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CRITICAL NOTES.] The events here given appear in 2 Samuel 24:0, where the manner in which the census was taken is fully described, which took Joab nine months and twenty days. This narrative is condensed.
1 Chronicles 21:1-13.21.6.—Numbering of people. Satan, the Lord in Sam. “Both had their hand in the work—God by permission, Satan by suggestion” [Bp. Hall]. Provoked, stirred up. Trespass (1 Chronicles 21:3), the results of trespass—i.e., punishment. 1 Chronicles 21:4. A summary of five verses of 2 Samuel 24:4-10.24.8, which give route taken by Joab and assistants, and time occupied to their return. 1 Chronicles 21:5. Number of all lists added together. Discrepancy not easy to explain. “It seems far better to explain, with most commentators, that the numbers have, in one passage or the other (or possibly in both), suffered corruption” [Speak. Com.]. 1 Chronicles 21:6. Levi, following precedent in Numbers 1:47-4.1.49; Benj., because Joab desired to frustrate king’s intention, or because taken on former occasion (ch. 1 Chronicles 7:6-13.7.11), and register preserved in archives of the tribe.
1 Chronicles 21:7-13.21.8.—God’s displeasure. These words an anticipation of 1 Chronicles 21:14-13.21.15; are placed here, interrupting the narrative, to show that Joab’s artifice was not successful—it did not avert God’s wrath. David was punished for his intention, though that intention was not completely carried out by his subordinate [Speak. Com.].
1 Chronicles 21:9-13.21.13.—God’s message. Seer, prophet elsewhere; perhaps a pupil of David (2 Samuel 22:8), and successor of Samuel in office. Offer, stretch out to thee. Choose, take to thee. Three things, famine, sword, or pestilence, which often recur in Scripture (Deuteronomy 28:21-5.28.25; Revelation 6:4-66.6.8). “This beautiful agreement in the numbers is completely destroyed by the reading seven” [Keil]. Strait, one form of the evil must be taken, cannot be avoided. Experience taught him which to choose.
1 Chronicles 21:14-13.21.17.—God sends pestilence. Its form not given; results most sweeping. At length reached the capital. Angel to destroy it. Ornan and his sons hid themselves on the apparition of the angel, but came out to welcome David. The king saw the vision, appeared with the elders in the garb and assumed the attitude of penitence, confessed their sins, and deprecated the wrath of God.
1 Chronicles 21:18-13.21.22.—David builds an altar. Command to build and choice of site directly from God, through an angel, to Gad. Altar marked the site for the future temple. Threshing-floor, the level summit of elevated ground on eastern ridge on which Jerusalem was situated.
1 Chronicles 21:23-13.21.26.—David buys the threshing-floor. In Eastern style of politeness, Ornan offers the whole to David, as Ephron to Abraham (Genesis 23:0). 1 Chronicles 21:25. Gave value of the place here; that of threshing-floor and oxen in Sam. “The one writer states the matter of present interest, the other records the matter of permanent moment” [Murphy].
1 Chronicles 21:27-13.21.30.—David sacrifices on the altar. Sacrificed. The whole code of regulations for offerings given in Leviticus 1:0 -
7. By fire, answer given on critical occasions (Leviticus 9:24; 1 Kings 18:24-11.18.38). Sacrifice accompanied with cessation of plague. There (1 Chronicles 21:28), regarding that spot as sacred. The altar of burnt-offering still at Gibeon, where he could not go in present emergency, for fear of the angel. After this divine institution Mount Moriah (2 Chronicles 3:1) became a place of lawful sacrifice [cf. Murphy]. David knowing that by sacrifice on this altar he had caused the angel to stay his hand, was afraid to transfer his offerings elsewhere, lest the angel should resume his task, and pestilence again break out [Speak. Com.].
THE WICKED CENSUS.—1 Chronicles 21:1-13.21.6
What wrong in numbering the people? A shepherd likes to know the number of his sheep. A census had been commanded and taken in the wilderness (Numbers 1:1-4.1.2) It was customary with other kings, that they might know what an army to muster for war. Judging from Scripture accounts, we learn the following truths—
I. It was an act instigated by mysterious influence. Supernatural influence. Satan the adversary was permitted in some way to move David. God is said in Scripture to do what he suffers or permits. Man’s free will not forced nor destroyed by the Divine will. “The web of human actions is very complex. The great Mover rules over all, but many undermovers intervene in the drama of life; so that it is not more difficult to foretell the course of the weather than of the will.” Yet sin is man’s own act, and the punishment of a righteous God presupposes its guilt.
II. It was an act of sinful pride. Enemies subdued, his rule undisputed, yet not content. Wanted to ascertain and boast in the military strength of the people, “that I may know the number of the people” (2 Samuel 24:2; cf. 1 Chronicles 27:23). “This clear also from the fact that Joab delayed as long as possible carrying it into Benjamin, in order not to arouse the insurrectionary spirit of this tribe, which could not forget the leadership it had possessed under Saul” [Hengs.]. Kings proud, prosperous, and ambitious, often vain, confident in their own greatness, boastful of the number of their soldiers and the resources of their subjects. David remarkably successful, and thought himself invincible.
III. It was an act of treason against God. Israel were God’s people, not David’s to count and number as he thought fit. Disobedient to take a census without God’s command; perversion of God’s favours to turn them into schemes of self-aggrandizement, and the purposes of God, according to the laws of justice and moral order, cannot be obscured or hindered without impunity by proud acts and ambitious plans of kings. David’s sin akin to that of Nebuchadnezzar, whom Jehovah taught by bitter experience “to know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men.”
IV. It was an act of peril to the nation. Joab saw this and remonstrated, “Why will he be a cause of trespass to Israel?” It might endanger the liberty of the people, become a State device for heavy taxation, and would be sure to bring divine displeasure. “The apprehension of a Nemesis on an overweening display of prosperity,” says Dean Stanley, “if not inconsistent with the highest revelations of the Divine nature in the gospel, pervades all ancient, especially all Oriental religions.” Presentiments often forebode evil. “Be sure your sin will find you out.”
V. It was an act of obstinate persistence. Joab’s rebuke had no effect upon David. Foolish pride puffed up, and he neither took the counsel of God nor the advice of friends. With stubborn selfwill he would have his own way—“the king’s word prevailed against Joab.” Advice may demand hard and unpleasant things, involve humiliation and confession of mistake, and be very different from the words we expected. Hence disregard to warnings, persistence in evil, and ultimately inevitable sufferings. “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes; but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.”
THE PROGRESS OF TRUE PENITENCE.—1 Chronicles 21:7-13.21.13
In these words a beautiful picture of David’s repentance—successive steps of restoration to God, and the conduct of a real penitent under the chastening hand of God. I. In signs of God’s displeasure. “God was displeased” (1 Chronicles 21:7). Displeasure revealed to vindicate God, aid us in apprehending our responsibility to him, and to secure right mind for due restoration. II. In the power of an awakened conscience. “David’s heart smote him” (Sam.). “The bitter thoughts of conscience born.” Suggestions from God; proofs that we are not left alone, nor hardened beyond hope. III. In the penitent confession of sin. Accuses himself, and is deeply grieved that others are involved in his sin (1 Chronicles 21:17). I am guilty; these sheep, what have they done? He is so penetrated with sense of guilt, and with sympathy for his innocent people, that he desires God to send judgments “on him and his house” alone, and spare the people as his flock (these sheep). IV. In earnest prayer for pardon. “Take away the iniquity of thy servant” (Sam.). This only his resource. Acknowledgment of guilt, and entreaty for divine forgiveness, a proof of true state of heart. V. In the revelation of God’s will. The inner cry met by outer word. Gad announced punitive righteousness (1 Chronicles 21:9). This without human means or occasion. God ever ready to give light and guidance, but in his way and time. VI. In humble submission to God’s will when known. He bows under divine judgments, yet with hope of delivering mercy.
THE AWFUL JUDGMENTS.—1 Chronicles 21:11-13.21.15
The judgment descended in the form of a tremendous pestilence—“a death,” as it is expressly termed in the original, like “the Black Death” of the Middle Ages. Appearing in the heat of the summer months, aggravated by the greatness of the population which had occasioned the census, spreading with the rapidity of an Oriental disorder in crowded habitations, it flew from end to end of the country in three days, and at last approached Jerusalem. The new capital, the very heart of the nation, the peculiar glory of David’s reign, seemed to be doomed to destruction [Dean Stanley].
I. Judgments entailed by one man’s sin. David responsible chiefly for its results. Man’s power to entail tremendous evils or greatest blessings upon others. Seventy thousand human beings cut off by judgment. What deaths lie at our door!
II. Judgments easily prepared for execution. God has agents ever ready to do his will. Famine, sword, and pestilence, set in order, waiting the command to attack, and fearful in results. “The terrors of God do set themselves in (military) array against me” (Job 6:4).
III. Judgments sent according to human preference. “Choose thee.” Wonderful, mysterious offer! Not often done; would not always be consistent with God’s justice. We are not always able, enlightened enough to choose. This a special case, only a temporary fall from loyalty, and the design was the restoration to full trust. God wise and merciful.
IV. Judgments arrested by earnest prayer. Room in the purposes of God and in the operations of nature for prayer. “Natural law” interferes not with prayer and human freedom. Who knows what judgments may be averted, mitigated, or turned into blessings, by earnest petition? Scripture and ecclesiastical history full of illustrations. “More things are wrought by prayer than the world dreams of” [Tennyson].
DAVID’S CHOICE.—1 Chronicles 21:11-13.21.13
David offered three things. To show him and the world that the evils denounced were no casual calamities, nor effects of any natural cause, he was permitted to choose which should be immediately inflicted. Regard the choice—
I. As the result of an awakened conscience. “I am in a great strait.” The natural feeling of one under the terrors of God; the voice of conscience in anguish and torture. “What must I do to be saved?”
II. As the revelation of the principle of Christian life. Famine would leave Israel dependent upon others for food; defeat, on the mercy of the heathen; in pestilence, they would have God only to deal with. God the only refuge; no human power could defend. He left himself confidently with God. Thus gave a public testimony that it is vain to trust in man; that God only is supreme, gracious, and wise.
III. As a picture of future doom to all. A choice for us to make. We must fall into God’s hands by voluntary submission now, or by compulsion at last. Decide to-day, before choice is taken away. “Now, therefore, advise thyself” (1 Chronicles 21:12).
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
1 Chronicles 21:2. Know it. But what needs that, now that there was a general peace or truce with all nations? Curiosity, it was at least; yea, it was pride and creature confidence that pricked David on to this numbering of the people, and made him so peremptory. This Augustus Cæsar might do for his pleasure, and carry it away without punishment (Luke 2:1). Not so David. God will take that from others what he will not bear with in his own (Amos 3:2). The Philistines might cart the ark, but David smarted for so doing [Trapp].
1 Chronicles 21:6. The interrupted survey.
1. Joab from policy did not number all the people. The work grew tedious, and Joab did not relish it, “for the king’s word was abominable to Joab.”
2. But God’s providence seen in result. Other agency beside man’s recognised. Two tribes not numbered, “partly because Levi was devoted to His service, and Benjamin had become the least of all tribes (Judges 21:0); and partly because God foresaw that they would remain faithful to the house of David in the division of the tribes, and therefore would not have them diminished” [Jamieson].
“There’s a Divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will.”
1 Chronicles 21:9-13.21.10. Gad an emblem of a true minister. His message was—I. Divine. So is the gospel message, of which there is evidence drawn from—
1. The facts of history.
2. Its congruity with the spiritual constitution of man.
3. Experience of those who feel its power. II. An appeal to choice: “Advise thyself.”
1. You can reject it.
2. You can accept it. III. Was to be accounted for: “What word, &c.”
1. Gad was responsible for its delivery.
2. David was responsible for its results [Bib. Mus.].
1 Chronicles 21:8. Foolishly. He thought at first he had done very wisely; now he seeth his error, and disclaimeth it. We had before his contrition, confession, and supplication, all which make up his repentance for sin; here we have his conversion or reformation, which is his repentance from sin, his amendment of life [Trapp].
1 Chronicles 21:13. Into the hand of the Lord. The reason for this choice was partly his confidence in God’s great goodness; partly because the other judgments, especially the sword, would have been more dishonourable, not only to David, but also to God and his people; and partly because he, having sinned himself, thought it just to choose a plague, to which he was as obnoxious as his people; whereas he had better defences for himself against the sword and famine than they had. True, it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God! Fearful indeed for those who have, by their impenitence, shut themselves from his mercy. But a penitent dares cast himself into God’s hand, knowing that his mercies are great [Benson]. The compelled choice of punitive infliction, and the dread alternatives. The Divine mercy amid calamity. There is here a Contrast between Divine and Human Chastisements. Strange that men, who are so near us, should be less trustworthy than God, who is unseen. Men treat us worse, God better, than we have deserved. David’s preference is justified when we consider—
1. The harsh judgments men pronounce on each other.
2. The harsh treatment of the guilty who are in men’s power.
3. The absence of sympathetic kindness in human warfare.
4. That when God punishes he does so in righteousness.
5. That in the treatment of the guilty God always shows mercy. The lessons are—
1. Submission to God.
2. Hopeful trust. David’s choice.
1. The option declined. Had too much of his own will already. Refers it back to God and resigns himself into his hands.
2. What are the reasons for this?
(1) “Great are his mercies.” The declaration of a truth, the ground of hope, and the testimony of experience.
(2) Not into the hand of man. The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel. Trust in man destroys freedom, dishonours character, and disappoints hope.
DAVID AND ISRAEL.—1 Chronicles 21:17-13.21.27
The sad circumstances of David and Israel. David’s wisdom in giving himself into the hands of God. God’s hand is safest to hold the rod—the hand of a king, master, father.
I. The progressive course of sin.
1. Temptation (1 Chronicles 21:1). Satan the black fountain of all transgress. David not conscious that Satan was so near. Insidiousness of Satanic influence.
2. Transgression (1 Chronicles 21:2). In face of warning (1 Chronicles 21:3). Its desperate folly seen by others (1 Chronicles 21:6). The deadening, hardening power of any lust.
3. Punishment (1 Chronicles 21:10-13.21.12). As soon will the magnet escape the influence of the pole, the sea the influence of the moon, an atom the binding force of gravitation, as the sinner escape punishment. “Be sure thy sin.”
II. The progressive course of reconciliation with God.
1. The messenger. God’s afflictive stroke (1 Chronicles 21:7). The prophet Gad (1 Chronicles 21:9). Every person or circumstance that reproves is God’s messenger. “God smote.” “The Lord spake to Gad, Go, &c.”
2. Conviction (1 Chronicles 21:8). The true convict always confesses, never excuses. Not only owns the sin, but acknowledges its greatness. Text. “It is I, &c.”
3. Penitence (1 Chronicles 21:16). “Sackcloth,” emblem of deepest grief; “fell upon their faces;” evidence of profound humiliation and utter prostration before God.
4. Acceptance. Expressly permitted to worship (1 Chronicles 21:18). Consciously and visibly accepted in worship (1 Chronicles 21:26). Delivered from the dread visitation.
5. Grateful acknowledgment (1 Chronicles 21:24). Would not offer costless worship. Would not offer cheap worship—“full price.” We are to be living sacrifices.
III. Underlying truths.
1. Though man be tempted, sin is his own act. Satan suggested, “provoked” David, yet the sin was David’s. He might have had resisting strength.
2. Our sins affect others. How many widows and orphans! How much anguish and unutterable misery through David’s sin! Any man’s sins are a widespread and far-reaching curse. Text. David sinned: “these sheep” were terribly smitten.
3. Though sin be pardoned, it leaves terrible scars behind. In David’s memory. Gaps in the families and homes of the people. Avoidance of sin infinitely better than pardon. Christ the great and only sin-healer. O Holy Ghost, draw, &c. [R. Berry].
THE ANGEL ARRESTED.—1 Chronicles 21:15-13.21.17
The infliction of pestilence briefly noticed, without account of duration or ravages; but minute description of visible appearance and menacing attitude of the angel. Notice—
I. The errand of the angel. “to destroy it.” Even angels ready executioners of God’s judgments. Sodom and Jerusalem; destruction of firstborn in Egypt and of Sennacherib’s army. Unseen agents often sent within sphere of things seen, to impress the heart through the senses and convince of God’s ways. But Christ came not to destroy men’s lives, &c.
II. The destiny of the angel. Pestilence had swept the country, now surrounded the capital. The centre of glory and empire, seat of the palace and the ark apparently doomed! God strikes at our dearest objects to chastise our sins and bring us to himself.
III. The attitude of the angel. “A drawn sword in his hand.” Indicative of wrong and determination to punish it. Giving opportunity to intercede for the city. God ready to punish, yet waits to be gracious. This attitude warns, yet encourages.
IV. The command to the angel. “Enough.” God knows exactly how far to go, how much is required to bring us to submission. “Stay now thine hand.” Prayer has been offered and the design accomplished. “The Lord repented him of the evil,” changed his method of procedure and stayed the plague. In this very spot Abraham countermanded from slaying his son. For the sake of the great Sacrifice and Intercessor our lives are preserved from destruction.
THE ALTAR BUILT AND THE PLAGUE STAYED.—1 Chronicles 21:14-13.21.26
Here a national calamity traceable to David’s sin, and that sin apparently of minor magnitude. But what evil in it? It was the result of pride and vainglory, to see the army he could raise, and to which he trusted instead of God. It was ingratitude for past deliverances, &c., hence the wrath of God kindled. David soon became conscious of guilt. A prophet sent to announce God’s will, and choice had to be made. Observe—
I. A fearful evil. The evil—
1. Was the plague. Some fearful disease, swiftly mortal; for in nine hours, at most, some think 70,000 died. How awful! and beyond the power of human skill to deliver. Sudden, terrible, fatal!
2. An angel was the messenger employed. Now ready to fulfil his commission in Jerusalem, but God stayed him.
3. David beheld the angel and interceded for the people. A beautiful instance of lofty, conscientious feeling. Generous and magnanimous.
II. The divine remedy. An altar must be built, sacrifice offered, &c.
1. Human guilt was acknowledged.
2. God was glorified. Both his justice and wrath in punishing, and his great mercy in staying his judgments.
3. No doubt the typical end of sacrifices would be realised. Looking on to the coming of the Lamb of God. For both sin, evil, and remedy may direct us to the great subject of atonement for a perishing world. Besides, this altar finely symbolizes the erection of houses for the worship of God. For, through the divine agency of gospel truth, by these the plague of the world is removed. Ignorance displaced by knowledge, profligacy by moral order, irreligion by godliness, unbelief and death by bestowment of salvation and eternal life.
III. A generous proposal. Altar to be erected at a given spot. Nothing in religion left to fancy. David states the case clearly to Ornan. Then came the proposal.
1. This offer was beyond what David stated. “I give thee oxen, &c.”
2. It was prompt, the result of generous and pious resolution.
3. It was pressed on David.
4. It was followed with prayer (2 Samuel 24:23). How pious and noble! A finer specimen of godly liberality never was exhibited—the act, the manner, the spirit, the prayer!
IV. A noble and self-sacrificing spirit. Ornan did well. David did better. Selfishness or formality would have accepted it. David desired the offering.
1. To be his own. The guilt had been his; so the repentance, so the fruit.
2. He valued his religion more than his wealth. So he paid full worth for the place. This act of David’s the opposite of two classes in our day—
(1) Those who wish others to pay for their religion;
(2) those who wish to have religion without cost. Learn—
1. The frailty of good men. David numbered the people.
2. The necessary results of sin—misery and ruin.
3. The only way of averting it. By repentance, coming to the one sacrifice on the only perpetual altar reared for the world’s guilt.
4. The fruit of a sanctified heart. Holy zeal and liberality in the cause of God [J. Burns, D.D.].
THE PROPITIATION.—1 Chronicles 21:18-13.21.27
Taking the altar and sacrifice as means of propitiation to reconcile, to restore man to God, we have an illustration of the atonement of Christ in its design, method, and results.
I. The moral condition which it is designed to meet.
1. Outward difficulties. Offence committed and punishment due. God’s anger must be taken away; his justice displayed. Man cannot remove penalty, dissolve law, nor deliver himself. In the work of Christ claims of justice satisfied, obstacles to pardon removed, demands of moral government met. Jehovah “a just God and a Saviour.”
2. Inward feelings. Man’s guilt creates fear and distance. “I was afraid and I hid myself.” “He was afraid because of the sword.” God’s love in Christ represents him unrevengeful, near and ready to forgive. The Holy Spirit renews the disposition, enlightens the mind, and takes away fear. Thus distance is destroyed, guilt overcome, and God and man reconciled.
II. The provision made for this condition. With the distinct understanding that we simply glance at one aspect of this profound subject, we assert that to make atonement for sin required great cost. Not “by the blood of goats and calves,” not “by gold and silver” are we redeemed, but by the precious blood of Christ. Christ himself was the sacrifice. Scripture and history rich in examples of benevolence and self-sacrifice; none like this. The gift of God’s beloved Son more costly than worlds upon worlds; inestimable, incomprehensive. “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.”
III. The results which it accomplished.
1. Danger warded off. When David repented of sin, God repented of judgment; plague arrested; destroying angel commanded to stay his hand (1 Chronicles 21:15) and sheath his sword (1 Chronicles 21:27).
2. Sacrifices accepted. “God answered from heaven by fire” (1 Chronicles 21:26), to signify that anger was turned away and God propitious. “So the Lord was entreated for the land, and the plague was stayed from Israel.” This typical of the sinner’s reconciliation and acceptance with God through Christ. “He (himself) is the propitiation (propitiatory sacrifice) for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).
THE COST AND SELF-SACRIFICE OF RELIGION.—1 Chronicles 21:22-13.21.26
Sacrifice was to be presented; specific directions were given. David promptly obeyed. A generous scene of altercation takes place. A pious and self-sacrificing decision expressed by David. Acceptable religion is a religion of self-sacrifice—a religion of cost; and the cost must be personally paid. In illustration of this, contemplate the subject.
I. In reference to the spiritual expansion of the intellectual powers. Theology, the divine science of religion, one of boundless extent. The greatness, number, variety, and importance of the subjects. God—his works, his government, his will. The Lord Jesus Christ—the gospel, eternal life. To understand there must be reading, study, reflection. A course of divine training—religious education. We may be Christians without much knowledge, but our honour, glory, felicity, to abound in knowledge. The cost must be paid, in the attainment. The astronomer pays it, the man of literature, so the Christian.
II. Apply the subject to the spiritual cultivation of the moral nature. The soul before conversion like a barren heath, or desert, arid, &c. It must be cultivated, ploughed, sown, tilled. Much labour needful. Evil habits to be abandoned. Holy habits to be formed. Virtues to be grafted in; graces to be cherished. Hence duties, toils, and spiritual efforts necessary. Hence the exhortations, “Be diligent, &c.,” “Work out your salvation, &c.” Apply the subject—
III. To the influence of self-denial in adorning the Christian profession. Self-denial not the abandonment of sin, &c., but surrendering even of what might be lawfully retained. Hence the case of eating flesh, &c., as given by the apostle (Romans 14:1). Now our habits, costume, conversation, spirit, must all be sacrificed, if God’s glory and the good of others demand it. Our will sacrificed that God’s may be done. Apply the subject—
IV. To the importance of usefulness in the cause of the Lord Jesus Christ. This one great end of conversion. “I will bless thee and make thee a blessing, &c.” First, the heart must be given to Christ; then life, talents, influence, time, wealth. If we will be useful, the cost must be paid; the law of self-sacrifice must rule us; ease, sordidness, &c., must be cast off. “Brethren, I beseech you, by the mercies of God, &c.” These cases illustrate the subject. But I give additional thoughts. Not only must the cost be paid, but paid
(1) In the right spirit. Not the spirit of ostentation for display; of self-righteousness for merit; of backwardness and grudgingly; but in humble, cheerful love to Christ. Felt to be a privilege as well as a duty. Need no force nor threatening. Not the whip, but the curb. As David in the text. “Freely we have received, &c.” In the language of the poet—
“Had I a thousand hearts to give,
Lord, they should all be thine.”
(2) Observe, this cost paid in religion, is not equal to the demands of sin. Look at the sacrifice, the worldly, the proud, the sensual make. What money! what time! what energies! What peace! The way of transgressors is hard, and the end ruin.
(3) To pay this cost in the service of Christ, grace is both necessary and provided. “Without Me ye can do nothing.” “My grace is sufficient, &c.” Grace must inspire the desire, purpose, and motive—give the ability and elasticity. The grace of God is provided abundantly. It was found so by Abraham, Moses, David, Daniel, Paul. Our subject, then, should—
1. Lead to examination. What has religion done for us? What have we done for it? What has it cost us? Have you the inward sense of God’s full favour? Have you the testimony that you please God?
2. It condemns two classes of persons. Those who wish others to pay for their religion, and those who wish to have a costless religion. Not so David. Forget not—
3. That true religion is its own present reward. Peace, hope, and joy, now; hereafter, the glories of a blissful eternity. Let the spirit of the text ever dwell in you.
4. Address the sinner. Who is indifferent to religion altogether. “Godliness is profitable unto all things, &c.” [J. Burns, D.D.].
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
1 Chronicles 21:14-13.21.17. I. Judgments following sin. This a necessary, natural, and certain sequence. II. Judgments mixed with mercy.
1. Shortened in duration.
2. Ending in correction. “Mercy rejoices over judgment.
(1) The penitent man casts himself into the arms of God’s mercy;
(2) Mercy falls into the arms of justice, in order to stay its blows; punitive justice must yield to mercy at the command of the Lord. ‘It is enough: stay now thy hand’ ” [Lange].
1 Chronicles 21:16 to 1 Chronicles 20:1. David’s ready obedience.
2. David’s willingness to suffer alone.
3. David’s intercession for the people. “Most people, when judgments are abroad, charge others with being the cause of them, so they can escape; but David’s penitent and public spirit was otherwise affected. As became a penitent he is severe upon his own faults, while he extenuates those of the people and intercedes? for them.”
1 Chronicles 21:24. Full price. Apply to ministers and Sunday-school teachers in preparation for pulpit and class.
1 Chronicles 21:22-13.21.27. I. The altar purchased.
(1) By divine instructions. Concerning place, person, and purpose.
(2) By honourable transaction. In spirit of courtesy, generosity, and self-sacrifice. II. The altar accepted. Acceptance by fire, and hallowed by tokens of God’s presence. III. The altar perpetuated. Partly to meet David’s fears, also to fulfil God’s purpose. Reverence for Divine Being led him to stay at the place, to make additional offerings and seek favour by earnest prayer. God was gracious, approved and sanctioned. Mount Moriah became a place of lawful and continual sacrifice. “Rear an altar unto the Lord!
(1) In obedience to the Lord’s command;
(2) With dedication of thyself, and what is thine, to the Lord’s honour;
(3) For the continual preservation of spiritual offerings, which are acceptable to the Lord; and
(4) For the reception of the highest gift of grace, peace with the propitiated God” [Lange]. 1 Chronicles 21:1.
1. David’s sin.
2. David’s self-reproach, penitence, and confession.
3. David’s punishment.
4. David’s supplication and expiatory offering.
5. David’s forgiveness and restoration. How God meets the presumptuouness of his favoured ones.
(1) He comes upon them with the edge of the sword;
(2) His sword is not to kill, but to loose the chains of pride
(3) Where the sword of the Lord has done its work, there he builds his temple of peace [J. Disselhoff].
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 21
1 Chronicles 21:2. The number. This attempt to take the census was not unnaturally suggested by the increase of his power, but it implied a confidence and pride akin to the spirit inculcated on the kings of the chosen people [Dean Stanley].
1 Chronicles 21:4. King’s word prevailed. Wisdom is gotten by hearkening to good counsel, for none are born so naturally (Job 11:12). “Many had proved wise if they had not thought themselves so” [Bp. Hall]. There cannot be a more worthy improvement of friendship than in a fervent opposition to the sins of those we love [Ibid.].
1 Chronicles 21:9-13.21.15. Punishment. He that would be safe from the acts of evil must wisely avoid the occasions [Bp. Hall]. How hard a master he serves where the devil gives the employment, and shame is his entertainment, and sin is his work, and hell is his wages [Bp. J. Taylor]. “Sinners labour in the very fire.”
1 Chronicles 21:7. God was displeased.
“But Providence will intervene
To throw His dark displeasure o’er the scene” [Cowper].
1 Chronicles 21:17. Plagued. The great design, both in judgment and mercies, is to convince us that there is none like the Lord our God; none so wise, so mighty, so good; no enemy so formidable, no friend so desirable, so valuable [Mt. Henry]. O God, I have made an ill use of thy mercies, if I have not learnt to be content with thy corrections [Bp. Hall]. How sweetly doth God dispose of all second causes, that while they do their own will they do his [Ibid.].
1 Chronicles 21:24-13.21.27. Full price. A bargain is sometimes as unmerciful as a robbery [Nicholls]. Kindness will dictate much in carrying on business which law cannot take cognizance of. It will preserve from the wretched practice of exclusive dealing, of punishing a man for his religion or politics by withholding custom; of making commerce the instrument of bigotry and exclusiveness, a practice which all condemn when they suffer from it, and all approve when they are advantaged by it. It will teach us to give a tender consideration to the cases of others, to treat inferiors with courtesy and gentleness, to pay respect to those whose circumstances make them apt to suspect unkindness, not to make a vigorous exaction of mere rights, to allow for unavoidable causes, and by studious care smooth the path of honest poverty [A. J. Morris].
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 21". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany