Thursday, June 8th, 2023
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
The Pulpit Commentaries The Pulpit Commentaries
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 13". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tpc/ 1-chronicles-13.html. 1897.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 13". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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The opening verses of this chapter explain and amplify the compressed announcement of 2 Samuel 6:1, "Again, David gathered together all the chosen of Israel, thirty thousand." And the remaining verses (6-14) cover the same ground as 2 Samuel 6:2-11.
1 Chronicles 13:1
There can be little doubt that the captains of thousands and hundreds... with every leader, here spoken of, represented what had become by this time a confirmed institution, although in embryo, dating from the time of Moses at least (Numbers 31:14; Deuteronomy 1:15; Judges 20:7; 2 Chronicles 20:21).
1 Chronicles 13:2
Left in all the land. Some think that this phrase points to the destruction that had been widespread by the Philistines.
1 Chronicles 13:8
Let us bring again the ark. It had been removed from Shiloh (Joshua 18:1) at the instance of "the elders of Israel" to their camp, when they were hard pressed and smitten by the Philistines (1 Samuel 4:1-4); there it was taken by the Philistines (1 Samuel 4:11, 1 Samuel 4:22), and hurried from Ashdod to Ekron and on to Bethshemesh (1 Samuel 5:1-12. l, 5, 8, 10; 1 Samuel 6:9-13). For we inquired not at it in the days of Saul. The allusion may be considered delicately worded, but an inexpressible pathos and unmeasured condemnation must be imagined as clinging to this sentence, illustrated further by 1 Samuel 7:2; 1 Samuel 28:6, 1Sa 28:15, 1 Samuel 28:16; 1 Chronicles 10:14.
1 Chronicles 13:5
All Israel. The parallel gives the number as thirty thousand men (2 Samuel 6:1, 2 Samuel 6:2). Shihor of Egypt. According to Gesenius, this Shihor is from root שָׁחֲר meaning "to be turbid" or "black". There can surely be little doubt that it is the river Nile which is here spoken of, after comparison of the following passages:—Joshua 13:3; Isaiah 23:3; Jeremiah 2:18. Though others, quoting Joshua 13:3 and Joshua 19:26, and interpreting Shihor generically as applicable to any dark, turbid stream, make it the modern Wady el-Arish, However, the parallel, 1 Kings 8:65, does not necessarily dissever the נַחַל from נָהַר of Egypt (Genesis 15:18), but rather tends to identify them. The entering of Hemath; i.e. the way to Hamath (Hebrew, חְמָת ,wer; Numbers 34:7, Numbers 34:8). Hamath was one of the great cities of the Orontes valley, in Upper Syria, which formed the boundary in especial of the empire of Solomon. This valley is watered by the Orontes, the river of Antioch, a river remarkable for its abundant spring (situate immediately north of the source of the Leontes), which won for it the name, among all the other springs of Syria, of "The Spring," and remarkable for "the length of its course, the volume of its waters, and the rich vegetation of its banks." It is the one of the four rivers which take their rise beneath the heights of the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon which becomes really worthy of the name of river, the other three, viz. the Jordan, the Leontes or modern Litany of Phoeicia, and the Abana or modern Barada of Damascus, more resembling the nature of the mountain stream. This river was to the ancient Romans "the representative of Syria, as the Timings might be said to be of England, and in later times the region formed the chief point of contact between this part of Asia and the West". The kingdom of Hamath comprised the tract of this valley of the Orontes, skirted by the hills separating the Leontes from the Orontes, and extending to the Pass of Daphne below Antioch. Riblah (Numbers 34:11; 2 Kings 23:33) lies on the east bank of the Orontes, thirty-five miles north-east of Baal-bek, or Baal-gad. The people of Hamath were of the race of Ham, of the descendants of Canaan (Genesis 10:18), and are not to be reckoned as of Phoenician origin.
1 Chronicles 13:6
To Baalah, that is, to Kirjath-jearim (see Joshua 15:9-11; 1Sa 4:7; 2 Samuel 6:2; where the name is spelt with a final yod instead of he). A third name of this same place, Kirjath-baal, is found in Joshua 15:60; Joshua 18:14. Probably the present 'Arms, a ruin (i.q. Kirjath-arim, Ezra 2:25) on the brink of the valley of Sorek, may be the place. We read in Joshua 9:17-27 how the men of Kirjath-jearim had been made by Joshua "hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation, and for the altar of the Lord." Hither to this Kirjath-jearim the ark had been conveyed from Bethshemesh (1 Samuel 7:1, 1 Samuel 7:2), and here it "abode" long time, "for it was twenty years." Perhaps the word "abode" in this passage may be equivalent to abode unmoved (1 Samuel 14:1-52.1 Samuel 14:18, 1 Samuel 14:19). For though the chronology from the death of Eli, through the remainder of Samuel's career and of Saul's, seems almost hopelessly uncertain, yet it would appear certain that the interval exceeded twenty years, to the time that David now takes in hand to bring home, as it were, the ark. The ark of God, the Lord. Though the Authorized Version of this passage is better and cleverer than that of the parallel (2 Samuel 6:2), yet it is left somewhat obscure. The comma should follow the name God. Jehovah sitting upon the cherubim then follows as a clause in apposition, while the last three words (as the name is called, rather than whose name) state that clause to contain "the Name of the Lord" (Deuteronomy 10:8; Deuteronomy 31:9; 1 Samuel 4:4; 1 Samuel 5:3; 1 Samuel 6:8). Bertheau, following Thenius, proposes to change the Hebrew שֵם into שָׁם. But there are abundant objections to this.
1 Chronicles 13:7
They carried; the Authorized Version of the parallel "they set" But the verb is the Hiph. of רָכַב, a word carrying more of majesty in its use (Deuteronomy 33:26; Job 30:22; Psalms 18:11; Psa 68:1-35 :38; Isaiah 19:1). A new cart. The stress laid on the newness of this cart, the term being twice repeated in the parallel passage, may justly remind of Mark 11:2; Matthew 27:60 (see 'Speaker's Commentary' on 2 Samuel 6:3). The house of Abinadab. There is no mention of Abinadab that would indicate that he still lived, even when twenty years before, the ark was placed in his house. Eleazar was his eldest son (1 Samuel 7:1), and was "sanctified to keep the ark of the Lord." Uzza and Ahio were possibly sons of Eleazar, and not sons of Abinadab, and Eleazar's younger brothers. The Septuagint translates Ahio, and accordingly reads, "Uzza and his brethren drave the cart."
1 Chronicles 13:8
Played before God. The Hebrew word is the Piel of שׂחק, the root of which, from the simplest meaning of "to laugh" (and with the two appropriate prepositions used for laughing with an expression of derision or contempt), through the two further meanings of "sporting" and "jesting," passes to the signification of dancing" (1 Samuel 18:7; Jeremiah 31:4). Its deepest idea seems to be "to make merry," and to savour of the very same ambiguity attaching to that idiom with ourselves. The parallel of this passage exhibits "before the Lord." With all their might. See the evident mistake of the parallel ("on all manner of instruments made of firwood," literally, with all firwoods) through similarity of the Hebrew characters. Cymbals and… trumpets. Of the five names of musical instruments, the same in number in both passages, the first three are the same in the Hebrew, but these last two are different words, וּבִמְצִלְתַּיִם וּבַחֲצֹצְרוֹת here for וּבִמנַענִעים וּבְצלְצליִם A variation of this particular kind again indicates with some decisiveness the different character and the number of the sources from which the writers of the Books of Samuel and those of Chronicles took.
1 Chronicles 13:9
The threshingfloor of Chidon. For Chidon, the parallel place has Nachon; possibly these are two names of the same place, or one form is a corruption of the ether; but there is nothing to determine for us which. Owing to the meaning of Nachon being "prepared," the version of Aquila is "to the prepared threshingfloor," with which the Jonathan Targum agrees, and (for this Chronicles passage) the Joseph Targum gives אֲתַר מְתַקַּן. The threshing-floor was a circular plot of hard ground, from fifty to one hundred feet in diameter, on which the oxen trampled out the grain. Threshingfloors evidently often became landmarks, and helped to designate places (Genesis 50:10; 2 Samuel 24:16). The oxen stumbled. In the parallel place the Authorized Version renders "shook it." The Hebrew verb is the same (שָׁמַט) in both places. Its elementary meanings are "to strike" and "to throw down." Perhaps the meaning is near the Vulgate rendering, calcitrabant, and equivalent to the rendering, became restive.
1 Chronicles 13:10
There seems some little uncertainty as to why Uzza was to blame in a desire that would appear both praiseworthy and instinctive, to steady the ark or save it from actually falling. Uzza was probably not a priest or Levite, and it is so distinctly said his sin consisted in putting his hand to the ark, that perhaps the direction of Numbers 4:15 may be sufficient account of the matter. Special injunction had been given (Exodus 25:14,Exodus 25:15) that the poles with which to bear it should not be taken out of the rings, but be always stationary there. If we suppose that it was not a question of the ark being absolutely overthrown, but simply of its riding unsteadily, his presumptuousness would not have the further defence of an instinctive impulse.
1 Chronicles 13:11
Displeased. The Hebrew root. (חָרָה) betokens a mixture of anger and grief. It is the word used of Jonah (iv. 1, 9), and perhaps our English word "vexed" or "hurt," would convey its meaning. Had made a breach; literally, had broken forth a breaking forth on Uzza; i.e. had fiercely broken forth on Uzza. There are many exactly analogous uses of both verb and noun in the Hebrew. To this day. This phrase, also found in the parallel place, indicates the lapse of time from the historical point of time to the point of record.
1 Chronicles 13:13
Obed-edom the Gittite. That Obed-edom is called "the Gittite," i.e. of Gath-rimmon, a Levite city of Dan (Joshua 21:24), might probably indicate that there was another Obed-edom, from whom to distinguish him. Such a one would appear readily to offer in the name of Obed-edom, son of Jeduthun, a "Merarite Levite" (1 Chronicles 15:18-24; 1 Chronicles 16:5, 1 Chronicles 16:38; 1 Chronicles 26:4-15). But the difficulty occurs that an expression in this last quotation seems to identify him with the Obed-edom of 2 Samuel 6:11; and the last sentence of our next verse. If they are one and the same, it has been suggested that marriage might account for the Merarite living in a Kohathite city (see 'Speaker's Commentary' on 2 Samuel 6:10).
1 Chronicles 13:1-14 -The chapter of reverse; or, the good enterprise of a good man overthrown in a day.
Before viewing this chapter in any detail, there is a general impression which it makes, and that, though general, yet not vague, but of a commanding sort. Here is, so to put it, a certain day in a man's life, an important day, one looked for and consecrated to high end. It rose bright and its joy spread. With intense activity the work is set about, and it is at all events designed and superintended by a good man, though it is not possible that he should, in his own person, carry out every detail of it. That great day ended in disappointment and disaster. And though the proximate cause of this reverse of all that was intended, hoped, and prayed for is plainly enough told, the providence that permitted it in place of preventing it seems obscure. Such days happen in not a few lives, not least in the lives of men in exalted and responsible position. They produce sometimes a wounded spirit, a sense of aggravation and of intense disappointment and grief. Large thought, large care, large love, seem to have been thrown away and rebuffed. And though fault may have been, yet that fault, the fault of a mere subordinate, visits its worst effects upon the chief persons involved in the enterprise, or on a whole community, or upon both. It may throw some light on such disappointments and catastrophes in our own experience or under our own immediate observation if we view them at a little greater distance and as they befell others. Notice, then —
I. THE ENTERPRISE ITSELF AND THE NATURE OF IT. It is to bring again the ark to some place of right, of honour, of influence.
1. To bring it back to the royal city was only to give it
(1) the place that belonged to it of right;
(2) the place that for honour it merited;
(3) the place where it would be likely to be most influential.
Even the ark out of sight was only too liable to be proportionately out of mind. There is, therefore, nothing of the nature of a mere empty demonstrativeness in the activity of David and his people. Of national, historic, and revealed sanction, what they sought to do that day was the proper thing to do. Again, it was something more than merely the becoming thing to do.
2. It was a holy thought and a holy deed. For the ark was a symbol of the highest kind; it spoke to all who knew of it of the Divine presence. To bring such a remembrancer into the midst of the nation and to its metropolis was to put it also at its moral centre, and where it would radiate forth innumerable rays of light and truth and warmth. Here placed, it taught
(1) how God must not be regarded as a God far off, but as one nigh at hand;
(2) how God wills to be in the constant sight and constant regard of his people, though in veiled majesty;
(3) how God would be known, even by symbol and emblem (though not by image), rather than as merely working through second causes and inexplicable influences. The ark ought to be where it can be "inquired at" or "sought to" in whatever may be the ordained ways. Once more, the ark was not only the depository of law and commandment, the stones of Sinai and the strict impartiality of ancient covenant, but its chiefest and most conspicuous accessory was all of mercy, and mercy ever accessible.
3. It was a course tending to the higher health of all to bring that ark back. Not mere addition to ecclesiastical pomp and furniture and display, nor to a pervading and penetrating sense of the awful and the infinite in contact with human life, it brought in benigner influences as well. Hope for the sinner; pardon for the penitent; soothing to save from despair; bright and happy thoughts of the supreme Father. That mercy-seat and overshadowing cherubim served to break up into welcome radiancy what would otherwise be the insufferable blaze of the eternal Light himself. It is like an infinite nature parting itself into those attributes by which alone partial and finite creatures like ourselves can in any wise lay hold upon it with comfort. Mere soothing, mere comforting, mere subduing influences will not necessarily minister to the higher education of either individual or community, but such influences as these must do so. And the known and offered mercy of God, just so fenced as it is, must be all pure gain to those who look to it and live in it.
II. THE FAILURE AND THE PECULIAR CIRCUMSTANCES OF IT. Though to the eye that looks on the outside only it might then have seemed, and may now seem, that it was not altogether necessary that failure should have been allowed to be the result of the day and of what happened upon it, yet:
1. as matter of fact, this was the verdict, very decisively pronounced by the person who bore the principal part in the transaction, and apparently no objection, no remonstrance is made by any others, and they were many, involved in the loss. That the outer reason was not very patent, and the obstacle not very physical, may make the difficulty the worse. Nervous complaints may be largely compounded of fancies—these their chiefest ingredients—yet they are, as matter of fact, not a whit the less real; they are the stubbornest to hold their own, and most indocile to argument or to persuasion. Much more are conscientious complaints untractable, and justly so. Force will not drive them, persuasion will not conquer or stifle them, their reason is deep-hidden within themselves. And something of this kind must have been at the heart of the matter when David found himself so appalled and so stricken by a certain kind of impression which he received upon the death of one person—an event which must have been, in all ordinary aspects, one of the commonest sights for David. That the failure, therefore, arose from the unseen and the intangible forces that were set active confessedly by the death of one man made by no means a less real, less serious obstacle, but rather the reverse.
2. The failure was very unexpected. It certainly was very unexpected as matter of fact. But it was also unexpected in the further degree that, if it had been thought of—if it had entered into the passing stream of thinking of any one, it would have been at once carried. out of the current and surrendered itself to the nearest eddying. For
(1) nothing in the object at heart would have warranted the gratuitous conjecture of ill omen;
(2) nothing in the necessities or likely perils of circumstances would have suggested the conjecture; and
(3) nothing (so far as was known) done, or neglected in the preparations, would have bespoken failure in the judgment of a calm, sympathizing, kindly bystander. Little indeed, then, was there to prepare for such a falling through of the very cherished hopes and the earnest deeds of that day.
3. The failure was of a sort to have many and wide effects and also cross-effects. How much thinking of friend and foe would be stirred! How many tongues of friend and foe would allow themselves licence! How would the matter be viewed from one point and another! Its relation to the king and what he had so fervently desired—to the people and their recent union under one king, would be eagerly scanned. The ill omen would be quickly discerned by those who wished ill to David or to Israel. And many a sincere heart would share the pain and anxious doubt and the fear of David himself. There can be no doubt that the greater the previous interest and enthusiasm in the undertaking, and pious zeal towards it, so much severer now the stroke and the shock to all concerned.
II. THE POSSIBLE USES AND EXPLANATION OF THE FAILURE. In default of being able to assign any one positive reason for the disappointment of this day, and for the fact that it fell heavy on those apparently free from blame and inspired with all good feeling and purpose it is ever open to us to notice results. We may reverently track consequences of Divine judgments and providence, and thence gather something of their origin, even where it would be most irreverent to dogmatize on these causes, to challenge the equity or to criticise the disposition of them. The deepest sorrows, the bitterest griefs, the keenest strokes which fall upon the humble and the wise, are ever found to lead to conduct similar to this in our actual life. When the severest has passed, and we are recovered but a little from the shock, we begin to cast about to inquire with solemn self-searchings what hidden fault there was in ourselves, to what great danger we were drawing near, heedless and unwitting, and at least what residuum of good we may derive out of so much evil and suffering. This is right conduct personally, and to follow the lines of such a practical analogy may help us see our way through many a deep thicket of the world's dark history. We never do right when we would "do wrong that good might come." But God ever does right and kindness when he directs trouble upon us, upon our very head, into our very heart, that good may come of it. It is his to chasten, and he chastens for our profit. And thus, when we have seen Uzza, the rash offender, suffer what must have been the just reward of his deeds, and he is passed away, we can but return to ask what lesson the deep and widespread disappointment had for all the rest, high and low. In what significant moral sense of this kind did this disaster find its root? And the answer is of this kind.
1. It may very possibly have been that outward zeal exceeded discretion and sincere piety.
2. It may have been that David and those high ecclesiastical officers with whom lay the ultimate responsibility had not given sufficiently careful instruction to those who only served, and had neglected to copy the well known minuteness and accuracy o! their old and revered Law. If so, they had failed of their duty in very high and significant respects.
3. It is certain that, for sanctified uses, this event must have deepened the solemn fear and respect toward the ark and him of whom it told throughout all the people far and wide who had lost some of that essential reverence for it during its long absence.
4. The disaster and disappointment were not a final loss. The delay of "three months" taught fear, raised hope, chastised self-trust, and helped educate to religion a whole people and their priests and king.
1 Chronicles 13:1, 1 Chronicles 13:2, 1 Chronicles 13:4.-The rule that makes a willing people.
These verses discover to us the first, or some of the first, things which David did on finding himself now ruler over an entire and united people. And they serve to illustrate in particular, not merely the good and wise thing which he did, of which we shall speak hereafter, but the good and wise manner in which he set about doing it. Many a promising career has been spoilt by neglecting to observe the method which David now pursued, and diligently pursued, when the career that Providence may have opened has been of the same nature, namely, that of ruler or leader of men. Notice —
I. THE HIGH ESTIMATE SET UPON NATIONAL AND RELIGIOUS HARMONY. The ruler now evidently bids for no mere outer form of this, but for the presence of the deep, genuine spirit of it in his people. The captains and all the leaders and all the congregation if all these will think, and love, and determine, and do the same things, he will be satisfied, and his heart will rejoice. Though possibly he might have been in policy compelled to take less than this and effect or at least accept a compromise, it is this for which he makes his first bid, and that a sincere and hearty bid. The mere acknowledgment of so great a principle was a happy inauguration of his own kingship and a favourable omen for his reign. He had learnt not a little of the intrinsic value of this harmony in previous affliction of his own, in observation of how things had gone in the notorious absence of it with Saul, and partly in his own experience while he ruled over only a portion of the people. And having now gained the opportunity, he seizes it almost eagerly, he sanctifies it by an immediate practical honouring of it, and does his best not to lose early or needlessly so great and splendid an offer of Providence. Who can estimate the value of the act of a man already known as a good man, and occupying the place of a great man, when he thus sees the opportunity of advertising before a whole nation (not the individual quality of individual character, which haply might claim retirement for its perfection, best blossom in the dark and be "born to blush unseen," but) that intrinsically good and Heaven-born principle which the arbitrary disposition and the despot would have made it their first endeavour to trample underfoot and hide out of the way? The man who stamps a beneficent principle of this kind with royal approbation—with that most royal kind of approbation which belongs to exalted and wide moral influence—is one of the very chiefest of the benefactors of his kind, and honours his own nature and its Author at the same time. His deed is one of the best in kind, most multifarious in good effect, and most far-reaching in place and lime. The fashion of the selfish, the haughty, the arbitrary, is the contrary—to smother with jealous fear for themselves and their supposed influence the growth of opinion and private judgment the co-operation and the sympathy of the many, while they love their obedience best when it is the blindest.
II. THE RATIONAL WAY TAKEN TO OBTAIN THAT HARMONY. This was shown in two degrees. David is not a leveller. He knows well the principle of hierarchy, which nature itself illustrates in every direction, but nowhere more than in the gift and circumstance of man. These distinctions he does not affect to ignore or to despise. So
(1) he consults the judgment of the captains and every leader, who themselves formed a very "congregation of Israel" round about him; and
(2) tests the willinghood, or professes to do so, of the "brethren" and "the priests and Levites" "everywhere... in all the land of Israel." There is no doing even the best and most religions thing altogether over the heads of the great people themselves. The principle of proxy in religion is nobly and opportunely here dishonoured. A religions people can alone constitute a religions nation. Willinghood in religion alone adequately attests the reality of its nature. This ruler David yields of his own accord what not a few, even of enlightened, civilized, modern times, would think it a great deal to yield—the pride of commanding the pride of personal authority, the pride of bearing down any possible little difference or contrariety of opinion that might be expressed—in order to attain the end, and an end in itself supremely desirable. How often that end—the end answering exactly to that description, that it is supremely desirable—gets overlooked and suffers loss or absolute eclipse because of the eager, jealous, unlovely fray of personal, class, or priestly feeling! When we act thus we court defeat for our cause, though it be the highest; and to the great foe against whom we should show front so united we show instead the joints in our harness and armour and the weak places of ourselves. When we act thus it is not the resistlessness of the force of co-operation that we are likely to get, for it is not this that we are honestly seeking. We are seeking self first, The confidence that we do not give, or offer to give, we do not get offered in return, nor get it at all. We are poor, weak, uncertain. There is not constitution in us, nor the health and soundness of constitutionalism. Great is the gulf between that people of whatsoever sort and the ruler, the first principle of the latter of whom is that he must rule with unquestioned and inelastic command, and they obey with unquestioning and blind obedience. Nations and communities and families have, in numbers that cannot be numbered, suffered wreck irretrievable from this one cause, and yet the forcible and. innumerable warnings do not seem as yet to have secured a thorough mastery of the lesson on the part of the world. But at all events one clear, noble, loving exemplification of the very opposite is furnished to us by the prudent and sympathetic conduct of David in the narrative before us. He determines on ascertaining whether it is not possible to have the entire approval of the nation and the hearty co-operation of all. And he takes the right method to evoke these. The effect is that which has rarely failed to be the effect under any fairly analogous circumstances, that a splendid example of national and religious willinghood and harmonious consent is brought to view—a common glory of ruler and people and a universal source of instruction to the world. "All the congregation said that they would do so: for the thing was right in the eyes of all the people."
1 Chronicles 13:3-Religious resolution based on regretful memories
David certainly wishes to make a contrast, and a decided one, between the days and the administration of Saul and those of himself; for it was ripe time, both that such contrast should be made, and made patent to all the nation. Yet, as we have read what he says and does, we do not take the impression that he desires to make that contrast ostentatiously, invidiously, or with any degree of triumphant antipathy toward his predecessor. What he does desire is to make it effective and real. Indeed, though we cannot hold David responsible for the way in which things went in the days of Saul, and for the neglect and dishonour shown to the ark as well as to not a few other of the observances of religion, yet his tone falls on our ear with something of the sound of self-reproach. And although it is impossible that he could in deep earnest have held himself responsible for those things—to profess it could have amounted to mere affectation—yet for all this we observe that he now speaks as though he would voluntarily include himself in his measure amongst the number of those involved in the fault and certainly in the disastrous consequences of it. He classes himself and those whom he is exhorting in the one common number of those who, let the causes be what they might, had long lived in neglect of some of the highest exercises and privileges of their religion. May we not justly set this down again to the forgiving temper and delicate feeling and refined nobility of spirit in David, to which his treatment of Saul had already often borne witness while Saul yet lived and though he was his bitterest foe? Therefore is it that David now abstains from making any needless, any profuse references to the chief causes of the irreligion of the past reign. He does not at all enlarge upon the conduct of the arch offender, though in the necessity of things he mentions his name. Two simplest sentences tell the tale of what weighs deeply on his heart: "Let us bring again the ark of our God to us: for we inquired not at it in the days of Saul." Let us notice —
I. THE RESOLVE UPON IMMEDIATE AMENDMENT, AND THE IMMEDIATE PROCLAMATION OF IT. We cannot doubt that the mind of David was made up, that his resolution was formed. He is no sooner king of the whole people than he acknowledges the necessity of the presence and the ark of the God of the whole people. "Arise, O Lord, into thy rest, thou and the ark of thy strength:" this is his heart's earnest prayer. And he does not merely "in secret" pray, but takes the responsibility of exhortation. He does not smother his convictions, nor utter them with bated breath, nor hope others will take them up and work them out while he slumbers; but he has the courage of his convictions, and as it were in the audience of the whole people, he rouses their sense of duty and calls them to a practical, even though tardy, repentance. Clear duty is always to be honoured by prompt attention to it and by prompt summons of others to it. And it is to be observed with painful consequence that it is clear interest, clear policy, clear present gain, that too often wins this prompt attention, rather than clear duty in those very highest forms of it which the pure acts of religion involve. First then, the own prompt thought of David, and secondly, his unshrinking call to others, bespoke a genuine religion in this matter in him. He is baulked by no shamefacedness, by no timidity of such as sometimes seem to think that their religion requires apologizing for, and that they may rule it rather than be implicitly ruled by it. But David betrays the real spirit of thorough amendment, and, though the waters of repentance should need to run deep and very deep, they will safely bear a man through them.
II. THE FAITHFUL PRESENCE OF ONE OF THE GREATEST HELPS TO THE AMENDMENT OF PRACTICAL REPENTANCE, namely, a frank admission and public confession of the exact facts of the case. Nothing is a surer deterrent for a repentance that might be than an unwilling facing of the exact state of things. Nothing augurs more surely that the repentance will die off with the transitoriness of a "morning cloud" than that it be unaccompanied by an uncompromising confession, or be accompanied with but a feeble, partial confession. But the assertion now made without fear of contradiction is of the most unequivocal: "We did not inquire at it in the days of Saul." As though in our own days a man highly placed and of authority says of himself, and involves a large number of others in the assertion, while he looks them steadfastly in the face, "We were never on our knees;" "We forgot to pray;" "We lived long, perilous, anxious years without prayer." To tell myself honestly my own greatest sin, and make confession thereof to one's own soul argues two things —
(1) some of the truest courage;
(2) the likeliest, surest evidence of genuine conversion.
However that sin was to be shared, and whoever might be justly charged with being chiefly answerable for it, the nation Israel could not be brought in guilty of a greater or more suicidal sin than that of neglecting "to inquire at the ark." Well may we imagine that unmeasured pathos, sincerest self-condemnation, underlie this confession, "For we inquired not at it in the days of Saul."
III. THE ENTIRE ABSENCE OF ANY APPARENT DISPOSITION TO EXPLAIN AWAY THE SIN. No excuse is suggested, no palliation is hinted. The bare fact announced seemed as though to make each one who heard, as well as him who had spoken, hold his breath. There is no offer on the part of David to point to what, so far as fact was concerned, he might justly have pointed—the clear, bad example of Saul, and the distracted, divided, worried nation, chief thanks to Saul. Adam, as the most natural thing in the world, early in the world as he was, attempted to push his sin a step further, though to fix it on Eve; and Eve acted after an exactly similar type. But David seems now to teach how convinced, utterly, he is that no such subterfuge can be anything but the subterfuge of an hour. He seems to know well what Ezekiel declared with such unsparing directness, none should elude it, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." Were there a hundred manifest explanations, a hundred plausible excuses of the fact that Israel for a generation or for one year does "not inquire at the ark," not all these will for one moment deliver Israel from its own inevitable loss, all the worse because self-inflicted, all the more cruel because ushered in by high precedents. And let there be a sin attaching to any one of us, a favourite, a besetting sin; and let us be able to give a hundred explanations and a hundred palliations of it. These hinder our confession, but do not help our soul; they hinder our estimate of our own sin, but lessen not its malignant nature; they hinder our likely breaking free, for ever free, but do not compensate for our not being free.
IV. THE ILLUSTRATION PRESENTED OF THE DUTY OF BREAKING AWAY THE EARLIEST POSSIBLE FROM COMPLICITY WITH OTHER MEN'S SINS. Whatever was David's share in the sin and the loss of the nation that had not for so long a time "inquired at the ark," now there comes for him the time when he has to consider the position he holds with regard to the matter, no longer as a private citizen and as an individual man, but as successor to Saul, and first man in the realm. It is found by some one of the hardest things, not simply to break down their own habits, but to break through others' precedents. Any number of anomalies are condoned and are still permitted to exist because they have existed, and perhaps existed long. But the anomalies of sin against God and sin against man can never be justly condoned on this principle, come they recommended by any number, any length, any kind of precedents. In nothing, perhaps, is the force of precedents more willingly felt, more tamely succumbed to, than in matters of religion and religious significance. And it is here that they should least of all be honoured thus. "To the Law and to the testimony" must they be brought. The ark has been neglected; the Bible has been unstudied, unmeditated; the closet of prayer has been unfrequented. It has got fashionable "to forsake the assembling of ourselves together;" and it is considered wit to level gibe and sarcasm against God's great ordinance of preaching. To break through all this and subvert it, and begin afresh before the eye of man requires strong conviction, real religion, great courage. David frees himself with few enough words at the expense of his predecessor from any complicity with his career. He sees the steps that may be retraced, the evil courses that may be reformed, and the mischief that may be repaired, and he gives himself no rest till the great task is begun and concluded. With him in this matter to see is to conquer.
1 Chronicles 13:12.-A mortifying stumble sanctified.
On the threshold of his reign David desired to dean act especially right, and on the threshold it seems that he is destined to encounter in that very attempt failure and keenest disappointment. With enthusiastic faith in the ark, it is his heart's first and deepest desire to bring it again home—at least to some place more like permanence and honour. And in the bringing of it, through no apparent fault of his own, the enterprise fails, disastrously and fatally. This issue he must feel equivalent to a personal and very severe rebuff. Yet there is scarcely room to doubt that honest motive, religious feeling and principle, and an ardent faith dictated his desire and attempt. And as little room is there apparently to doubt that David reckoned on the helpful protection of Providence against whatever could be called accident, and from his heart prayed for it. The facts, however, of that day's journey and work we know; and they stand in painful contrast to what we had hoped. All the circumstances we do not know, and there may be explanations not given us which would easily mitigate our surprise and account for what happened. It may be that David did omit to give the most proper directions, and to urge the needful cautions, and to implore solemnly the Divine blessing. He may have been a little too confident of the mere act itself, a little too trustful in the good intentions of himself, and a little too uplifted because of the unanimous sentiment of all whom he had consulted. A stumble over the threshold may be very mortifying, very humbling, but no doubt it has often saved infinitely worse calamity further on. The very badness of an omen may turn confidence into care, and will work well for a cause, if it call special attention to some fact, or principle, or aspect of the whole matter liable to be overlooked or insufficiently regarded. Perhaps in the present instance, did we but know all, this might sufficiently explain all that at first looks hard on David and an ill encouragement for his pious zeal. Passing, therefore, interesting but uncertain conjecture, it is open to us to study some of the known and ascertained results of that same day and that same bitter experience of David. The passage before us proclaims plainly some of these, and proffers a leading illustration of the principle of present loss compensated by spiritual results. Notice —
I. THE BIRTH OF A DEEP RELIGIOUS FEELING OF FEAR OF GOD IN DAVID. "He was afraid of God that day." David was not like a very young man; still less was he like a very young man with little knowledge, and who had been stinted of opportunity of gaining experience. Much of this he had already accumulated, and especially of the kind that had brought lessons of God and his providence near to him. There is not a little evidence going to indicate that David had a certain predisposition to religious thought and feeling. There is a wonderful absence of indication of the contrary. His mind had largely opened to Divine manifestation, his thoughts frequently roved among the thoughts and ways of God. Dangers and actual sufferings and fears had often brought him into near converse with the kindness and watchfulness of the "chief Shepherd," of whom he knew how to speak so well. Perhaps it had never struck him (and perhaps it would have never struck us except for this incident) that there remained for him something especial to learn of God in a very different kind of direction from all before. His impressions of God were all most grateful, as well they might be. He had found God a "Sun and a Shield"—Light, Warmth, and Protection. He had found God one who "had lifted him up on high," and "had not suffered him to be cast down," nor "his foes to rejoice over him." He had been in earthly trial and persecution much, but in heavenly favour more, and in a wonderful assurance of all that gave him "boldness of access" to God. And he had not yet learned the other side—not, indeed, of the benevolent character and beneficent working of God—but the other side of himself, which might greatly need another sort of manifestation of the Divine power. Though he had often seen God's justice and his anger, and had said, "God is angry with the wicked every day," he had never felt these, nor had dreamed that he was such that the time might come that he would have to feel them, and his experience become enlarged by so much as this," My flesh trembleth for fear of thee, and I am afraid of thy judgments" (Psalms 119:120). To know a fear of God is one of. two things for the child of God. It is either to know the fear of one's own sin in honest earnest; or to catch one humbling, overwhelming sight of the contrast between the finite and erring nature of the creature man and the infinite perfection of God. As Adam first "was afraid;" as Jacob "was afraid" when he woke from that transporting dream; as Peter was afraid in the presence of the mighty Master of miracle; so was David now "afraid of God." There were slight differences of detail in each case, and differences of form, but the fundamental facts were identical, and they were two in one—a sinful creature seizing a moment's real idea of the all-holy Almighty! And this was the birth of a deep religious feeling in David which he never forgot, and which no doubt served the rest of his life many a valuable end.
II. CORRECTER AND FULLER KNOWLEDGE OF GOD, WHILE IT INTERPOSES DELAY, DOES NOT INVOLVE DESPAIR, BUT DOES ENSURE A MORE EXALTED ESTIMATE OF WHAT IT IS TO ENTERTAIN HIM. The ark, with the mercy-seat upon it and the overshadowing cherubim, symbolized the Divine presence, and was, when located in the sanctuary in its proper place, unseen except by the high priest. In it centred the reverential feeling of the people. It is exceedingly likely that something of the deep mysterious awe with which it was associated was lowered and impaired by its history, when taken by the Philistines and lost to its own People. David himself may have been among the number of those whose higher sense suffered some depreciation. He reverenced the ark and prized it; he thought it a necessity to the well-being of the nation, and ardently longed "to bring it to himself to the city of David." But something of this was form and the worship of form. Something of it was reliance on "means of grace," rather than vital dependence on the grace itself. Even David's time was too late to let this in David's own self be "winked at"—or in the self of any true Israelite. The Bible that is possessed must be intelligently used; it is not to be lowered to the place of a talisman. The God who is worshipped must be worshipped "in Spirit and in truth"—he "seeketh such to worship him." And what David had thought could be sufficiently well done in a day or two, he learns will take "three months'" preparation. During all this time his estimate of what it was to have and to entertain the Divine representation was being raised. How many a time did he speak in this wise to himself, "How shall! bring the ark of God home to me?" And the very process of thought that was going on within him, the mingled perplexity, disappointment, humiliation, all wakened by an unusual fear, were at the same time raising his estimate of the guest he fain would welcome, and fitting him to entertain that guest. In this instance fear supplied the missing link, fear held the key-stone position, fear wakened the things that "were ready to die," unsuspectedly as the danger lurked. The theology must needs be radically weak that omits the justice of God, the integrity of man; the judgment of God, the fear of man. But the correcter and fuller knowledge of the Divine nature and relationship to man, which confessedly is most adapted to waken fear, to quicken it, to keep it a steady and strong force in our life, is not that which will permanently discourage, disappoint, or occasion desponding. It will interpose delay, it will occasion heart-searching, it will promote a wholesome self-renunciation. But thereupon it is provided that, long ere despair is touched, a ransom will be found, and a triumphant entrance for the ark more prized than ever. "Mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other."
1 Chronicles 13:14.-Responsible service outvied by abounding reward.
A certain amount of obscurity hangs over the name of Obed-edom, as has been already seen. And supposing that slight amount of obscurity removed or to count for little, it remains to take note of the fact that the signification of the name Obed-edom—servant to Edom—lends some additional interest to the circumstance of the ark's entertainment for a space of three months at his house. It reminds one of some two or three occasions in the time of our Saviour and in the first history of the apostles, when those who did not bear the name of Israel did seem to do works better than those of Israel, and to carry a truer heart within them, and received a signal and gracious reward. But on whatever occasion and in whatever way he or the family of which he came became possessed of the name, there is little doubt that this Obed-edom was a Levite, of the Kohathite family. And as his house would appear to have been near the scene of the judgment that befell Uzza, while the ark was now on its way from the house of Abinadab, the Levite of Kirjath-jearim, it the rather invited David to place it there awhile under his care. David is now the victim of panic. Whether the panic were more the offspring of good or bad quality, and had in it preponderance of good element or otherwise, certain it is that it lost David for three months the possession of the ark, where he would fain have it. Again he must have lived on mercy, and had to rest his hope again on this—that the will be taken for the deed. It was a shadow of how it would be later on with the building of the glorious temple. But equally certain was another thing—that what David lost of honour, privilege) reward, another obtained: "The ark of God remained with the family of Obed-edom in his house three months. And the Lord blessed the house of Obed-edom, and all that he had." We have here a kind of leading instance of responsible trust transferred; lost by one it is gained by another, it is worthily fulfilled, it is bountifully rewarded. Notice —
I. THE ARDUOUS TRUST OF THE FIRST MAN IN THE KINGDOM' HAS COME BY CIRCUMSTANCES, WHATEVER THEY MAY BE, TO BE FORFEITED, EITHER TEMPORARILY .OR ALTOGETHER, TO ONE OF THE HUMBLEST. Very much of human life and circumstance often seems to go by chance, often seems to be moss arbitrary, often seems to those who most implicitly strive to believe in providence very unlike the work of an all-wise and beneficent providence. But sometimes we seem more able to get a clue which helps to strengthen, refresh, renew an implicit faith. The mere glimpse of such an explanation does at the same time rebuke our former doubt and failing faith. Have we not help here also? All David's position, all his holy enthusiasm, all his good intention, do not suffice, it appears, to compensate the absence of some certain, real, moral quality. David had much of the noble, the brave, the forgiving, the generous, about him. But more than once he lets himself down for the want of a calm, unsparing faithfulness with himself. And for want of this, one of the grandest prizes, one of the greatest opportunities, now slips from his fingers. One of the strongest forms of human weakness will be found to consist in want of continuity of moral effort. One of the great victorious forces, despite of all human weakness, will be found in the reverse of this—"patient continuance," undespairing tenacity, the importunity which enlists time on its side. This present in one who seems to have no outer advantage of position or grace or other gift will avail more than a score of other gifts of fortune and gifts of character, if this be absent or inconspicuous. Surprising dash is in the long run conquered, for it is exactly for every matter of long run that dash has little persuasion. The lowliest humility of person, place, character, which has power to wait, to endure, to continue, has a career before it which, without one ambitious endeavour or thought, gets borne on irresistibly to the highest goal. But the other style may break down irremediably in a moment. We should not need always to wonder so much when "the mighty are put down from their seats and they of low degree are exalted," if we would just see that the reverse that thus happens is emphatically not that of chance or reckless caprice, but a result of that which God most regards, the presence of some deep-lying, significant moral quality, or the want of it. The unnoticed working of this truth is not equivalent to any uncertainty in the working of it. And the invisible working of it, even when most invisible to man, is no stealthy indication of the indefensibleness of it when God should once arise to reveal and vindicate all. And he it is who is Arbiter of providence. Meantime mankind is ever being offered openly enough its own lesson.
II. A TRUST OF THE HIGHEST RELIGIOUS CHARACTER AT HOME IN LOWLY LODGING. The history of real greatness, of genuine goodness, and emphatically of God's Church, is a continuous illustration of this very thing. The palace has seldom enough been, either of human endeavour or Divine decree, the nursery of the only real thing fit to be called greatness. Abundant privilege, knowledge, opportunity, have not been the seed-bed of signal and bright displays of goodness. The places where these grow are not here. Nay, these two things may be said—that it is impossible to calculate or to foresee where they will be found; and that it is the least correct account of them to say that they "grow." They at all events "are born." "The Spirit bloweth where it listeth," and we ofttimes are startled to hear the sound of it, and are envious that the pinion is heard so fleet and so strong as it passes our own ear or our own abode in order to light upon the head or the roof of some very humble neighbour. No lodging was too humble for Jesus from birth to death, from stable and manger to that cross upon which he "had not where to lay his head." And the nearest approaches to the Godlike visitation in heart and home of man have been in the humble heart, the lowly home, the meek spirit, the Church that "the world knoweth not." Whoever this Obed-edom was, up to this time his name was not inscribed on any roll of fame. And had it not been for his being ready to entertain that ark without the self-depreciation of Moses when he wanted to evade responsibility; without the panic of David when he thought of his own safety rather than of the honour and safe housing of that very ark; without the unmannerly prayer of the stricken Peter, "Depart from me," when he feared his Saviour more than his sin,—his name would never have been where it finds now its chiefest glory, nor his home one of the veritable oases of the world's desert.
Verily the ark of God, the presence of God, the secret of God, the Spirit of God, the Church of God, are all of and with the humble and ungrasping and unexpectant heart. That kind of heart God surprises and makes it his home.
III. HIGH RELIGIOUS TRUST FAITHFULLY MET AND FULFILLED BRINGS FULLEST, RICHEST BLESSING. It is well to note the great stress laid upon the shower of blessing that descended upon the house of Obed-edom and himself, "and all that he had." It were well if it were not too much considered old-fashioned to think, to say, heartily to believe, that God's blessing does go with hospitality shown to his servants, liberality shown to his Church, honour shown to his Word. The history before us tells us the old-day fact plainly. It is not obsolete as a principle. Let the conditions be seen again, and the results will be seen again. If, indeed, a man give wealth and render honour, hoping to receive for it in another way what he would regard as a very ample equivalent, this should earn for itself but the name of another form of simony, and evoke again the just anathema, "Thy money perish with thee… thou hast neither part nor lot in the matter… thy heart is not right in the sight of God." Therefore we cannot say, and would not say, "Let the experiment be but tried, and await with confidence the result." For so soon as ever it be regarded as experiment, and take the least semblance of any of the shapes of calculation, the Spirit has gone—the greater Spirit has sped his flight far enough distant. But when this thing genuinely appears in heart or home, and honour is first shown to God, service first shown to Christ, and the ear listens first of all sounds for the whisper of the Spirit Ñ then three months' sojourn of all Divine token is none too much condescension for the majesty of Heaven to deign, and perennial blessing upon the family, the business, and all unto which the hand may be set, none too great bounty for the Giver of all to bestow. That house is full of fragrance; the perfume spreads grateful abroad. More and still more of gift is not graspingly, selfishly, anxiously sought. It comes, and the earth yields her prophetic full increase. Little enough is said of what reverence, what care, what holy fear, Obed-edom and family showed the ark. These are to be supposed. But enough is said of how well God pays his faithful steward.
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
1 Chronicles 13:1-3.-Revival of religion.
The resolve to fetch back the ark of God was a sign of reviving interest in religion, of a more lively desire for the Divine favour, and of a deeper sense of the importance of observing religious ordinances. As the symbol of the Divine presence, as the depository of mementos and pledges of Jehovah's authority and mercy, the ark was held sacred by the Hebrew people. Its proper position was in the most holy place of the tabernacle. It was justly felt to be a national calamity when the ark was taken by the Philistines in battle. That it was allowed to remain after its restoration at Kirjath-jearim for seventy years was culpable negligence, which was significant of religious indifference. The newly elected king was acting rightly as the human head of the theocratic kingdom in advising that the almost forgotten ark should be brought up with joyful solemnities to Jerusalem. His resolution, supported by the sympathy and cooperation of the people, was indicative of a revival of religion. The incident suggests several highly important lessons.
I. NATIONAL IRRELIGION ENTAILS NATIONAL CALAMITIES. It is always unjustifiable to attribute specified individual instances of calamity to the intentional interposition of a retributive Providence. At the same time, the world is under a righteous Ruler, and communities as well as individuals are subject to his sway. National vices and crimes have unquestionably a tendency to produce national troubles and disasters. Sin cannot go unpunished; a nation suffers when a nation errs.
II. REPENTANCE IS A NATIONAL DUTY. If a people in its corporate capacity can err, why can it not in the same capacity repent? David reminded the chiefs that, as a people, Israel had not inquired at the ark in the days of Saul. Thus he quickened the conscience of the community. Insensibility to sin is of all sins the worst. To recognize and confess, to mourn and to forsake sin, is the indispensable condition of acceptance and of reformation. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful," etc.
III. IN A GREAT MORAL CRISIS IT BECOMES THE REPRESENTATIVES OF A NATION TO CONSULT WITH A VIEW TO UNITED REVIVAL. David consulted every leader and referred the matter to all the congregation. In a theocracy, no doubt, action was possible which would be impracticable in a nation where great diversity of opinion and practice prevails. But how obviously appropriate is it that religious societies and their leaders—the devout, the wise, the experienced—should take counsel with a view to religious revival and reform!
IV. GENERAL COUNSELS OF REFORMATION SHOULD ISSUE IN PRACTICAL ACTION, The people were not brought together merely to "talk over" the existing state of things. They were summoned under the king's leadership to act, and they did act. (What are called "resolutions" at religious meetings are often misnamed; it is sometimes the case that those who pass them never dream of exerting themselves to carry them into effect.) If religion is to be revived and the land to be purged of iniquity, if the favour of God is to be recovered and the honour of God to be sought, it must be by united effort and action. Each godly person must ask, "What can I do towards such an end?" True acknowledgment of God is not merely verbal, it is practical. When all the people, repenting of sin, turn unto the Lord, he too will turn them again unto himself, and they shall be saved.—T.
Verse. 4.-Politics and morals.
David no sooner set before the people their duty with regard to the ark than they immediately resolved to act in accordance with his counsel. The chronicler explains why they did so; he tells us, in language remarkably dignified and simple: "For the thing was right in the eyes of all the people."
I. A NATION SOMETIMES NEGLECTS TO DO WHAT IS RIGHT THROUGH INATTENTION. The ark seems to have been overlooked during the years it remained at Kirjath-jearim: "We inquired not at it in the days of Saul." It is singular that nations sometimes connive at great national sins, that national conscience seems to slumber. How otherwise can we account for the prevalence of war, of slavery, of cruelty to prisoners, and other evils, which have disgraced civil and Christian communities?
II. IT IS A HAPPY THING WHEN THE QUESTION IS PUT TO A NATION—WHAT IS RIGHT? It is too common to ask the people—What is customary and in accordance with precedents? What is expedient? What will contribute to national fame? But nations as well as individuals are under the government of a righteous moral Ruler and King. And there is one question which those who would elevate and guide a nation should ever raise—What is right?
III. THE NATIONAL CONSCIENCE SOMETIMES CORDIALLY RESPONDS TO THE REVELATION OF RIGHT. Let not the multitude be flattered; they are prone to bow before the furious gust of passion; yet, when the impulse of prejudice or anger is past, they are capable of proving themselves amenable to higher motives. Great acts of justice and self-sacrifice have, in such cases, been performed by a morally awakened society. If "the thing be fight in the eyes of all the people," then there may be witnessed magnificent displays of heroism and unselfishness. Then is the adage true, Vox populi vox Dei.
IV. NATIONAL CONSCIENCE ONLY FULFILS ITS PART WHEN IT LEADS TO NATIONAL ACTION. "All the congregation said that they would do so." Feeling must lead to corresponding achievement, or it is mere worthless sentimentality. A people's protest is good, but a people's action is better still.
1. Let those who would forward a great movement appeal to the people at large, and seek to enlist the national judgment and conscience on their side.
2. Let nations that would enjoy the Divine favour seek it by doing the Divine will, by pursuing "the thing that right is."—T.
1 Chronicles 13:8.-Holy mirth.
To some minds the two ideas, holiness and mirth, do not seem to harmonize. Whether because goodness is sometimes associated with austerity, and religious observances with dulness, or because mirth is sometimes associated with sensual indulgence and profanity; the fact is that to many minds there appears a mutual repugnance between the two.
I. WE HAVE HERE A SUITABLE AND INSPIRITING OCCASION OF HOLY MIRTH. General rejoicing should not take place only when temporal deliverances or material prosperity have been experienced. When God shows his mercy towards a people, in conferring upon them spiritual privileges, then should they show forth his praise, and make a joyful noise unto the Lord.
II. THE UNION OF ALL CLASSES IN HOLY MIRTH. King, priests, and people rejoiced together, and if all orders and ranks are alike indebted to God's goodness, all should alike join in his service and praise. Widespread is the beneficence of the heavenly Father; let all the children give thanks, and be joyful before the Lord the King.
III. HOLY MIRTH FINDS AN APPROPRIATE EXPRESSION IN CONJOINED AND CORDIAL SERVICES OF MUSIC AND SONG. Such utterance of mirth is natural, is in accordance with the constitution God our Maker has given us. It is scriptural, for both under the old covenant and the new, vocal praise was practised by the saints of God. It is acceptable: "With such sacrifices God is well pleased." It is an anticipation of heaven, where the praises of the redeeming God are universal and perpetual.
1. Discourage a severe, morose piety.
2. Let songs of rejoicing abound in Christian homes and Churches.
3. Let the young be trained to associate happiness with religion—to take pleasure in "the service of song in the house of the Lord."—T.
1 Chronicles 13:10.-Severity of judgment.
To understand this narrative it is necessary to bear in mind the character of the older dispensation. It was an economy in which persons, things, and places were set apart as holy, doubtless in order to instil into the minds of the people ideas of spiritual purity and consecration. The ark was a holy thing, in a sense in which nothing material is holy under the Christian dispensation. But there are principles which underlie these ceremonial appointments and provisions, which are deserving of our serious and discriminating attention.
I. THE HISTORICAL INCIDENT. The chronicler here relates:
1. A serious offence. When Uzza put forth his hand and touched the ark, though he did so only for the security of the sacred chest, he incurred the Divine displeasure. His act was one of officiousness; it was not his business to interfere with the apparatus of Divine worship. He was guilty of irreverence; for he showed that he did not stand in awe of the symbol of the Divine presence. And we may discern even profanity in his conduct; it was only for the chosen tribe to minister in connection with the sanctuary and what it contained, and although the ark was in transit to its resting-place, its safe conduct should have been left to the Levites.
2. A severe punishment. "The Lord smote him… there he died before God." The penalty seems at first view disproportionate. Yet it was both what might have been anticipated and what was necessary to produce a wholesome impression. That it did produce awe and trembling there can be no question. The severe judgment tempered the national rejoicing and even altered the purpose of the king as to the residence of the ark of the Lord.
II. THE MORAL LESSON. AS we read this narrative we are impressed with the general lesson of:
1. God's displeasure with disobedience. The Scriptures are full of lessons illustrating this principle; they begin on its first page and continue to its last. There is a more special lesson, viz.:
2. That unspiritual men should not meddle with spiritual things. In Christian Churches it is of the highest importance that men actuated by carnal and worldly motives should not be allowed to intrude and to influence their affairs. Let those be clean who bear the vessels of the Lord. The profane cannot with impunity discharge sacred functions.
LESSON1 Chronicles S.
1. Let God and all that is his be regarded with reverence.
2. Let sinners spared by Divine mercy adore the forbearance and loving-kindness of the Lord, and "seek him whilst he may be found, and call upon him whilst he is near."—T.
1 Chronicles 13:14.-Household blessing.
"Prosperity," says Lord Bacon, "is the blessing of the old covenant, adversity of the new." Certainly Old Testament Scripture abounds in instances of temporal abundance, fertility, and happiness, represented as proofs of the favour of the Most High. In the text Obed-edom is recorded to have received the ark into his house, and with it to have received an abundant blessing upon himself and upon all that pertained to him.
I. THE GROUND OF BLESSING. Apparently this was, in the case before us, a regard for what was God's. But this was doubtless an expression of regard for God himself. The Divine Searcher of hearts and Judge of all sanctions this principle; and although we can give nothing, save our hearts, to God, we can give to his people much that is acceptable to him. Our Lord Jesus often puts this motive before his disciples. What we do we are to do for his sake; and what we do to his people we are deemed to do for him. Still, as in the olden days, God honours those that honour him.
II. THE SIGNS AND TOKENS OF BLESSING. Whom God blesses he blesses in them-selves—in their own persons. He enriches them with spiritual knowledge; he reveals to them his favour; he fits them for his service. He bestows upon them relative blessings. As God blessed the house of Obed-edom, so there is no more delightful way in which he reveals his favour to his people than by visiting in mercy those most dear to them—encompassing them with the protection of his providence, and bringing them to a knowledge of his grace and love. He blesses them in their possessions; sometimes, according to the Hebrew saying, "in their basket and their store," but always by granting them grace to make a sanctified use of all they have. Let all unite in the prayer, "God be merciful unto us, and bless us, and cause his face to shine upon us!"—T.
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
1 Chronicles 13:1-6.-Piety and policy.
As King of Israel, David made an excellent beginning; he commenced his reign by an act in which piety and policy were happily united. His action was:
1. Indicative of the piety which was characteristic of him. We who know David so well from his psalms, as well as from the Biblical history of his life, are not surprised that, when anointed king over all Israel, his first thoughts were directed to the service of God. With many monarchs this would have been the last consideration. But it was deepest and uppermost with David. He felt, and most truly, that he owed his elevation to the distinguishing goodness of Jehovah, and when he had reached the height of his ambition he was not going to forget the hand that had lifted him up. Piety was a vein that ran straight through the life, because right through the character of the king.
2. Politic in all particulars. He acted:
(1) With sound constitutionalism. Instead of deciding and decreeing absolutely, he "consulted," etc; he "said unto all the congregation of Israel," etc. (1 Chronicles 13:1, 1 Chronicles 13:2). This was "the manner of the kingdom" (see Judges 20:7; 1 Kings 12:6; 2 Chronicles 20:21). It was an act likely to impress the nation very favourably.
(2) With consideration toward the sacred tribe. "Let us send… to the priests and Levites," etc. They would naturally expect that special reference would be made to them, and they would be gratified by the royal attention.
(3) With regard to the general wishes of the people. All that could come to such a ceremony would like to be present; all were to be invited: "Our brethren everywhere" were to gather together (1 Chronicles 13:2); "David gathered all Israel together" (1 Chronicles 13:5).
(4) With tenderness toward the fallen house. He did not reproach Saul with the neglect with which he might have been justly charged; he gracefully included himself in whatever condemnation was implied: "For we inquired not at it in the days of Saul" (1 Chronicles 13:3).
(5) Reserving one point which must be final and supreme. Their wishes were consulted and should be carried out, but subject to one condition—the approval of God himself: "And that it be of the Lord our God."
(6) With personal participation and co-operation. He did not send up and fetch the ark; he "went up, and all Israel" with him (1 Chronicles 13:6).
I. POLICY WITHOUT PIETY IS A POOR AND VAIN THING. It seems clever or even brilliant to those who imitate and practise it; but it is contemned of God, disregarded by the wise and good, and certain to come to an ignominious end. It works in the ground, and then sports in the sun for its little hour, and then it falls utterly to pieces and cannot be lifted up again.
II. PIETY WITHOUT POLICY IS A DEFECTIVE THING. A reverent spirit and a pious purpose are admirable things, but if they are dissociated from discretion, and proceed on their way without regard to the claims, wants, and wishes of men, they will commonly, if not always, fail to secure the object they have in view.
III. PIETY AND POLICY TOGETHER ARE A BENIGNANT POWER. Let good men be prudent as well as reverent, discreet and considerate as well as godly and zealous; let the cause of God be championed and conducted by those who have a knowledge of "what is in man" and what are the conditions under which they work in harmony, and then will the goal be reached and the prize be won.—C.
1 Chronicles 13:7-13.-The imperfections of human service.
We cannot read this story of the first attempt to bring the ark to the capital without being impressed, if not depressed, with a sense of the weakness and imperfection characterizing our human service. We learn —
I. THAT A SLIGHT DEPARTURE FROM THE DIVINE WILL MAY LEAD TO SERIOUS CONSEQUENCES. David, in a moment of thoughtlessness or presumption, decreed that the ark of God should be "made to ride" "in a new cart." This was not the way prescribed in "the Book of the Law of the Lord" (see Numbers 4:15). This irregularity led to the act of Uzza (1 Chronicles 13:9), and this to the stroke of Divine wrath which so sadly and seriously interrupted the day's proceedings (1 Chronicles 13:10-13). We are not now called upon to conform our ritual to any prescribed order. The commandment of Christ does not go into the details of outward observance. But it is nevertheless true that any actual departure from his will, though it may seem to be but slight, may lead on and down to a most serious breach. This may apply to his revealed will in regard to
(1) the temper and spirit we should cherish,
(2) the attitude we should assume,
(3) the relations we should enter upon, in our various spheres.
II. THAT IT IS A MATTER OF GREAT MOMENT TO KNOW OUR PLACE IN THE SPHERE OF THE SACRED, AND TO KEEP IT. Uzza was not entitled to lay his hand on the ark of God; he exceeded his right; he intruded into a position for which he was not qualified, and he paid for his presumption the last penalty of sudden death at the hand of God. Those who now attempt a work for which God did not design them and to which Christ does not summon them, whether that of the Christian ministry, of missions, or any other sacred calling, will find that they have committed themselves to duties and responsibilities, the faulty and (perhaps) mechanical, the uncongenial and therefore unspiritual discharge of which will redound to their own serious if not mortal injury. We must take care to keep within the sphere for which our Lord designed us, in the realm of the sacred as well as the secular.
III. THAT OUR BRIGHT AND HOLY JOYS MAY BE MOST UNEXPECTEDLY DASHED. The eighth verse gives us a picture of a company of men in the full enjoyment of sacred pleasure; they were exulting before God in the act of service they were rendering. Sacred joy had reached its very summit, and in the very midst of it, without a moment's interval of preparation, there occurred the transgression and the punishment. Song was turned into lamentation, dancing into weeping, gladness into perplexity and sorrow, day into night. So may it be with us at any hour in this lower earthly sphere. We cannot reckon on the continuance of any present good. Even our joy in God, our delight in his service, may suffer sudden and sad eclipse, and our noon of devout exultation descend at once into the midnight of discomfiture and grief.
IV. THAT GOOD MEN MAY BE MUCH PERPLEXED AT DIVINE DISPOSALS. We read that David was "displeased" (1 Chronicles 13:11), and also that he was "afraid" (1 Chronicles 13:12). We also often find ourselves both perplexed and alarmed at the dealings of God with us. God's way is often "in the sea, his path in the great waters, and his footsteps are not known." He is sometimes "terrible in his doings toward the children of men." Why he lets the assassin do his deadly work so well, the storm wreck the vessel which is carrying missionaries to their post, the father of the family catch the fatal fever, the irreplaceable minister perish in the railway accident, etc; we do not know and cannot think. Our hearts are saddened, perplexed, troubled, awed. Let us feel that we are but very little children trying to understand a Divine Father, whose wisdom and love must be unfathomably deep, must go down far lower than our poor plummet will sound. "Blessed are they who do not see, and yet believe." We "walk by faith, not by sight."—C.
1 Chronicles 13:13, 1 Chronicles 13:14.-Superstitious error and religious truth.
We must take care to read these verses intelligently, or we may misread them altogether. It is possible to draw from them a conclusion which is not in accordance with the mind of God. There is —
I. A SUPERSTITIOUS ERROR AGAINST WHICH TO GUARD. It would be a great mistake to suppose that the mere fact of the presence of the ark in the house ensured prosperity; or that, similarly, the mere presence of sacred rites or persons will now command the favouring regard of God. That there was something more than this in the case of Obed-edom is proved by the facts:
1. That the presence of the ark in the midst of the Philistines proved to be disastrous (1 Samuel 5:1-12).
2. That the presence of the ark in the camp of the Israelites proved to be fruitless of help (1 Samuel 4:1-22.).
3. That the ark was nothing more in itself than a box of wood, and, apart from God's determination to bless, could not possibly effect anything at all.
4. That to trust in a thing manufactured of man and not in the living God himself would partake of the idolatrous (see 2 Kings 18:4). If we cherish the idea that, because we are connected by blood (or in any other way) with sacred persons, or that because we have much to do officially with sacred things, with the utterance of sacred words, or the performance of sacred rites, or the care of sacred buildings, therefore it will be well with us in the books of heaven, we are only harbouring a fiction, we are leaning on a brittle reed, we are building the house of our hope upon the sand.
II. THE RELIGIOUS TRUTH TO BE RECEIVED AND WELCOMED. God blessed the house of Obed-edom because he cheerfully and reverently made room for the sacred chest. His act was one of simple piety, rendered in an hour of need and offered devoutly, intelligently unto God; therefore God "blessed the house of Obed-edom, and all that he had." It was the mark of God's approval of a service rightly and worthily rendered. The truth for us to gather is that God's abidingfavour is the one sure source of blessedness. If God be "with us," i.e. for us, on our side, who or what can be against us? "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." Those who, in constructing their life, leave God's favour out of the account, make a fundamental and fatal error. Those who go on the principle that his Divine favour will secure true prosperity are proceeding along the lilies of truth. Let every man be discontented and disturbed in soul until he has first made sure of the abiding approval of the Most High. Till then it will be wrong with him and with all that he has; when that is gained, all is well with him and his. But how is this approval to be secured?
1. By doing the one thing which God demands of all his children now. This, first of all and most of all, is the work or the will of God, that we "believe on the Name of his Son Jesus Christ," etc. (see John 6:29; 1 John 3:23). The acceptance of Christ as our personal Saviour and Lord is the way to secure the abiding favour of the Father of all. Having thus gained his Divine regard, we must continue therein.
2. By striving to be and to do all those things in all our relations which are pleasing in his sight (see Philippians 4:8; Colossians 3:17, Colossians 3:23). Among many other ways of pleasing Christ, we may win his approving smile in the particular way suggested in the text.
3. By showing special attention to that with which, and to those with whom, he is specially connected—his house and his disciples.—C.
HOMILIES BY F. WHITFIELD
1 Chronicles 13:1-8.-David and the ark.
Now that David had been anointed king over Israel, his first act was to think of the ark. During the reign of Saul it had been utterly neglected, and the people had become careless about the ordinances of Divine worship. This was the thought ever uppermost in David's heart. The ark, the outward symbol of the Divine presence, was everything to him. He could not live outside the sunshine of God's favour. To him God was everything, and without him there was nothing. What to him was all the popularity, the loyalty of those who rallied round him to proclaim him king, the devotion of the many thousands of Israel, if the Lord was not with him, the Centre and Source of all? Nothing. We see what David's estimate of God's presence was by the praises which he and all Israel offered on the occasion of bringing up the ark (1 Chronicles 13:8). What had been of old a terror to the Philistines (see 1 Samuel 6:1-21.) was the highest joy to the people of God. It is so always. God's presence is to God's people their highest joy. To those who are out of Christ what can it be but terror? Notice, again, how David adds to "if it seem good unto you" the words "and it be of the Lord our God." A true Christian will never, in any question, leave out the latter words. They must ever qualify all that precedes.—W.
1 Chronicles 13:7, 1 Chronicles 13:9-12.-Uzza and the ark.
Since the ark was last heard of it had been in Baalah, or Kirjath-jearim. For upwards of fifty years, since it had been in the hands of the Philistines, it had been in the house of Abinadab of Gibeah, under the charge of his two sons, Uzza and Ahio, who were Levites, and who had been consecrated for the office. For the purpose of removing the ark to Jerusalem it was set upon a new cart, he was instantly smitten of God, and "there he died by the ark" (2 Samuel 7:7), "before God" (1 Chronicles 13:10). David was grieved at this, and, instead of proceeding further and carrying the ark as he had intended to Jerusalem, he left it in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite, where it remained three months (1 Chronicles 13:14). The setting of the ark on a cart was a hasty and inconsiderate procedure, in direct violation of the command of God (see Numbers 4:14, Numbers 4:15; Numbers 7:9; Numbers 18:3). Setting it upon a cart instead of having it carried upon the shoulders may seem to be a very small mistake. Touching it against an express command may seem to admit of extenuation, especially as it seemed to be falling. To the eye of man the fault, under such circumstances, may seem only to require a mitigated punishment. But it is not so with God. The entire act betrayed a forgetfulness of the majesty and holiness of Jehovah's presence. It was also a departure from the Word. Such departures from the Word, to us who are accustomed to estimate evil by quantity and degree rather than by principle, may seem light things; but God looks at the motive, the principle, the underlying spirit.—W.
1 Chronicles 13:13, 1 Chronicles 13:14.-The ark in the house of Obed-edom.
The ark was in the house of Obed-edom three months, and "the Lord blessed the house of Obed-edom, and all that he had." Why was this? Obed-edom was a Levite. He had been prepared of God to minister before it. None but a prepared heart can enjoy Christ. The ark was at home with Obed-edom, and he with it. So it is always with Christ and his people. But God not only blessed Obed-edom and his family; the significant words are added, "and all that he had." Everything went right with Obed-edom, in his house, his family, his duties, his joys, and his sorrows, because the ark was there. What a lesson! Reader, why do things not go right with you? Because Christ has not his right place in your heart, in your affections, in your home, in your duties, and in all you have. Let Christ be in all, and then it cannot but be with you as it was with Obed-edom, "the Lord blessed his house, and all that he had."—W.
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
1 Chronicles 13:1-3, 1 Chronicles 13:4.-Unity in religious enterprises.
The ark was the national religious symbol. Its return, was a matter of interest to the whole nation. So David made a very earnest effort to unite the whole nation in the work of its restoration. It was but a little thing that David, as the king, should order the ark to be fetched. It was a great mark of respect and honour shown to Jehovah that the whole nation should rise, as one man, and show its care of the Divine symbol. Religion has its private spheres. It is strictly an individual and personal thing. Men cannot be saved in masses; the regenerating grace of God only reaches them one by one. But while we see this with the utmost distinctness, we must also admit that religion has its public spheres, and that these are properly a care and anxiety to all sincere and earnest men. We are not to "forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is." Our Lord gave us his own example of reverent sharing in public worship. With much suggestiveness the evangelist says, "Jesus, as his custom was, went into the synagogue" (Luke 4:16). The apostles afford the example of sharing together in worship and work. And the best men in every age have fully recognized both the duty and the moral value of public religion. It has been left to our times of luxurious self-indulgence to find excuses for half-day attendance at the sanctuaries, which too often grows into entire neglect of all public means of grace. Bishop Wordsworth notices, in 1 Chronicles 13:3, that "David, in his charitable spirit towards the memory of the departed king, does not say that Saul, being possessed by an evil spirit, became indifferent and careless to religion, and was given over to a reprobate mind; but he speaks in general terms, and takes a share of the blame to himself: 'We troubled ourselves little about the ark in the days of Saul.' Here is a happy example of mildness and charity, joined with piety and zeal."
I. THE MORAL VALUE OF UNITY IN RELIGIOUS ENTERPRISE AND WORSHIP. The complete circle of human culture cannot be reached and covered by a purely private religious life. This is fully illustrated in the case of hermits, nuns, and monks, who have isolated themselves from their fellows for purposes of personal soul-culture. But the results have never been the harmonious development of the whole nature. Some sides have been unduly cultured, others have been neglected. In our commoner life private culture can no better suffice. The side of feding becomes unhealthily exaggerated. Certain necessary things in the religious life are only nourished by united and public acts of devotion and worship. We only notice a few of the chief influences for good exerted by such scenes.
1. They check the self-centering, introspective habit, the undue attention to feeling.
2. They take us out of ourselves by presenting to thought matters of common rather than individual interest.
3. They sway us to higher ranges of feeling than we could otherwise reach.
4. They culture reverence, and so counteract the tendency of private devotion to nourish undue familiarity with God.
5. And they provide peculiar help for those who, being weak in piety, are very dependent on sympathy.
II. THE POWER THAT MAY BE GIVEN TO ONE MAN TO SECURE SUCH UNITY IN ENTERPRISE AND WORSHIP. Illustrated in David. So, now, a man may give the initiative, as has been again and again illustrated in modern missions. Especially note Hudson Taylor's starting of itinerant work in China. A man may give a leading example. A man may use effort to secure efficiency and attractiveness in worship. Illustrate from reformers of modern services—those who have improved Church singing, etc. Impress how superior a force the Church has and wields to that exerted, in Christian work, by any number of private individuals.—R.T.
1 Chronicles 13:8.-The joy of religion.
The natural and fitting expression of the kingly and national gladness in the restoration of the sacred ark was, "Playing before God with all their might, and with singing, and with harps, and with psalteries, and with timbrels, and with cymbals, and with trumpets." The three kinds of musical instruments are here indicated—those producing sound by wind, by the vibration of strings, and by the clanging together of metals. For a picturesque realization of the scene brought before us in this verse, see Stanley's 'Jewish Church,' vol. 2:74-76. The mission of music and song is to find expression for man's gladness and joy. It is as natural to sing as to laugh. Man has wonderfully developed the faculties of music and song, and now it is one of our chief modes of expressing human emotions, and of relieving them by expression. It is as truly one of the great forces for exciting and stirring emotion, as is well shown when it is necessary to raise the martial spirit of a nation. Dr. Horace Bushnell has a very striking paper on 'Religious Music,' in his volume 'Work and Play,' in which he opens out and illustrates these two points: "The very wonderful fact that God has hidden powers of music in things without life; and that when they are used, in right distinctions or properties of sound, they discourse what we know—what meets, interprets, and works our feeling, as living and spiritual creatures." "How carefully this (musical) part of the worship was ordered in the temple service of Israel is known to every reader of the ancient Scriptures; how exactly also the chorus of singers and of players on instruments were arranged, one to answer to another in the deep wail of grief or penitence, the soft response of love, the lively sweep of festive gladness, or all to flow together in choral multitudes of praise, that might even shake the rock of Zion itself." "And if any one wishes to know what power there may be in music, as an instrument of reliction, let him ask what effect the songs of this one singer (David) have had, melted into men's hearts, age after age, by music, and made in that manner to be their consecrated and customary expressions of worship."
I. THE REASONABLENESS OF JOY IN RELIGION. We feel the reasonableness of the songs and joy of Israel when redeemed from Egyptian bondage and delivered from their raging foes. Much more is joy and song right and natural as our response for redemption from penalty, and deliverance from evil. It can only be a distorted religion that fits with melancholy. "The joy of the Lord is our strength;" and with "joy we draw water from the wells of salvation." Illustrate from the Old Testament point of view: David and the prophets give high examples. Illustrate from the New Testament point of view: apostles tell us if we "are merry, we should sing psalms;" "Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs." Modern religious life makes music and song essential features, and these do much towards preserving a healthy tone in our piety. This may be applied to private devotion; it is greatly aided by hymn and song. It is the most attractive feature of public worship.
II. THE HELPFULNESS OF SONG IN EXPRESSING RELIGIOUS JOY. What could David have done else, or so well, in uttering his over-charged feelings? Music at once soothes and gives adequate expression. A man can put his very heart into a song, and ease and quiet his intense emotions by so doing. Estimate the influence of song: it
(3) aids feeling;
Illustrate by the incidents and influences connected with Paul Gerhardt s hymns. Then we should fully recognize the importance of the gifts of song and music which have been granted to the Church, and see that these are duly consecrated and cultivated. Religious joy cannot be always maintained, and yet true hearts may even find "songs in the night" and in the prison.—R.T.
1 Chronicles 13:9, 1 Chronicles 13:10.-Warnings against irreverence.
The incident here recalled to mind is one full of difficulties. Uzza seems to have been struck dead for what was, in intention, an act of consideration and care for She safety of the ark. To human view his sin does not readily appear, and some explanations are necessary in making it clear. Uzza's death was not, mainly, a judgment on Uzza, but a lesson, taught in a very solemn manner, to David and the people. They had not been associated with the ark for a long time, and so may have lost some of the due solemnity of feeling concerning it. By the Mosaic rules, the ark was on no account to be touched by human hands. It would not have needed any steadying if, in obedience to the Law, it had been carried by poles on the priests' shoulders. So God permitted this one man's death to teach the solemn lesson of reverence. The sin was really David's in neglecting the due order and regulations, but it pleased God that he should receive his warning through the suffering of another. One tradition says that Uzza was struck by a lightning flash; another represents his death as occasioned by the withering of his hand and arm. "We cannot fully explain this judgment from the side of Uzza. We must add that man, in life and in death, may be used by God to teach his lessons and accomplish his work; and Uzza, in his sudden death, was God's appeal to a king (and to a nation) who had forgotten his holy Law, and were 'following the devices and desires of their own hearts.' That which was a judgment to Uzza was a merciful call to repentance and right-heartedness given to king and people."
I. ATTENTION TO FORMS MAY EXPRESS REVERENCE. Illustrate by the way in which kneeling aids in securing the spirit of prayer. Herein lies the importance of care in arranging the externals, the ceremonials, of Christian worship. The associations of God's house should both secure and cultivate a due and becoming reverence.
II. THE NEGLECT OF FORMS MAY TEND TO NOURISH IRREVERENCE. Some pride themselves on freedom from forms. But while it is quite conceivable that overdone forms may crush out spiritual life and feeling, it is even more likely that a despising of religious forms may lead to undue familiarity with God's Name, and sanctuary, and worship, and sacraments. If to some it may seem that undue attention to ritual is replacing a true reverence by a mere formalism, to others it appears that the age is singularly and perilously irreverent, and sorely needs again the warning of Uzza's death.
III. THAT WHICH IS DONE FOR GOD MUST BE DONE IN GOD'S WAY. A lesson which every age and every individual needs to learn. David made the very common mistake of trying to do God's work in Ms own way. He must be impressively shown that the fully obedient spirit waits on God to know the how as well as the what. It not only says, "What wouldst thou have me to do?" but also, "How wouldst thou have me do it?" To win willingness to take God's way is often, as with David, the issue of humiliating failures; and it is precisely the lesson which life-failures are designed to teach.
IV. BY SOLEMN PROVIDENCES SOLEMN LESSONS MAY BE IMPRESSED. Our Lord taught us that we must not venture to convict public sufferers of special sins bringing on them judgment (Luke 13:1-5). God often teaches the mass of men by his dealings with a few. The victims of so-called accident vicariously suffer for the good of others. Illustrate by those who die of diseases caused by neglect of sanitary laws. They awaken attention to existing evils, and are the means of saving men. Uzza really saved the judgment that must have fallen on David and the nation if they had kept on acting in this self-willed way.
Make final appeal to modern feeling respecting worship. There are signs of the danger of losing the worshipping idea, and overdoing the instruction idea, in our public services. We need recalling to a due reverence.—R.T.
1 Chronicles 13:14.-Obed-edom's blessing.
The subject introduced here is "God in the home, God cherished in the home, and God blessing the home." God was pleased to teach Israel by symbols, by incidents, by personal experiences, and by actions, as well as by words. There is given a picture of Obed-edom's home, and we see that God's cherished presence is assured blessing for the heart and the home.
I. GOD'S PRESENCE WITH US CAN BE GRANTED AND REALIZED. Man can be, and know that he is, the temple of the living God. The possibility of this is the assurance given us in the incarnation of Christ. God can dwell with men; for be has dwelt in the "Man Christ Jesus."
II. GOD'S PRESENCE WITH US CAN BE CHERISHED; So David, fearing the Divine removal, prays, "Take not thy Holy Spirit from me." We cherish the Divine indwelling by
(1) daily openness;
(2) dependence; and
but especially by daily following, in simplicity and loyalty, the consequent inward Divine leadings. Compare George Macdonald's sentence, "If any man will do the truth he knows, he shall know all the truth he needs to know." God only stays with the obedient.
III. GOD'S PRESENCE TAKES GRACIOUSLY HELPFUL FORM IN CHRISTIANITY, It is the presence of Jesus Christ, and from the records of his earthly life we know what an infinite charm and help that presence can be. Our Lord promised, "I will come to him, and sup with him," and he left this last assurance, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world."
IV. GOD'S PRESENCE STILL ENSURES PERSONAL AND FAMILY BENEDICTIONS. It does not ensure freedom from care, but it does our sanctification through the care. We cannot be alone in any trouble. It brings a gracious actual reward of
(2) family peace and success.
Plead for the recognition of God in the home, by maintaining the habit of family prayer. And show the mystery of grace in God's even using the incentive of promised rewards of godliness, and giving Scripture examples of such rewards.—R.T.