The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
"Handfuls of Purpose"
For All Gleaners
"The children of Israel asked the Lord."— Judges 1:1.
Notice the simplicity of this.—The conscious nearness of God.—The very easiest form of worship.—No enlargement of this form has been given even in Christianity, whose exhortation Isaiah, "Ask, and it shall be given you."—Speaking to God elevates the soul.—Communion with God compels the spirit to search out acceptable words.—Such asking is really part of spiritual education.—The soul is called upon to recount its needs, and to set them in order before God.—The impossibility of imposing upon the Omniscient.—The suppliant must not do more than ask; that is to say, he must not make the answer a condition of his piety, or a standard by which he will judge the reality of the divine existence, and the goodness of the divine government.—All we can do is to put our case before God, and to plead it, and then the answer must be absolutely left with him.—We are to ask about everything.—We shall undervalue the sacredness of life if we suppose that some things are not worth asking about.—The life is equally sacred at all points when it is hidden in God. Nothing unimportant can ever arise in human life.—Spiritual wisdom is shown in making every point of consequence and needing the direct intervention and blessing of God.—The word "children," as descriptive of Israel, comes suggestively before this act of asking.—Are we not all the children of the living God? What have children to do but to ask?—not to dictate or demand, but simply to state in terms of supplication.—All such asking is to be done in the name of him who taught us how to pray.—God is still approached through priesthood, only now the priesthood is not human, but divine.—We should so cultivate communion with God that our prayer will be reduced to the simplicity of "asking." The question is put as if from child to parent, or from friend to friend, or from scholar to teacher; all traces of formality, ceremony, servility are absent, and the communion is marked by frankness, directness, and childlike simplicity.—This is the true genius of prayer.
THESE words were uttered by Adoni-bezek (king or Bezek). He had conquered seven of the little kingdoms in and around Palestine, and he showed their kings the rough hospitality of cutting off their thumbs and their great toes, and of allowing them to gather their meat under his table. In due time, however, Judah, who succeeded Joshua in the leadership, went up to do the Lord"s work and took with him Simeon that they might fight against the Canaanites. In Bezek they slew ten thousand men. There they found the king, and they fought against him, and when he fled they pursued after him and caught him and cut oft his thumbs and his great toes. "And Adoni-bezek said, Threescore and ten kings, having their thumbs and their great toes cut off, gathered their meat under my table: as I have done, so God hath requited me." This fact is an illustration of a severe yet most holy law. "The Lord God of recompenses shall surely requite." Nor was this an ancient law only; it was repeated by Jesus Christ himself: "With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." The same doctrine was laid down by the Apostles: "He shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy." Adoni-bezek shows his wisdom in making this comment upon his own suffering. Though he was a tyrant yet he was not a fool. The difficulty of the spiritual teacher is with heedless men; all other difficulties may be subdued or even turned to advantage, but heedlessness, inattentiveness, carelessness, who can overcome?
Set it down as a central and abiding truth that wrong-doers cannot escape divine judgment. "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." A man may deny this; he may theoretically disregard it; but all history shows that he cannot escape it. At the heart of things is the spirit of judgment Life appears to be confused, but before the Almighty it has shape and plan and purpose. God overtakes a man at the last, and comes before him with such vividness of action as to constrain the man himself to admit that the punishment is divine and not human. There is an answering voice in the human heart. When a man is suffering from any amputation whatsoever, either physical or social, either ecclesiastical or commercial, let him profoundly reflect upon the whole case and scourge his memory so that nothing may be omitted from the review, and he will find that there is a marvellous law in life whose watchword is: "Breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth"! "As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women." Only the fool can be satisfied by tracing his punishments to ill-luck.
Seeing that there is this law of punishment or requital in constant operation, no man should take the law into his own hands. That is the most pitiful form of the attempted readjustment of things. When the reformation is worked out it must come from a greater distance and operate by an infinitely greater sweep. "Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people." "Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me." "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord." Adoni-bezek acknowledged his punishment as a divine visitation. He did not look upon it as a petty resentment on the part of his enemies; he took a high moral view of his condition. Why have we suffered loss in business? May it not be that we have oppressed the poor and needy? Why are our schemes delayed and thwarted? Is it not because we have been obstinate and unfriendly towards the schemes of others? Why are we held in disesteem or neglect? Is it not because of the contempt with which we have treated our brethren? Let us look at the moral working of things, and see in the results which are forced upon us, not the petty anger of men—something that might have been avoided—but the inevitable judgment of God against which all resistance is vain.
This law does not operate in one direction only. The God who punishes also rewards. "God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love." "The liberal soul shall be made fat." "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom." This is the other side of a law which is full of awful suggestion. The way of the Lord is thus equal. Nothing that we do for him or for his cause goes without reward. Whosoever shall give a cup of cold water only, in the name of a disciple, shall be surprised by the approbation of Heaven, and amazed at the degree in which every simple deed of duty or love is magnified by the Judge of the whole earth. But we must not work merely for the sake of a reward, for then all the process would end only in disappointment. It is possible to do good deeds with a selfish hand. If a man shall set himself to convert the whole world, simply in order that he may secure heaven at last, all his efforts will be thrown away and he himself will be cast into outer darkness. The reason is plain. There is no similarity between the motive and the action; they are not only not co-ordinate, they do not belong to the same universe; they can only be regarded as abortive and pitiful attempts to serve God and mammon. Where the motive is right the good deed is always its own reward. We realise heaven in the doing of it. No man ever yet relieved the necessities of poverty without himself being abundantly fed and satisfied by the very act of benevolence. A very curious law is this, yet that it is a law is proved by innumerable instances, and not a single instance to the contrary can be quoted in modification, much less in disproof. It would appear as if eyes were watching us from heaven, noting all the way that we take and all the deeds that we do, and that instantly some communication was set in motion by which our hearts were encouraged and refreshed immediately upon the accomplishment of every good deed, Hence come our holiest raptures, our sublimest ecstasies, the enthusiasms which lift us into the gladness of heaven: hence, too, comes that sweet content which never fails to crown the day"s labour done by the hands of the good man. If we would know how happy human life can be, how like God"s own life, peaceful with the very quiet of heaven, let us go about doing good, and thus imitate the Son of God.
Then coming back to the other side of the great truth, there stands before us the solemn fact that though justice be long delayed yet it will be eventually vindicated. Adoni-bezek had run a long course of wickedness: seventy kings had suffered under his cruel knife. It seemed as if all power had been given into his hands. As king after king entered within the shadow of his dominion all courage must have sunk and died Yet even Adoni-bezek came within the grip of the law and learned that the time of punishment is with the Lord and not with man. We are apt to suppose that after a certain time we have outwitted the law of retribution. When half a lifetime has been lived we say, Surely there can be no revival of the forgotten offence. We pass an act of oblivion regarding our own moral misdeeds. God"s hour is coming; a stormy and terrible hour. Adoni-bezek acknowledged his punishment to be just; he saw it to be God"s act; so at last every wicked man will own that hell is his proper place. Could there be any comfort in perdition, it would arise from the fact that the punishment there inflicted is just. Surely some such reflection as this alone can enable the criminal to bear the tremendous penalty of lifelong servitude. Innocence might enable him to bear it, because of the sureness of an ultimate vindication and reward; and consciousness that the punishment is deserved might mitigate the severity of the penalty, because the conscience would be saying all the while, "As I have done unto others, so hath the Lord requited me." Let us then be solemnised and yet comforted. Life is not a haphazard movement as in some aspects it occasionally appears to be. Above it all is seated the ever-watching and incorruptible Judge. Let us give ourselves no uneasiness about the punishment of offenders; let us do our work honestly and straightforwardly whoever may oppose, and in the long run we shall see that there is a rod for the wicked, and a crown for those who do well. An awful message the pulpit must ever have to deliver to the wicked man: "Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished;" "Be sure your sin will find you out" The judgment of the last day may therefore be the briefest of all exercises, forasmuch as every man will be a witness either for or against himself, and will answer the look of the Judge in a way which will signify beyond all misinterpretation either heaven or hell.
Almighty God, we bless thee for the wonderful words of our Savior. We often cannot understand what he saith; yet from what we do understand, we know that the very mystery of his speech is itself a blessing. The noontide of revelation will come, the full light will shine upon all his words; then shall we see how beautiful they are, as flowers of summer, and how rich they are, as sheaves of harvest. Who can find out the Son of God unto perfection? Who can say, This is his meaning, and there is none other? Sooner can we lay a line upon the whole heaven, and measure the height thereof, than we can understand unto perfectness the wisdom of the Son of God. Never man spake like this Man. Verily he is no man only: there is a reach in his arm which is not found in human arms: he raises it to the stars, he lays his hand upon the throne of God, he searches all heaven. His words are full of love, full of mystery, full of grace. We wonder at the gracious words which proceed out of his mouth—the words themselves so gracious and made doubly gracious by the tenderness and majesty of his tone. Give us at all times when Christ is the speaker, the hearing ear, the understanding heart, and the obedient will; then shall our hearing be a means of grace, and the sight of Christ by the vision of the soul shall be a ministry of transfiguration: then shall we be like him when we see him as he is. To gather round thy book is our chief delight; this is the very jubilee of time, the hour of joy and growth and liberty. May no man miss the sacredness of the opportunity: may every moment be begrudged that is not spent in eager attention, and may the one desire of every listener be to know what God the Lord hath spoken—the invisible God in heaven, or the visible and human Christ on earth. Thou knowest all the burdens we carry, and with what little strength we bear them. Every perplexity of our life is known unto thee. We are baffled, disappointed, turned back, surprised by the proportion of our foes, and amazed by their uncalculated number; but God is with us, and when the Omnipotent One shall make bare his arm, behold all enemies shall be dispersed and all difficulties overcome. Help any men who are being crushed by their burdens. They dare not tell all the tale of distress; they hide it in their hearts, and grow old by the very concealment of the misery. The Lord look upon all men, read the secret of life, send salvation from the Cross, and help from the sanctuary. Amen
THE only profitable use we can make of this section is to consider its spiritual applications. We are always engaged in battle or in progress, and, do what we may, we are not always able to carry everything our own way. The signature of defeat is somewhere upon our proudest achievements; again and again shadows appear, which can only be accounted for by the presence of the enemy. The body remains, and social contact and sensuous appeal; in a word, the very spirit of evil is continually appearing and reappearing even in the best moods of our life. We want to drive away the enemy, and we but partially succeed. Sometimes we think we have wholly banished him, and behold, he suddenly returns from concealment, and is more malignant and furious than ever. Our life is thus a continual series of surprises, and the surprises are often very stinging disappointments. Again and again we say to our souls, Take your ease, and even venture to be mirthful, for the horse and his rider are thrown into the sea, and the whole land is cleansed of the pollution of the presence of the enemy; and whilst the song of triumph and thankfulness is in our mouth, the sea gives up its dead, and the land becomes as foul as ever. When we would do good evil is present with us; our prayers are punctuated with overtures to the enemy; even in our supplications we half promise the devil to return, and serve him as eagerly as ever. All this is full of mystery and full of pain. What, then, is to be done? There remains the sweet and comforting doctrine that even where extinction is impossible tribute may be charged and enforced; not only Song of Solomon, sometimes tribute is better than extinction. What if in the end it should appear that it is better that we should be conscious of the presence of the enemy than that we should feel too secure in our spiritual position? What if it should be proved that the enemy himself is to be made tributary to our spiritual greatness and influence? Even this is within the possibility of the grace and sovereignty of God.
The world itself is to be laid under tribute, and must be so laid if the full Christian life is to be lived. The Christian is not removed out of the world, but is set in a totally new relation to everything which the world contains and represents. The world becomes one of two things: it becomes either a limit, or a symbol; whether we take it in the one sense or in the other will depend upon our spiritual state. To the worldly man the world is enough; he wants nothing that cannot be found in its gardens, or drawn from its fountains, or descried upon its horizon; its summer is heaven, its night is Sabbath, its wealth is honour. The worldly man in so reasoning is perfectly consistent with his fundamental conception. Whatever he may do theoretically, he practically accepts but one world, and, accepting that one world, he is bound to make the most of it; it becomes large to his vision, and valuable to his sense of importance: whatever other worlds there may or may not be is to him a matter of no consequence; he has found space enough for the exercise of his energy and the satisfaction of his desires. On the other hand, the Christian man cannot be content with this view. However great the world may be in miles and leagues, it becomes smaller and smaller to the Christian as he grows in spiritual relationships. What before was vast dwindles into insignificance; what before was important becomes trivial; and what before had about it the traces of durability becomes transient and uncertain. To the spiritual mind the world is a symbol, and in this view it is of infinite consequence as supplying countless starting-points upon which the sanctified imagination can operate: all light, all force, all beauty, all fruitfulness—yea, and even all darkness, and judgment, and fear, can be turned into texts upon which the Christian imagination dilates, with ever-growing power, and profit to itself. In this sense the Christian man makes the world his tributary. He does not destroy the world, but says to it in effect, You shall give me everything you can supply to stimulate my imagination, to encourage my aspirations, to disclose to me new possibilities, and to hint to me sublime destinies; the very stones of the field shall be sermons to me, and the running brooks shall be books, and in everything I will find good. The Christian man is thus placed in a right relation to all material nature: it no longer overpowers him by its vastness and brightness; it has become to him a comparatively little thing in itself, yet most useful as a pedestal, on which he can stand, and from which he can view ultimate issues and the welcoming hospitalities of still wider spaces, even of the heavenly citizenship itself. This was the meaning of Christ"s prayer when he said that he did not desire that his disciples should be taken out of the world, but that they should be kept from the evil in it. This was the meaning of Paul"s desire that certain things should be used and not abused. This also is the full interpretation of the policy that men should marry as if they married not, buy and sell as if they bought and sold not, plough and sow as if they ploughed and sowed not: all this constitutes an experience which must be lived in order to be understood; when set forth in words it is simple contradiction and impossibility, but when advanced upon from the point of actual personal realisation, it becomes a massive and instructive harmony. Every man has to answer whether he will treat the world from a bodily or a spiritual point of view. Let it be fully known that he is at perfect liberty to treat it from either point; but whichever point he may choose he must accept the responsibility of the election. It cannot be too emphatically declared that spiritual goodness is not forced upon us—in fact, if the operation admitted of the presence of force, the goodness itself would be destroyed in that proportion. Man has the liberty to choose the wrong, but not the right to choose it. It should be considered an immorality to take any view either of mankind or time or space which is belittling, or which partakes of the nature of reduction to contempt; where the value goes down in things material it should only be because the value of things spiritual has risen in the thought and imagination, in the judgment and reason. Here, then, is comfort for the rich and the mighty. If they account their wealth enough, the world is no longer their tributary, but their master: if they accept their position in the spirit of stewardship and discharge its responsibilities with spiritual fidelity, then the world is made to contribute to their strength and usefulness, and is in very deed held in tribute to their spiritual suzerainty.
Coming into closer quarters, and making the question still more personal, it will be found that it is possible for every man to constitute his own nature into a series of tributaries to his spiritual wealth and force. For example, every passion which agitates the human spirit should be made tributary to moral excellence. Take, for example, the passion of Ambition. Men wish to become more and more, greater and greater, richer and richer, and to exercise an ever-growing influence, and to live in the midst of ever-increasing applause. This desire may be mean or great, according to the use which is made of it; nothing is more contemptible when limited to selfish ends, and nothing more desirable when applied in disinterested directions. There is a holy ambition; there is a fever for power and influence which may burn to the glory of God. Such an ambition is never satisfied with little conquests or small delights; it contemplates the possession of the uttermost parts of the earth in the name of the King, and would hand over to him the whole heathen world as his lot and inheritance. Ambition thus becomes spiritual enthusiasm; the fire of it flames towards heaven with infinite energy. It is not the little ambition which dwindles into meanness and pitiable calculation as to means and ends; it is the heroic ambition which claims all creation as the theatre of its action, and all nature as its assistant in working out the conquest of peoples and nations, kindreds and tongues for Christ. Take again, for example, the passion of Resentment; that, indeed, is dangerous fire to play with. Some men seem to be naturally and almost incurably resentful; they love to avenge themselves; they are positively delighted when they see how judgment overtakes their personal enemies, and how their foes are dragged in the dust; they do not scruple to call this action providential, or to trace it to divine causes, which seem to recognise with just partiality their own peculiar virtues. Is it possible for resentment to be. made tributary to goodness? Yes; even this miracle can be wrought by the Lord Jesus Christ The resentment itself may not be destroyed, but it may be turned against the sin rather than against the sinner; by this use it is made tributary to the highest purposes. This is the kind of resentment which attests real spiritual growth. At first we burn against the evildoer. Our animosity may be said to be concrete or personal, and we suppose that resentment is gratified by the punishment of the individual offender; it is enough to satisfy our pride or to satiate our vengeance to see the bad man crushed or even destroyed. Christianity entirely corrects this view of penalty and this use of resentment. Instead of allowing us to fix upon the sinner, as if he in his person comprehended the whole problem and difficulty, it binds us to look at the sin, the boundless quantity, the infinite hugeness, that raises its black form into the heavens and casts a shadow upon the sky. Then resentment is divested of its pettiness, its selfish animosity, its evil humour, and is turned into a divine engine and an expression of the very heart of God against sin, which is the abominable thing which God hates. The man who has so treated his resentfulness has, by the Spirit of the living God, turned that resentfulness into a tributary to all that is best and strongest in his spiritual nature.
Looking at this question from the directly opposite point of view, we shall find that all the higher faculties which distinguish man must be made to pay tribute to the spiritual dignity which makes him immortal. Our higher faculties may either be debased or exalted; that is to say, they may be made to impoverish us or to contribute towards the enlargement and strengthening of our character. Take, for example, the faculty of imagination. How easily we may become its victims! A life of utter falseness may be created or stimulated by the action of fancy. The whole world of deceit lies within the compass of imagination. By the perversion of imagination we tell lies to ourselves, we blot out all moral distinctions, we fail to discriminate between the right and the left, the upward and the downward; and imagination delights to show its genius by the multiplication of its falsehoods. On the other hand, imagination is absolutely essential to the interpretation of nature and revelation. Imagination sees possibilities, reconciles discrepancies, makes the rough places plain, and the high places low, and prepares the way of the Lord in every wilderness. Imagination delivers the soul from the narrowness and deceitfulness of the letter, and leads it into the gracious liberty of the spirit. Imagination is the flying faculty of the mind. Reason walks, halts, pauses to take its breath, looks round in wonder, half-religious, half-misbelieving, and puts down its conclusions haltingly and self-distrustfully; Reason stands by the side of the precipice and shudders at the contemplation of its depth; Reason looks out upon the unmeasured ocean, and wonders how any mariner dare tempt the deceitful waters: Imagination, on the other hand, flies across the abyss, spreads its infinite pinions and hovers over the sea as over a drop of dew; Imagination sees in the darkness as clearly as in the light, and is even more at home amid the multitude of the starry lights than in the companionship of the solitary sun. Men must, therefore, determine what use they will make of their imagination, being assured that it will either tend towards their destruction or towards the enlargement and beauty of their soul"s life. Take, again, the high faculty of Wit or Humour, near to which is the kindred faculty, if it may be so called, of Pathos—the wondrous gift of tears. Wit may be turned into a tributary as certainly as may the power of prayer. Christ has room for wit in his great household; but wit must be a servant, not a master: it must teach by laughter what cannot be easily taught by philosophy: it must do by a flash what never could be done by a tedious process. Wit, irony, raillery, humour, pathos, all these may be so used as to loosen the solidity of character, or so employed as to increase its massiveness. Christianity never designed to drive away these faculties from the possession of man; on the contrary, it meant man to realise their presence, and turn that presence to the highest use. To lay down the contrary doctrine is to teach that Christianity can only live by the cutting away of one half of our human nature. In this sense, as in all others, Christ is to have the heathen for his inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession. Things which seem to lie farthest away from his Cross, his awful sacrifice, his infinite solemnity, are to be brought into service and laid under tribute; this also cometh forth from the Lord of hosts, who is excellent in counsel and wonderful in working. What is said of imagination and wit, of humour and pathos, may be said also of Eloquence and Music. These latter may be made into seductions that shall lead the soul away from the altar and the Cross: or they may be made into servants of the living God, unfolding his kingdom with all the splendours of expression and all the fascinations of melody. Christ must have these as well as every other faculty of the soul. Eloquence must wait upon him to receive the message, and then must turn that message into persuasive appeal. Music must stand by his side to learn his will, and then make it a lifelong study to turn the expression of that will into an unanswerable persuasive brought to bear upon the judgment and the will of the world.
There is still another point of view from which this question of tribute may be regarded. Let us lay it down without misgiving, that all the practical conditions of life must be made tributary to Jesus Christ. Our social advantages will either overweight us or enable us to stand upon them as upon a pedestal whence we can view further distances and greater possibilities. It is sad to see manhood crushed by the very respectability of its environment. Are there not men who are overpowered by their own respectability?—such men, I mean, as have to consider the bearing of any spiritual action or attitude upon their social consequence: they wonder how such and such a course will be regarded in society. Such men. are not masters but slaves; they live for others in the base sense of being ruled by the whims and policies of others, and not in the holy sense of service and sacrifice. What good the rich man might do! What a contribution of influence the man of honour might make to every Christian cause I and the contribution would be the greater in proportion as that cause was shadowed and depressed by the haughtiness of other men. Then there is the condition of leisure. Surely leisure ought to be made tributary to the cause of the Saviour. To how many men may not the question be addressed: Why stand ye idle all the day? What a comfort they might be to their churches, to the sick, to the poor, to the ignorant! Even leisure shall be reckoned as an element in the judgment of our life. There are men so toil-bound and toil-driven that they have actually no time to render services of benevolence to their fellow-creatures; from early morning until late at night they are grinding at the wheel, and God knows how their energy is strained and their resources are exhausted, and he will be gentle in his judgment of men so hard driven. But there are others who have no need to toil in this servile fashion, who ought to consider whether they cannot withdraw from certain engagements and devote the time thus saved to more distinctively Christian purposes. There are others who have positively retired, in the general acceptation of the word, from the business of the world, upon whom leisure seems to rest as a burden, who might, were they rightly disposed, be eyes to the blind and feet to the lame, centres of strength and security to every good cause, pillars and supports of the very Church of God. The poorest of all poor things it is to have nothing to do. But I deny that any man has a right to the use of these words. When a man says he has nothing to do he simply blinds himself to the reality of his circumstances, or denies the reality of his responsibility. Such a man must be condemned because he uses false language or because he deceives himself by sophisms of the most selfish description. When all our men of wealth and men of leisure bind themselves in a holy bond to consecrate their time to the service of Christ, the poor, and the ignorant, the Church will be marked by an intenser and holier activity. God speed the coming of that time! The Church is cursed by indolence. Christians are doing nothing until they are doing everything. It is not enough for them to criticise, to pass opinions, to offer judgments, and thus indirectly to magnify their own importance; to work, always to work, every one to work, should be the motto of the Church which is blood-redeemed.
Then there is another and final point which is not wanting, indeed, in surprise. Let it never be forgotten that even suffering itself may be made tributary to Christian character. We cannot escape suffering; but we can determine the use to which suffering shall be put. It may either be a dark presence to affright us, or a veiled angel to cheer us on our way. But this experience can only come out of real life. "No chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby." Jesus Christ endured the Cross, despising the shame; and when we inquire into the reason of this sublime contempt, we learn that he was animated by the joy that was set before him. The Apostle Paul rises into one of his noblest raptures as he crushes suffering under his feet and makes it contribute to his Christian steadfastness and joy. He says, "We glory in tribulations also:. knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." The Apostle James continues in the same strain, saying, "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." Nor is the voice of the Apostle Peter wanting in this grand testimony as to the tributary position of suffering in the Christian life. His words are: "Rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ"s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy." And, again, he says, "If any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf." Here, then, we have a great tributary system established at the very centre of the Christian life. Nothing is destroyed but sin. Everything else is turned to a holy purpose. We use the world as not abusing it. In the coming and going of its lights and shadows we see a high spiritual symbolism; in the uncertainty of its joys we see how foolish it is for the immortal to attempt to find its satisfactions in the temporary; in all its beauty and fruitfulness we see the beginning of heaven: the morning is a benign encouragement; the night is a gracious rest; the summer is a hint of paradise, and death itself is a door opening upon heaven. Thus we come into a right relation to all things round about us. Until we knew Christ we stood in a false relation to everything; but now living in Christ and breathing his Spirit, we know exactly what the world is and what it can do, and whilst in" some moods we despise its littleness, in others we are enabled to accept every one of its intimations as an assistant to our faith and an increase to the brightness of our hope.
"But the Amorites would dwell in Mount Heres in Aijalon, and in Shaalbim: yet the hand of the house of Joseph prevailed, so that they became tributaries" ( Judges 1:35). We find the Amorites first mentioned in Genesis 14:7—"The Amorites that dwelt in Hazezon-tamar," the cutting of the palm-tree, afterwards called Engedi, fountain of the kid, a city in the wilderness of Judæa not far from the Dead Sea. In the promise to Abraham ( Genesis 15:21) the Amorites are specified as one of the nations whose country would be given to his posterity. But at that time three confederates of the patriarch belonged to this tribe: Mamre, Aner, and Eshcol ( Genesis 14:13, Genesis 14:24). When the Israelites were about to enter the promised land, the Amorites occupied a tract on both sides of the Jordan. That part of their territories which lay to the east of the Jordan was allotted to the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh. They were under two kings—Sihon, king of Heshbon (frequently called king of the Amorites), and Og, king of Bashan, who "dwelt at Ashtaroth [and] in [at] Edrei" ( Deuteronomy 1:4, compared with Joshua 12:4, Joshua 13:12). Before hostilities commenced messengers were sent to Sihon, requesting permission to pass through his land; but Sihon refused, and came to Jahaz and fought with Israel; and Israel smote him with the edge of the sword, and possessed his land from Arnon (Modjeb) unto Jabbok (Zerka) ( Numbers 21:24). Og also gave battle to the Israelites at Edrei, and was totally defeated. After the capture of Ai, five kings of the Amorites, whose dominions lay within the allotment of the tribe of Judah, leagued together to wreak vengeance on the Gibeonites for having made a separate peace with the invaders. Joshua, on being apprised of their design, marched to Gibeon and defeated them with great slaughter ( Joshua 10:10). Another confederacy was shortly after formed on a still larger scale; the associated forces are described as "much people, even as the sand upon the seashore in multitude, with horses and chariots very many" ( Joshua 11:4). Josephus says that they consisted of300,000 armed foot-soldiers, 10,000 cavalry, and20,000 chariots. Joshua came suddenly upon them by the waters of Merom, and Israel smote them until they left none remaining ( Joshua 11:7-8). Still, after their severe defeats, the Amorites, by means of their war-chariots and cavalry, confined the Danites to the hills, and would not suffer them to settle in the plains: they even succeeded in retaining possession of some of the mountainous parts. "The Amorites would dwell in Mount Heres in Aijalon, and in Shaalbim: yet the hand of the house of Joseph prevailed, so that they became tributaries. And the coast of the Amorites was from the going up to Akrabbim (the steep of scorpions) from the rock and upwards" ( Judges 1:34-36). It is mentioned as an extraordinary circumstance that in the days of Samuel there was peace between Israel and the Amorites ( 1 Samuel 7:14). In Solomon"s reign a tribute of bond-service was levied on the remnant of the Amorites and other Canaanitish nations ( 1 Kings 9:21; 2 Chronicles 8:8).
Almighty God, let thy goodness appear unto us as a new light shining from heaven. We know it is as venerable as thyself; still, may it be new to us as the dawning of another day; may we have a new sense of thy goodness, a new feeling of its largeness, and may we answer its appeal with the service and sacrifice of a whole life. Thou dost send the years upon us one by one, that we may work in them, and study thy will, and do what we can to realise thy purpose: enable us to see thy meaning, to trace thy hand, to obey thy will; condescend to fill us continually with the Holy Spirit. We bless thee that we have a religious idea of time: no longer are the hours silent to us; they cry unto us to arise, and work, and suffer, and pray, and hope; we would answer their appeal; we would rise early and toil late, if haply by thy grace we may do thy holy will. For all the helps thou dost give us by the way we bless thee; for the day of rest we especially thank thee: for a moment thou dost drive back the great flood, and still the noises of the world, and give us rest in thy house within the shadow of the altar; whilst we are there may we hear thy voice, and see the image of thy love, and be filled with thy Spirit: then shall the coming week answer our hand; we shall be able to guide its affairs with discretion, with enlarged wisdom which is never baffled, and with Christian hopefulness which gives songs in the night time. Thus would we begin the year in God"s strength and in God"s fear, hoping continually in God, living in the Son of God, Christ Jesus the Saviour, eating his flesh, drinking his blood, partaking of his Spirit, and entering into the mystery of his love. May no vow that is good be broken; may no purpose that is noble be frustrated; may our will be set steadily in the direction of heaven, and may thine angels come around us as ministering spirits, giving us assistance, light, stimulus, according to the need of the day. Thy mercies towards us have been beyond all number. As for thy compassions, there is no figure by which we can make them known: they are tender beyond all tenderness, they yearn over us with infinite solicitude,—because thy compassions fail not, therefore we are not consumed. We would live upon thy love; we would find everything within that gracious mystery—all aid to read the Bible, all comfort in sorrow, all light in darkness; we would see it become the resurrection and the life in the presence of our dearest dead. According to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, be gracious unto all thy people; give them double in exchange for all thou hast laid upon them, that by multiplied joy they may be enabled to see the meaning of discipline, and by added comfort they may know what thou dost mean by the rod of humiliation. Let our homes be precious in thy sight, our little dwelling-places, where the fire means hospitality, where the door means security, where the window means an outlook upon heaven"s light; the Lord grant unto us in our bouses security, protection, comfort, and make our table as a banqueting-table of God, whereat we eat what is good for the soul and drink of the wine of the Saviour"s blood. Be with us in our businesses; they are many, trying, fluctuating,—now so hard, now too easy; now a great temptation, and now a violent distress; the Lord help us to get rid of these by working at them patiently and lovingly, in the spirit of heavenly citizenship, and encountering all earthly trials, losses, difficulties, with contempt, because we look for an inheritance incorruptible, which cannot fade away. Regard the children with a father"s love. We are all children in thy sight. Thou hast nought but little ones in all the nursery of the universe. But thou knowest to whom we refer as the children. Give them strength of body, brightness of mind, hopefulness of spirit, and open their way in the world, that they may see that all affairs are under God"s hand and all issues are with the Lord. Heal the sick, if healing be good for them; and if thou dost not heal the body with health that must again decline, heal the spirit with immortality. Grant a blessing to every heart; specially to those hearts made sore and twice tender by chastisement, loss, bereavement, new visions of the littleness of life, and new glimpses of the possible eternity. In all good things and wise ways and holy resolves strengthen, stablish, settle us; and as for our sins, having first seen them, may we next see the Cross, and in that higher sight we shall lose the memory and the sting of guilt. Amen.
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Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Judges 1". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. https://beta.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25