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CRITICAL NOTES.] The bulk of this chapter consists of new matter, which the writer of Chronicles found in his authorities, and regarding as important for his purpose, introduced at this point into the narrative. Only 1 Chronicles 15:25-29 are parallel with 2 Samuel, corresponding to ch. 1 Chronicles 6:12-23 [Speak. Com.].
1 Chronicles 15:1-3.—Preparation to remove ark. Houses. Interval of three months employed in building his palace and city for accommodation of his wives and family. Tent, a new one, old one still at Gibeon (1 Chronicles 16:39; 2 Chronicles 1:3); thought to be too old, perhaps. 1 Chronicles 15:2. None, except Levites, to bear ark, nor convey it in cart (cf. Numbers 1:50; Joshua 9:7-17). “External things carried on waggons under charge of Gershonites and Merarites; but articles of the sanctuary to be borne on poles by Kohathites” (Numbers 4:0). 1 Chronicles 15:4. All representatives of nation.
1 Chronicles 15:5-15.—Priests and Levites. “This classification of sons of Aaron, as the special priests, and of the Levites, is constantly observed (ch. 1 Chronicles 12:26-27; 1 Chronicles 27:17). The mention of the six representative Levitical families follows. That of Kohath (1 Chronicles 15:5) takes lead, because, though second in order of birth (Genesis 46:11; Exodus 6:16-19; ch. 1 Chronicles 6:1-30), its priestly importance gave it always first rank. To the same head belonged also three of the remaining five families, viz., Hebron (1 Chronicles 15:9) and Uzziel (1 Chronicles 15:10), who were brothers, as being both sons of Kohath (Exodus 6:18); and Elizaphan, who, though son of Uzziel (Exodus 6:22), had come to represent a distinct family (Numbers 3:30). The other two required to complete the six are Asaiah (1 Chronicles 15:6), of the house of Merari, and Joel (1 Chronicles 15:7), of the house of Gershom. The representatives, then, of these six families, with the company of the brethren belonging to each of them, and the two priests, Zadok and Abiathar (1 Chronicles 15:11), are now summoned into the presence of David to receive a short but special charge.”
1 Chronicles 15:11-13.—David’s address. Sanctify, according to Mosaic requirements, before engaging in any service (Numbers 1:50; Numbers 7:9; Numbers 10:17; 2 Chronicles 29:5). 1 Chronicles 15:13. Did not sanctify yourselves before. Levites even sadly to blame. Breach (ch. 1 Chronicles 13:11). Order that ark should be borne on shoulders of Levites (cf. 1 Chronicles 15:15).
1 Chronicles 15:16-21.—The singers. Sacred song in use from earliest times (Exodus 15:0; Deuteronomy 32:0; Jude 1:5). This first occasion on which duty of conducting musical services expressly laid on Levites. Hitherto music seems to have been cultivated in “schools of the prophets” (1 Samuel 10:5). Henceforth services of tabernacle and temple were regularly choral, and a considerable section of Levites was trained in musical knowledge and set apart to conduct this portion of national worship (cf. ch. 1 Chronicles 23:5; 1 Chronicles 25:1-31; 2 Chronicles 5:12; 2 Chronicles 7:6; 2 Chronicles 35:15) [Speak. Com.].
1 Chronicles 15:17.—Heman (cf. 1 Kings 4:31; 1 Chronicles 2:6). 1 Chronicles 15:18. Second, subordinate leaders, or forming the second choir. Porters applies to Obed-edom and Jeiel (or Jehiah, 1 Chronicles 15:24). 1 Chronicles 15:19. Cymbals, instruments of percussion, making clanging sound. 1 Chronicles 15:20. Psalteries, a kind of lute. Alamoth, “psalteries of high pitch,” whose tones resembled voices of girls (alamoth) [Speak. Com.]. 1 Chronicles 15:21. Shem., the eighth in a series of times, or an instrument with eight strings; uncertain meaning. Excel, lead or preside: harpers with bass voices led, and lutists with treble followed.
1 Chronicles 15:22-24.—Bearers of ark. Chen., chief, from his office, and different from Chen. in ch. 1 Chronicles 26:29. For song, marg. for carriage. Instructed, presided over bearing. Skilful in customs and observances in carriage of holy things. 1 Chronicles 15:23-24. This part of cortege arranged thus: Berechiah and Elkanah went before to open doors. The seven priests followed, blowing trumpets (Numbers 10:8), and Obed-edom and Jehiah brought up the rear and closed the doors, when the ark was put in its place. Arrangements here merely for the occasion, and it was possible for these two doorkeepers to sing in choir and afterwards close the sacred doors [Murphy].
1 Chronicles 15:25-29.—The procession. 1 Chronicles 15:26. Helped, regarded with favour. Offered, distinct from that in 2 Samuel 6:13. 1 Chronicles 15:27. Linen, made of buts (byssus), a species of flax; a robe worn by highest rank kings and priests (Esther 8:15; 1 Samuel 22:18). All Levites formed part of procession. 1 Chronicles 15:28. Cornet, first time mentioned. 1 Chronicles 15:29. Danced accords with brief account in 2 Samuel 6:15. Michal (cf. 2 Samuel 6:20-23).
A PLACE PREPARED FOR THE ARK.—1 Chronicles 15:1-4
David anxious to convey the ark from house of Obed-edom to tabernacle in Zion.
I. An evidence of his desire for God’s presence. He thought more about a place for the ark of God than the splendour of the palace and the enlargement of the city. Men build houses, buy land, and make fortunes, but have no room for God, for a church in the house, for a temple in the city.
II. An indication of a better state of mind. Not now afraid, did not cry, “How shall the ark of the Lord come to me?” (2 Samuel 6:9). In three months wonderfully changed. Obed-edom’s prosperity and divine judgment broke down prejudice, humbled him, and induced him to arrange for return of ark. “Thy judgments are made manifest.”
III. A proof of anxiety for the welfare of his people. Not anxious to fill the city with soldiers, to build warehouses, but to pitch a tent for God. The seat of government should be the centre of worship. The presence of the ark asserted the presence, supremacy, and claims of God. The king desired the people to remember Him in their homes and their business.
IV. An earnest endeavour to secure that welfare. David first to move, prominent in effort, and earnest in consulting the people. He prepared a place, was ready to employ labour, and make sacrifice to accomplish the work. To “the chief of the fathers” he gave a solemn charge and a personal example. Let us thus work ourselves, and incite others to follow our example.
REMOVAL OF THE ARK, OR CARRYING ON THE WORK OF GOD.—1 Chronicles 15:1-24
The chapter gives an account of preparation and procession in the removal of the ark. Learn—
I. Preparation for God’s work. The work important and needful, should never be undertaken without thought, purpose, and preparation.
1. By personal sanctification. “Sanctify yourselves” (1 Chronicles 15:12). Legal defilement unfitted for solemn duties. Removal of sin from heart and life, the first requisite in seeking and serving God. Secret sin forsaken, the heart made steadfast and sincere. “If iniquity be in thine hand, put it far away.”
2. By implicit obedience to God’s command. God’s work done in God’s way, not in ours. Trifles most serious. Difference between a cart and poles in conveying ark seems small. But “to the law and testimony.” No right to put he plans, the ordinances of men for the commandments of God.
II. Hearty co-operation in God’s work. David sought fit persons, and appealed to priests and Levites to help. This co-operation given.
1. Gained by consultation. David could not force, calls the assembly and makes appeal. Well-conducted meetings. Teachers’ Meetings, Ministers’ Conferences, and National Councils of great help in effective work. “Come now and let us take counsel together.”
2. Displayed in united ranks. In “due order” (1 Chronicles 15:13). In obedience to God, and special rank in procession. Neglect of this brought failure at first. Worship, work, and liberality should be systematic. “Order gave each thing view” [Shakespeare].
3. Expressed by individual effort. Each took his place and gave his work. Some played with cymbals, harps, and psalteries; others “did blow with the trumpets.” Some sang and others danced. Some doorkeepers and others commanders. All joined the order and the shouts (2 Samuel 6:15). “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”
III. Success achieved in God’s work. If sincerely consecrated and unitedly engaged, we shall succeed in God’s service. When all was done reverently and in order, “God helped the Levites that bare the ark.” They might tremble in remembrance of former judgments; but they did not stumble. The sacrifices were acceptable to God, and the favour of God was not withheld. Songs of praise were given, and the ark “came to the city of David.”
THE PROCESSION WITH THE ARK.—1 Chronicles 15:3-28
After due preparation, the procession arranged, and we have all particulars.
I. The bearers of the ark. “None ought to carry the ark of God but the Levites.” David had carefully ascertained legal requirements, and anxious they should be strictly carried out.
1. Rightly chosen.
2. Properly arranged. Three families of Levites (1 Chronicles 15:4-7). Kohathites not priests (1 Chronicles 15:8-10); Zadok and Abiathar, the princes of two priestly lines of house of Aaron.
II. The regulations for conveying the ark. These varied.
1. Sacrificial rites. (a) At beginning for help. (b) At the end in gratitude. These forgotten in first attempt, hence the breach. 2. Musical accompaniments. Leaders in song and subordinate or second choir. Psalteries, cymbals, and lutes, accompanied procession.
3. Rapturous joy. Joy unbounded, expressed in corresponding gestures and rhythmical movements. (a) The king danced. A religious ceremony in which highest and holiest feeling found expression. (b) The people shouted and sang. The festival was popular, right, joyous. The king took the lead, and God made the whole people glad. Every one did “soar above the heights of earth.”
“Joy is the sweet voice, joy the luminous cloud.
We in ourselves rejoice!
And then flows all that charms our ear or sight,
All melodies the echoes of that voice,
All colours a suffusion from that light” [Coleridge].
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
1 Chronicles 15:1. A place for the ark.
1. A lovely thought.
2. A wise consultation to carry it out.
3. An example worthy of imitation.
1 Chronicles 15:2. None ought.
1. Wise men may be guilty of oversight and wrong. The king and priests knew the law, and should have carried it out.
2. God’s methods of bringing them to acknowledge and confess wrong, often severe, memorable, and beneficial in results. “When pious men, who have been betrayed into unwarrantable conduct, have had time for self-examination, searching the Scriptures, and prayer, they will discover and confess their mistakes, and be reduced to a better temper; they will justify God in his corrections; they will be convinced that safety and comfort consist, not in absenting themselves from his ordinances, or in declining dangerous services, but in attending to their duty in a proper spirit and manner; they will profit by their own errors” [Scott].
None ought to carry, &c. Gentle reproof.
1. Do we not deserve it? Have we not erred from God in doctrine and conduct?
2. Can we receive it without offence from prince or peasant?
3. When thus reproved, are we ready to amend? “To reprehend well,” says Feltham, “is the most necessary and the hardest part of friendship. Who is there that does not merit a check? And yet how few will endure one!” “Its nail,” says an old author, “must be well oiled with kindness before it can be effectually driven home.” “Let the righteous smite me, and it shall be a kindness; let him reprove me, and it shall be an excellent oil; it shall not break my head.”
1 Chronicles 15:2 to 1 Chronicles 24:1. The call to service—personal, pressing, and worthy.
2. The response to the call—ready, universal, and immediate.
3. The directions to carry it out—clear, right, and safe. “Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.”
PERSONAL HOLINESS ESSENTIAL TO SACRED SERVICE.—1 Chronicles 15:12
Sanctify yourselves, a needful duty for any work for God. Present comfort and eternal happiness depend upon this.
I. Personal holiness required in those who serve. Holiness means setting apart, fitting for special use. God’s servants separated from a profane world and devoted to God.
1. In heart. This must be purified, and filled with holy thoughts and aspirations. Likeness to God in mind and disposition. Root and centre of spiritual being rectified. “Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts.”
2. In life. Holiness of heart reproduced, translated into life, retain. “Be ye holy in all manner of conversation” (deportment, course of life) (1 Peter 1:15).
II. Personal holiness the pattern according to which we must serve. “As he who hath called you is holy, so be ye holy;” “Be ye holy as I am holy.” Idea of perfection lost through sin. Christ brought God’s holiness from the region of abstraction within sight and easy reach. Infidels even admire his character, but to believers he is a model of imitation, the standard, the law of life and service. There is innate likeness by regeneration and the indwelling Spirit; outward likeness by conformity, study, and obedience. He did the will of God, went about doing good, and sets an example. “Be ye therefore followers” (imitators) “of God, as dear children” (Ephesians 5:1).
III. Personal holiness is the only condition on which we can serve. Not only necessary for personal salvation, but for personal usefulness.
1. By this we influence others. Doctrines not always understood. Holiness seen, felt, and admired. Holy living wins to Christ and helps his cause.
2. By this we answer the end of our being. Of no use whatever without holiness; worse than a rose without blossom, or a tree without fruit. Use the design in view. “He hath not called you to uncleanness, but unto holiness.”
SACRED JOY: ITS SOURCE AND MANIFESTATIONS
The conveyance of the ark an occasion of general rejoicing (cf. Psalms 101:0; Psalms 15:0; Psalms 68:0; Psalms 24:0; Psalms 132:0, which are supposed to commemorate the event).
I. The source of sacred joy. Sacred—that is, true joy, not a common feeling, must have some cause or spring. By nature, too full of ingratitude and morbid feeling.
1. God’s presence with us. In our hearts, renewing and cleansing them. In our homes, sanctifying bereavements and guiding domestic affairs. In duties, public and private. With God, even in trouble and obscurity, our life may be “a sunshine in a shady place.” “All my springs are in thee.”
2. God’s blessing upon our efforts. Effort essential to health and joy. God’s blessing upon work rightly done gladdens the heart and turns grief into gladness. “God hath made them rejoice with great joy.”
II. The manifestations of sacred joy. Joy not self-concealing. Here seen in forms fit and natural. From beginning to end, all “with joy” (1 Chronicles 15:16; 1 Chronicles 15:25).
1. In sacred psalmody. “The singers with instruments of music, &c.” (1 Chronicles 15:16). Reminding of Milton’s “sevenfold chorus of hallelujahs and harping symphonies.”
2. In sacrificial rites. Without these, ceremony incomplete. In the success of any enterprise, the completion of any work, offer thanksgivings, “sacrifices of joy.” Duty performed with the presence and by direction of God will create enthusiasm in numbers, and bring many a festal day!
“A solemn yet a joyful thing is life,
Which, being full of duties, is for this
Of gladness full, and full of lofty hopes.”
DAVID BEFORE THE ARK.—1 Chronicles 15:25-29
“It was the greatest day in David’s life Its significance in his career is marked by his own pre-eminent position—conqueror, poet, musician, priest in one. The sacrifices were offered by him; the benedictions, both on his people and on his household, were pronounced by him. He was the presiding spirit of the whole scene” [Stanley].
I. David’s attire. “Clothed with a robe of fine linen” (1 Chronicles 15:27).
1. Priestly attire White ephod worn only by priests. David the head of “a kingdom of priests” (Exodus 19:6), and on this occasion performed the functions of a priest.
2. A penitential dress. Although king, David laid aside royal robes and put on the dress of a servant, and owned himself as mere minister of God. He sets forth his humility in the presence of whole people. In position and spirit expresses dependence upon God, and becomes the faithful leader and overseer.
II. David’s conduct. His joy increased as procession went on, expressed according to the manner of the times—singing, shouting, and dancing before the Lord, as music inspired and directed, till the ark was fixed in position.
1. Misinterpreted by Michal. She had no share in people’s joy. Her heart not attuned to high devotion. The ceremony a foolish masquerade to her. A cold, unspiritual nature cannot understand enthusiasm, any more than an Icelander can understand tropical heat.
2. Defended by himself (cf. 2 Samuel 6:21-23). In his procedure he had an eye to God’s glory, from whom he received his kingdom, and before whom he ought to be judged. He did not lower himself in his own opinion—honoured with being on a level with the maids whom she despised. Honour with God more highly esteemed than honour with men (John 12:43). David a noble example of firmness and enthusiasm for God.
“He put so much of heart into his act
That his example had a magnet’s force.”
MICHAL’S CONTEMPT.—1 Chronicles 15:29
“One only incident tarnished its brightness. Michal, his wife, in the proud—we may almost say conservative spirit of the older dynasty, not without a thought of her father’s fallen house (2 Samuel 6:21), poured forth her contemptuous reproach on the king who had descended to the dances and songs of the Levitical procession. He, in reply, vowed an eternal separation, marking the intense solemnity which he attached to the festival” [Stanley].
1. Springing from pride. She blamed him for exchanging royal robes for sacerdotal dress. He forgot his dignity, mixed with the common people, and put himself on a level with them. “Worldly hearts see nothing in actions of zeal but folly and madness” [Bishop Hall]. She could admire his valour, not his piety—the soldier, not the saint.
2. Punished with barrenness. “Michal had no child until the day of her death” (cf. 2 Samuel 6:20-23). This a dishonour, the deepest humiliation for an oriental woman. She unjustly reproached David, and God put her to perpetual reproach. As we sow, we reap. “God hath still a barren womb for mocking Michal,” says Trapp.
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
1 Chronicles 15:25-28. Sacred joy. Its source, manifestations, and results. “All God’s services must be performed with joy, or else they lose their lustre” [Trapp].
1 Chronicles 15:29. Michal a type of many who despise devotion, enthusiasm, and liberality in the cause of God. “In the present day there is no lack of people like Michal. In the pure fire of the Spirit from on high these persons also see only a morbid fanaticism; in the most animated and vigorous expression of hallowed exultation of soul, a hypocritical display. The life from and in God remains a mystery to every one until, through the Spirit of God Himself, it is unsealed to his experience” [Krummacher]. Learn—
1. To be misunderstood, ridiculed, and opposed in God’s service.
2. That a man’s foes may be those of his own household.
3. To exercise true charity. Michal should have commended David; been less bitter and ironical in spirit. David calmly defended himself, and explained to Michal that he had regard to the glory of God in all his procedure. “Charity is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil.”
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 15
1 Chronicles 15:3-24. Order in procession.
“The heavens themselves, the planets and this centre,
Observe degree, priority, and place,
Insisture, course, proportion, season, form,
Office, custom, in all line of order”
1 Chronicles 15:29. The pride of Michal. She was a king’s daughter, with all the haughty temper of her birth. She forgot that there was a greater king than Saul or David, before whom the princes of the earth are as vanity. It is the tree which stands high and alone that is in danger of being struck by lightning. Her soul, in its pride, was scorched by the fire of divine judgment [S. S. Magazine].
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 15". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany