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CRITICAL NOTES.] This chapter corresponds closely with 2 Samuel 6:1-11; but in the first verse of that chapter is stated, with great brevity, what is given here in full (1 Chronicles 13:1-5).
1 Chronicles 13:1-5.—The Consultation. Leaders (omit and, for leaders intended) are captains named, i.e., chiefs of people. If civil and military organisation existed before this, “David seems to have been the first to recognise in these officers of the host representatives of the people, to consult them on public affairs and to give them a certain political position (see, besides the present place, ch. 1 Chronicles 15:25; 1 Chronicles 26:26; 1 Chronicles 28:1)” [Speak. Com.]. 1 Chronicles 13:2. All assembled together; send quickly everywhere; left at home. 1 Chronicles 13:3. Enquired not (cf. 1 Samuel 7:1-2; 1 Samuel 28:6; 1 Chronicles 10:14). 1 Chronicles 13:5. Shihor, probably one of the names of the Nile (cf. Joshua 13:3; Isaiah 23:3; Jeremiah 2:18); was the southern bounds, as Hemath was the northern of Canaan [Pat.]. Kirjath-jearim, where it had been since it returned out of land of Philistines (cf. 1 Samuel 6:0).
1 Chronicles 13:6-8.—The Undertaking (cf. 2 Samuel 6:2-11). All Israel, 30,000 in Sam. 1 Chronicles 13:6. Baalah (Joshua 15:9-60). Whose name, rather “who is worshipped there.” 1 Chronicles 13:7. Uzza and Ahio, sons or grandsons of Abinadab, who from age or death was unable to accompany procession. 1 Chronicles 13:8. “Harps and lutes, stringed instruments; timbrels and cymbals, percussive instruments for keeping time in march or solemn dance.” Trumpets used by priests, generally on joyous occasions (Numbers 10:0; Psalms 98:6). Some suppose that Psalms 34:0 was sung in parts on this occasion.
1 Chronicles 13:9-14.—The Breach. Chidon, Nachon (2 Samuel 6:6). Stumbled, descent steep and dangerous. Hand, ark not to be touched, would not have required it, if in obedience to law, it had been carried on the priests’ shoulders by poles (cf. Exodus 25:14; Numbers 4:15). 1 Chronicles 13:11. David displeased and afraid at such sudden vindication of holiness. 1 Chronicles 13:14. Obed, a Levite, and afterwards doorkeeper in tabernacle (1 Chronicles 15:18; 1 Chronicles 16:5). Gittite, of Gath-rimmon, one of the Levitical cities (Joshua 21:24).
THE FIRST COUNCIL.—1 Chronicles 13:1-5
David securely established on the throne, taken and fortified Jerusalem, organised and trained an army, turns attention to civil and religious concerns. First thing to restore the ark to its proper place. Hence consultation with chiefs.
I. The parties of which it was composed. David begins well. Instead of ignoring the people, he calls their representatives; he “consults” them and decides nothing absolutely, and unconstitutionally. Many sovereigns, proud and tyrannical, will yield nothing, give nothing, overrule the wish and rights of the people. “I am the state,” said one. The people’s allegiance is best secured by consent in their representatives. “If it seem good unto you.”
II. The purpose for which it was convened. Many historic councils summoned for important objects. This not called to celebrate success, organise plans of campaign; but to unite the people and establish the worship of the sanctuary by the restoration of the most sacred of all symbols. This—
1. A religious movement. Former neglect great, people degenerated by influence and example of Saul; careless and indifferent concerning ordinances and worship of God. “We enquired not in the days of Saul.”
2. A national movement. “If it seem good unto you.” The throne established, national government under one head; foundation laid for internal unity by concentrating national life on its centre and source. Not like other kings, David displays in proceedings the popular character of his rule, assembles all round the sanctuary before the throne, and under the government of Jehovah (Psalms 24:1-10).
3. A divinely sanctioned movement. “If it be of the Lord our God.” All enterprises opposed to his will, though carried on with numbers and valour, will come to nought. This first, “Is it the will of God?” For “man proposes, but God disposes.” “Ye ought to say if the Lord will we shall live and do this or that.”
III. The decision at which it arrived. The purpose noble, and reasons for execution weighty and abundant.
1. A wise decision. “It was right.” Always wise to seek first the kingdom of God, &c. “Oh that they were wise!”
2. A unanimous decision. “All the congregation said it was right.” People rightly consulted readily agree. Leaders should never fear to appeal in God’s name to the nation, seek to rouse its conscience and gain its sympathies. The response will be cordial and unanimous. “The Lord our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey” (Joshua 24:24).
3. A firm decision. “We will do so.” Needful to be prudent in counsel and firm in execution.
THE ARK IN THE ROYAL CITY
A place of honour, influence, and right, as—
I. The centre of unity. Politically and morally, outwardly and inwardly people one. Unity in worship not complete, for there were two holy places, one in Gibeon, another pitched over the ark, but internal unity which did not exist before.
II. The source of religious life. Under Saul it had fallen from the height to which Samuel had brought it. The royal family had lost piety, and, as instanced by Michal, had become proud. In her father’s house she had an idol god. But this act—
1. Purified religious life. Elevated its tone and grandeur.
2. Unified religious life. External unity destroyed by war between Saul and David. Now national life one centre and source in dwelling of God in Zion. The sanctuary in Gibeon retires from view.
3. Organised religious life. He arranged priests and Levites, divided them into classes for service, gave a new impulse to music and culture. Reorganisation raised divine worship from its disintegration and lawlessness under Saul to an artistic and beautiful order.
III. The sign of God’s presence. David had captains and mighty men, but God was required. Conscious of dependence upon God, he confesses desire to rule according to the will of God. If it be “of the Lord our God.” This act one of reverence and gratitude, which enthrones God the king of glory (Psalms 24:0); makes Jerusalem the city of the Great King (Psalms 48:3); from whence proceed all manifestations of glory and might (Psalms 20:3); and before whom it is an unspeakable privilege to worship. “Who may be guest in thy tent? who may dwell on thy holy mountain?” (Psalms 15:1).
THE SOLEMN PROCESSION.—1 Chronicles 13:6-8
Extreme anxiety to have the ark in the city, for counsel and succour on all occasions. To attain this all classes eager to undertake any effort and submit to any inconvenience. A procession formed which befits the object in view.
I. In military escort. The way rugged, the enemy defeated, but not destroyed. We must ever be on guard.
II. In united ranks. “All Israel” (30,000 in Sam.), king, priests, and people in order and position. All ranks indebted to God, all should join in service and praise.
III. In festive joy. “The festival,” says Dean Stanley, “was one which exactly corresponded to what in the Middle Ages would have been ‘the Feast of the Translation’ of some great relic, by which a new city or a new church was to be glorified. Long sleepless nights had David passed in thinking of it (Psalms 132:4), as St. Louis of the transport of the Crown of Thorns to the Royal Chapel of Paris.” Such joy is natural and becoming, pleasing to men and acceptable to God.
THE LESSON OF UZZA.—1 Chronicles 13:8-12
David loved God, venerated the symbol of his presence, desired to restore appointed worship, and put the ark where it should be. But right things must be done in right manner, or they will fail. In this case failure, sad and signal, for Uzza died and the ark turned aside to the house of Obed-edom.
I. The failure. Here multitudes, “David and all Israel,” yet business nought. Crowds do not ensure blessing. Here pomp, singing, harps, trumpets, &c., yet ended in mourning. Gorgeous ceremonial no guarantee of grace. Here energy; “they played before God with all their might”—no dull and sleepy worship, but a bright, lively service, yet the matter fell through. But there was no thought as to God’s mind. David confessed, “We sought him not after the due order” (1 Chronicles 15:13). The priests not in their places, nor Levites to carry the ark; oxen took the place of willing men. The worship was not sufficiently spiritual and humble. There was no sacrifice. This a fatal flaw, for how can we serve the Lord apart from sacrifice? There was little reverence. We hear little of prayer, but much of oxen, a cart, and the too familiar hand of Uzza. Now, even David must keep his place, and the Lord’s command must not be supplanted by will-worship. Therefore the breach upon Uzza, and David greatly afraid. May we not expect similar failures, unless careful to act obediently and serve the Lord with holy awe? Are all observances and practices of our churches scriptural? Are not some of them purely will-worship?
II. The fear. The terrible death of Uzza caused great fear. Thus the Lord slew Nadab and Abihu for offering strange fire; and the men of Beth-shemesh for looking into the ark. “I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified” (Leviticus 10:3). Sense of wrong-feeling caused fear in David, for we read, “And David was displeased” (1 Chronicles 13:11). We are too apt to be displeased with God because he is displeased with us. Sense of unworthiness for such holy work made him cry, “How shall I bring the ark of God home to me?” His feeling that he failed in that which God expected of his servants created a holy fear. “Sanctify yourselves, that ye may bring up the ark of the Lord God” (1 Chronicles 15:12). He meant well, but erred and came to a pause; yet not for long. Ark remained with Obed-edom three months, not more (1 Chronicles 13:14). Some make the holiness of God and the strictness of His rule an excuse for wicked neglect. Others are overwhelmed with holy fear, and pause awhile till they are better prepared for the holy service [Spurgeon].
RIGHT THINGS DONE IN A WRONG WAY
I. The matter and right manner of performing duties are, in the command of God, linked together. He will have his service well done, as well as really done, with a perfect heart and a willing mind, for the Lord searcheth all hearts and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts. Masters on earth challenge to themselves a power to oblige their servants, not only to do their work, but to do it so-and-so; and though they do the thing itself, yet if not in the manner required, it is not accepted.
II. The doing of a duty in a wrong manner alters the nature of it, and makes it sin. Hence, the ploughing of the wicked is sin (Proverbs 21:4). Hence, prayer is accounted a howling upon their beds (Hosea 7:14). Unworthy communicating is not counted as eating the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:20). If a house be built of never so strong timber and good stones, yet if it be not well founded and rightly built, the inhabitant may curse the day he came under the roof of it.
III. Duties not prepared according to the right order are but the half of the service we owe to God, and the worst half too [Thos. Boston].
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
1 Chronicles 13:2. Send abroad. Erumpamus, dimittamus. Let us break forth and send, i.e., let us send speedily and effectually. See his zeal for the Lord of Hosts [Trapp].
1 Chronicles 13:8. Played before God. Public joy should always be as before the Lord, with an eye to him, and terminating in him, otherwise it is no better than public madness, and the source of all manner of wickedness [Benson].
1 Chronicles 13:7-10. Perez-Uzza.
1. The act of Uzza. Rash, lacking faith in God’s power or providence to preserve the ark; irreverent; disobedient.
2. The punishment of Uzza. Sudden, signal, and severe. Apparently out of all proportion to the act. But we are improper judges of wrong, desert, and divine justice. God displays holiness, to secure discipline and check sin, to which we are prone. One instance of justice may benefit generations and ages.
3. The results of the punishment of Uzza. (a) The procession was broken up. (b) David was afraid. “How could such a festal joy which knew nothing of holy fear, however well meant, prove acceptable to God? It is not enough that we mean well, and have pious thoughts; we must also, in what we do, hold fast to God’s word and commandment, and in all our joy in the Lord must not allow ourselves to forget that we have to do with a holy God.”
Uzza, or Irreverence in sacred things.
1. Rashness in devotion. “God smote Uzza for his rashness (marg.)” (2 Samuel 6:7). Worldly thoughts and plans brought into the very house and presence of God. Haste in spirit and utterance. “Be not rash with thy mouth,” &c. (Ecclesiastes 5:2).
2. Thoughtlessness in Christian effort. No due preparation, trust to accidents or emergencies. Inconsiderate effort has blasted many a noble project. Prudence and thought required. Collect and arrange materials; for an unfurnished minister can never be “a wise master-builder.” “Prepare thy work (set it in order) without and make it fit for thyself in the field” (Proverbs 24:27).
3. Sinfulness in the Christian ministry. Uzza a type of all who, unsanctified in spirit, take upon themselves to rescue the cause of God. “Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord.” Profanation of the ark. It is of importance to observe the proportionate severity of the punishment attending the profanation of the ark. The Philistines suffered by diseases, from which they were relieved by their oblations, because the law had not been given to them; the Bethshemites also suffered, but not fatally, their error proceeding from ignorance or inadvertency; but Uzza, who was a Levite and well instructed, suffered death for his breach of the law [Jamieson].
FEREZ-UZZA AND ITS LESSONS
Arrangements of David for transport of the Ark differed from those which God had prescribed (Numbers 4:0). Never carry on the work of God by means which God has forbidden. Learn—
I. If God be absent from a people, and the ark be long in obscurity, that people will lose a sense of reverence. All thought of divine power in the ark forgotten, a question of mere safety, not reverence; arrangements those of heathen nations, not divine injunctions.
II. That God, mindful of his honour, often singles out guilty men to be monuments of his displeasure. God will be sanctified in those who come nigh him (Leviticus 10:3). Uzza presumptuous and irreverent, like Nadab and Abihua, suffered for sin. “When many have sinned, God commonly punishes one or two of the leaders, in order that the others may remember their sin and beg forgiveness.”
III. That by such examples of terror God warns others. King, priests, and people inspired with dread of divine majesty. Judgment opened the eyes and humbled the soul of David, who wisely delayed for thought, self-examination, and, under divine teaching, to learn the right way. “For when thy judgments are in (strike) the earth, the inhabitants of the world (earth) will learn righteousness” (Isaiah 26:9).
“Heaven wills our happiness, allows our doom;
Invites us ardently, but not compels” [Young].
DAVID’S DISPLEASURE.—1 Chronicles 13:11-12
The king greatly agitated, dreaded God’s displeasure might be extended to himself and people if ark further conveyed. Resolved to wait. The word betokens anger and grief, used by Jonah (1 Chronicles 4:1-9).
I. He was afraid of personal danger. He had neglected duty; knew not what might happen; dangerous to bring ark into the city. A guilty conscience makes cowards.
II. He was vexed at the interruption of his plan. People disappointed, his prestige damaged, and his enemies encouraged. We are often tempted to find fault when our religious enterprise is interrupted, when we as leaders are dishonoured, and our purposes broken. Complain of God’s providence when we should accuse ourselves. “Should it be according to thy mind?”
III. He was overcome with superstitious dread. Something about the ark itself he did not understand. He misinterpreted the event. Superstition ever misdirects, scares by expected evil. “It were better to have no opinion of God at all than such an opinion as is unworthy of him, for the one is unbelief, the other is contumely; and certainly superstition is the reproach of the Deity” [Bacon].
THE HOUSE OF OBED-EDOM.—1 Chronicles 13:14
People dismayed, David perplexed, one perfectly calm and ready to welcome the ark. Obed. not a great warrior; for great talents no guarantee for holy life and faithful service (Balaam, Saul, Byron), but a man of sincere heart and upright conduct.
I. The service which he rendered. The ark was carried “aside into the house of Obed-edom.” A most signal service which no one else would undertake. A service for which he was trained, and which he was ready when required to give. Lonely homes are scenes of highest trust and purest character. Not the palace, but the cottage often the residence of God, and the national glory.
II. The spirit in which he performed this service. Uzza slain for rashness, David shrinks in fear, Obed-edom receives ark gladly.
1. In filial fear. In love to God and earnest desire to help his cause.
2. In striking courage. He knew what had been done among the Philistines and the Bethshemites, yet invites the ark to his house. “O the courage,” says Bishop Hall, “of an honest and faithful heart! Nothing can make God otherwise than amiable to him; even his justice is lovely.”
III. The reward which he gained. “The Lord blessed the house.”
1. A personal blessing.
2. A social blessing.
3. An extensive blessing. “All that he had.” None suffer whose guest is the ark of God. Piety is the best friend to prosperity. Happy and attractive the home in which God dwells.
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
1 Chronicles 13:9 to 1 Chronicles 13:1. God’s people misinterpret his dealings.
2. How much they lose by this interpretation.
3. How much they gain who receive God simply.
(1) Beware of flying from God or shutting out God.
(2) Let God into the heart and the dwelling [H. Bonar].
1 Chronicles 13:14. Ark in the house. Family devotion, its nature, duty, and results. Howard, the philanthropist, never neglected family prayer, if even but one, and that his domestic servant, declaring that where he had a tent, God should have an altar. “Pour out thy fury upon the heathen that know thee not, and upon the families that call not upon thy name.”
The Ark with Uzza, David, and Obed-edom; or the Ark the cause of judgment, fear, and blessing, according to its treatment.
1 Chronicles 13:14. Blessed. As he will do all those, both small and great, that favour his cause and further his kingdom; for he is a liberal paymaster, and his retributions are more than bountiful. If Abinadab was not so well blessed as Obed-edom, it was haply because he entertained not the ark with like reverence. As men measure to God in preparation, &c., so will God measure to them in blessing [Trapp].
“A Deity believed, will nought avail,
Rewards and punishments make God adored” [Young].
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 13
1 Chronicles 13:6-8. Singing. Oh that we might have such joy as that which inspired the men at the battle of Leuthen! They were singing a Christian song as they went into battle. A general said to the king, “Shall I stop these people singing?” “No,” said the king. “Men that can sing like that can fight” [Talmage].
1 Chronicles 13:11. Breach. God would have us read our sins in our judgments, that we might both repent of our sins, and give glory to his justice [Bishop Hall].
1 Chronicles 13:14. Blessed the house. Parents! if you would banish Satan from your households, and with him all the train of sins that bring misery and desolation into many a home, and convert into a wilderness with wild beasts what might be a family paradise, where every human affection bloomed in beauty, grew in grace, and brought forth fruit to God’s glory, seek the constant presence of Jesus Christ, and covet, above all earthly honour or renown, that your family should be like that one of old in Bethany which “Jesus loved.” His presence will be your true prosperity, making your daily mercies true mercies, and your seasons of bereavement seasons of richest blessing and deepest peace [Rev. Nor. Macleod, D.D.].
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 13". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany