The first thirty-nine verses of this chapter (less the thirteenth) correspond very closely with the thirty-eight verses of the parallel that run 1 Kings 8:12-50. For once also the two places are in closer accord in the original than might be augured from our English Version. Our thirteenth verse is not found in the parallel, and this fact, with the phenomenon of its presence here, will be considered under the verse when we reach it. The chapter consists of: first, Solomon's remarks addressed to his people (1 Kings 8:1-11); and secondly, the prayer and intercession he offers to God (1 Kings 8:14-42).
2 Chronicles 6:1
In the thick darkness; Hebrew, מַּעֲרַפֶל. The Lord had said this in so many words, and also by not a few practical examples (Le 2 Chronicles 16:2; Exodus 19:9; Exodus 24:16; Exodus 25:22; Exodus 40:34, Exodus 40:35). This thing which he said, and did, even while really instructing, after the manner of special revelation, a specialized people, is essentially what he ever has said and ever is doing in all time, in all the world, and in all nature and providence. It is a fact and it is necessary that his glory be for the present veiled in "clouds and darkness" (Psalms 97:2; Psalms 18:11).
2 Chronicles 6:2
Solomon's words now address themselves to God. For ever. These words refer rather to the permanence and station-ariness of the temple as the dwelling-place of the ark. and the mercy-seat and cherubim, and all that symbolized and invited the Divine presence, than design any prophecy of length of time. They contrast with the wandering people, and wandering worship and sacrifices, and wandering tent and tabernacle with all their sacred contents (Psalms 68:16; Psalms 132:14; 1 Chronicles 22:10; 1 Chronicles 28:6-8; 2 Samuel 7:5-16).
2 Chronicles 6:3
Reading between the lines, this verse shows us that the face of Solomon had been turned to the symbol of God's presence, while he addressed to him the words of our second verse, since he now faces round to the assembly of the congregation. What words Solomon used in thus blessing the whole congregation are not given either here or in the parallel. The impression one takes is that the blessing was, in fact, wrapt up tacitly in all that Solomon recounts, when he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, etc. (2 Chronicles 6:4). However, it is not impossible that, with the variation of the tense in verse 59, the verses of 1 Kings 8:55-61 may contain the substance of it, if not itself.
2 Chronicles 6:4
(See 2 Samuel 7:4-17; 1 Chronicles 11:2; 1 Chronicles 17:4-14.) With his hands,… with his mouth. Expressions like this, antithesis and all, remind how language formed itself in the concrete mould at first, from that, ever becoming more abstract as time grew. The ampler language of later date would be, Who hath indeed fulfilled that which he spake.
2 Chronicles 6:5
I chose no city,… neither chose I any man. The tabernacle and all it contained had but travelled from place to place, and rested at temporary halting-places; and from Moses' time all the leaders of the people Israel had been men in whom vested no permanent and no intrinsic authority (1 Samuel 16:1-15; 2 Samuel 24:18-25).
2 Chronicles 6:6
(See again references of preceding verse, and 2 Samuel 7:8; Psalms 78:70.)
2 Chronicles 6:7-9
(So 2 Samuel 7:2, 2 Samuel 7:10-16; 1 Chronicles 22:9, 1 Chronicles 22:10; 1 Chronicles 28:2-7.)
2 Chronicles 6:10, 2 Chronicles 6:11
The moment that might have witnessed the utmost inflation of spiritual pride, the acme of ambition, the highest point of even moral kind of grandeur, being touched, is saved from the peril. To the "performing of the Lord" the glory is all given (Luke 1:54, Luke 1:55, Luke 1:68-72). Probably delivered from earthly feeling, and sheltered just now from self and human ambition, Solomon was in a very high degree "in the spirit" (Revelation 1:10) on this great day. The moment was a proud moment in Solomon's history, as well there may be proud moments in men's lives, but it was divinely shielded, as divinely inspired. Hereafter, for all that, "the thorn in the flesh" might become very necessary, lest Solomon "be exalted above measure" in the memory of all that had transpired.
2 Chronicles 6:12
Before the altar. This means to say that Solomon stood (and afterwards knelt down) eastward of the altar indeed, but with his face to the temple and congregation. Although the voice of Solomon was raised in prayer to God, yet the prayer was to be that of the whole congregation and not of priestly proxy, and therefore of the whole congregation it must be heard.
2 Chronicles 6:13
A brazen scaffold. The Hebrew word is כִּיּוֹר. The word occurs twenty-one times. It is translated, in the Authorized Version, "laver" eighteen times, once "pan" (1 Samuel 2:14), once "hearth" (Zechariah 12:6), and once "scaffold," here. The meaning evidently is that the stand was in some sort basin-shaped.
2 Chronicles 6:14
No God like thee, etc. The quoting of Scripture and the utilizing of language in which the religious feeling of those who have gone before has expressed itself had plainly set in (Exodus 15:11, Exodus 15:12; Deuteronomy 7:9). The prayer which this verso opens occupies twenty-eight verses; it is the longest prayer recorded in Scripture. It consists of two verses (14, 15) of opening; then follow three petitions—first, that God would perpetuate the line of David (2 Chronicles 6:16); next, that he would have regard to the place where his Name is put (2 Chronicles 6:17-20); and thirdly, that he would hear the prayers addressed to him toward this place (2 Chronicles 6:21). Of this last subject, seven different cases are propounded—firstly, the case of the man wronged by his neighbour (2 Chronicles 6:22, 2 Chronicles 6:23); secondly, of the people worsted by their enemies (2 Chronicles 6:24, 2 Chronicles 6:25); thirdly, of the people suffering from drought (2 Chronicles 6:26, 2 Chronicles 6:27); fourthly, of the people visited by death or special calamity (2 Chronicles 6:28-31); fifthly, of the stranger who comes to offer to pray (2 Chronicles 6:32, 2 Chronicles 6:33); sixthly, of the people going to war by God's permission (2 Chronicles 6:34, 2 Chronicles 6:35); seventhly, of the people in captivity (2 Chronicles 6:36-39). Then the prayer closes in 2 Chronicles 6:40-42.
2 Chronicles 6:16
There shall not fail thee, etc. (so 2 Samuel 7:12; 1 Kings 2:4; 1 Kings 6:12). Yet so that thy children, etc. (so Psalms 132:12).
2 Chronicles 6:17
Let thy word be verified (so 1 Chronicles 17:9-13).
2 Chronicles 6:18
Dwell with men (Psalms 132:14). Heaven and the heaven of heavens. Solomon's conception of the infinite God comes plainly to view here (2 Chronicles 2:6; Deuteronomy 10:14; Psalms 139:5-12; Psalms 148:4; Isaiah 66:1; Acts 7:4-9; Acts 17:24).
2 Chronicles 6:20
This house …. the place whereof;… this place (so Exodus 29:43; Deuteronomy 12:5; Deuteronomy 14:23; Deuteronomy 15:20; Deuteronomy 16:2).
2 Chronicles 6:21
The supplications of thy servant. "The great thought of Solomon now is that the centre and core of all worship is prayer" (Professor Dr. James G. Murphy, in 'Handbook for Bible Classes: Chronicles'). Toward this place (see other instances of this expression, Psalms 5:7; Psalms 28:2; Psalms 138:2; Jonah 2:4; Daniel 6:10). From thy dwelling-place. 1 Kings 8:30 has, "hear to thy dwelling-place, to heaven," by probably the mere error of a copyist.
2 Chronicles 6:22
And an oath be laid upon him to make him swear. This verse is explained by Exodus 22:9-11; Le Exodus 6:1-5. The case of ordeal by self-purgation of oath is supposed. And the oath come. The Septuagint translates here, "and he come and declare by oath," etc.—a translation which a very slight alteration in the Hebrew, consisting in prefixing a vau to the word for swear, will allow. The Vulgate follows the Septuagint.
2 Chronicles 6:23
The prayer is that God will command his blessing on the oath ordeal.
2 Chronicles 6:24, 2 Chronicles 6:25
(See Le 2 Chronicles 26:3, 2 Chronicles 26:17, 33, 40; Deuteronomy 27:7, Deuteronomy 27:25; also Deuteronomy 4:27, Deuteronomy 4:29-31; Deuteronomy 28:64-68; Deuteronomy 30:1 -50
2 Chronicles 6:26
No rain (see 1 Kings 17:1; Le 26:19; Deuteronomy 11:17; Deuteronomy 28:23).
2 Chronicles 6:27
When thou hast taught them; rather, when thou art guiding them to the right way.
2 Chronicles 6:28-31
(See Le 2 Chronicles 26:16 -26; Deuteronomy 28:22-52, Deuteronomy 28:59; Deuteronomy 20:9.) In the cities of their land. This, to represent correctly the Hebrew, should read, in the land of their gates. Reference probably is being made to the fact that law and justice and judgment were administered "in the gate of the city" (Deuteronomy 16:18; Deuteronomy 21:19; Joshua 20:4). Thou only knowest (so 1 Chronicles 28:9). That they may fear thee (so Psalms 130:4). In the absence of a healthy fear is involved both the absence of a healing hopefulness, and too probably the presence of recklessness.
2 Chronicles 6:32, 2 Chronicles 6:33
The stranger … come from a far country for thy great Name's sake. These two verses, with every clause in them, must be felt most refreshing by every reader; but they ought also to be particularly observed, as both corrective of a common but strictly erroneous impression as to exclusiveness and a genius of bigotry inhering in the setting apart of the Jewish race for a certain purpose in the Divine government and counsel, and also as revealing very significantly that that setting apart was nothing but a method and means to an end, as comprehensive and universal as the world itself The analogies, in fact, in the world's history are linked, in one unbroken chain, to what sometimes seems to a mere reader of the Bible pages as an artificial and somewhat arbitrary decree or arrangement (see, amid many significant parallels, Exodus 22:21; Le Exodus 25:35; Numbers 15:13-17; Deuteronomy 10:19; Deuteronomy 31:12). Not of thy people Israel (John 10:16; John 12:20-26; Acts 8:27). For thy great Name's sake. The insertion of the adjective "great" here ( גָּדוֹל) is not Pentateuchal, but is found in Joshua 7:9; in our parallel, 1 Kings 8:42; Psalms 76:1; Psalms 99:3; Ezekiel 36:23; Jeremiah 10:6; Jeremiah 44:26. All people of the earth. Not only are many of the psalms utterly in harmony with the spirit of this verse, but also the light of it is reflected brilliantly in such passages as Acts 17:22-31. This house is called by thy Name; literally, thy Name is called upon (or perhaps, into) this house, meaning that God himself is invoked there, or present there in order that he may be constantly invoked.
2 Chronicles 6:34, 2 Chronicles 6:35
The different supposition of these verses, compared with 2 Chronicles 6:24, 2 Chronicles 6:25, is plain. Here we are reminded how right it is to implore a blessing before we go out to our allotted labour, or even on some specially and divinely appointed enterprise.
2 Chronicles 6:36-39
The matter of these verses is given fuller in the parallel (1 Kings 8:46-53). The prayer is remarkable all the more as the last of the whole series, and one so sadly ominous! The last clause of 2 Chronicles 6:36, carrying the expression far off, as the alternative of near, throws its lurid glare of unwelcome suggestion on all the rest. No man which sinneth not. The words need the summoning of no biblical parallels, for these are so numerous. But out of the rest emphasis may be placed at least on those furnished by Solomon himself—Proverbs 20:9; Ecclesiastes 7:21; both of which are particularly sententious. Bethink themselves. The words well express, in English idiom, the literal Hebrew, as in margin, "bring back to their heart" (Deuteronomy 30:1-11). Have sinned,… done amiss,… dealt wickedly (so Psalms 106:6; Daniel 9:5). The Authorized Version in the parallel (1 Kings 8:47) is somewhat happier in its rendering of the three verbs employed here. It seems doubtful whether these have it in them to form a climax; more probably they speak of three different directions in wrong going. The parallel is well worthy of being referred to, in its verses 50, 51.
2 Chronicles 6:40-42
These three verses are wanting in the parallel, which has kept us four verses (50-53) not shown here. Our two 2 Chronicles 6:41 and 2 Chronicles 6:42 are doubly interesting, first, as almost an exact copy of the words of David (Psalms 132:8-10); and secondly, as not an entirely exact copy, in some respects the form of word not being identical, though the signification is the same, and in other respects the clause being not identical, though still the meaning is essentially equal.
2 Chronicles 6:1-42
The dedication, and Solomon's prayer.
The ark once within the most holy place, the whole temple seems to wait expectant for its own solemn offering and dedication, to that heaven from which its pattern came, to its own supreme Architect, of whose wisdom it was designed, and of whose inspiration of the mind and heart of so many, its beautiful and costly materials had been ungrudingly given and skilfully wrought. The picture photographed so faithfully in this chapter does not fail of rivetting our gaze, but its points of view are very various, and we do not embrace them all by any means at one glance. We seem to hear also while we gaze. Now it is the broken snatch of a soliloquy that we seem to hear; now the unfeigned and adoring ascription, of blessing, and honour, and power, and of mercy's majesty, to the one Father of heaven and earth; now again the vast throng of worshippers, priests, princes, and people, is hushed in silence audible, on the knees of prayer. The royal typical son of David utters the solemn prepared service of prayer and supplication. The God, to whom none in heaven or on earth can be compared, is invoked, and the praise of his covenant-keeping and of his mercy and of his free promises is celebrated. These are made the ground, not indeed of any expostulation (for there was nothing in respect of which to expostulate), but rather of earnest pleading, that what seemed sometimes too great, too good to be true on the earth, might nevertheless be "verified," "in very deed with men upon the earth;" and then the measured sevenfold prayer begins. It cannot but be that in this service of dedication, followed upon so promptly with Heaven's own acceptance and most graciously vouchsafed consecration, there should be manifest lessons, or possibly more recondite principles of ever-enduring application and value. Let us, then, observe from this whole service of dedication the following suggestions.
I. HOW THE INEFFABLE NATURE PERMITS ITSELF TO BE REPRESENTED, AS HAVING LOCAL HABITATION ON EARTH. If that infinite, spiritual Nature or Being did of old neither preclude the possibility nor prohibit the imagination of such a thing, there can be no intrinsic reason why it should not be so now and for all time. We must not suppose that certain well-known and sublime passages in New Testament Scripture outruled this. But, on the contrary, they acknowledge it rather, and are only anxious to do so to the extent of universalizing it. The place of this worship is, indeed, wherever the worshipper himself is; and not only in Jerusalem, nor only "in this mountain" but where Jacob stretched himself, when his head was pillowed on the stones, and waking he exclaimed, "This is the house of God;" or in the dungeon; or in the windowless, chimneyless, mud-built croft; or in the chamber's solitude; or in the palace, the church, or cathedral, all-gorgeous with arch and pavement, height and length, music and painting. In fact, God's condescending grace gives what the nature of man, once also itself given of him, constantly and everywhere either postulates as of course, or craves with stimulated spiritual force. There is scarcely anything that sits closer to our, not mere outer but innermost nature, than that law which binds us by association, and by the associations of place in particular. There is no reason why we should disown it, or be ashamed of it, or slight it, or try at any time to rid ourselves of it by force. The reasons lie rather to the contrary, if only we cherish the sacred associations and discourage the reverse. It is not when our sense of God as a Presence in a place is nearest, that we least feel that he still "dwells," to be wondered at and adored, "in the thick darkness," or that we least "fear because of him." The acts of worship, no doubt legitimate everywhere, are helped there, and to cherish that help is wise.
II. THE ESSENTIAL, OR NATURAL AND MOST DESIRABLE REQUIREMENTS OF SUCH A DEDICATION—THE DEDICATION OF A PLACE FOR THE WORSHIP AND SERVICE OF GOD. They are such as these:
1. The presence of the people, or era representative gathering of them, in a prepared and quickened state of mind, of whom in part and for whom the occasion of the dedication arises. The people were certainly present on this occasion. They are already in a very quickened state of mind, which is greatly added to when their leader faces them, and in the act, as it is here called, of "blessing them," summons them to take an earnest and intelligent part in the impending ceremony.
2. A rehearsal, in the nature of a preamble, of the circumstances which had led up to the present work—the human side of them, the Divine side of them, the motives which had been at work in them, the promise and providence of God, and the gratitude due to him for them.
3. Prayer uttered by one, offered by all, acknowledging the sole Godhead, without comparison in heaven and earth, magnifying his infinite condescension, reposing entire confidence upon his supporting and encouraging goodness; with imploring petitions that an ear may be opened to the special prayers now waiting to be offered, and a gracious eye bent down upon the place and the scene now outstretched before heaven. Special note may be made under 2 Chronicles 6:19-21 of the three points:
III. THE SEVENFOLD PETITION OF THE SERVICE. Whatever these petitions are, they speak distinctly the apprehensions—and those from a religious point of view—which the king and leader of the nation had in respect of that nation. The circumstances of the position compel us to regard them as a correct and faithful reflection or transcript (from the inner thoughts of Solomon and those who co-operated with him in the composition) of those perils to national well-being which might sadly ripen as time went on. It is evident that the estimate formed of these perils was such, and of such significance, that to deprecate them most importunately absorbs the larger part of the whole prayer. The petitions are manifestly more what concern the outer life, for the most part, than the inner thought of the people; the providence of Heaven, than their own work and doing. But, for that very reason, they bind together so much more indissolubly the welfare of a people's outer life and the Divine favour. They illustrate forcibly the dependence of the former on the latter. They remind us how this was at one time the chief way, probably at all time a necessary and leading way (as bodily pain is for the individual), to teach the fear of God and not less the fullest love of him. The seven petitions may be enumerated, as:
1. That relating to what may be designated as the ordeal-altar-oath.
2. That relating to the condition of those who at any time might be taken captive in war—an event only supposable on the assumption of the people "having sinned against" God.
3. That relating to the visitation of drought, as punishment in the same way of sin.
4. That relating to dearth, pestilence, blasting, mildew, locusts or caterpillars, siege, sore or sickness of what sort soever, as in the same way punishment of sin.
5. That relating to the stranger—a petition surely charged with significance and sweet compassion, and most prophetic in its character.
6. That relating to absence from their home and their land, and the holy city of their solemnities, through the enterprise of just and divinely sanctioned war, where no case of capture by the enemy is contemplated.
7. And lastly, that by fearful omen relating to the possibility of the sin of the people having reached such a pitch, that their punishment should consist in a general captivity, and exportation to a foreign land "far off or near." And it is the supplication of Solomon, and the vast Church there assembled before the temple, with its most holy place and ark, with its brazen sea, layers, and altar, that, when under any of these eases "confession" has been made, "repentance" has been approved, and prayer for "forgiveness" has been importuned, while the worshipper turns his thought, his faith, his hope, towards the temple, and its adorable indwelling Majesty, that confession may be heard, that repentance may be accepted, and that prayer be answered to by healing and restoring mercy. The one collective result left on our mind is that the structure of civil and national society, so infinitely complex, dependent on so many individuals, the likely victim of such an unlimited variety of influences and motives, good, bad, and most vague and inconclusive, needs nothing short of the wisdom and compassion, the justice and the tenderness, of the infinite God.
IV. THE FINAL INVOCATION—ALL GATHERED INTO ONE—THAT THE LORD GOD WOULD, ACCEPTING THE DEDICATION, PERFORM THE VERY CONSECRATION ITSELF. Amid the seven distinct appeals of entreaty (contained in our 2 Chronicles 6:40-42), instinct with highly elevated energy, and six of which may be said to be rather of the nature of material helps of faith and imagination of spiritual realities, how clear we may count it that the absolute grasp of spiritual truth, and apprehension of the spiritual Being, were not strange to Solomon and the true Israelite of the elder dispensation! What a real exertion of such power, gift, grace, is told by the central invocation, to which all the rest are but the setting, viz. "Now therefore arise, O Lord God, into thy resting-place, thou"! The open eyes, the attent ears, the uttered sound of prayer, the sight of the place, the ark, the priests, the saints, the face of the anointed, the memory of the mercies of David,—these, these all are but the surroundings and aids to the grand effort, the effort of Solomon and his people, to which they address themselves, and, we may believe, successfully rose, at the one commanding climax of the whole pomp, ceremony, and most really religious service—this, that effort—to have, to know, to believe in, the Lord God, the Thou (as Solomon, addressing him, says), as the Indwelling, effective Presence, and Glory of the place.
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
2 Chronicles 6:1
God, the incomprehensible One.
What is the historical reference? Is it to the luminous cloud that shone between the cherubim? or is it not, rather, to the Divine manifestation, on. Mount Sinai, of which God had said, "I will come unto thee in a thick cloud" (Exodus 19:9)? God "dwells in the light which no man can approach unto" (1 Timothy 6:16), and this is the same thing; for the dazzling light is to us as the darkness. As our eye is constituted to receive no more than a certain degree of light, so our mind is created to receive no more than a measure of truth. And this is markedly and manifestly true of our knowledge of God. He is the incomprehensible One, whom we "cannot find out," whose "ways are unsearchable." This is true of—
I. THE DIVINE NATURE. Of his eternity, of his infinity, of his sovereignty, and of his omniscience, taken in connection with our human liberty, how little can we comprehend! how soon do we find ourselves beyond our depth, involved in difficulties which are hopelessly insoluble!
II. HIS REVELATION OF HIMSELF IN JESUS CHRIST. "His rich, his free redemption" is, as has been said or sung, "dark through brightness." Jesus Christ is distinctly and pre-eminently the Revelation of God to man. Yet is there in the connection of his Sonship of God with his Sonship of man a mystery which baffles us. How One equipped with Divine power and wisdom as was Jesus the Christ could "grow in wisdom" as well as in stature, is dark and impenetrable to our understanding.
III. HIS RULING OF OUR RACE. Why did God allow forty centuries of sin and strife, of superstition and sorrow, of darkness and death, to pass away before he sent his Son into the world to be its Light, and to redeem it from its ruin?
IV. HIS DIRECTION OF OUR INDIVIDUAL LIVES. How is it, we wonder, that God allows certain things to happen which (as it seems to us) are certain to be so injurious in their effects? how is it that he does not act in a way which would (as we are convinced) be fraught with so much blessing? Events in the lives of others or in our own lives are often so different from, so contrary to, what we should expect at the hand of One who rules in wisdom, in faithfulness, in love. Consider:
1. How inevitable it is that this should be so. The feeble-minded and uncultured man completely fails to understand his gifted and educated brother; the little child completely misunderstands his father; Day, he thinks his father unwise, unjust, or unkind in those very things in which that father knows himself to be most wise, most just, most kind. And what is the difference which separates human ignorance from human wisdom when compared with that which separates us from God?
2. We may reasonably hope that this will gradually lessen, though they can never disappear. As we pass on in life, we understand more of God's character and his ways. When we shall receive that glorious enlargement of spiritual faculty for which we look and long, we shall know God as the best and wisest do not know him here. But we rejoice to think that, in the remotest future to which our imagination can look forward, we shall still be inquiring and gaining knowledge of our heavenly Father.
3. How much we know now that is of the greatest practical value. We know that God is One who is a Spirit even as we are, but sinless and Divine; that he is perfectly holy, wise, faithful, kind; that he is accessible to our prayer, and is not only ready but eager to receive us again into his favour; that he is a Father who is tenderly interested in all his children, and who responds to the filial love and obedience of those who seek to serve him; that he is pleased with an endeavour to do and bear his will; that he is seeking and outworking our spiritual, our eternal well-being. This is enough for the highest ends of our existence, for the restoration of our soul, for the ennoblement of our character.—C.
2 Chronicles 6:7, 2 Chronicles 6:8
The worth of a wish-the estimate of Christ.
"David did well in that it was in his heart" to build a house for the Lord. The purpose of his heart, though it "lost the name of action," was acceptable to the God he served. Almost everything, in the estimate of him who "trieth the reins and the heart," depends on the motives by which we are inspired. Hence we may speak of—
I. THE WORTHLESSNESS OF SOLOMON'S EXECUTION apart from the excellency of his motive. That building now complete (at the time of the text) was very grand, very costly, very beautiful; it was very elaborate in its workmanship; it was very complete in all its parts; it lacked nothing that treasure and time, that skill and strength, could furnish. But, supposing that Solomon had done everything with the one desire to signalize his reign over Israel, his execution would have counted for much among men, but it would have weighed nothing at all with God. It would not have advanced him by one step in the favour of the Most High. We need not, however, think that Solomon was devoid of a sincere desire to magnify Jehovah's Name. He said that he had "built the house for the Name of the Lord God of Israel" (2 Chronicles 6:10); and this prayer of dedication, adopted if not composed by him, is indicative of a reverent as well as a patriotic spirit (see 1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
II. THE WORTH OF A TRUE AND PURE DESIRE. God was pleased with David that he wished to build him a house; he "did well in that it was in his heart."
1. It is our motive that makes our action to be our own. Another may command our speech or our action, our tongue or our hand; but we are masters of our own thoughts; our desires and purposes are our own. "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he".
2. There is an ascending scale in our motives, reaching from the very low to the very high. Men may have enough of the Satanic in them to be actuated in their conduct by absolute vindictiveness or even a positive delight in the misery and ruin of their neighbours; at the other end of the scale they may have enough of the Divine in them to be inspired by pure magnanimity, by a wish to befriend those who have done them injury (Matthew 5:45). Very high up in this scale stands the motive of desiring the glory of God, longing for the coming of the kingdom of Christ, an earnest wish to do something for his exaltation. And though the voice may be too feeble to speak any words that men may care to listen to, though the hand may be too weak to strike any blow that will shake the walls of iniquity, yet the very wish to do something for Christ, the prayer, "Make use of me, my God," weighs much in the balances of Heaven. It may be a pure desire to give of our substance to the needy, or to go forth to comfort some stricken heart, or to take a class in a ragged or a Sunday school, or to enter the ranks of the Christian ministry, or to do work in the foreign field. In Christian homes, in every land, there are hearts that sincerely and even ardently desire to serve their Saviour and to be a blessing to their brethren; but there intervenes some forbidding word of God, some frustrating providence of his. The purse is emptied, or health fails, or home duties suddenly assume a new form or take much larger proportions; and God says, "This is not for thee." But the desire is accepted; the purpose of the soul is taken for the deed; it is chronicled in the hooks of Heaven, "Thou didst well in that it was in thine heart."
III. ITS EFFECTIVE VALUE. When the pure desire of the true heart is not granted, it does not follow that it is without effect. Certainly it was not so in David's case. This desire of his heart, expressed to God but not granted by him, had very much to do with the ultimate result. It led to the Divine permission and direction extended to Solomon; it led to Solomon's personal aspiration and resolution; it led to the preparation and storage of many valuable materials. It would hardly be an exaggeration to say that the temple was the work of David as much as of his son; for he who originates the idea and inspires the people with his thought is as effective an agent as he who executes it. And many, since then, in the kingdom of Christ have succeeded where they seemed to fail; many a lonely and, apparently, unblessed worker for his Master, both at home and abroad; both in the haunts and slums of some great city here, or in the depths of India, or in the heart of Africa, or in the midst of the idolatry and iniquity of China, or amid some island population;—many such have gone home with no reward in their hand, unable to point to the gathered fruits of their toil and patience; and yet their unaccomplished efforts have been a precious and powerful inspiration, moved by which others have followed in their track, like Solomon in David's, and have built the edifice, have wrought the work, in the Name and in the strength of God. The finished work is, in some real sense and perhaps even in a large degree, the fruit of the good thought "in the heart" of him whom no one regards as its author. We do more than we know when we think and feel in the spirit of our Lord.—C.
2 Chronicles 6:12-14
We have in these three verses four references to attitude. Solomon "stood before the altar;" he "spread forth his hands;" he "kneeled down upon his knees;" he spoke of those who "walk before God." Now, it is worth while to observe that—
I. BODILY ATTITUDE IS NOT WITHOUT ITS VALUE. In the gospel of Christ, with all its precious and glorious spiritual freedom, there are no regulations as to posture in prayer; it is in no particular position of body that we must draw nigh to God and nave fellowship with him. The sufferer on his couch, the workman at his post, is as free to converse with God as the minister in the church. We glory in this divinely bestowed liberty. But it is wise to remember that one bodily attitude may be more closely associated with prayer than all others are, and, being thus associated in our minds, we in that attitude more readily fall into, and more successfully maintain ourselves in, the spirit of devotion than we can in any other. The body is the servant of the mind, and we may compel it to serve us thus; by constantly suggesting to us and thus favouring in us the idea and the spirit of worship. Here, as everywhere, is action and reaction. Our heart prompts us to worship, and this devout desire leads us to assume the attitude of devotion; then the bodily attitude helps, in its way and measure, to sustain the spirit in its reverential mood.
II. OVERT ACTS ARE IMPORTANT.
1. Attendance at the place of worship: "standing before the altar."
2. Recognizing sacred obligations publicly; doing the right thing "in the presence of all the congregation."
3. Using right and true words, not only concerning God (as in 2 Chronicles 6:14), but concerning man.
4. Acting, "walking," in honesty, in purity, in sobriety, in rectitude, in all relations. But, most important of all, because at the root of all—
III. SPIRITUAL ATTITUDE IS OF THE FIRST CONSIDERATION. What is the attitude of our soul toward God, toward the Lord Jesus Christ? We cannot propose to ourselves a more radical, a more vital question. The answer decides our position in (or towards) the kingdom of God. If our spiritual attitude is that of enmity, aversion, indifference, then, whatever our overt actions may be, or whatever our professions may be, we stand outside that kingdom, and are in danger of hearing the words, "I never knew you." But if our attitude is not this, but rather one of hope and trust, if it be one of desire to understand and please God, if it be one of honest and earnest inquiry, then, though there be many imperfections in our behaviour, and though there be much to be learned and acquired, we are right in the sight of God, and are counted among his servants and his friends. It was the spiritual attitude of Mary when she came with her precious spikenard which drew the Saviour's commendation; it was the attitude of penitence and faith which called forth his gracious assurance to the poor malefactor by his side. As Christian men, it concerns us much that our spiritual attitude is one of
2 Chronicles 6:18-21
God in the sanctuary.
These elevated and eloquent words suggest to us what is—
I. A FALSE THOUGHT OF GOD IN RELATION TO THE SANCTUARY. It may be, and probably is, imagined by the idolatrous that the temple of their deity contains the object of their worship; that it is his residence and home; that it suffices for him. Solomon had no such false thought about Jehovah; he knew that "the heaven of heavens could not contain him," and "how much less the house that he had built!" God's presence is not to be limited in our thought in any way whatever He is "within no walls confined," and if we so habituate our mind to think of him as being present in some sacred place as he is not elsewhere, we "limit the Holy One" as we should not do. The only difference in the presence of the Eternal and Infinite One can be in our thought and to our imagination.
II. THE TRUE THOUGHT OF HIM IN THAT RELATION. As those who worship God in the sanctuary, we should accustom our minds to think of him as:
1. The very present One. "Will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth?" In very deed and in truth. Not only is his presence everywhere, and therefore within any walls that may be erected in his honour, but he is actively present there, interested in all that is passing there; "his eyes open … day and night" to observe all that is there done before him. The prevailing thought of those who "go up to the house of the Lord" should be that they are about to meet God, to stand and to bow before him; to address him even as they address their neighbour, only with deepest reverence and in lowliest homage of heart. The commanding and restraining thought, the penetrating, soul-pervading thought of those who occupy the sanctuary, should be that of Israel at Bethel, "Surely God is in this place."
2. One who is waiting to be worshipped. Solomon earnestly and repeatedly desires of Jehovah that he would "hear his servant(s)," that he would "hear their prayers." If only we are engaged in really reverential worship, we have no need to doubt this. God is not only "to be entreated" of us; he is always to be found of all who truly seek him. Nay, he seeks us as his worshippers. "The Father seeketh such to worship him" (John 4:23), i.e. such as worship him in spirit. All they, therefore, who draw nigh to God with a pure desire to render to him the homage and the gratitude of their heart, to renew before him their vows of loving attachment and holy service, to ask of him his Divine guidance and enrichment, may make quite sure that they "do not seek his face in vain."
3. One who is ready to forgive. "When thou hearest, forgive." We should meet continually with God under a blessed sense of sonship, as those "whose transgressions have been forgiven," and who are as children at home with their Father, as redeemed ones with their Saviour. This is the true basis of communion with God. But, even then and thus, it becomes us to bethink ourselves that our service is not untainted with imperfection; near to our lips should be the recurring prayer. "And when thou hearest, forgive." Humility is not disowned by the more advanced graces of trustfulness, love, joy in God.—C.
2 Chronicles 6:22-23
This petition supposes—
I. THE COMMISSION OF DELIBERATE WRONG by one man against another. A dispute may readily arise in which each man, affected in his judgment by his own personal interests, believes himself to make a righteous claim. This is a ease for impartial intervention, for the decision of one who is not prejudiced by any interest of his own. But the case here referred to by Solomon is one of deliberate wrong perpetrated by one man against his neighbour. It is a painful thing that this should have to be presupposed among the "people of God." Yet it was so. Enlightenment was not, and it is not, any positive guarantee against actual unrighteousness. A man may know all he can learn of Christ, sitting constantly and reverentially at his feet, and yet he may allow himself to do that which defrauds his brother and does him cruel and shameful wrong. Saddening observation only too frequently and only too powerfully attests it.
II. THE APPEAL TO GOD. The injured Hebrew made his appeal to the Lord his God; he required the offending neighbour to take an oath in the very presence of the Holy One, invoking the judgment of God against the one who was in the wrong. It was presumably a last resort, an ultimate appeal. Not formally, but substantially, we do likewise. If human judgment fails, we leave the guilty in the hands of God. We commit our righteous cause to his Divine arbitration. We ask God to make our innocence appear, to restore to us the good name or the possession of which we have been defrauded. We make our appeal from earth to Heaven.
III. THE DIVINE JUDGMENT. Solomon prayed God to intervene so that the wicked should be recompensed and the righteous justified. Under that dispensation he might rightly and even confidently make that request. But what may we expect now of the Divine justice? These three things:
1. That the righteous laws of God are always working for the overthrow of evil and the enthronement of integrity; the former is radically weak, and the latter is essentially strong and prevailing.
2. That unvisited evil is always attended with spiritual failure, while unrewarded rectitude is always accompanied and sustained by spiritual worth.
3. That there is a long future which holds ample compensations in its unsounded depths. Divine justice will prove to be completely vindicated when we have looked deep enough and waited long enough.—C.
2 Chronicles 6:24-28, 2 Chronicles 6:34, 2 Chronicles 6:35
God and the nation.
Solomon takes his place and his part on this great occasion as the sovereign of the nation; he prays for the people of the land in the double sense of representing them and of interceding for them. It is the Hebrew nation that was then "before God," and is now before us. We therefore think of—
I. NATIONAL RESPONSIBILITY. That is assumed throughout. It is not stated in so many words, but the idea of it pervades the whole prayer. The people of Israel were not at liberty to choose their own deity, nor their own ecclesiastical polity, nor even their own forms of worship; nor might they determine how they should be related to one another. In all the important relationships in which they stood, of every kind, they owed a direct obedience to God. And this rested upon the bases of—
II. NATIONAL INHERITANCE. Their land was that which God had "given his people for an inheritance" (2 Chronicles 6:27). So very distinctly and remarkably had God bestowed their land upon them, that they might well realize their national obligation. But when we take all things into account, we shall see that every nation owes all that it has and is to the creative, formative, providential goodness of Almighty God; and it is, therefore, responsible to him for its creed, its religious worship, its laws and statutes, its habits of life; for there is no nation anywhere that has not derived its inheritance from him. Even that which may, at first sight, seem to disconnect it from him, viz. the element of national courage, energy, industry, struggle, suffering,—this also is "of the Lord."
III. NATIONAL ACTIVITY. Solomon prayed (2 Chronicles 6:34) that, when God's people "went out to war," their prayers for victory might be heard, and that God would "maintain their cause." He could offer this supplication with a perfectly clear conscience. Neither as a spirit nor as a sentiment, much less as a religious conviction, had peace entered into the minds of men as it has now. Be had not been born who came to be the Prince of peace, and whose advent was to be the beginning of the era of "peace on earth." War was then regarded as a rightful, honourable, commendable activity—a field of enterprise and capacity which any one might desire to enter. There may still be found a place for it, as a sad and deplorable necessity. Under the sway of Jesus Christ, it can hold no larger or higher position among national activities than that. But as it was right that prayer should be offered for God's blessing on national wars, more certainly is it right that his Divine blessing should be continually sought on all peaceful industries; that is to say, on all those peaceful industries which make for the comfort, the enrichment, the well-being of the world. There are activities on which the pure or kind heart must shrink from invoking the blessing of God. And what we cannot conscientiously ask him to bless we should refuse to promote or to entertain. Surely, however, it is a very large part of national piety that prayer should be made continually, in the church and in the home, that, in every path of honourable and estimable industry, the people of the land may walk before God, and fulfil in this respect his holy will; that they may also receive his sanction and his blessing.
IV. NATIONAL MISFORTUNE (2 Chronicles 6:24, 2 Chronicles 6:26-28.) Solomon anticipates the hour of national misfortune—defeat in battle, drought, pestilence, locusts, etc. He regards this conceivable calamity as the consequence of national sin and the sign of Divine displeasure (2 Chronicles 6:24, 2 Chronicles 6:26), "because they have sinned against thee," and he prays for mercy and for the removal of the stroke of penalty. It is a question of great importance whether this view is to be taken under all circumstances whatever. We must remember that the way in which the favour of God was manifested in Old Testament times was the way of temporal prosperity, and (conversely) the form of Divine disapproval was that of temporal adversity. But we are living in a period when the spiritual and the future are the prevailing elements; and what was a certain conclusion then may be only a possibility or a probability now.
1. It may be true that national calamity speaks of national delinquency, and calls for national repentance. It is not only possible, but even probable, that this is the case. For national sin is commonly showing itself in guilty indulgence, and that leads to weakness, to exposure to the enemy, to misfortune of many kinds.
2. It may be that national calamity is Divine discipline. It is quite possible that God is testing, is purifying, is refining the nation as he does the individual, is intervening to save it from sin and shame, is working thus for its moral elevation and enlargement, And therefore it may be that the question to be asked is—What have we to learn? what is the peril to be shunned? which is the way God desires should be taken?—C.
2 Chronicles 6:29-31
God and the individual soul.
Not only during the time of national calamity (2 Chronicles 6:28), though especially then, do families and individual men find themselves in sore need of Divine succour. There is never any considerable congregation which does not include at least a few hearts that come up in hope of comfort and relief from Heaven.
I. THE BURDEN WHICH IS BORNE BY EACH HUMAN HEART. With our complex nature, and our many human relationships, we lie open to many ills and sorrows. These may be:
1. Bodily; pain or weakness, or threatened serious disease.
2. Temporal; some difficulty or danger connected with "our circumstances."
3. Sympathetic; some trouble of heart we are suffering by reason of our strong attachment to others who suffer and are in distress.
4. Spiritual; heart-ache, disappointment, compunction, doubt, anxious inquiry after God. "Every one knows his own sore and his own grief."
II. THE APPEAL OF THE SOUL TO THE SUPREME. Trouble does lead men to the God of their life, to the Father of their spirit. "Men say, 'God be pitiful,' who ne'er said, 'God be praised.'" We cannot supply our own need; we find our own "insufficiency for ourselves;" we must look beyond ourselves, and in what direction? Man often fails us.
1. We cannot speak to him, either because we cannot get his ear, or because we do not care to divulge our secret grief to any human heart whatsoever.
2. Or we have tried to secure human sympathy, and have failed; men are too much occupied with their own affairs and their own troubles to make much room in their hearts for ours.
3. Or we cannot discover the human hand that will help us; those that pity cannot serve us, cannot save us. We must have recourse to God. And we bring our grief, our sore, to him.
1. We are sure that he is accessible. He invites our approach; he says, "Call upon me in the time of trouble; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me."
2. We are sure of his attention. He is our Father, who pities us with parental kindness (Psalms 103:13); he is our Saviour, who has trodden the path of struggle and of sorrow before us, on whose tender sympathy we may confidently count (Hebrews 2:18; Hebrews 4:15, Hebrews 4:16; Hebrews 5:2).
3. We may depend on his power. He is able to save, to rescue, to restore, to renew.
III. THE DIVINE RESPONSE.
1. It is a question of our spiritual integrity. God answers "according to all our ways;" that is, according to our integrity. We must have the spirit of obedience in us. We may not look for a response if we are "regarding iniquity in our heart;" but, on the other hand, if we are seriously bent on serving the Lord, if "our heart condemn us not," if it acquit us of all insincerity and double-mindedness, "then have we confidence toward God; and whatsoever we ask we receive of him, because we keep his commandments" (1 John 3:21, 1 John 3:22). We may not, we are not able to keep all his precepts in all particulars; but the spirit of filial obedience, the desire to do what is "pleasing in his sight," is dwelling within us and inspiring us, and we are, therefore, of those whose prayer he hears. He forgives our shortcoming ("hear … and forgive"), and he "renders according to our ways."
2. It is a question of Divine knowledge. Who shall tell that this spirit of submission and obedience is within us? Only One can; it is he who "only knows the hearts of the children of men." He looks beneath our words and actions, and sees the motives and the purposes of our hearts.
3. It is a question of our character and the Divine intention. And God's design is so to hear and heed our prayers, so to grant or to withhold the desires of our heart, that we shall "fear God and walk in his ways," shall be "partakers of his holiness."—C.
2 Chronicles 6:36-39
Departure and return.
It seems a melancholy thing that, at this hour of sacred joy and triumph, Solomon should have been under the necessity of contemplating national unfaithfulness, Divine displeasure, a return of the people of God to ignominious captivity and all its consequent distress. But he felt that it was necessary, and the issue abundantly justified his forecast.
I. DEPARTURE FROM GOD. In the case of Israel, departure from the Lord their God meant either
1. A growing disregard, ending in an absolute indifference, or even denial, of God's claims.
2. A serious and, in the end, a shameful violation of his moral Law; doing that which is grievous in his sight and injurious to ourselves and our neighbours.
3. Gradual but growing declension after acquaintance with God; the heart allowing itself to become loosened from sacred ties and attaching itself to other objects—separating itself from him and quitting his service.
I. ITS PENALTY.
1. Divine displeasure. "Thou be angry with them." A moss serious and most deplorable thing it is to abide beneath the displeasure of our heavenly Father. The anger of love, the righteous anger of holy love, is ill to bear, indeed; it is a heavy weight upon the heart; it is a darkening of the life of man.
2. The triumph of our enemy. "And deliver them over before their enemies," etc. A sad thing it is for the human soul to be at the mercy of its enemy. Sin is a cruel enemy, and exacts a full penalty.
III. OUR REPENTANCE AND RETURN.
1. Distress leads to thoughtfulness. "They bethink themselves." We "come to ourselves" (Luke 15:17), as those who were created to consider and act reasonably; we weigh our condition and our prospects.
2. Thoughtfulness leads to self-rebuke. We reprove ourselves for our folly. We compare or contrast the present with the past, the land whither we have been "carried away captive" with the home of freedom and of sacred joy. We reproach ourselves with our guilt. We are pained and ashamed that we have left him, who is worthy of the riches of our strength, for all that is unworthy; him, to whom we owe everything, for that or for those to whom we owe nothing. We repent of our decision and our deed.
3. Repentance leads to return. We return unto God "with all our heart and with all our soul." We come with confession; we say freely and sincerely, "We have sinned" (2 Chronicles 6:38). We come with consecration; we offer ourselves, our hearts and lives, unto God, that henceforth we may walk in his ways with a perfect heart. We come in faith; we have hope in his mercy, for we know what will be—
IV. HIS RECEPTION OF US. He will "forgive his people that have sinned against him" (2 Chronicles 6:39). He will cordially welcome; he will immediately and magnanimously restore (see Luke 15:20-24).—C.
HOMILIES BY T. WHITELAW
2 Chronicles 6:1-11
The dedication of the temple: 2. The address of Solomon.
I. To JEHOVAH. (2 Chronicles 6:1, 2 Chronicles 6:2.) On beholding the cloud which filled the temple (2 Chronicles 6:13), Solomon uttered words which expressed:
1. Recognition of Jehovah's presence. "The Lord hath said that he would dwell in the thick darkness." Though nowhere occurring in Old Testament Scripture, this promise accorded substantially with the declarations Jehovah had often made (Exodus 13:21; Exodus 16:9; Exodus 19:9; Exodus 20:21; Exodus 24:16; Le Exodus 16:2; Numbers 12:5; Deuteronomy 31:15). In speaking as he did, Solomon both intimated his faith in the Divine promise, and his belief that in the cloud which filled the temple that promise had been implemented; in the thick darkness he recognized the dwelling-place of God.
2. Relief in Jehovah's acceptance of the temple. The phenomenon looked upon must have called to his mind the similar occurrence on the completion of the tabernacle, and led him to interpret this as Moses did that, as an intimation that Jehovah was pleased to accept the finished structure, and designed to make of it not simply "a lodging for a wayfaring man," but "a house of habitation," and "a place of dwelling for ever"
3. Welcome of Jehovah to his house. Addressing himself directly to Jehovah, the king in effect says, "Lord, I have built a house of habitation for thee, and a place for thy dwelling for ever; and now that thou hast gracious]y condescended to come to us, according to thy promise, in 'a thick cloud,' in the name of thy people I give thee joyous welcome, and humbly invite thee to enter and take possession."
4. A sense of the honour done by Jehovah to himself and his people in permitting them to build him a permanent habitation in their midst. It is hardly doubtful that Solomon at the moment realized the antithesis expressed by the words "I" and "thee"—"I, a sinful as well as puny creature, have built for thee, whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain, a house of habitation. Who am I, O Lord, that thou shouldest set such honour upon me?" Similar emotions rise in gracious souls at the thought of God taking up abode within them (Psalms 8:4; Psalms 144:3; Luke 7:6), or accepting the work of their hands (1 Chronicles 29:14; 2 Corinthians 2:14).
II. TO THE PEOPLE. (2 Chronicles 6:3-11.) Facing round upon the congregation, which at a signal rose to its feet, the pious monarch (probably with uplifted hands)supplicated for his subjects the Divine blessing, and in their hearing rendered thanks to God for the work that day finished. In particular, he acknowledged that the temple had been built by Jehovah:
1. Rather than by him, Solomon. Noteworthy is the emphasis laid upon the fact that "the Lord God of Israel had with his hands fulfilled that which he had spoken with his mouth." Qui facit per alium facit per se. Solomon esteemed himself the builder of the temple (2 Chronicles 6:10), though not a beam of timber had been felled, or a stone quarried, or a pillar cast, or a knop fashioned by himself, but all had been executed at and in accordance with his instructions by workmen and artisans; and in like manner he regarded Jehovah as the prime Architect, inasmuch as without Jehovah's permission the work had never been begun, and without Jehovah's aid it had never been finished (Psalms 127:1).
2. As a mark of special favour to Jerusalem. "In all places where I record my Name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee," had Jehovah said upon the mount (Exodus 20:24), while Moses on the plains of Moab had reminded them that "unto the place which the Lord their God should choose out of all their tribes to put his Name there, even unto his habitation should they seek, and thither should they bring their offerings" (Deuteronomy 12:5); yet never since the day of their departure from Egypt had a city been selected for such a purpose, until David had arisen to be the captain of his people and Jerusalem had become the metropolis of the land, Then Jerusalem was chosen (Psalms 132:13), and the ark of God established on Zion (2 Samuel 6:12; 1 Chronicles 15:1, etc.); now, in further pursuance of this plan to specially distinguish the capital, a house had been built to set his Name there.
3. In fulfilment of a promise made to David his father. The first effect of the ark's establishment upon Mount Zion was to excite within David's heart a desire to erect a structure worthy of its accommodation (2 Samuel 7:2); a house of cedar instead of the goat's-hair tent in which it had hitherto been lodged. The design was approved by Jehovah in so far as it bespoke the deeply religious spirit of his servant, the fervour of his gratitude, and the sincerity of his devotion, Nevertheless, the proposal that David should build the house was not favoured by Jehovah—rather was expressly negatived. David having been a man of war, and, having shed much blood upon the earth in God's sight, it was hardly congruous that he should build a temple to the God of peace (1 Chronicles 22:8). Thus God intimates that in religion, as in ordinary affairs, is a "fitness of things" which cannot be transgressed without a shock to beholders. If in any department of life, much more in that of religion, a beautiful consistency should be maintained between one's public conduct and private character, and a strict watch set upon one's present actions lest they should hinder future usefulness. But if David should not build the house, a son of his, to be afterwards born, would (2 Samuel 7:12, 2 Samuel 7:13; 1 Chronicles 22:9, 1 Chronicles 22:10); and he, Solomon, had arisen in fulfilment of that promise.
4. For the honour of his Name. So far as Solomon was concerned, that indicated true humility Different from Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:30), Solomon had no thought of enhancing his own glory in what he undertook and executed, though, as the sequel proved, he thereby the more effectually secured that (2 Chronicles 9:23; 1 Kings 10:23, 1 Kings 10:24; cf. Luke 14:11). Of genuine religion also was it a sign, God's glory being ever to a good man the foremost motive and highest aim in all his actions (1 Corinthians 10:31), the uppermost desire in his heart being to sing forth the honour of God's Name (Psalms 66:2), and to speak of his glory (Psalms 29:9). On the part of Jehovah the end contemplated was the loftiest possible, God having nothing more magnificently resplendent in itself, or more infallibly beatific in its results, to make known to man than just his own ineffably glorious Name, its holiness (Psalms 111:9), faithfulness (Psalms 146:6), goodness (Psalms 25:8), and mercy (Exodus 34:6). Symbolically that was done by the ark of the covenant, with the tables of the Law deposited in the inner shrine of the sanctuary between the cherubim; historically that has since been done by God's Son, who in the fulness of the times came forth from the Father, and revealed him to men (Matthew 1:23; John 1:18; John 5:43); fully that will be done in the heavenly temple, when God's servants shall see his face, and his Name shall be in their foreheads (Revelation 22:4).
1. The condescension of God in dwelling with man.
2. The faithfulness of God in keeping his word.
3. The sovereignty of God in working all things according to the counsel of his will.
4. The love of God in making known his Name to men.—W.
2 Chronicles 6:12-21
The dedication of the temple: 3. The consecration prayer.
I. THE PERSON OF THE SUPPLIANT. Solomon.
1. Royal. That Solomon should have prayed was not surprising, considering the example and training he must have received from his father, and remembering the solemn and impressive spectacle he had witnessed. It is difficult to shake off habits formed within the soul by ancestral piety and early training; while, if a sense of God's nearness and a realization of God's goodness will not stimulate to prayer, it is doubtful if anything on earth will. Yet praying kings are not so numerous as they might and should, or indeed would be, did they consider their own or their people's good, not to speak of the allegiance they owe to the King of kings, by whose permission alone it is they reign (Proverbs 8:15; Daniel 2:21).
2. Representative. Though Solomon prayed for himself and in his own name, he nevertheless acted as the official mouthpiece of his people, who in this whole work were associated with him. Though from this it cannot be inferred that earthly sovereigns in general (or even Christian sovereigns in particular) have a right to prescribe creeds or forms of worship to, or serve vicariously for, their subjects in the duties of the sanctuary, it is still true that they occupy a sort of representative position as the nation's head, and just on that account should interest themselves in the advancement of religion amongst those who own their sway, and should frequently bear these upon their hearts before God in prayer.
II. THE DEITY ADDRESSED. The Lord God of Israel.
1. The only God. The language employed here by Solomon (2 Chronicles 6:14), and elsewhere by David (Psalms 86:8), was not intended to concede the existence of other divinities either in heaven or on earth, but designed, like the statements of Moses (Deuteronomy 4:39), Rahab (Joshua 2:11), David (2 Samuel 7:22), and Jehovah himself (Isaiah 45:22; Isaiah 46:5), to emphasize in the strongest way the unity and soleity of God (Exodus 9:14; Deuteronomy 6:4; 1 Kings 8:23; Jeremiah 10:6; 1 Corinthians 8:4).
2. A covenant-keeping God. Solomon, like all pious Israelites, like Moses (Deuteronomy 7:9), David (Psalms 25:10; Psalms 89:34; 1 Chronicles 16:15), Nehemiah (Nehemiah 1:5), and Daniel (Daniel 9:4), delighted to acknowledge Jehovah's faithfulness to his promised word. It was solely on the ground of that covenant by which God had chosen Israel for his possession (Exodus 19:5, Exodus 19:8), and made himself over to be their God (Exodus 20:2), that Israel existed as a nation and enjoyed the privilege of drawing near to God. Had it been possible for God to violate his deliberately and graciously formed engagements, or go back in the smallest measure from his promised word, Solomon knew that Israel's continuance as a people would instantly have become imperilled. That Jehovah had fulfilled the promise made to David with reference to the temple, was a proof that this contingency could not occur. The same covenant faithfulness is the believer's warrant for drawing near to God in prayer, and the suppliant's encouragement in expecting an answer (2 Corinthians 1:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:24; Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18).
3. A mercy-showing God. This also indispensable as a characteristic of such a Divinity as man can hopefully address in prayer. For unless God can be merciful towards the undeserving and hell-deserving, it is useless to think of asking anything at his hands. The notion that man may treat with God on grounds of pure personal justice must be discarded, as neither warranted by Scripture nor supported by experience.
"'Tis from the mercy of our God
That all our hopes begin."
And that God is pre-eminently a God of mercy is the clear teaching of revelation (Exodus 34:7; Psalms 103:8; Micah 7:18; Ephesians 2:4; James 5:11).
III. THE MODE OF SUPPLICATION.
1. Publicly. The king prayed from a brazen scaffold, or basin-like elevation, perhaps resembling a modern pulpit, five cubits long, five broad, and three high, erected in the middle of the court and congregation. Prayers for one's self should not be made in public (Matthew 6:5), the place for such being, not the synagogue, street corners, or market squares, but the inner chamber of the house, the secret room, or retiring-hall of the soul (Matthew 6:6).
2. Humbly. Indicated by the attitude assumed during prayer. Hitherto, while speaking to the people, the king had stood; now, in addressing God, he kneels. David sat before the Lord (2 Samuel 7:18); Abraham stood (Genesis 18:22). In Nehemiah's time the people stood and confessed their sins (Nehemiah 9:2). Daniel kneeled three times a day on his knees and prayed (Daniel 11:10). In the New Testament Scripture the Pharisee stood and prayed (Luke 18:11); Jesus kneeled (Luke 22:41); so did Stephen (Acts 7:60), Peter (Acts 9:40), and Paul (Acts 20:36; Acts 21:5).
3. Fervently. Outstretched hands were a sign of prayer generally, their heavenward direction symbolizing a solemn and earnest appeal to him who sat enthroned on high (Exodus 9:29, Exodus 9:33; Psalms 88:9; Psalms 143:6; Isaiah 1:15). The same thing now signified by the folding or clasping of the hands and the upward turning of the face. Both classes of actions betoken inward emotion, and fervency of spirit on the part of him who prays.
4. Believingly. The scaffold stood before the brazen altar. The king' prayed from the neighbourhood of sacrificial blood—a recognition on his part that only through atoning blood could either himself or his supplications gain admission into Jehovah's audience-chamber, or acceptance with him (Hebrews 9:7). It is now true that only through the blood of Jesus can one draw near to God (Hebrews 10:19).
IV. THE CONTENTS OF THE PRAYER. A fourfold petition.
1. For David's house—that it should never want a man to sit upon the throne (verse 16). Jehovah had promised this conditionally on David's children proving faithful to their covenant obligations, and walking in the ways of righteousness and truth (2 Samuel 7:12-16). Solomon requests that this promise may be fulfilled, not provisionally merely, but absolutely, by God dealing with David's children so that they shall take heed to their way, and walk in God's Law as David had done before them. To suppose Solomon only meant that Jehovah should stand to his word and maintain the Davidic dynasty, should it eventually prove worth maintaining, he, Jehovah, all the while severely leaving it alone, is as incorrect as to imagine that Solomon desired God to establish David's throne for ever, irrespective of the character of its occupants. What Solomon craved was the two things together—the perpetuity of David's house through the never-failing moral and spiritual worth of David's successors.
2. For the temple—that it might continue to be a dwelling-place for God on earth, and in the midst of men (verse 18). Solomon saw that, without this, his magnificent edifice would turn out a comparatively worthless structure, as modern cathedrals and churches, however imposing their appearance, elaborate their ornamentation, or gigantic their dimensions, are nothing more than piles of masonry if God is absent from their aisles. Yet, so overpowered was his imagination with the bare idea of God's immensity—"Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee"—that it seemed to him doubtful if it were not the merest vanity to dream that an infinite and omnipresent Deity could inhabit even a palace such as he had erected—"how much less this house which I have built?" And in any case the condescension of it appeared so strange as to fill him with wonder and doubtful joy. "But will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth?" The feelings here expressed have their counterparts in those kindled in believing hearts by the contemplation of that mystery of mysteries, the incarnation of the Eternal Son, and of that almost equally amazing fact, the inhabitation of the human heart by the Holy Ghost (1 Corinthians 3:16). (See next homily on verse 18.)
3. For himself—that his present supplication might be answered (verse 19). The special burden of his supplication was that Jehovah's eyes might be open upon the temple day and night, not so much for protection—though that idea must not be excluded (Psalms 121:3)—as for observation; to note when any worshipper should be directing thitherward his prayer (verse 20), lest for want of being observed such petitioner should go without an answer. The earnestness with which Solomon "cried" unto Jehovah concerning this thing was an attestation of the importance he attached to it. So far from doubting whether God could answer prayer, it seemed to him that, if God could not, his entire reputation and character as a God would be gone.
4. For all future suppliants—that their prayers might be heard (verse 21). Solomon believed that his people would in after-years retain such a faith in Jehovah as to lead them to direct their supplications towards his earthly dwelling-place. Yet Solomon confounded not Jehovah's earthly habitation with his true dwelling-place in heaven, or expected responses from the lower shrine after the manner of a heathen oracle, instead of from the upper temple where Jehovah sat enthroned in unveiled glory. Jehovah's symbolic presence might be behind the screen that concealed the holy of holies; his real presence was beyond the curtain of the sky. Thence accordingly should all answers come, as thither would all petitions go. The coming of such answers would be a fruit and a sign of forgiveness.
1. The duty of intercessory prayer (1 Timothy 2:1).
2. The propriety of public devotion (Hebrews 10:25).
3. The reverential spirit of prayer (Hebrews 12:28).
4. The reasonableness of expecting answers to prayer (Psalms 5:3).—W.
2 Chronicles 6:18
Will God in very deed dwell with men?
I. REASON SAYS, NO!
1. The greatness of God forbids it. The heaven of heavens cannot contain him; how much less any house which man might build, or, even man's heart, which at the best is narrow and mean! The insignificance of man in comparison with the transcendent majesty of the Supreme has always been a difficulty in the way of accepting the religion of the Bible.
2. The sinfulness of man opposes it. Had the thing itself—the fellowship of God with man—been in reason's eyes conceivable, it would still have been negatived by the fact of man's fallen and degraded condition, with which the holiness and justice of God must have for ever, apart from an atonement, seemed impossible.
II. REVELATION ANSWERS, YES!
1. God has already dwelt with man in the past.
2. God now dwells with man in the present. "Lo, I am with you alway" (Matthew 28:20), said Christ before his ascension; and again at the supper-table, "We will come and make our abode with him" (John 14:23). Christ dwells in the hearts of his people in the Person of his Spirit (John 14:16). "That which is done is that which shall be done" (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
3. God will dwell with men visibly and personally in the future. "And I heard a great voice out of heaven, saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them" (Revelation 21:3).—W.
2 Chronicles 6:22-39
The sevenfold illustration.
I. THE OATH OF PURGATION. (2 Chronicles 6:22, 2 Chronicles 6:23.)
1. The case supposed. (2 Chronicles 6:22.)
2. The prayer offered. (2 Chronicles 6:23.)
II. THE PRAYER OF THE CAPTIVE. (Verses 24, 25.)
1. The instance selected. That of God's ancient people
2. The request presented.
III. THE CRY OF THE FAMISHED. (Verses 26, 27.)
1. The distress pictured. Solomon imagines a state of matters that in Oriental countries might easily happen, when through long-continued drought, as in the days of Joseph (Genesis 41:57), the inhabitants might be perishing (or in danger of perishing) through lack of food—a state of matters not unknown in the land of Israel, both before (Ruth 1:1; 2 Samuel 21:1) and after (1 Kings 17:7; 2 Kings 4:38; 2 Kings 6:25-29; 2 Kings 25:3; Acts 11:28) his time, and commonly regarded as a visible token of Divine displeasure on account of sin (Le 26:20; Deuteronomy 11:17; Deuteronomy 28:23; Amos 4:7), as abundance of rain and fertility of ground were customarily accepted as intimations of Heaven's favour (Le Job 26:4; Jeremiah 5:24; Joel 2:23). The state of matters depicted is rendered even more sorrowful, and the wretchedness more pitiable, by the fact that the famine and the drought spoken of are represented as having been sent upon the people on account of their wickedness, exactly as Jehovah had threatened.
2. The condition presupposed. Solomon asks nothing for his people when in this plight except under limitations. He requests absolutely neither the complete removal of the judgment nor its mitigation. He assumes that his people shall have
3. The favour solicited.
4. The reason given.
IV. THE WAIL OF THE AFFLICTED. (Verses 28-31.)
1. Their case destructed. (Verse 28.) Their distress—stricken by plague or sickness—is set forth
2. Their cause pleaded.
V. THE PRAYER OF THE STRANGER. (Verses 32, 33.)
1. His personal history narrated.
2. His religious conduct described. He is represented as
3. His favourable acceptance requested.
VI. THE APPEAL OF THE SOLDIER. (Verses 34, 35)
1. A fourfold assumption.
2. A twofold petition.
VII. THE SUPPLICATION OF THE EXILE. (Verses 36-39.)
1. The calamity apprehended.
2. The supposition made.
3. The intercession made. That God would grant his repenting and praying people
1. That good prayers, while never prolix, vague, or rambling, are always full, specific, and well arranged.
2. That the loftiest prayer a human lip can utter is that of intercession for the welfare of others.
3. That, though the heart of man stands in no need of arguments to make it pray, it is not forbidden to employ arguments in the act of prayer.
4. That prayer, conceived as the converse of a finite soul with the infinite Deity, is the highest exercise of which a creature is capable.
5. That long prayers do not weary God, though meaningless repetitions do.—W.
2 Chronicles 6:40-42
A prayer for the Church of God.
I. FOR ITS CONGREGATIONS.
1. That God would make them his resting-place. "Arise, O Lord God, into thy resting-place" (2 Chronicles 6:41). Taken from the battle-cry of the nation when the ark set forward to search out a resting-place for them (Numbers 10:33-36), the words imply a request that Jehovah Elohim, the covenant God of Israel, would make of the temple, and therefore of that which it symbolized, the Church of God, collectively and severally, as a whole and in its individual assemblies:
2. That God would establish in them the tokens of his power. "Arise, O Lord … thou, and the ark of thy strength." The outwardly mean and insignificant wooden box called the ark was a symbol of God's physical almightiness, which commonly worked through feeble instruments; of his commanding omnipotence, which was ever based on essential holiness; and of his grace-bestowing power, which revealed itself upon and in and through a mercy-seat. Hence, in seeking that the ark might find in the temple a resting-place, Solomon practically asked that Jehovah would, through it as a medium, manifest to Israel his power (1.) in protecting and defending them against their adversaries,
3. That God would listen to the prayers that in them ascended from the hearts of his people. "Let thine eyes be open, and thine ears be attent unto the prayer that is made in this place." The temple was designed to be a place of prayer for all people, for all people to resort to with supplications for themselves and on behalf of all sorts of people; the like characteristics belong to the Church of the New Testament (Luke 18:1; Luke 24:52, Luke 24:53; Ephesians 6:18; i Thessalonians Ephesians 5:17; 1 Timothy 2:1, 1 Timothy 2:8).
II. FOR ITS MINISTERS. That they might be clothed with salvation (2 Chronicles 6:41), or righteousness (Psalms 132:9)—the two terms in the Old Testament being synonymous, or at least so connected that the one implies the other (cf. Isaiah 61:10). Rightly understood, salvation is the outcome and result of righteousness. The soul that is righteous outwardly and inwardly, judicially or legally, and morally or personally, is saved; while none are saved by whom that righteousness is not possessed, either in whole as by the glorified, or in part as by Christian believers—
"Whose faith receives a righteousness
That makes the sinner just."
In seeking, then, that the temple priests might be clothed with salvation, Solomon desired:
1. That they might be personally good men. Upright and sincere in their hearts before God, virtuous and correct in their walk before men—men like Noah (Genesis 7:1), Abraham (Genesis 17:1), Job (Job 1:1; Job 29:14), David (Psalms 7:8), and Nathanael (John 1:47); since only men themselves righteous, in the sense of being justified and accepted before God as well as renewed and possessed of the germ of holiness, were warranted to minister at God's altar (Exodus 22:31; Le 11:44; Psalm h 16). The like qualification the Church of Christ should ever seek in those who serve in her pulpits. Anything more calamitous than an insincere and immoral, because unbelieving and unconverted ministry, can hardly be imagined as befalling the Christian Church. The first requisite of him who would preach the gospel is a hearty acceptance of the same in faith and humility, love and obedience—the foundation of all true piety.
2. That they might be clothed with salvation in their official ministrations. That their whole being should be absorbed (and so visibly that men might behold it) in the work of saving God's people. If indispensable as a mark of a true Heaven-appointed priest under the Law, much more is this requisite as a qualification of the Christ-sent preacher under the gospel Pastors and teachers in the New Testament Church who aim not at the salvation of themselves and their hearers (1 Timothy 4:16) are intruders into the sacred office. The one theme which has a claim to monopolize the time, talents, thought, eloquence, zeal of the Christian minister is the gospel of Christ—"the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth" (Romans 1:16).
III. FOR ITS PEOPLE. That they might rejoice in goodness (verse 41). Notice:
1. The designation. Saints (1 Samuel 2:19; Psalms 30:4; Psalms 50:5; Psalms 149:1). The term literally signifies kind, excellent, one who shows favour, hence pious (Gesenius); or one who has obtained favour, hence beloved (Perowne). In both senses were God's ancient people "saints." They were objects of Jehovah's favour (Deuteronomy 7:8; 1 Kings 10:9; 2 Chronicles 2:11), beloved for the fathers' sakes (Romans 11:28); and were, or should have been, kind and beneficent (Le Job 19:18; Psalms 112:5; Proverbs 10:12; Zechariah 7:9). So likewise are New Testament believers beloved for Christ's sake (Romans 1:7; Ephesians 1:6), and commanded to love one another (John 13:1-38 :84, 35; John 15:17; Romans 12:10; Galatians 5:13; 1 Peter 2:17; 1 John 4:7, 1 John 4:21). The customary sense in which the term "saint" is used is that of separated, or holy one (Deuteronomy 33:3; Job 15:15; Psalms 34:9; Acts 9:13; Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2; Ephesians 1:1).
2. The emotion. Gladness. Nothing more remarkable than the emphasis placed by both Testaments upon "joy" as an experience which should belong pre-eminently to God's saints (Deuteronomy 33:29; 1 Samuel 2:1; Psalms 5:11; Psalms 84:4; c. 1, 2; Isaiah 29:19; Romans 12:12; Romans 14:17; Galatians 5:22; Philippians 3:1; Philippians 4:4). Where joy is habitually absent, there is reason to suspect that either the individual is no true believer at all, or is under mistaken apprehensions concerning God or himself, or is affected by some malady, bodily or mental, which disturbs his peace. Yet the primal fountain of all joy for the religious soul is God (Nehemiah 8:10; Job 8:21; Psalms 4:7; Psalms 30:11; John 14:27; John 15:11; John 16:22; John 17:13; Romans 5:2; Romans 15:13).
3. The occasion. Goodness; i.e. in the highest sense. Not merely God's common gifts of corn and wine, though even in these a saint can exult with a propeiety which none can feel but those who recognize everything they have as coming from a Father's hand; but chiefly God's highest gifts of grace and salvation, and in particular God's great and unspeakable Gift, Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 9:15).
IV. FOR ITS KING. That God would regard him with favour (verse 42). God's anointed in the passage under consideration was Solomon; hut the great Anointed, of whom he was a shadow, was Christ, whom God anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows (Psalms 45:7), and set as King upon his holy hill of Zion (Psalms 2:6). The language of the prayer, therefore, may be applied to Christ, the Church's Head and King.
1. In meaning it may signify that God would continue to regard him with favour, and show this by not denying his request (1 Kings 2:16). As thus interpreted, it teaches that Christ's Church has a deep interest in the success of all Christ's prayers on their behalf, and should make this a frequent burden of her supplications, that Jehovah would hear the intercessions of her anointed Head within the veil for transgressors (Isaiah 53:12), for believers (Hebrews 7:25), for the sanctification of his own (John 17:17), for the conversion of the World (John 17:20), for the final consummation of all things (John 17:24).
2. The arguments by which the prayer may be supported are two:
1. The sublimity of true prayer.
2. The comprehensive scope of prayer.
3. The exalted character of the Church as God's dwelling-place, and as Christ's kingdom.
4. The grand aim of the Church as a visible institution to promote salvation.
5. The entire dependence of the Church for efficiency on God.—W.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 6". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany