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"Handfuls of Purpose,"
For All Gleaners
"But David took not the number of them from twenty years old and under: because the Lord had said he would increase Israel like to the stars of the heavens." 1 Chronicles 27:23 .
David here showed himself to be at once a poet and a saint. He could have numbered Israel arithmetically, but the remembrance of a promise made by the Lord stayed his hand when he thought of thus limiting the Holy One of Israel. God's purpose concerning his Church is that it shall be "like to the stars of the heavens": yet there are men amongst us who love to take the statistics of the Church: so many over twenty-one years of age, and so many under twenty-one years of age; so many old, and so many young; so many rich and so many poor; all this may easily be pushed too far, and statistics may become a misrepresentation of the kingdom of heaven. When God said he would make Israel like to the stars of the heavens, he superseded arithmetical action, he left arithmetic itself far behind, for it has no figures wherewith to represent the boundlessness of the empire of heaven. It is enough that we have the Lord's promise that the Church shall prevail. We might as well take up a seed to see whether it is growing, as to number the Church in order to see whether God's word is being fulfilled. As Christian teachers and preachers we rest upon the words, "The mouth of the Lord hath spoken it." David took his rest here, and so he let all numbering beyond a given point cease and determine. On the other hand, there is a numbering that may be permitted, for the sake of pointing rebukes on the one side, and affording encouragement on the other. Our doctrine is that we are not to make too much of numbers, for we may be deceived by them either in the way of exaggeration or defect. The Church of God is to be weighed as well as numbered: for spiritual life relates more to quality than to quantity. When one man is converted the whole world may be converted at the same time, prospectively and instrumentally. Let not the Church, therefore, consult its arithmetic, but consult divine covenants and promises, when it would excite its courage, and bring all its powers to their noblest fruition.
"Handfuls of Purpose,"
For All Gleaners
"Joab, the son of Zeruiah, began to number, but he finished not, because there fell wrath for it against Israel." 1 Chronicles 27:24 .
Joab was not a poet; Joab believed in arithmetic; and Joab was conscientious so far, that he worked according to his faculty. Do not expect from Joab what you expect from David. This must be held to be the law of judgment throughout all the life and action of the Church. Inquire into the scope of a man's mind before you pronounce definitely upon his actions. Joab thought he would be able to finish, simply because he was a great man; but every man is small when pitted against the omnipotence of God. Why will men betake themselves to doing wrong work, or even needless work, or work that taxes the attention beyond its power to yield reward? It would seem as if the Lord alone could number Israel. Even the work we do in the way of numbering is not credited to us. This was notably the case in the instance of Joab, in connection with which we read: "Neither was the number put in the account of the chronicles of king David." So all the numbering went for nothing. Joab might as well have been dreaming as counting, for his arithmetic found no record in the register of the king. It is not enough to be busy, we must be busy in the right direction. We know in commerce that it is not enough to be industrious; we must be industrious under proper conditions, if our industry is to be crowned with satisfactory results. The Joabs of the Church should never be too warmly encouraged; they are literal, arithmetical, material; they only value what they can handle; whereas the genius of the Church is one of prophecy, spirituality, a sacred dreaming that is higher in value than all philosophy and rational speculation; there is a dreaming that is akin to inspiration. All we have to do is to attend to the business of the present moment, sow the seed, tell the truth, acknowledge error, and whoso doeth the will of God to him shall the doctrine in due time be revealed.
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Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 27". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. https://www.studylight.org/
the Seventh Week after Easter