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2 Samuel 6:1-23
And David arose and went with all the people that were with him from Baale of Judah to bring up from thence the Ark of God.
The Ark brought to Zion
In order to understand the full meaning of this transaction, it will be necessary to recall what the Ark was, and what was the occasion due the significance of its removal from Shiloh, and its long-continued absence from the sanctuary from that time forward. Immediately after the formal ratification of the covenant between Jehovah and Israel at Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:1-18), by sacrifice and the sacred meal partaken of by the representatives of the people in God’s immediate presence, Moses was directed to come up into the mountain, and receive God’s covenants. And the first direction given was for the preparation of a sanctuary that Jehovah might dwell among them (25:8); and the first thing appointed to be made for this purpose was the Ark (v. 10) with its mercy-seat (v. 17), of which the Lord said to Moses (v. 22), “There I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy-seat, from between the two cherubim, which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.” Nothing had as yes been said about the tabernacle, or the altar, or sacrifices, or the priesthood. All this was secondary and subordinate to the first essential matter, which was the presence of God Himself as represented and pledged in the Ark. The tabernacle was to contain the Ark, and it was the house of God, not merely because it was dedicated to sacred uses, but because He who had graciously linked his presence with the Ark dwelt in it. When, therefore, the ungodliness of Israel and the gross iniquity of Eli’s sons, the priests, was punished by suffering the Ark of God to be captured by the Philistines, this was an event of the direst significance. It was not merely that in the adverse fortunes of war a precious and highly valued treasure had been lost, an ancient and sacred relic which was devoutly prized, and had hitherto been sacredly guarded. It was an absolutely irreparable loss. When the Ark was taken away, Jehovah himself was gone. The tabernacle was thenceforward an empty shell; the priests ministered before a vacant shrine. No new ark was made to take the place of the old. This was impossible. Another chest might have been made of the same pattern and dimensions, and it could have been similarly overlaid with gold. Like figures of golden cherubim could not have been set above it. It might have been exactly reproduced in material and form; but this newly framed model would not have been the Ark. What the Ark was in Israel’s esteem, and what the sacred historian believed it to be, is sufficiently apparent from his narrative. God’s presence is represented to be as firmly linked with it by the statements of the history as by the enactments of the law. This long neglect of the Ark from the time of Eli to that of David, from its removal from Shiloh to its transportation to Zion, is utterly unaccountable but upon one hypothesis, and that is the explanation afforded by the sacred writers themselves, namely, that the Lord had for the time withdrawn the visible manifestation from Israel, The breach between Jehovah and his people, created by their transgressions, had not yet been healed. And until this was done, He would not again establish His dwelling in the midst of them. It cannot be because Samuel was ignorant of the existence of the Ark, or of its sacred significance. For he was brought up in the temple at Shiloh, where the Ark of God was, and there it was within its hallowed precincts that Jehovah had first revealed Himself to him, and foretold the desolation of the sanctuary because of the iniquity practised there by the, degenerate priests. It cannot be because the Levitical law was not yet in existence, and the sacredness with which it surrounded the Ark was not yet popularly ascribed to it. For the facts already above recited demonstrate the contrary. It is not because the Ark was slightingly regarded, that it was for so long a time suffered to slumber in silence, but for precisely the opposite reason. Now, however, the long term of the Lord’s displeasure is ended, and the way is prepared for Him to return with His power and grace to His people, to renew the symbol of His presence, and to fix His residence again in the midst of them. The alienation of Jehovah was removed. And David’s first care, upon his being established as king over all Israel, in which he was most heartily seconded by the people at large, was to have the Ark brought to his capital, and set up there in an appropriate sanctuary, so that he might reign under the shadow of the Almighty: Jehovah the real king of Israel, and David ruling simply as his vicegerent. Jehovah thus returns once more to Israel, and takes up his abode in the midst of his people. The return of the Ark is not merely the bringing forth into notice of a long-neglected and sacred vessel belonging to the sanctuary; it, is the coming back of God Himself to a people whom he had temporarily forsaken. (W. H. Green, D. D., LL. D.)
The ark brought up to Jerusalem
1. In bringing up the ark to Jerusalem, the king showed a commendable desire to interest the whole nation, as far as possible, in the solemn service. A handful might have sufficed for all the actual labour that was required; but thousands of the chief people were summoned to be present, and that on the principle both of rendering due honour to God, and of conferring a benefit on the people. It is not a handful of professional men only that should be called to take a part in the service of religion; Christian people generally should have an interest, in the ark of God; and other things being equal, that church which interests the greatest number of people and attracts them to active work will not only do most for advancing God’s kingdom, but will enjoy most of inward life and prosperity.
2. The joyful spirit in which this service was performed by David and his people is another interesting feature of the transaction. God enthroned on Zion, God in the midst of Jerusalem--what happier or more thrilling thought was it possible to cherish? God, the sun and shield of the nation, occupying for His residence the one fitting place in all the land, and sending over Jerusalem and over all the country emanations of love and grace, full of blessing for all that feared His name.
3. But the best of services may be gone about in a faulty way. There may be some criminal neglect of God’s will that, like the dead fly in the apothecary’s pot of ointment, causes the perfume to send forth a stinking savour. And so it was on this occasion. What induced them to follow the example of the Philistines rather than the directions of Moses, we do not know, and can hardly conjecture. It does not appear to have been a mere oversight. It has something of a deliberate plan about it, as if the law given in the wilderness were now obsolete, and in so small a matter any method might be chosen that the people liked. It may have been an error of inadvertence. But that somewhere there was a serious offence is evident from the punishment with which it was visited (1 Chronicles 15:13). The great lesson for all time is to beware of following our own devices in the worship of God when we have clear instructions in His word how we are to worship Him. This lamentable event put a sudden end to the joyful service. It may happen to you that some Christian undertaking on which you have entered with great zeal and ardour, and without any surmise that you are not doing right, is not blessed, but meets with some rough shock, that places you in a very painful position. You are attacked with unexampled rudeness, sinister aims are laid to your charge, and the purpose of your undertaking is declared to be to hurt and discourage those whom you were bound to aid. The shock is so violent and so rude that for a time you cannot understand it. But when you go into your closet, and think of the matter as permitted by God, you wonder still more why God should thwart you in your desire to do good. Rebellious feelings hover about your heart float if God is to treat you in this way, it were better to abandon His service altogether. But surely no such feeling is ever to find a settled place in your heart. You may be sure that the rebuff which God has permitted you to encounter is meant as a trial of your faith and humility.
4. The Lord does not forsake His people, nor leave them for ever under a cloud. It was not long before the downcast heart of David was reassured. When the ark had been left at the house of Obed-edom, Obed-edom was not afraid to take it in. Its presence in other places had hitherto been the signal for disaster and death. It is not so much God’s ark in our time and country that needs a lodging, but God’s servants, God’s poor, sometimes persecuted fugitives flying from an oppressor, very often pious men in foreign countries labouring under infinite discouragements to serve God. The Obed-edom who takes them in will not suffer. Again, then, King David, encouraged by the experience of Obed-edom, goes forth in royal state to bring up the ark to Jerusalem. The error that had proved so fatal was now rectified. The check he had sustained three months before had only dammed up his feelings, and they rolled out now with all the greater volume. His soul was stirred by the thought that the symbol of God-head was now to be placed in his own city, close to his own dwelling; that it was to find an abiding place of rest in the heart of the kingdom, on the heights where Melchizedek had reigned, close to where he had blessed Abraham, and which God had destined as His own dwelling from the foundations of the world. He sacrificed, he played, he sang, he leapt and danced before the Lord, with all his might; he made a display of enthusiasm which the cold-hearted Michal, as she could not understand it nor sympathise with it, had the folly to despise and the cruelty to ridicule.
5. A few other circumstances are briefly noticed in connection with the close of the service, when the ark had been solemnly enshrined within the tabernacle that David had reared for it on Mount Zion.
(1) The first is that “David offered burnt-offerings and peace-offerings before the Lord.” The burnt-offering was a fresh memorial of sin, and therefore a fresh confession that even in connection with that very holy service there were sins to be confessed, atoned for, and forgiven.
(2) Again, we find David after the offering of the burnt-offerings and the peace-offerings “blessing the people in the name of the Lord of hosts.” This was something more than merely expressing a wish or offering a prayer for their welfare. It was like the benediction with which we close our public services. The benediction is more than a prayer, The servant of the Lord appears in the attitude of dropping on the heads of the people the blessing which he invokes. Not that he or any man can convey heavenly blessings to a people that do not by faith appropriate them and rejoice in them. But the act of benediction implies this: These blessings are yours if you will only have them. The last act of public worship is a great encouragement to faith. When the peace of God that passeth all understanding, or the blessing of God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, or the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost are invoked over your heads, it is to assure you that if you will but accept of them through Jesus Christ, these great blessings are actually yours.
(3) The third thing David did was to deal to every one of Israel, both man and woman, a loaf of bread, and a good piece of flesh, and a flagon of wine. It was a characteristic act, worthy of a bountiful and generous nature like David’s. Yet Jesus did not abstain on some rare occasions from feeding the multitude, though the act was liable to abuse. The example both of David and of Jesus may show us that though not habitually, yet occasionally, it is both right and fitting that religious service should be associated with a simple repast.
4. The last thing recorded of David is that he returned to bless his house. The cares of the State and the public duties of the day were not allowed to interfere with his domestic duty. It is plain from this that, amid all the imperfections of his motley household, he could not allow his children to grow up ignorant of God, thus dealing a rebuke to all who, outdoing the very heathen in heathenism, have houses without an altar and without a God. (W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
The return of the ark
I. The removal of the ark from Baale to Jerusalem. This period was the very prime of David’s life, and power, and glory, and in it he undertakes the great business of confirming the worship of God. We can easily see that this forwardness to promote religion was his duty, as he was king of a religious state; yet it is in that very form and light that his conduct speaks to us with the highest authority. To rulers and magistrates, kings and ministers, what a lesson does it afford, what a salutary counsel! Men are religious beings, endowed with the faculty of religion, which other inferior animals possess not; their duty is, in every relation in life, religion. In authority, the main object should be to legislate for the true welfare of the subject, which is connected with religion alone. If rulers and legislators, on any pretext whatever, uphold and pension idolatry in a state, Or indulge the tendency of the multitude to idolatry, they decidedly labour the ruin of the subject, here and hereafter, as well as their own.
II. David’s grievous offences. The prescribed mode of transportation was wholly neglected. Men there are well disposed to serve God, and give Him the best of all their property, of life, and love, and reason, and substance, who hasten indiscreetly and illegitimately to the call of religion. Some will serve God, provided one article of the faith may be omitted. Others provided one favourite sin be allowed. Others, provided that their own fancy, their own wild conceptions of religion, their poetical deism, and poetical philanthropy, be taken for religion. And they fail! How could it be otherwise, when God did never call any man to a defective creed, or defective morality, or to despise His own rule of religion. And they are offended when some judgment has fallen in the very highway of their service, and declared it void and rejected! Such a judgment as distress, or death, or spiritual weakness, or ignominy, and the increase of folly rather than of religion. By these things God may declare our service dishonoured and unacceptable. The temporary sojourn of the ark brought numerous blessings on the house of Obed-edom. Religion--scriptural religion--is the means of solid prosperity. The time was short which was here allowed for the proof of a special providence in behalf of those who kept the ark of God within their walls, yet it was enough to confer blessings of health, and wealth, and honour. And if our time be limited but to one hour from this moment forth, and if we can carry with us, not the ark of the law, but the ark of mercy--the covenant salvation of Jesus Christ, by faith, who can set a limit to the blessings which shall accrue to us? Loved of Christ, what can harm us? cherished of God, what can hurt our peace, or damage our fortunes? We are all candidates for earthly welfare; believe it, then, the only and true secret of success, is in the sincere worship of the Saviour, as God of Gods and Lord of all Lords.
III. During the progress of the successful attempt to set up the ark of the Lord at Jerusalem, David took a prominent part, as on the former occasion, in the whole proceeding. To all men this public homage speaks alike: it calls on us to do personal service. We may not transfer to any fellow-creature the performance of religious duties. As ordinary men, we do too little, when we transfer to others the conveyance of our patronage or bounty. We should with our own hands, when possible, feed the hungry, and refresh the weary, and clothe the naked; we should with our own voices, and present souls, and present sympathy, soothe the afflicted.
IV. The king’s return to bless his household. The king of Israel, it is true, forsakes the public scene, but it is only “to return and bless his household,” to rehearse the ceremony of the day, explain its importance, impress the value of religion on all his dependants, and seal the blessings of public worship upon his family, by domestic piety. In this act we recognise these three particulars--
1. The personal maintenance of God’s honour before His family.
2. His anxiety to communicate the blessings of religion to all the souls within His influence.
3. The solemn dedication of those souls to the honour and worship of the Supreme Being.
V. The Boldness, The Nobleness And Dignity Of David’s Conduct throughout the events of that great day, when the ark rested within the walls of the holy city. A man shall find his foe ever in his own household; or if not, his religion will be arraigned, and his conduct reprehended with the keenest censures, by his associates, and his very piety denounced as mean and grovelling, dishonourable and injurious. (C. M. Fleury, A. M.)
Care of the ark
In the second verse we read “David arose.” A new passion seized him; a sudden enthusiasm stirred him like a great wind from heaven. We cannot account for these inspirations, excitements, new consecrations, and purposes in life. Sometimes we say, Why did not men rise before? The answer is, They could not: the rising of men is not in themselves. There is a centre, there is a Throne, there is a living King, and in connection with these great central sovereignties and dominions there is a mysterious ever-operating Spirit that will not fall under our calculations and laws and predictions as to his operations in the human mind and on the human heart.
2. David arose to bring the ark to the metropolis. This idea is not without sublimity, and not without practical bearing upon our own nationality and own religious civilization. Be strong in the high places; see that the throne is within the operation of the mysterious influence of the altar; let there be no great distance between royalty of an earthly kind and service of a spiritual sort Let every metropolis be the best city in the whole land, It ought to be.
3. How is the ark to be moved? We read, in the third verse, that “they set the ark of God upon a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab that was in Gibeah.” There is a touch of veneration about this arrangement. The cart was “new.” In the olden times and in eastern cities great store was set by new things: the colt upon which Jesus rode was to be one whereon never man sat; the tomb in which he was laid was a Scrub in which never man was laid before. There used to be a kind of pagan veneration for new things. Samson said, If you bind me with new withs--they must be new--then I shall be weak as other men. That experiment having failed, he added, If you bind me with new ropes--they mush be new--“never occupied” is the old English word--never occupied before, then my strength will be as the strength of other men. So we find here that the cart on which the ark was to be carried is a new cart. Where was the law? A dead letter. We can outlive our laws. We can forget the Bible. We can so accustom ourselves to policies and moralities of our own invention and construction as to forget the law of Sinai, the commandments of the living God. Oxen and waggons they were to have none. When the ark was to be carried it was to be carried by living men, and they were to be proud of the crowning honour of having part or lot in bearing the ark of the Lord. Let us not look at such details as little things, and suppose that it matters nothing whether the ark is carried in one way or another, provided that it is brought to its proper destination. There is nothing trifling in the kingdom of Heaven; there is nothing trifling in human life, when we really understand it.
4. “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” (v. 6.) Did the oxen turn aside naturally because of the threshingfloor? Had not they, too, come home? Did they not betray natural impatience when they approached the place where food was kept? The ark shaking under the movement of the oxen, Uzzah, who was undoubtedly a Levite, put forth his hand and took hold of the ark in well-meant purpose. But he was killed (v. 7). The ark is never in danger. That throne needs no buttress of our building. What share have we in keeping the stars in their places? How much of the security of the constellations is owing to our pre-arrangement, forethought, and devotion? God will take care of His own ark, and His own kingdom and truth in the world.
5. David got a new view of Divine Providence. He did not know that God was so careful, so critically particular. Such fear has a great place in spiritual education. The culture of the soul is not to be perfected by instruments of music, but by a holy fear. (J. Parker, D. D.)
The ark brought to Zion
I. David’s good work hindered by war. Manifold are the evils of war. What an arrest on industry! What wrecked homes! What ruined harvests! What slaughtered lives! What a legacy of oppressive taxation, and the worse legacy of revengeful feeling! Manifold evils! This, too, among them: good works, national reformation, widened freedom,, education, religion arrested. Neglected is the tabernacle of God when the war-tents are pitched, and drowned in battle-cries are the songs of Zion. We know nothing of this; but it is well to think of it. The calm Sabbath air is unvexed by the war trumpet. The church doors are open to us, and the bells peal out their invitation to worship. Wars, rumours of wars, are not shocking the sweet, refreshing rest out of our Sabbath hours. Peace is ours. Not always so in this land. Churches were closed, or turned into barracks or military hospitals. And though this has been unknown in recent England, it has been known in recent days in other lands. Here--let us recognise it thankfully--God has blessed His people with peace. David’s conflicts were triumphs; for he carefully “enquired of the Lord.” He went not forth till bidden, and did as bidden. What battles had never been fought if men, statesmen, kings, had done as David did. Voice of seer, mystic oracle we need not. “We have the word of prophecy made more sure; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a lamp shining in a dark place.” This will guide men-out of their self-seekings and ambitions and incipient quarrels into peace. Let us, each of us, be guided by it in our dealings one with another, and then, though un-influential seem our place in the great world’s life, we shall yet be helping to make war one of the barbarisms of the past--one of the happily-unknown horrors of the golden year that appears so far away, but is to come.
II. David’s good work, when begun, arrested by irreverence. The glories of the ark had largely passed into history. Still, it was God’s symbol;--still to be treated with reverence; still--the command not having been abrogated--to be untouched by human hand. Let all this day, then, beware. Amid this tumultuous gladness let there be reverence. The monitary instruction of that death is for us as well as for David and his people. It is for all, and especially for those who bear a prominent part in Divine work and worship. “We mock God when we do not fear.” Irreverence! I speak not of the irreverence of the age; parents to children; subjects to governors; literature to religion; science to revelation. Think of irreverence in the Church! We need not go beyond ourselves. The preacher needs to watch. He may not “handle the Word of God deceitfully,” but he may lightly; so familiar with it as to lose sight of Whose Word it is. In any department of Christian labour we must watch lest as preacher, teacher, visitor, we forget to whom we are speaking. Humble folk, it may be, poor children, dull, impatient patients. But who are these? For them, the most repellent of them, Christ died. Each dowered with the transcendent possession of a soul outvaluing the world though it were “one entire and perfect chrysolite.” Each through all the obscurity, and toil, and weariness of the life here, a pilgrim to eternity. So in Divine worship. As we enter the sanctuary, let it be to us “none other but the house of God,” not by our wandering, grasping thoughts degraded into tent of folly or den of thieves. As we open the Bible, familiar to us as was the ark to Uzzah, let us treat it with reverence, and “hear with meekness” the messages of this “Book of God, this God of Books.” As we sing, let us “make melody in our hearts to the Lord,” or the sweetest music will be sin. As we pray, let us only utter the heart--our words “the expiration of the thing inspired.” Amid all the exercises of public worship and the worship of the home, “let more of reverence in us dwell.” Uzzah “being dead yet speaketh.”
III. David’s good work joyfully accomplished. For three months the ark continued in the house of Obed-Edom bringing in unrecorded but manifest ways much blessing on the household of its careful and pious keeper. By this David was encouraged to prepare for its final removal to Jerusalem. He has learnt some lessons from Uzzah’s death. Everything must be done with circumspection, “after the due order” (1 Chronicles 15:2-13), which had been strangely overlooked before. It was a transcendent hour. We can know little all it meant to David--how many hopes were being crowned: all it meant to Israel, with whom was opening a new epoch in their great history. They had been long falling from God--the very symbol of His presence neglected. But now had come times of peace; a God-chosen, God-approved man was their king. He would remind them that they were God’s people, that ark the centre of their worship in the new capital would check that local idolatry to which they were so prone; would, gathering them together to one place for their holy feasts, bind them into a national and, infinitely more important, a religious unity. That ark, shrined in the sanctuary of their sanctuary, no idol in it, witnessed to the spirituality of God. We can rejoice in One whose Name is Immanuel, “God with us.” Round Him Christian people gather for worship, and through Him have access with boldness to the Father. By Him God is declared to us, declared in a life of human suffering, yet Divine purity; in a life that “went about doing good,” in a death that was died for the sins of the world. More than even ark with its shekinah glory could be to Israel, is Christ to us. A glory seen to-day not in material temple; not in any “house made with hands,” but in the transformation, ennobling of human spirit and life. In every saved man behold the glory of God in Jesus Christ. We know that God is among us for such work is Divine. (G. F. Coster.)
David restoring the ark
1. At last God accomplished the long cherished desire of His servant’s heart--and David became the head and governor of Israel. The capture of the citadel of Zion, which till then had never been wrested from the foe, made him the virtual founder of Jerusalem; and undisputed supremacy began for the first time to attach to the people of God. But of what value is strength, unless thoroughly subjected to God, and made the servant of His order, and of His truth? David well knew that Israel could only regulate others for blessing, in proportion as they themselves were regulated by God. To be legislated for by God was the distinctive privilege of Israel: it was theirs to say of Him, “my King as well as my God.” What, then, was the condition in which David found the order of Israel? Was Israel really subject to the arrangements of God? The condition of Israel’s order was mainly determined by their relation to the Tabernacle and its vessels, especially their relation to the Ark of the Covenant. When Israel were in their journies in the wilderness, the Ark preceded them. When the Ark rested, its proper place was the Tabernacle. It is true, indeed, that the presence of the Ark anywhere in Israel was an evidence of God being near them, and His care over them: but His presence could not be duly recognised, nor the order of His truth maintained, unless the Ark was in the sanctuary, and the appointed services performed by the Levites and Priests, according to the manner. The fallen Tabernacle--the scattered vessels of ministration--the isolation of the Ark in an unknown dwelling--were sufficient indications that Truth and the order thereof had indeed fallen. Can we trace in these things no typical likeness to the days in which we live? Are we living at an hour when the truths of God are maintained in their completeness, and in their right connections; or are they held partially, confusedly, and out of their right relations to each other--many despised--many lost. And yet, who cares for these things? Men say, Is not God yet amongst us? Are not souls still saved by His grace? Why, then, should we concern ourselves about His order, or the more minute knowledge of His truth?
2. Throughout the reign of Saul the Ark was not only kept in separation from all the other vessels of the Tabernacle, but even in its isolation, it was neglected and dishonoured. It was the sense of this that chiefly acted on the soul of David. He does not appear to have considered so much the absence of right relation between the Ark and the other vessels of the Tabernacle, as to have been struck by the more palpable and astounding fact of the want of all right relation between the Ark and Israel. To bring back, therefore, the Ark from the place of its dishonour; to make it once more that which Israel should seek unto and inquire of; and above all, to establish it in the citadel of Zion, the place of sovereign supremacy and strength; these were the immediate objects of David’s desires. Herein he was fulfilling his office of king, in giving supremacy to God and to His truth.
3. But the servants of: God have not unfrequently to learn that the pursuit of a right end does not necessarily imply the employment of right means. This David proved. It seemed easy to him, and to the eiders of Israel to move the ark of God to its new habitation. The desire was holy--the object right--and they fully reckoned on the instant and unhindered blessing of God. A cart was prepared: oxen were yoked to it; the ark of God was placed thereon; and one whom they appointed amongst themselves, drave the oxen. The ordinance of God was express, that none but Priests and Levites should handle the vessels of the sanctuary: and although God, when the sin of Israel had brought the ark into the land of the Philistines, where there were no Levites--no Priests--was at liberty to supersede His own ordinances, yet David was not God. David, indeed, might well humble himself because of his error; for what error could be greater than recklessly to transgress the solemn ordinance of God, who had said that none but Priests and. Levites should touch the things of His sanctuary? Yet, has Christianity afforded: no instances of similar transgression? David infringed the typical order of God, and was punished; but how much sorer punishment do we deserve if we subvert the anti-typical reality--if we call the unsanctified and the unbelieving--those who fear not God and know not Christ, into functions which belong only to those who have truly the grace of His Spirit.
4. There was no visible glory; no manifestation of the Divine Presence, whilst David was restoring to Israel the long-banished Ark of the Covenant of their God. If it had been a day in which God was visibly manifesting His own glory, there would have been no danger of David’s being regarded unduly, even if all the splendour of Israel’s glory had been gathered around his person. But it was otherwise when that glory was hidden, and when the solitary Ark, long exiled from the Tabernacle of God, was the lowly emblem of God’s presence in the midst of His repentant people. The eye of faith could discern the blessedness of that hour; but the heart of the daughter of Saul, true to her lineage, saw no excellency in it. She beheld the joy of David--understood it not--despised and upbraided him, and found in the day of Israel’s blessing, a day of sorrow and lasting chastisement to herself. We have authority from Scripture for saying that the things which happened to Israel happened unto them for ensamples, and are written for our admonition (1 Corinthians 10:1-33.) They who read the Old Testament Scriptures, remembering this, will be able to trace many a feature in the general aspect of Christianity, that too closely resembles the condition of Israel at the time of which we have been speaking. How often do Christians seek to deaden their apprehension of the disorder and dereliction of truth that prevails around them, by the reflection that God has not forsaken, and never will forsake His own people; just as Israel might have said, in the days of Saul, “Is not the Ark yet amongst us?” It is, indeed, most true that God will not forsake His people; but is preservation from final ruin, and deliverance from the extreme effects of disobedience, the only thing that is to be desired by the Church of God? Have they no distinctive testimony to maintain--no banner to display, because of God’s truth? Is there no directive efficacy in His principles--nothing that forms the character, and determines the path of those who are subject to their power? If His principles be amongst us, and we regard them not, what can we expect, but that it should be said of us, as it was said of Israel, “that truth has fallen in the streets, and equity cannot enter.” When we read of the triumph and exceeding joy with which David and all Israel with him, brought up the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord to Zion, “with shouting, and with sound of the cornet, and with trumpets, and with cymbals, making a noise with psalteries and harps,” if we ask ourselves what these things indicate, we are obliged to look on to a yet future hour, when a greater than David--One whom David feebly typified, will, as one of the results of His own conflicts, give rest, and establishment, and supremacy, to the long scorned and persecuted Truth. The time is drawing nigh when that typical hour of David’s joy is to be accomplished in that final day of triumph, when the Psalms of Israel on earth shall unite with the halleluiahs of the redeemed above, in saying, “The Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” For that hour we wait, as those who have been alike made Levites--Priests--Kings; able therefore to serve, to worship, and to contend for Him, during the time of His people’s weakness, and of His truth’s dishonour, yet expecting no triumph until that day. (B. W. Newton.)
The Ark brought bark
In this lesson there are sharp contrasts. Here is the ark of God, dreaded by some, by others desired; by some treated with rashness and irreverence, by others with holy care. To the first it becomes the occasion of awful punishment and fear; to the last, of unmingled blessing. Like the Gospel, it is a savour of death to some; to others, of life.
1. David, now victorious over all enemies, and firmly settled on the throne, resolves to bring up the long-neglected ark of God from Kirjath-jearim to Jerusalem. Disregarded, almost forgotten, through the reigns of Saul and Ishbosheth, it shall now be honoured in the sight of all the nation, brought to the capital, and made again the centre of Israel’s religious services. Immense preparations are made by the king for celebrating its removal with suitable impressiveness and splendour. The whole nation is, as it were, taken into his plans. The men of renown, the leaders of the tribes, are summoned from all portions of the land. The priests and Levites assemble from their widely-scattered cities. Kirjath-jearim is reached; the vast procession is formed, the ark in its midst. Suddenly a cry of terror is heard, and now another, and still another. Disorder and confusion are spreading from rank to rank. David himself is seen lifting up his hands in horror as at some dreadful sight. What is the cause of this sudden tumult? Uzzah has been struck dead beside the ark! It shook because of the stumbling oxen, and, reaching forth his hand to hold it, instantly he fell dead upon the road. What could have been the meaning of this startling catastrophe? Undoubtedly, to many readers of the Bible, it has appeared a judgment of strange and disproportionate severity. If, however, we study the whole event, we shall find that there are circumstances which will do much to explain why Jehovah regarded this dreadful stroke as just and necessary. It was a part of this lesson of reverence for His Name and presence, and only in harmony with all the wonderful history of the ark, when Jehovah added special instructions as to the manner in which it should be cared for by its attendants, and in which the tabernacle and the ark itself should be transported from place to place. The Levites only were to be employed in this service (Numbers 4:2; Numbers 4:15; 1 Chronicles 15:2), and of these only one household, the sons of Kohath. There was no room for doubt that these directions had been thought by Jehovah of sufficient importance to be embodied in distinct and written commands; and these commands on that day were utterly disregarded. Uzzah’s laying hold of the ark itself, was an act forbidden to the priests--and Uzzah was no priest--under any circumstances. It was at this point that Jehovah interposed. The nation, with the king at their head, were nominally honouring Him, but by the light and irreverent way in which they did it, by the negligent and half-heathenish manner in which, notwithstanding all their pomp, they entered upon this sacred business, they were dishonouring Him. If God were worthy of their worship, why did they take no sufficient pains to worship Him according to His Word? How did they dare in the very acts of His so-called service to break His most obvious command? As for Uzzah himself, who was the most conspicuous sufferer, it is possible that long familiarity with the ark had bred a special irreverence and presumption in him; but, however, that may be, his sin was shared by all who employed him in these forbidden services, and so occasioned his foolhardy and guilty deed. A feeling of mingled anger and despair now took possession of David’s mind (v. 8). If he had been “displeased” with himself, we could have understood it. But it is indeed a mystery if his resentment was directed against God. It inclines us to fear that his own glory was in some measure his object in all these magnificent services. Was he angry because God had turned his great fete into a day of national disappointment and gloom, or because Jehovah had dishonoured him before the multitudes by this overwhelming rebuke? We cannot tell, but we wish that it could have been written that David was humbled and penitent rather than that he was displeased. And we can defend his despondency as little as his anger. He seems to have forgotten all his duty in a fit of half sullenness, half unbelieving fear. He abandons on the spot the whole plan of restoring the ark to its true abode. Instead of inquiring for the sin which caused the trouble, he acts as if there were no hope of forgiveness, no hope of acceptable service--as though God were a being toe dreadful to be approached, too capricious to be pleased. We are reminded of the slavish fears which the presence of God and the thought of His holy majesty still awaken in the hearts of sinful men, and of their readiness to be quit of all tokens of Him whom they cannot remember except with dread.
2. But now there appears another character upon the scene. He is a man hitherto unknown. The name of Obed-edom will always be honoured as that of the man who, while all others were filled with terror and dismay, shrinking in dread from the ark of God, held in his bosom the secret of a far different feeling--looking upon the ark indeed with all veneration, but without fear, opening the doors of his dwelling to welcome it, and finding it a source of unmingled good: He knew well how fearfully God had vindicated His holiness when the ark had been dishonoured; how by an unseen hand the massive idols had been thrown down upon their faces and broken before it; how the Philistines had been smitten with disease and slaughter; how the men of Beth-shemesh had been slain, and how Uzzah also had been struck with death beside it. He had heard the cry of terror from its heathen captors when they pleaded to have it sent away from their coasts. Beth-shemesh, the scene of the awful judgment because of the dishonoured ark, was scarcely a half-day’s journey from his home, and now he sees all the frightened thousands of Israel, helpless with sudden fear, crowding the mountain-roads around his dwelling, even David himself afraid to meddle with this dreadful ark. He sees all this, and yet he does not fear to admit it to his house. A man humble and devout, he understands that, although to the irreverent and careless our God is a consuming fire, the obedient need not fear him. To the obedient and confiding soul He is always a God of love. Obed-edom expected to obey God--to obey Him scrupulously, reverently. Whatever rule God had prescribed for his observance he would never make bold to call a little thing. He was not under any such delusion as that God could be better honoured by a vast procession or by any services, however ravishing to human sense, than by a sober respect for his plain commands. In the house of Obed-edom there is peace. It rests not alone on the father. Here God’s covenant is found to be a household covenant and to bring a blessing to all the home. And they were such as to be manifest. They were not confined to the secret souls of this favoured household. Either their unusual health and happiness and prosperity were such as were daily apparent to all their neighbours, or the inward blessings they enjoyed were freely mentioned by them to Jehovah’s praise. Probably in both these ways the favour they received from God was known. And now we shall see that by having received a blessing they were made a blessing. The happiness and goodness of this one pious household extend their influence at length to all the nation. They make it evident to one and another of the multitudes who had fled from God at his stroke, that, although He is a holy God, he need not be dreaded by any humble, careful heart. Through the spreading story of Obed-edom’s blessing all Israel learns anew the loving-kindness of the Lord. The skepticism which that day of gloom had rolled over the land begins to be dispelled. The scoffers are silenced, the disheartened take courage. They learn that although the highest kings must not trifle with the holiness of the Lord, the humblest worshipper, anxious only to obey completely His sacred will, shall find Him a Father full of smiles and tenderness, Obed-edom restores: David’s faith, and David at length leads the nation back to God. It is given to this unknown villager to instruct and reassure the dejected king. From the acceptance of Obed-edom’s lowly worship, contrasted with the rejection of his own magnificent array, the monarch learns that to obey is better than sacrifice--that not all the eloquence of David’s psalms, not all the minstrelsy of his choirs, not all the throngs of Israel’s applauding tribes, could please Jehovah half so well as a serious and exact obedience to His written word. (A. Mitchell, D. D.)
The ark the centre of service and worship
King David had two great things set him to accomplish: to establish the worship of Jehovah in the place which he had chosen above all others for his abode, and to extend the kingdom to the bounds allotted to his people. He had just been acknowledged as king of all Israel. And now the place was ready to receive the ark of God, the most sacred of all the sacred things about which centred the worship of Jehovah. The ark, with its contents and its covering, came thus naturally to be the centre of the service and worship of Israel. To bring back the ark, then, was to re-establish the worship of Jehovah, and to centre the nation about the recognition of His law and grace. The topic suggested by these events is the relation of the public acknowledgment of God to the welfare of the nation, the family, and the individual.
I. the neglect of public worship is disastrous to all these interests. Not always at first to material prosperity, and yet that condition of society which permits the increase of irreligion and a growing disregard for the institutions of worship is incompatible with the best prosperity of the state. No one can tell the evil that comes to a people by the disregard of its religious institutions, except as he sees it illustrated in the history of nations or in the fortunes of communities. Of two nations or neighbourhoods equal in other regards, one of which honours the Lord’s house and the Lord’s day, and the other treats them with neglect or more positive disregard, it is easy to prophesy their contrasted courses. When atheism took possession of the heart of the French people, it led in anarchy with its red right hand. Even a faith mingled with falsity is better for the morals and good order of a state than total lack of faith. It is almost as true in the family. It would be altogether so, except for those influences which surround the family so closely that it cannot be isolated from their power. Many a household is saved by the religious habits of the community around it, in which things it takes no part itself. The recognition of Divine law and grace are the best safeguards of society. Israel without the ark is Israel without wisdom or strength. Saul without the ark is a weak and wayward king. Samuel, whose heart was with the ark, was, next to God, the strength of Israel.
II. We are taught a due regard for the forms of religious observance. The spirit of irreverence is one which grows rapidly. One neglect of that which is due or decorous easily leads to another, till at length it requires sharp rebuke or severe punishment to remind men of that which was once in every heart. Do we not need a caution here in our day and in regard to our services of public worship? In how many of our Christian congregations the upright posture and the open eyes in prayer are painfully suggestive of a lack of reverent devotion. No better lesson can be taught the young, and no better training given in our Sunday schools than the lesson of reverence in the heart toward holy things, of reverence in thought and tone when we read the word of His covenant, and of reverence in posture when we approach His mercy-seat.
III. The spirit of our service is what God regards, rather than the form of it. When in his false fear the king carried the ark into the house of Obed-edom, the Gittite, the Lord blessed all the household during the three months of its sojourn there. Is it not a clear indication to us that, after all, that which pleases God is not the exactness of our ritual, but the loving reverence of our hearts? All the outward forms were intended to promote this inward righteousness. If that were wanting, the empty forms could give God no pleasure, and they could do man no good. The Lord had appointed the tabernacle service and its feasts; but when the spirit was gone out of them, he would have them go out too. “God is a spirit; and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” This is the lesson--more important than all others--which comes to us from the open doors of the house of Obed-edom, from the prosperity which blessed them, and from the peace which ever attends the reverent though it be the informal service of the Lord. (Monday Club Sermons.)
Bringing up the ark
1. David was now no sooner settled again in his kingdom (after this double defeat of the Philistines) but he resolves upon settling religion and the sincere service of God. “Seek first the Kingdom of God and all things else shall be added” (Matthew 6:33.)
2. As David called this great assembly together, not only to put an honour upon the action, but also in defence of the ark in case the enemy should make any attempts to interrupt them for their passage. So this design was to redeem the ark of God’s Presence from that sordid neglect all Saul’s time.
3. The journey from Kiriath-Jearim to Jerusalem might be looked upon as too long a journey for the Levites to carry the Ark of God upon their shoulders according to God’s command (Numbers 4:14-15; Numbers 7:1-89; Numbers 9:1-23), therefore out of prudence (which often spoils true piety) they provide a new cart, and lay the Ark of God upon it. This mode of carriage they had learnt from the Philistines, a bad precedent, who had done so before this without damage or any token of Divine displeasure, they doing so at the direction of their diabolical diviners (1 Samuel 6:2; 1 Samuel 6:7.) No good patterns for Israel’s practice: They did not so well consider that God would wink at this disorder in the Philistines because they were ignorant of God’s Laws. But he would not brook it in His own people to whom the oracles of God were committed (Romans 3:2.) And one would think the very staff-rings upon the Ark might have minded the Levites of their duty: But ‘tis likely they loved their own ease too much at this time, so were too willing to spare their own shoulders (2 Samuel 6:1-4.)
4. The great icy that David and his thirty thousand nobles and all Israel celebrated the removal of the Ark from Kiriath-Jearim Withal is expressed (v. 5), Ahio going before to lead the oxen, and Uzzah following behind to secure the Ark from tumbling off the cart. ‘Tis supposed then David uttered those words, “Let God arise and let His enemies be scattered,” etc. (Psalms 68:1) at this time, which were the words constantly used when the Ark was removed (Numbers 10:35.) But alas, how soon was all this mirth marred and turned into mourning, all this singing into sighing, merely by the stumbling of the oxen (2 Samuel 6:6-7), Uzzah observing that the Ark was shaken thereby and in danger of falling, he thereupon puts forth his hand to stay it steady in the cart. (C. Ness.)
Seeking the ark of the covenant
For sixty-five or seventy years this ark of the covenant had been permitted to remain in almost total neglect and forgetfulness. At length the time had come for David to interpose and, in the exercise of his royal authority, bring it back into prominence and reverence in the worship of the people.
I. Questions concerning the Ark itself.
1. What was the so-called “Ark of the Covenant?”
2. Of what was it the symbol? Of the presence of Jehovah as the “covenant-keeping God” of His people Israel.
3. Of what is the Ark a sign now?
(1) An institution set apart for the Lord.
(2) An organization like the church.
(3) An ordinance, like the Lord’s Supper.
(4) A duty: The family altar.
(5) A doctrine.
4. What does the absence of the Ark involve? The lonely heaviness of work done without a helper or a promise of success. That ancient Ark was only a symbol; Christ’s presence is to us a wonderful fact. That was but a sign that Divine companionship was near; now we may be sure that Jesus, the Master, is really under our roofs and in our hearts.
II. Some suggestions concerning different methods of treating the presence of God.
1. The ark of God must be treated with a becoming honour. True humility can be shown in forwardness; for there are occasions in which it costs more to go forth into necessary conspicuousness, and brave the criticisms of public opinion, than it would to remain in concealment, withdrawn into a quiet of deepest reserve.
2. The Ark of God can be treated with a culpable carelessness. It had been decreed in the beginning of its history that this singular chest should be carried on men’s shoulders; for this purpose of handling it had been constructed with rings through which poles might be passed so that it could be borne by the priests. Here we observe that Abinadab mounted it in a cart; and in this he patterned not after Moses, but after the Philistines, who once did the same disrespectful thing. It is of no use to say this was of no consequence. It is always of much consequence that one obeys God, and pays respect to every one of His commandments exactly as lie gives them.
3. The Ark of God can he treated with the highest exuberance of joy. The account in the chapter from which the text is taken must be supplemented by that which is added in the book of Chronicles: there we learn that a great school of training in music was set up at Jerusalem in patient preparation for this ceremony. There is nothing too good in poetry, in instruments, in singing, for God who is over all.
4. The Ark of God can be treated with a fatal presumption: “And when they came to Nachon’s threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it.”
5. The Ark of God might be treated with a half-hearted timidity. “And David was displeased,” &c.
(1) He was “displeased:” the word means vexation akin to petulance; he was disappointed in all his plans.
(2) He was “afraid.” There was likewise a sense of penitence under the revelation of infinite holiness.
(3) He was inconsiderate: “So David would not remove the Ark of the Lord unto him into the city of David: but David carried it aside into the house of Obed-edom the Gittite.” He dared not take the Ark any further, but deposited it beside the way as quickly as his alarmed attendants could remove it from the wheels.
6. The Ark of God may be treated with an appropriate and affectionate devotion: “And the Ark of the Lord continued in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite three months: and the Lord blessed Obed-edom and all his household.” Of course he received his reward; for God is good to the men whom he finds to be faithful to any trust. Josephus is quoted as saying that, whereas before Obed-edom was poor, on a sudden, in these three months, his estate increased, even to the envy of his neighbours. Matthew Henry says, with his usual brightness, that the Ark “paid well for its entertainment; it is good living in a family that entertains the Ark, for all about it will fare the better for it.” Household piety is always profitable. We can have God’s actual presence with ourselves and our children, if we accept His Word for our guide and His love for our shelter evermore. (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
2 Samuel 6:3
And they set the Ark of God upon a now cart.
Novelties in religion and their end
The ark is taken from its resting place amid the reverent joy of the assembly, and placed upon a vehicle specially manufactured for the transit, while “Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drave the new cart.”
I. The fact that the ark was placed upon a new cart shows how, in the desire to serve God, even a good man may err. It is a fact substantiated by experience, and supported by the voice of history, that man at his best is but an erring creature. His folly is often exhibited in his best moments. At his highest point of wisdom--loftiest step of knowledge.
his feebleness of judgment and folly are displayed. The claim to infallibility is but the ambition of the child--the blundering of the blind. Would it not be a wonderful improvement on the old style of things to have a new cart? Will it not harmonise with the new order established? Pay no attention to that worn-out, obsolete plan of carrying the ark; abandon the old poles and have a “new cart.” It will save the shoulders of the Levites; it will be a new feature in its way; it will be admired for its construction, and commended for the use to which it will be devoted. And so we reason in our work for God. Antiquity gains no reverence from us. The old poles with which our fathers did their work are considered out of date and useless, and we drag out our “new cart” on every occasion when our labour is required. Starting some fresh thing, inventing some novelty, forgetting all the while that God’s way is best.
II. See the extent to which novelty is tolerated in religion, The old charge against the Athenians is still true of many in modern times. Novelty secures admiration wherever it is found. Have a new cart, and the world will stop and stare. Affect originality, even if it be a spurious thing, and you may speak to listening ears. Stop not to ask questions about propriety; pay no respect to the past; be extravagant and sensational, and you will gather a crowd. We have grown liberal all at once. God’s commandments are without authority in this age; you may be religious in whatever way is most appropriate. By all means have a cart. If you find yourself in doubt as to the Saviour’s Divinity, you can have an Unitarian cart; if you think the mode of Nonconformist worship too dull, and that more aesthetic beauty is desirable in the service then have a Ritualistic cart; if you have any scruples about the immortality of your soul, then have the Annihilationist cart; if you admire religion being “done by attorney,” then have a Roman Catholic cart; if you think the Church should be a club, where everything may be believed and everything denied, then have a Broad Church cart. Get rid of the old poles; “new carts” are the fashion of this novelty-loving age. Let all the old-fashioned things rot. Reform your plans, improve your methods, tax your inventive genius, produce a “new cart.” Oh! how fond we are of novelties! The last new thing is the best. The last new creed; the latest criticism on “ supernatural religion;” the last utterance of the scientist; the last sceptical theory from, the professor; these are the things that win admiration. But give me religion without these inventions. Let it be pure and simple, without any man-made additions--the old ark borne by the consecrated poles. Take away those mocking substitutes. “For other foundation can no man lay, than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
III. see the ruinous consequences of novelties in religion. They set out with the cart but soon disasters befel it on the road; and Uzzah, lifting his hand to steady the falling ark, was stricken dead at its wheels. That put an end to the “new cart “ system with David. It taught him a lesson he never forgot. Never after that did he order another. He went back immediately to the forsaken poles. Let us keep to God’s way in religion, and while the spirit of the age is clamorous for something new, let us stand by the old, and revere the ark. (W. J. Hall.)
2 Samuel 6:5
David and all the house of Israel played before the Lord.
Joy in religion
The orchestra was probably as rustic and rude as the procession. “Instruments made of fir-wood” sounds strange, and probably the text should be emended from the account in 1 Chronicles, which reads, “with all their might, even with songs.” The instruments specified are two-stringed, and three of percussion. “Castanets” should be “sistra,” which were much used in religious ceremonies, and consisted of rings hung on iron or other metal rods, which made a harsh noise when shaken. Like Eastern music in general, it would have struck our ears as being “a joyful noise,” rather than a concord of sweet sounds. But it meant gladness and praise, and that was the main thing. His felt nearness should be, as the Psalmist says, “the gladness of my joy.” Much of our modern religion is far too gloomy, and it is thought to be a sign of devotion and spiritual-mindedness to be sad and of a mortified countenance. Unquestionably, Christianity brings men into the continual presence of very solemn truths about themselves and the world which may well sober them, and make what the world calls mirth incongruous.
“There is no music in the life
That rings with idiot laughter solely.”
But the Man of Sorrows said that His purpose for us was that His joy might remain in us, and that our joy might be full; and we but imperfectly apprehend the Gospel if we do not feel that its joys “much more abound” than its sorrows, and that they even burn brightest, like the lights on safety-buoys, when drenched by stormy seas. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
2 Samuel 6:6-7
Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God.
Uzzah; or the danger of familiarity with sacred things:
Some would have us believe that this was an accident; that Uzzah, in the effort to save the ark, dislocated his shoulder, or broke his arm, and died of haemorrhage. We are told, however, that it was a Divine judgment. David so understood it, and “he was displeased.” Now God intended by this terrible visitation to teach a lesson of great importance. It is one that needs to be uttered even at this day with emphasis, viz., the need that exists for the deepest reverence in all things connected with the Divine service, and the danger that arises from over-familiarity with sacred things.
1. Uzzah was a Levite, and he knew or ought to have known the commands of God with respect to the ark. In Numbers 4:15, it is written that those who had to bear the ark were “not to touch any holy thing, lest they die,” Not only so, but the ark was to be covered, and so kept from the gaze of the irreverent. This had been neglected. Again, that which was to be borne only on men’s shoulders was put on a cart. This was a gross piece of neglect.
2. Then it is probable that the offence of Uzzah was aggravated by the fact that he had not sufficient reverence for the Divine command. The ark had been for seventy years under the care of his father and family. Eleazar, who had been set apart to take care of it, was probably dead. It may be that neither Uzzah nor Ahio his brother had ever thought that it was important that they should be consecrated to the work. They, presuming on their Levitical descent, may have taken upon themselves informally the position of attendants. Constant familiarity with it may have led them to think of it with even somewhat of contempt. It was like a piece of useless furniture. They may have forgotten how interwoven that ark was with religious and national life. To them it may have seemed a sort of Nehushtan. Others regarded it with expectancy and reverence, but to them it was only so much wood and gold. And thus many regarded Christ’s cross as so much wood, and His death as a martyrdom, forgetting that they are of infinite value as the sign and seal of the expiation of sin and salvation of the world. There was no virtue in the ark, any more than in the cross itself, apart from God’s appointment. God’s revealed will makes all the difference in respect to any act or observance. Doubtless Uzzah had touched the ark in an over-familiar way before, and it may have been passed over; now he does it publicly, and as evil would result from his example, judgment follows.
(1) Some would say, “But how trifling the sin, compared with the severity of the punishment.” Sin is never a trifle. Disobedience to God is not a trifle. Peter’s few words of denial were easily spoken, but they were no trifle in their consequences. A few drops of prussic acid taken into the system are trifling, so far as size and substance are concerned, but not as to results. To touch the ark irreverently was no trifle; it indicated a state of heart not in accord with the office filled.
(2) Besides, the attention of the people had to be arrested, and the need for reverence emphasized. Hence the sin was not passed by. Great benefit arose. As in the case of the men of Beth-shemesh, the exclamation was raised, “Who is able to stand before the Lord?” so here we find David saying, “How shall the ark of God come to me?” A deep impression of the need for purity on their part and of unswerving justice on God’s part was made.
3. Uzzah sinned with his eyes open. He knew the commands. He sinned with the warning of Beth-shemesh before him. He sinned publicly, and has perished suddenly and miserably. It was a sudden and severe judgment, but that was a stern age, and the people could only be influenced by such means. David saw the reason for the visitation, and so when he summoned courage to move on instead of going up to Jerusalem he turned aside to Obed-edom the Gittite, one who was not only a Levite but probably a Kohathite, to whom it rightly pertained to bear the ark. It may be objected that the punishment was needlessly severe, in that Uzzah’s intentions were good. This is very plausible; but good intentions do not always justify wrong-doing. Many have been led astray by this sophistry. We may not do evil that good may come. God will not have His laws broken under pretence of serving Him. We may not bend to a course of expediency under the pretext of glorifying God. Whatever is really wrong must not be permitted, and it was wrong for Uzzah to break the Divine command and thereby perhaps lead others to similar irreverence. Uzzah died by the side of the ark of God. How terrible! Yet what a warning for the ages! Being engaged in religious services or connected with sacred things cannot ensure salvation. We should, therefore, watch any tendency to levity or lightness in Divine worship, or in treatment of sacred subjects. To use Scripture to point a witticism or to regard the Divine book as an ordinary book is not a good sign. There should be no listlessness in worship or in listening to God’s truth. Is not Such carelessness an indication of indifference to the presence of that Divine Spirit in which we believe? Can we be bold and heartless in the presence of the King of Heaven? (F. Hastings.)
Nature’s penalties for disobedience
1. How many there are who, like Uzzah in our text, profane the ark of God by wilful disobedience to His laws; and, therefore, like him, have to suffer the certain consequences. Death seems a severe penalty for simply touching the ark, but we see just the same penalty inflicted for what seem very small offences against the laws of health almost every day of our lives. Thus for instance there are two great and important laws relating to our bodily health, disobedience to which inevitably brings its proper penalty--one the law that if we would be healthy we must be clean, dean both in body and in dwelling; the other the law that the air we breathe must be pure and fresh. And remember that we can all of us obey these laws if we like--it is not money or the want of money that makes the difference between a healthy and an unhealthy home. There are plenty of houses where the husband earns nothing more than ordinary weekly wages, and yet the cottage and its furniture are clean--the windows are regularly and properly opened, and the air is sweet and pure, and why? Because, while the husband is doing his work outside, the wife is also doing her duty inside, but unfortunately there are some houses where this is not so, and then, God’s laws being broken, as surely as the penalty came on Uzzah so surely does it come on that household. Often it comes in the form of bad health, fever sometimes, or more often that constant languidness and feebleness which makes work a weariness and even life itself a burden.
2. There are laws of worship, the first of which is given us by our Saviour Himself. God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. And the second law of worship, if not exactly given us by our Saviour, at any rate comes to us bearing the stamp of His approval. It is the law of a consistent worship, not a worship of the lips only while the heart is far off, but a worship in which heart and voice unite “ to make one music.” Is it so with us? If not, would it not be well to think of the lesson taught us by the fate of Uzzah? To come into God’s house without reverence for the owner of the house; to come joining (or professing to join) with our lips in the confession of sin, while yet we feel no sorrow for sin; to come with the prayer for forgiveness on our lips, while yet we desire none in our hearts; to sing the psalms on the beauty of holiness, and hymns about the joys of heaven, when holiness is distasteful to us, and heaven a home where in heart and mind we never go; what is that but a profanation, and what other penalty can it bring than the penalty of spiritual death? For a cold, heartless, and indifferent service--what is it like but an unhealthy diseased life, a life without either energy or enthusiasm, a life which is really only a living death? What then shall we do?
(1) Two things; first we must amend our lives, and learn to obey that command of St. Paul’s, “I beseech you, brethren,” and
(2) we must remember the lesson contained in the fact that while no blood might be sprinkled on the ark, the figure of this world where law and order reign, yet on the mercy seat, the figure of heaven, where God in mercy is enthroned, the blood of the sacrifice was to be offered. And that sacrifice we must offer according as Christ has commanded. (G. Bladon, B. A.)
An error and its consequences
What said the law? Numbers 3:29-32; Numbers 4:4-15; Numbers 7:6-9.
1. Man may forget, but not God. If God has made a thing clear at one time, we must not think (like Balaam) that He will change His mind about it.
2. Altered circumstances don’t affect truth.
I. Death was under the law the punishment or transgression. Executed in single cases. (Numbers 15:32-36; Jos 7:15-25; 1 Kings 13:21-25.) The principle of such punishment is doubtless brought out in 1 Corinthians 11:30-32.
II. reverence becomes finite beings in approaching the Infinite, Love and zeal are not enough; there is danger of carelessness or lightness. We are to work out our salvation “with fear and trembling,” to speak “with meekness and fear,” to serve “with reverence and godly fear.”
III. God does not need man’s help, though He condescends to use it. We put our hand to the ark when we defend God’s cause with carnal weapons. (R. E. Faulkner.)
The fate of Uzzah
It should be remembered that many hands must have touched the ark that day in the process of lifting it on to the cart; that none of these helpers were smitten, and that therefore it was not the fact of touching, but the spirit in which he touched, that made Uzzah guilty. We shall probably be right if we ascribe to him rash irreverence, entire ignoring of the sanctity of the ark, a regarding of it as “an unholy (that is, a common) thing.” He had no consciousness of the Divine presence in it. It had been a piece of furniture in Abinadab’s house as long as he could remember, and though, no doubt, it had been guarded and set apart there “from common uses, he had become used to” its presence, and familiarity had worn off his awe. The same cause produces like effects in many of us in regard to holier things than an ark of shittim wood. And an irreverent hand thrust in among such sanctities, even with a design to help them, is sin. Nor must we forget that this incident stands at the beginning of a new epoch in the development of religion in Israel, and that, just as Ananias and Sapphira perished at the beginning of the Church’s history, so- Uzzah lay dead beside the ark, a lesson and a warning for a new age. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
God’s view of sin
Mr. Hervey thus illustrates the great truth of the different appearance of sin to the eye of God and the eye of man. He says that you may take a small insect, and with the tiniest needle make a puncture in it so minute that you can scarcely see it with the naked eye; but when you look at it through a microscope you see an enormous rent, out of which there flows a purple stream, making the creature seem to you as though it had been smitten with the axe that killeth an ox. It is but a defect of our vision that we cannot see things correctly; but the microscope reveals them as they really are. God’s microscopic eye sees sin in its true aspects. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
A precise God
“Why are you so precise,” said one to a Puritan. “Sir,” said he, “I serve a very precise God.”
2 Samuel 6:11-12
The Lord blessed Obed-edom, and all his household.
The ark in the house of Obed-edom
The wanderings of the ark and the opposite effects which its presence produced according to the manner of its reception, are symbols of a great truth which runs all through human life, and is most especially manifested in the message and the mission of Jesus Christ. All things have a double possibility in them--of blessing or of hurt. Everything that we lay hold of has two handles, and it depends upon ourselves which handle we grasp and whether we shall get a shock that slays or strength and blessing from the contact. Let us, then, just trace out two or three of the spheres in which we may see the application of this great principle, which makes life so solemn and so awful, which may make it so sad or so glad, so base or so noble.
I. The twofold operation of all God’s outward dealings. All the events are all meant to tell upon character, to make us better in sundry ways, to bring us closer to God, and to fill us more full of Him. And that one effect may be produced by the most opposite incidents just as the summer and the winter, with all their antithesis, have a single result in the abundant harvest. Here are two men tried by the same poverty. It beats the one down, makes him squalid, querulous, faithless, irreligious; and the other man it steadies and quiets and hardens, and teaches him to look beyond the things seen and temporal to the exceeding riches at God’s right hand. Here are two men tried by wealth; the gold gets into the one man’s veins and makes him yellow as with jaundice, destroying all that is noble, generous, impulsive, quenching his early dreams and enthusiasms, closing his heart to sweet charity, puffing him up with a false sense of importance, and laying upon him the dreadful responsibility of misused and selfishly employed possessions. And the other man, tried in the same fashion, out of his wealth makes for himself friends that welcome him into everlasting habitations, and lays up for himself treasures in heaven. The one man is damned, and the other man is saved by his use of the same thing. Here are two men subjected to the same sorrows; the one is absorbed by his selfish regard to his own misery, blinded to all the blessings that still remain, made negligent of duty and oblivious to the plainest tasks, And he goes about saying, “Oh, if thou hadst been here;” or “if--if” something else had happened, then this would not have happened. And the other man, passing through the same circumstances, finds that, when the props are taken away, he flings himself on God, and, when the world becomes dark and all the paths dim about him, he looks up to a heaven that fills fuller of meek and swiftly-gathering stars as the night falls, and he says, “It is the Lord; let Him do what seemeth Him good.” Here are two men tried by the same temptation; it leads the one man away captive, the other man by God’s grace overcomes it, and is the stronger and the sweeter and the gentler and the humbler because of the dreadful fight. Nothing is sure to do a man good; nothing necessarily does him hurt. All depends upon the man himself, and the use he makes of what God in His mercy sends. Two plants may grow in the same soil, be fed by the same dews and benediction from the heavens, be shone upon by the same sunshine, and the one of them will elaborate from all sweet juices and fragrance, and the other will elaborate a deadly poison. So life is what you and I will to make it, and the events which befall us are for our rising or our falling according as we determine they shall be, and according as we use them.
II. The twofold operation of God’s character and presence. The Ark was the symbol of a present God, and His presence is meant to be the life and joy of all creatures, and the revelation of Him is meant to be only for our good, giving strength, righteousness, and peace. But the same double possibility which I have been pointing out as inherent in all externals belongs here, too, and a man can determine to which aspect of the many-sided infinitude of the Divine nature he shall stand in relation. These bits of glass in our windows are so coloured as that some of them cut off and prevent from passing through certain rays of the pure white light. And men’s moral natures, the inclination of their hearts, and set of their wills and energies, cut off, if I may say so, parts of the infinite, white light of the many-sided Divine character, and put them into relations only with some part and segment of that great whole which we call God. And thus the thought of God, the consciousness of His presence, may be like the Ark which was its symbol, either dreadful and to be put away, or to be welcomed and blessing to be drawn from it. Then, again, this same duality of aspect attaches to the character and presence of God in another view. Because, according to the variety of men’s characters, God is obliged to treat them as in different relations, He must manifest His judgment, His justice, His punitive justice. The present God has to modify His dealings according to the character of the men.
III. The twofold operation of God’s gospel.
1. That is seen in the permanent effects of the gospel upon a man’s character. Received by simple faith in Jesus Christ, it brings to us the clear consciousness of pardon, the calm sense of communion, the joyful spirit of adoption, righteousness rooted in our hearts and to be manifested day by day in our lives; it brings all elevation and strengthening and ennobling for the whole nature, and is the first thing that makes us really men as God would have us all to be. Rejection strengthens all the evil motives for rejection, and adds to the insensibility of the man that has rejected. The ice on our pavements in the winter time that melts on the surface in the day and freezes again at night becomes dense and slippery beyond all other. And a heart that has been melted and then has frozen again is harder than ever it was before. Hammering that does not break solidifies and makes tougher the thing that is struck. There are no men so hard to get at as men and women, like multitudes that have been hammered at by preaching ever since you were children, and have not yielded your hearts to God. The ark has done you hurt if it has not done you good. Christ’s gospel is never inert, one thing or other it does for every soul that it reaches. Either it softens or it hardens. Either it saves or it condemns. “This Child is set for the rise or for the fall of many.” (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
The ark in the house of Obed-edom
1. David (considering first how ill the Philistines had fared for their miscarriage towards the ark, and after that, how fifty thousand Bethshemites had lost their lives for their irreverent peeping into it, and now Uzzah was struck dead for touching it) “was afraid of the Lord” (2 Samuel 6:9) lest God should proceed further in the way of His judgments, both upon Himself and upon His people, seeing he had been so severe already for the circumstantial error of a pious mind, and more such mistakes might easily be committed by him or others, if they proceed on in their journey to Jerusalem: So David was at a great stand, and durst deal no more in a matter so dangerous.
2. This deed of David some denominate as his humility, not presuming to proceed, but rather desist, seeing Divine displeasure seemed to say so to him, until God gave him new direction; but more probably David discovered in this deed great infirmity; for as Peter Martyr argueth excellently upon this point, if David did not, know that it was the will of God the ark should be carried to David’s City Sion, then he ought not to have begun its removal upon his own head, but if he had God’s warrant for so doing, then he ought not to have desisted from it at this time upon this discouragement. That old sophister Satan put a fallacy upon David here, for the ark was not the cause of this calamity, but sin, which, being removed, he might have found God reconciled. David should have considered that the matter of this action was good, but there was some failure in the manner of acting, which he, finding out and reforming it, should have proceeded, having God’s word to warrant, him to carry the ark to Jerusalem, without fear of any further danger.
3. David’s carrying the ark to Obed-edom’s house (2 Samuel 6:10-11) wherein:
(1) Obed-edom was a Levite (1 Chronicles 15:1-29; 1 Chronicles 18:1-17; 1 Chronicles 21:1-30; 1 Chronicles 24:1-31; 1 Chronicles 16:5; 1 Chronicles 26:4) and certainly a good man, who finding David at a loss what to do with the ark, desired of him that his house might entertain it for the present, which was near Jerusalem, because Nachon’s threshingfloor (where this disaster fell) is named here (2 Samuel 6:6) “as Araunah’s threshingfloor” (where the temple was afterwards built) is named (2Sa 24:18; 2 Samuel 24:22.) This man is called a Gittite, not because a Philistine of Gath, for he was an Israelite of the tribe of Levi as above, but because he had sojourned in Gath, being (as Peter Martyr saith) banished thither with David by Saul, when be slew the Lord’s priests; and we find that the Levites sometimes were forced to sojourn where they could find a place (Judges 17:8) or he was of Gath-rimmon, a city of Levites (Joshua 21:24; Joshua 21:26.)
(2) The ark brought a blessing to Obed-edom and all his household (v. 11). Some say, how durst David expose his neighbour to that, danger from which he delivered himself. God took this act of faith well at Obed-edom’s hands, and blessed him in his flocks, in his fruits, and in all his affairs and actions, and not only in his temporals, but also in his spirituals, to shew what a liberal paymaster God is unto all both small and great, who favour his concerns, and further His Kingdom. They shall be no losers, but great gainers, who give either him or his servants due entertainment; as Laban was blest for entertaining Jacob, Potiphar and the chief gaoler for Joseph, the widow of Sarepta for Elias, the Shunamite for Elisha, Zacheus for Christ, as Obed-edom here for harbouring God’s ark. The third part of this chapter is the carriage of the ark from Obed-edom’s house to its proper place in David’s City.
Remarks upon it are:
1. The removal of the ark from hence upon the occasion of David’s hearing how the ark had been entertained not only without any damage, but also with great advantage to Obed-edom. Though it had not been so (as we read) to Abinadab, who probably had not given it so noble and reverent an entertainment as Obed-edom did, and therefore was not blest like him: David hereupon begins to bethink himself of his own loss, that if the ark had been this half year in his own house (according to his first design) all those blessings upon Obed-edom had been bestowed upon himself and on his household; and ‘tis a wonder David should neglect consulting with God by the Urim about this matter. Now those tidings flush David to renew his former design, when he saw the danger was over (v. 12).
2. David acknowledges his former fault committed in carrying the ark upon a cart, &c., but now it must be borne upon the shoulders of the Levites, according to God’s own appointment as before, and finding his obedience to God herein (seeking God in due order) so far owned, us that the Lord helped the Levites by an invisible power so to bear it, as that it seemed light and no burden to them (1 Chronicles 15:2; 1 Chronicles 15:13; 1 Chronicles 15:26.) David upon this encouragement offers up a bullock and a ram every seventh station, as well as at the first stage (v. 18) in testimony of his thankfulness to God, for his making no breach upon them as he had done in his former undertaking. (C. Ness.)
Why Obed-edom found the ark a blessing
But the ark of the Lord had been in the house of Abinadab forty years, and we do not read of any particular benediction falling upon that house. That is quite possible. Men may have God in the house, and not know it. Men may have the Bible in the house, and never read it; or men may read the letter, and never enter into the spirit of the book. There is a difference between mere lodgment, and generous and appreciative hospitality. What a difference there is between a ceremony and a welcome--mere politeness almost amounting to mechanical veneration, and cordial sympathy, loving appreciation, a heart going out in great bursts of affection towards God for his compassion and love and manifold mercy! Abinadab and Obed-edom were in very deed not the same men. We do not all derive the same advantage from the Bible. One man reads it, and it is a letter--very stiff, formal, pedantic, reading like a royal proclamation, or like an ancient document out of which the meaning and immediate force have somehow become evacuated. Another man reads the Bible as if it had just been written--an immediate message from heaven--a comforting utterance from God’s condescending heart, a speech made audibly, with all the fascination and persuasiveness of celestial music. We do not all get the same advantage from the Church. Attendance upon Divine worship may be a ceremony; or we may long for the opening of the gates of the house of the Lord; we may “prevent” the sun--be there before the light is there, waiting, longing, yearning to be admitted, and find in the place, itself speaking to us, comforting though invisible angels of God. Obed-edom is a Word which signifies obedience. The word obedience is almost literally found in the word. Obed-edom. (J. Parker, D. D.)
The cultivation of faultily worship
From particular occurrences we ascertain general principles. There is a uniformity in the administration of the moral government of God, not less certain than that which is demonstrated to exist in the laws of the physical universe. On this axiom all moral reasoning is suspended. If its truth be called in question we have no basis on which to rest our persuasions, when we would deter from the commission of sin, or encourage the practice of virtue. The Supreme Being is not accustomed to act by sudden impulsions. His proceedings may indeed sometimes appear to the limited view of his creatures mere-incidental circumstances, having no reference to general and ulterior principles; but that in reality they are not so, is known to us from the rectitude and immutability of his character. Since God blessed the house of Obed-edom, because it was willingly consecrated to his service, we infer that He will bless other families who act in a similar manner. Hence his example becomes an argument and stimulus to domestic piety. It cannot be imagined that the mere circumstance of the ark being deposited in his house, apart from the sentiments of affectionate veneration which he entertained for it as the symbolical representative of God’s presence, would have drawn after it the recorded benediction. But it was the fact that he saw in it the accredited organ of Jehovah’s glory, the pledge of His grace, and the golden throne of His mercy, and that he accordingly welcomed it, cherished It, and presented the spiritual sacrifices of his family devotion before it, which made it a source of blessing to him and to all his house. I intend, therefore, to take occasion from the conduct of Obed-edom, to recommend the cultivation of family religion. It is true that our houses cannot be appropriated in the way his was to the special honour of God. No palpable and Divinely-appointed type of His invisible presence seeks admission into our tents. Yet may they nevertheless become His temples, designedly set apart and consecrated for His abode. We may act upon the very same principle that governed the pious Gittite, and thus secure to ourselves a similar reward.
1. Let me then begin with the observation that nothing can be more proper in itself, or more becoming persons professing to act under a sense of their dependence on God, than the observance of some special devotion when they first enter upon the occupation of their houses. Such a circumstance marks an epoch in the history of a family. In many cases, indeed, it is co-incident with the formation of a new family. But whether it be when first they assume that important station which constitutes them the heads of a separate household, or whether at some subsequent period of their family history they enter upon a new abode, it is highly becoming the piety of Christians to mark such an event by some distinct religious exercise of a domestic nature. Then let the altar be reared, the grateful Ebenezer be celebrated, and the access of God to the dwelling of His servants be implored with fervent and believing prayer. In every new position in which he is placed by the appointments of Divine Providence, the man of God will deem it not only an incumbent duty, but a privilege of inestimable value, to put himself and whoever is dear to him under His safeguard and guidance. Few of the events which fill up the brief chronicle of our earthly existence are fraught with more consequences for good or for evil than the removals we make from place to place, as we prosecute our journey to the final resting-place of man. The first step they take becomes of immense importance. Upon it will depend in a degree far beyond what any prudential foresight of ours can calculate, the complexion of their whole future course. Nor of their course simply. Others besides themselves are implicated in their determination to open or to shut their doors to the ark of God. To welcome the entrance of God into their house in the offices of domestic religion is to become the benefactors of all their connexions, as well as to secure his blessing upon themselves; while the refusal to receive and entertain him as a family guest may issue in their own external exclusion, and that of many besides, from the family of His ransomed people, when they meet in the mansions of Heaven. Will it be other than a just recompense that those who will not admit God into their houses should be hereafter refused admission into his?
2. This consecration of your house to God, I proceed to remark, involves the perpetuated observance of family prayer. There would be no sincerity in the proceeding by which, upon your entrance into your habitation, you should set up an altar, if the presentation of the one sacrifice on that special occasion were all that you designed. Your solicitude, if you are governed by the principles of genuine piety, will be to detain the Divine Presence. If you invite your Heavenly Father, when you pitch your tent, you will desire that He should never more leave it. Of all the various forms under which men are combined in social life, the family constitution is that, alone which takes its origin immediately from God. Other compacts into which they are moulded may have the sanction of his approbation, but this is the production of His own hands. He supplies the bonds Which unite us in the sweet conjunctions of domestic life. It is attributed to Him as an instance of His love, that “He setteth the solitary in families: that He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children.” In their social characters, it; is consequently, incumbent upon families to acknowledge Him. It is not enough that the individuals composing them should worship apart, each in the retirement of his closet, but upon the head of the household it devolves as a sacred obligation to collect them together, morning and evening, unitedly to offer up their praises and their prayers. The component parts of family worship are three: The reading of the Word of God; the celebration of the praise of God; and prayer.
(1) Since the Divine Being has graciously communicated to us the knowledge of His will, and put into our hands the volume that contains it, it is the dictate of reason that; we should on all suitable occasions consult it. Nothing can be clearer than that; the Author and Giver of the holy book designed it for the guidance of mankind in all the relations of life. Hence its marvellous adaptation to them all. It is profitable for every purpose. Every duty is enjoined in it, and instruction is communicated to every individual, in whatever modification of circumstances you can suppose him to be placed. Family relationships it especially recognises, laying down rules and affording encouragement to parents, to children, and to servants. And all this is done by it in addition to the disclosure of those momentous truths relating to human guilt and human redemption, to salvation by the cross of Christ, regeneration by the Holy Spirit, and to the glories and the pains of eternity, in which all the posterity of Adam have a common and an equal concern. The inference is too obvious to be avoided, that, while every one for himself should search the Scriptures, they should occupy, a prominent position in the devotions of the household.
(2) The celebration of God’s praise constitutes the second part of family worship. I mention it thus distinctly, because, though adoration and thanksgiving are comprehended in the general notion of prayer, to me it appears much to be desired that, whenever it can conveniently be done, some distinct attention should be given to this delightful and most celestial part of worship. Music is the language of feeling, and generally of elevated and joyous feeling; and when the heart keeps harmony, with the voice, and the sweet modulations of the psalmody are instinct, as it were, with the affections of the soul, we seem to rise in the scale of enjoyment, and to approximate to the state of the blessed.
(3) It remains that I speak of prayer. (E. Steane.)
The nature and profitableness of family religion
I. The nature of family religion. In conformity to the language of the narrative family religion may be said to consist in humbly and thankfully admitting the ark of God into our house. To receive the ark of God into our houses, is to receive Him whom the ark represented and symbolized, even Jesus Christ. Let Christ be received into our houses, and effects will be produced; and will evince His powerful and gracious presence with us. In one particular, indeed, we shall especially manifest His dwelling with us, namely, in the establishment of His worship in our house, in a daily social calling on His name by all the members of our household. It is by the regular performance of family worship that we make our habitations temples unto the Lord, and show that we have admitted His ark into our house.
II. Of the profitableness of family religion. Things are so appointed in the wisdom of God that duty and interest are closely joined together. It is a truth that the more attentive men are to their duty the more real peace and happiness they will enjoy. Scripture tells us that “godliness has the promise of the life that now is;” and reason, if we would listen to it, would tell us the same thing. It would tell us that those persons must experience most real enjoyment whom God regards with the greatest favour. But it is not in this indirect and incidental manner only that the profitableness of family religion shows itself. It is to be traced in its more immediate and practical effects. “The Lord blessed them.” There was a peculiar manifestation of the Divine presence, favour, and protection, diffused around Obed-edom, and all that belonged to him. The power and goodness of God were, as it were, singularly exercised in his behalf. (E. Cooper.)
A prospering religion desired
It is well observed by a grave divine that while the ark brought the plague, every one was glad to be rid of it; but when it brought a blessing to Obed-edom, they looked upon it as worthy (of) entertainment, Many will own a blessing ark, a prospering truth: but he is an Obed-edom indeed that will own a persecuted, tossed, banished ark. (J. Trapp.)
Make room for the ark
Do not think that the ark will impoverish you. Obed-edom did not grudge a little corner for the ark of God. The devil might have whispered, “Of all houses, yours seems the least able to have the ark of God. You are a poor man, and there are a lot of children, and you need that corner for a cradle. Why, the neighbours are saying, “ What a foolish man Obed-edom is to have the ark in his place. Why, he has not a corner to spare; it is inconveniencing him very much;’ and another says, ‘I am glad I am not such a fool. I need all the space I have for wife and bairns, and sacks of wheat. I do not see what Obed-edom means by taking in the ark.” Aye, but God made Obed-edom wealthy. The ark stayed there for three months, and God made Obed-edom’s prosperity manifest. Josephus says, “The ark touched Obed-edom as the poorest in the place, and it left hint as the richest.” There is a picture. Oh, if you help the ark, God will help you, never fear. Cast out something, and bring it in. Let it be first, and God will see to the payment. (J. Robertson.)
2 Samuel 6:14-15
And David danced before the Lord.
Religious uses of music and dancing
The nations of the East have ever combined the dance as well as music with their most solemn religious ceremonies. There is nothing frivolous or trifling in the manner in which Orientals strive by the rhythmical movements and gestures of the body to express joy and praise. Just as our music might be divided into sacred, martial, and operatic (including in the latter all lighter melodies), so there are still among the Mohammedans three very distinct classes of dance, corresponding to these three divisions. From the various allusions to the dance in Holy Scripture, we may reasonably believe that their dances as well as their music have come down with little change from their Jewish predecessors. Of the third class of dance, performed exclusively by women, we need say nothing. Such was the dancing of the daughter of Herodias before Herod; such are the exhibitions of the dancing girls of Egypt, or the Nautch girls of India--all of them an abomination to the Lord. In the East the sexes always danced separately; nor was it otherwise when David led the triumphal procession before the ark. The men preceded with a leaping step, swaying to the sound of the music; then followed the musicians, and after them the damsels dancing by themselves. I had an opportunity of seeing such a religious dance in 1881, when Arabi Pasha led the procession with the sacred carpet, for the Kaaba of Mecca, out of Cairo on its way to the prophet’s shrine. This is one of the greatest ceremonies of Mohammedanism; and the carpet, the gift of the khalif, is renewed only at intervals of several years. It was borne aloft on camels, and surrounded by troops; but in front was a vast crowd of ulemas and dervishes, with the chief muftis at their head, leaping, bounding, swaying their arms, and whirling round in time to the din of drums, trumpets, and cymbals which followed them. (H. B. Tristram, D. D.)
2 Samuel 6:16
Michal, Saul’s daughter, looked through a window.
The believer and the scoffer contrasted
I. The temper and conduct of a scoffer at religion. Michal scorned David in her heart, because, being a king, she thought it unbecoming his dignity, and derogatory to his high place in Israel, that he should welcome the ark of God with leaping and dancing. And so it is, at this day, in many of the higher walks of life. The service of God is left, as an employment too servile for those who are among the mighty of the land, and fitted only for the poor, the illiterate, and the mean of the earth; as if the service of Him before whom archangels bow with adoring reverence, even the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, were beneath the notice of those who must perish for ever, if He look not upon them in love, and wash them not from their sins in that blood, which they are now trampling under foot in high disdain. It added deeply to David’s trial that among all the multitudes of Israel none was found to despise him save Michal, his wife. There was much and cutting unkindness in the manner of Michal’s reproach; and it is one of the frightful features of our lost and fallen nature that the severity and keenness of opposition for the truth’s sake, which the servants of Christ experience from the enemies of Christ, is in proportion to the nearness of relationship or connexion between the parties; just as the civil wars of our own land, and of every land, have invariably been more sanguinary in their battles, more unsparing in their confiscations, and more cruel in their executions, than those which were waged with foreign states. Michal did not content herself with despising David in her heart, and yet showing him outward respect; but when he returned from glorifying God and blessing the people to bless his own household, she met him at his entrance, and with a deep, ,bitter sarcasm and irony exclaimed to him, “How glorious was the King of Israel to-day!” Her duty as a wife, her duty as a subject, were both forgotten, and she dishonoured her husband and her sovereign before his people and his family. How awful is the enmity of a sinner’s heart against God in Christ! How fearfully doth it break through all barriers that oppose its indulgence, and bow continually do we see it sweeping away, not only all the charities but all the decencies of-domestic life! And yet we speak of the dignity of human nature! May God help us, and correct our delusions on this cardinal point of His own truth and Scripture!
II. The mind and spirit of a true believer. In a broad and palpable contrast did the character of David stand to that of Michal; and as the one exhibited the tone and temper of a scoffer at religion, the other will exemplify the mind and spirit of a true believer in the Lord Jesus. He gloried in the service which was thus visited with reproach, and counted to him for shame. David said unto Michal, “It was before the Lord, which chose me before thy father, and before all his house, to appoint me a ruler over the people of the Lord, over Israel; therefore will I play before the Lord.” And here is the solid scriptural ground of a believer’s joy, and glory, and gratitude to God. Who made him to differ? Nothing so fully crucifies self as a view of distinguishing love in the covenant of grace, writing our names in the book of life, sealing the record upon our hearts, and bidding us rest in the blessed persuasion that we have obtained mercy, and shall be one with Christ for ever. If called to serve Jehovah, to confess Him openly, and to own Him even among unbelievers, in His own house, he will not shrink, but take up the cross of this holy singularity, and bear it gladly after Jesus. Are you counted vile and mean, because you prefer the service of Him who bought you with His blood, to the infidelity of a world that lieth in the wicked one? Be yet more base, yet more vile, if any glory may thereby accrue to Him. (R. P. Buddicom.)
Respect for a husband a duty
There is something very remarkable about this Michal; she conceived a passionate love for David, when but a youth he stood before her flushed with the success over the lion and the bear, and holding in his hand the head of the slaughtered Philistine. But time passed on, and David fetched the ark from the house of Obed-edom, and he “danced before it with all his might, and Michal, Saul’s daughter, saw him, and despised him in her heart; and, more than that, she went out to meet him and insulted him. Now here we have a perfectly consistent character--a woman who by her natural disposition loved what was heroic, manly, and generous; but, the moment real religious principles were introduced, admiration was changed into contempt. She could only look on one side of the character, the natural one; the supernatural she could not appreciate. She reads many lessons to all members of the human race, and especially to women. In the general form of her character she was, as a woman, what Saul was as a man--able to appreciate the natural virtues of a man, and retaining the profession of religion as but the covering to a deep chasm of scepticism and infidelity.
1. The first striking feature of her character is the admiration of the heroic for its own sake, the undue estimation of the man in his vigour sad success, and the tendency to worship at that shrine.
2. But Michal was as narrow and confined on other occasions as she had been bold and noble in these. David danced before the ark, and she despised him. If we seek the cause of this inconsistency it will appear to consist in a kind of selfishness. She despised him! Woman is essentially jealous, she is created so, and she should be so, it is her province. She is created to receive an amount of attention and devotion, the best preservation of which lies in her jealousy of it. But jealousy may assume too much the air of selfishness. It may become selfish, narrow, and narrowing:
3. But again, Michal could not appreciate especially the religious act, while she could that of the mere world-hero. She was like her father. It belonged to her relationship, to her parent, not to her capacity as a female. Herein She was unlike her brother Jonathan, who did fully appreciate and value the religious element in David’s character. Women often apply the same standard which has been given them at birth by which to judge of the ordinary occurrences which fall within the usual scope of their duties to those which fail without them, and accordingly by false judgment despise what they cannot understand. So prudence is allowed to extinguish the light of more luminous virtues, and the arrangements of a household to derange those of the Church. The faults of violent temper, disrespect to a husband or a parent, irritability to children, injustice to servants, are counted as of small importance so as they are exercised to save a shilling; whereas the truth will be that the precaution far transcends in moral infirmity the fault which it is intended to check.
4. But again, Michal despised David in her heart, and followed up her inward contempt with words of insult and reproach. This seems to infer not only a contempt for David, but a cherished one, a contempt long unexpressed, and because hidden the more dangerous and melancholy. She did not try to check it, she allowed the feeling to heave and work within her until it broke out into the expressions of the text. There is a duty in respecting a husband. Independently of arranging his household, tending his hours of care, of sickness or weariness, quite apart from the desire to defend him from reproach, and to ward oft the imputation of blame. There is a duty in the deep, inward, cherished feeling of respect. The office of the husband is as much to be respected as that of the parent, or the civil ruler. The woman must “see that she reverence her husband.”
5. Michal despised peculiarly the act of David, his dancing before the ark, she said he was like “the vain fellows;” she cast opprobrious language on the man who with many infirmities was the man after God’s own heart. Sad is it when any one looks out to discover his brother’s failing; sadder still when that brother is one on whom God has set the seal of His approval; saddest of all, when a child looks out to expose the parent, or a wife the husband. But Michal’s punishment was significant. She was childless, and that because she despised David. It mattered not what amount of truth there was in her charge. It mattered not how others supported her. It mattered not how much she found abettors in her circle of society or friends, she was not the person to censure her husband. She was not the instrument of his reproof. If there was anyone who should be, it was not Michal. She at least was to blame: She fell under God’s malediction, quite irrespectively of the truth or justice of her charge. (E. Monro.)
Husband’s claim upon a wife’s reverence
The wife see that she reverence her husband, says the apostle. Yes; but even Paul himself would have allowed that it was impossible for Michal to reverence David all at once that day. Paul would have needed to have got Michal’s ear early that morning when she tarried at home in the palace. Nay, he would have needed to have got her heart while she was yet Saul’s daughter in Saul’s palace. It is to tell a waterfall to flow uphill to tell Michal at this time to reverence David. Reverence does not come even at a Divine command. Reverence does not spring up in a day. Reverence is the result of long teaching and long training. Reverence has its roots in the heart and in the character; and the heart and the character only come and bring forth reverence as life goes on. That may be all true, but the apostle does not say that. He does not say that any of the wives to whom he wrote were too late now to reverence their husbands. He speaks it to all wives, and he expects that all wives who hear it shall lay it to heart, and shall do it. And yet their husbands, their very best husbands, are in so many things so difficult, so impossible, to reverence. They fall so short of their young wife’s dreams and visions. They are so full of faults, and follies, and tempers and habits to which no wife can possibly be blind. Most husbands are at so little trouble, after they have been for some time husbands, to make it easy, or, indeed, possible, for their wives to continue to love, and respect, and reverence them. All our wives have dreary, lonely, sorely-disappointed days at home--partly our fault and partly theirs, but mostly ours--that we know nothing about. (Alex. Whyte, D. D.)
Michal’s lack of sympathy with David
It was the greatest day of David’s life. And, sad to say, it was the very greatness of the day to David that made it such a day of death to Michal, Saul’s daughter. Michal, Saul’s daughter, died that, day of a strange disease--a deep distaste at the things that were her husband’s greatest delight. A deep distaste that had grown to be a deep dislike at David, till that deep distaste and dislike burst out that day into downright hatred and deliberate insult. You must understand all that the ark of God was to David, and the home-bringing of the ark, before you can fully understand the whole catastrophe of that day. You would need to be a kind of David yourself before you would look with right reverence and love at David that day. For David was beside himself that day. David never did anything by halves, and least of all his worship of God. It was like that day long afterwards in that same city when we read that His disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up. With all his might, then--and you know something of what all David’s might in such matters was--with all his might David leaped and danced before the Lord till Michal despised him in her heart. Those who are deaf always despise those who dance. The deaf do not hear the music. And, on the other hand, those who do hear the music, they cannot understand those who sit still. David could not understand how Michal could sit still that day. But Michal’s ear had never been opened to the music of the ark. She had not been brought up to it, and it was not her custom to go up to the house of the Lord and sing and play like David. Had Michal been married in the Lord: had Michal reverenced her husband; had she eared to please her husband; had she played on the psaltery and harp, if only for his sake--what a happy wife Michal would have been, and David what a happy husband! Had David not been so unequally yoked, Michal would have put on David’s shoulder that day an ephod that she had worked for that day with her own hands; and as she nut it on him she would have sung and said, I will clothe her priests with salvation, and her saints shall shout aloud for joy. And then all that day in Jerusalem it would have been as it was at the Red Sea when Miriam the prophetess took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women went after her with timbrels and with dances. But it was not so to be. For Michal sat at home that great day in Israel, and forsook her own mercy. Michal was not in the spirit of that day. And thus it was that she despised David in her heart when the very gates of brass and iron were lifting up their heads at, David’s psalm to let the King of Glory come in. (Alex. Whyte, D. D.)
2 Samuel 6:20
David returned to bless his household.
1. There can be no question that these words are intended to denote that when the public work of the day was done David returned to his own dwelling to implore the blessing of Almighty God upon his family by prayer and supplication.
I. With regard to the obligations to family worship.
1. I begin by observing that this duty arises out Of the relation in which families stand to God. He is their Founder and Benefactor. He “placeth the solitary in families;” children “are His heritage, and the fruit of the womb His reward.” Does the duty of social worship result from man’s being placed in society? Here is a society of the closest and most endearing kind, in which there is a clear and felt community of wants and necessities, a closer conjunction of interests than can possibly subsist in any other situation.
2. While the relation in which families stand to God evinces the obligation to family worship, the relation in which the head of the family stands to its several members makes it no less apparent. He is invested with a certain delegated authority over them, which lie is bound to employ for the promotion of the Divine glory. The power which he thus possesses is a department of the stewardship which the great Proprietor commits to the care of men: and if it be neglected, if its responsibility be not habitually felt, he is a faithless steward, and must fail in rendering an account.
3. So consonant is this duty to the natural sentiments of the human heart that even heathen nations appear to have been sensible of its propriety; for besides their tutelar deities who were supposed to preside over cities and nations, and who had public honours paid to them in that character, we read of the “penates,” or household gods, to whom families addressed their devotions. Such were, in all probability, the “teraphim,” or graven images, which Rachel carried away when she left the house of her father, Laban the Syrian; and those also which Micah, a man of Mount Ephraim, had in his dwelling, and on account of which he engaged a young man to officiate as priest or domestic chaplain.
4. But the obligation to this duty will more clearly appear when we attend to what the Scriptures teach us regarding it.
II. The advantages which accrue from the faithful discharge of this duty.
1. When accompanied with suitable dispositions of mind, family worship exercises a most beneficial influence even upon the temporal interests of those who practise it. It cannot fail to give a certain order and regularity to all the concerns of the household; for, being performed at a stated time, morning and evening, account will be laid, both by the head and the members of the household, to have their affairs in such a state that it may be performed with convenience; and thus habits of regularity and dispatch will be acquired, which must prove highly conducive to domestic economy and comfort.
2. The influence of domestic worship in promoting the temporal interests of a family is still further apparent from its tendency to promote industry in business and sobriety of life. The man that offers up his desires to God for the welfare of his household feels that by that very act he becomes bound to concur in every practicable way towards that end; and no one can continue long to pray for a blessing on his secular affairs, while at the same time he neglects his business and spends his time and substance in idleness and dissipation.
3. Attention to this duty is calculated to promote the worldly interests of a family, inasmuch as it draws down the blessing of God upon their labours. It is His blessing alone that maketh rich and prosperous, and in what manner is that blessing more likely to be obtained than by a whole family joining in prayer, and asking it daily of God? “The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked, but He blesseth the habitation of the just.”
4. Another, and far more valuable benefit, which flows from the faithful discharge of this duty, is its tendency, under the blessing of God, to promote the spiritual and eternal interests of those who practise it. It is one of the most important means through which God has promised to convey the blessings of salvation. He has assured us by an apostle that “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”
5. The regular performance of this duty is no less advantageous to the members of his household. To some, it is true, family worship, like all other means of grace, may yield no saving or spiritual benefit. As there are some spots of ground so completely sterile and impenetrable, that no culture can make them fruitful, even so there are some hearts so hard and callous that the wisest instruction, the most fervent prayers, and the most holy example produce no impression upon them. Still, however, we may safely assert that family devotion, when punctually and faithfully observed, has a most powerful tendency to form the minds of a household to the love and practice of religion. Who knows not the force of early impressions and the strength of early habits?
6. Nor is the influence of family worship confined to the members of the household who engage in it. It has a tendency to promote the truest and most permanent welfare of the community at large. Society rests upon reverence for law, and nothing can uphold it so well as reverence for the law of God. It is the caricature of this principle, religious serfdom, on which the continental despotisms at this moment are striving to rest their tottering thrones. We have in this country the blessed reality to a considerable extent, enlightened and genuine regard for the Divine law, and that among the masses of the people.
7. Nor is the influence of the duty we are recommending more useful and extensive than it is lasting. Besides blessings imparted to a neighbourhood, a congregation, a city, a nation, there may be blessings scattered over a long track of generations. Out of one home many homes may arise; each of these again may become a wellhead of moral and religious power. Thus a seed shall be preserved and multiplied to serve God, which shall be accounted to Him for a generation.
III. Some of the most popular excuses or apologies for the neglect of the duty of family worship.
1. One of the most common of these apologies is want of time. The time that is necessary for the performance of this exercise might easily be redeemed from sleep, idleness, business, or amusement. Besides, the advantages attending the duty would more than compensate the expense of time. By the spirit of order and regularity which, as we have seen, it tends to produce, time will be saved, instead of being lost, while, by drawing down the blessing of God on your labours, your united supplications will promote the success of your worldly employments. “The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord.”
2. But a more plausible excuse for the neglect of the duty of family worship is want of ability. But let me entreat those who complain of this inability to remember that in prayer, as in other things, facility and correctness are to be acquired only by frequent practice and use. You can never form any accurate judgment of your qualifications until you have made the trial. Another reason-which has been offered by some for neglecting family prayer is that they cannot overcome their natural reluctance and timidity to engage in prayer in the presence of others. To be ashamed of engaging in family prayer is virtually to be ashamed of religion itself; and how awfully criminal such conduct must be, against which are pointed such denunciations as the following--“Whosoever shall be ashamed of Me and My words, of him shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when He cometh in the glory of His Father, with the holy angels.”
4. There are others who plead as an excuse for neglecting this duty that it had been so long neglected that they know not how to begin. To introduce family worship now, they think, would only be exhibiting their own inconsistency of character.
5. There is only one excuse more to which we would request your attention, namely, that of those who acknowledge the reasonableness of the duty which has been recommended, but who are reluctant to attend to it, from the fear of the opposition, censure and ridicule which they may meet with from their families. But I would ask those who urge this plea, whether they have ever made the experiment? If they have not, how know they but that this is a hindrance which exists only in their own imagination? There is, even in the very worst of men, a natural reverence for holiness, and I believe that the instances are extremely rare in which the members of a household will openly discourage or censure the ordinances of religion. (P. Grant.)
Blessing the household
You should bless your house-holds--
I. By your prayers. Spiritual sacrifices of prayers and praise will ever be presented on the domestic altar by those who are alive to the spiritual interests of their families. It will be their constant practice to take them by the hand, as it were, to the throne of the heavenly grace, and there devoutly to pray with them and for them. The importance of such engagements, in the great and important business of blessing our households, cannot possibly be estimated. You should bless your households,
II. By your instructions. “That the soul be without knowledge, it is not good.” Hence the importance of sound Scriptural knowledge to the young of our different families. You should bless your households,
III. By your discipline. It is said of David that “he had not offended Aronijah in any thing in saying, What hast thou done?” How neglectful was this renowned and illustrious individual, in this particular instance, of a most important part of a parent’s duty! Every one acquainted with a parent’s relation and obligations, and conversant with the management and direction of a family, must be fully aware of the importance of discipline to comfort, good order, and regularity. There must be established, in our different houses, an inviolable connexion between authority and obedience. Remember that discipline is God’s established law. He exercises it in his family; and we must in ours. You should bless your households,
IV. By your example. Not only in the church and the world, but also in your different families, is faith to be shown by your works. (W. Snell.)
These words seem to intimate what at all events is certain from other accounts of this great and good man, that domestic devotion was his habitual practice. With him religion was not an affair restricted to times and places; but it was a hallowed habit, which accompanied him into the camp and the cabinet, into the closet and the family circle; and his example is particularly worthy of our notice, because it is that of a man, who did not consider himself in any degree exempted from the most sacred obligations of domestic life by the many duties of his public and elevated station. Let us, then, take occasion from it to make some remarks upon the importance of religion in the family.
I. Domestic religion tends to promote the temporal welfare of families. The prosperity of every family depends upon the right spirit and practice of its members. In the natural course of things, it is to be looked for only as the reward of virtuous and well-directed industry; it is consequent upon harmony and order, sobriety and diligence, discretion and integrity, in the affairs of life.
II. Family religion is recommended by the substantial support and comfort it affords in all seasons of domestic trial and affliction. Every householder has not only certain duties of a social and secular nature to discharge, but a course of trial to undergo, which calls for patience and resignation to the will of God. We need not descant upon those afflictions of domestic life which so often turn the abode of joy into the scene of heartrending sorrow. The best and most prosperous family is, we all know, liable to those disappointments, losses, and sorrows which are common to society in every form.
III. Family-religion is, moreover, powerfully recommended as ranking amongst the most efficient means of promoting the cause of truth and Godliness. The service of God is the grand object for which human beings are united together under the domestic constitution, and endued with the mighty power of the social affections. If you look for the final end in anything short of this, it must be something limited merely to the objects of a transitory life, and falling therefore immeasurably short of all that relates immediately to the interest of sinful and immortal creatures. Now the great importance of family-worship, in reference to the grand designs of the domestic constitution, must be evident under whatever aspect you consider the subject.
1. If you contemplate it in reference to those who are entrusted with household authority, it must manifestly be of great advantage to them in the discharge of their sacred duties. The parent and the master are, as such, accountable to the Judge of all for the manner in which they act in regard to the precious means of usefulness placed at their disposal. The souls of their children and domestics are entrusted to their care.
2. The worship and fear of God in families must directly tend to restrain the evil tendencies of those who are placed under authority, and to promote most effectually their spiritual welfare. Every household which duly recognises the authority of the supreme Parent in the stated exercises of devotion, is a most important school for the acquisition of the best principles and habits.
3. These remarks will suffice, however, to shew the vast importance of family-religion in relation to the general interests of Christianity. It is to education conducted on religious principles that the world, under the Divine blessing, will always be principally indebted for whatever it shall possess of genuine wisdom and goodness. Happy, then, thrice happy, is the family which is animated by the spirit of devotion, and regulated by the principles of Christianity! In a world of sin and sorrow it presents a scene most refreshing to the eye--a home of peace and blessedness--a garden of the Lord, where the trees of righteousness are seen to grow and blossom with the fruit of immortality. In conclusion, we would exhort those who enjoy the inestimable advantages of parental and religious discipline, to remember their great, responsibility to God, and to consider well how much depends upon the improvement of their privileges. (C. R. Muston, M. A.)
The duty and advantages of family prayer
Our text points to the more enlarged view of gospel expansiveness--the extension of our religious privileges to those around us, in order that they in their turn may extend like blessings to others.
I. The duty of family worship.
1. First, then, the consent of all pious antiquity, patriarchs and prophets, of evangelists and holy men, whether dwelling in wilderness-tents or in houses of cedar, in an upper room at Jerusalem or in a lonely hut by the sea-shore, that they all prayed with and blessed their households.
2. On the score of its reasonableness, on the identity of interests and sympathies which must exist in the same household.
3. The consideration of that law of stewardship which, in spiritual things as well as in temporal, makes each man his brother’s keeper, his brother’s instructor, his brother’s counsellor, and priest and friend. What that master would be thought of who should neglect to snatch a servant from the flames, or what that parent would be thought of who from his children should withhold their daily food, we need not be told; yet wherein is he to be otherwise accounted of, who should behold his servants day by day as brands unpitied in the burning, or who should feed his children only with “the meat that perisheth,” when their immortal natures were hungering for that which “endureth to everlasting life?”
II. Some of the advantages which result from a devout observance of the duties of family religion.
1. The low ground of worldly interests and worldly comforts as being furthered thereby. You know your happiness lies largely in the faithfulness, the trustworthiness, the affection and love of your domestics: what more likely to kindle such qualities within them than to witness your daily and devout mindfulness of the fact that you also “have a Master in Heaven?”
2. Again, the duty will be of the highest practical benefit to yourselves. When you have risen from your knees you will feel that a solemn necessity is laid upon you to live and speak and act according to the spirit of your prayers: be it even from no worthier motive than a regard to your own consistency, temper will be curbed, uncharitableness will be repressed, pride will bring down its lofty looks, and anger hold out the kind and forgiving hand.
3. Another benefit of a devoutly conducted family service is good to the souls of others; to the souls of the servants that wait on thee, of the relations that tarry with thee, of the stranger who--though it may be but for a night--may be sojourning within thy gates.
4. Once more, by keeping up these devout solemnities in your household, you secure a remembrance in the private intercessions of its members. When all pray with you, then all will pray for you: the walls of every chamber shall hear mention of your name: prayer shall watch over your infant’s slumbers: prayer shall smoothe for you the bed of languishing: “as the mountains are round about Jerusalem,” shall prayer compass your daily path: as guardian angels shall prayer stand round your bed. (D. Moore, M. A.)
How glorious was the King of Israel to-day.
The jeer of sarcasm, and the retort of piety
David had simply divested himself of his robes, and acted like the rest of the people in playing before God. She accused him of immodesty; this was, of course, but a pitiful satire, he having in all things acted blamelessly, though humbly, like the rest of the people. His reply to her was with usual tartness. Seldom did he seem to lose his temper for a moment, but in this case he half did so at any rate. His answer was, “It was before the Lord which chose me before thy father, and before all his house.” Thus significantly, and as it were ominously did he remind her of her pedigree. And because she had slighted her husband when he had acted in God’s service according to the dictates of his heart, the Lord struck her with a curse--the greatest curse which an Eastern woman could possibly know--a curse, moreover, which wiped out the last expiring hope of her family pride--she went childless to the day of her death.
I. David’s trouble. His trouble was peculiar. It came from a quarter where he ought least to have expected it. Has it not been to many a Christian woman that her husband has been her greatest enemy in religion, and many a Christian man has found the partner of his own bosom the hardest obstacle in the road to heaven? Natural affections are so interwoven with a thousand ligaments that they cannot be easily broken; but they are delicate as the finest nerves, and can never be injured without causing the most dolorous sensation.
II. David’s justification. What did David say in extenuation of what he had done? He said, “It was before the Lord, which chose me before thy father, and before all his house, and appointed me ruler over the people, over Israel, therefore will I play before the Lord.” David’s justification of his acts was God’s election of him. Let me cull a picture from the memoir of one in years gone by. He preaches in a church in Glasgow; he is just inducted into the church, preferment lies open before him, he may speedily be made a Bishop if he likes, he seeks it not. Without mitre or benefice he takes to Kennington-common and Moorfields, goes to every stump and hedge in the country, so that he is Rural Dean of all the commons everywhere, and Canon Residentiary nowhere. He is pelted with rotten eggs; he finds one time that his forehead has been laid open in the midst of the sermon, while he has been laying men’s hearts open. Why does he do it? Men say he is fanatical. What did Whitfield need to do this for? What did John Wesley need to go all over the country for? Why, there is the Rev. Mr. So-and-so, with his fourteen livings, and never preaches at all--good man he is. “Oh,” say the world, “and he makes-a good thing, depend upon it.” That is a Common saying, “He makes a good thing of it.” And when he died, he did make a good thing of it, for he silenced the tongue of slander, leaving nothing but an imperishable reputation behind. When Mr. Wesley was labouring abundantly, they said, “He is a rich man;” and taxed him for his plate very heavily. He said, “You may take my plate at any rate if you like, for all I have is two silver spoons; I have one in London, and one in York, and by the grace of God, I shall never have any more as long as there are poor people about.” But the people said, “Depend upon it, they are making a good thing of it; why cannot they be still as other people.” What other men could not do, or would not do, they did; they could not rest before they did it; they could dance like David before the ark, degrading the clerical character; they could bring down the fine dignity of the parson, to stand like a mountebank before the shows of Moor-fields, or in the Spa-fields’ riding schools; they could come down on stage-boards to preach the gospel; they were not ashamed to be like David--they thought all this disgrace was honour, and all this shame was glory; and they bore it all, for their justification was found in the fact that they believed God had chosen them; and therefore they chose to suffer for Christ’s sake, rather than reign without Christ. And now, if you think God has chosen you and yet do not feel that He has done great things for you, or holds any strong claims upon your gratitude, then shun the cross. If you have never had much forgiven, get over the stile, and go down the green lane into Bye-path meadow, if it is comfortable walking, go down there. If you do not owe much to the Lord Jesus Christ, shirk his service, go up in the corner there when the trumpet plays, and tell Michal you are very sorry you have displeased her. Say, “I will never do the like again, trust me; I am sorry you do not like it; I hope you will now forgive me; but as I hold religion to be a thing to please everyone as well as myself, I will never dance before the ark again.” Do that now if you are under no very great obligation to the Father of spirits, and have never tasted the distinguishing love of God to your souls. But oh, there are some of you ready to start up from your seats, and say, “Well, I am not that man!” and assuredly, as your pastor, I can look on some of you that have had much forgiven. Not long ago you were up to the throat in drunkenness; you could blaspheme God. Not very long ago perhaps you carried on dishonesty, and never entered the house of God. Some of you were frivolous, gay, careless, despisers of God, without hope, without Christ, strangers to the commonwealth of Israel. Well, and what brought you here now? Why, sovereign grace has done it. The mercy you have received is a complete justification for anything that you may do in God’s service, any ecstacy that you may feel when you are worshipping him, and any excess of liberality you may display when you are engaged in pressing on to the kingdom of your Lord and Master.
III. Not less worthy of our notice was his resolution. What did he say? “I will yet be more vile than thus, and I will be base in mine own sight.” Resolve, when you are in any sort of persecution, to face it with a full countenance. Like a nettle is the persecutor; touch it gently and it will sting you, but grasp it, and it hurts you not. Lay hold of those who oppose you, not with rough vengeance, but with the strong grip of quiet decision, and you have won the day. Yield no principle, no, not the breadth of a hair of that principle. Stand up for every solitary grain of truth; contend for it as for your life. Think of the snows of the Alps, and call to mind the Waldenses, and the Albigenses, your great forerunners. Think again, of the Lollards, the disciples of Wickcliffe; think of your brethren in Germany, who, not many centuries ago, nay, but a century ago, were sewn up in sacks, had their hands chopped off, and bled and died--a glorious list of martyrs. Your whole pedigree, from the beginning to the end, is stained with blood. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been made to suffer the violence of men; and you I will you yield? Shall these soft times, these gentle ages, take away your pristine valour--make you the craven sons of heroic fathers? No, if you are not called to the sufferings of a martyr, yet bear the spirit of a martyr. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Afraid of the excitement of religion
The Sunday services were well attended and were used of God to the conversion of some. Each night showed fresh cases of blessing, and the last day I was asked to visit the Bible class leader, who had been taken ill on the Monday on entering the room he exclaimed, “This is a judgment on me.” “What, do you mean?” said I. “Well, I prayed in public last week that the Lord would keep all excitement out of the meetings, and He answered it by keeping me out of them altogether, and I have not been able to get my young men to any of them.” It is wise to distinguish between the “religion of excitement” and the “excitement of religion.” We must never put perspiration in the place of inspiration, or thunder in the place of lightning. (Newton Jones.)
2 Samuel 6:21
David said unto Michal, It was before the Lord, which chose me before thy father.
David dancing before the ark because of his election
I What effect had this doctrine, this experience, this inward conviction upon David?
I. It made God the leading thought with David.
1. This was especially the case with David in his devotion. David that day worshipped God in spirit and in truth. The effect of this truth upon David was also that, as the Lord had become the great influence of his life, and the great object of his adoration, so he was to him his supreme Lord.
II. Secondly, it will create in us a proper disregard for human opinion.
1. In his worship David did not allow the opinions of men to weigh with him. He worshipped “before the Lord,” and there he left it.
2. He does not seek honour from the many. David sought not the honour which cometh from men.
3. David did not even consult the judgment of the few.
4. Beloved, the doctrines of grace put the very idea of honouring man out of court with us.
III. Then, thirdly, a sense of election causes a low opinion of self. David said, “I will yet be more vile than thus, and will be base in mine own sight.” David would more and more abase himself before the Lord. A sense of electing love will render you base in your own sight. I will tell you why.
1. First, you will never understand why the Lord has chosen you. Often will you sing:
“What was there in me that could merit esteem,
Or give the Creator delight?
’Twas even so, Father, I ever must sing,
‘Because it seem’d good in thy sight.’”
2. I dare say David, in a few quick thoughts, reviewed his former estate.
3. Then the king recollected the dangers and troubles he had experienced.
4. David’s high position must have made him feel lowly when he knew to whom he owed it all. All the while David had a deep sense of his personal unworthiness. He did not know his own heart fully--no man does so. But he knew enough of himself to make him base in his own sight; for he could never think himself worthy of the choice of God, and all that it involved. Our heart adores and wonders as we think of the election of God. As we rise in the assurance of the Divine choice, we sink in our valuation of ourselves.
IV. A sense of Divine election fosters a feeling of holy brotherhood. It is wonderful how democratic the doctrines of grace are, and how aristocratic they are too. The chosen are all kings, and when we mix with the poorest of them we are kings with kings. Free grace strips the proud, but it adorns the humble. David honoured the humblest of the Lord’s chosen; for when Michal talked about what the handmaids of his servants would say, he answered, “Of the maid-servants which thou hast spoken of, of them shall I be had in honour.” To be esteemed by them was a cheer to him.
V. A sense of being chosen of God stirs a desire for the service of God.
1. Such service will be personal.
2. This personal service will be cheerful.
3. This service will be in connection with the great sacrifice.
4. This service should be thoughtful.
5. This service must be obedient.
6. This service should be practical.
7. This service must be seen at home.
If you are chosen of God you will, like David, bless your household. You will long to see your sons and daughters brought to God.
VI. A sense of Divine election will excite sacred enthusiasm.
1. David had an inward delight in God. God was his exceeding joy.
2. In David’s case his inward peace boiled over in holy excitement. Before the ark he was singing, he was harping, he was worshipping, and at last must show it by the joyful motion of his body.
3. David felt so exultant that he wished everybody to know of his joy in God. He told all the crowd around of his delight in God; and he sang that day, “Declare His glory among the heathen, his wonders among all people.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Once robbers besieged a monastery to rob it of its treasures. The monks carried the golden organ to a river near by, and sunk it in the water to keep it from the robbers’ hands. At certain periods, so the legend runs, the organ would rise out of the river and give forth such ravishing music as was never elsewhere heard by mortal ears. Such an instrument is a truly thankful heart--one in which is the joy of the Lord. The floods may go over it, but it ever rises out of them and sings its sweetest songs. Nothing can ever check its praise. It sings in the darkest night, its music rolling out into the gloom to cheer the weary pilgrim. A thankful heart always finds something good, even when all things seem evil.
When to shout “Glory”
Billy Bray, the Cornish preacher, was a constant visitor among the sick and dying. On one occasion he was sitting by the beside of a Christian brother who had been always very reticent, and afraid to confess joyously his faith in Christ. Now, however, he wast filled with gladness. Turning to Billy, whose beaming face and sunny words had done so much to produce this joy, he said, “Oh, Mr. Bray, I’m so happy that, if I had the power, I’d shout ‘Glory!’” “Hae, mon,” said Billy, “what a pity it was thee didn’t shout ‘Glory!’ when thee hadst the power!”
Reasonableness of religious zeal
In the Natural History Museum at Central Park, New York, a valuable butterfly may be seen. It is estimated that the insect cost its former owner, a Pennsylvanian doctor, at least £2,000. The butterfly is to be found only in a certain part of West Africa, and the gentleman fitted out an expedition and maintained it for more than two years, in order that the rare insect might be added to his entomological collection. If such zeal is shown by one who desires to secure a butterfly, is it to be wondered at that Christians at times display an unusual enthusiasm? Ought they not rather to do so more widely and frequently, when the glory of God and the salvation of never-dying souls are at stake?
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "2 Samuel 6". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Easter