The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
2 Chronicles 1
2 Chronicles 1:1-12
I. And Solomon [ 1 Kings 2:46] the son of David was strengthened [a favourite expression with the writer of Chronicles. It recurs in chaps. 1 Kings 12:13; 1 Kings 13:21; and 1 Kings 21:4. The meaning seems to be simply, "he became firmly settled in his government." Comp. 1 Kings 2:12, 1 Kings 2:46] in his kingdom, and the Lord his God was with him [comp. 1 Chronicles 11:9; and see also Genesis 39:2; Exodus 3:12; Joshua 1:5; 2 Chronicles 15:9] and magnified him exceedingly.
2. Then Solomon spake unto all Israel, to the captains of thousands and of hundreds [see 1 Chronicles 27:1; 1 Chronicles 28:1], and to the judges [David had made six thousand Levites "officers and judges" ( 1 Chronicles 23:4). The "judge" among the Israelites was always regarded as a high functionary, whose presence was desirable on all occasions of importance], and to every governor ["prince," or "man of rank"] in all Israel, the chief of the fathers.
3. So Song of Solomon, and all the congregation with him, went to the high place that was at Gibeon; for there was the tabernacle of the congregation of God, which Moses the servant of the Lord had made in the wilderness.
4. But the ark of God had David brought up from Kirjath-jearim to the place which David had prepared for it: for he had pitched a tent for it at Jerusalem.
5. Moreover the brazen altar, that Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, had made, he put before the tabernacle of the Lord: and Solomon and the congregation sought unto it.
6. And Solomon went up thither to the brazen altar before the Lord, which was at the tabernacle of the congregation, and offered a thousand burnt-offerings upon it.
7. In that night [in the night which followed the conclusion of the sacrifice] did God appear [the most important point omitted in Chronicles, and supplied by Kings, is the conditional promise of long life made to Solomon ( 1 Kings 3:14); while the chief point absent from Kings, and recorded by our author, is the solemn appeal made by Solomon to the promise of God to David his father ( 2 Chronicles 1:9), which he now called upon God to "establish" or "perform"] unto Song of Solomon, and said unto him, Ask what I shall give thee.
8. And Solomon said unto God, Thou hast shewed great mercy unto David my father, and hast made me to reign in his stead.
9. Now, O Lord God, let thy promise unto David my father be established: for thou hast made me king over a people like the dust of the earth in multitude.
10. Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people: for who can judge this thy people [for the decision of difficult cases, which in those days came immediately before the king, great discrimination and experience were requisite in order to distinguish at once right from wrong, and pass a just sentence. How old Solomon was at this time we do not know, scarcely more than twenty years] that is so great?
11. And God said to Song of Solomon, Because this was in thine heart, and thou hast not asked riches, wealth, or honour, nor the life of thine enemies, neither yet hast asked long life; but hast asked wisdom and knowledge for thyself, that thou mayest judge my people, over whom I have made thee king:
12. Wisdom and knowledge is granted unto thee; and I will give thee riches, and wealth, and honour [The Speaker"s Commentary upon this says: Remark that the writer says nothing of any promise to Solomon of "long life" which however had been mentioned in the preceding verse among the blessings which he might have been expected to ask. The reason for the omission would seem to lie in the writer"s desire to record only what is good of this great king. Long life was included in the promises made to him ( 1 Kings 3:14): but it was granted conditionally, and Solomon not fulfilling the conditions, it did not take effect], such as none of the kings have had that have been before thee, neither shall there any after thee have the like.
"In that night did God appear unto Song of Solomon, and said unto him, Ask what I shall give thee" ( 2 Chronicles 1:7).
WE know that this is a fact. Had it occurred once for all, we might have asked questions about it, but it occurs somewhere every night. God has done, as we have seen frequently in our Biblical studies, many things in the night-time. The darkness and the light are both alike unto him. Night is a geographical term. Even in some places on the earth it is hardly known, and in heaven it is wholly unknown; there is no night there. Here is the crisis of life—the chance! Every man has it. Blessed are they whose eyes are open, whose ears are on the alert; for the opportunity may come at any moment, and the proposal may be made, either in the stillness of night, or amid the uproar and clamour of the busy day. But every soul has its opportunity, its asking-time, its hour when it may say anything to God. We speak sometimes of hours of great spiritual liberty, so that we who are dull of speech, poorly gifted in words, can say what we please, can utter all the desire of the heart, and plead right eloquently with God to fill both our hands with blessings. This is not in us. The ability to pray comes by the inspiration of God. When he asks a question he supplies the answer. God answers prayer because he prays. He answers himself. It is not we who pray; we clamour, we talk ignorantly, we use words, we represent false measures and values of things, and God is pleased to allow us so to talk, taking care that such rude speech is dissolved in high air: but when we pray it is he who prayeth in us. There is no mystery about the answering of prayer. A man can answer himself within given limits: God can answer himself without any limits or boundaries. The prayer that is answered is the prayer that is given. Inspired prayer is self-answering prayer. Yet sometimes God allows us to talk much folly to him. Even here providence is educative, and not judicial and chiding. We must get rid of many things before we can receive the right thing that is to be pronounced in pious language. Observe what an opportunity the king has—"Ask what I shall give thee." God always gives; he so loved the world that he gave—till he had nothing else to give, for he parted with his only Son. So much is lost by men imagining that these great proposals were only given once for all to certain men of unique character and specific office; whereas all that is exceptional in providence is but indicative of the general method. We may turn history into prayer; we may remind God of his own example; we may go before him with chapter and verse, and plead with him book in hand, saying, Thy hand is not shortened that it cannot save; it did this miracle, and wrought this mighty sign and token: renew thy relations with an undeserving world. Sometimes we cannot pray at all; sometimes we are practically blank atheists,—not theoretically; if we were well shaken, really awakened to an average attention, we should disclaim the imputation of being atheistical; but we are practically so many a day; we use high terms, sweet words, pious expressions, but they effect no miracles, they heal not the soul: at other times we can pray without ceasing; when we are told that it is time to arise, we say, Nay: let the sun stand still, and the moon, until we have out all this sweet communion with God. Let us not judge ourselves by the one occasion or by the other, lest in the one case we be swallowed up of despair and in the other be discontented with any spiritual experience short of ecstasy. We speak chidingly and upbraidingly of men who have had what we call their chance and have not availed themselves of it. Should a man come to poverty we review his life and say, He had no opportunity of doing better; he has made the best of his circumstances, and the best is but poor; he deserves sympathy: let us extend our help to him. Or we say, He has had his chance; he might have been as high as most of us; we remember the time when his life was crowned with a gracious opportunity; he was slothful, incapable; he was busy here and there, and the king passed by; and now we do not feel any kindling of real regard and interest in relation to him: he has had his chance, and he can have it no more. God gives every man his opportunity—some in this form, some in that, and some in forms that are not at all patent except to the man himself. Is it possible that God may sometimes say to the soul, What shall I give thee? The soul should always have its prayer ready, not in mean detail, which always indicates more or less of calculation and selfishness, but in aspiration after God himself. How that prayer works will appear in the sequel.
It must be exciting to listen to Solomon"s reply to such a question. Solomon said,—
"Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people: for who can judge this thy people, that is so great?" ( 2 Chronicles 1:10).
In modern language, Solomon prayed to be qualified for his work. That was the sublime desire. First he recognised that the work itself was divine—"For who can judge this thy people?" He was not doing atheistic work on supernatural inspiration. Many men would be glad to do that, to use all heaven"s light for the purpose of making themselves selfishly secure and comfortable. Many a man would use all the resources of the Church that he might double his individual prosperity. Song of Solomon, on the other hand, recognises the divinity of the call, the divinity of his function; he says, I am appointed king by God to do God"s work, and what I want is not the office only but the ability to administer it with beneficent effect. This man will get an answer presently. He must be answered he builds himself upon a rock. There is no excitement of invention or ingenuity for the purpose of making some new request, some fanciful and whimsical petition. Solomon falls back upon the eternal commonplace that nothing is lasting that is not wise, nothing is useful that is not good. His prayer, therefore, would be: Connect me with thyself, thou living Fountain; or, Take up this little life, and make it one of the lamps of thy heaven, which are all fed by the invisible, the infinite Shekinah. Solomon would not be sustained in his vanity, or have his greatness multiplied; would not be loaded with additional purple, or enriched with increase of crown and gem and jewel: he would have wisdom—the sagacious mind; not only sagacity, which men may respect but not love, but sagacity steeped in sacred sentiment, the sagacity that doubles itself by the inspiration of sympathy; he would have the statesman"s soul, and the royal soul that lives in others, reading their unuttered desires and responding in advance to the petitions which they are tremblingly formulating. A king should be beforehand. Thus would he be not royal only but almost divine; for it is God that proposes that man should ask; it is God who comes down with the gift, and says, Take it. So should it be with all greater souls—leaders, parents, heads of houses, heads of business,—they should have something to say, and they should always say it first. He leads best who is the first to utter the great word of offering, to create the solemn opportunity of life, to tempt the people by gracious suggestion into larger prayer and nobler, more confiding communion. Every man needs divine wisdom in order that he may do well his earthly work. You would light a lamp better if you first asked God to show you how to light it. It is a degrading doctrine which sets up a distinction between the temporalities and the spiritualities of the Church. There are no temporalities; the copper is to be turned into gold, the gold is to be turned into fine gold; the simplest labour is to be elevated to the rank and quality of sacrifice. Whatever, therefore, we may be—heads of firms, or youngest helpers in business; great geniuses in commerce, or poor dull heads that must have everything taught and can only repeat prayers by rote,—we all need wisdom for the discharge of our daily duty, then business becomes a sacrament; in the clink of gold there is music of another world, in the exchange and barter of life there is a form of religious intercourse.
How will God treat a prayer like this?—"And God said to Song of Solomon, Because this was in thine heart" I will give thee everything along with it,—"thou hast not asked riches, wealth, or honour, nor the life of thine enemies, neither yet hast asked long life:" all these prayers were already in heaven, uttered by other petitioners. We have said that we have talked selfishly to God; God here quotes by implication the selfishness by which he had been vainly importuned; he would seem to say, The prayers that have come up to me have been prayers for riches, wealth, honour, the life of enemies, and long life; these poor vapid prayers have been sent up to me from time immemorial; thou hast created a variety in petition, thou hast taken a point of departure; thou hast really prayed: I am surprised and pleased. So would God be represented by language that would accommodate the occasion with this feeble degree of expression. God himself has confessed to surprise and to grief, and has called upon the universe to share his amazement, because of certain issues. In this instance he quotes all the little prayers that had been offered, and says in effect, Solomon has surpassed all these; he has made no mention of them; he has gone for the inclusive blessing; he has asked the all-involving benefaction, therefore he shall have all the rest:—
"Wisdom and knowledge is granted unto thee; and I will give thee riches, and wealth, and honour, such as none of the kings have had that have been before thee, neither shall there any after thee have the like" ( 2 Chronicles 1:12).
"Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." This was the teaching of a greater than Solomon. Sometimes a short prayer may be a long one. "Think not that ye shall be heard for your much speaking." God supplements prayers; the sooner we get done the better, because then we leave God his opportunity; we take our position as initiators and give God his chance. He accepts it; he works miracles within the golden opportunity which our faith creates. He does not know where to stop. What a catalogue is this—riches, and wealth, and honour, and promotion beyond all that is known in the history of royalty. We might have had more if we had asked for less. We have made great mistakes in prayer; we have said, Lord, make us strong in body: make our children all good and great men: give us great success in business to-day: create for us friends in all the field of life: and thus we have prayed ourselves out in trifling detail. Had we said, "Lord, not my will, but thine, be done," he would have made our enemies dizzy, so that they could not tell east from west; he would have made them falter in their fulminations; he would have turned their objurgations into blessings; he would have melted their knee-joints, so that they could not have come upon us in fierce assault; he would have made the ground grow gold: but we have been petty, selfish, narrow, trustless. We have thought a prayer was comprehensive in proportion as it omitted nothing. What mistakes are made about comprehensive prayers! There is but one comprehensive prayer—"Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven:" or, "Not my will, but thine, be done:" or, "God be merciful to me a sinner." We find here and there in Holy Writ examples of these epitomising, all-including prayers. When we take up one of these and, so to say, send it to heaven by way of the cross, there shall come back to us answers like a great rain on a summer day.
Almighty God, we read of rest, Sabbath rest; it is of rest upon rest. As thou dost give grace upon grace and life upon life, so thou dost give rest upon rest; and that rest we now seek. Thou dost give rest unto them that come unto thee, for they cease from their heavy load and they forget their weariness, and they enter already into heaven"s infinite peace. Great peace have they that love thy law. This is not mere silence, or stillness, or quietness, but a great reconciliation of the human with the divine—of our heart with thy will. We long for this rest; without it we are in tumult, in distress, and in great fear, so much so that the night encroaches upon the day, and the winter upon the spring and the very summer itself: but with thy Spirit dwelling in us we rest in the Lord and wait patiently for him; and we hear his coming in the quiet of the night, in the stillness of the sleeping-time, though he come with the noiselessness of a dream, and rise upon us without tumult like a vision. Fill us with thy peace! thy peace passeth understanding; it is not the world"s compromise: it is Christ"s own tranquillity. We would enjoy Sabbath in the wilderness—rest-time immediately before war, so that in the fight itself we may know the mystery and benediction of peace. We thank thee for all the comfort of the week. Thou hast caused the light to drive away the darkness, and this is Sabbath day: the very clouds are filled with light, and heaven heightens itself for very gladness; behold, the time of the singing of birds has come. May there be music in our life, sweet and noble psalmody in our hearts; may our whole being be lifted up in solemn praise, so that we may live the truly Christian life—the hidden life, the life that glorifies the truth, explaining it where words fail, and conveying to observers and hearers its ultimate meaning. But this is God"s miracle: it is not in man to do this: but by the mighty working of thy Spirit it may be done in every one of us—poorest, meanest, lowliest. May we so know Christ that our very laughter shall be the gladness of solemnity, our recreation but a renewal of strength for sacrifice, and all our business a harvesting of stores to be used in doing good. Pity us where we are very weak. Dry our tears where we dare not touch them lest we blind the eyes that shed them. Grant unto us secret communion, unspoken fellowship, signs and tokens which the heart only can discern and apply. Be with all hearts that are full of solicitude, filled with wonders that are fears, and going out in anxieties which trouble the life, sowing it all over as with ice, covering it up in hard frost Good Lord, send the springtime into such lives—yea, a taste of bright, sweet summer; and in the house of the Lord may all the battles of the world be forgotten. Give us a large vision of thyself and of thy kingdom; then all our fears shall be driven away: we shall see the most obstinate lay down his arms: the farthest-away prodigal turning round and coming home, and those that have given us most sorrow shall begin to give us richest joy. Thou knowest our life—how it comes and goes and flickers; meanwhile, how it looks up into the sky and then looks down into the grave; and how, when we would pluck the fruit, the branch seems to lift itself above the hand. Have mercy upon us! Multiply thy lovingkindness toward us and comfort us with new supplies. Where there is special sorrow let there be special gladness also: where the grave has been dug under the hearthstone, let there be a great filling up of vacant spaces by a renewed and enlarged vision of thyself. Then shall men not seek the living among the dead, but say over their very graves,—Our loved ones are not here: they are risen. We bless thee for bright example, for words remembered with sweet thankfulness, for patience in trial, for heroism in difficulty, and for the gentle charity that added new beauty to life. The Lord remember the bereaved and the sorrow-stricken and the sad, and give them brightness in the night-time—yea, a great multitude of stars, and one brighter than the rest promising early day. Amen.
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Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 1". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. https://beta.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25