Glory: Human and Divine
2 Samuel 18:10
And a certain man saw it, and told Joab, and said, Behold, I saw Absalom hanged in an oak.

I. A MAN'S GLORY IS HIS DOOM. For although in a strict sense the custom does not fit with the fashion of the age, there are men to-day who, figuratively speaking, cannot cut their hair without weighing it. In plain language, there are men whose whole attention is directed to the contemplation of their endowments and the worship of their powers. And, just as with Absalom, these very endowment may lead to their destruction; they may be "in at the death."

1. New, in the first place, let the proposition be accepted that man must glory. By his very nature he attaches himself to something either external or personal to himself, in which he takes a lively interest and manifests a palpable pride. Every man is, more or less, what is vulgarly called a "Faddist." He takes hold of something, and makes it the centre of his existence, the object of his aims and desires. Or else that something lays hold of him, and keeps him a bondman to its service. It may be personal, or social, or municipal, or political, or religious, but there it is, embedded in the soul, or laying its grasp upon the mind. It comes out on any and every occasion. It is made manifest in the thought and in the life and in the work. And seldom indeed is its power found either to diminish or to die. Or, to vary the figure, each life has its Sun. And here, of course, the moral, the spiritual law, diverges from the natural, which knows of only one centre. Round this sun the life-planet circles, kept in place by its influence, partaking of its light, and reflecting its radiancy with more or less brilliance, according to what may be called the atmospheric conditions which prevail. Without that sun, the life falls from its place and loses its power. The sun's light may have a greater or a less intensity, its attraction have a greater or a less force. It may range from the lowest to the highest extreme. It may glimmer as a fad, or it may shine brightly as an ideal: but still it is there, necessary to all existence, indispensable to all true life. For we are all of us in a sense mirrors; very often, God knows, scored and imperfect and dull, but in some measure reflecting a borrowed glory, catching rays from the unknown and the infinite, and throwing them at very different angles upon the world. In short, the rays of one life — of various colours as they must ofttimes be — when gathered together will generally be found to have one common source. That is its glory, that is its sun.

II. DEATH LIES IN HUMAN GLORY. To reason from the particular to the general directly is not consistent with the canons of logic and the forms of thought. Because a thing happens in one case there are no grounds for declaring that it must happen in all. But if it can be shown by the evidence of illustration and instances that there are few, if any, exceptions, then we may, with some show of reason, claim recognition for the rule. What was said a little ago of the unit of humanity, man, supplies with equal truth to men in the mass. A living organisation, an aggregate of thinking men, is also a reflection of a glory. Here is a country whose glory has a human source. Two thousand years ago, looking from her seven hills across the subjugated lands Rome stood, the proud and pompous mistress of the world. Along her ringing thoroughfares there rolled the chariot of war. By Tibet's bank the sentry trod his everlasting round. President of the council of her gods sat Jupiter, the king of heaven, to whom the war-shout of the conqueror and the sacrifice of the sword ascended as a sweet savour. Tribe by tribe the inhabitants of the known world passed beneath the yoke, and power became the .one object in the national outlook. Raising it to the place of deity, they tendered it the honour and the praise. "Triumph! triumph!" was the cry that rent the Roman air. "Number the captives and measure their land! Ours is the brave heart, ours the mighty arm, and great indeed is our glory!" Ay! two thousand years ago. But the day of downfall was at hand. The oak caught Absalom by the hair. Into collision with the eternal oak of God's will and purpose came the blind and boastful glory of the Empire. "Thus far and no further" was the stern decree. And on swept the steed of History, leaving its Rome behind.

2. Here is a church whose glory, too, has a human source. Its Bible is the morality, the etiquette, the fashion of the age. Its teaching is laid on the basis of what is proper rather than what is right. Its creed runs thus — "I believe in well-cushioned pews, wealthy communicants, and a respectable record of missionary zeal, so long as that calls for no work of mine." Through the pillars and arches of its buildings there floats the breath of sweetest music, and the silver tones of "the snowy-banded, dilettante, delicate-handed priest." And from an aesthetic point all is sweet to hear and fair to see. But where is God in that church? Where is the "glory due unto His name?" Left out of account! It glories in its exclusiveness; in what it calls its culture, its high tone. But high tone and culture of that kind fall foul of the hard judgment of a stern world. The entanglement comes; and on goes religion heedless of its loss while enemies arrive with their darts of disestablishment and popular clamour to thrust into the useless body. In its glory there lies its death.

3. Here is an individual whose glory too, has a human source. He believes in himself to the exclusion of all else. He takes some attribute or characteristic of his own, and says, "This is what I am by the grace of my own endeavours." He owns allegiance to human nature, to the tendencies of the age, until, like Wolsey, he is forced to the bitter cry, "Had I but served my God with half the zeal I served my king, He would not in mine age have left me naked to mine enemies!" And not infrequently I should say this: "Show me that in which a man prides himself, and I shall know one thing at least that he is not." Let me take you back to the survey of that image of the sun; and let me ask you to observe one such as I have mentioned, whose sun has nothing but an earthly effulgence and a human light; who circles, for example, about pride, or riches, or merely worldly wisdom; who is content to live in the light of these, and to take the glory of his life from them. And there you have the most terrible of all spectacles, the most ghastly of all weird pictures — a heart without God. A world without its sun! A heart without God! A heart with nothing but its own cherished glory! And that very pride, these very riches, that very worldly wisdom brings him at last under the power of God. On goes eternity, and the wretched man is left behind to realise the truth of these awful words, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."

III. LIFE LIES IN DIVINE GLORY. It is a far cry from the Jewish prince to the Gentile preacher, but pass with me to St. Paul. A man "of like passions with you," he, too, must glory in something; nor, humanly speaking, had he far to seek for a cause. "If I must glory," he says, "if I must have my one life-support, if I must look somewhere for a spiritual dynamic — then God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." Ah! there he finds the proper source, the real centre, the bright sun. From over Calvary's hill there steal the roseate rays of the Sun of Righteousness — and these he seeks to reflect. To glory in a cross — a cross! the badge of infamy — the stamp of shame! Now I see that St. Paul is in the right, that he knows whom he has believed. For in that cross I find the earnest of life eternal and undying love; through that cross I feel the power of God and the wisdom of God; from that cross I see a light that streams across the desert of life. Think of what it typifies and teaches; think of all which led up to it, and all to which it leads, and say, has it not glory sufficient for us to-day? It speaks of a self-renunciation; of a sacrifice solemn and significant, which, while it can never in itself be repeated, may still, thank God, be copied; and what though there be many a shortcoming and many a fault? Lay yourself down before it in heroic martyrdom: cast away the old, dull self: giving is getting with Jesus; and getting with Him is glory. Make it the centre of your spiritual existence; make your life a reflection of. Him who gives it at once its value and its power; and you can say to the worldling, in full assurance of faith — "Death worketh in you; but life in us."

(R. Barclay, M. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And a certain man saw it, and told Joab, and said, Behold, I saw Absalom hanged in an oak.

WEB: A certain man saw it, and told Joab, and said, "Behold, I saw Absalom hanging in an oak."

Caught in the Maelstrom of Vanity and Pride
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