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The contents of this chapter belong to a period of time subsequent to the taking of the fort of Zion, and find their parallel in 2 Samuel 5:11-25. But if found here in the same order of place as there, they would have followed upon 1 Chronicles 9:9; Keil attributes this difference to the desire of our compiler to represent the bringing of the ark to Jerusalem as David's first undertaking on becoming king of the united people. Considering the contents of this chapter, and remembering that it stands between the unsuccessful attempt to bring home the ark and the final successful bringing of it, it would seem a far more natural thing to suppose that this suggested its present order; for compare 1 Chronicles 15:1, 1 Chronicles 15:2. The parallel is very close. As far as to the word "Elishua" (1 Chronicles 15:5), there is no difference in the least degree material, except that the word "concubines" is found in Samuel, and preceding the word "wives" of our 1 Chronicles 15:3 (yet see 1 Chronicles 3:9). The two names Elpalet and Nogah are also not found in the parallel, but our compiler is consistent with himself; for see 1 Chronicles 3:6, 1 Chronicles 3:7. Further, our 1 Chronicles 3:12 states that the idols of the Philistines were by David's command "burned with fire," while the Hebrew text of Samuel only states that "David and his men removed them" (וַיִּשָׂאֵם), where the Authorized Version incorrectly translates "burned them."
1 Chronicles 14:1
The Kethiv abandons here the invariable analogy of Chronicles, and reads Hiram for "Huram," which latter form, however, is replaced in the Keri. Beside this Hiram or Huram, the king, there was another Hiram or Huram, the same king's chief artificer, and whom he sent to the help of Solomon (1 Kings 7:13, 1Ki 7:40; 2 Chronicles 2:13; 2 Chronicles 4:11, 2 Chronicles 4:16). The willing aid which this king lent to David on this occasion, in supplying cedar timber and workmen, was "the commencement of that amity between the Tyriaus and the Hebrews, so mutually advantageous to the two nations, the one agricultural and the other commercial" (Milman's 'History of the Jews,' 1:239). The meaning of the name Hiram is probably "noble," or "high.bern." This disposition, at all events, he seems to have illustrated in his generous friendship to David, Solomon, and their people. Very little to be relied upon is known of him outside Scripture, but his reign is said to have extended from B.C. 1023-990.
1 Chronicles 14:2
Was lifted up. The passage in Samuel reads נִשֵׂא, the Piel conjugation. The present form is obscure, נִשֵׂאת. It may be considered either an irregular Niphal third pers. fem.; or Niphal infin, absolute (2 Samuel 19:43); or possibly even an irregular Piel form, in which case the pronoun "he" will need to be supplied as the subject. Supposing that any special connection subsists between this and the previous verse, it is not necessary to consider it remote. Then, as now, the building of a house for one's self, much more the building of a noble palace on the part of a king, is an indication of feeling settled and "confirmed." It was a partial indication of the "lifted-up kingdom" that the king should have a palace of unwonted magnificence. This must have weighed all the more in the case of a nation which, not for its sacred things, nor for its king, nor for its people, had ever had as yet any adequate and worthy housing,
1 Chronicles 14:3
David took more wives. As matter of course, we do not look in this connection for any remarks to be made by the writer condemnatory of David's enlargement of the harem, or of his having an harem at all. Yet it is open to us to note how, at a time when polygamy was "winked at," and no sin was necessarily to lie on this account at the door of David, yet by this very thing he was undermining the peace and unity of his own family, the comfort of his declining years once and again, and the very stability of his house in the days of Solomon his son. The less necessitated we are to regard David's polygamy in the light of individual sin, the more emphatic in the light of history does the tendency of the practice proclaim itself as thoroughly and irredeemably bad.
1 Chronicles 14:4-7
The names of his children which he had in Jerusalem. The names of the children born to David in Hebron are given in 1 Chronicles 3:1-4. For a comparison of this list with that of 1 Chronicles 3:5-9, see that place. It will be observed that the present list agrees with that of Samuel in respect of eleven names, and with 1 Chronicles 3:5-8, so far as number goes, with all thirteen.
1 Chronicles 14:8-12
An important victory over the Philistines.
1 Chronicles 14:8
David… went out against them. From a careful comparison of this passage with the parallel and with 2 Samuel 23:12-14, it appears likely that the meaning is that "David went out against them" after having "gone down" first to the "hold," probably at the "cave of Adullam" (1 Chronicles 11:15-17). When it is said that the Philistines went up to seek David, the sequel makes it evident that they did not seek him as friends. And it is to be remembered that the Philistines held territory near Jerusalem at this time, and to the north of it (1 Samuel 31:7-9).
1 Chronicles 14:9
Spread themselves. The root, פָשַׁט appears here for the נָטַש of the parallel place. So also again in 1 Chronicles 14:13 of this chapter. In the valley of Rephaim; i.e. of giants, though some translate "healers," and yet others "chiefs." Though not Canaanites, they once held portions of Canaan. Their origin is very uncertain. Kalisch thinks they were descendants of Japheth (Genesis 14:5; Genesis 15:20; Deuteronomy 2:9-11; Deuteronomy 3:11). The "valley" was south of Jerusalem, but whether more south-east or south-west is not certain; probably the former (Joshua 15:8; Joshua 18:16; Isaiah 17:5).
1 Chronicles 14:10
David inquired of God. The "inquiring" was made, as matter of course, through the high priest, and not merely, as we should say, in private prayer (Judges 1:1, Judges 1:3; Judges 20:23, Judges 20:27; 1Sa 23:2, 1 Samuel 23:4; 1 Samuel 30:8; 2 Samuel 2:1). The directness of the Divine answer was some echo of the old reply when Judah was authorized to go up against the Canaanites (Judges 1:2).
1 Chronicles 14:11
Baal-perazim; literally, master of breaches. Gesenius traces this meaning, through the intermediate idea of "possessor," to that (in this case, that place), which "possesses," i.e. is the subject of such a signal overwhelming as is here described, the scene of overwhelming defeats, like the irresistible rush of waters (Isaiah 28:21).
1 Chronicles 14:12
And when they had left their gods there. The parallel translates more literally, "And there they left," as we might also do here; and goes on to read" their images," in place of "their gods" (2 Samuel 5:21). These they burned with fire, according to the command of Deuteronomy 7:5, Deuteronomy 7:25.
1 Chronicles 14:13-17
Another victory over the Philistines.
1 Chronicles 14:13
In the valley; i.e. the valley of Rephaim, as is expressly stated in the parallel place, though left in no obscurity here.
1 Chronicles 14:14
Go not up after them; turn away from them, and come upon them over against the mulberry trees. The meaning of the directions as here given is sufficiently evident, yet it is somewhat more forcibly expressed in the parallel place, "Thou shalt not go up," i.e. "against the Philistines" (see our tenth verse, and note the form of David's inquiry); "but fetch a compass behind them." The mulberry trees were evidently behind the Philistines. The Hebrew word for the trees here spoken of is הַבְּכָאִים, and the correct rendering of it is probably neither "mulberry" nor, as the Septuagint and Vulgate translate, "pear" trees. But judging from the probable derivation (בָּכָה, to weep), they were trees of the balsam species, and it seems that this is as far as we can safely conjecture. One of the latest authorities pronounces it an "unknown species." The tree, strange to say, is only mentioned here and in the parallel place. A summary of opinions as to the tree intended may be found in Smith's 'Bible Dictionary,' 2:439, and this is just sufficient to show that it is not as yet identified with any semblance of certainty. However, it is easy to understand hew the balsam species, from which the exuding gum resembles "tears," might come by the name set forth in the present Hebrew root.
1 Chronicles 14:15
A sound of going. This is net a mere generic or longer form of expression to signify a sound itself. There is significance in the word "going." The sense of the Hebrew word would be thrown out more emphatically by such a rendering as, the sound of steps (literally, stepping). When the motion of the agitated leaves simulated the sound of steps, the stepping of men, then David and his army were to step forth to battle. Though the root of the "stepping" spoken of as heard in the trees is not identical with that of the "going" repeated twice in the remainder of the verse—Then thou shalt go out… for God is gone forth—yet it does alliterate to some extent with it, and rather creates the impression that it was intended to do so. However, the parallel place does not sustain this impression, inasmuch as a different word, "Thou shalt bestir thyself," is there employed, in place of the first occurrence of our supposed alliteration, in the clause, "Thou shalt go out." There is something stirring to the imagination, and probably it was felt so by David and his men, in the signal unseen yet not unheard, and in a sense not of earth, but midway between earth and heaven. The very various voices of the various trees, according to the character of their foliage, may well set poetry going, and startle or fascinate imagination, as the case may be. The music of one tree or grove is as different from that of another as can be—listen to the difference between the melancholy plaint so unceasing of some plantation of firs, and the multitudinous, silvery, rippling of but one white poplar of good size. Presumably the sound in the present ease more resembled that of the steady tramp of them that march.
1 Chronicles 14:16
Gibeon. The parallel reads Geba. As Geba and Gibeon were both situate very near to Jerusalem (on the north), as well as near to one another, both texts may be correct, and each mean what it says. But Isaiah 28:21 confirms the reading Gibeon. It is evident that Gibeon was no appropriate resting-place for the ark (1Ch 13:3, 1 Chronicles 13:4; 2 Chronicles 1:3). The nearness of the Philistines' approach to the city of Jerusalem marks their daring on the one hand, and the loud call now for the merciful interposition of Jehovah on behalf of his people. Gazer. Hebrew גָּזְרָה, both here and in the parallel because of the accent. Else the name is Gezer (גֶּזֶר). It was about two hours distant from Gibeon, and to the north of it (Joshua 10:33; Joshua 12:12; Joshua 21:21; Judges 1:29; 1 Chronicles 20:4), or "four Roman miles northward from Nicopolis ('Onomasticon'); now the large ruin of Tell Jezar".
1 Chronicles 14:1, 1 Chronicles 14:2.-An important instance of the presence of the perceiving heart.
There is an obscurity about Hiram which certainly does not serve to diminish interest in him and his place in this narrative. The obscurity referred to affects, not merely himself and his reign, but rather what we now have to do with, the time, occasion, manner, of his introduction to David, and the commencement of the warm friendship between the two. This place, with the parallel, is the earliest scriptural mention of Hiram. Later allusion to him (1 Kings 5:1) drops the significant testimony, "For Hiram was ever a lover of David." This was in the time of Solomon, and goes some way to remind us of other instances in which David won an ardent and generous affection from his fellows. The power to evoke this some natures possess in a high degree. All, however, that we know for certain is that Hiram, hearing of the rising fame of David, and no doubt aware of very much that had led on and up to it, from the time of Goliath, sent "messengers" to him. Their first messages consist presumably of hearty congratulations, and then go on to give assurance of Hiram's readiness to help, by material and by workmen, to build a worthy royal house for David. It is scarcely to be supposed under these circumstances that Hiram had not received intimation, more or less direct, that David would be likely to be in want of these things. Yet, whatever intimation Hiram had received, his response is large and gracious and full of free will. Something in this David saw, which perhaps no one else saw, but well worth notice.
I. DAVID SAW THAT ONE CONTINUOUS PURPOSE OF GOD WAS MOVING ON. It was one that affected "his people Israel." Israel he had chosen, Israel he had for his peculiar people, in Israel he had a fixed purpose, to this already for long ages he had held, and the ancient promise and covenant had been a growingly plain performing. This continuity by itself riveted attention, and brought a doubting, tired spirit home again to a strong peaceful faith, when any other circumstance, though it should seem but a trivial one, served to remind of it. Ought we not to be herein reminded of such things as these? —
1. That all God's purposes, yes, all those that affect us as individuals only, are consistent, determined, marked by a faithful continuity in this respect, that they do not cease, do not determine, till they have fulfilled their appointed part. This may be less than we thought, if we thought at all, or it may be more. It may be different from what we thought, if we thought at all; and very certainly may be different from what we wished, because we so readily wish without any sovereign reason guiding our wish. But each little purpose, so to speak, of the Divine mind—little in our mistaken estimate—runs out to its end, and does not miss of the designed end.
2. That assuredly there must very often be Divine purpose in what happens, and as we think merely happens, in our experience. For the man who honestly believes in a supreme Governor of his life, this must commend itself to reason. And what seriousness, reverence, sacredness, dignity, and deep-drawn consolation would it yield to any life, as fervently to believe this, so habitually to remember it!
3. That those purposes are upon a large scale. They affect the whole family in the individual, the whole community in the family or the class, that may be visibly and proximately the first affected, and so on, till the entire race shares in the advantage, and all the long-drawn-out subsequent ages illustrate its beneficence, as was literally the ease for the whole world in the treatment and the checkered history of Israel
4. That, because of the large, scale on which Divine purpose is schemed:
(1) It may easily elude our notice altogether if we are not very heedful.
(2) It will present many difficulties, many obscurities, many dark mysteries, all due to the incapacity of our finite intellects to grasp the whole, to see the end from the beginning, and to be able to gaze all down the long abyss of time.
(3) For all this, some vivid personal incident will occasionally be charged with suggestion and significance that will light up a vast area of human life in a moment of time, and will display convincingly how Divine knowledge, wisdom, purpose, are intersecting and traversing all the tangle and the labyrinth of fitful human working! And it was a gleam of convincing light of this kind that now shone in on David's mind.
II. DAVID SAW THAT CERTAIN DIVINE PROVIDENTIAL METHOD WAS BEING OBSERVED. In the first place, an individual human kingdom, a personal dynasty, is being "lifted up" for "the sake of the beloved people and the settled purpose." Never was there such a comment, such a clear criticism on the "Divine right of kings." Kings and the right of kings, it would certainly seem to be here testified, are means to an end, and then only is the right most Divine when used most divinely, and under most solemn sense of responsibility. The "people Israel" are those whom he loves, are what he loves. It is not the "kingdom," nor the government, nor the land, nor the national bent and genius, nor even the king himself merely as such, that he loves, but the "people" Israel. "All is for their sakes," as St. Paul in later times said. This kingdom of David, this dynasty which he represented, of which he was to be such a brilliant exponent, were to count nothing in and of themselves. They were for the sake of something else. But passing this greater general consideration, in the second place, David saw tokens of Divine providential method in the willing heart, willing hand willing speech, of a neighbouring king The willingness and the generosity may not have been altogether unknown, but when all the circumstances were combined, and when we remember the exceptional position of Israel among nations that often wondered at Israel's God, often envied Israel's unseen mighty protection and defence, there could scarcely have been many precedents, scarcely many parallels, to be quoted. All the rather was David secretly in deepest heart convinced of the reality of Divine interposition, of providential forces at work. When we allow that Hiram had received some "hints" and some intimation of the likely desire of David to build a house worthy of his people and royal state, we have gone as far as we are warranted in going. And to set against all the rest, if not against this also, we have here David's evident language, and the evident meaning and drift of it. David "perceived" certain things when Hiram "sent messengers,… and timber," or promise of it, and "masons and carpenters," or promise of them, and these "to build him," forsooth, David, "a house." He "perceived" that something unseen was here—a power, a hand, a person invisible, at work. That all this kindness should have come upon him; and that all this glory should be about to come upon him, and the quondam shepherd-boy, and more recently hunted refugee of mountain and cave and wilderness, should be about to be magnificently mansioned,—was demonstration to him that a mighty and benignant providence was at work; that it was bent on its own old purpose, and advancing by its own new methods as well. He found that Hiram's heart was in the hand of some One, nor did he mistake whose hand that must be, even the hand of him who holds all hearts. And as to that house that was to be, now at a glance he saw and spake it, "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build." He was convinced that God was building.
III. DAVID RECOGNIZED MOST FULLY THE PRINCIPLE OF WHAT WE CALL HUMAN. INSTRUMENTALITY. He recognized it now in a twofold sense. It is the same twofold sense we ever need to bear in mind and carry out in practice.
1. With deepest humility, with most unreserved confession, David pronounces himself, in all his growing power and likely splendour, the servant of God and his people, the instrument in the mighty and the good hand of God, the authorized means to a great end. That is all. That was honour for him, and honour enough. The Lord has confirmed "him king" over Israel, and "his kingdom" is lifted up on high, not for his own sake, not for any merit of his own, not for self-aggrandizement, not to feed personal luxury, pride, ambition, not for any most flattering, mysterious reason, but for his people Israel! When we do remember that we are servants of God, we cannot too well remember this—that it is this very relation we hold—of servants. We are to inquire for and to do, and to speak his will, and to have the least possible of our own.
2. He "perceives" that he is being made use of in order that he may fall in more than ever with God's work and service. His humility is real, therefore it does not swamp his sense of duty and responsibility. In one breath he admits himself only the instrument, but one divinely raised up, divinely fashioned, divinely called; and therefore he is both the more stirred to duty and sustained by the strongest sense of support. The really humble servant proves the really faithful servant. Happy David, that herein too the Lord had given him an heart to perceive and understand!
1 Chronicles 14:8-12.-The type of enmity on the alert, foiled by watchfulness and prayer.
From the conduct of our foe, not less than of the best friend, may we sometimes learn lessons of supreme importance and interest. Feeling and action both own to possibilities not seen on the surface, and seldom disturbed in their solemn depth. They are, however, always liable to be evoked, and, when evoked by any of the forms of enmity, they are almost sure to show in their own more intensified forms. It cannot be maintained that enmity is a mightier impelling principle than love, that the force of the one intrinsically surpasses that of the other; the contrary of this is to be maintained. But a very mighty force it is, and it has signal power to prevail in any conflict where indifference, lax energy, or but a slightly diminished watchfulness characterizes the object of it. Something of the skill of enmity and of its habit is set before us here, and what is said suggests to thought much left unsaid. We have here a little wayside picture of enmity. And we may observe in this aspect of the history —
I. SIGNS OF WATCHFUL OBSERVATION ON THE PART or AN UNREMITTING ENEMY. Men like to be at their ease, and rapidly does the tendency grow, We like to rest on our oars, and delicious awhile are sensation and thought. And these resting-times and resting-places are not merely welcome; they are necessities at certain intervals, they are the appointed rewards of certain conflicts and victory, and they are the preperation for fresh effort. On the other hand, life is spent here in the presence of the foe, and one of watchful observation—the children of light not so wise in their generation nor so awake as he. Keen is the eye of enmity. It searches all round its own armoury for the weapon fittest for its purpose, and all round its opponent's armour to find the joint of his harness. And now, nothing goes on with David and Israel but—the Philistines know it, and take care to know it.
II. SIGNS OF CIRCUMSPECT AND FAR-SEEING OBSERVATION. The Philistines, whose chief leader we are not here told, do no doubt take great care to be apprised of all that is going on within the kingdom of Israel. And they can afford to let much pass without any counter moves on their part. They learn much, but it awakens no keen anxiety, no special interest, no practical activity. But an unusual note is heard at last; it is the note of warning; they hear it as the note of opportunity sounded, and of opportunity that must not slip by. They cannot afford to be inactive now. It is a time when, even if all depended on one throw, that throw must be ventured. They had known David as a boy; as a remarkable young man, but with a very doubtful future; as a persecuted refugee; as a very rising man; as king of part of a people; but the critical and vital point was now at length, when they "heard that he was anointed king over all Israel"—king over a united people, king over a people the whole of whose resources were now available and could be wielded as by one arm, king over a people of one mind and one enthusiastic heart. And this was what the wisdom of the enemy was equal to—to see and act as though it saw that the hour of a united enemy was the hour to strike, if haply it might break the power of that enemy at one stroke, or otherwise, that it was the hour most to be feared for himself. One sang —
"And Satan trembles when he sees
The weakest saint upon his knees?
But there is another time when Satan trembles, and that is when he sees his enemy united, and the ranks of his enemy held well together. That "trembling" would be both more and more apparent but for the prompt and unequivocal activity he brings to bear on the situation, while others were but "trembling."
III. SIGNS OF PRACTICAL AND VERY DETERMINED RESOLUTION. Difficulty, danger, critical responsibility, disarm many, but arm these Philistines. The courage, the practical wisdom, is to be noted, though it be in a bad cause, in order that these may be the rather learnt and copied for the good cause. These Philistines do not timidly wait and put off a doubtful dangerous day; they court the conflict; they go "up to seek David;" they offer battle and give the challenge. Little time is lost before they are "spread" in battle array and everything is ready for the decisive verdict. Evident stress also is laid upon their unity. It is not only said that "all" the Philistines went up to seek David, but it is written by the historian as though the emphasis of a significant antithesis were intended. When the Philistines heard that David was anointed king over "all" Israel, they "all" went to seek him.
IV. SIGNS IN ALL THIS OF THE DERIVATION OF VERY MUCH OF HUMAN ENMITY. Strong is the resemblance both of nature and of method between the hostility of human foe and that exhibited by the source of all evil. It is abundantly well to note this resemblance, for could we persuade ourselves to see in our own malignant dispositions, ill will, and hostility the features that are then striving only too successfully to take form of the dark original of all evil, we should dread the presence in us, and dread few things more. The short gratification of that which must be, under any circumstances, ruled the lower side of our nature, would be then instinctively acknowledged too dearly bought, when the eye, the lip, the thought, the strong force of purpose, and the hand must all be lent to one in the background, so odious in himself, and so tyrannical as soon as ever his hold is once yielded to. The shapes and methods assumed by human enmity are in reality often nothing short of accurate copies of those of the great foe of God and man. Surely it would act as a deterrent influence in many a mind not yet gone too far, and in which it was not yet too late to interpose, if it were distinctly seen that as much as love, goodness, and friendship are of God, so much are hate and all the kinds of malignity, and in general enmity to a fellow-creature, of the devil. Let us observe, on the other hand, in this portion of the history, the foil of David in the presence of that enmity.
1. Here is proof of a wakeful ear. Many an opportunity is lost for want of "ear to hear." And some things the most essential to hear are crowded out unheard because of the rush of sounds to the ear, hollow as ever sound could be. But the wakefulness of an open ear is here, and the irreparable does not happen, and the disastrous stroke does not fall upon a whole kingdom and people ere yet the tidings of the danger have reached the responsible persons. David might now have said, with the prophet (Isaiah 50:4), "He wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned." And how much depends on this daily opening of our ear, and this opening of it in the morning, before the dangers of the day's life have opened upon us, instead of that opening of it that may come perforce at evening, or in the very night, or after some startling calamity, when all except the dead have no choice but to hear! Though Jesus first warned us, and after him some of the most solemn connection of all Scripture repeated the strain, how much do we lose by altogether under-estimating the message of the words, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear"!
2. Here is proof of wakeful care. The enemy's daring front and adventurous challenge scarcely anticipate David's firm front and readiness to accept the challenge. His preparedness is quite as noticeable as their initiating energy. Some initiating energies have much cause to repent of themselves, and court their own destruction; and it proved so now for the Philistines. The victory does not often lie with those that are "first in their own cause." David does not live every hour all in a tremble of apprehension and suspicion, it is true; but it is also true that he has wisely not allowed himself to live forgetful, unheedful of the constant proximity of a constant foe. He is not now caught napping. He is not found now lapped in luxury. He is not betrayed as one living in a fool's paradise, lulled in false peace, mistaking security for safety, choked by pride in the height and dignity of his position, and deceiving himself as though he were the unassailable and unimpregnable itself. The sound of alarm entered full sonorously into his ear, but no panic of alarm entered into his heart. Does the "foe" seek him, and insolently and defiantly scan his proportions and his armour? he does not forget that old matter of Goliath and the sling and stone on the one hand, nor is he the man, either by character or by the emergence of unguarded position, to hide himself or to have a moment's inclination to hide himself, but he "goes out to meet" the foe, well prepared to face him and, if God speak the word, to encounter him also in actual conflict. Nor does he forget the spirit of the old confidence and the source whence he derived his own confidence. "Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield; but I come to thee in the Name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied."
3. Lastly, here is proof positive of prayer. David has shown the courage of the man and of the king and of the commander of God's people and army. He presents himself and them in front of the foe that courts the trial of battle. But before he lifts a hand, strikes a blow, draws a sword, he asks of the Lord. He asks for knowledge of duty, "Shall I go up?" He asks for warrant of the language which he may hold to his own people and to the defying foe. "Wilt thou deliver them into my hand?" This last thing he had been permitted to add in his forewarning to Goliath of what awaited him: "This day will the Lord deliver thee into my hand; and I will smite thee… that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel... for the battle is the Lord's" (1 Samuel 17:45-47). And he wishes to be able to do so again. There would be great advantage in being able to use confident language on the matter on this occasion also. God had occasionally permitted his own people to go to defeat (as he certainly does for our discipline and for after advantage permit us often to find defeat awhile), so that David might desire for his own heart's sake to be assured that this was not going to be the case now. But there was other reason why authority to speak on the matter of victory certain would be great advantage. He announces it to the foe, and it comes true, and then strikes a deep, lasting residuum of terror and of reverence for the next like occasion. He announces it to his own people, and it comes true; and with what confidence both towards their God and towards their king does it invest them in many a future! Prayer brings blessing, prayer brings knowledge, prayer strengthens and exhibits to just view that connection between himself and his weak creature and child, which the condescending Hearer of prayer loves to acknowledge.
1 Chronicles 14:13-17.-The faith that is content to leave self in the background and unhesitatingly obey God.
One of the most remarkable of the characteristics of Scripture is its freedom from repetition and monotony, even when engaged on subjects that may very closely resemble one another in their matter. In the present instance, the connection, the subject, the time, all closely correspond with what has immediately preceded, and the important event or issue is identical. Yet how greatly the scene differs, and with what exceedingly quickened interest do we read of this second appearance and challenge of the Philistines I The general facts of the situation are still the same. The courage and determination, however, of the Philistines in repeating their attack so soon, and after so thorough and crushing a defeat, show well the stuff of which they were made, and offer an additional touch to the picture. David on his part repeats his inquiry addressed to One whom he had come to be well persuaded was "the God of his salvation." From this point the course of events differs and pursues a new and unwonted direction. David is divinely assured of victory over the enemy, but he is directed not to go up in the face of that enemy. He is to go to some plantation of trees, to await there a certain sound in them, to take that as the omen and sign that God is his Leader and the Leader of his hosts to the battle, and then to make his attack. Faith and practical obedience follow on the part of David, and the enemy suffer a great defeat, while David's fame sustains great advancement. Let us notice some special peculiarities that mark the ordering of this battle, and observe the probable lessons of them.
I. A DISTINCT LESSON OF PUTTING SELF INTO THE BACKGROUND. As surely as there are cases innumerable when the active exercise of our best practical powers is the appointed and expected test of our earnestness and reality, so surely are there some cases when we are permitted, invited, nay, even commanded, to approve a dutiful spirit, in "standing still to see." Vast is the difference between the man whose disposition it is always" to stand still and see," and him who, when the command comes, can consent to renounce the endeavour and the effort and the force of self, and so "stand still and see." The one is the disposition of supineness and even sloth, the other calls for the exercise of a very high measure of self-command and temperate restraint. The instance before us is remarkable in this aspect on every account. It is a warrior, who is to lay aside some of the most characteristic qualities of the warrior. He is not to foresee, not to provide, not to prepare, for the battle! It is a warrior, who was to the manner born, and who has intrinsically not a few of the highest gifts of the warrior. It is a warrior the very day before the battle, when desire and chivalry and courage are near their height. It is a warrior also the day after an engagement; he, together with his hosts, is flushed with triumphant conflict, elated with success, and feeling that he is safe for another decisive victory. Nature tells us of such a man and of such a host, that they burn for the fray. The Divine word, however, told them now that they must count themselves and their martial ardour and their very bravery as nothing. As little like brave soldiers as possible, they are not so much as to confront their foes face to face, but to steal unawares to the rearward of them. The battle is to be won, but it plainly is not to be by the strength of human arm, nor by the force of human wisdom. It will be won in a way to humble the pride of self, to cast self into the shade, most of all to lower it in its own deep conviction, and to exalt the presence and power of another.
II. A DISTINCT INSTANCE OF THE FAITH AND OBEDIENCE THAT CONSENTED TO THAT LESSON. "David therefore did as God commanded him." We have here a very simple but very clear case of faith. The directions given to David were not merely contrary to individual predilection and character, but they were contrary to the methods and discernment of sense. David does neither disdain these in his mind nor practically disregard them in his act on that account. By faith he goes to the trees; by faith he expects and waits for the appointed sign there; faith pours a stream of confidence into him when he hears that signal for battle and "the sound of going in the tops of the trees,"—simulates perfectly for him "the going forth before him" of God to "smite the host of the Philistines." To the temper of the typical warrior and general all this would have been equally unnatural and trying but for the force of faith. There are times when sense and unbelief, superstition and the love of the marvellous revel just herein, that is to say, in a "sign." But this sign will be something very different from one so simple as "the sound of going in the tops of the trees." This was no miracle, except as faith had power to transmute it into the best form of miracle. Faith can feed on what shall seem slender material, and can find richest enjoyment in what shall seem familiar trifles to sense. This is the grandeur of faith, when nothing is great, nothing little to it except as they bring the invisible to sight, and make things that are not as though they were. That faith then becomes the secret aid and precursor to obedience.
III. A DISTINCT GAIN OF RESPECT, FEAR, REVERENCE, FOR THE MAN WHO RENOUNCED SELF AND ACCEPTED THE GUIDE OF FAITH. "The fame of David went out into all lands; and the Lord brought the fear of him upon all nations." This was the direct consequence of his having surrendered himself entirely into the hands of the great Commander himself, the Lord of all hosts. How often had Saul used all earthly power and been impatient to do so, so that he could not wait even for the right human agency! But he failed, and for every failure lessened his influence among those round him far and wide. God made the victories of David marvellous, and therein made him marvellous, from the time of Goliath up to the present moment. To trust self and self's well-nigh superhuman exertions shall still leave a man an utter failure. To trust God and rigidly follow his bidding will exalt a man, and will save him from his own liability to error and inevitable loss of reputation thereby. From all this narrative we may be very forcibly reminded of two things.
1. How God would teach us that it may be often dangerous to go up direct against even the very worst of foes—our spiritual foes.
2. That with these foes it is above all necessary to have God himself to fight before us, for us, with us.
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
1 Chronicles 14:2.-The Lord… confirmed him king.
To many readers this phraseology seems simply the language of superstition, to be classed with similar language in which primitive and heathen nations are wont to attribute the triumphs of their warriors and the greatness of their kings to their tutelar and national deities. But believers in the inspiration and authority of Holy Scripture will see in this declaration an assurance of that wise and watchful care which God exercises over all men and all communities, and which is, for wise purposes, so clearly and devoutly related and recorded in the documents of Hebrew history.
I. THE QUALIFICATIONS AND THE PREPARATION OF RULERS ARE FROM GOD. The strength of character, wisdom and sagacity, firmess, justice, clemency, affability,—all qualities that make an able ruler of men, are the endowment of the supreme Lord. In the case of David we observe peculiar gifts lavishly bestowed. The same providential care is to be recognized in the long and severe discipline by which the son of Jesse was fitted for a throne. It was doubtless this preparatory training, combined with the sore experience through which the nation had passed, which rendered David's accession so popular.
II. THE JUST EXERCISE OF CIVIL POWER IS DIVINELY AUTHORIZED. The Lord having prepared David for the throne and the throne for him, the monarch proceeded to fulfil his royal duties with the happy assurance that the hearts of his people were subject to him, and with the knowledge that he was supported by faithful and powerful allies. It cannot, indeed, be said that monarchy is the favourite form of government with the Lord of all; for when he gave Israel a king it was in condescension to their infirmities. The form of government is of secondary importance, but the necessity of civil rule is written upon the constitution of man and of society. Equity, impartiality, righteousness,—these are the principles of all true moral rule, human and Divine. The governor who is guided by personal ambition, who is the prey of petty prejudices, who is given to intrigues, who rules by oppression, is no true king of men.
III. THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF A DIVINE COMMISSION GIVES POWER AND GRACE TO THE EXERCISE OF AUTHORITY. "David perceived that the Lord had confirmed him king." Thus his faith was strengthened and his courage was sustained. The man who, in the fulfilment of life's duties, cannot see beyond his own purposes and plans, is for all high intents enfeebled by this unworthy view of his life; whilst he who recognizes that he is the "minister of God," is supported by this conviction, his aims are ennobled and his influence is hallowed by it. Especially must this be the case with those whose influence and responsibility are unusually great.
IV. IF AUTHORITY IS FROM GOD, ACCOUNTABILITY IS TO GOD. Some rulers have been called to account by their fellow-potentates and some by their subjects. There is, however, danger lest the powerful should forget their inevitable responsibility. At the bar of God all kings must stand; at his throne they too must sue for mercy, when there they take their places with their subjects, as before the highest and the final tribunal. "Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth."—T.
1 Chronicles 14:9-11.-The God of battles.
This is one of the many passages in the Old Testament where God is represented as presiding over and prospering the military expeditions of the Israelites. Rationalists see in such passages nothing more than evidence that the Hebrews were a warlike people, and that they, like other nations, attributed their successes in war to the intervention and favour of their Deity. But those who believe in the inspiration and authority of Scripture cannot be satisfied with such an explanation. The text suggests some reflections which may cast light upon this difficulty.
I. THERE IS A GENERAL SENSE IN WHICH JEHOVAH WAS AND IS THE LORD OF HOSTS, THE GOD OF BATTLES. It would be barbarous and absurd to suppose that the benevolent Ruler of all prefers war in itself to peace, that he takes pleasure in the carnage and agony, the bereavement and desolation, which are distinctive of war. But as all strength and valour, all foresight, skill, and patience are his gifts, to him must ultimately be traced the force, the generalship, by which victories are won.
II. THERE IS A DIVINE PROVIDENCE WHICH OVERRULES THE CONFLICTS OF THE NATIONS. There can be no question that the course of human history has been, to a large extent, governed by the wars which have occupied so much of the energy and have consumed so much of the blood and the treasure of mankind. We have read of "the fifteen decisive battles of the world." They who believe in the providential government of the world at all can scarcely refuse to believe that the warfares of the nations have been permitted and overruled for good by God. Great principles, even principles of a moral kind, have sometimes been fought upon the field of battle. Civilization and barbarism, slavery and freedom, brute force and enlightenment, have thus contended together for the mastery and the victory.
III. THERE WERE SPECIAL REASONS WHY GOD SHOULD HAVE INTERESTED HIMSELF IN THE WARS OF THE JEWS.
1. The contests between Israel and Israel's enemies were contests between a morally superior and certain morally inferior races. When wars took place between the Israelites and the Canaanites or Philistines, it is plain to every student of history that the victory of Israel was the victory of monotheism and morality over idolatry and the most flagrant and disgusting vice. The cause of Philistia was the cause of heathenism, cruelty, and pollution; the cause of David was that of comparative justice, purity, and spirituality.
2. The victories of Israel furthered the best interests of mankind. Had Israel been subjugated or annihilated, the best prospects of the human race would have been clouded with awful darkness. The independence and nationality of the Hebrews formed a distinct step forward in the march of humanity.
3. The triumphs of David were a link in that chain which led to the redemption of mankind. We cannot separate the Old Testament, historically or religiously, from the New. The kingdom and the conquests of David have relation to the kingdom and the conquests of him who was Son of David and Son of God.—T.
1 Chronicles 14:12.-Hatred of idolatry.
The conduct of David, in directing that the idols of the Philistines should be "burned with fire," arose from the fervour of his religious feelings and his contempt for idolatrous usages. It must always be berne in mind, in reading of the warn between Israel and Philistia, that these, like other wars recorded in Old Testament history, were more social and religious than political. Isolated from surrounding nations, the people of Israel were providentially appointed to be witnesses to the one true God. Hence their repugnance to and hatred of polytheism in all its offensive and degrading manifestations.
I. IDOLATRY IS DISHONOURING TO GOD. It is the substitution of God's work for himself. Idolaters "worship and serve the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever." Whether adoration be paid to the handiwork of the great Maker of all or to the workmanship of men's own hands, God is robbed of the reverence and service which are due to him alone.
II. IDOLATRY m UNREASONABLE AND VAIN. How strikingly is this portrayed in the hundred and fifteenth psalm!—"They have mouths, but they speak not," etc.; "They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them." It is the absurd and superstitious confidence that men have placed in idols which has rendered religion the laughing-stock of the thoughtless and superficial.
III. IDOLATRY IS DEGRADING AND DEBASING TO THOSE WHO PRACTISE IT. History abounds with proofs of this. The greater the hold which idolatry has over a nation, and the more cruel, sensuous, and capricious are the deities worshipped, the more degraded is the moral condition of the community. We know well how sunk were the Philistines and their neighbours, by reason of their religion, in the depths of vice and sin.
IV. IDOLATRY IS DOOMED TO PERISH AND TO GIVE PLACE TO A PURER AND NOBLER FAITH. David's "rough and ready" method of dealing with the Philistine "gods" was natural to his impulsive disposition. We are assured by inspired predictions that the time shall come when the idolatrous peoples, illumined by the rays of the gospel, shall of their own accord "cast their idols to the moles and to the bats." So far from the abolition of idolatry being the precursor to universal irreligion, we have every reason to believe that upon the ruins of heathenism shall be reared the stately and holy temple of Christianity, in which an enlightened and regenerated race shall offer unceasing adorations to the one God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Saviour of all men.—T.
1 Chronicles 14:15.-A sound of going.
In his frequent contests with the Philistines. David was assured of the constant support and guidance of the God of hosts. The king sought the honour of his God, and God prospered the exploits of his servant. On the occasion referred to in this passage, Divine wisdom is said to have directed the strategy of the army of Israel, to have indicated the moment of assault, and to have assured the warriors of certain victory. The signal was, strange to say, "a sound of going in the tops of the mulberry trees." This incident has usually been regarded as indicative of the tokens of the Divine presence accorded to such as are engaged in the spiritual service of their God. We are reminded of ―
I. THE POWERLESSNESS AND INSUFFICIENCY OF MEN FOR THE SPIRITUAL CONFLICT. Christians have a warfare to wage against foes many and mighty, and for this warfare their native resources are inadequate, scanty, and feeble. If we know ourselves we must needs look above, to the Strong for strength, to the Wise for wisdom.
II. THE GRACIOUS TOKENS OF A DIVINE PRESENCE AND CO-OPERATION. The "sound of going" told David that God was near—was on his side. God's people are never left without indications of the Divine presence, and these assure them that they are not alone, that the "Lord of hosts is with them." Sometimes by events in his providence, sometimes by lessons from his Word, sometimes by the suggestions of his Spirit, he gives his people to understand, in the hour of their need and helplessness, that he is on their side.
III. THE DIVINE SIGNAL FOR HIS PEOPLE'S ACTION. As we have not only to know but also to do God's will, we need not only revelation of truth but summons to practical service. God gives his soldiers the watchword, the signal to advance. Then is the moment to "go forward," to repel and to defeat the foe. "If God be for us, who can be against us?" It is well that we should not run before the word is given; yet it will not do to tarry when he directs us to advance.
IV. THE OMEN AND PRESAGE OF TRUE VICTORY. When the sound of going was beard in the tree-tops, it was as the movement of angels' wings; the mighty rushing was as the tramp of the host of God, the earnest of victory to David's arms. If the Lord our God goes forth with us to the spiritual war, we shall surely overcome. Ours shall be the victory of faith, even that which overcometh the world.—T.
1 Chronicles 14:17 -Fame and fear.
David, notwithstanding his follies and sins, was "the man after God's own heart." Devout, obedient, diligent, courageous, he was eminently adapted both to govern the nation, to lead the army, to promote the revival of true religion. Providence exalted him to a lofty position and enabled him to adorn the station to which he was raised. Hence so large a part of the historical books of the Old Testament are occupied with the events of his reign; and hence he is so frequently alluded to in the national annals, and so often quoted both by our Lord and by his inspired apostles.
I. DAVID'S FAME. It was the fame of:
1. A successful warrior. A man of war from his youth, he owed his throne to his valour and generalship.
2. A powerful king. When he wielded the forces of a nation, God gave him victory over many enemies.
3. A pious man. His steadfastness in worshipping the true God, his liberality in providing for the services of the sanctuary, his habitual devotion, all were well known, and stamped David as a truly religious man.
4. A sacred poet and musician. It is as" the sweet singer of Israel" that he is held in lasting remembrance, and remembered with gratitude both widespread and sincere.
II. DAVID'S FEAR.
1. His subjects held him in honour and had respect to his righteous laws.
2. His officers and troops were devoted to his person and obeyed his authoritative behests.
3. Traitors stood in awe of his vigour, promptness, and power.
4. His alliance was sought by neighbouring nations, who dreaded to have him as an enemy, and who courted his friendship.
5. His foes feared him, for he defeated their armies and held themselves in subjection and tribute.
1. All greatness is from God, to whom all praise is due.
2. The great are responsible for the use of their power to him who is "King of kings and Lord of lords."—T.
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
1 Chronicles 14:1, 1 Chronicles 14:3-7.-The house and the home: wisdom and folly.
The first verse of this chapter presents the character of David in a very different aspect from that of the other verses in our text. His conduct in building himself a house was in contrast with that in turning his home into a harem. We have, then —
I. THREE THOUGHTS CONCERNING DAVID'S ACTION. We judge:
1. That he was wise in building himself a royal mansion. (1 Chronicles 14:1.) It would be likely to give an aspect of stability to his throne, and thus add to the security of his position. It was due to his family that they should have the full benefit of his exaltation. It was wise to make domestic life as attractive to himself and as honourable in the eyes of his people as he could make it appear. By taking greatest pains, and even going outside the limits of Israel to furnish himself with a "house of cedar," David was doing the wise and right thing.
2. That he was foolish and wrong in multiplying the number of his wives. (1 Chronicles 14:3.) He departed from God's intention, if not from his positive precept, when he "took more wives" at Jerusalem. He availed himself of his royal position to do that which was unbecoming and inexpedient as well as at variance with national usage. It was in accordance with the promptings of the flesh, but out of accord with the teachings of his better judgment.
3. That his error outweighed his wisdom. Better far the humble structure with one family dwelling therein in harmony and love, than the imposing mansion wherein dwelt domestic jealousy and strife. David's after history only too sadly proves that he laid the foundation of his worst troubles when he "took more wives" to his royal palace and converted what would have been a happy home into an intriguing harem. His folly outweighed his wisdom. We turn to regard —
II. THE APPLICATION OF THESE THOUGHTS TO OURSELVES. And we conclude that the wise Christian man will:
1. Spare no trouble to provide an inviting home. The Christian home is the hope of the world. As it becomes more extensively the centre and source of piety and purity, of righteousness and wisdom, so the kingdom of God will come on the earth. Therefore let the Christian home have everything about it that is attractive; let it be strong and beautiful; let all labour and care be expended on it that it may have all possible things to please the pure eye and gratify the cultivated taste.
2. Put all needful restraint on himself. He will not merely not "take more wives"—refrain from that which is positively disallowed by the society in which he moves—but guard himself against all indulgence which will injure his influence at home or leave a stain on his reputation outside.
3. Remember that one serious mistake may mar much good. As David has certainly lost something of the lustre with which his name would otherwise have shone, and now exerts somewhat less of power than he would otherwise have wielded, because he did not adhere to true domestic morality, so shall we inevitably and irrecoverably lose weight, influence, usefulness, as well as peace and gladness of heart, if we make any one serious mistake in the ordering of our life. This is true of the choice of our vocation, of the selection of our friends, and (more especially) of the decision we make as to the lifelong alliance of marriage. How many have cut their joy and usefulness in twain by one sad error here! How needful in this respect, above most other matters, to act not on impulse but conviction, to ask the guidance of the Divine Friend, to act as those who are responsible for all the great choices of our life!—C.
1 Chronicles 14:2.-Selfward, Godward, manward.
Here is —
I. SOMETHING ON WHICH DAVID COULD CONGRATULATE HIMSELF. He "perceived that the Lord had confirmed him king… his kingdom was lifted up on high." He observed that the first success was being satisfactorily sustained, and that his power was being felt beyond the limits of his own land. We may congratulate ourselves when we have made a good beginning, whether of school life, or of apprenticeship, or of management of affairs or official position, or of alliance with another, or of life itself; but we have greater reason for congratulating ourselves when the first start has settled down into lasting strength, has solidified and become an established success. Too often the first brilliancy proves to be nothing more than the shooting blaze of the rocket. It is well when it proves to be nothing less than the lasting light of the beacon-fire. We have also reason to congratulate ourselves when success rises so high as to attract the attention of those beyond our own circle; we are then making ourselves felt as well as known; and while a wise man will care but little for the mere breath of fame, a good man, if he be also a wise man, will care much that he is a power and not a cypher in the world.
II. SOMETHING WHICH TURNED DAVID'S THOUGHTS TO GOD. "David perceived that the Lord had confirmed him." He had shown much statesmanlike ability since he had been made king, and might have been, as we all are, under the temptation to attribute his success to his own sagacity. But he did not yield to the enemy if thus assailed. He let his prosperity direct his thoughts to him from whom cometh down every good gift. So also shall we, if the spirit of Christ be in us. We shall let all things speak to us of the Father, of his presence with us, his mindfulness of us, his love toward us, his wisdom in all his dealing with us. And we shall not permit our prosperity to do that which it has a tendency to do—elevate us in our own esteem, and hide the Divine Author of all our mercies from the view of our soul. We shall see that it, with all other experiences, turns our thoughts in reverential love to him.
III. THE TRUE ASPECT IN WHICH PROSPERITY SHOULD BE VIEWED. "His kingdom was lifted up on high, because of his people Israel," or "for his people Israel's sake' (2 Samuel 5:12). David perceived that God had exalted him, not only nor chiefly that he and his family might be distinguished, but that the nation might thereby be blessed; that he might confer on the people over whom he was to rule the unspeakable blessings of a pious and upright reign. It is an admirable thing in rulers when they "perceive" that they are lifted up for the sake of the people, and not for their own sake. It is an equally desirable if not an equally important thing that all who occupy posts of prominence and power—statesmen, magistrates, councillors, presidents, ministers, secretaries, etc.—should perceive the same truth, should regard their elevation in the same light. If God sends us prosperity, power, influence, it is not only that we may rejoice therein ourselves, but it is also, and principally, that we may use our opportunity to confer light, healing, help, hope, blessedness, on those who are less favoured than we are, and whom we can reach with our ministering hand.—C.
1 Chronicles 14:8-17.-The spiritual campaign.
Our Christian life is no holiday excursion or exhilarating walk; it is an earnest battle, or rather a protracted campaign. We may be reminded here —
I. THAT THERE ARE NOTORIOUS ENEMIES WITH WHICH EVERY CHRISTIAN MAN MUST EXPECT TO FIGHT. David knew well that he would have to fight the Philistines before he could gain full possession of his throne. They were bent on disputing his power, and it was inevitable that a series of engagements would take place between the servants of Jehovah and these idolaters, "All the Philistines went up to seek David" (1 Chronicles 14:8). When a man becomes the servant of the great King, he knows that his spiritual adversaries will seek to slay him; or, if he does not, he soon discovers that no one is more certain to be assailed by temptations than he who has just entered the army of the living God.
1. "The world" will come up against him—the various hostile influences which breathe and move in unregenerate or unsanctified society.
2. "The flesh" will assail him—all those impulses toward evil which are born of the lower appetites and passions.
3. "The devil" will seek to "devour" him—the "principalities and powers," the spiritual forces which, though unseen, are strong opponents in the field.
II. THAT HE MUST CONSULT THE WILL OF GOD IN THE CONDUCT OF THE CAMPAIGN. "David inquired of God" (1 Chronicles 14:10); "David inquired again of God" (1 Chronicles 14:14); "David did as God commanded him" (1 Chronicles 14:16). The King of Israel was far from relying on his own generalship; and when he had succeeded so well (1 Chronicles 14:11, 1 Chronicles 14:12), his good fortune did not tempt him to presume; he still inquired of God, and acted in strict accordance with Divine direction. This spirit of inquiry and obedience must be ours also. We must not lean on our own understanding, but ask for the guidance of his Spirit, both for his direct illumination and for his help through the written Word; and when we have been victorious, we must see that the spirit of presumption is not admitted, but carefully excluded, and we must still inquire and obey.
III. THAT HE SHOULD SEEK TO INFLICT UPON THE ENEMY A COMPLETE DEFEAT. David not only smote the enemy (1 Chronicles 14:11), but he burnt their gods with fire (1 Chronicles 14:12). And again he smote and pursued them "from Gibeon even to Gazer" (1 Chronicles 14:16). It is our wisdom to extirpate our enemy; not only to stun but to slay the spiritual foe. It must be war a outrance or it will prove to be unsuccessful. Nothing can be more dangerous and unwise than to maintain a dubious and wavering contest with some besetting sin. We are to be conquerors, "more than conquerors," completely and thoroughly successful, as generals who not only keep possession of their ground, but drive the enemy before them and take possession of their camp, seizing or burning their goods.
IV. THAT HE MUST BE CAUTIOUS AS WELL AS COURAGEOUS. God did not allow David to fight the Philistines when he would have had to engage them at a disadvantage. He instructed his servant to adopt a plan more suited to the occasion (1 Chronicles 14:14, 1 Chronicles 14:15). We are not to expect victory from God if we are negligent of the means we take to win it. If we are obviously unequal to the task under one set of conditions, we must change them and place ourselves in more favourable ones.
V. THAT HE MUST ASCRIBE THE VICTORY TO THE DIVINE ARM. David said, "God hath broken in," etc. (1 Chronicles 14:11). Our spirit, if not our language, must be that of the psalmist, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us," etc.—C.
HOMILIES BY F. WHITFIELD
1 Chronicles 14:1, 1 Chronicles 14:2.-Hiram and David.
The act of Hiram here in sending messengers to David with timber and masons and carpenters to build a house for himself, shows how David's influence had made itself felt far and near. We are furnished with the reason of this influence (see 1 Chronicles 11:9). It was because "the Lord was with him." Thus it ever is with the Christian: "The Lord is with him." Hence his influence. Christ in us is the mighty power for a holy life and for producing a permanent impression. Men like Hiram will pay homage to this, however morally distant they may be from conversion to God. And this is the power the true Christian should seek to possess, and the influence he should wield. "And David perceived that the Lord had confirmed him king over Israel, for his kingdom was lifted up on high, because of his people Israel." Observe the latter part of this passage. Kings are to remember why they are kings. It is on account of God's kingdom and God's people. When they forget their relation to God, God's people, and God's work, they forget their true mission in God's world. "By me kings reign." The subject should never forget the relation in which he stands to God; how much less should the king forget it!—W.
1 Chronicles 14:8-12.-First battle in the valley of Rephaim.
No sooner was David anointed than the Philistines were stirred up in opposition. This opposition arose, doubtless, from the conviction that, if he were established on the throne, he would take revenge on them for the national dishonour at the battle of Gilboa, in which Saul was slain. They therefore resolved, before his throne was consolidated, to accomplish his destruction. David's characteristic feature was, in every emergency of this kind, to east himself upon God and seek his guidance. The assurance of victory was clear and unqualified: "And the Lord said,… Go up, for I will deliver them into thine hand." The result of the battle was a great victory for Israel. Another feature in David's character was to ascribe all victory to God. "Then David said, God hath broken in upon mine enemies by mine hand like the breaking forth of waters." Observe, be calls himself the Lord's "hand." This is our true relation to God at all times. Ourselves and all we have are but the "hand" to be put into God's hand to use. Observe, too, that David burns the "gods" which the Philistines, in the hurry and confusion of flight, had left behind. They were no temptation to him to idolatry, but they might have been to some among his ranks; therefore every vestige of idolatry shall be stamped out and every temptation removed. In all our battles for the Lord, if we would have him with us and ensure success, every idol must be stamped out and God alone exalted. It must be Christ and Christ alone in every heart and before every eye.—W.
1 Chronicles 14:13-17.-Second battle in the valley of Rephaim.
The utter discomfiture of the Philistines and the victory of Israel had filled the former with alarm, and a second attempt was made against Israel. David again cast himself upon the Lord. This time the mode of attack by David was, at the command of God, to be varied. The attack was not forbidden, but, instead of advancing against the Philistines openly. David was to strike off in such a direction as to turn their flank and to come upon them from the front of the mulberry trees or baca bushes. An important spiritual truth underlies this part of the narrative. In this second attack it would only have been natural that David should have adopted the same mode as before, especially when his plans had met with such success. But, however right and in every respect preferable that course might have appeared, it was not God's way. God will have his people entirely dependent upon himself, and not upon past experiences. The manna gathered to-day will not do for to-morrow. It must be gathered each day afresh. The successful way in the past may not be his way in the future, and must never be relied on. It is not past dealings or ways with us; it is himself. The look of the soul in every step must be upward. I must put nothing—not even God's past ways with me in life—between my soul and him. It must be God, and God alone, all the way. And "the sound of going in the tops of the mulberry trees," as the sign of God's leading, is not without meaning. It indicates still the upward look. The sign was to come from above. There the eye and the ear too were to be directed. It was nothing in itself, any more than any ordinance or means of grace. It was an "outward sign" of an "inward" and deeper reality—God; "God is gone forth before thee to smite the host of the Philistines." The breeze of wind moving the tops of the mulberry trees was the vehicle of the Holy Spirit—God's presence going before, which is at all times the Christian's safety, strength, and victory.—W.
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
1 Chronicles 14:10.-Inquiring of God concerning common things.
Explain the anxiety of the situation in which David was placed, and show what he might have done. From the point of view of the skilful general, he might have counted his forces, estimated their strength, set them on vantage-ground, drawn out a plan of battle, and, swayed by his own energy, he might have led them on to victory. But then he would only have acted as Saul had acted. He would have taken up the position of the independent sovereign, rather than that of the prince and vicegerent of Jehovah. It was important that, at the very outset of his kingly career, he should make it publicly and distinctly known that he was king only as Jehovah's servant. He could not make this known better than by "inquiring of the Lord" on the first occasion of national anxiety. It is always of great importance that we start right. But it might be said that this was only a business matter, and so quite within the power of David to arrange, and he need not "inquire of God" at all about it. That sentiment is a common, but a sadly mistaken one. It divides our life into two parts, the one of which we can manage ourselves, but for the other we need the help of God. There can really be no distinction of the "sacred" and the "secular." There can properly be no circle drawn round within which alone prayer can be acceptable. Nothing interests us that does not interest our God. "In everything, by prayer and supplication,… we may make known our requests unto him." This may be further enforced.
I. WHAT IS THE GOD-SPHERE? The difficulties into which men get, and the subtle self-seeking they manifest, when they try to make the God-sphere limited and narrow. The awakened and sincere heart is prepared to say before God —
"Take my body, spirit, soul;
Only thou possess the whole?
The God-sphere is a man's whole life, his whole thought, his every interest. Nothing is too great for God to compass; nothing too small for him to use and glorify. The things we count most common—air and sunshine and rain—are his. And the things in our lives that seem most trivial fit into his great plan and should be referred to him. Illustrate from the teachings of the Apostle James, that our very "journeyings," our very "buyings and sellings," must be made dependent on the Lord's will (James 4:13-15). Modern sentiment tends to limit the sphere within which prayer is appropriate; it is assumed that it should not deal with the material world, which is under fixed law. But law is not something out beyond the control of God—or we misname him; for there is something greater than he. All laws are within the God-sphere, so we may "inquire of God" about them.
II. WHAT IS GOD'S CLAIM WITHIN HIS SPHERE? That everything shall be referred to him, and in everything his counsel and direction shall be taken. Illustrate from David's feeling of the claims of the theocracy. The entire life of the Israelitish nation being the God-sphere, absolutely everything had to be referred to him, and he recognized and punished all failures to meet his claim. By the mouth of his prophet the claim is distinctly expressed: "For all these things will I be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them." This claim may be shown in detailed application to the circumstances of our lives. The kind of reference to God takes different forms for different kinds of things.
III. THE OBEDIENCE OF MEN IS BETTER TESTED BY THE LITTLE THAN BY THE GREAT. Practical observation of life proves that it is harder to do little things in a right spirit than to do great ones. Many a man stands well before mighty swords and spears, and falls before a pebble slung by a youth. Few of us can stand the serious testing of the commoner scenes and relations of our lives. Yet the Divine testings come most frequently in connection with them; and sometimes God even makes us do nothing—wait; and he watches to see whether, even concerning this, we will "inquire of him."—R.T.
1 Chronicles 14:12.-Loyalty to the one God.
It is noted that, in the excitement of their defeat the Philistines left behind them their idol-images, and that, as a wise and prudent act as well as a truly religious one, David had them all destroyed by fire. This at once made a public testimony of their vanity and helplessness, and prevented their exerting any evil influence on David's own people, whose history shows that they were very sensitive to the attractions of idolatry. "The practice of carrying images of the gods to battle was common among the nations of antiquity, and arose from the belief that there was virtue in the images themselves, and that military success would be obtained by means of them. A similar belief seems to have induced the Israelites to carry the ark of the covenant with them to battle in the days of Eli." Comparing this passage with the answering one in 2 Samuel 5:21, margin, we may assume that the images were carried as trophies to Jerusalem, and, after being exhibited there, were destroyed by fire. David's loyalty to the one God was shown in the vigorous destruction of these rival gods. This, however, must not be confounded with religious persecution. David had a recognized right to deal as he pleased with the spoils of battle; and he was in no way bound to recognize the sanctity which the Philistines might be pleased to attach to their idol-figures. Distinguish between the destruction of idol-figures and the persecution of idol-worshippers. Man is not alone. He has often to act for others, for the family, the class, or the nation. In this way David acted on this occasion. Show what idol-gods may be about now, within reach of our children, etc. We do not call them idols, but they are such if they attract and draw away from God, or push him out of his rightful place—first in heart and lip and life.
I. MAN MAY NOT INTERFERE WITH HIS NEIGHBOUR'S RELIGION. That is, not in any physical way. He may by moral forces—by argument, by persuasion, but not by force, in either private spheres of social life or public spheres of law and magistracy. And yet it has taken all the Christian ages to get this truth taught to men, and it is only half learned yet. A modern preacher says, "What a blunder persecution for religious convictions is! Has there ever been a disability put upon religious belief, has there ever been a persecution short of absolute extermination, that has not strengthened the faith it was meant to discourage? Persecution drives men in upon their convictions—makes them hold more firmly by their principles." Yet we must as clearly see that we are held responsible for our neighbour's religion, so far as the use of moral forces is concerned. The sense of this responsibility is the impulse of all missionary labour. We must preach Christ's kingdom, and with all moral suasion "compel them to come in."
II. MAN MAY KEEP HIS NEIGHBOUR'S RELIGION FROM INTERFERING WITH HIS. And in resisting he may find it necessary to use physical forces. David would not have been justified in going to Philistia and burning other people's idols. Had he done so, he would have been very properly resisted. But when these idols were left behind, as the spoil of the victors, he was quite justified in destroying them, and so preventing them from becoming a snare to his people.
Apply to the agencies of moral and religious mischief in our day, such as evil literature, self-indulgent pleasures, infidel maxims, etc. We are bound in our loyalty to God to keep these away—to take them and burn them, if need be, and so keep them away from our children and our servants. We should realize that, if the day of idolatrous images is passed, things—artistic things, symbolic things, literary things—may and often do become the most fascinating and degrading idol-forces.—R.T.
1 Chronicles 14:15.-Signs and sounds of the Divine presence.
The circumstances connected with the second enterprise of the Philistines are more fully detailed; and it seems the design of the chronicler to remind us that, in answer to prayer and dependence, God may not only give a general approval, but also minute and careful directions, and such as may involve waiting on him and watching for the right situation and the right moment. In some manifest and impressive way the Divine presence would be declared, and the Divine will made known. Often God finds it necessary to teach his people that he must be waited for as well as waited on. A sound as of marching or stepping would presently be heard; it would be a rustling of the leaves of the bach trees, as if a wind were passing through them; and this would be the sign that the heavenly host had come to assure the victory; and immediately upon hearing this sign, David was to act with vigour; he was to "bestir himself," or be sharp. "The sound of a going in the tops of the trees" had a double significance. It was the sound of the viewless march of "the Lord going out before him to smite the host of the Philistines." It was the sound of God going forth to smite their gods, even as he smote the gods of Egypt (comp. Psalms 29:4).
I. THE DIVINE PRESENCE RESPONDS TO MAN'S DEPENDENCE AND PRAYER. To his dependence, which is the appropriate state of mind and feeling. To his prayer, which is the appropriate mode of expressing the right feeling. That which shuts a man's door against God is self-confidence. If a man feels that he can "go the warfare at his own charges," he does not need God, and God can but leave him alone to learn the lesson of his own self-impotence. The assurance on which the dependent man may rest is this: "To that man will I look, and with him will I dwell, who is humble, and. contrite of heart, and trembleth at my word." If we but win and maintain this right attitude, then we may have perfect confidence that God is with us, although the confidence may be more a matter of faith than of feeling. God was really with David, though the sensible sign of his presence did not come until, when the wind was still, there was that suggestive "sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees."
II. THE DIVINE PRESENCE MAY BE RECOGNIZED ONLY IN RESULTS. It sometimes seems right to God to make us go quite through our working-time only holding the faith of his presence and hell), and not in any way aided by sensible signs. But such faith is a practical inspiration and strength. It is "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Sometimes the issues and results plainly show that God was with us; and the final issues of life will have this for the conviction they seal: "It was a good way wherein the Lord our God led us."
III. THE DIVINE PRESENCE MAY BE RECOGNIZED IN CONSCIOUS STRENGTH FOR DUTY. This truth is effectively illustrated in St. Paul (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). He was taught to see God with him just in this, that "strength was made perfect in his weakness." In view of the practical character of our life, it is a more important thing to have strength for doing than, without strength, mere comfort of feeling. And yet men yearn most for sensible signs, and undervalue the inward strengthenings.
IV. THE DIVINE PRESENCE MAY BE INDICATED BY GRACIOUS SIGNS. As in the case of our Lord at his baptism and at his transfiguration. Also in his great agony in Gethsemane, there appeared an "angel from heaven, strengthening him." On several occasions of St. Paul's life he was favoured with special visions. With the pious servant of God we may say, "The best of all is that God is with us;" but we may also ask for the comforting sense of that presence through the aid of gracious signs. And God will grant these, both for our own sakes and for the sake of others who may be blessed through us. While watchful against extravagance and superstition, we ought not to deny the truth of visions and signs and Divine communications granted nowadays to God's people. There might well be a fuller expectancy of direct dealings with dependent and prayerful men, manifest Divine leading by inward impulse, and providential direction, and signs plain enough to sensitive souls.—R.T.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 14". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany