And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which stands for the children of your people…
And they that be wise shall shine etc. (ver. 3). Here are two types of humanity and two destinies. There is a likeness both in the types and in the destinies, such as we might expect from the parallelism of the text; at the same time, there are differences. The one type is in advance of the other; so is the Divine recognition in the one case as against the preceding. In the one case we have an attribute of soul, in the other an activity. The first is followed by a radiance like that of the open sky; the second, by a brilliance like to that of the stars.
I. THE CLEAR. Turn to the Hebrew, and it will soon be seen that the essential idea in the word translated "wise" is that of a clear eye with a clear outlook. Cleave to this idea, and let it determine our description of the character here set before us. In such a character:
1. The soul is clear. Not absolutely here on earth, but relatively in contrast with the former state. Transparent. Pure (Matthew 5:8). No moral taint of such a kind as to destroy the vision of spiritual and eternal things (John 8:12).
2. The eye is clear.
3. The atmosphere is clear. (Ephesians 5:8.)
4. The objects of choice are clear. In time; in eternity.
5. The choice of means is clear. All the present is subjected to the future. Herein lies ever true wisdom.
II. THEIR SHINING. Perhaps the text refers mainly to the shining of immortality. We may bear in mind that the shining of the clear-seeing saint - of the saint who is indeed a seer - is not a question of time or place, of aeons or worlds, but one of character. The shining will then be here as well as there. How, then, does the saint shine? Of what sort is the radiance of the open day-sky? The light of the sky is:
1. Brilliant. No light in all the landscape can exceed the brilliance of the sky. No light in all the world of intelligence and morals can exceed that of saintliness.
2. Soft. No element of pain in it.
4. Victorious. Clouds may dim the face of the sky. So calumnies, misunderstandings, imperfections, failings, may obscure character. But the light shines through the cloud, and continues after the cloud has passed away.
5. Ministering. The sky is like an angel of God in the sweetness and beauty of its service. What relief to the sick and to the nursing, who out of their lattices watch for the morning! What cheer to the strong! What health! Sunlight is health. The sun arises with "healing in his wings." So the "Sun of Righteousness." So they that are like him. What power to work! The sky holds, as it were, the candle to every worker on earth. How we value dying daylight! So wistfully watch we the expiring radiance of the saints we love.
6. Borrowed. Not its own, but the sun's. So the light of the saints is not theirs, but God's.
III. THE CONVERTING. In order to preach truly and intelligently from this passage, the following points should be observed: "They that turn to righteousness" is the translation of a single word in Hebrew - a verb, of the hiphil conjugation, participial form, plural number, construct case. The verb means "to be right or righteous;" in the hiphil conjugation, "to make one right or righteous." Here, then, we have the activity of the saint, going forth in this form of instrumentally making men righteous, implying a turning away from wickedness, and doing this in the case of "many." Turning the sinner to God, so as to be "justified by his grace," would not exhaust the meaning; it goes beyond that, to the securing at least the elements of personal righteousness in him. How can we instrumentally convert?
1. By luminosity of life.
2. By word from the lip. Not necessarily a pulpit-word or a class-word, but a friendly word, and that of the simplest kind.
3. By unconscious co-operation with others. Henry Martyn never knew that he was the means of converting a single soul; but he translated the Bible into Persian, and prepared the way for others. "They that sow, and they that reap, shall rejoice together."
4. By prayer.
5. By gifts of money sustaining the labours of others. (Some suggestions and illustrations of a useful character may, perhaps, be found in a characteristic sermon by Dr. Talmage on the text, in the first series, published by Nicholson and Sons, Wakefield.)
IV. THEIR BRILLIANCE. "As the stars for ever and ever." Here we have some of the ideas we had before, but with variations, additions, and enlargements. Without becoming pedantic, we make use legitimately of the richer knowledge astronomical of our time. In the destiny of the active aggressive worker we have:
1. An intense brilliance. Strictly, daylight is more brilliant than the light of stars; for it obscures it by day, or rather outshines it. But this would not be the popular impression, and on that this Bible-text is based.
2. A diversity of splendour. "One star differeth," etc. Not only the most eminent workers are to shine, but others in their proportion and degree.
3. A distinguishing separateness. Think of the distinctive glory of each worker. Here it is not difference of degree, but of type and kind; e.g. Martin Luther, George Fox, Madame Guyon, Elizabeth Fry, etc.
4. Yet oft a clustered glory. In appearance the stars congregate in clusters; in actuality are marshalled into systems. The fellowships of earth, of heaven. A unity of power.
5. A growing radiance with nearness of view. "'Tis distance lends enchantment to the view" has no application here. The stars are suns whose magnificence dawns with our approach. So with the glorified and consecrated in the Church.
6. A ministration of light and heat and life.
7. A subservient splendour.
"For ever singing as they shine,
The hand that made us is Divine."
8. A brilliance unlike that of the stars. Their light does now oft go out. The light of all may fade and die. But these saintly workers shine on "for ever and ever." Many motives to Christian service may be urged; but here behold its supreme attractiveness! Contrast with this that other destiny (ver. 2), "Shame and everlasting contempt." - R.
Parallel VersesKJV: And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.
WEB: "At that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince who stands for the children of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who shall be found written in the book.