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A Syrian ready to perish was my father.
Humiliation in connection with gratitude
Such was the confession required of every priest of Israel when he presented, before the altar, the offering of first-fruits. It was, therefore, in the midst of abundance, a memorial of former destitution, and an acknowledgment of utter unworthiness, under circumstances of peculiar obligation. The text is capable of divers renderings; but take whichever we may, the lesson is the same. It teaches us, that when the Divine promises are all fulfilled, and our salvation is complete, we are still to remember the past (Isaiah 51:1). The connection between acceptable thanksgiving and profound humiliation is a fact which none but a Pharisee would dare to disregard, and which it behoves the Christian to bear in mind in all his devout meditations and religious exercises. Should pride ever rise within his bosom--“Who maketh thee to differ?” is a consideration which may suffice to put it down: nor will he, if walking in the fear of God, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, when, by virtue of his “royal priesthood,” he has “boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,” forget to say there--“A Syrian ready to perish was my father.” The natural philosopher may rejoice that he is not a brute, and a pagan may glory in the attributes peculiar to man, but the devout student learns some very humbling facts concerning the position of our race. Among the rest is this, that, of intelligent beings, man is probably the lowest in the scale. That angels excel us in strength is obvious from everything we know concerning them; and that devils have far greater intellectual power than belongs to man, none acquainted with their devices will be disposed to question. To boast of our mental superiority, then, is but to mingle ignorance with pride. The humiliation which these considerations may be supposed to engender is deepened by the recollection, that our case is not one of poverty alone, but of degradation. Whatever may have been man’s original glory, that glory has long since departed. His boast of heraldry is vain; traced back to its earliest antiquity, it bespeaks his ruin. His crest is an inverted crown. And this is his motto--“Man that was in honour abode not.” The grace of God works wonders. It copes with depravity, and subdues it. It rescues the sinner from his degradation, and renders him meet to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light. But it also teaches him never to forget, even amidst the splendours of the heavenly temple, to which it ultimately introduces him, the ancient acknowledgment of the adoring Israelite--“A Syrian ready to perish was my father.” (D. E. Ford.)
Thou shalt rejoice in every good thing.
Rejoice in every good thing
It is our duty to give unstinted welcome to every visit of enjoyment with which we may be favoured. We frequently allow streams of refreshment or exhilaration to run past us without dipping into or tasting them; we blunderingly overlook many a cup of soothing and pleasing that is offered to us as we go trudging by. We are slow to discover and seize our golden chances, and hardly know how to make the most of them. At times we are afraid, it would seem, pausing now and then to squeeze a drop or two of severe or melancholy reflection into the goblet, as if there might be sin in having it too rich and sweet. The angel descending to solace us in our Gethsemane with a brief pleasant thrill, with a brief glimpse and gust of pleasure, flashes by under the sombre, wailing olives in vain, is allowed to vanish unharboured and un-utilised.
I. Never turn, in your bitterness of spirit, from any ministry of temporal enjoyment that may intervene; never be so wedded to your woes, so shut up and sunk down in them, that you cannot issue forth to accept such ministry. For, remember, we want to be made joyful for our education quite as much as we need to be tried and troubled. To laugh, to luxuriate, to ripple and glow with delight, at times is just as essential for us as it is at times to weep and suffer.
II. At times some of us may have had the feeling that there is so much misery in the world that it is hardly right to ignore and forget it for a moment in rejoicing. But let us reflect that, since God is our Father and we His children, we are justified in losing sight of trouble for a time when He gives us a joy to taste. Being only a child, however, I must feel about His world, and share in His travail concerning it; I need not be afraid at intervals to cast the entire load upon Him and let Him carry it alone. Souls must turn aside at times to bask in what sunshine they can find, and be mellowed, and warmed, and raised with it, in order to be of service in the darkness and to help to soften and relieve. (S. A. Tipple.)
Rejoice with a rejoicing universe
Rejoice with the morning stars, and let your adoring spirit march to the music of hymning spheres. Rejoice with the jocund spring in its gush of hope, and its dancing glory, with its swinging insect clouds and its suffusion of multitudinous song; and rejoice with golden autumn, as he rustles his grateful sheaves, and clasps his purple hands, as he breathes his story of fruition, his anthem of promises fulfilled; as he breathes it softly in the morning stillness of ripened fields, or flings it in AEolian sweeps from lavish orchards and from branches tossing bounty into mellow winds. Rejoice with infancy, as it guesses its wondering way into more and more existence, and laughs and carols as the field of pleasant life enlarges on it, and new secrets of delight flow in through fresh and open senses. Rejoice with the second youth of the heaven-born soul, as the revelations of a second birth pour in upon it, and the glories of a new world amaze it. Rejoice with the joyful believer when he sings, “O Lord! I will praise Thee; though Thou wast angry with me, Thine anger is turned away, and Thou comfortedst me. Behold, God is my salvation.” Rejoice with him whose incredulous ecstasy has alighted on the great Gospel secret, whoso eye is beaming as none can beam save that which for the first time beholds the Lamb; whose awe-struck countenance and uplifted hands are evidently exclaiming, “This is my beloved, and this is my friend.” Rejoice with saints and angels, as they rejoice in a sight like this. Rejoice with Immanuel, whose soul now sees of its travail. Rejoice with the ever blessed Three, and with a heaven whose work is joy. “Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye righteous; and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.” (J. Hamilton.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Deuteronomy 26". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany