes the story. David was a better man because he had given expression to the noble purpose. Its gleam left a permanent glow on his life. The rejected candidate to the missionary society stands upon a higher moral platform than those who were never touched by the glow of missionary enthusiasm. For a woman to have loved passionately, even though the dark waters may have engulfed her love before it was consummated, leaves her ever after richer, deeper, than if she had never loved, nor been loved in return. God will credit us with what we would have been if we might. In the glory David will find himself credited with the building of the temple on Mount Zion.
V. Do the next thing. The energy which David would have expended in building the temple wrought itself out in gathering the materials for its construction. If you cannot have what you hoped, do not sit down in despair and allow the energies of your life to run to waste; but arise, and gird yourself to help others to achieve. If you may not build, you may gather materials for him that shall. If you may not go down the mine, you can hold the ropes. There is a fact in nature known as the law of the conservation of force. The force of the accumulating velocity of the falling stone passes into heat, of which some is retained by the stone, the rest passes into the atmosphere. No true ideals are fruitless; somehow they help the world of men. No tears are wept, no prayers uttered, no conceptions honestly entertained in vain. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
Our hearts the measure of our work
Think much about intentions. Give, and it shall be given you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. After which Bengel acutely annotates that it is by our hearts that we both mete out to others and have it meted out to ourselves. It would have gone hard with-the poor widow if she, had only had a farthing meted out to her in her Lord’s judgment on her. But her Lord looked on her heart. And thus it is that she sits in heaven to-day among the queens who sit there on their thrones of gold, because she had such a queenly heart that day in the temple porch. Both from David’s intended temple, from the poor widow’s actual collection at the door of David’s temple, and from Bengel’s spiritual annotation let us learn this spiritual lesson, that our hearts are the measure both of our work and of our wages in the sight of God. You cannot build and repair all the churches and mission-houses and manses at home and abroad you would like to build and repair. You cannot endow all the chairs of sacred learning you would like: You cannot contribute to the sustentation of the Christian ministry as you would like. You cannot visit and relieve all the fatherless and widows in their affliction as you would like. You cannot stop all the sources of sin and misery in this world as you would like. You cannot make the reading, or the religion, or the devotional life of your people what your heart is full of. You wish you could. So did David. David had magnificent dreams about the temple. He built the temple every night in his sleep. And had he been permitted he would not have slept with his fathers till he had dedicated a most magnificent house to the name of the Lord. But it stands in God’s true and faithful Word, that it was all in David’s heart. And He who looks not so much on the action as on the intention, He saw in this also a man after His own heart. May all David’s good intentions, and generous preparations be found in all our rich people, and may all the widow’s love and goodwill be found in all our poor people. For the heart is the measure. And as we measure our good words, and good wishes, and good purposes, and good preparations, and good performances in our heart, so will it be measured back to us by Him who sees and weighs and measures the heart and nothing but the heart. (Alex. Whyte, D. D.)
2 Samuel 7:11-16
The Lord telleth thee that he will make thee an house.
God’s covenant with David
1. This narrative is an interesting illustration of the truth that God will honour the man who seeks to honour Him. David wanted to build a house for the Lord, and he was moved to it, we have reason to believe, by the highest considerations. He determined that he would build a house for the Lord, and as far as possible make it worthy of Him. But David, because he had been a man of war, was not permitted to carry out the high resolve. But while the Lord did not allow David to build the house, He permitted him to make all the necessary preparations for it. He was permitted to gather the materials and provide the gold and the silver. And this preparatory work does not stand as high with us as it should. It is the man who reaps the harvest, who brings the sheaves to the garner, who gets all the honour, while the man who did the still harder work of clearing the land and preparing the soil for the seed is scarcely thought of. Perhaps just here it might be well to remind ourselves that our gracious Master put a far higher value on this preparatory work than we are accustomed to do. He placed John the Baptist above all the prophets, above all who had gone before him, and yet John’s work from first to last was a preparatory one. After he had gone to his rest and reward, if any one had asked, What did John do while he dwelt among us? the only answer could have been, He prepared the way of the Lord; he made His path straight before Him. That was his mission, that was his life-work, and yet it was that mission and that short life-work which lifted him to as high a place as man had ever reached before.
2. Then, again, while David was not allowed to build the house of the Lord, he was called to do a still greater work for the Church. David was to write the songs of the sanctuary, and the Lord of hosts, it would seem, had been fitting him for this greater work from his childhood up. It is a fact to which our attention has been called by one of England’s greatest preachers that the life of David is constantly cropping out in the psalms--that they are so woven together and so essential to each other that we never could have had the psalms but for the life. Now, I have spoken of this contribution to the worship of Jehovah as a more important work than the one on which David had set his heart--as a more important work than to build the house of the Lord. Has not the result made the statement good? Where is the magnificent house which Solomon built, and where the Shekinah, the terrestrial throne of Jehovah? And where is the house built at such a fabulous cost that took its place? Not one stone is left standing on another. But the psalms are still ours; the sacred songs of David are still a part of our spiritual patrimony. We are marching still to the inspired and inspiring music. They are growing daily dearer to us, like the water from the rock which grew the sweeter the longer it flowed. But David’s covenant God was so well pleased with that which he had it in his heart to do that he went one step farther. If David might not build the house of the Lord, his son might do it in his stead. And this, I think, is just what David would have chosen for himself. If it had been left for the king of Israel to decide, I think he would have said, “Let my son build the house; let him have all the glory of it; let it evermore be associated with his name.” We cannot doubt that this is what such a man as the sweet singer of Israel was would have chosen. We live in our children. We rise up early, we sit up late, we eat the bread of sorrow, we wear ourselves out prematurely, we reach the grave before it is ready for us, and all: that it may be better for our children after we are gone. And yet, strong and tenacious as our affections are, there have been but few men among us who could love as David the king did. He was the man who left his throne, and fasted and wept and lay all night on the earth, and refused to be comforted, because the life of his little child was hanging by a thread. He was the man who uttered the bitterest cry save one that ever came from a breaking heart: “O, my son Absalom! my son! my son! would God that I had died for thee! O, Absalom, my son! my son!” The honour of the son is the honour of the father multiplied a hundred-fold. At all events, so it is with every man who can love as David did.
3. Because this work was not hurried on, because it was delayed, no one was robbed, no one was oppressed, no one was oppressively taxed. The bed of the poor man was not sold from under him to build the house of the Lord; the stones were not cemented together with tears and blood, and when the majestic edifice was dedicated no curses mingled with the alleluias. And that, no doubt, was one reason why the work was thus delayed, our heavenly Father is so considerate for the poor. And yet the building of that house in the way in which it was done was the best thing up to that time that Israel ever did for the poor. Next to God himself, the poor and needy, the widow and the fatherless, have no such friend as God’s house. Building a church in any place makes it sure that the sick will have a hospital, and the orphan a home, and the dead a burial-place where they may sleep in peace. From beneath the sanctuary flow those streams which carry health and life whithersoever they may go.
4. Now we have reached the climax. David’s covenant God went far beyond his thoughts, far beyond his highest aspirations, and gave him that which David would never have ventured to ask for. He promised to establish his throne for ever: “And when thy days be fulfilled,” etc. Look heavenward, and see how wonderfully this promise has been fulfilled. The Son of David is now at the right hand of the Majesty on high; the Son of David is now seated on that throne which has a rainbow round about it, and all power in heaven and on earth has been committed to His hands (J. B. Shaw, D. D.)
God’s covenant with David
I. The religious use of prosperity. In the hour of his greatest success the heart of the king was upon a plan for the building of God’s house. In his times of trial he had called upon God, and now in his triumph he did the same. The question as to the comparative helpfulness of adversity and prosperity in fixing the heart on sacred things admits of but one answer; if it fails in the one condition, it proves to have been a deception in the other.
II. The subjection of material prosperity to the spiritual. The supreme idea of David was to build a house for the Lord. This old-fashioned idea is the right one for to-day--the best belongs to God. It is also true that our gifts are largely in material form. The cup of cold water, the loaf of bread, the new garment for the needy--these are made sacred in Christ’s name. Practical religion means more than mere prayer, so-called. The cup of cold water in the name of a disciple of Christ, for aught we can see, is a factor in a real prayer. The gift of a garment to one shivering with cold is itself a factor in the religion that prompts one to say, “Be ye warmed.” The gift in Christ’s name is really the expression of our prayer to Him for His blessing upon the one on whom that gift is bestowed.
III. The divine veto on human plans. The resolution of many an ode, like David, may seem to be best even to the best men, and yet be out of God’s plan. But one great purpose of one great master mind can ever succeed. King David never even dreamed that his plans would miscarry; and Nathan the prophet declared “the Lord is with thee.” Every prophecy has been a special revelation. Not because a recognized prophet spoke was it certain that he would declare the mind of God. Nathan spoke without inspiration, and made a mistake. Disappointment filled the king’s heart upon the Divine decree, but his royal hands were-stayed. His plan was not Divine. Scarce a man since but has winced under the Divine veto. We make splendid plans, but under the veto those plans become mere castles in the air. The same shadow darkens the palace and the cottage alike. We plan for health, and the veto brings sickness; we plan for success, and the veto brings failure; we plan for long life, and the veto brings death. It is ever so, and ever shall be; disappointments will never cease until from the heart we shall all say, “Thy will, not mine, be done.”
IV. The divine leadership in our personal history. What was true in David’s life is true in every life. We live under the Divine sovereignty. A personal God deals with His children. Events no human brain has foreseen shape our lives. The experience of the past gives hope for the future. He who has been with us in the days of youth will be with us in the valley of shadows. The future of each life brightens in our assurances of the Divine help in the past. This is the law. Because God had been with David in his struggles all the way, therefore He would be with him in all the days to come.
V. The great covenant. The Divine promises are better than our fears. To the disappointed king there came a covenant message of surpassing power. The disappointment arose because in this day of his greatness he was not permitted to carry out his chosen designs. The disheartened king heard the prophet’s message that Jehovah needed no house; but a greater declaration was awaiting his attention. It was a far-off vision the prophet has seen: “The Lord telleth thee that He will make thee an house.” This whole theme reveals the ever-recurring fact of the true spiritual meaning that lies beneath all Scripture history. Four thousand years before the star shone over Bethlehem, the expectation of the Messiah was cherished by the friends of God. The promise to Abraham was not of seeds, as of many, but of one “which is Christ.” Jacob could bless his sons without discerning Shiloh. Moses’ choice took into account “the reproach of Christ.” So in our text, David plans for a house that shall bear Jehovah’s name; and immediately there is revealed to him the covenant, no man can break, that the anointed shall spring from his line; and further yet, that the importance of the spiritual kingdom far exceeds any importance of the earthly. This was the great consolation of the centuries that Messiah’s kingdom should appear in the earth. They lived and they died in so grand a hope, founded upon the unshaken revelation of the Word of God--a word of the everlasting covenant. (Monday Club Sermons.)
2 Samuel 7:14.
I will be his Father, and he shall be my son.
I. Jehovah’s relationship. God has written in His Word, saying, “I will be his Father, and he shall be my son.” Here I commence with a fundamental principle, and that because fundamental principles, in our day, are become almost obsolete; and, in hundreds and thousands of instances, are cast aside. The fundamental principle I mean is the original adoption of His sons. This seems to be the very spirit of the promise of my text, “I will be his Father.” It is not left to after-date to be fixed, but it is accomplished in after-date manifestly, to prove that Jehovah had before ordained that it should be so.
II. The open manifestation of the sonship. “He shall be my son.”
1. “He shall be my son,” manifestly, for the family likeness shall be put upon him. He once bore the image of the earthly; and earthy enough God knows he was, before regeneration work made the change in him. He bore the image of the earthy, the image of the fallen Adam, the image of ruin, the image of the curse. But though he has borne the image of the earthly, he shall bear the image of the heavenly; and this family likeness expresses and exhibits, before all the world, the distinction between the children of God and the children of the world.
2. God’s sons are privileged to wear the family robes. You recollect a passage in the Book of Samuel pointing to this, “With such robes were the king’s daughters that were virgins, apparelled;” and all His sons too.
3. That when Jehovah determines openly to display the character of His sons, it is by affording them the spirit of adoption. The privilege of adoption is one thing, and the spirit of adoption is another. In the privilege of adoption, all that pertains to the family of God is made over to the sons, and secured to them for ever; but in the spirit of adoption, the poor sinner born from above, the poor sinner regenerated by grace Divine, is brought to know his relationship, as the apostle has it. As soon as this spirit of adoption is sent forth into his heart, he cries out, “Father.” “Abba” is the word given--“Father.”
4. Let me add here, the sons of God are very tenacious about the maintaining of truth and holiness; and they are the only persons in the world that are anxious to maintain them. In this sense also they differ from all people, from all nations under heaven.
5. But go on just to mark, that the sons of God, especially as they grow up a little above their boyhood, and begin to be young men in Christ and fathers in Christ, will be very tenacious to understand all the truth, and to hold the truth and nothing but the truth, to compare one truth with another, and to refuse to give up an iota of it, and unfurl a banner with this inscription upon it, “Buy the truth and sell it not.”
III. But there is something in my text that may not be quite so welcome to my hearers, “If he commit iniquity, i will chasten him with the rod of men and with the stripes of the children of men, but my mercy shall not depart away from him.”
1. You know, if the father uses his rod, he holds it tightly in his hand; he does not throw it at the child, and let the chances be as they may be--he holds it firmly in his hand. Now, whatever trials you may pass through, bear in mind two things; there is something wrong, and you should say with Job, “Show me wherefore thou contendest with me?” and then in the next place remember that the rod is in the hand of your Father, and He will not make a sword of it.
2. But there is one other phrase: “My mercy shall not depart away from him.” Hear the record of Divine faithfulness, “My mercy shall not depart away from him.” The verse closes with an awful contrast, which marks the difference between His sons and His enemies; “As I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee.” But He will never do this with His sons. Why so? because they are in union with Christ. (J. Irons.)
Consciousness of sonship
Correggio stood before a grand painting, enraptured; and as he gazed, grasping the sublime conception, amazed at the wondrous execution and colouring of the picture, exclaimed, “Thank God! I, too, am a painter.” So, when a Christian looks steadily at what it is to be children of our Father, with sublime thrills of joy he can say, “Thank God! I, too, am a child of the Lord God Almighty.” (G. C. Baldwin.)
The confidences of father and son
A young man was taking leave of a well-beloved father, who said to him, “My son, if you are in any trouble or need anything, write to me; you know I am always ready to do all I can for you.” “Yes, I know it, dear father,” said the son, “and will you keep safely for me this box containing the most precious things I own? “After a time the young man became ill, and the expected aid from his father was delayed. A chance acquaintance said, “Your father may have forgotten his promise.” The young man’s eyes flashed as he said with emotion, “My father never failed me yet. I love him and he loves me. I know whom I can trust, and I am as sure of his help as if the money were in my hand! The mail may miscarry, but my father’s promise is sure. Never suggest to me again that my father is not faithful to his promise.” (Weekly Pulpit.)
2 Samuel 7:15
But my mercy shall not depart away from him.
But One forsaken and He victorious
At Mildmay, Mr. Spurgeon related the story of an aged saint, who, depressed much with bodily infirmity, asked a friend if he ever knew anyone forsaken of God, for that was his condition. “Only one,” was the reply, “but He to-day is sitting on His Father’s throne.” (Newton Jones.)
2 Samuel 7:16-17
Thy house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever.
The advantages of civil government contrasted with the blessings of the spiritual kingdom of Jesus Christ
I. The first and primary advantage expected from every well-constituted human government is security and the sense of security. The depravity of our nature has introduced such a universal selfishness and rapacity among mankind is their natural state, that men in every age and country have been convinced of the expediency and necessity of attempting to organise some form of government for the purpose of their common security. While every individual is left to exert his own power as he chooses, none can be secure either in his property or person: it becomes absolutely indispensable, therefore, if men would escape the intolerable evils of such a state, to collect and embody this scattered and uncertain force of the many, in some public depository of power: such a provision is necessary for the protection and preservation of every community. Hence almost all nations, even the most uncivilised, have attempted some constitution of this kind, however rude, for the prevention or the redress of those injuries to which the subjects were continually liable by the passions of our nature. But the utmost degree of personal security that can be enjoyed under any form of civil power, is a most imperfect shadow of the safety which Jesus Christ bestows upon the subjects of his spiritual reign. Until a man submits to His mediatorial authority, he remains exposed to unutterable evils.
II. The second benefit expected from human governments is liberty. So far as this advantage is consistent with the former, or with the public security, the more largely it is enjoyed the better. But, suppose the utmost possible degree of civil liberty enjoyed, what is it in comparison with that spiritual, real freedom, which Jesus Christ confers? The former is, at the best, only an external, circumstantial blessing; it does not enter into the inner man. But “if the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed”: “where the Spirit of the Lord is,” there is the only true liberty. The Christian is the genuine freeman, and none beside is such except in name.
III. The next advantage derived from a good government is plenty. To secure this advantage, you are aware that there are arrangements in nature, in a great measure independent of human institutions, and beyond the control of human policy. But perhaps, in this respect, there has been often much error on the part of those in power. But in the kingdom of Jesus Christ there exists an infinite plenty of all the provisions that can be desired for all the wants of the soul. None are neglected here: the poorest may be enriched beyond the most splendid opulence of this world, even with “the unsearchable riches of Christ;” as the apostles, “though poor, could make many rich,--though they had nothing, they possessed all things.” For in Jesus Christ “all fulness” dwells, for the supply of spiritual destitution.
IV. A tendency to improvement in its social institutions, is a fourth benefit which ought to accompany every well-ordered government. The best of these institutions are such as will be at once permanent and progressive, by their intrinsic wisdom and excellence,--by their adaptation to all the varying circumstances of the nation,--by their power of providing for unseen and possible emergencies: they will gradually rise from security to convenience, and then exalt convenience into ornament--into just refinement and diffused illumination: such has been the aim of the greatest legislators. But the difference between the most moral and the most flagitious of natural characters, is less than the difference that subsists between the subjects of Jesus Christ and the children of this world; because the latter is the difference between the spiritually dead and living.
V. The fifth and last requisite of a well-constituted government is stability: this is the crown of all its other advantages. Nothing can be wanting to such a reign but that it should last: and this is what the text emphatically expresses--“Thy throne shall he established for ever”: as the Psalmist says of the Messiah, “He shall reign as long as the sun and moon endure.” In this the kingdom of David was an emblem, however faint, of that which would be erected by Jesus Christ; wonderfully preserved as was the throne of Judah, while the greatest monarchies were marked by perpetual vicissitudes: the kings of Israel were ever changing in their line, while the descendants of David maintained a direct succession, (R. Hall, M. A.)
A long tenure of blessing
“If a man might have a cottage on a hundred years’ lease, he would prize it much more than the possession of a palace for a day.” Of course he would; and this it is which adds so much preciousness to the joys of heaven, for they are eternal. The pleasures of this world, however bright they seem, are but for this one day of life, which is already half over. If they were all they profess to be, and a thousand times more, they would not be worthy to be mentioned in comparison with “pleasures for evermore” at God’s right hand. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Christ’s reign foreshadowed
Apart from the fact that the kingdom in the form in which David’s descendants ruled over it, has long since crumbled away, the large words of the promise must be regarded as inflated and exaggerated, if, by “for ever” they only mean for long generations. A “seed,” or line of perishable men, can only last for ever if it closes in a Person who is not subject to the law of mortality. Unless we can with our hearts rejoicingly confess, “Thou art the King of glory, O Christ. Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,” we do not pierce to the full understanding of Nathan’s prophecy. All the glorious prerogatives shadowed in it were but partially fulfilled in Israel’s monarchs. Their failures and their successes, their sins and their virtues, equally declared them to be but shadowy forerunners of him in whom all that they at the best imperfectly aimed at and possessed is completely and for ever fulfilled. They were prophetic persons by their office, and pointed on to him. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
2 Samuel 7:18-19
Then went King David in and sat before the Lord.
David’s address to the Lord
I. The sovereignty of Divine grace. A purpose of love is disclosed here. It is seen in the choice of David and his house, and in the merciful designs which were announced to them. The text furnishes us with a striking illustration of the plighted love of God to Christ and His people. The element of election is conspicuous in this narrative. The great truth that God has, in Christ Jesus, chosen to Himself a church, is brought to the level of our comprehension.
II. The headship of Christ. You may have remarked that the promises were made to David personally, although his family was included in the blessing. The covenant was with Jesse’s son, who was regarded as the progenitor of a chosen seed--“Thine house,--thy kingdom,--thy throne shall be established for ever.” David elsewhere alludes to this, for, amongst his last words, he says that God had made a covenant with him, ordered in all things and sure--meaning that He had promised to him certain irrevocable blessings. Here, then, we have another very important truth connected with our salvation, namely, that Christ is the covenant-head of His Church; that he is the representative of His people in all that concerns their salvation; that “all the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him amen.”
III. The marvellous preservation of the church. David, in the text, speaks of God’s providential care during the past: “Who am I, O Lord God? and what is my house, that Thou hast brought me hitherto?” and he expresses confidence in His promised favour for the future: “Thou hast spoken also of Thy servant’s house for a great while to come.” David and his family had been, and were still to be, the objects of God’s providential care; and Christ and His people being typified by them, we must regard that circumstance as declaratory of the duration and stability of the Church. Observe, that from the beginning there has always been a preservation of--
1. A godly seed amongst the wicked. The Lord’s people have ever been in a minority. They are variously described by the inspired penman as a remnant,” a “garden enclosed,” a “vineyard;” and by our Saviour as a “little flock.” It is interesting to observe that the righteous seed maintained in the world has been expressly “taught of the Lord:” and consequently that in all ages there has been a preservation of--
2. The truth amidst error. At first it was imparted by Jehovah Himself to Adam, and to Enoch, and to Abraham, and to Moses. Afterwards the Lord was pleased to raise up prophets whose special mission it was to declare His will. Then came our Saviour, who was “the Truth” itself, and after him the apostles and evangelists. The doctrines of salvation were declared to Adam as they are preached to you now. Man’s lost estate, redemption through Christ, justification by faith, and the need of personal holiness have been set forth in every era of revelation. They are to be found in the first promise, in the ceremonies of the Levitical law, and in the writings of the prophets as well as in the New Testament. The truth has never been extinguished. (A. B. Whatton, LL. B.)
Prospect and retrospect
We pause as on an isthmus of time; the past and the future are alike open to view. There are no utterances which more fitly express our emotions, as we glance back over the years, than these used here: “Who am I, O Lord God? and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto?” And there are no words better for us to speak, as we are looking forward into the eternity we are rapidly nearing, where the fruition of our best hopes is ere long to be, than these which the king employed in his gratitude then: “And this was yet a small thing in thy sight, O Lord God; but Thou hast spoken also of Thy servant’s house for a great while to come.”
I. The retrospect.
1. In the history the review of the past was laid upon David himself. What a series of reflections must have thronged upon that king’s mind as he sat there in silence alone with the ark of God. He had not journeyed along over the hills and valleys of years by ways of pleasantness and by paths of peace. He would well consider his dangers and his deliverances too. He could not have forgotten the hour in which, as a stripling lad, he had slain the Philistine giant with the pebble from the brook, only by trusting in the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Then that would make him think of the terrible manner of Saul’s attacks upon his life while he as a simple-hearted minstrel was trying to soothe him with his harp. He would seem to see at this moment of review, perhaps as he had never seen before, that his defences must have been actually Divine. Who could have turned in their course those javelins that went quivering through the air out of the mad monarch’s hand? This was a career that might well be reviewed in the words, “Who am I, O Lord God? and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto?” The call, therefore, is very plain to us: “Look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged.” David might sometimes wonder why, among all that band of brethren of his, so stalwart and strong, he, the weakest and the youngest, had been selected for this wonderful place of honour as the king of Israel. But we may marvel the more that we were made to be the recipients of this grander honour still as kings and priests unto God. Among the private papers of John Howard was found after his death one bearing only these pathetic words: “Lord God, why me?” Such a reflection must have been suggested in the very spirit of David’s exclamation there before the ark: “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto!”
2. The result of this retrospection upon the prayer of the king is the special thing to be observed, because there comes to view the true temper which on every such occasion as this ought to be found in the heart of the Christian. But there appears nothing of superciliousness nor of self conceit, not even of satisfied complacency, in David at this moment. On the contrary no words can be found which in more vigorous terms could express his humility and utter self-abnegation than these he employs for himself: “Who am I, O Lord God!” Matthew Henry, commenting in his own inimitable way, exclaims in a kind of expostulation at his self-abasement: “Why, he was upon all accounts a very considerable and valuable man! His endowments were extraordinary. His gifts and graces were eminent. He was a man of honour, success, and usefulness; the darling of his country and the dread of its enemies.” But David here evidently counts himself nothing before his Maker, and attributes everything to God’s sovereign grace to him. Nor is this all: he disclaims also any credit for his relationship and family connection. David was evidently an essentially modest man. He made very much the same remark as this to his royal predecessor on the occasion when he was offered the hand of his daughter in marriage. A calm and candid review of his past religious life always humbles a genuine Christian, rather than exalts him into self-importance. There are so many falls for which he is responsible; there are so many neglects for which he is to blame; there are so many weaknesses in his character and so many errors in his walk, that he feels he has little reason to grow self-complacent. It is better to keep saying with this king before the mercy-seat: “Who am I, O Lord God? and what is my house, that Thou hast brought me hitherto?”
II. Having now considered the believer’s retrospect, we turn to consider his prospect, as he sits at the table of the Lord. You cannot fail to observe how, in the utterance of the text, the comparative value of these two was reckoned. Glorious indeed were the remembrances which thronged upon David--the deliverances, the honours, the communings; he dismisses them at once when he begins to think of the anticipations he is permitted to cherish. (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
The grateful monarch
I. The posture he assumed. “Then went king David in, and sat before the Lord.”
II. The fervent gratitude he expressed. It was called forth:
1. By looking back at the past. “Who am I, O Lord God?” etc.
2. By thinking of the future. “And this was yet a small thing in Thy sight, O Lord God,” etc.
III. The touching appeal he presented. “And what shall David say more unto thee? for thou, Lord God, knowest Thy servant.”
1. Thou knowest the sinfulness of Thy servant. David knew something of this himself, but he was by no means aware of the depths of wickedness which were within him.
2. Thou knowest the weakness of Thy servant. “He knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.”
3. Thou knowest the integrity of Thy servant. According to an Indian proverb--“A diamond with flaws is more precious than a pebble that has none.” Now David, in addition to his great transgression, had several flaws; his infirmities and failings were many; and yet the whole of his history shows that he was a true child of God notwithstanding.
4. Thou knowest the desires of Thy servant. It was in David’s heart to build a temple for God; but although not permitted to carry the design into execution, He whom he sought to serve and honour, approved of the feeling by which he was prompted, and accepted the will for the deed. Thus the humble believer can say, “Lord, all my desire is before thee, and my groaning is not hid from thee.”
5. Thou knowest the obligations of Thy servant. Often should the question be asked, “How much owest thou unto thy Lord?” David owed much; for God’s merciful kindness towards him had been great. Let us then think of these things. Never Should we forget that all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. And let us ask ourselves, what effect the contemplation of God’s knowledge has upon our minds? Does it inspire us with joy, or make us miserable? Is it a congenial, or an unwelcome and repulsive theme? The subject speaks to the self-righteous formalist. “Ye are they which justify yourselves before me; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men, is abomination in the sight of God.” It speaks to all workers of iniquity. The practical language of such is, “Who seeth us? and who knoweth us?” (Expository Outlines.)
David’s prayer for his house
The plan of David to build a “house magnifical” for Jehovah was not approved. Man proposes; God disposes. We think we know; but God knows better. The Divine veto was conveyed to him as gently as possible; it was coupled with a great promise, “Thy house and thy kingdom shall be established before thee.”
1. On receiving this communication the king left his cedar palace, went into the weather-beaten tabernacle, and “sat before the Lord.” The season of silent prayer is of inestimable value. Some of our deepest feelings are more readily expressed in silence than in words. A hand-clasp has volumes in it. Our Lord never preached a more impressive sermon to Peter than when He “turned and looked on him.” So in our communion With God we may sometimes make known our most earnest desires without a word (1 Samuel 1:13-15).
2. Then David pours out his soul in thanksgiving. He makes audible acknowledgment of God’s goodness in taking him from the sheepfold and setting him up as the head of a royal line; and in his promises of goodness “for a great while to come.” His gratitude finds its climacteric expression in the words, “There is none like Thee; neither is there any God beside Thee.” One thing is clear: God loves to be thanked for His goodness. Observe how the importance of thanksgiving is emphasised in the Scriptures (Psalms 95:2). Paul enjoins the Philippians to “make known their requests with thanksgiving unto God” (Philippians 4:6). Possibly our prayers would be more effectual if they were more frequently winged with praises. The filial spirit, without which there can be no true approach to the mercy-seat, suggests a due recognition of the Father’s goodness.
3. Then David’s prayer: “Let the house of Thy servant David be established before Thee.” This was in pursuance of a covenant. God on His part had promised to perpetuate the Davidic line; David on his part had promised faithfulness. The plea, in the present instance, was but a reminder: “Do according to thy word!” The unit of church membership, now as in the Old Economy, is the household. Every Christian head of a family has a covenant with God, in which salvation is promised “to thee and thy seed after thee.” The same law is over all God’s people; but some fall short of their privilege in refusing to claim it. The man who has no family altar, for example, can scarcely put God in remembrance of His covenant. If we want our households saved, let us cover them with a constant canopy of intercession; saying often, like David, “O Lord, thou hast promised! Thou hast promised!”
4. The prayer of David was answered gloriously.
Marrow and fatness
I. The humility apparent in David’s words.
1. He owned the lowliness of his origin--“What is my house?” He came not of royal blood.
2. David laid the most stress upon his own personal unworthiness. He said, “Who am I? What was there in me that thou shouldest make me a king, and a progenitor of the Christ?” And will not each believer here say the same? Who am I?
II. David’s wondering gratitude.
1. He wondered, first, at what God had done for him: “What is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto?--to a house of cedar, and to be able to talk about building a house for thee: to be thy chosen king, and to have my seed established on my throne, and to become the ancestor of the Christ!”
2. David did not end his wonder there, but went on to another and greater theme, viz., the blessings which the Lord had promised him. He praised the Lord for what he had laid up as well as for what he had laid out. He said, “And this was yet a small thing in thy sight, O Lord God, but thou hast spoken also of thy servant’s house for a great while to come.” What a wonderful expression! “And this was yet a small thing in thy sight.”
3. David had yet another theme for wonder, which was this--the manner of the giving of all this. There is often as much in the manner of a gift as in a gift itself.
III. David’s emotion of love.
1. David found but a scant outlet for his love. What precious words are these: “What can David say more?” It is love struck dumb by receiving an unspeakable gift. The king was exactly in the same case as Paul when he said, “What shall we then say to these things?”
2. Notice the childlikeness of this love. “What can David say more?”
3. Observe, it is a love which longs for communion, and enjoys it. He says, “What can David say more unto thee?” He can talk to other people, but he does not quite know how to speak to God, and then he adds, “For Thou, Lord God, knowest Thy servant,” which is a parallel passage to that of Peter, “Lord, Thou knowest all things, Thou knowest that I love Thee.”
4. But do you see it is obedient love as well? It is not mere sentiment, there is a practicalness about it, for he says, “Lord, Thou knowest Thy servant,” he subscribes himself as henceforth bound to God’s service. With delight he puts on his Master’s livery, and sits like a servitor in the hall of the King of kings, waiting to hear what shall be spoken to him.
IV. David’s heart was full of praise.
1. The praise was for the freeness of the grace which brought him such blessedness. “For thy word’s sake, and according to thine own heart hast thou done all these great things.” Whenever the believer asks why God gave him grace in Christ Jesus he can only resort to one answer--the Lord’s own heart has devised and ordained our salvation.
2. David praised also the faithfulness of God. He says, “For Thy word’s sake.” Is not that the ground upon which all mercy is received by the child of God? God has promised it and will keep His word. He never did run back from His covenant yet.
3. Then the king’s heart was taken up with the greatness of the covenant blessings. “According to Thine own heart, hast Thou done all these great things.” They were all great. There was not a little mercy among them.
4. Once more David praised God for his condescending familiarity. “According to Thine own heart, hast Thou done all these great things, to make Thy servant know them.” They were revealed to David by a prophet, just as Jesus communed with His disciples, and said, “I have told you before it come to pass, that when it come to pass ye may believe.”
V. David’s soul was round up in high thoughts of God, for our text concludes with these words: “Wherefore Thou art great, O Lord God: for there is none like Thee, neither is there any God beside Thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears.” “God is great. He is the greatest because He is the best. The old Romans used to say, optimus maximus--the best, the greatest. Thou, God, art good, and therefore Thou art great. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The solicitude of success
Through the lips of Nathan David had received from God a personal message of the greatest moment. Then the king went in and sat before the Lord, breaking out into the language of the text, which is of the nature of an expostulation. He did not receive the message as one he had a right to expect; he expresses no exultation, only surprise and solicitude; his soul was troubled by his rare fortune, troubled as men generally are by disaster. But is not this a common experience of sincere and devout souls? They are humbled rather than elated by the honours they receive; the praises lavished upon them and their doings surprise and chasten them; their unlooked-for riches excite in their heart a troubled wonder; their specially happy lot seems so far in excess of what they might reasonably expect that they dare hardly realise it; their exceptional health, affluence, promotion, or felicity gives them from time to time a sense of positive uneasiness and painfulness. “Who am I, O Lord God, and what: is my house, that thou hast brought me thus far?” It may seem paradoxical to say so, but in deep, true souls disappointment and disaster often cause less anxiety and questioning than is occasioned by brilliant success. We know what we are, we know the errors, sins, and general unworthiness which have marked our career, and we cannot understand our good fortune; we suspect that we are being lifted up to be cast down; we are perturbed by a secret fear lest these windfalls and triumphs may in one way or other precipitate our ruin, as superior beauty is often fatal to birds and flowers; and we conceive the dread lest these earthly successes may only aggravate our doom as the good things of Dives did. Who am I, and what is my house, that I should be so distinguished? Yet this is the right spirit in which to accept accessions of wealth and social distinctions and joys. It is a far truer temper than to regard our luck as the reward of our merit, and to boast ourselves in our good fortune. To recognise our demerit, and to acknowledge that riches and honours are God’s free gifts, is the true attitude towards worldly advancement and advantage. But at the same time we must not permit morbid feeling to blind us to the graciousness of God, and to rob us of the sweetness of His gifts. Let us then learn to trust God in His bright providences as we do in His dark ones, and to take His richest gifts without suspicion or misgiving. It is a fine trait in the Christian character when we can fill high places and enjoy goodly things in the spirit of unquestioning trust and appreciation. After the king had humbled himself before God because of these extraordinary favours, he concludes: “And what can David say more unto Thee? for Thou knowest Thy servant, O Lord God. For Thy word’s sake, and according to Thine own heart, hast Thou wrought all this greatness to make Thy servant know it.” The suspicious, ascetic spirit is not the highest mood of life. (W. L. Watkinson.)
Alone with God
Christian life in our day is full of activity. It finds pleasure in planning, giving, and working for the growth of Christ’s kingdom. The spirit of consecration gives joy to all Christians who recognise it, and inspires confident hopes in the aggressive movements of the Church. But it conceals, also, a great peril. All Christian power springs from communion with God, and from the indwelling of Divine grace. One can do good to others only as his own heart pulsates with love to Jesus, and has a present experience of His love. We can impart only what we receive. Any spring will run dry unless fed from unfailing sources. Any Christian labour will be fruitless, and Christian zeal be like sounding brass, unless the soul waits daily upon God, and finds new strength in prayer and in the study of the Bible.
It would be a great favour if a king should give leave to one of his meanest subjects to have a key of his privy chamber, to come to him and visit him, and be familiar with him when he pleaseth. How would such a favour be talked of in the world? Yet this is but a faint image of what the believer is admitted to. He may come not merely to the palace of mercy, and the throne of grace, but to the very heart of God. Confidences such as ours surpass all the familiarities of friendship, and yet they are permitted, nay commanded, between the All-glorious Lord and our poor sinful selves. We may well copy the example of David when he went in and sat before the Lord, and said, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house? And is this the manner of man, O Lord God?” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Thou hast brought me hitherto.--
These verses represent David as coming to a point in his life when he steps aside for a moment out of the current of events to ask what they all mean, what light they throw upon his own life and destiny, and what on the character of God. David had become King now over all Israel and Judah, and he had conquered the Philistines sufficiently to have a moment’s rest. The kingdom is established. David is so impressed with this that he retires to be alone with God, and in the sacred solitude he says: “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that Thou hast brought us thus far?” And David felt that he was, somehow or other, being worked by a vast Power, that he was in the sweep of a tremendous current of purposes, part of a larger scheme than he himself had ever conceived, and evidently destined for some end larger than he knew. His life, he felt, could never be explained from himself. He was king of the people, but, just as surely, he was the servant of Jehovah. A greater than he was really directing his course. What had happened up to this point was proof, too, that somewhat more was intended. The sense of great things to come came in with that interpretation of the past. The wonder of accomplishments thus far shot into the future as a luminous prophecy of high destiny and great ends. And with this sense of his importance, and the importance of the nation at having a distinct place in the Divine economy, came a great sense of humility. “Who am I, and what is my house? The moment man learns his real greatness he is humble; it is when he masquerades an absent majesty he lifts a proud head. Now, it is always a difficult thing to construct the theology of history. I am not going to attempt it here. But a much more difficult thing, I think, is to learn history and have no theology. I do not suppose that David, or the man who wrote his history, or we ourselves, would speak of God taking him from the sheep-fold and making him king and giving him success in any such sense as to make God the Author of David’s misdoings. It is quite true that we cannot apply any theology to a satisfactory explanation of all the facts of history, but to read history and behold its trend and drift and its vast issues without believing in the Ordering Intelligence, who is moral and good, is to me impossible. “Take away the belief in the self-conscious personality of God,” said Tennyson, “and you take away the backbone of the world.” “On God and God-like men we build our trust.” Now, if we survey the past of the world and of mankind we may always ask with incredulity, “And is this the law of man, O Lord God?” And with the conviction that God is at work, which any adequate view of the past gives, comes the belief in the still greater future. So much is done that it must be little, I think, compared with what remains. Think for a moment of the evolution of mankind. Let man read back the history of his race as far as he can, until,he sees his ancestors of the Tertiary Period joining together to fight against the stronger animals. What a tremendous distance he has come from that early struggle to this present time when he is not only lord over the brute creation, but when he bends the elements of nature into his service! Think how from a few simple sounds he has developed all the richness of a modern language! Captain Cook said the language of Fuegians was like a man clearing his throat. Think of the wonderful way in which man has risen from physical to moral and spiritual conceptions. The story of it lies embedded in our language to-day. One writer sums it up by saying: “From A to Z the dictionary is crowded with examples of the physical roots from which moral and intellectual terms have sprung.” “Supercilious,” e.g., means literally one who raises his eyebrows. Then, how did it come to mean a quality of spirit? Because man came to read the inner nature and to relate it to physical expression. A calculating man simply meant at first one who counted with small stones (calculus, pebble), but calculation now is a mental effort. This passage of words from physical to intellectual, moral, and spiritual meanings, indicates the passage of man to higher stages of life. Long, long ago man began to guess in a very crude way about the causes and properties of things, and the outcome is modern science with all its wonders. Well, having brought us thus far, is it not certain that much more is in store for us? Mr. Wallace puts fifteen great discoveries, all applications of science, to the credit of the nineteenth century, as against eight for all previous history. Is this wonder a sign that we are nearing the end of the world? Nay, rather we have just discovered that the reserve of the universe is exhaustless. “Each generation of physicists,” says Mr. H. Spencer in his last book, “discovers in so-called brute matter powers which but a few years before the most instructed physicists would have thought incredible.” Is this march of science the law of man, O Lord God? Nay, rather, we would ask, “Who are we that Thou hast brought us thus far?” Think, again, how far God has brought us on the paths of morality and theology and religion. From the crudest guesses as to His own nature Be has led us into the temple of the Father of Jesus Christ, and from mistaken sacrifices to the communion of the Holy Spirit. Think how the finest moral feelings have developed out of rude physical relations; even the modesty of woman and the love of man were once what,we should now deem vulgarities. In this the law of man, O Lord God? “For Thy word’s sake, and according to Thine heart, hast thou wrought all this greatness?” The whole development of mankind in language, art, and science, in social union, morality, and religion, is the history of a great forming Spirit bringing order out of chaos, the history of the inner word of God winning utterance: for itself through all discordant sounds, and turning the Babel of man into the Pentecost of the Holy Ghost. But let us turn our thoughts on this subject to our own individual lives. If you believe that God is conducting the march of the race to high and noble ends, you need to believe also that He is personally dealing with you. David’s thoughts turned not only upon his nation and its place in the world, but upon himself and his own relation to God. David was king, you say, and it was a wonderful thing to have come from the sheepfolds of Bethlehem to the throne of Israel. Well might the shepherd-boy of former days now ask, “Who am I?” But your life contains nothing startling of this kind; you were born an ordinary person, and you are an ordinary person still. Perhaps instead of success and promotion you have had much misfortune and adversity. When you think of the way you have come thus far, you have very mingled feelings about it, you see great blunders and sad mistakes--blunders and mistakes which, perhaps, have brought you a harvest of sorrows. You may be in the very midst of circumstances now which appear to be very much against you, which are at least very difficult to deal with. Types of life and careers are an infinite variety. But this thought that God is dealing with us is not confined to any type, much less confined to the successful type, From the sheepfold to the throne is by no means the one line along which the Divine leadership is recognised. Rather, indeed, it is the normal experience of man. A few men may adopt a certain course of thought, and reason themselves out of this conviction, or suppose they had done so, but mankind will never consent to it. The general feeling with regard to the race is that a “God marshals it,” and with regard to the individual even “that man proposes and God disposes.” Most men who from advanced years look back feel that someone else, not themselves, has really tracked their way. Without denying or diminishing man’s share in the conduct of his own life, without in any sense risking his sense of responsibility in regard to it; without taking away any of the truth of the statement that as he sows he reaps, we all feel that “There is a divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them as we will.” Shakespeare got it out of human life, and the conviction is in human life still. To the transfiguration of events, too, there is common testimony. All of us who can look back some years know how utterly we sometimes mistook the bearing of the events through which we were passing. Ruskin says he has never known anything of what was most seriously happening to him till afterwards. Is not that true of all in a measure? What you called an accident has become the ruling factor in your lot; what you called a chance meeting has deposited the most permanent influence in your life; what you intended perhaps for your success has turned out a hindrance; what you thought was going to crush you into a final defeat has been the greatest blessing to you. ‘Tis passing strange! and life is full of it. Crete cries out from the burden of years, and Greece ventures to the rescue. The way is blocked; nothing can be done. Greece proclaims war against Turkey, and Prince George goes to the front. Someone blunders badly, Greece is hopelessly beaten, and the iniquitous Turk revels in victory. Crete is doomed, then! No--wait; slow-footed Time will bring another message. The defeat of Greece lays an obligation on the Powers to give Crete freedom, and the time comes when Prince George becomes himself Governor of the island, and instead of the groans of oppressed men you hear the chanting of Te Deums and the voice of thanksgiving; and soldiers, instead of holding the people in terror, are pelted with flowers by little children. There have been things as strange as that in your life and mine; storms have wrought for peace, troubles have brought us strength, and we were helped from unexpected quarters. We look back to-day, and we see a great deal of our own folly and fault, and their results, but do we not also see the hand of God? But whatever you are, though bad and wicked, if you still feel there is a God above you, whose hand has been in your life though you have rebelled much, a God of mercy and redemption, a God with a great purpose which cannot be defeated, even yet the future throws open its golden doors, and the unseen powers are ready to guide you to the city of celestial life. Thus far. What for? Why alive to-day? That you may go on in the Divine life, on to do God’s work, on to use God’s power, on to manifest God’s beauty, and at last to take your own proper place in the Eternal City of God. (T. K. Williams.)
And is this the manner of man, O Lord God?--
God’s manner above man’s
1. It is not the manner of men to forgive great and frequent injuries and affronts. They are too soon provoked, and sometimes incensed; and not soon, or easily reconciled. They often retain a remembrance of injuries, which they profess to have forgiven; and it is difficult to bring them to a real friendship and to manifest the genuine evidences of it. If a prince forgiveth one act of treason, he will scarce forgive a second, and still keep the traitor near him. But our God is rich in mercy. Though he is the offended party, he makes the first overtures of reconciliation, bears with many provocations, waits to be gracious, and multiplies to pardon.
2. Nor is it the manner of men to confer such benefits as God doth. They have no such inexhaustible stores and treasures, out of which to draw their gifts. What is it that princes can bestow upon their greatest favourites, compared with the gifts of God? They confer honours and titles; a mere empty sound! God gives us the real honour, the glorious privilege, of being his children. Princes may bestow gold, silver, jewels, palaces, estates. But would you, Christians, give up your present comfort and interest in the Divine favour, for any of these? The greatest favourite of a prince may be peculiarly wretched, as was the case with Haman. His station is slippery and he may soon fall into disgrace and ruin. But the Lord will give strength to his people, bless them with peace, and confirm them to the end. The favourite of a prince must die, and his master, with all his wealth and power, cannot save him: but when flesh and heart faileth, God is the strength of his servants, and their portion for ever. The favourites of men, even of princes, must be confined to a few. But God can enrich, and ennoble thousands and millions. (J. Orton.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "2 Samuel 7". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Lent