(See last chapter, 1 Chronicles 9:29-40 .)
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
1 Chronicles 9:11 .-The ruler of the house of God.
Whether this Azariah was the high priest or the "second priest" does not seem certain. But the office here ascribed to him is evidently one of great importance, and is suggestive of memorable truths with regard to God's spiritual temple and kingdom.
I. THE TRUE " HOUSE OF GOD " IS SPIRITUAL . The temple at Jerusalem was the emblem of the spiritual house which no man has built—the Church of the Divine Redeemer and Lord. This is composed of faithful and holy natures, as of "lively stones."
II. THIS " HOUSE OF GOD " IS ORDERED AND GOVERNED ACCORDING TO DIVINE WISDOM . This is suggested by the word " ruler ." "Order is Heaven's first law," and this law is certainly not violated in his most precious and beloved work. God's own wisdom is displayed in his own temple.
III. GOD 'S OWN SON IS THE RULER IN HIS OWN HOUSE . No earthly sovereign or ecclesiastical pontiff is the head of the spiritual society in which God's Spirit ever dwells. Christ is the King, the Lord, the Priest; "the Head over all things to his Church."
IV. ALL HUMAN RULERS ARE SUBJECT AND SUBORDINATE TO THE DIVINE LORD . Bishops are overseers, and presbyters are pastors; but they are not lords over God's heritage. They have only authority to declare his will, and to execute his commands; and this trust they fulfil, not for their own honour, but for the order and prosperity of God's house.—T.
1 Chronicles 9:13 .-Very able men.
In this Book of Chronicles praise is accorded, not only to great warriors, but also to scholars and ministers of religion. In this passage priests are described in language which would seem more appropriate to soldiers. They are termed "mighty men of valour," or valiant heroes, paraphrased in our version as "very able men" for the service of the house of the Lord. The employment of persons so highly qualified to render such service is very suggestive.
I. GOD CAN MAKE USE OF THE FEEBLEST AND HUMBLEST INSTRUMENTS IN THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF HIS PURPOSES . This should be remarked, lest any persons should consider themselves disqualified from serving God because, in their own judgment, not justly worthy to be termed "very able" or effective labourers.
II. NO ABILITY IS TOO GOOD , OR EVEN GOOD ENOUGH , FOR GOD 'S SERVICE . If responsible posts, influential professions, call for the services of men highly endowed and thoroughly furnished, shall we say that anything is good enough for the work of God? Remembering the honour of serving him, the difficulties peculiar to his service, let us rather seek to offer to him the best. There is abundant scope for intellectual vigour, mental acquisitions, tender sympathy, unsparing labours, and all other precious gifts, in the service of our redeeming God.
III. Therefore, THE STRONG AND GIFTED SHOULD BE ESPECIALLY SUMMONED TO ENTER UPON THE WORK OF CHRIST ; to come up "to the help of the Lord against the mighty." There is room for others; there is room for all; why not for such? If the temple ministrations offered scope for "very able men," what need is there for wise master-builders, capable pastors, stout-hearted labourers, valiant soldiers, in the work which is dear to the heart of God, and which has been commenced by the grace of the Divine Redeemer! To one and to all we would say, "The Lord has need of you."—T.
1 Chronicles 9:26-32 . - Ministers of the sanctuary.
The arrangements for the service of the Levites in the Lord's house seem to have been made, or at all events settled, by Samuel and by David. The same arrangements, substantially, were adopted by Solomon, in connection with the first temple, and by Ezra and Nehemiah in the second temple erected by Zerubbabel. For the custody of the holy house, four chief warders were appointed, under whom were a hundred and sixty-eight porters, who, in turn, fulfilled their important and sacred office. These attendants had their homes in certain villages in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem. A course of twenty-four of them seem to have attended the sanctuary every week, commencing with the sabbath, and the turn of each course would come round once in seven weeks.
I. OBSERVE THE VARIETY AND UNITY OF THE LEVITICAL SERVICE .
1 . The variety. Some were entrusted with the duty of opening and closing the doors. Others had charge of the treasury, where coin, sacred vessels and vestments, etc; were kept in security. Others had the custody of the various vessels and instruments used in sacrificial services. Others made ready the sacrifices, manufactured the incense, or prepared the sacred cakes and shewbread.
2 . The unity. One God appointed them all, by the same law and ordinance, to their several ministries. One sanctuary occupied their attention and called forth their activity. One nation and people were served by all the ministrations of the priests and Levites. One object was before them all—to serve Jehovah, to obey his Law, to seek his favour.
II. REMARK THE STRIKING FIGURE WHICH WE HAVE IN THESE MINISTRATIONS OF THE CHURCH OF THE LIVING AND DIVINE CHRIST .
1 . There are "diversities of gifts" and trusts and services. According to the ability and opportunity is the occupation.
2 . Beneath all these diversities there is an admirable unity. It is "the one Spirit" who qualifies and appoints all. There is one body, one temple, one brotherhood. And there is one aim—the service and glory of the one God and Saviour.
1 . Let each Christian fulfil his own vocation.
2 . And, at the same time, regard with sympathy and affection his fellow-workers in the same service.
3 . And ever look to the one end—the service of his redeeming God.—T.
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
1 Chronicles 9:1 .-The far country.
The text speaks of those who were "carried away to Babylon for their transgression." In every age and land sin means exile. It is a fruitful source of division, of painful and hurtful separation. Sin, which is "the transgression of the Law," makes us go out into "a far country." It takes us —
I. TO A STATE OF SEPARATION FROM GOD ( Isaiah 59:2 ): from his conscious presence, his favour, his likeness, his dwelling-place.
II. FAR FROM A TRUE , AN IDEAL MANHOOD . We sink a long way below the level of a pure, holy, estimable humanity.
III. INTO THE DREARY REGION OF RESTLESSNESS , MISERY , DESPAIR .
IV. To " THE FAR COUNTRY " OF INDIFFERENCE , HEARTLESSNESS ("past feeling," Ephesians 4:19 ), UTTER UNBELIEF .
V. To " THE OUTER DARKNESS " OF FINAL EXILE FROM THE CITY OF GOD .—C.
1 Chronicles 9:11-13 . - Authority and ability in the service of God.
Azariah was "the ruler of the house of God" (verse 11); concerning a thousand seven hundred and sixty it is said that were "very able men for the work of the service of the house of God" (verse 13). Here we have high authority and eminent ability in the service of the Lord.
I. AUTHORITY IN SACRED SERVICE . Our Saviour did not establish a hierarchy in the Christian Church. The apostolate was obviously a temporary institution. We read of "elders that rule well" ( 1 Timothy 5:17 ), and the Hebrew Christians were charged to "obey them that had the rule over them" ( Hebrews 13:17 ). There was, as there is now, a place in the Church for authority on the one hand and for loyalty on the other. There are, as there ever will be, those who direct, control, organize, appoint, remove. On the part of such there should be:
1 . A sense of deep responsibility; for on their decision and direction great things depend.
2 . A constant appeal for Divine guidance. In the affairs of his kingdom surely the Divine Sovereign should be continually con-suited by those who speak in his Name.
3 . Great carefulness to act in harmony with his revealed will, so that they may not, while professing to work for God, be simply imposing their own fallible judgment on other minds.
4 . The cultivation of humility, lest they should aspire to "have dominion over the faith" of men, instead of walking humbly with God, and serving in love like that Son of man who "came not to be ministered unto, but to minister."
II. ABILITY IN SACRED SERVICE . (Verse 13.) The ability which these priests displayed in the service of the sanctuary was of a somewhat different order from that which is now required in the service of man in the Church of Christ. But it was inspired by the same Divine Being, and it aimed at the same end—the spiritual well-being of the nation. We remark concerning ability in sacred service:
1 . That it is, in large part, the gift of God. "Very able men" are "what they are by the grace of God." Their conspicuous ability is his endowment. From the Author of their being come the faculties (memory, imagination, judgment, reason, enthusiasm, strength, will, etc.) which distinguish them from their fellows. They owe their eminence to the supreme hand that raises and levels all things. Therefore
2 . That it is, in large part, the product of human effort. The greatest "abilities" will come to no ripeness and bear no fruit without human industry, patience, effort. Many who have it in them to do great things go to the grave having lived useless, wasted lives. Therefore
4 . That the approval and award of the Master depend, not on ability, but on faithfulness. They who have served God with special powers will have the gratification of seeing peculiarly large results; but whether our talents be few or many, if we be faithful at our post, we shall all share the "Well done" of the righteous Judge.—C.
1 Chronicles 9:14-34 . - Aspects of Christian work.
In the service of the sanctuary there were many offices to be filled, various duties to be discharged. These will bring to our remembrance three aspects of our Christian service.
I. THAT LOWLY LABOUR IN THE SERVICE OF THE SAVIOUR IS HONOURABLE WORK . The work of the Nethinims ( 1 Chronicles 9:2 ) was not to be despised; they did work which was comparatively menial, but it was work that needed to be done for God, and was accepted by him. Of the Levites, some "had the charge of the ministering vessels" ( 1 Chronicles 9:28 ); others of "the fine flour, and the wine, and the oil, and the frankincense, and the spices" ( 1 Chronicles 9:29 , 1 Chronicles 9:30 ); one of them was placed "over the things that were made in the pans" ( 1 Chronicles 9:31 ). These offices were humble enough, but they were not counted dishonourable by those who rendered them, and they were esteemed worthy of record in the sacred chronicle. In the cause of Christ and of man there are many duties that are demanded of us, which, to the eye of impiety, may seem servile and mean. If, however, we are looking at things with the eye of faith and filial love, they will not wear this aspect. Loyalty counts nothing too mean to be rendered to its sovereign; love nothing too trivial to be offered to its friend. Our loyalty to the heavenly King, our love to our Divine Friend, should make us not only willing but eager to take any part and do any work in his sacred service.
II. THAT A POST OF TRUST IS ONE OF SPECIAL HONOUR . It is very noticeable that so much is said about the porters that kept the gates: "the work of the service" is markedly referred to as "keeping the gates of the tabernacle;" these "over the host of the Lord," were "keepers of the entry" ( 1 Chronicles 9:19 ; see 1 Chronicles 9:21-24 ). We read also that "four chief porters… were over the chambers and treasuries" ( 1 Chronicles 9:26 ). Special provision was made for their entertainment ( 1 Chronicles 9:27 ). These actions were simple, mechanical—it might be thought lowly, if not menial. But they were places of trust. It was important that none should be admitted to the holy places but those who had the right of entrance. These men had the purity of the sacred courts at their command; they were trusted to see that these were not profaned by unhallowed feet. When we are trusted by our fellows or by our Master to do anything, whether it be in itself serious or slight, we should feel that we are being honoured, and we should put forth all our vigilance, strength, vigour, to prove ourselves worthy of the confidence placed in us. Nothing should make so strong an appeal to our undivided energies as being trusted to see that something is done well in the service of our Saviour.
III. THAT CONSTANCY IS A VERY VALUABLE VIRTUE IN CHRISTIAN SERVICE . The singers "were employed in that work day and night" ( 1 Chronicles 9:33 ). It was pleasing to the ear of Jehovah to hear ceaseless strains of holy song in the house of the Lord. It is pleasing to the heart of the ascended Saviour to witness spiritual constancy in those that bear his name and profess to be his disciples. He has ordained us that "our fruit should remain " ( John 15:16 ). He wishes that we should "continue in his love" ( John 15:9 ). We are to continue in the doctrine of Christ ( Acts 14:22 ; 1 Timothy 4:16 ; Colossians 1:23 ), and in brotherly love ( Hebrews 13:1 ). The secret of constancy in the various graces of Christian character is abiding in Christ himself ( John 15:1-7 ). Abiding in him—our spirit trusting, resting, rejoicing, hoping in him—our life will not flicker or expire; it will shine, like the lamp in the holy place, like the song in the sanctuary, day and night," steadily, serenely, abidingly, in the presence of God.—C.
1 Chronicles 9:20 .-God with us.
"The Lord was with him." These words frequently occur in the sacred Scriptures. Of many of the worthies of ancient time is God's favouring presence stated—of Abraham ( Genesis 26:24 ), of Jacob ( Genesis 28:15 ), of Joseph ( Genesis 39:2 ), of Samuel ( 1 Samuel 3:19 ), of David ( 1 Samuel 18:14 ), etc. There is evidently something more in the words than —
I. THE OBVIOUS SENSE IN WINCH GOD IS CONSTANTLY PRESENT WITH EVERY ONE . The omnipresent One cannot be separated, in space, from any of his creatures. "He is not far from every one of us: for in him we live, and move, and have our being" ( Acts 17:27 , Acts 17:28 ).
"Awake, asleep, at home, abroad,
We are surrounded still with God."
(See Psalms 139:1-24 .) We shall fail to find in the text its chief significance if we do not see —
II. THE DEEPER SENSE IN WHICH GOD IS WILLING TO BE NEAR US ALL . He is ready to be with us:
1 . With his favouring presence; as a loving friend is, in sweet fellowship with his friend.
2 . With his sympathizing presence; as the patient mother is with her sick or suffering child, taking his hand to assure him of her closeness to him and tender care for him.
3 . With his encouraging presence; as a teacher is with his pupil, animating him to do his best in the trial-hour.
4 . With his guiding and guardian presence; as the father leads his child on in the darkness, at once showing the way and defending from the unknown perils in the path. If we yield ourselves to God in the time of our youth, and determine to walk with Christ along the path of life, then his gracious presence will attend us at every step, he will be with us to our journey's end, and will finally take us to be with him in the eternal home.—C.
HOMILIES BY F. WHITFIELD
1 Chronicles 9:1-44 . - Genealogy of the returned exiles.
This chapter records the genealogies of Israel when, as exiles, they had returned from Babylon. Almost all the names recur in Nehemiah (11). God's people may be scattered and downtrodden and degraded in strange lands, but he has his eye on each, and their names are in the book of life. Not one shall be missing when the Lord shall gather his own again in that land where they shall return to go no more out. The servants of God had each their work apportioned. Some had the charge of pans; some had to number the vessels; some to carry them in and out. Some were porters at the door of the house of God; some porters at the king's gate; some "keepers of the entry;" some to oversee the vessels; some makers of "the ointment of the spices;" and some had the more exalted office of rulers of the house of God. Thus the occupation of each was widely different, but each one had his place in the vineyard, some exalted, some humble. Oh to be able to say, in whatever position of life God may place us, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" Let each one fill his post, however humble it may be, and "do it heartily as unto the Lord." The reward will be given, not according to the dignity of the post, but according to the faithfulness of the servant. "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." There is one service in this list which is worthy of note. It is that of the Levites who were singers. They were free because they were in the chambers of the house of God, and their work was to praise day and night (verse 33). Surely praise is for all times, and is associated with freedom in the highest sense of the word. The soul that has been "made free" can sing; and praise, unlike prayer, will never end. "I will bless the Lord at all times : his praise shall continually be in my mouth." None can praise but those whom "the truth" has made "free," and they can sing, like Paul and Silas, even in a dungeon. These are the true Levites. They are indeed in "the chambers"—the secret places of God's love. The service of praise is indeed " upon them" (margin). They must praise. They cannot do otherwise. They know Jesus. They see him. And they look forward to that time when they shall praise him "as they ought." God hasten that glorious time, when heaven and earth shall be vocal with praise, and Jesus shall be the Object of it for ever!—W.
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
1 Chronicles 9:2 . - Returned captives.
The allusion made here to those who were the first to reoccupy their ancestral possessions in the Holy Land, may serve to introduce the subject of the returned captives, and may set us upon learning the permanent lessons of their restoration. Some account may be given of the moral and religious condition of the Jewish people while in Babylon; of the literary, national, and religious influences exerted upon them by the associations of their captivity; of their measure of fitness for restoration when the providential time came; and of the historical circumstances which led up to their release. For these topics valuable help may be gained from Stanley's 'Jewish Church,' vol. 3. We only note one or two points which might be missed or under-estimated.
1 . The work of the prophets of the Captivity, in distinctly connecting national sufferings with national sins, and so producing a national repentance and a heart-return to Jehovah.
2 . The influence exerted by the association of Babylonian idolatry with Babylonian tyranny; a similar influence to that exerted by the Egyptian experiences on the first fathers of their race. . They were made to feel that idolatry could never assure national liberty; it is never anything but an engine of human tyranny—man's way of mastering and managing the bodies and minds of his fellow-men. The Jews have been, ever since the Captivity, the most strictly monotheistic race on the face of the earth.
3 . The sympathy with the Jewish people which Cyrus, as a monotheist, was likely to feel.
4 . And the limited and almost disappointing character of the first party to return. It was but a company representative of a national return. The majority of the Jews, having become settled and prosperous in the land of their exile, preferred to remain behind; only 42,360, attended by 7337 servants, were found willing to return to their native land. That company started under the leadership of Zerubbabel, the head of the house of Judah, and grandson of King Jehoiachin. The chief effects of the Captivity upon the Jews have been thus summarized.
I. THEY HAD RETURNED TO LOYALTY . That is, to their full allegiance to Jehovah, their one, immediate, invisible, spiritual King. This heart-return and national return was the essential preparation for their restoration; as we know that repentance, confession, conversion, and heart-return to God must ever precede the assurance of Divine forgiveness and acceptance. The sanctified influences of the Captivity bore directly upon bowing the people down in penitence and winning them to full allegiance to their God. So it may be impressively urged that Divine blessings are always held back until we are ready to receive them, and the great readiness is full openness to God, hearty loyalty to him.
II. THEY NOW RETURNED TO PRIVILEGE . Explain their sentiment about their beloved land, as showing what a privilege they esteemed it to be only to go and dwell in it. They also had the privilege of comparative national liberty and independence. They might enjoy their family possessions. They might renew the Jehovah-worship. God would do great things for his loyal people whereof they might be glad.
III. THEY FOUND THAT RETURN TO PRIVILEGE MEANT RETURN TO DUTY . A connection that is universally preserved and constantly repeated. Privilege never stands alone. No man can ever get it as an isolated and distinct thing. Responsibility and duty are always linked with it; and whoever will have privilege must have these things with it. The "returned captives" found that they were called to rebuild their city, retill their lands, restore their ceremonial worship, reorganize their governmental and social systems, secure their defence from external foes, raise again their demolished walls, and erect a new temple upon the ruins of the old. And, beyond such material things, they were bound to "occupy for God," they were to present such a model "state" as would effectively witness to all surrounding nations, and to all succeeding generations, of God's high claims, God's infinite justice, God's triumphing mercy, and God's sure faithfulness alike to his threatenings and to his promises. The forms in which, for us, duty follows privilege may be illustrated. Position brings influence, wealth brings power, learning brings claims, gifts bring spheres, piety brings the call to witness, etc.
Application may be made to God's restorations from the sicknesses and calamities of life. When God brings us up again out of any "depths," we should feel as did David, "Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy Word." If we thought aright we should daily regard ourselves as urged to all holy endeavour by the pressure of the feeling that we are God's "restored ones."—R.T.
1 Chronicles 9:13 . - Strong for God's service.
Of certain men, otherwise unknown, this is the permanent historical record, "They were very able men for the work of the service of the house of God ." It is a description full of interest, and reminds us that —
I. GOD GIVES TO MEN THE NEEDED GIFTS FOR HIS WORK . For all his work in the world; but here we are specially reminded of his work in the Church and in Divine service. In older times we find Moses with the genius for order and rule, and Bezaleel with the genius for decoration, and Joshua with the genius for war, and David with the genius for song; and so on through each age we may go, marking the men endowed with gifts for pious services. Each apostle has his gift. Reformers, leaders, teachers, rise for their specific work in each age—Augustine, Anselm, Bernard, Luther, Calvin, Pascal, Whitefield, etc. Ever and again God gives us "very able men for the work of the service of his house." And the greater and more prominent instances only affirm and assure the general truth that for all his work, be it greater or smaller in man's esteem, God ever finds the men and endows with the gifts, and each may become, by the faithful culture of his gift, a "very able man" for God's service. If he may he ought.
II. THE GIFT IS OFTEN UNRECOGNIZED BY HIM WHO HAS IT . And so the Church loses much of the service she needs. Especially apply to the ministerial endowment. It is usually found associated with a modest and retiring disposition, and in self-diffidence many fail to believe in their own powers. And powers often lie dormant and unrecognized until circumstances of life secure their development. Men are often surprised by the discovery of hitherto unknown faculties. The men who push are seldom the men of real power. But the modesty of the highly endowed often prevents their gaining their due place and sphere. As an instance of unrecognized gifts, reference may be made to Dr. Guthrie, who, though so successful as a writer, only began to write for the press when he had reached middle life. We need a worthier apprehension of the truth that every renewed man is also an endowed man. In the light of it we may urge on each individual the duty of discovering his gift, and so cultivating and using it that he may prove a "very able man" for the work of the Lord. Exactly what Christ's Church needs is "very able men," by endowment and culture, in all her departments of service; and we should have the faith that the endowments are given us, and we must secure the recognition and culture of them.
III. THE CHURCH SHOULD DISCERN THE MEN WITH THE GIFTS . Compare the intense expression of Moses, "Would God that all the Lord's people were prophets!" Sometimes jealousies of order and office blind our eyes so that we cannot see the gifts of others. Sometimes desire for the exclusive honour of place and work makes us wilfully put other men down. Sometimes the presentation of the gift informs which appear to us strange , leads to our making a false and unworthy estimate of the gift. The Church has often grievously erred in casting out from her midst "very able men for God's service." They who watch for Divine endowments must be willing to recognize them in the great variety of forms in which they come to men. And all we really need to be assured of is the Divine stamp upon them. To refuse the men whom God has gifted is to be "found fighting against God."
Press the responsibility of all who are in Church offices which bring them into immediate contact with the people or the children. They should be ever looking for the "signs of power," and leading out those who may become "very able men for God's work." And then press the responsibility that rests on the men who are found and proved strong , able for God's work. Having "put their hand to the plough, they must not draw back." Life for them is full of noblest possibilities. They must be "faithful unto death," and win "the crown of life."—R.T.
1 Chronicles 9:19 , etc.- God's door-keepers.
Some were appointed to serve as " keepers of the gates," and some as "keepers of the entry," and one man was "porter of the door of the tabernacle of the congregation." David recognized an attractiveness in such offices because they secured constant presence in the holy courts. He says, "I had rather be a door-keeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness."
I. LOWLY SERVICES ARE ASKED AT OUR HANDS . Common life in the family, the business, and society has its many lowly services and its few great ones. And in religious life the same is true. Of most of us God asks that we will do little things for him well. What a gracious lesson in doing cheerfully lowly work our Lord gave us when he laid aside his garments, took a towel, girded himself, and began to wash the disciples' feet! "He that would he greatest among you let him be your servant."
II. LOWLY SERVICES ARE NECESSARY TO THE GENERAL WELL - BEING . Illustrate from church offices. The organ-blower's is a very humble office, but most necessary and useful. The verger, door-keeper, cleaner, etc; are but in humble places and duties, and yet the comfort of "priest and people" depend on their lowly work. So in all good enterprises there is a great deal of mechanical and insignificant work demanded, but the efficient doing of them bears directly on the entire success. Standing quite alone, the humble duty seems scarce worth the doing, but when it is seen fitting into its place in the great whole, its real importance and dignity are recognized. Illustrations may be found in the importance of the lesser parts of a great machine or work of mechanical construction. A fine tower once fell in ruins to the surprise of all, until the builder confessed that he had neglected the little iron ties—insignificant things—that held the stones together. No man ever gains a worthy apprehension of life until he fully and finally settles with himself that he will think nothing small , and treat nothing as small , since "all things have their necessary uses," and God asks for "faith- fulness in that which is least ."
III. LOWLY SERVICES FIND SPHERES FOR THE EXPRESSION OF CHARACTER . And the best; for men are less sophisticated, more simple and more genuine in them. If we would know what a man really is, we must not watch him merely on "show days," but rather see him in the private scenes of home and business. We put on character-garments for public scenes, just as we do outer coats for the streets. When "taken at unawares" we express what our character really is.
IV. LOWLY SERVICES OFTEN BECOME THE MOST EFFICIENT TESTS OF CHARACTER . The necessity for personal attentions to the poor wounded man on the road to Jericho, tested and proved the selfishness of priest and Levite, as a call for some high and honourable service would not have done. And similar calls are made on us. We want to do the great things, and show off the blossoms of fine character which we have carefully stuck on. And God, in his providences, only provides humble spheres, unobserved places, and lowly work, which will let the fine pretences alone to wither and fall off, and only test and culture the real and the worthy and the true. Who of us can review our lives, and fail to see the places where, again and again, we were "weighed in the balances and found wanting" when we were asked to take some humble place of service or do some little thing for Jesus' sake? Still we are so unwilling to take the lowest rooms, even though Christ taught us that he looks among the people there to find the right-hearted, the worthy, whom he may hid "Go up higher." In respect of the power to hold and exhibit character , the little things often have more capacity than the big.
V. LOWLY SERVICES FIT IN WITH GREATER ONES TO PERFECT THE WHOLE OF SERVICE , Door-keepers fit in with porters, and sacrificers, and singers, and priests, to make the whole of temple service. And the least piece lost from the whole mars the beauty of the perfect service. What God asks is faithfulness , and he can find it in the "least things." Remember George Herbert's familiar verse, "Who sweeps a room," etc.—R.T.
1 Chronicles 9:22 .-Samuel's life-work.
The assertion made in this verse, that Samuel was concerned in the organization of the tabernacle service, comes upon us with surprise. We are to suppose that he provided for the reformation of the ritual and ministrations in the tabernacle after the confusions in the days of the judges; though this statement is not found in any other place in the Old Testament. "Samuel the seer was zealous for the external ordinances of God's house, and the precursor of David in this respect." We have side hints given us in the Scriptures of work done by great and good men which is not detailed so as to become a part of history. We need not assume that the whole of any man's story is preserved; only such parts as are likely to prove permanently interesting and instructive. An instance may be found in the case of David. His public life of incident pushes back out of sight his valuable labours in connection with the sanctuary order and worship. So the worthy estimating of any human life is a difficult, nearly an impossible thing, seeing that we have not the whole before us, nor can we fairly judge the relative value of the parts. Full estimates of human lives must be left to God and the future. It is full of instructive significance that, as the generations pass, wholly different estimates are taken of historic characters, as other and fuller information concerning them comes to light. This may be illustrated in the cases of Lord Bacon, whose moral character recent writers are able to clear, and Protector Cromwell, whose portraiture Carlyle has at last succeeded in worthily drawing. Apply these thoughts to Samuel, and estimate —
I. HIS KNOWS WORK AS A JUDGE . He belongs to the class so called, and was a deliverer and a magistrate , combining the offices which were characteristic of this order of men. In his deliverings grandly loyal to Jehovah. In his magistracy pure - handed and abidingly faithful to men. Everywhere and in everything making character , piety , and integrity tell for good.
II. HIS UNKNOWN WORK AS A RELIGIOUS REFORMER . Explain the influences upon a national religion of such changes and troubles as marked the time of the judges. Such conditions do not imperil personal piety, they rather intensify it, as may be seen in the story of the persecuted Christians in Madagascar; but they do imperil the order and ceremonial of religion, and especially in such a case as that of Israel, in which the religion was centralized on one spot, and to it all the worshippers had to come at fixed intervals. Samuel would not only have to restore the tabernacle system and services , but also to revive the religious spirit of the people; and to this, doubtless, his earnest attention was directed in his regular circuits for the administration of justice.
III. His ASSUMED WORK AS THE FOUNDER OF THE SCHOOLS OF THE PROPHETS . For on this part of his work we have no certain information. "In his time we first hear of what in modern phraseology are called the 'schools of the prophets.' Their immediate mission consisted in uttering religious hymns or songs, accompanied by musical instruments—psaltery, tabret, pipe and harp, and cymbals. In them the characteristic element was that the silent seer of visions found an articulate voice, gushing forth in a rhythmical flow, which at once riveted the attention of the hearer. These or such as these were the gifts which under Samuel were now organized, if one may so say, into a system. From them went forth an influence which awed and inspired even the wild and reckless soldiers of that lawless age. Amongst them we find the first authors distinctly named, in Hebrew literature, of actual books which descended to later generations. Thither, in that age of change and dissolution, Samuel gathered round him all that was generous and devout in the people of God."
Learn to estimate aright men's secondary influence and work, for in this God may judge otherwise than we are wont to do, and put our last first.— R.T.
1 Chronicles 9:23-34 .-The importance of order in God's worship.
The point of interest in these verses is the extreme care given to securing quietness, regularity, order, and due solemnity in God's worship. A point emphasized by the apostle in his counsel to the early Christian Church, "Let all things be done decently and in order." The order of God's house has this for its special mission, that it declares , realizes , and illustrates the Divine order in creation, providence, and redemption. "Order is Heaven's first law;" and it is the necessary attendant on truth, purity, almightiness, and the eternally right. So if man, in any of his spheres, can present a worthy picture or shadow of the Divine, one of its essential features must be orderliness , and such orderliness will prove to be witness and power.
I. ORDER REGARDED AS A SIGN OF OBEDIENCE . Since it is God's will that everything should have its fitting place and be in that place, our setting things right becomes a sign of our true-hearted obedience to him; and the securing of order gains moral quality, and becomes an agency in the culture of character.
II. ORDER REGARDED AS A SIGN OF SYMPATHY OF FEELING WITH GOD . Not merely have we to concern ourselves with it as our duty, but, from a higher standpoint of kinness with God and fellowship with his mind, we want what he wants, we love what he loves, and we try to get our works in full harmony with his. We would have heaven and earth ring together the same sweet note.
III. ORDER REGARDED AS OUR WITNESS AGAINST THE DISORDER OF SIN . If we have rightly caught the redemptive spirit, then we shall be oppressed and troubled by the disorders caused by sin, whatever forms they may take, and we shall ever be striving to reach them that we may set them straight. Therefore Christians enter as remedial and recovering forces into all family life, social life, business life, and national life; everywhere seeking to get things out of the disorders of evil, and set in the eternal order of righteousness. And in Christ's Church and Christ's worship the devoutness, regularity, and beauty of a gracious order should make a striking contrast with the restless, anxious, disordered world around. Men should find heart-rest in God's sanctuary.
IV. ORDER REGARDED AS A MORAL FORCE IN THE WORLD . For what does it plead and work? For
But under ordinary human conditions even "order" has its perils. It may come to be sought for its own sake and not merely for its uses. It may come to supersede "life" and even to crush "life" out, as has been proved in the over-elaboration of Church ceremonial. Two things are essential to true and worthy human worship. They are fully compatible one with the other. The culture of each may run along with the culture of the other. Nothing can supersede "life;" but order may be fully developed so that it may worthily express "life."—R.T.
1 Chronicles 9:28-32 . - Every man to his own office.
The distribution of gifts is constantly recognized, and on this we have much apostolic teaching. But the answering distribution of offices requires to be more fully apprehended. The power and the place are divinely fitted together; and in the economy of the Divine administration we may be sure there are no more powers given than there are places in which the powers may find exercise. It follows upon this that each man is bound to realize his power , discover his place , fit into it faithfully , and interfere with no other man ' s work. The way in which one man's gifts and work may fit into another man's is often an insoluble puzzle to us, but is quite plain in the plan of Divine forethought, and will be discovered when we can read final issues. Each man stands right before God when he clearly sees his work and says, "This one thing I do." The following points have been, in part, presented in previous outlines; they should be dealt with now in the light of the above topic, "Every man to his own office:" —
I. GOD HAS BOTH GIFTS AND SPHERES FOR THEIR EXERCISE . That be has gifts we know, but we too readily assume that the spheres are human arrangements.
II. GOD 'S PROVIDENCES TEND TOWARDS SECURING THE PROPER RELATION OF GIFTS AND SPHERES . A north-country proverb tersely expresses this, "The tools will come to the hands that can use them." Every man, sooner or later, gains his providential opportunity, when he may do what he can do.
III. MAN 'S WILFULNESS SERIOUSLY MINGLES THE GIFTS AND THE SPHERES . By some men's failing to recognize their gifts; by others prostrating their Divine gifts to base and selfish uses; by some, when they know their gifts, refusing to occupy their spheres; and by the forcing of too many into certain particular spheres for which an undue preference is shown. What we need in Christ's Church and work is a wise subdivision of labour and more earnest endeavour to do faithfully and well our little piece. And in just this our Lord and Master set us his own holy example.—R.T.