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the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
1 Chronicles 20

The Biblical IllustratorThe Biblical Illustrator

Verses 1-8

1 Chronicles 20:1-8

And it came to pass, that after the year was expired.

The capture of Rabbah

From its capture and punishment of its people we learn--

That in spiritual warfare there must be no cessation. Rest gives advantage to the enemy, and may delay or frustrate the end in view. “Forwards, children, forwards”! urged Blucher, in meeting Wellington at Waterloo.

1. Make needful preparation.

2. Be ready for every advantage. “The time to go out” must be discovered and seized.

That in conducting spiritual warfare opportunity is given for the display of virtuous qualities (2 Samuel 12:26-29). We must, transfer the glory of our conquests to our gracious “Commander and Leader.”

That all things in spiritual warfare will be subdued under God’s power. (J. Wolfendale.)

And David took the crown of their king from off his head.

The loss of a crown

The loss of a crown is much or nothing. The crown itself is a mere bauble, but it is full of significance as a token. Every office points in the direction of supremacy. The doorkeeper is on the road to the highest seat. Do not have a crown that any one can take from you. Men may steal your clothes, but they cannot steal your character. Start your son with fifty thousand golden, pounds, and he may lose it all, and want fifty thousand more; start him with a fine sense of honour, with a sound practical education, with a love of wisdom, with a knowledge of things real, simple, practical, and of daily occurrence, and he will, be rich all the time. Let no man take thy crown. When Carlyle was so poor as hardly to have a loaf, he was walking by the popular side of Hyde Park, and looking upon all that gay tumult he said to himself, with what in another man might have been conceit, but what in him was heroic audacity: “I am doing what none of you could do”; that is to say, he was writing one of his profoundest and most useful books. There he was rich. Have ideas, convictions, resolutions, ideals, and be faithful as a steward ought to be faithful, and it will never be written of thee that any man took thy crown. A man may throw away such a crown, a man may play the fool in old age; but the truth now to be inculcated is this, that no man, or combination of men, can take away the moral crown, the spiritual diadem, without the man’s own consent. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Verse 6

1 Chronicles 20:6

Where was a man of great stature, whose fingers and toes were four and twenty?

Great giants and small

“A giant,” “the son of a giant,” “children of the giant,” “a man of great stature.” There were giants in those days; there are giants in our day. There is nothing in all history so great as the history of the present; there is no moment of time so pregnant with the meaning of eternity as the moment of our present breathing. You tremble when you read the names of these giants. There is no need to tremble; a deadlier giant is aiming at your heart to-day. The heroics have changed as to apparatus and nomenclature and environment, and all that sort of vanishing vapour; the great fight goes on, the tremendous rush of armies, Philistine and Israelite still meet face to face. And they can make no peace; they represent different worlds, different ideas, atmospheres, purposes, and they never can compromise. June cannot compromise with December. What giants have you been fighting? You have got through the first crude lot. I know it; so have we all. But it was a mere mob of blackguards; the hostility itself was vulgar, coarse, contemptible. The mischief is, lest having got through that mob of scoundrelism and villainy detestable and palpable, we think that therefore the fighting is done. The fighting never ends until the body is in the grave or is laid out on its last bed. You have killed the giant of Falsehood, you would not for the world be thought to be a liar. Long ago you killed the giant Untruth, the black-faced giant Lies. But it does not therefore follow that you are now a true man, that you have escaped the lap and the shame of another falsehood, deeper, subtler, deadlier. Take care! “Thou shalt not steal.” What is stealing? What is a thief? In the old time the robber despised the thief. A great distinction is drawn in the New Testament between thieves and robbers. Thieves were little, contemptible, mean apers of gigantic, majestic robbery. There is another set of giants to be encountered. What about the giant of Unbelief? But we are rather proud of fighting with the giant Unbelief, and showing thus how extremely intellectual we are. That we have even known the very existence of the word unbelief may show what marvellous giants of might we are. Not until we distinguish between crime and sin can we make any real progress in gospel studies. Have you fought down and conquered the giant of Ingratitude? Who thinks about the spiritual sins? Who is not horrified by crime and draws its garments round it in attestation of its shocked refinement? There may be more sin in ingratitude than in some murders. The murder may have been done in hot blood, in haste to be repented of evermore, through ages eternal to be regretted and deplored as a lasting bruise of the soul. Ingratitude is slow, mean, deliberate, calculating, cruel. The giant of Ingratitude takes a great deal of fighting. Have you overthrown the giant of your Ambition? that sordid, calculating ambition that always wishes to shoulder out some other man and get a foremost place in the race of life? The danger does not lie always along what may be called the line of giants. There are more difficult forces to contend with than the visibly and measurably gigantic. There is not a giant to fight every one of us, but there is a foe that every soul must know and confront and be thrown by or must overthrow. You could shoot an evil beast, but an army could not overtake the Colorado beetle. There would be plenty of people who at other people’s expense would go to distant countries to shoot big game. Poor fools! If they would pay their own waybill I would think a little less harshly of them. So many people are prepared for giants who are not prepared for beetles and bacilli and the germs that sow the air with death. Many people would do heroic things who are only called upon to do little, simple, daily, domestic things. Are you fully aware that there are many assailants and enemies who are not giants by name, but are giants in influence, in obstinacy of purpose, in a cruel determination to ruin your soul? Have you calculated the force of little things? Read me the plagues of Egypt. Lions, tigers, elephants--is that how the story runs? Not a word of it. What were the plagues? Hardly anything bigger than a frog; the lice, the flies, the little things, these excited the alarms of Egypt, and brought Egypt to her knees. You and I are not called upon to fight the giant of Gath, or his son, or the monster referred to in the text, but we are called upon to fight many insects, bacilli, germs of poison, things that require a microscope to discover, so minute as to be to the naked eye actually invisible, and vet on the tip of your finger you may have as many of them as would people any city in Europe as to mere number. To that fight we are called--the fight of spirit with spirit, soul with influence. A tremendous battle is ours! Do you suppose that an eagle fears any foes? Think of those pinions of steel, those eyes of fire, that beak of brass. And yet the eagle is maddened to death by a humming-bird no bigger than the joint of a finger. We have often told of the insect in certain countries that eats away all the woodwork of the door and leaves nothing but a coat of paint, so that going to the door and endeavouring to open it, it falls to pieces under the slightest pressure. That is translated into the life of to-day and into the life of every day. The paint is right, the externalism is beyond criticism, all seems to be well; but take care, for the white ant has eaten up all the interior character, and nothing is left but some flake of paint. We have to fight these things in various forms, but principally I think to-day in the forms of books and tracts and publications. (J. Wolfendale.)

Hindering superfluities

The anxieties and annoyances of those whose estates have become plethoric can only be told by those who possess them. It will be a good thing when, through your industry and prosperity, you can own the house in which you live. But suppose you own fifty houses, and you have all those rents to collect, and all those tenants to please. Suppose you have branched out in business successes until in almost every direction you have investments. The fire-bell rings at night, you rush upstairs to look out of the window, to see if it is any of your mills. Epidemic of crime comes, and there are embezzlements and abscondings in all directions, and you wonder whether any of your bookkeepers will prove recreant. A panic strikes the financial world, and you are like a hen under a sky full of hawks, and trying with anxious cluck to get your overgrown chicken safely under wing. After a certain stage of success has been reached, you have to trust so many important things to others that you are apt to become the prey of others, and you are swindled and defrauded, and the anxiety you had on your brow when you were earning your first thousand dollars is not equal to the anxiety on your brow now that you have won your three hundred thousand. The trouble with such a one is, he is spread out like the unfortunate one in my text. You have more fingers and toes than you know what to do with. Twenty were useful, twenty-four is a hindering superfluity. Disraeli says that a king of Poland abdicated his throne and joined the people, and became a porter to carry burdens. And some one asked him why he did so, and he replied: Upon my honour, gentlemen, the load which I cast off was by far heavier than the one you see me carry. The weightiest is but a straw when compared to that weight under which I laboured. I have slept more in four nights than I have during all my reign. I begin to live and to be a king myself. Elect whom you choose. As for me, I am so well it would be madness to return to court. I am anxious that all who have only ordinary equipment be thankful for what they have and rightly employ it. I think you all have figuratively, as well as literally, fingers enough. Do not long for hindering superfluities. (T. De Witt Talmage.)

The hand

Sir Charles Bell was so impressed with the wondrous construction of the human hand that when the Earl of Bridgewater gave forty thousand dollars for essays on the wisdom and goodness of God, and eight books were written, Sir Charles Bell wrote his entire book on the wisdom and goodness of God as displayed in the human hand. The twenty-seven bones in the hand and wrist with cartilages and ligaments and phalanges of the fingers all made just ready to knit, to sew, to build up, to pull down, to weave, to write, to plough, to pound, to wheel, to battle, to give friendly salutation. The tips of its fingers are so many telegraph offices by reason of their sensitiveness of touch. The bridges, the tunnels, the cities of the whole earth are the victories of the hand. The hands are not dumb, but often speak as distinctly as the lips. With our hands we invite, we repel, we invoke, we entreat, we wring them in grief, or clap them in joy, or spread them abroad in benediction. The malformation of the giant’s hand in the text glorifies the usual hand. Fashioned of God more exquisitely and wondrously than any human mechanism that was ever contrived, I charge you use it for God and the lifting of the world out of its moral predicament. Employ it in the sublime work of gospel handshaking. (T. De Witt Talmage.)

The foot

Yea; the malformation of this fallen giant’s foot glorifies the ordinary foot, for which I fear you have never once thanked God. The twenty-six bones of the foot are the admiration of the anatomist. The arch of the foot fashioned with a grace and a poise that Trajan’s arch, or Constantine’s arch, or any other arch could not equal. Those arches stand where they were planted, but this arch of the foot is an adjustable arch, a yielding arch, a flying arch, and ready for movements innumerable. The human foot so fashioned as to enable man to stand upright as no other creature, and leave the hand that would otherwise have to help in balancing the body free for anything it chooses. The foot of the camel fashioned for the sand, the foot of the bird fashioned for the tree-branch, the foot of the hind fashioned for the slippery rock, the foot of the lion fashioned to rend its prey, the foot of the horse fashioned for the solid earth, but the foot of man made to cross the desert, or climb the tree, or scale the cliff, or walk the earth, or go anywhere he needs to go. With that Divine triumph of anatomy in your possession where do you walk? In what path of righteousness or what path of sin have you set it down? Where have you left the mark of your footsteps? Amid the petrifactions in the rocks have been found the mark of the feet of birds and beasts of thousands of years ago. And God can trace out all the footsteps of your lifetime, and those you made fifty years ago are as plain as those made in the last soft weather, all of them petrified for the Judgment Day. Oh, the foot! Give me the autobiography of your foot from the time you stepped out of the cradle until to.day, and I will tell your exact character now and what are your prospects for the world to come. (T. De Witt Talmage.)

The folly of underestimating our enemies

An easy accommodation of the text and an allowable one, will permit us to see several practical lessons here. Do not under-estimate the powers that are opposed to you; count their fingers, count their toes, measure their stature, take their weight, calculate them to a nicety as to what they can possibly do. He is a fool who calls a giant a dwarf. The powers of this world are not to be sneered at. Your adversary the devil goeth about--like a cripple? like I. weakling? like a thing that may be despised? No--like a roaring lion; and no man has ever sneered at a lion. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "1 Chronicles 20". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tbi/1-chronicles-20.html. 1905-1909. New York.
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