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And search was made in the house of the rolls.
The search for the decree of Cyrus
1. Honest and thorough investigation promotes the interests of religion and of the Church of God.
2. The advantage of written history.
3. How great should be our gratitude for the sacred writings. (William Jones.)
“The house of books.”
One of Mr. Layard’s most valuable discoveries was that of a set of chambers in a palace at Koyunjik, the whole of the floor of which was covered more than a foot deep with terra-cotta tablets inscribed with public records. A similar collection has been recently found in the neighbourhood of Babylon. In some such record-house the search for the edict of Cyrus was made. (W. F. Adeney, M. A.)
A record thus written.
Record of the year
The record here referred to was of what had been done for the house and service of God. It was a religious record such as I propose we should now read of the past year. Records are made of changes of what is altering from day to day in that great empire of change of which we are all subjects. This law of change is often spoken of as a melancholy law. It is better to regard it as the decree of growth and progress. It is the ordinance of escape from old limitations, and the impulse of rising to new stages of life to gain fresh energy of thought and will. A state of sameness or immobility would be in truth a wretched doom. The record of any year is not a record of sadness or decay alone, even as respects this world, but very much of delight and advancement.
I. The first chapter is that of new being, birth and growth. Many houses have been made the scenes of holy gladness by the gifts of God’s creative and inspiring power. What trust so great as that of a living spirit, with its own individual nature and with capacities for a peculiar development of intellectual and moral strength? With what reverent, trembling sense of responsibility it should be received! What office so high in rank, so great in opportunity, so large in patronage or susceptible of good, with such hope and fear wrapped up in it, as the parental once? What expanding of outward nature or unfolding of earthly ambition is really so grand and affecting as that of an undying soul? No changes of material growth, of splendid seasons and solemn spectacles can equal this. It makes the purest inspiration of love, it turns self-sacrifice into a pleasure; it plies the inventive faculties with all knowledge and wisdom to provide for the beloved object; it draws the mind into long foresight of its benefit and improvement; and by the force of mingling filial and parental communications exalts the soul to a perception of the relation of all to Him who is the common Father. Life’s record, then, is not all of gloomy change and irreparable privation, but of strength enhancing, existence renovating, and of new possession.
II. But i must turn this illuminated leaf of the record to a pace veiled in shades. It is the record of sickness and decline. And what shall we say of this change? We cannot make our record all pleasant and cheerful if we would. The skeleton that the Egyptians carried to their banquets will intrude upon every feast of our earthly joy and fling its ghastly shadow both across the avenues of our immediate thought and along the vistas of our farthest recollection. But although sickness comes with very sharp instrumentalities, yet she comes with a bright retinue. Patience, resignation, spiritual thoughts of God and of futurity come with her. As the most blazing effulgence of heaven sleeps within the black cloud, so in the lowering darkness and eclipse of bodily suffering often lies the very brilliance of a spiritual and Divine glory.
III. We now turn the last leaf of our record. It ends, like all earthly records, with death. God by His Son Jesus Christ lifts up the burden of sadness that settles down on a record like this. Being dead in the body, our departed friends yet speak for truth and goodness more loudly and more persuasively than when their words fell on our outward hearing. They have gone that they might awaken our virtue, and that they might chill and discourage our worldly lusts. Like the stars, though with a warmer attraction, they lift and beckon us up. The light burns on, the fountain flows, the music sounds for us. Neither is this final change and record in the providence of God a ground for lamentation. It is rather a declaration of our native dignity as His children. It is the announcement of our glorious destiny. It is a summons to us to gird up our loins, trim our lamps, watch and be ready. (C. A. Bartol.)
And let the expenses be given out of the king’s house.
A believer’s expenses
I. What are our expenses? The expenses referred to in the text are those connected with the return of the Jews to their own land, the rebuilding of the temple and its continual sacrifices.
1. Our release from the thraldom of sin involved enormous expenditure (1 Peter 1:18-19).
2. The important steps of public profession of faith in Christ, and of union with His Church, need peculiar supplies of grace.
3. There is much new material to be built up in our habits and life.
4. Our bodies being temples of the Holy Ghost, every physical power and every mental faculty should be “a vessel unto honour, sanctified and meet for the Master’s use.”
5. Our hearts are altars whereon should be offered the sacrifices of worship and praise.
II. Where shall we find means to meet these expenses?
1. The Word of God’s truth.
2. The throne of His grace.
3. The fellowship of His people.
4. The dispensation of His providence.
5. The opposition of His foes.
The Persian monarch was naturally Israel’s enemy, yet God arranges that he shall pay Israel’s expenses. Even the lions we may meet shall supply sweet honey for our nourishment and refreshment.
6. The work of Christ (Philippians 4:19).
III. How shall we act in the presence of such abundance?
1. We need not be afraid of exhausting Heaven’s treasures.
2. We dare not be slow in availing ourselves of these supplies.
3. We cannot help wondering at the goodness of the King.
4. We will not forget to express our gratitude to the King.
5. We must not be so selfish as to hide these glad tidings. (R. S. Latimer.)
Moreover I make a decree what ye shall do to the elders of these Jews.
The Scriptural warrant for an established Church
Look at this history, and consider candidly the great principles involved in these facts. Consider--
I. Who these men were who issued these decrees concerning the building, and concerning the supplies of the house of God at Jerusalem. They were Gentile kings.
II. What it was that these kings ordered. They ordered--
1. The building of the house, and that the expenses incurred thereby should be taken from the king’s treasury.
2. The supply of the house, with every item of all the details necessary for carrying out the worship of God--rams, and lambs, and bullocks, and wheat, and wine, and oil, and salt, according to the appointment of the priests.
3. They assigned certain reasons why this should be done.
(1) That sacrifices of sweet savour might be offered to the God of Heaven.
(2) That prayer might be made for the life of the king and his sons.
(3) That wrath might not come upon the king’s realm, implying that, if they did not do this, the realm incurred the wrath of God.
4. They insisted upon all this by imposing a heavy penalty upon any recusant subject. The penalty in the decree of Darius was death; the penalty in the decree of Artaxerxes was varying, according to the discretion of the executive magistracy, “whether unto death, or to banishment, or to confiscation of goods, or to imprisonment”; but in each case, there was a penalty for non-payment.
III. The parties addressed in the decree, and included amongst the contributors. These were not the people only who approved of, and could enjoy the worship of the house, but they included also the adversaries, who did not approve of--who could not enjoy--and who would not join in the worship of the house; yet, although they did not approve, although they would not join in the worship of that house, they were compelled by the king’s decree to contribute to the expense of building, and to the continued supply of the materials of that worship. And remember all this was done by those kings, according to the commandment and in harmony with the revealed will of the Lord God of Israel. (H. M’Neile, M. A.)
That they may offer sacrifices of sweet savours unto the God of heaven.
Sacrifice as a rule of supplication unto God
I have made choice of this passage to show that sacrifice was a rite of supplication to God, wherein the supplicant came not with his naked prayer, but presented something unto God whereby to find favour in His sight. The thing presented was a federal gift, consisting of meat and drink, in the tender whereof as a sinner he recognised himself to be his God’s vassal and servant, so by acceptance of the same he was reconciled and restored to His covenant by the atonement and forgiveness of his sins. For as according to the custom of mankind, to receive meat and drink from the hand of another was a sign of amity and friendship, much more to make another partaker of his table, as the sinner was here of God’s, by eating of His oblation: hence those who came to make supplication of the Divine Majesty whom they had offended were wont by this rite to make way for their suit by removing the obstacle of His offence.
1. It is often said of Abraham and Isaac that where they pitched their tents they also built an altar, and “there called upon the name of the Lord”; but an altar is a place for sacrifice; therefore sacrifice must be a rite whereby they called upon the name of God.
2. The same appears by the speech of Saul (1 Samuel 13:12), which shows that to offer a burnt-offering was to make supplication (1 Samuel 7:8-9).
3. This is further proved by Psalms 116:13 : “I will take the cup of salvation” (or drink offering) “and call upon the name of the Lord.”
4. The same is implied in Micah 6:6 and also in Proverbs 15:1, where sacrifice and prayer are taken the one for the other.
5. The like may be inferred out of Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple and the Lord’s answer thereto. In the prayer no mention is made of sacrifice to be there offered, but only that God would be pleased to hear the prayers that should be made in that place or towards it. Nevertheless, when God appeared to Solomon in the night, He said unto him, “I have heard thy prayer, and have chosen this place to Myself for a house of sacrifice” (2 Chronicles 7:12). From what has been said we can understand in what sense the ancient Church called the Eucharist a sacrifice, and how harmless that notion was, viz., they took this sacrament to have been ordained by Christ to succeed the bloody sacrifices of the law, and to be a means of supplication and address to God, in the New Testament as they were in the Old, by representing the body and blood of Christ unto His Father, according to His appointment. (J. Mede, B. D.)
And they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai.
The true pulpit the best promoter of honest industry
I. quickens the power of thought. He quickens public thought most who presents the most startling subjects with the highest enthusiasm. The true pulpit does this. The subjects it presents are the most vital to man’s interests, the most stimulating to his inquiry. They involve the sublimest facts of nature and the grandest truths of inspiration, the highest interests of man now and for ever. Hence there is no power equal to the power of the true pulpit to break the monotony of mind and set the wheels of intellect ageing. This being so, the attendant on a true ministry will be--
1. The more qualified to form a good plan of action.
2. The more practical sagacity he will have to adapt means to ends.
3. The more solicitous he will be to execute his plan.
II. Supplies the timid with motive for action. The man who has been made thoughtful by the power of the pulpit is made to feel that the more successful he is in his business--
1. The more useful he is as a citizen.
2. The more useful as a religionist. (Homilist.)
Prophets and builders
The prophet and the builder must always go hand in hand. It is noticeable that the builder seldom or never goes first, but invariably succeeds the intelligent and ardent speaker. This is only another way of saying that thought precedes action. When men think deeply they are preparing the way for laying massive foundations by persons who could not themselves have entered into such intellectual strife. The one must not despise the other. Haggai built nothing, nor did Zechariah probably lay stone upon stone; on the other hand, Zerubbabel may not have been a man of active thought, and Jeshua may not have been gifted with eloquence; but they all worked together--the first man, seeing the truth of God and feeling the burden of the zeal of heaven, excited the sentiment of the two, that they might proceed to give practical and visible effect to the noble prophecies dictated by the Spirit. It is in vain for hearers to complain of preachers when they themselves are not prepared to carry out the word of the Lord. (J. Parker, D. D)
God requires men to work
God puts the oak in the forest, and the pine on its sand and rock, and says to men, “There are your houses, go hew, saw, frame, build, make.” God builds the trees; men must build the house. God supplies the timber; men must construct the ship. God buries the iron in the heart of the earth; men must dig it, and smelt it, and fashion it. Clay and rock are given us, not brick and square stones. What is useful for the body, and, still more, what is useful for the mind, is to be had only by exertion--exertion that will work men more than iron is wrought, and will shape men more than timber is shaped. Again, in the spiritual world God requires men to work. He gives them certain things, and then says, “Go, work.” He requires them to work in building up His spiritual temple as much as He required the Jews, in days of old, to work in building up His earthly temple.
The building of God’s temple
Men are like workmen set each by the architect upon some single bit of carving. One has given him to fashion a fragment where incompleteness breaks a promise of beauty. Another has set him only level lines and surfaces of blank monotony. To one it falls to carve a head without a body; to another, a lovely face; to many, patterns seemingly of little grace or meaning. But the task of each demands long labour and utmost care. At last the various blocks are put together, and, lo! there rises a glorious cathedral, filling eye and heart with its majesty and loveliness, destined to draw to it and shelter within itself one generation after another of devout worshippers. So, the temple of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, is building through the ages. Whoever, in high place or in low, is living the life of fidelity and love, is carving a stone for the fabric. (George S. Merrian.)
The erection of church
There is no book that throws more light upon the obligation of building temples for God, and the spirit that should ever inspire it, than that of Ezra.
I. In building a Christian temple we express our felt connection with the spiritual world. All building may be regarded as the expression of some sentiment, instinct, or wish of human nature. Markets, senate-houses, theatres, hotels, have all risen as the effects, embodiments, and realisations of some principle in our common nature. But these are all for our material wants and interests. In building a house for God we declare that we have other relations than those that connect us with this material system, other wants than those of the body, other interests than the secular and the physical. We thus attest our connection with the spiritual universe, our relation to eternity, our moral obligation to the Infinite, our desire for communion with God.
II. In building a Christian temple we express the idea that we require special manifestations of God. In the temple of nature God is portrayed in every object and proclaimed in every sound. But we feel that some other manifestation is required. In nature we can only see Him as the Almighty Creator and Absolute Sovereign; we want Him to appear in another relationship, one more suited to our fallen condition; we want Him to appear to us a redeeming God--one mighty to save. Had we not sinned we should need no such manifestations of God as we seek in the erection of temples. The temple of nature would suffice. There is no temple in heaven; God is seen in all, loved in all, worshipped in all.
III. In building a Christian temple we attest our faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
1. As a revelation from God intended and adapted to meet the condition of sinners.
2. As necessary to all men, through all times. We feel that while coming generations may not require our systems of philosophy, our ecclesiastical polities, our schemes of government, our codes of laws, they will require the gospel; and hence we rear a temple for its proclamation.
IV. In building a Christian temple we express our philanthropy. We are not building merely for ourselves, but for others; not even for our contemporaries, but for posterity. A Christian temple true to its mission is the greatest blessing to society. There the most soul-elevating ideas are proclaimed. Of all ideas to which men are subject none are so important as the religious. Other ideas will arouse certain faculties--some the intellect, some the imagination, some the emotions--but this the entire man. Other ideas act upon human nature as the rays of winter upon the soil; under its influence only a few germs will be evolved and a few plants will grow; but this, like the glowing beams of the vernal sun, will penetrate the deepest depths with its quickening energy, cause every seed-bud to burst into life and expand into fruitfulness. The mystic rod of Moses was not so mighty as the instrument the religious teacher wields. He lives nearest the heart of the world; he is up at the head springs, out of which proceed the issues of life. True religious ideas wherever proclaimed are the chief blessings of the world. In Christian temples such ideas are brought to bear with all their force upon the human mind; by them men are made to feel their obligations to be truthful, virtuous, benevolent, and Godlike; evil is subdued, hearts are changed, and souls are saved by these ideas. Christian temples are to society what tides are to the ocean, what the winds are to the atmosphere; they stir the mass and keep it pure.
V. In building a christian temple we express the idea that public worship is to be perpetuated by human instrumentality. We have reason to thank God that He has left such work as the building of temples to us. Had the necessaries of life sprung from the earth, so as to require no labour, the physical energies of man would never have been developed. Had knowledge come into our mind without the exercise of our faculties, we should never have known anything of intellectual force. In like manner, had everything in religion been done for us, so that no demand would have been made upon our benevolent sympathies, we should have been beings of morbid religious sentiment, and without any force or greatness of character. (Homilist.)
The second temple
From this subject we learn--
1. That man in this world needs a sanctuary, in which he may call on the name of the Lord his God. We are closely bound to the material globe, and the holiest affections. The most spiritual exercises naturally cling round some sacred spot where we have been accustomed to meet with God and with His people. Speaking of an old village church, Washington Irving says, “For my part, there are feelings that visit me in a country church, amid the beautiful serenity of nature, which I experience nowhere else; and, if not a more religious, I think I am a better man on Sunday than on any other day of the seven.” This principle lies deep in human nature. Among the most sacred memories of life are the childhood recollections which carry us back to the old familiar church, which then seemed so grand and impressive, where with father and mother we reverently worshipped God.
2. We learn that toil and sacrifice enter into the building of these sanctuaries. God does not ask for that which costs us nothing. Sacrifice may not be needed by Him, but it is necessary for us, and without it human nature cannot attain its highest and best.
3. We learn not to neglect the sanctuary. (E. B. Mason.)
Kept the dedication of this house of God with Joy.
Dedicating the temple
I. The building of God’s house was carried on in face of obstacles. Every important work has its hindrances. No great results have been achieved without meeting obstacles. But men have always been found qualified for the hard tasks. A clear brain, boundless energy, and unflinching will are hidden away in the right man, ready to be revealed at the right time. The tremendous barriers that stand before the waiting and needed reform chill the courage of the many, while they also arouse the energy and provoke the will of the true leader. Haggai had counted the cost, and knew exactly what he had to contend against. There was the cry of procrastination. “The time is not come--the time that the Lord’s house should be built.” “The time is not ripe” is a phrase that might often be interpreted to mean, “the people are not ready.” When any reform is pressing, you hear a clamour for delay. There are some who take counsel of their fears rather than of their faith. When Lincoln read his Proclamation of Emancipation to Seward, the Secretary of State counselled delay, until at last the President took the matter into his own hands and sent the message of liberty ringing through the land. Haggai understood the reason for delay, the people were filled with self-love and desire for display.
II. The building of the temple had a moral and spiritual influence on the people. At the dedication they offered a sin offering of “twelve he goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel.” When once the temple was furnished, and the people saw all the appointments complete and an altar standing before them and in use, their sense of sin was aroused. The first sacrifice on that new altar was for their sins. With their new house they began a new life. The house of God in a community stands for a spiritual idea. The school-house and college stand for the intellectual needs of man. The moral and spiritual side finds its exponent in the church. These silent memorials of God’s grace compel us for a moment to think of duty and the hereafter, and they are suggestive of the rest that “remaineth.” A reverential soul can worship God anywhere, but a house dedicated to Him is an aid to such worship. While there we are released for the time from the distracting sights and sounds of outside life, and under the singing of hymns and the uplifting influence of prayer the mind becomes calmed for the consideration of truth.
III. The house of God is the home of joy. The Oriental expressed his feelings in most demonstrative ways. He shouted, clapped his hands, and danced when happy, and these extravagances were carried into his religious worship. Worship with the Jew was a natural channel for the display of feeling, while the Occidental suppresses his emotion in worship. We need more naturalness in the house of God. We come before God to express ourselves, not to suppress ourselves. The very truth proclaimed in God’s house is fitted to produce the liveliest emotions. Mankind ought to be induced to come to the house of God because of the abundance of peace to be found there. The view of God should be the one fitted to draw all hearts to Him. A young man, homeless and lonely, wandered through the streets of one of our cities. He could get no work, and had had no food for some time. Despair had seized his soul, and in that frame of mind he entered a church and dropped into a back seat. The sermon was being delivered, and it presented such a view of God and emphasised certain elements of truth that it deepened his despair, and he rushed from the church and threw himself into the river. This ought not to have been. There are stem truths in the gospel, yet to give them undue prominence, and make them overshadow the obvious intent of the gospel is to deprive it of its essential quality of hopefulness. The house of God stands for the best and brightest and cheeriest in human life. (Monday Club Sermons.)
Dedicating the temple
We are here advised as to the accessories by which the builders of the temple were enabled to succeed.
I. God was with them. All along He had been predisposed in their behalf. We also are exhorted to work out our own salvation because it is God that worketh in us both to will and to do.
II. God was pleased to communicate with them through his ordained servants. Haggai was an old man whose strength lay largely in admonition. Zechariah was younger, more inclined to the dreaming of hopeful dreams and the seeing of bright visions.
III. They were encouraged by the favourable attitude of temporal princes. The dedication took place in the month Adar, “the month of splendour,” so called because of the brightness of its suns and the beauty of its flowers.
1. A hundred bullocks, two hundred rams, and four hundred lambs were offered in sacrifice; “and for a sin offering, twelve he goats for all Israel.” There is something pathetic in the mention of these he goats. Ten of the twelve tribes, having out themselves loose from their brethren, had little or no part in the building of this temple, but they were remembered, and a place in the sin offering was Sacredly reserved for them. It was as when mothers set vacant chairs for their absent, wayward sons on thanksgiving day. Whatever might happen, the religious unity of Israel must be preserved. In like manner the Church of Christ, however parted asunder by the controversies of the past, should be at one in the work of the kingdom and in the rejoicings of the triumph of Christ.
2. At this dedication the ancient order of service was restored. The assignments of the priests and Levites date back to the time of Moses (Numbers 3:6-10). It does not follow that because a custom is old it is obsolete. Prayer is as old as human want, like the air we breathe, and time can make no improvement upon it. It should be observed that the Feast of Passover was among the venerable customs which were revived at this dedication. It was a foreshadowing of the atonement of Christ, without which all other pomp and circumstance of service are a dumb show. (D. J. Burrell, D. D.)
The joy of dedicating a house for the Lord
I. We observe in general that the joy with which the children of Israel, etc. Kept the dedication of the house of god arose--
1. Because of the consideration of its being now completely finished.
2. Of their regarding it as a token of God for good, a demonstration at once of His faithfulness and favour towards them and of the delightful prospect which it held out to them of their enjoying with comfort and with advantage the public ordinances of religion.
II. But more particularly this joy arose--
1. From the consideration of their having been honoured and enabled to build a house to the Lord their God.
2. From the consideration of its being a means of promoting the glory of God.
3. From its being a means of securing the observance and extending the benefits of religious ordinances to future and succeeding generations. (G. B. Brand.)
The dedication of the second temple
I. The occasion was one of joy. Hebrew and Christian worship are joyful, because believers worship a revealed God of salvation. Heathen worship is a straining or groping of man after God (1 Kings 18:26-29).
II. The service was one for which all who had to take part in it had previously purified themselves.
III. There were burnt offerings as a token of the consecration of the people heart and soul afresh to God.
IV. There were sin offerings. In Divine worship there should always be a recognition of sin, and of Christ’s having “put away sin” by the sacrifice of Himself.
V. There was the observance of the passover. They loved God because God loved them; this is the order now, and we cannot reverse it (1 John 4:19).
VI. The feast of unleavened bread was kept joyfully for seven days.
1. In token of national unity and fellowship.
2. In token of their desire to cultivate purity.
VII. The new national life thus inaugurated had far less of pomp and show about it than were seen in the days of Solomon. But there was more of spiritual power (Haggai 2:9). (C. Clemance, D. D.)
The dedication of the temple was characterised by
I. Religious rejoicing. The reasons for this were--
1. Protracted labours brought to a close.
2. The honour offered to Jehovah their God.
3. The benefits which were likely to accrue to men through their sacred edifice and its worship.
II. Devout gratitude.
III. Deep humility.
IV. Appropriate arrangements for its future use. (William Jones.)
To seek the Lord God of Israel
Birds are very fond of catching the last evening rays of a winter’s sun, and are often to be found in the afternoon on banks facing the west, or swinging, if there is no wind, on the topmost branch of trees.
On the mountains, too, all birds, as the sun gets low, take to the slopes to face the west, whilst in the morning they betake themselves to the eastern hanks and slopes to meet his rays. Golden plovers, in the evenings, ascend from elope to slope, as each becomes shaded by the intervening heights, until they are all collected on the very last ridge which the sun shines upon. God’s children resemble birds in seeking light, only the light they seek is the light of goodness, and truth, and righteousness which comes from God. They seek the Source of Light, and turn away from the darkness. (S. S. Chronicle.)
For the Lord had made them joyful.
God the joy-bringer
I. God is the joy-maker.
1. The object of much that God does is simply the blessedness of human hearts. The poorest creature that lives has a right to ask of God the satisfaction of its instincts, and every man has a claim on God to make him glad. God pays all cheques legitimately drawn on Him, and regards Himself as occupied in a manner entirely congruous with His magnificence and infinitude, when He stoops to put some kind of vibrating gladnesses into the wings of a gnat that dances for an hour in the sunshine, and into the heart of a man that lives his time for only a very little longer.
2. God’s method of making us glad is by putting Himself into us. The secret of all true human well-being is close communion with God.
3. By His providences He gives the secondary and lower gifts which men according to their circumstances need. He gives whatever is contributory to any kind of gladness; and if we are wise we shall trace all to Him. Our common mercies are His love-tokens and they all come to us just as the gifts of parents to their children do, with this on the fly-leaf, “With a father’s love.”
II. The obligation and wisdom of taking our god-given joys.
1. Be sure you take Him. When He is waiting to pour all His love into your heart, and all His sweetness into your spirit, to calm your anxieties, to deepen your blessedness; to strengthen everything that is good in you; to be to you a stay in the midst of crumbling prosperity and a light in the midst of the gathering darkness, be sure that you take the joy that waits your acceptance.
2. Recognise Him in all common mercies, because He is at the back of them all. Everything ought to be vocal to us of the loving-kindness of our Father in heaven. Link Him with everything that makes your heart glad. God does not desire to be put away high up on a pedestal above our lives, as if He regulated the great things and the trifles regulated themselves; but He seeks to come as air into the lungs, into every particle of the mass of life, and to fill it all with His purifying presence.
3. Recognise Him in common joys.
4. Be sure that you use the joys which He gives. There are two ways in which you can look at the world and at everything that befalls you. There is enough in everybody’s life to make him sad if he selects these things to dwell upon. There is enough in everybody’s life to make him continually glad if he wisely picks out these things to think about. It depends altogether on the angle at which you look at your life what you see about it. For instance, you know how children do when they get a bit of a willow wand into their possession. They cut off rings of bark and get the switch alternately white and black, white and black, and so on right to the tip. Whether will you look at the white rings or the black ones? They are both there, but if you rightly look at the black you will find out that there is white below it, and it only needs a very little stripping off of a film to make it into white too. No Christian man has a right to regard anything that God’s providence brings to him as such unmingled evil that it ought to make him sad. We are bound to “rejoice in the Lord alway.”
5. Be sure that you limit your delights by God-made joys. There is nothing sadder than the joys that come into a life and do not come from God. Let us see to it that we do not fill our cisterns with poisonous sewage, when. God is waiting to fill them with the pure river of the water of life. Does my joy help me to come near to God? Does it interfere with my communion with Him? Does it aid me in the consecration of myself? Does my conscience go with it when my conscience is most awake? The alternative presented to each of us is whether we will have surface joy and a centre of dark discontent, or surface sorrow and a centre of calm blessedness. The film of stagnant water on a pond of rottenness simulates the glories of the rainbow, in which pure sunshine falls upon the pure drops, “but it is only painted corruption after all, and if a man put his lips to it, it will kill him. Such is the joy which is apart from God.” (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Cheerfulness is the root of constancy; for there is no more shifty and unreliable person than your curmudgeon, who is the slave of his own caprices; it is the best assurance of life, health, and wealth; it is the sign and evidence of steady and energetic mind. It will make a fruitful youth, a happy manhood, and a serene old age. It is the “open sesame” to many secrets which the discontented and peevish strive hard to discover but always miss; it is the magic medium of friendship, if not even of love; where there may be lack of special tastes and sympathies, cheerfulness will do much to supply their place. As water to the flower, so is cheerfulness to the mind. It keeps all green and sweet, and sends forth a gracious savour that is imperceptible, but wins all by its perfume. By cheerfulness a man’s powers of work and production are doubled; he has, as it were, taken in a set of working partners most ready to aid him in every task and enterprise. Cheerfulness keeps all the faculties in good condition, so that they are ever ready to do their utmost without strain. (Dr. Japp, in the “Argosy”.)
Joy favourable to religion: sing and rejoice
One bright summer’s day we noticed a lark; at first we could not see it, but with the eye shaded by an uplifted hand it was soon detected. There it flew, a little speck, a dim spot in the Italian-blue sky, pouring down floods of music. On it went, higher and higher; as long as it sang and rejoiced, it arose. But when the song ceased its flight ceased too. Thus is it with our souls; they ascend Godwards while we sing and rejoice. “Rejoice in the Lord; for you it is safe”; take refuge in the citadel of heaven-sent bliss, and you are secure against many a Satanic attack. (T. R. Stevenson.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Ezra 6". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29