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UZZAH’S PUNISHMENT FOR TOUCHING THE ARK
2 Samuel 6:6-9. And when they came to Nachon’s threshing-floor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God. And David was displeased, because the Lord had made a breach upon Uzzah: and he called the name of the place Perezuzzah to this day. And David was afraid of the Lord that day, and said, How shall the ark of the Lord come to me?
THE noblest use of power is to exert it for God. So David thought: for no sooner had he attained the quiet possession of the throne of Israel, than he determined to bring up the ark of God from Kirjathjearim, where it had remained in obscurity perhaps for seventy years, and to place it in Jerusalem, where it might receive the honour due unto it. But, as persons striving in the Grecian games “were not crowned except they strove lawfully,” and conformed to the rules prescribed for them, so neither can they be accepted who exert their influence for God, except they use it agreeably to the dictates of His revealed will. Accordingly in this very act David met with a repulse: the person whom he employed to bring up the ark was struck dead upon the spot; and the whole measure was disconcerted: yea the very frame of David’s mind also was changed, from joyous exultation, to vexation, sorrow, and despondency.
Let us contemplate,
The punishment inflicted on Uzzah—
Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, having long had the charge of the ark in their father’s house, undertook to drive the cart whereon it was to be conveyed to Jerusalem. Ahio went before to prepare the way, and Uzzah drove the oxen: but, when they were arrived at the threshing-floor of Nachon, the oxen by some means shook the ark; and Uzzah, apprehensive it would fall, put forth his hand to keep it steady: and for this offence he was struck dead upon the spot.
Now at first sight it appears as if this punishment was exceedingly disproportionate to the offence: but we shall be of a very different opinion, if we consider,
The offence committed—
[This was of a complicated nature: it was the offence, not of Uzzah only, but of David, and of the whole nation. As it related to Uzzah, it was highly criminal: for God, in the orders he had given respecting the removal of the ark from place to place, had directed that the priests only should touch the ark, or any thing belonging to it; and that the Levites should carry it: and so strict was this order, that it was enforced by the penalty of death: “The sons of Kohath shall bear it (by its long staves;) but they shall not touch any holy thing, lest they die [Note: Numbers 4:15.].” Now Uzzah was not a priest; and therefore he should on no account have presumed to touch the ark. It may well be supposed, that this violation of God’s command was the fruit of an habitual irreverence, which a long familiarity with the ark had nourished in his mind: and therefore God took this occasion of punishing his presumption.
But David, also, and all the nation were to blame: for the very accident that occasioned Uzzah to put forth his hand, arose from their criminal neglect. God had given plain directions about his ark; and had ordered that it should be carried on the shoulders of the Levites. The other articles belonging to the tabernacle were large and cumbersome; and for the conveyance of them God had given waggons and oxen; but “to the sons of Kohath he had given none; because the service belonging to them was, to bear the ark upon their shoulders [Note: Numbers 7:6-9.].” Why then was this forgotten? “Why did David and all the priests and people presume to substitute another way, different from that which God had prescribed? The Philistines, it is true, had sent home the ark in this way: but they knew nothing of the directions given in the law, nor had they any of the sons of Aaron with them to employ in that service. Were these ignorant heathens a fit pattern for David to follow, in direct opposition to the commands of God? If David did not know what God had commanded in relation to the ark, should he not have examined; or should he not have inquired of the Lord, as he had so recently and so successfully done in reference to his conflicts with the Philistines? This neglect then was highly criminal, and justly merited the rebuke it met with.]
The reason of noticing it with such severity—
[Besides the enormity of the offence, there was additional reason for punishing it with severity, arising out of the very nature of that dispensation. God had shewn himself so gracious and condescending towards that nation, that there was great danger lest they should entertain erroneous notions of his character, and overlook entirely his majesty and greatness. Indeed even his condescension itself would be undervalued, unless they should be made sensible of his justice, his holiness, and his power. Hence on many occasions He had taken care to blend some displays of his power with the manifestations of his love. When he came down upon Mount Sinai to give them his law, he accompanied the revelation with awful demonstrations of his greatness. When he had sent fire from heaven to consume the sacrifices on his altar, and to declare his acceptance of them, he destroyed Nadab and Abihu by fire for presuming to burn incense before him with fire different from that which he had kindled [Note: Leviticus 10:1-2.]. When a single individual in the nation had offended him, he withdrew his protection from all, till the person was discovered and put to death [Note: Joshua 7:5; Joshua 7:11-12.]. Thus, he was now suffering the symbols of his presence to be transported to Jerusalem; and the people would be ready to think that they had conferred an honour upon him: he therefore shewed them, that no service could be accepted of him, unless it were regulated by a strict adherence to his revealed will; and that whilst they received from him such signal tokens of his favour, they must at the peril of their souls conduct themselves towards him with the profoundest reverence [Note: Leviticus 10:3.]. In this view the judgment inflicted upon Uzzah was an instructive lesson to the whole nation, and is a standing proof that “God is greatly to be feared, and to be had in reverence of all them that are round about him [Note: Psalms 89:7.].”]
We lament however to observe,
The effect it produced on the mind of David—
Truly the best of men are but weak, when they are visited with any heavy trial. Fervent as David’s mind was, no sooner was he thus rebuked than he was filled,
With proud resentment—
[It is probable that there was in his mind an undue degree of complacency, from the idea that he was the honoured instrument of thus exalting and glorifying his God. To meet therefore with such a check, in the midst of all his glory, and in the presence of all the great men of the nation, was very mortifying to his pride; and in an instant he betrayed what was in his heart. Had he been displeased with himself, it had been well: but “he was displeased” with God, whom he considered as dealing wrongfully and unjustly towards him. Alas! that so good a man should indulge such an unhallowed disposition. Had he himself corrected one of his little children, he would have expected the child to conclude of course, from the very correction itself, that something was amiss in him, though he could not immediately see wherein the evil of his conduct lay: and should not David have exercised that same temper towards God? Should he not have concluded that God was too wise to err, and too good to do any thing which was not strictly right? Should he not have acted, as he did on another occasion, “I was dumb and opened not my mouth, because thou didst it?” It is characteristic of the vilest of men to fly, as it were, in the face of God [Note: Isaiah 8:21.]; yea, it is their very employment in hell to curse him for the judgments he inflicts [Note: Revelation 16:9-11.]. Did such a temper then become “the man after God’s own heart?” No; he should rather have said, “It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good [Note: 1 Samuel 3:18.]” “I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him [Note: Micah 7:9.].” But in this conduct of his we have a lamentable illustration of that proverb, “The foolishness of man perverteth his way, and his heart fretteth against the Lord [Note: Proverbs 19:3.].”]
With unbelieving fear—
[He now concluded that God was an hard master, whom it was impossible to serve: he therefore would not venture any more to take to him the ark: “He was afraid of the Lord, and said, How shall the ark of the Lord come unto me?” This was a slavish fear, and utterly unbecoming one who had so often experienced the most signal tokens of his favour. This was to act like the rebellious heads of the tribes, when, in their contest with Aaron for the priesthood, God had decided the cause against them [Note: Numbers 17:12-13.]: or rather it was a repetition of the conduct of the Philistines upon a precisely similar occasion [Note: 1 Samuel 5:10-11.]. But this was very unbecoming his high character. He should rather have instituted an inquiry into the reason of the divine procedure; and should have humbled himself before God for the errors that had been committed. For this he might have found precedents in plenty in the Sacred Records [Note: Joshua 7:6; Judges 20:26.]: but he yielded at once to despondency, and dismissed the whole assembly of Israel, and left the ark to be taken in by any one that was bold enough to receive it.
Such was his unhappy frame on this occasion: and such, alas! is the temper of many under the chastisements of the Almighty: they are ready to say, “It is in vain to serve the Lord;” there is no hope: I have loved idols, and after them will I go” — — —]
Let us be especially on our guard, when we are engaged in the service of our God—
[God is a jealous God, and will not be trifled with. The conduct which would be connived at by him among the heathen, will provoke him to anger when observed among those who enjoy the light of revelation: and in proportion as we have the knowledge of him, may a conformity to his will be justly expected of us [Note: Amos 3:2.]. Happy would it be, if the professors of religion would lay this thought to heart! for, so far are they from having any dispensation from the practice of morality, that a far higher tone of morals is expected of them; they are called upon to “shine as lights in the world,” and to “be holy as God himself is holy.”
And must not this thought be pre-eminently interesting to those who are engaged in the service of the sanctuary? What manner of persons ought they to be in all holy conversation and godliness!” Sins even of ignorance are highly criminal [Note: Leviticus 5:17-19.]; but most of all in them [Note: Compare the offerings required in Leviticus 4:3; Leviticus 4:13-14; Leviticus 4:27-28; of the priest, a bullock, equivalent to the whole congregation; but of a common person, a female kid.]. Let those then who “bear the vessels of the Lord be clean [Note: Isaiah 52:11.].” Let a holy fear attend them in all their ministrations, lest, instead of finding acceptance with their God, they bring on themselves the heavier and more signal judgments. Miserable it is to die; but most of all to “die by the ark of God.”]
Let nothing divert us from the path of duty—
[If, when engaged in the service of our God, we meet with obstacles which we did not expect, let us search to find wherein we have done amiss; but let us not yield to despondency, as if it were impossible to please the Lord. Let us examine the Sacred Records, and pray for the teachings of the Holy Spirit, that “we may know what the good and perfect and acceptable will of God is:” then may we hope for success in our undertakings, and shall have tokens of God’s acceptance both in this world and the world to come [Note: This may be applied to Ministers with good effect.] — — —]
DAVID DANCING BEFORE THE LORD
2 Samuel 6:14. And David danced before the Lord with all his might.
RELIGION is, indeed, a source of joy. In this light it was viewed by the angelic host, when they proclaimed to the shepherds the birth of our Saviour, saying, “Behold, we bring you glad tidings of great joy!” And thus was it found to be by the converts on the day of Pentecost, the Ethiopian Eunuch, the people of Samaria [Note: Acts 8:8; Acts 8:39.], and by all, in every place, who received the word aright [Note: Acts 15:3.]. The Psalms of David place this matter beyond a doubt, they being almost one continued effusion of praise and thanksgiving. In the history before us we have an extraordinary exhibition, strongly confirmatory of this truth. David was bringing up the ark of God to Jerusalem; and so strong were the emotions of joy within him, that, in the presence of not less than thirty thousand of his subjects, he danced before the Lord with all his might.
Let us consider,
The expressions of David’s joy—
Certainly, at first sight, it appears strange that a monarch, stripped of his royal robes, and clad in the simple habit of a priest, should be dancing thus extravagantly, as it might appear, at the head of all his subjects. But he was serving and honouring his God: and therefore, under any circumstances, his joy would be great. But it was exceedingly heightened,
By his reflections upon the past—
[The ark, with the exception of one short interval, had abode at Baaleh, or Kirjath-jearim, for nearly fifty years, whither it had been carried twenty years after its restoration by the Philistines who had taken it captive. David had greatly desired to bring it up to Jerusalem, where he had prepared a tabernacle for its reception. He ordered it to be put on a new cart, and drawn by oxen, in the manner in which the Philistines had restored it; forgetting that God had given special commands, that none but the Kohathites, who were Levites, should carry it; and that they should never either behold or touch it, but that it should be covered, and they should bear it by means of the staves which were made for that purpose. In its progress, the ark was shaken, at the threshing-floor of Nachon; and Uzzah, one of the conductors of it, put forth his hand to hold it up, lest it should fall: and for this error God struck him dead upon the spot. This judgment was intended as a rebuke, not to Uzzah only, but to all the priests and Levites who were present; and especially to David, who had been so regardless of the divine commands, with which he doubtless was well acquainted, and of which he ought to have been most strictly observant. By this judgment David was disheartened, and he dared not to proceed, lest he himself, also, should fall a sacrifice to the divine displeasure. Accordingly, the ark was turned out of its course, and carried to the house of Obed-edom, the Gittite. But during its continuance there, for the space of three months, such manifest and extraordinary blessings flowed down upon Obed-edom and all his family, that David was assured that God was reconciled towards him: and, inspired with fresh zeal, he proceeded again to bring it up from thence, taking especial care that every thing should be conducted in God’s appointed way. After advancing only six paces, he stopped to offer burnt-offerings and peace-offerings; and then he felt in his soul, that God had accepted this service, and would crown it with good success [Note: 1Ch 15:1-3; 1 Chronicles 15:11-15.].
Now, to enter into David’s feelings aright, we must mark the contrast between this present effort and that which had so lately failed: and we must remember, that, not content with expressing his gratitude to God by secret aspirations, he strove, by his open and visible acknowledgments, to inspire all his people with the same ardent gratitude with which his own breast was filled. This will account for what might otherwise appear extravagant in this outward demonstration of his joy.]
By his anticipations of the future—
[The ark was the symbol of the divine presence: and by having it at Jerusalem, he hoped that he should have more easy access to Jehovah at all seasons, and bring down, both on himself and all his people, a rich abundance of spiritual blessings. Of this, David himself informs us in the 132d Psalm, which he wrote on that express occasion. He tells us, that he had sworn he would not come up into the tabernacle of his own house, nor go up into his bed, till he should have found out a place for the Lord, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob. He then adds, “Lo, we heard of it at Ephratah, (Kiriath-jearim,) and found it in the fields of the wood: and we will go into his tabernacle, and worship at his footstool.” Then, declaring what his prayers to God should be, he anticipates the future advent of the Messiah, and states the answers he should receive to his prayers, repeating the very words of his petitions as the precise terms of God’s promises: “The Lord hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation. This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it. I will abundantly bless her provision; I will satisfy her poor with bread: I will also clothe her priests with salvation; and her saints shall shout aloud for joy. There will I make the horn of David to bud: I have ordained a lamp for mine anointed. His enemies will I clothe with shame: but upon himself shall his crown flourish [Note: Psalms 132:1-7; Psalms 132:13-18.].” After such prospects as these, can we wonder at any expressions of his joy, however ardent, or however extraordinary? Methinks, his zeal in this instance was temperance, and his excess sobriety.]
And now let me shew,
What occasion we also have for joy at this time—
This whole matter was typical of our blessed Lord’s ascension into heaven. In the 68th Psalm, written by David on this occasion, he says, “The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place. Thou hast ascended up on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men, yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them [Note: Psalms 68:17-18.].” And St. Paul quotes these very words as declarative of our Lord’s ascension to heaven, and the out-pouring of the Spirit upon his Church as the very bestowment of those gifts which he had obtained for her [Note: Ephesians 4:8-12.].
Here, then, we have already marked for us the nobler grounds of joy which we possess at this time,
In the dignity of the person so exalted—
[The ark was dignified as a shadow, and an emblem, of the Lord Jesus: but we commemorate the exaltation of the Lord Jesus himself. And I wish you particularly to notice how this also was announced by the holy Psalmist: “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O ye gates, even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory [Note: Psalms 24:7-10.].”]
In the richness of the benefits imparted by him—
[In the passage before mentioned we see, in a general view, the gifts which our ascended Saviour bestows upon his rebellious subjects. But who can recount them all, or even estimate so much as one of them aright? See the first-fruits of those benefits on the day of Pentecost; and behold them spread over the face of the whole earth, and poured out in the richest possible abundance at this day. See the Saviour “seated at the right hand of God, far above all principalities and powers, and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come. See how God hath put all things under his feet, and given him to be head over all things to the Church, which is his body, the fulness of him who filleth all in all [Note: Ephesians 1:20-23.].” See him “exalted thus, and having a name given him above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father [Note: Philippians 2:9-11.].” All these his victories must be contemplated, and all the felicity of his redeemed people both in time and eternity, before we can estimate, in any measure, what ground we have for joy in the resurrection and ascension of our blessed Lord. My dear Brethren, only view these things by faith as David did, and even your lowest notes will resemble those of “that sweet singer of Israel:” “God is gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of the trumpet. Sing praises to God, sing praises: sing praises unto our King, sing praises: for God is the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding [Note: Psalms 47:5-7.].”]
But it will be profitable to inquire,
How far the expressions of our joy should correspond with his—
In point of ardour, we should not fall short of him, but should, if possible, exceed him. Yet in the mode of expressing our joy, I think he is not a proper pattern for us—
There is a great difference between his dispensation and ours—
[The Jewish dispensation abounded with “carnal ordinances:” and every service of the saints was marked with outward and visible signs. Every penitent that would obtain mercy of the Lord must carry his appointed offering, and conform in every thing to some peculiar law. The same must be done by those who would return thanks to God for mercies received. But we, under the Christian dispensation, are to enter into our chamber, and shut our door, that we may not be seen of men, but be seen by Him only whom we serve, the heart-searching God [Note: Matthew 6:6.]. The Jews needed the priests to mediate between God and them: but we may approach God, every one of us for ourselves, through that One Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ; yea, and may enter into the holy of holies itself, through the blood of his sacrifice which he once offered for us on the cross [Note: Hebrews 10:19-22.]. This, then, marks a broad line of distinction between David’s services and ours, and renders such “bodily exercise” as his unsuitable to us.]
Our frame of mind should be more spiritual and more refined—
[I will not say that the body is not to participate in the emotions of our minds: for in this our fallen state such a sympathy must of necessity be called forth by any intense feeling, whether of joy or sorrow. But there is a delicacy and refinement in the Christian’s feelings: and the less they savour of what is animal, the better. A Christian’s joy is “the joy of the Holy Ghost:” and when it rises to the highest pitch, so as to be utterly “unspeakable,” it is then a “glorified joy,” such as the glorified saints and angels experience in heaven [Note: 1 Peter 1:8. The Greek.]. Behold all of them before the throne of God: they are all prostrate on their faces, whilst yet they sing praises to God and to the Lamb. Their joy is a meek and holy joy: and sure I am that such is the joy that becomes us in this lower world, compassed as we are with so many infirmities. And I would the rather recommend that, because it will be less likely to cast a stumbling-block before us, and less likely to deceive your own souls. I am far from justifying Michal for casting such severe reflections on David. But her spirit shews what feelings will be generated in the bosoms of the ungodly, by any thing which seems to border on excess. By an inattention to the feelings of others, we may do considerable injury both to ourselves and them also. Our Lord, therefore, cautions us “not to cast our pearls before swine, lest they turn again and rend us.” On such occasions, I think, we should rather put a veil over our faces, as Moses did, than blind them by a splendour which they cannot bear. Yet we are not so to regard the ungodly, as to be deterred from serving God in any, and in every, way that he requires. But if we bear in mind the infirmities of others, we may the better hope to allure them to the service of their God, and to bring them to a participation of all the blessings which we ourselves enjoy.]
DAVID DANCING BEFORE THE LORD
2 Samuel 6:22. I will yet be more vile than thus, and will be base in mine own sight.
A MEASURE of firmness is necessary in the whole of our intercourse with mankind, to prevent us from being drawn aside from the path of wisdom into a compliance with the prejudices and passions of those around us. But in all that pertains to religion it is more especially necessary; because in opposition to true piety the current is exceeding strong; and we must inevitably be borne away by it, if we do not cleave unto our God with full purpose of heart. The great and powerful may be supposed to be more free than others from the influence of public opinion: but their very elevation exposes them to storms and tempests more than others; and they have therefore the more need of firmness, to bear up against the taunts with which they will be assailed, in proportion as their zeal for God is ardent and conspicuous. David was a mighty monarch: yet not even he could serve God according to his conscience without exciting the contempt and indignation of one most nearly related to him. But from the words which we have just read, we see how manfully he withstood the temptation. Let us notice,
The trial he met with—
This was very severe—
[He was bringing up the ark to Mount Zion; and had good reason to believe, that the service he was performing was pleasing and acceptable in the sight of God. Hence his soul overflowed with joy; and in the fulness of his heart “he danced before the Lord with all his might [Note: ver. 14.].” “As the ark came into the city, Michal, Saul’s daughter, looking through a window, saw him leaping and dancing before the Lord, and despised him in her heart [Note: ver. 16.].” Unconscious of the impression he had made on her mind, he went home to bless both her and all his house: but instead of finding the reception which he had expected as suited to the occasion, he was greeted with reproaches more keen and scandalous than one should have supposed it possible for the most ingenious malice to invent: “How glorious was the king of Israel to-day, who uncovered himself to-day in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself [Note: ver. 20.]!” How must he be thunder-struck, if I may so say, with such a salutation as this! To hear such a construction put upon his conduct! to be accused of an act which no one that was not lost to all sense of decency would commit even in private, and much less in the presence of thousands! to be accused of committing this too under the guise of religious zeal! and to hear this accusation from the lips of his own wife, and in language too as acrimonious and insulting as hell itself could inspire! and all this at a moment when his soul, inflamed only with love to God, was rapt into the third heavens! how inconceivably painful must this have been! Methinks, the cursings of Shimei were nothing in comparison of this.]
Yet do we see in this what all who are zealous for their God must expect—
[Religious zeal is hated by the world, who will never fail to misconstrue it as proceeding from some hateful principle, and as forming a cloak for some hidden abomination. Pride, conceit, fanaticism, and hypocrisy, are usually considered as the springs of action to those who profess godliness, especially if they bear any conspicuous part in the service of their God: their very activity is made the ground of accusation against them. Thus it has been in every age. David “wept and chastened himself with fasting; and that was turned to his reproach [Note: Psalms 69:10-11.].” John Baptist came in an abstemious way; and the people said of him, “He has a devil.” The Lord Jesus Christ came in a way more suited to the liberty of the gospel dispensation; and his enemies took occasion from that to revile him as a “gluttonous man, and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners [Note: Luke 7:33-34.].” Thus it is also in the present day; and thus we must expect to find it: for “the servant cannot be above his Lord: if they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub, much more will they those of his household [Note: Matthew 10:24-25.].” Our blessed Lord has told us, that, “if the world hated him, they will hate us also [Note: John 15:18.]:” that they will “speak all manner of evil against us falsely for his sake [Note: Matthew 5:11.];” and that they will even think they render service to God by putting to death his most faithful servants [Note: John 16:2.]. Nor will any eminence in rank, or power, or talent, or wisdom, or piety, exempt us from this lot. If David could not escape it, neither can we: if Paul was said to be “beside himself [Note: Acts 26:24.],” those who tread in his steps must not expect to be regarded as of a sound mind. Nor will this opprobrious treatment proceed only from avowed enemies: our nearest friends and relatives will often be foremost in the assault; and “our bitterest foes be those of our own household [Note: Matthew 10:36.].”]
Having seen somewhat of David’s trial, let us consider,
The determination he formed in consequence of it—
Neither abashed nor irritated, he calmly avowed his unalterable determination,
To serve his God without fear—
[If to bear this open testimony for his God, and to glorify him thus in the sight of all Israel, was to render himself vile, “he would be more and more vile” as long as he lived. A noble resolution this, and worthy to be adopted by every child of man! Are the servants of Satan bold, and shall Jehovah’s servants be cowards? Shall the ungodly commit all manner of iniquity without shame, and the godly be ashamed of walking in the ways of righteousness? No: there should be a holy energy in the soul of every saint, a readiness to rise to the occasion, however formidable that occasion be: he should have within him the elasticity of a strong well-tempered spring, whose reaction is always augmented by the pressure. If religion be decried through the whole land, so that not a second family could be found in all Israel to adhere to God, we should say with Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord [Note: Joshua 24:15.].” Reproach for Christ’s sake should be regarded as honour [Note: Acts 5:41.], and, though not coveted, yet be welcomed as the truest riches [Note: Hebrews 11:26.]. It should be considered as a precious gift of God for Christ’s sake [Note: Philippians 1:29.], and be gloried in as a participation of Christ’s sufferings, and a means of advancing his glory [Note: 1 Peter 4:12-14.]. We should be cautious indeed not by extravagance or misconduct of any kind to merit reproach: but, if it come for righteousness’ sake, we should rejoice in it, and glorify God for it [Note: 1 Peter 4:15-16.], “taking pleasure in it [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:10.]” as a testimony in our favour [Note: Luke 21:13.], and a pledge [Note: 2 Timothy 2:12.] of an accumulated [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:17.] and everlasting weight of glory [Note: Romans 8:17.]. Nor is it against reproach only that we should stand, but against the most envenomed persecution that men or devils can raise against us. We should be moved by no menaces, however cruel; but be ready to lay clown our lives for Christ’s sake [Note: Acts 20:24.], and account martyrdom a ground, not of pity and condolence, but of congratulation and joy [Note: Philippians 2:17-18.].]
To abase himself without shame—
[The chief reason of Michal’s rage was, that she thought David degraded himself by this public exhibition, which, however it might have become one of his inferior servants, was unsuited to his dignity. But David felt that a monarch in the sight of God is no more than other men; and that any elevation of rank which he possessed above others was rather a call to honour God the more, and not a reason for withholding from God any expression of gratitude and love. Hence he determined to regard himself as on a level with the least and meanest of his subjects in every thing that had respect to God. Nor would he value himself on this as an act of condescension, and thus convert humility into pride; but he would really be in his own estimation, what he professed before others to be, “less than the least of all saints [Note: Ephesians 3:8.],” unworthy to “be a door-keeper in the house of his God [Note: Psalms 84:10.],” or to unloose the latchet of his Master’s shoes [Note: John 1:27.].
And this is the frame of mind which we also should cultivate. So far from regarding earthly distinctions as a reason for rendering to God a more measured service, as though the highest acts of piety were fitted only for the vulgar, we should consider wealth, honour, learning, and influence of every kind, as talents committed to us for the purpose of honouring God with them, and of rendering our example more effectual for the good of others. And, whilst the world is reproaching us for the excess of our piety, we should be ever abasing ourselves on account of its defects. If we keep in view the perfect requirements of God’s law, and the unbounded obligations which he has laid us under by the gift of his only-begotten Son, how infinitely short of our duty will our best services appear! “Our very righteousnesses, in this view, will be as filthy rags [Note: Isaiah 64:6.],” in which we can never hope to appear before God, and which can never come up with acceptance before him, till they have been washed in the Redeemer’s blood [Note: Revelation 7:14.]. Thus, whether men admire or reproach us for our piety, we should equally abase ourselves, as in reality deserving neither their admiration nor their reproach, but rather their pity on account of the defectiveness of our services, and the smallness of our attainments.]
Those who cast reproaches on the saints—
[Behold Michal and David on this occasion, and say, whether you would not rather be the persecuted saint, than the malignant persecutor? Is there a creature in the world who must not acknowledge the superiority of David’s state, in the midst of all the ignominy that was cast upon him? Such then is the state of God’s people in the midst of all the calumnies with which they are loaded, and such is the light in which their calumniators are regarded by Almighty God. In the instance before us, God marked his displeasure against Michal, by inflicting the curse of barrenness upon her to her dying hour [Note: ver. 23.]. And us also he warns in the most solemn manner to avoid the rock on which she split: “Be ye not mockers, lest your bands be made strong [Note: Isaiah 28:22.].” If we choose not to serve God ourselves, let us beware how by scoffing and ridicule we discourage others: for our Lord tells us, that “it were better for us that a millstone were hanged about our neck, and we were cast into the depths of the sea, than that we should offend one of his little ones [Note: Matthew 18:6.].” To perish under the guilt of our own sins will be terrible enough: but to have “the blood of others also required at our hands” will be an inconceivable augmentation of our guilt and misery. This then would I entreat of all who despise and persecute the followers of Christ. Look into the Scriptures: see whether you approve of Cain, of Ishmael, of Michal, of Festus, or of any who bear the stamp and character of revilers in the Sacred Records: see whether in your consciences you do not rather side with Abel, and Isaac, and David, and Paul, and all the other sufferers, “of whom the world itself was not worthy [Note: Hebrews 11:38.]?” And if your own consciences bear testimony to the saints, dare not to walk in the steps of their oppressors, persecuting the living saints, whilst you raise memorials to the dead [Note: Matthew 23:29-31.].]
Those who are called to sustain them—
[Think it not strange that reproach is cast upon you for righteousness’ sake; for thus it has been from the beginning: “They who have been born only of the flesh ever have persecuted those who are born after the Spirit,” and so they will continue to do even to the end. You may, if you please, avoid persecution: “if you will be of the world, the world will love its own.” But are you prepared to sacrifice all your hopes and prospects in the eternal world? St. James says, that “the friendship of the world is enmity with God; and that they who will be the friends of the world, must be the enemies of God:” say then, Are ye in doubt which of the alternatives to choose? What good can the world do you by its friendship, or what evil can it inflict by its enmity? To kill the body is the worst that they can do. But what will not God do for his faithful servants? and what will he not inflict on those who turn back from him? Can you think of being denied by Christ before the assembled universe, and not tremble [Note: Matthew 10:32-33.]? O consider this, and you will not hesitate a moment whom to serve; but will “choose that good part which shall never be taken away from you.” You will gladly “suffer affliction with the people of God, and esteem the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of the whole world.”]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 6". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany