And may these words with which I have made my petition before the LORD be near to the LORD our God day and night, so that He may uphold the cause of His servant and of His people Israel as each day requires,
I. WHEN MEN MAKE VOWS AND PROMISES. Compare ver. 31 with the ordinances of Moses (Exodus 22:7-9). The oath was taken in the presence of God, because the thought of Him as the Searcher of hearts would induce serious consideration and careful exactitude, and because He was tacitly invited by His providence to confirm or to punish the spoken word. Show how the principle, right in itself, became abused and vitiated, so that Christ condemned the practices of His day (Matthew 5:33-37). Learn from the ancient practice
(1) that our utterances should be made as by men conscious of the nearness of the God of truth. Apply this to the immoralities of some business transactions, to the prevalence of slander in society, etc.
(2) That our resolutions should be formed in a spirit of prayer. How vain the pledge and promise of amendment, unless there be added to the human resolve the help of God's providence in circumstances, and the grace of His Spirit in the heart! Give examples of each.
II. WHEN MEN ARE INJURED OR DEFEATED BY THEIR ADVERSARIES. "When thy people Israel be smitten down before the enemy" (ver. 33). National defeat in war should lead to self examination on the part of those smitten. Too often the investigation is applied only to material resources: incompetent officials are dismissed, weakened regiments are strengthened, new alliances are formed, etc. The mischief may lie deeper. Sometimes God is calling the people not to redeem national honour, but to seek national righteousness. The teaching of the verse may be applied figuratively to defeats suffered by Christian controversialists or by philanthropic workers, etc. Every check in onward progress is a summons to thought and prayer. "In the day of adversity consider." Illustrate by examples.in Scripture, e.g., by the defeat of Israel at Ai, and its issues.
III. WHEN MEN ARE TREMBLING UNDER NATURAL CALAMITIES. Reference is made in ver. 35 to the withholding of rain; in ver. 37 to "famine, pestilence, blasting, mildew, locust, and caterpillar." Such troubles were sent in vain to bring the Egyptians to repentance. Compare those plagues with Elijah's message to Ahab, and with the threats of other prophets. Such statements as Deuteronomy 11:17 enshrine an abiding truth. In the long run the violation of God's laws do bring disasters of the very kind specified here. If the law of industry be violated, the harvests fail; if the law of mutual dependence be ignored by nations, commerce is crippled, and impoverishment comes; if the laws against self indulgence, pride, ambition, etc., be defied, the spendthrift has the result in poverty, the proud nation in the miseries of war, etc. Even the disasters which are accounted "natural phenomena," then, should lead the wise hearted to prayer, the sinful to penitence; and God will hear in heaven His dwelling place, and answer and forgive. Show how, during the ministry of our Lord, the cripples, the blind, the diseased came to Him. Their misery made them feel their need of what He alone could give, and many of them became conscious of their spiritual wants from considering first the want that was physical. As they were thus led, so the Church has been which in the Old Testament was oppressed most by the earthly wants, and in the New by the spiritual. Those in the far country learn, by beginning to "be in want," that God is calling them to arise and return to Him.
IV. WHEN MEN ARE CONSCIOUS OF THEIR SIN. All through this prayer reference is made to sin and to the consequent necessity for pardon (vers. 38, 46-50). Point out the climax in ver. 47:
(1) "We have sinned" - have not kept in the ways of God - sin in its negative aspect;
(2) "have done perversely" - acts of perversity;
(3) "have committed wickedness" - the overwhelming passion which drives into corruption. The necessity of humble confession as an integral part of prayer from the lips of fallen man can readily be shown from Scripture. Examples of conscience of sin impelling to prayer seen in David (Psalm 51.), the publican (Luke 18:18). "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).
V. WHEN MEN ARE GOING FORTH TO CONFLICT IN GOD'S NAME. "If thy people shall go out to battle against their enemy whithersoever thou shalt send them," etc. (ver. 44). We must not forget that Israel was a theocracy. David, for example, spoke of his foes as being God's foes. So had it been with Moses, Joshua, etc. The consciousness of that gives almost superhuman power. "Man, being linked with Omnipotency, is a kind of omnipotent creature," says Bacon. Even when the belief that one is on God's side is false, the belief itself is an inspiration. Examples from history of such belief well or ill founded - Joan of Are, the Puritans, etc. In actual war no nation can fairly put up this prayer unless the cause of war is that of which we can say, "whithersoever thou shalt send." No mistake need exist in reference to foes whom Christ came to destRomans The promise, "Lo! I am with you," was the inspiration of the apostles as they confronted false philosophies, crass ignorance, brutal customs, degrading superstitions. Hence, if they were going forth to battle with such evils, the prayers of the Church went up on their behalf. Men were set apart for their Christian mission by prayer (give examples), and in their work they often turned to their intercessors, saying, "Brethren, pray for us!" Feeling our insufficiency to overcome the adversaries of the gospel, let us, like the apostles, "continue in prayer and supplication" till we are "endued with power from on high." - A.R.
At all times, as the matter shall require.
I. Living by the day, as the thing of a day in each day shall require, WILL WHOLESOMELY REMIND US OF OUR DEPENDENCE UPON GOD. We are dependent upon God, whether we think of it or not. It is a good thing to think of it. When we think of things in bulk, we are not so apt to recognise the giver as when we think of things piecemeal. Just take the days thoughtlessly, in bulk, and you will not be apt much to recognise God as the Giver of them. But take each day, as it really is, as a special gift from God's gracious hand, and such separating, piecemeal thought of the days will necessarily breed in you a feeling of dependence upon the God who gives the days. And this feeling of dependence as you take each day as a separate gift from God will prompt you to much nobleness.
1. To prayer concerning each day.
2. To attempt at loftier living in each day.
3. To flushing the service that each day brings with the religious colour of the motive — for the sake of God.
II. Living by the day, as the thing of a day in each day shall require, WILL DELIVER US FROM FOREBODING.
III. Living by the day, as the thing of a day in each day shall require, will best help us to VANQUISH THE DUTIES OF EACH DAY AND SO ALL THE DUTIES OF THE NEW YEAR which will be made up of days. "I'm no hero; I'm just a regular," said an officer of the army. What he meant was that it was not in his profession to be a man spectacular and of spasms; that he must steadily do whatever his country called for, whether the great, resounding thing or the small: This is what we all need to be — not searchers after the heroic, but just regulars, ready for service lofty or lowly, as it may come. And the way to do it is to do each day as the thing of the day in each day shall require. There is nothing so discouraging, perplexing, preventing, as a herd of undone duties rushing pellmell into to-day, which duties ought to have been finished in the days gone.
IV. THE BEST WAY TO OVERCOME A BAD HABIT IS TO OVERCOME IT BY THE DAY.
V. WE SHALL BEST KEEP OUR LOYALTY TO OUR LORD AND TO HIS CHURCH AS WE KEEP IT BY THE DAY. I cannot be loyal to my Lord and His Church in a lump and all at once in this New Year. I can only be thus loyal as each day brings its tests of loyalty, and I answer to them, day by day, triumphantly.
(W. Hoyt, D. D.)
I. A PRINCIPLE IN REFERENCE TO GOD'S GIFTS. Life comes to us pulsation by pulsation, breath by breath, by reason of the continual operation, in the material world, of the present God's present giving. He does not start us, at the beginning of our days, with a fund of physical vitality upon which we thereafter draw, but moment by moment He opens His hand, and lets life and breath and all things flow out to us moment by moment so that no creature would live for an instant except for the present working of a present God. If we only realised how the slow pulsation of the minutes is due to the touch of His finger on the pendulum, and how everything that we have, and the existence of us who have it, are results of the continuous welling out from the fountain of life, of ripple after ripple of the waters, everything would be sacreder, and solemner, and fuller of God than, alas! it is. But the true region in which we may best find illustrations of this principle in reference to God's gifts is in the region of the spiritual and moral bestowments that He in His love pours upon us. He does not flood us with them; He filters them drop by drop, for great and good reasons. Let me lust quote three various forms of this one great thought.
1. God gives us gifts adapted to the moment. "The matter of a day," the thing fitted for the instant, comes. In deepest reality, it is all one gift, for in truth what God gives to us is Himself; or, if you like to put it so, His grace.
2. He never gives us the wrong medicine. Whatever variety of circumstances we stand in, there, in that one infinitely simple and yet infinitely complex gift, is what we specially want at the moment.
3. God gives punctually. Peter is lying in prison. Herod intends, after the Passover, to bring him out to the people. The scaffolding is ready. The first watch of the night passes, and the second. If once it is fairly light, escape is impossible. But in the grey dawn the angel touches the sleeper. He gets safe behind Mary's door before it is light enough for the jailers to discover his absence and the pursuers to be started in their search. "The Lord shall help her, and that right early" — "the matter of a day in its day."
4. Again, God gives gifts enough, and not more than enough. He serves out our rations, for spirit as for body, as they do on ship-board, where the sailors have to take their pots and plates to the galley every day, and every meal, and get enough to help them over the moment's hunger.So all the variety of our changeful conditions, besides its purpose of disciplining ourselves, and of making character, has also the purpose of affording a theatre for the display, if I may use such cold language — or rather, let me say, affording an opportunity for the bestowment — of the infinitely varied, exquisitely adapted, punctual, and sufficient grace of God.
1. Of course, we have to look ahead, and in reference to many things to take prudent forecasts, but how many of us there are who weaken ourselves, and spoil to-day by being "over-exquisite to cast the fashion of uncertain evils." It is a great piece of practical philosophy, and I am sure it has a great deal to do with our getting the best out of the present moment, that we should either take very short or very long views of the future.
2. Again I say, let us fill each day with discharged duties. If you and I do not do the matter of the day in its day, the chances are that no to-morrow will afford an opportunity of doing it. So there will come upon us all, if we are unfaithful to this portioning out of tasks to times, that burden of an irrevocable past, and of the omitted duties that will stand reproving and condemning before us, whensoever we turn our eyes to them.
3. I would say, keep open a continual communion with God, that day by day you may get what day by day you need.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
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