We have seen that the first book of Chronicles has for its great object the setting aside of the fleshly choice of man in the kingdom for the man of God's choice - David. Nevertheless there was a purpose of God brought out by David's request to build the house of Jehovah. God meant it for another very near to David, but who was not David - not for him who had served Him so faithfully in suffering, but for the son about to reign in glory. The second book of Chronicles accordingly shows us the son come to the throne, and the temple accordingly built. But although there was this difference between David and his son - the combined types of our Lord Jesus Christ in His sufferings and His glory - nevertheless, we should greatly err if we supposed that David had not before God a better portion than his son. Faith is better than its own results, and if we could have heaven without the pathway of faith upon earth, we should never be so blest as we hope to be. It is here that we know God as none in heaven ever can know Him. When we go to heaven, we shall not lose this, but have it in its perfection. Thus God gives us the best place everywhere - the best place on earth, the best place in heaven - and this not because we deserve anything, but because Christ does.
But it is Christ suffering first, and this has the priority. First must He suffer, and then must He be raised from the dead. His glory is the consequence of His sufferings. I do not speak, of course, of His personal external glory. That is another thing. I speak of the glory that He takes as man, for this is what brings us in, although it could not have been, had He not been God. But still, what belongs to God in itself, is incapable of being a matter of gift to man. It is impossible for anyone to become God. Jesus was God. He was God as the Word before He was the Man Christ Jesus - God from eternity to eternity. But here we are speaking of the type of the Lord as man and as king - in this, too, son - the son of the true
beloved. But then it was David (which means "beloved"), not Solomon. Solomon was the man of peace that flowed from the special object of Jehovah's love. Hence, therefore, as David enjoyed the love of God and His complacency in a way that Solomon did not, in a deeper and fuller way, in his sorrows and sufferings upon the earth in the path of faith, so also did David own God and cleave to God in a deeper way than Solomon ever did. This was remarkably shown by what we see in the earlier verses of this second book of Chronicles.
The ark characterizes David; the brazen altar, Solomon. The difference is manifest. The ark was what no human eye saw, but it was nearest to God. The brazen altar was a great sight. It was there that the thousand bullocks were sacrificed. It was there that the people could witness a great and holy sight. But still, the one was before the people; the other was before God. This makes a mighty difference; and you will find just the same difference now between two Christians, one of whom is spiritual and the other unspiritual. It is not that they do not both love the Lord Jesus, for he is no Christian who loves Him not. "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha." But although there be no difference, at bottom, in the fact of love, still there is a very great difference in the measure of it; and the grand difference shows itself in this - that the unspiritual man loves the Lord because of what He is to him; the spiritual man appreciates what He is to God. This is no loss to himself, but very great gain, because what we are before God is very much more than what we are before men.
Hence, therefore, the ark was very dear to David - much dearer than his throne. Solomon, I have no doubt, greatly valued his throne; but he valued also the altar of God. I say not that he did not value the ark, but after all it is "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks"; and when we find men occupied with any one thing more than another, we may be sure that that object has the heart, because we are always characterized by what we seek. And hence the importance of our words. So the Lord teaches in Matthew 12. Our words, if we are honest, are the expression of the mind. I do not speak of dishonest people; but when people are sincere - and it is hoped that Christians, at any rate, seek with all their hearts thus to be - the mouth discloses the state of the heart; and therefore when we speak of ourselves, it is evident what is before us. When we are filled with the Lord Jesus, the mouth will not fail in its testimony; but it is the appreciation of Christ in His nearness to God rather than in His immediate bearing upon ourselves that marks the difference between spirituality and the want of it.
"And so Solomon went up thither to the brazen altar before Jehovah which was at the tabernacle of the congregation" (2Ch_1:6) just as the ark was brought up to the place which David had prepared for it - "and he offered a thousand burnt offerings upon it." There all the congregation met God. It was the place of approach to God - not the place where God revealed Himself, but the place where man approached as near as he could to God. Nevertheless, God owns this, for it was good, though it was not the best - not the more excellent way.
"In that night did God appear unto Solomon, and said unto him, Ask what I shall give thee. And Solomon said unto God, Thou hast showed great mercy unto David my father." Just as Moses and Joshua make up a compound type of Christ in the beginning of the history, so David and Solomon, now when the kingdom is set up. He therefore lays all the stress upon David.
"And hast made me to reign in his stead. Now, O Jehovah 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. 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?" This was excellent. He did value the people; and he valued the people not because they were his people, but because they were God's people. It makes all the difference new.
Suppose in our relationship to the Church of God we regard any people as our people, we shall always be jealous about them - always be afraid of their listening to anybody but ourselves - always be anxious to mould and fashion their opinions according to our own, perhaps very narrow, minds. At any rate, no man - I care not how great - no man contains all the gifts; and this is not the order of God for His Church. The principle of God is directly the contrary. All things are ours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas; and therefore anything that hinders the action of all the gifts that God gives for God's people is false in principle; and God's people ought to hold themselves not only free, but bound to seek profit from all that God gives for their good, because they are God's people. They do not belong to any man. It matters not how owned and honoured of God he might be, still the more honoured the more he would feel they are God's people.
And this is the very point that Peter so earnestly presses. It is rather badly given in our version. I will just draw attention to it for a moment. In the last chapter of his first epistle, Peter says to the elders, "Feed the flock of God." That is the point that keeps us right. They are God's flock, and we must take care what we do with God's flock. We must take care that we have a right mind and a right object as to God's flock. "Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre but of a ready mind; neither as being lords" - not "over God's heritage." You observe the word "God's" is put in by the translators. It does not mean God's heritage at all. The flock is God's flock, but the point in the third verse is not at all that question, but what they were not to do. They were to feed the flock of God. That is the positive side. But here we have the negative side. "Neither as lording it over their own heritage" would be really the idea; that is, not treating it as a thing belonging to them - "neither as being lords over their own belongings" - if I may paraphrase the verse - "but as being ensamples to the flock." That is, they were not to treat them as their own. This gives the force of the exhortation to the elders. They were to feed them as God's flock; they were not to lord over them as their own belongings - their own heritage.
Now, Solomon entered into this in his measure. He did not regard the people as his people, his to govern, his to serve God in, but God's people entrusted to him. This gives seriousness; and, further. it exercises conscience. So he asked for wisdom, for surely be needed it. Had it been his own people, he might have had wisdom enough; but, being God's people, he required wisdom from God; and therefore this is what he asked - not wealth or length of years. So God, accepting this request of Solomon's heart, says, "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."
How wonderful the grace of God! "My people." He was not ashamed of it. We shall see how poor and failing they were, but they were God's people. Then it was a question of an earthly people - now of a heavenly - and our responsibility is as much greater than Israel's as the heavens are above the earth. I mean that, as to our place now, we are put on a different rule - under a different regime altogether! - "wisdom and knowledge are 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."
And hence, therefore, we find that the Apostle feels the need of a new kind of wisdom; and God grants it and gives it, not merely to him; but we all need it, each in his place and for his mission. And where is that wisdom, and what? "Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." Hence, therefore, we have got a wholly different kind of wisdom. Solomon's wisdom was exercised from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grew on the wall. It was of the earth; it had to do with the human heart as well as all objects that were here below. And so we find it most divinely exercised in the book of Proverbs, which is a matchless collection of divine wisdom in earthly things. But it is another kind of wisdom that we find, now that Christ has been revealed and has taken His place in heaven, because the question is not what suits the earth, but what suits heaven - what suits the Lord Jesus glorified at the right hand of God. The Church is the body of Christ at the right hand of God.
"Then Solomon came from his journey to the high place that was at Gibeon to Jerusalem from before the tabernacle of the congregation, and reigned over Israel. And Solomon gathered chariots and horsemen: and he had a thousand and four hundred chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen, which he placed in the chariot cities, and with the king at Jerusalem. And the king made silver and gold at Jerusalem as plenteous as stones, and cedar trees made he as the sycamore trees that are in the vale for abundance." There was the grandest witness of magnificence that ever was found in any city upon earth. Not even Augustus's finding Rome brick and making it marble, was to be compared with Solomon. "And Solomon had horses brought out of Egypt, and linen yarn: the king's merchants received the linen yarn at a price. And they fetched up and brought forth out of Egypt a chariot for six hundred shekels of silver, and an horse for an hundred and fifty: and so brought they out horses for all the kings of the Hittites, and for the kings of Syria, by their means."
That is, we find everything here related, but not so as to manifest his faults. We knew very well that these horses, and, above all, the multiplying of his wives, became a great snare to Solomon; but the object of Chronicles is not to mention the king's responsibility and the ways in which he broke down, so much as to bear witness to his being the witness of God's purpose. In Kings, as I have already shown, we have the question of responsibility, in Chronicles, of divine counsel. That is the difference between the two books. They are not a mere repetition of each other. There is a sensible difference in the way in which even the same events are recorded; but this was not the will of man, but really the power of God, and God's wisdom. And as David was hindered from the thought of his heart in building a temple, which was reserved for Solomon, so the Spirit of God soon lets us know that the grand point for which Solomon indeed reigns was the building of Jehovah's house. "And Solomon determined to build an house for the name of Jehovah, and an house for his kingdom. And Solomon told out threescore and ten thousand men to bear burdens, and fourscore thousand to hew in the mountain, and three thousand and six hundred to oversee them. And Solomon sent to Huram the king of Tyre, saying, As thou didst deal with David my father, and didst send him cedars to build him an house to dwell therein, even so deal with me." 2Ch_2:1-3.
So it will be in the kingdom of the Lord Jesus by-and-by. He, the head of Israel, will make use of the Gentiles; and the Gentiles, represented here by the king of Tyre, will bring of all their means, their wealth, their glory, in allegiance to the King of kings and Lord of lords. But it would be a great mistake to confound the character of that day with the principle of this. I know there are many dear children of God who think that it is for the glory of God to have architecture of a grand and imposing description, and music of the finest character to please the ear, and all things accordingly; but this is really the Jewish method of honouring God, and not the Christian one. On the contrary, that which is proper to us is prayer and singing in the Spirit and in the understanding; and whatever is not characterized by the Holy Ghost, and is not taken up directly by the Spirit to witness for the Lord Jesus Christ - whatever is not of faith now - is a total failure.
Hence, mere imagery to represent truth, although an admirable thing in Jewish days, is altogether out of season in the present. It is going back to the nursery after we have attained our majority. It is playing at children again in divine things, which was exactly what the children of Israel were. They were in their minority, and they had the picture books that were suitable for the nursery. It was God's nursery then, but it is a great mistake to go back to the nursery now; and this is exactly the mistake of ritualism in every form and in every measure. It is the greatest blunder to suppose that, because a thing is in the Bible, therefore it is always of the same authority. If that were the case, we ought to offer our he-goats and our bullocks much more; for there was, after all, a much more important witness to the sacrifice of Christ in these than in any other portion of the Jewish economy, as, indeed, they were before it. They were not merely the temporary institution of Israel; they were practiced by the faithful ever since sin came into the world. There would be very much more plausible ground, therefore, for an argument in favour of material sacrifices than for the mere splendour of the temple, or even the more modified show of the tabernacle. But the truth is, for us the true holy place is in the heavens; and it is, therefore, through the rent veil that we draw nigh, if we draw nigh to God at all; and any thought of an earthly holy place or sanctuary is a retrogression from Christianity to Judaism. I mention this because it is of all practical importance; and no Christian ought, therefore, to shrink from fairly looking at these things in the face. Is it not true? Is it not the very object of the Holy Ghost to bring even the Jews out of this? - not to lead the Gentiles back into it. Ritualism is the reversal of the instruction of the epistle to the Hebrews. It is apostasy in fact - apostasy from the truth of God that is revealed there - and therefore I hold that ritualism is not a mere harmless power Nor do I at all agree with those that say, Well, I can worship God as well in a cathedral as in a hut. I answer that I cannot worship Him at all where show suited to the world is the object, and that wherever I can be in unison with the crucified and rejected Saviour is the true place for a man of faith.