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1 Chronicles 15:1
The contents of this verse and the following verses up to the twenty-fifth have no parallel in the Book of Samuel, and excite suggestion respecting the different objects with which the compiler of Chronicles wrote, as compared with those of the author of the former work. They also direct fresh attention to the sources upon which they drew. The history of the preparations made for the reception of the ark, and for its safe and religious escort into the city, is now proceeded with. These preparations occupied the three months, or part of the three months, spoken of in 1 Chronicles 13:14. The houses may have been both his own (1 Chronicles 14:1) and the buildings referred to in 1 Chronicles 11:8 and 2 Samuel 5:9. The old tent, or tabernacle, is repeatedly alluded to, as in 1 Chronicles 16:39; 2 Chronicles 1:3. It will be remembered that the tabernacle established by Joshua at Shiloh remained there till the time of Eli, and the ark within it (1 Samuel 3:3). Afterwards we find it removed to Nob, for there David ate the shewbread (1 Samuel 21:6). From thence, very possibly after the savage slaughter of the priests by the order of Saul, it was removed, and we find it at Gibeon, according to the above references. Here at Gibeon was an altar and "high place," which, in the earlier time of Solomon, formed the chief religious centre. The wanderings of the ark already given from Shiloh, through Philistia to Beth-she-mesh, Kirjath-jearim, Perez-uzzah, now land it in this tent in Jerusalem. It is no more sheltered in the tabernacle. But the tabernacle, as well as the ark, was ultimately brought to the new-built temple of Solomon (1 Kings 8:4; 1 Chronicles 9:19; 2 Chronicles 1:4).
1 Chronicles 15:2
This verse together with 1 Chronicles 15:12-15 show that the severe lesson of the destruction of Uzzah had been laid to heart, and had made David supremely anxious to take better counsel of the Law. Uzzah, though possibly the son of a Levite, more probably of a Hivite (Joshua 9:7, Joshua 9:17), was not a priest, nor is there any sufficient evidence that he was a Levite; and most distinct was the order of the Law, that "when the tabernacle setteth forward, the Levites shall take it down; and when the tabernacle is to be pitched, the Levites shall set it up; and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death." So the sons of Kohath are to come to bear the sanctuary with all its sacred vessels, "but they shall not touch any holy thing, lest they die." Many things were allowed to be carried on waggons under the charge of the Gershonites and Merarites, but the strict contents of the sanctuary were to be borne in a specified manner by the Kohathites.
1 Chronicles 15:3
All Israel; i.e. as before, representatives of all Israel. So 1 Chronicles 15:25 decides: "The elders of Israel, and the captains over thousands, went to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord."
1 Chronicles 15:4-11
This classification of the children of Aaron, as the special priests, and of the Levites, is constantly observed (1 Chronicles 12:26, 1 Chronicles 12:27; 1 Chronicles 27:17). The mention of the six representative Levitical families follows. That of Kohath (1 Chronicles 15:5) takes the lead, because, though second in order of birth (Genesis 46:11; Exodus 6:16-19; 1 Chronicles 6:1-30), its priestly importance gave it always first rank. To the same head belonged also three of the remaining five families, viz. Hebron (1 Chronicles 15:9) and Uzziel (1 Chronicles 15:10), who were brothers, as being beth sons of Kohath (Exodus 6:18); and Elizaphan, who, though son of Uzziel (Exodus 6:22), had come to represent a distinct family (Numbers 3:30). The other two required to complete the six are Asaiah (1 Chronicles 15:6) of the house of Merari, and Joel (verse 7) of the house of Gershom. The representatives, then, of these six families, with the company of the brethren belonging to each of them, and the two priests Zadok and Abiathar (verse 11), are now summoned into the presence of David, to receive a short but special charge.
1 Chronicles 15:12
Sanctify yourselves, both ye and your brethren. Nothing of the appointed observances of the Law are to be omitted this time, as in the haste and want of premeditation of the former occasion (Exodus 19:22; Exodus 28:41; Exodus 40:13; Le Exodus 8:12; Exodus 20:7; Exodus 21:8; 2 Chronicles 5:11; 2 Chronicles 29:15). These "sanctifyings" consisted of different observances, according to the person and the occasion, but largely of ablutions of the body, washing of the clothes, and keeping separate from all natural and ceremonial causes of uncleanness in ordinary cases of Levitical service. That ye may bring up the ark. The word here employed for "bring" is not the same with the "carry" of 1 Chronicles 15:1 and 1 Chronicles 15:2. But the following verses (13-15) seem to intimate that, whatever the exact reason for which Uzzah had been peremptorily cut off, the Levites had also been to blame in not sanctifying themselves to carry the ark by its staves in the way originally appointed.
1 Chronicles 15:13
This verse purports to say that the Levites had been deficient in their duty in the double sense of not having themselves exclusively undertaken the removal of the ark, and not having executed that removal after the due order.
1 Chronicles 15:15
(So see Exodus 25:13-15; Numbers 4:15; Numbers 7:9.) It is plain that from the first stress was laid upon the rings and the staves through them by which the ark was to be carried, as also the "table of shittim wood" (Exodus 25:26-28) and the "altar" (Exodus 27:4-7) and the "altar of incense" (Exodus 30:4, Exodus 30:5). However, these rings and staves were not found in the permanent furniture of the temple, except only for the ark.
1 Chronicles 15:16, 1 Chronicles 15:17
To appoint their brethren to be the singers. This was the first step towards what we have already read in 1 Chronicles 6:31-39, 1 Chronicles 6:44; 1 Chronicles 9:33, 1 Chronicles 9:34 (where see notes).
1 Chronicles 15:18
Ben. This word is either altogether an accidental interpolation, or a remnant of some statement of the patronymic character regarding Zechariah. Another indication of the state of the text in this verse is to be found in the probable omission of the name Azazgah of verse 21, after Jeiel. It will be observed that no trace of this word Ben is found in the repeated list of verse 20.
1 Chronicles 15:19-21
The psalteries on Alamoth (1 Chronicles 15:20), and harps on the Sheminith to excel (1 Chronicles 15:21), are descriptions the exact significance of which is not yet satisfactorily ascertained. Yet their connection in a series of four divisions of musical duty does throw some light upon them. These four verses manifestly purport to describe a special part to be performed by those of whom they respectively speak. Gesenius explains psalteries on Alamoth to mean such instruments as savoured of virgin tone or pitch, i.e. high as compared with the lower pitch of men's voices. This lower pitch he considers intimated by the word "Sheminith," literally, the eighth, or octave. The added expression, "to excel," need scarcely be, with him, understood to mean "to take the lead musically," but may be read generally to mark their supassing quality.
1 Chronicles 15:22
For song. There is considerable diversity of opinion as to the meaning of this word. Some think its meaning to be "in the carrying (בַּמַּשָׂא)" i.e. of the ark. Its exact position here seems not unfavourable to such interpretation. On the other hand, its position in 1 Chronicles 15:27 seems conclusively to point to the translation of the Septuagint and of our Authorized Version in this place as the correct one. Dr. Murphy, however, to escape this, thinks "with the singers" in 1 Chronicles 15:27 to be a "copyist's inadvertent repetition."
1 Chronicles 15:23
Berechiah and Elkanah. It appears from the following verse that there was also another couple of doorkeepers (i.e. persons to protect the openings of the ark, that it should not be opened), viz. Obed-edom and Jehiah.
1 Chronicles 15:24
Between these couples probably went the seven priests blowing the trumpets (Numbers 10:1-9). These trumpets were of solid silver, of one piece, were straight and narrow, and had an expanded mouth. They are found on the arch of Titus, and are described by Josephus. On the other hand, the trumpet, more correctly rendered "cornet'' (שׁוֹפָר, as distinguished from our חְצוֹעְרָה, which was used for proclaiming the jubilee, for announcing the new year for sentinel and other special signals, and for war, was shaped like a ram's horn, and probably made of the same. The particular appropriateness of the use of the former on this occasion is manifest, in addition to the fact that they were the appointed trumpets for the journeying of the camp and a fortiori of the ark itself at a time so essentially religious as the present. Yet, as we learn from verse 28, the latter were used as well, and cymbals, psalteries, and harps. The original number of the silver trumpets was two only, and they were to be sounded strictly by the anointed priests, sons of Aaron, at all events when their employment was within the sanctuary. Their employment, however, grew far more general, and we find (2 Chronicles 5:12) that their number had risen to a hundred and twenty (so too 2 Chronicles 13:12; Nehemiah 12:35). For Obed-edom, the doorkeeper, see 1 Chronicles 16:38; and therewith note on 1 Chronicles 13:14.
1 Chronicles 15:26
This verse with the following four are paralleled by 2 Samuel 6:12-16 The contents of this verse in particular reveal the intense anxiety and the trembling fear and awe with which the sacred burden was now again lifted. A world of meaning and of feeling for all those present at least underlay the expression, When God helped the Levites that bare the ark. The offering of seven bullocks and seven rams is thought by some to he additional to David's offering, when he had gone "six paces" (2 Samuel 6:13). Much more probably, however, the "six paces" meant, not six footsteps, but six lengths that would make some distance.
1 Chronicles 15:27
Several things in this verse indicate a somewhat uncertain and unsteady selection of particulars by the compiler from his original sources. The natural reading of the verse would seem to say that David and all those Levites who bore the ark, and the singers, and Chenaniah, all wore the robe of byssus, while David had, in addition, the ephod of linen. Yet it is unlikely that all did wear the robe. Again, the Hebrew text exhibits no preposition before the singers, on the second occasion of the occurrence of the expression in this verse. Yet little sense can be found without a preposition. The robe was not distinctively a priest's garment (1 Samuel 18:4; 1 Samuel 24:5, 1Sa 24:12; 2 Samuel 13:8; Job 1:20; Job 2:12), though priests did wear it. The robe of byssus is spoken of only here; 2 Chronicles 5:12; and Esther 8:15. Byssus, however, is spoken of as material for other purposes in 1 Chronicles 4:21; 2Ch 2:14; 2 Chronicles 3:14; Esther 1:6; Ezekiel 27:16. The ephod, on the other hand, was no doubt distinctively a high priest's garment (Exodus 28:4-12), though we read of Samuel wearing one (1 Samuel 2:18, 1 Samuel 2:28), and of David doing the same, as on this occasion. The fine linen (בּוץ), in the first clause of this verse, is not the same with that (בָּךְ) in the last clause. The first clause of this verse (which makes the last clause somewhat redundant) bears some resemblance in letters to the fourteenth verse of 2 Chronicles 6:1-42. first clause, which means, "and David danced with all his might," and the two clauses exactly answer to one another in position—another suggestion of an uncertain text here.
1 Chronicles 15:28
Making a noise. This description qualifies the cymbals alone, and should rather appear in our translation as "noise-making cymbals."
1 Chronicles 15:29
Thus briefly is given by our compiler what occupies five verses (2 Samuel 6:19, 2 Samuel 6:20-23) in the Book of Samuel. Neither of the words here rendered dancing and playing (but which would be better rendered "leaping and dancing") is the same with those employed in 2 Samuel 6:14, 2 Samuel 6:16, where our Authorized Version rendering is "dancing" and "leaping and dancing" respectively. The word in both of those verses that represents the dancing, does correctly so represent, bet is a somewhat generic form, as it carries the idea of dancing in a circle. The reason of Michal "despising David in her heart" can only be found in the unreason and the irreligion of that heart itself. She was a type of not a few, who despise devotion, enthusiasm, and above all practical liberality and generosity, on the part of any individual of their own family, when these are shown to Christ and his Church, and when they think they may be a trifle the poorer for it, or when they feel that the liberality and devotion of another exposes their own "poverty" in both these respects.
1 Chronicles 15:1-29.-A chapter of practical repentance.
There are few happier, and perhaps no better, chapters in any one's life than the chapter of practical repentance. To have to sorrow over the past and to undo it is, no doubt, the incident of a fallen nature and of a frail, imperfect life. When once, however, the necessity has arisen, then to sorrow no barren sorrow, but to add to it reparation, alteration, amendment, is at one and the same time to fling a just, manly defiance at the merciless spirit of remorse and to pay the merited homage to goodness and to God. The life of many a good man owns to many a sin, many a folly, and, when he goes not so far as these, to many a great and to-be-regretted mistake. But the most marked differences between the good man and the bad are then to be seen. This goes from bad to worse, and the tangled victim ere very long becomes the mournful and miserable sacrifice. That goes from bad with tear, with striving, with prayer, toward the lost or awhile eclipsed good. The very mark of the man made divinely wise is discerned in the repentance wherewith he repents, the promptness of the sorrow and the fear inspired, the deliberateness and the thoroughness of the amendment made or attempted. This chapter gives the history of such a repentance and of its happy consequences. Notice —
I. THE EXCEEDING PEAR AND INTENSE GRIEF OF FIRST MOMENTS OF FAILURE AND PUNISHMENT HAD NOT BEEN SUFFERED TO OVERWHELM AND TO PROSTRATE MIND AND ENERGY. Given a little time to recover nature's tone—some three months had by this time passed—and something better than nature did also return. A willing thoughtfulness supervened; deep searchings of the heart, of the written Word, and of what had been actually done had their way; and convictions just and right and wholesome were formed. There is always one great model exhibited in Scripture of repentance. To Saul's exceeding fear and intense and sudden visitation there needed some interval for recovery, and such interval was granted. Even where it may be possible, it is not advisable to act, when under the influence of the extremes of feeling, when the storm of mental emotion is at its height. But it is infinitely hazardous to neglect the right time of action; and, so soon as the first intensity of feeling is passed, how many have waited prostrate till all disposition to rouse to altered and improved action has also passed!
II. FRANK, OPEN, AND EVEN PUBLIC CONFESSION OF THE ERROR THAT HAD BEEN. David now lays down the Law (1 Chronicles 15:2, 1 Chronicles 15:13) in the very act of confession of that Law broken. He lays clown the Law, but not out of his own lip—by distinct and emphatic quotation of itself. He now saw and read the Law exact, and he saw how far distant the conduct for which he was in an eminent degree responsible, and of which he had literally been part, had strayed from the letter and spirit of that exact Law. This is in fact what still in deepest sense, and in the deepest hidings of our spiritual nature, produces conviction of the most spiritual kind—conviction of sin. When the eye of the conscience can be gained for a moment to see this sight, and to notice the wide difference between a holy perfect Law and the actual life, which should lie under its governance but does not so, the Spirit of God has gained this end—our conviction.
III. A CONFESSION THAT DOES NOT SHELVE THE BLAME UPON OTHERS, BUT ACCEPTS ITS OWN FULL SHARE. David quotes the Law that concerns the occasion (1 Chronicles 15:2). He exhorts "the chief of the fathers of the Levites" to sanctify themselves and prepare in all respects according to the Law for the great and holy work now before them (1 Chronicles 15:12). He also does not shrink from addressing these pointedly, as those who were officially and in their own persons to blame. But he does not finish his remonstrating and warning sentence without distinctly including himself among those in fault, and superseding "ye" by "we" (1 Chronicles 15:13). There was never any bare verbal confession of sin more open than that of Adam, but there was never any confession more worthless, for he wished to lay all the essence of the sin on Eve. The same may be said of Eve, as regards her tempter, the serpent. That kind of confession of sin is nothing worth. It has no semblance of meritoriousness in it. No sacred virtue inheres in it. A double depth of the heart's hardness, a double sluggishness of conscience, sleep, a double self-deception is there. Short of this, however, there are not a few, whose it is to exhort and warn others, who will largely forget in spirit, even when not in letter, to include themselves in needful reproof and in united confession. Yet how often is the leader of the flock doubly answerable, in reality doubly blamable, and in deep truth tenfold called upon to make humblest and most penitent confession!
IV. A REMARKABLE AND SINCERE READINESS ON THE PART OF ALL TO REPAIR WHAT HAD BEEN AMISS. If we often think too well of ourselves individually, and sometimes speak too forgetfully of the inherent disease of human nature, yet we are frequently disposed to underrate the effect of the word that is spoken in the Name of the Lord, of the faithful appeal that is pointed plainly but lovingly to the consciences of those who have been in error, and of the influence of our own repenting and confessing example. Put three such incentives as these together, and they will rarely fail to find their converts of some amongst a number. Moreover, great as is the contagion of evil, as seen when the multitude will flock together to do evil, yet, on the other hand, correspondingly great is the attraction of goodness. The multitude of those who worship, the multitude of those who keep the holy day, the multitude of those who join to work in and for the Lord's temple, literal or spiritual,—all these are facts as patent, bearing witness to the affection that will subsist to the highest ends, within a multitude bent on good, as other facts bear patent witness to the contagion that works in a multitude to do evil. The happier aspect of the multitude is here before us. The shepherd-king is shepherding rightly, with truth to the Law, with careful warning for all as regards the past, with a faithful rebuke of others, and loving confession of his own—and the whole people concerned are as one man. They are of one heart, of one mind, and they proceed to be of one deed.
V. A SIMILAR READINESS ALSO ON THE PART OF ALL TO ACCEPT THE EXACT PLACE AND DUTY FOR WHICH THEY WERE RESPECTIVELY MOST FITTED. This feature of the occasion is shadowed forth in all the careful and nice order of the proceedings from beginning to end. But it is more than shadowed forth in the distinct emphasis of allusions, such as those of 1 Chronicles 15:16, 1Ch 15:17, 1 Chronicles 15:22, 1 Chronicles 15:24, which point to the hierarchy, so to say, of office, of gift, of grace. The Church of God as it is in perpetual quest of the brotherhood of humanity, so is it, pari passu, perpetually contributing to reproduce the order, the very cosmos of the world. One of the grandest evidences of the presence of the living Spirit of God in any portion of the Church is the visible presence of order. St. Paul loved to lay stress upon this: "Let all things be done decently and in order;" "Peace... as in all Churches of the saints." That Church of living, modern times, that may first and best find all its members awake, all ready for work, each falling into his assigned place without pride or without envy, without murmur or without assumption, will first and best prove the Divine presence and glory, and challenge a usefulness and "praise in the earth" for Zion, hitherto unknown except by scantiest earnest. There are those who are born teachers and leaders in the Church of Christ, and that Church provides the scene of very various" skill." It is, perhaps, because, some or other forms of" skill" are wrongly disbelieved, sceptically distrusted, or even disclaimed in some quarters in modern days, that our presentations of the Church often seem to lack loveliness, to fail in finding sphere for the gift of all and each, and what should be the most attractive possible form of human society is shorn of any native grace. The light and fulness and the grace and joy of God's Spirit can never be adequately entertained in any human organization, but, on that very account, much less may we circumscribe them within any artificial lines of our own, making for commandments of the wealthy and beauty-loving God the traditions of hard and poverty-stricken men.
VI. Most GRATEFUL OMENS OF THE DIVINE SATISFACTION, APPROVAL, BLESSING. It is certain that God has never been slow to acknowledge the service that has been humbly and faithfully done to him. And it is most noticeable that, after his severest and largest chastisements, swift he will come again to receive and to welcome those who have learnt to set their face again to him. How glad was Noah, when he came forth from the ark to set foot upon a deluged desolate world, to find how the smoke of his sacrifice ascended, acceptable to God, and so accepted by him, that the "Lord smelled a sweet savour, and said in his heart," as we are told, but evidently said elsewhere as well, the words of a reassuring gracious promise, on which the world's life has ever since and safely hung! Of God it may well be said, "He smites to heal." And so now, when all is done reverently and in order, and the whole scene is sacred with obedience and with practical repentance, God's "help" was given, and it was felt such a comfort, such an encouragement, such a present performed blessing, that anon the whole procession halts to offer "sacrifices of joy," and to "sing, yea, sing praises to the Lord." It is observable that we are not told how the Lord "helped the Levites that bare the ark," or in what signs and indications they recognized his helping presence. It may have been that as they feared to lift, lest another fatal stroke of the invisible mighty hand should descend, no such stroke fell, and the departing of fear was equivalent to a very inrushing of joy and confidence. Their hands were stronger, their feet walked more steadily, their shoulders rejoiced in their hallowed burden. They didn't stumble. The inner peace and confidence that God's true and faithful children and servants know, even early after they have needed the severest chastening, pervade a quickened and sensitive state of mind, so as to produce convictions, experience, language, unintelligible to the world, surpassing all its power to give, outliving all its power to take away.
VII. THE OUTCOME OF TRUEST REPENTANCE, THE PUREST SERVICE OF GOD, THE DAY OF HOLIEST DELIGHT AND WORSHIP, WILL OFTEN ENOUGH FIND SOME FORM OF THE WORLD READY TO FLOUT IT. The well-known form on this occasion needs not to be dwelt upon. But two things under it are well worthy of note and remembrance.
1. That in the experience of that mortifying irritation or keen grief, as the case may be, an honest retrospect will often show that we are wounded by the thorn we once put to our own side. Moreover, the thorn to our spirit often originates with the flesh and the lust of the flesh—what we once hailed as gratification to sense, and never thought of pursuing its probable or its possible working any deeper or further!
2. And that in the many instances in which this is not so, we are but again sharers with the apostle, and reminded of our need of an humiliating lesson of the flesh, lest we "be exalted above measure" by the blessed, the transporting "revelation of the Spirit."
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
1 Chronicles 15:1.-A place for the ark.
The ancient tabernacle remained at Gibeon, and was there at the accession of Solomon. But the ark was brought up to Jerusalem. It was natural and right that David, having made a capital for his kingdom, should wish the city his own right hand had won to be the metropolis of Israel, not only politically, but also religiously. Until the temple was built there were two centres of religion—the tabernacle at Gibeon and the ark in its tent in the city of David. The king was not satisfied to have a stately and luxurious abode for himself; he wished that the ark of God should be suitably housed. Hence he caused to be prepared for the reception of this sacred object an appropriate and magnificent tabernacle.
I. THIS WAS A SIGN OF CONCERN AND REVERENCE FOR RELIGION. The ark was associated with the memorable history of Israel, and especially with the giving of the Law. It was cherished and honoured by the nation generally. We know the religious beliefs of David too well to suspect him of superstition in his regard for the ark of the covenant. He was well aware of the insufficiency of all things external, and of the necessity of inward, spiritual religion. But he thought it right to treat everything especially connected with religion with a decent respect. It is easy to detect superstition in the manner in which many persons treat religious persons and things; but it is too possible and too frequent to commit a mistake of the opposite kind, and to treat them with studied neglect and contempt.
II. IT WAS A SIGN OF DEVOUT HONOUR FOR GOD HIMSELF, In honouring the ark, David was honouring the God by whose command the ark had been originally constructed, and whose Law it was intended by God to contain and preserve. Similarly, in honouring God's Word, God's day, God's Churches, God's ministers, we may be honouring God himself. "Them that honour me," saith he, "I will honour."
III. DAVID'S CONDUCT EVINCED A CONCERN FOR THE RELIGIOUS WELFARE OF HIS SUBJECTS. He had the ark brought to Jerusalem because Jerusalem was becoming the capital of the country, the centre of government, the meeting-place of multitudes, and the home of many of the influential and educated. And the presence of the ark was adapted to remind the population of the city of the presence of Jehovah, and of the claims of his Law upon their hearts. David showed by this act that he desired to recognize the supremacy of righteousness; that he designed his government to be in accordance with the revelations and dictates of the King of kings.
IV. DAVID'S CONDUCT IS AN EXAMPLE OF THE DUTY OF MAKING EFFORT AND SACRIFICE FOR THE CAUSE OF RELIGION. A careless and self-indulgent king would have said in his heart, "Let the ark stay where it is; any place is good enough to accommodate a religious symbol; and the less religion is brought before the people, the better for themselves and for me." Not so David. He was willing to take thought, to prepare plans, to expend money, to employ artificers, in order to do honour to the ark of the Most High-Let us not deem it a hardship, but an honour, to do anything for the advancement of religion and for the glory of God.—T.
1 Chronicles 15:12.-Sanctify yourselves.
Taught by experience, David now employed in the service of the sanctuary, to minister in connection with the ark, those whom the Lord himself had set apart for this office; he committed the business of brining up the ark to the chief of the fathers of the Levites. But it was not enough that the right persons should be employed; it was important that the right persons should do their work in a right way. The Levites were, accordingly, required to sanctify themselves. We know from the Law that ceremonial purity was incumbent upon those who were discharging sacred functions. We are reminded by this language that —
I. GOD IS A HOLY GOD. Not only did Jehovah reveal himself as being holy in words, but also in the laws he imposed and the regulations he prescribed. The Jewish economy was largely designed to impress upon the minds of the Israelites the holy, faultless, perfect character of God. And this lesson has been taught even more effectively to us in the character, life, and mediation of God's "holy child Jesus."
II. A HOLY GOD REQUIRES HOLY SERVANTS. The priests and Levites were enjoined to observe strict regulations as to their ceremonial purity, especially when about to engage in the public service of the God of Israel. Holy works demand clean hands, and clean hands need pure hearts. The ceremonial cleanness of the Levitical Law was the emblem of spiritual purity. How holy should they be who "bear the vessels of the Lord"!
III. HOLY SERVICE IS PROMPTED BY THE GRACIOUS INFLUENCES OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. Regeneration and sanctification are the especial work of the Holy Ghost. "His cleansing influences are symbolized by the waters of baptism. God's servants all need the "washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost." There is appropriateness in the direction, "Sanctify yourselves;" for the means of grace are within the reach of Christians, who may obtain the gift of the Spirit by asking that gift from a merciful and liberal Father in heaven.—T.
1 Chronicles 15:13.-Due order.
David explained the failure of the former attempt to bring the ark to Jerusalem, by a reference to the neglect by himself and his people of the regulations divinely prescribed and applicable to such a case. In directing the Levites to prepare for their proper service, he acknowledged that, when he had before purposed to bring up the ark to its resting-place, he had acted thoughtlessly and profanely, and had suffered in consequence. This lesson is inculcated by the text—God's order is the due order.
I. RELIGION DOES NOT CONSIST IN FORM. Even under the elder dispensation, in which forms and ceremonies were prescribed in abundance, true religion did not consist in such things. The psalmists and the prophets rose altogether above a merely sacrificial and ceremonial religion. And under the new covenant, the letter, the form, sink into insignificance, compared with the spiritual reality they are designed to express and to promote. "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." We, as Christians, serve him, not in the oldness of the letter, but in the newness of the spirit.
II. YET THE MANIFESTATIONS OF RELIGIOUS LIFE AND SERVICE ARE NOT LAWLESS AND DISORDERLY. It would be a bad thing to substitute the form for the reality; but it does not follow that it is a good thing to have no form at all. It is the direction of an inspired apostle: "Let all things be done decently and in order." Our worship should be seemly and reverent; our work should be organized and systematic; our liberality should be upon principle.
III. PRESCRIPTIONS AS TO ORDER SHOULD BE CAREFULLY OBSERVED AND OBEYED. If, for instance, it is found that the New Testament lays down certain principles of Church government, prescribes certain ordinances or ministries, spiritual Christianity expects that these will be reverently considered and observed. Obedience is required as homage to the authority of the Lawgiver and Lord. We have no right to set our fancies and preferences above Divine laws.
IV. OBSERVANCE OF ORDER BECOMES CONGENIAL AND EASY WHEN INSPIRED BY GRATEFUL LOVE. To a child of God, a friend of Christ, there is nothing harsh or repugnant in compliance with Divine regulations in attention to" due order."—T.
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
1 Chronicles 15:1.-How little and how much we may do for God.
There is something in this verse which, at first reading, painfully suggests the smallness of the effort made by David in the cause of God as compared with those which he made for his own convenience; he "made him houses "—solid buildings more than one, for himself; he prepared a place for the ark of God, and pitched for it a tent—one frail tabernacle for Jehovah. Doubtless, under examination, all damaging reflection on the royal conduct will disappear. David was probably justified in doing as much for himself; he was certainly justified in doing no more, at that time, for the manifested presence of God. But the fact of his building houses for himself and one tent for the Lord may well suggest to us
I. HOW LITTLE, COMPARATIVELY, WE DO FOR GOD. There are those who complain, freely and sadly enough, that there are "so many claims" on their liberality. But it would do us all good to estimate how small and trifling a proportion of all we have to spend we devote directly to God and to his cause. It may seem large, sometimes, when we look at it by itself; but when compared with all we have to give—all at our command—it seems small and poor indeed. Let us reckon up and put down the proportion we give to Christ, consciously and directly, of
(1) the hours of all our time;
(2) the thoughts of all our care and reflection;
(3) the strength of all our energy;
(4) the money of all our funds; —
and we shall, in most cases, find that it is the bulk we reserve for ourselves, and only the "small dust of the balance" that we dedicate to God. We build ourselves houses and pitch a tent for the Lord. On the other hand, we may consider —
II. HOW MUCH, IN FACT AND TRUTH, WE MAY DO FOR HIM. For that which we give directly to Christ should be but a very small part of all that we present to him. We should lay at his feet everything we have and are.
1. We dedicate ourselves and lives to him when, by a sacred and living faith, we accept him for our Saviour.
2. We endeavour to live, at every conscious moment, under his observant eye; regulating all our thoughts, controlling all our feelings, ordering all our words, choosing all our courses, executing all our work, according to his will, and in the hope of giving him pleasure.
3. We hold ourselves ready to lay down our life and surrender all our dearest treasures at his Divine bidding.—C.
1 Chronicles 15:2-15.-Three valuable virtues: rectification, admonition, obedience.
We have —
I. A ROYAL RECTIFICATION. We have the useful fiction in England that "the king can do no wrong." It has been too often assumed by the potentates of the earth that they could not be mistaken, and need not return on their way. David was not so foolish and so faulty. He had the sense to see that he had erred in the way in which he had carried out a good desire, and he was prepared openly and honourably to retrace his steps. So he said to his courtiers, "No one ought to carry the ark of God," etc. (1 Chronicles 15:2), with obvious reference to the transaction recorded in 1 Chronicles 13:1-14. And he "gathered all Israel together to Jerusalem," and "assembling the children of Aaron and the Levites" (1 Chronicles 13:4), he spoke plainly of the departure from the Law of which he and others had been guilty (1 Chronicles 13:12, 1 Chronicles 13:13). We certainly need not be ashamed "to come after the king" in the way of retractation. Where a monarch leads the way we may be content to follow. There is no more certain indication of foolish and fatal obstinacy than the refusal to admit an error. They who cling to their own mistakes and pertinaciously justify them are sure to come to some great grief in time. But they who have the humility and penetration to see that they are wrong, and also the courage to avow and correct it, are sure to find themselves on the upward road. They may take a wrong turn or two, but they move in the right direction, and, like David and the ark, will reach Jerusalem in time.
II. A GRACIOUS ADMONITION. (1 Chronicles 13:11-13.) There may have been some doubt as to where the blame really lay, whether on the king or on the priests, or (as was probable enough) on both. David, while he did not exonerate himself, evidently felt that the priests and Levites were included in the condemnation: indeed, he addresses them and admonishes them as delinquents: "Because ye did it not at the first," etc. (1 Chronicles 13:13). His words and their attitude together may suggest to us that admonition should be graciously given and as graciously received. We should, on such occasions as this, speak as those
(1) who convey their message with reluctance and only on constraint;
(2) who desire to spare feeling as much as faithfulness will allow;
(3) who know that they have themselves reason to desire all possible elemency to be shown;
(4) who must not shun to declare the whole counsel of God.
And on such occasions we should, when ourselves admonished, receive the admonition as those
(1) who are likely enough to have erred;
(2) who are prepared to be reproved by those who are in any position of authority;
(3) who are ready to correct our mistake at the earliest opportunity.
III. A PROMPT OBEDIENCE. (1 Chronicles 13:14, 15.) There seems to have been no hesitancy. on the part of the priests and Levites; they appear to have applied themselves at once, with due zest, to the work which they had neglected before. They sanctified themselves for it (1 Chronicles 13:14), and then they executed it (verse 15), doing all things "as Moses commanded, according to the word of the Lord." Like them, and like the prodigal of the parable (Luke 15:1-32.), who said, "I will arise," and he arose, we should feel and do, conclude and act, with no interval between of which the enemy can make use. When we have taken due time for understanding, and have seen the way we should take, then we should, like the men of whom we read here,
(1) at once make needful preparations for action, and,
(2) these made, carry our conclusions into effect. It is an evil spirit of uncertainty and delay which often makes penitence to be unavailing; it is prompt, unhesitating obedience to the Word of the Lord which takes us to the post of duty and then to the seat of honour and of joy.—C.
1 Chronicles 15:16,. 1 Chronicles 15:25, 1 Chronicles 15:26, 1 Chronicles 15:28.-Sacred joy.
In the bringing up of the ark from the house of Obed-edom, the prevailing note is that of sacred joy. We learn —
I. THAT HOLY OBEDIENCE IS ATTENDED WITH SACRED JOY. The act was one of obedience in two ways. It was so in spirit; for though not commanded to take this particular step, the Israelites were desired by God to show all possible honour to that with which his service was connected. In removing the ark, therefore, to the capital, David was acting conformably to the will of God. It was also obedient in form. This time the error in the mode of conveying the sacred chest was avoided, and the Word of the Lord strictly consulted. And the result was a large measure of sacred joy. Gladness of heart filled the souls of king, priests, Levites, people. Everything was done, from beginning to end," with joy" (1 Chronicles 15:16, 1 Chronicles 15:25). Holy obedience will always have the same effect upon the heart. If we serve the Lord with our whole heart, endeavouring to do his will, both in spirit and in form, we shall have "gladness in our heart more than in the time when their corn and their wine increase."
II. THAT SACRED JOY UTTERS ITSELF WELL IN SACRED PSALMODY. "David spake… to appoint… the singers with instruments of music," etc. (1 Chronicles 15:16). Sacred song often gives utterance to sorrow and distress, and there are plaintive strains, vocal and instrumental, which are profoundly expressive and touching. But gladness and song seem to be best associated. "Is any merry? let him sing psalms" (James 5:13). When our heart is glad in the Lord, we cannot do better than join in "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in our heart to the Lord" (Ephesians 5:19).
III. THAT SACRED JOY IS SUITABLY ACCOMPANIED WITH SACRIFICE. (1 Chronicles 15:26.) The ceremony would not have been complete without sacrifice. This was probably a burnt offering or thank offering; it was, at any rate, an offering taken from their "flocks and herds" unto the Lord, and may suggest to us that now, when God will not take such sacrifices at our hands, we should, in the time of our gladness, present such sacrifices as those with which he is well pleased. We can "do good and communicate" (Hebrews 13:16). Of our fulness we can contribute to the need of those who lack. Or from our exchequer we can take that which will help to fill the treasury of the Lord,
IV. THAT SACRED JOY SHOULD PROVE TO BE A DIFFUSIVE THING. David wished to extend this rejoicing to all who would enter into it; he made it as public as possible; so general was it that we read that "all Israel brought up the ark… with shouting," etc. (1 Chronicles 15:28; see 2 Samuel 6:19). We may keep our griefs much to ourselves, not inflicting them on others, much less parading them before others; but we should strive to make our friends and neighbours the sharers of our joy. This is true of all gladness of heart, but it is peculiarly applicable to sacred joy. When our souls are glad in him, our Father and Saviour, we should seek to make all whom we can reach and influence partakers of "like precious faith" and hope and joy. Of the joy that is not diffusive we may be suspicious, The joy that is Divine, that comes from God, and that is in God, will be after his own nature, bountiful, generous, communicative.—C.
1 Chronicles 15:16-29 (1 Chronicles 15:16, 1 Chronicles 15:25, 1 Chronicles 15:26, 1 Chronicles 15:28, see preceding homily).-The service of the Lord.
This passage is instructive, as conveying some valuable lessons, universally and abidingly applicable, respecting our service of the Supreme. We learn —
I. THAT WE SHOULD CHEERFULLY RENDER SUCH SERVICE AS WE ARE FITTED TO BRING. In this ceremony the services rendered were manifold. Some (the chief of the Levites) had the work of selection and appointment (1 Chronicles 15:16, 1 Chronicles 15:17); some took the part of playing with cymbals (1 Chronicles 15:19); others with psalteries (1 Chronicles 15:20); others with harps (1 Chronicles 15:21); others "did blow with the trumpets" (1 Chronicles 15:24); others acted as doorkeepers or custodians of the ark (1 Chronicles 15:23, 1 Chronicles 15:24); yet others ministered in sacred song (1 Chronicles 15:22, 1 Chronicles 15:27). David himself danced and played before the Lord (1 Chronicles 15:29; 2 Samuel 6:14). As "all our springs are in God"—all the sources of our strength and joy—so all our faculties may be devoted to his service; "as well the singers as the players on instruments." are to be engaged in worshipping him (see Psalms 87:7). We have very varied talents, both in kind and in degree; the only thing to be careful about is that we do not hide any of them in the earth, but put them all out in the service of Christ. Nothing can be less worthy of a Christian man than to disregard the contribution of a neighbour because it is other or smaller than our own; nothing can be more needless than to be distressed because of the larger or loftier contribution than our own: let each bring to the Lord of love and righteousness that which he entrusted to his charge, and he shall "in no wise lose his reward."
II. THAT WE SHOULD ALL MAKE FITTING PREPARATION FOR THE SERVICE WE ARE ABOUT TO RENDER. The king who was careful to be dressed in a way that made him most equal to his combat with the Giant (1 Samuel 17:1-58.), now sees to it that he is suitably attired for the work before him; the others who took part in the procession were similarly careful When we address ourselves to work for our Divine Master, we should see that we are suitably equipped. We may look for help from God (as we shall see presently), but we must not presumptuously neglect the conditions of success. We are to be armed for our effort with all appropriate weapons; we are to be clothed, not only with humility, but with knowledge, zeal, devotion, perseverance.
III. THAT WE MAY RECKON ON DIVINE HELP IF WE ARE DOING THE WORK TO WHICH HE CALLS US. "God helped the Levites that bare the ark" (1 Chronicles 15:26). There was nothing in the act in which they were engaged that was peculiarly trying to their strength; nevertheless they received help from Omnipotence to do their work. In God is the source of all our strength; there is nothing we can do purely "of ourselves;" all our sufficiency is of him. And if the Levites needed Divine help in bearing the burden which they carried, how much more do we need it! and with what frequency and earnestness should we seek it, when we boar those burdens for him which require, not some slight muscular exertion, but much mental, moral, and spiritual excellency!
IV. THAT WE MUST NOT BE DETAINED FROM THE SERVICE OF GOD BY THE PERVERSITY OF THE IRRELIGIOUS. Michal despised David for his godly zeal (1 Chronicles 15:29). She lacked the devotedness of heart which her husband possessed, and therefore she misjudged his action. Ungodliness cannot understand, cannot appreciate religious earnestness; it therefore disregards, and even despises it. We are not to be moved by this consideration David would not have omitted his service had he known beforehand the reception which awaited him at the royal palace. We are not to be detained from the active, enthusiastic service of our Lord and of our perishing brethren because we are well aware that there will be those who, looking out from the window of their own impiety or indifference, will regard us with cynical contempt. All of this will weigh but as the small dust of the balance against the gratitude of those we serve, and the "well done" of the approving Lord.—C.
HOMILIES BY F. WHITFIELD
1 Chronicles 15:1-15.-The bearers of the ark.
In the account (2 Samuel 6:11-23) of the bringing of the ark into Jerusalem, only the principal facts are recorded. In this chapter we are presented with the religious aspect of this solemn act and the preparation David made for it. The motive for bringing the ark to Jerusalem was (see 2 Samuel 6:12) that David had heard of the great blessing the ark had brought upon the house of Obed-edom during the time it had been there. David arranges that the ark should be borne only by Levites, for them only had the Lord chosen to carry it. By this arrangement it is expressly acknowledged that it was contrary to law to place it on a cart. The heads of the priests and Levites are summoned to take the matter in hand. Kohath is first named, because Aaron was descended from Kohath, and because to the Kohathites, on account of this near relation to the priests, there belonged the duty of serving in that which was most holy, and in bearing the holiest vessels of the tabernacle. The transport of the ark was the Kohathites' special work. These priests and six of the Levites were commanded by David to consecrate themselves with their brethren to bring up the ark. This consecration consisted of the removing of all that was unclean, the washing of the body and clothes (Genesis 35:2), the keeping aloof from every defilement, and from touching unclean things. David reminds them (1 Chronicles 15:13) that because God was not sought according to his Word, there came a breach. That Word required that the ark on which Jehovah was enthroned should be carried by Levites, and should be touched by no unholy person or one who was not a priest (see Numbers 4:15). So the Levites, we are told, bare the ark on their shoulders with staves, according to the Word of the Lord. From this portion of our chapter let us learn three spiritual lessons.
1. It was because David heard of the blessing the ark had been to the house of Obed-edom that made him send for it. That ark was Christ. Wherever he is in a heart, a family, a Church, or a nation, there a blessing will be left. He came to bless (see Acts 3:26); and none who receive him shall be without that blessing. But as in the case of Obed-edom those who receive his blessing are made the channel of blessing to others. They cannot be hid. David sends for the ark because Obed-edom had been so blessed by it.
2. Those Levites who bore the ark, though they had been from of old divinely appointed to this work, had again to be consecrated. No touch of uncleanliness, or defilement of body or garment, must come near it. So must it be now with all those who have to do with Christ. To be Christians is not enough any more than it was to be Levites. They must be clean Christians. There must be plenty of "washing," plenty of "keeping aloof" from things, and plenty of careful walking with all those who have to do with him. "Be ye holy that hear the vessels of the Lord;" "Be ye holy, for I am holy."
3. It might seem to human observation a very trifling difference between carrying the ark on a cart or carriage, and carrying it on the shoulders with staves. But the great point is—What was the Lord's word? It was this made the difference (1 Chronicles 15:15). So is it now in everything. It is not what I think or what you think or what any man thinks. It is, "What saith the Word of the Lord?" This is to settle every question. And he would not have been a true Levite any more than that man could be a true Christian who would for a moment hesitate to accept this decision as final.—W.
1 Chronicles 15:16-24.-The singers and musical instruments accompanying the ark.
David gave also a further charge to the Levites to appoint singers and musical instruments to accompany the ark. Three kinds of musical instruments are named (1 Chronicles 15:16): the psalter, an oblong box with broad bottom and a somewhat convex sounding-board, over which strings of wire are stretched; harps or lutes, and the cymbal or instrument provided with a small bell. These singers formed three choirs according to the instrument they played. Heman, Asaph, and Ethan played brazen cymbals, Benaiah and the seven who followed played psalteries; the last six played lutes. The former three had cymbals to direct the song; while the rest had partly psalteries, partly lutes, in order to play the accompaniment to the singing. Chenaniah was captain of the Levitee who had charge of the bearing of the ark because he was instructed in what had to be observed with respect to it. The blowing of the silver trumpets by the priests rests on Numbers 10:1-10. The procession was in all probability arranged thus: the singers and players in front in three divisions; next Chenaniah, captain of the bearers; two doorkeepers; the priests with the trumpets; two doorkeepers; the king, with the elders and captains of thousands. Observe the spiritual lesson to be learned from this procession. The ark was to be accompanied by those who could sing and shout for joy (see Numbers 10:16, Numbers 10:28). So is it with those who have to do with the true Ark—Christ. We have had first cleanness, and now we have joy. These are inseparable, Not the Levite as such, but the Levite washed and clean, shouting for joy. Not the Christian as such, but the Christian cleansed, and holy. Such only can truly be full of joy. It is joy from conscious union with Christ the true Ark, and maintained in holiness of life.—W.
1 Chronicles 15:25-29.-The clothing of the priests and Levites.
After the journey had been accomplished, the bearers and those who had brought up the ark offered thank offerings of seven bullocks and seven rams—a perfect offering, denoted by the number seven. David and all the priests and Levites that accompanied the ark were clothed in white linen. The outer garments corresponded with the cleanness, the holiness, and the joy. So the white-robed multitude are represented as singing with palms in their hands, indicating the holiness and the joy, round the true Ark, the Lord Jesus Christ, in heaven. No wonder Michal should despise David. The heart of every one not experimentally acquainted with the Lord Jesus will always do the same. "The natural man understandeth not the things of the Spirit of God:… they are foolishness unto him." The Michal-heart is everywhere around us. Oh the joy of knowing Jesus!—W.
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
1 Chronicles 15:2, 1 Chronicles 15:12, 1 Chronicles 15:13.-Learning the lessons of God's judgments.
We are not left in any doubt as to the national lesson intended to be taught by the Divine judgement on Uzza. David came to see that "none ought to carry the ark of God but the Levites" (comp. Numbers 1:50; Numbers 4:15; Numbers 7:9; Numbers 10:17). The judgment showed that God had not been "sought after the due order;" and of this error and neglect there is now the honest confession, with due care in the new effort, to meet fully the Divine conditions and requirements. "The 'due order' was that the ark should be borne on the shoulders of the Kohathite Levites—not that it should be placed upon a cart, drawn by oxen, and rudely shaken." Out of his first mistaken attempt David learned the valuable, practical lesson that ―
"Evil is wrought for want of thought,
As well as for want of heart."
The incident suggests a general treatment of the teachings of God's judgments. Isaiah expresses the attitude, of which David here gives us the example, when he says (Isaiah 26:1-21.), "In the way of thy judgments, O Lord, have we waited for thee."
I. JUDGMENT TAUGHT DAVID RESPECT FOR GOD'S LAW AND ORDER. It does not appear that the full ceremonial of Mosaism had been preserved during Saul's reign, and certainly there had been some neglect of the Scriptures; but it is especially to be observed that, in making a new tabernacle on Mount Zion, and fitting it up according to his own ideas, David was in great peril of wilfulness, and of neglecting to consult and to follow the Divine regulations. Such a judgment as that on Uzza was needed to thoroughly arouse him to the importance of a precise and minute obedience. So we too often say, "What does it matter, if the thing is done?" And we have, often bitterly, to learn that God cares for the doing, and wants even the right things done in the right way. Obedience in the very forms and order of Divine service tests the deep feeling of God's worshippers. Apostles recognized the importance even of forms when they enjoined, "Let all things be done decently and in order."
II. JUDGMENT TAUGHT THE NEED FOR THOUGHTFULNESS AND CARE. Haste is as unfitting as self-will in matters of God's worship. Consideration; due attention to precedents; personal preparation of spirit; serious demeanour;—all properly attend on Divine service. God wants the signs and indications of real heart-feeling and deep sincerity.
III. JUDGMENT TAUGHT THE DUTY OF FINDING FIT INSTRUMENTS FOR GOD'S WORK. Holy duties should not be done by unsuitable hands. No common persons might touch the sacred ark. The proper persons were the Levites, and a particular family of them. Illustrate the need for a wiser selection of instruments in connection with the work of the modern Church. Compare the apostolic injunctions, "Lay hands suddenly on no man;" "Let such first be proved."
IV. JUDGMENT TAUGHT THE REVERENT TREATMENT OF THE SYMBOLS OF DIVINE PRESENCE. Without adopting strained ideas of sacramental virtue, we too may learn this lesson. Sanctuaries, sacraments, Bibles, etc; because of their sacred associations and suggestions, properly demand reverent treatment. Only shallow and self-satisfied natures tail in reverence. A worthy sense of the infinite glory of the Unseen, Eternal, and Divine, gains fitting expression in the reverent touch of all earth-symbols that bring the Eternal near. There may be danger of stopping with the symbol, even as heathen stopped with the idol; but the fact that danger lies in excess does not relieve us from the claims of the symbolic, as set within wise limitations. There is danger of overdoing forms. But there is also danger of an undue indifference to forms; and this kind of danger is seriously imperilling to some important features of the religious life. This may be practically illustrated in relation to long-received forms of doctrine, and long-hallowed rites and symbols. They who would sincerely honour God must not be unmindful of the reverence that is due to his ark.—R.T.
1 Chronicles 15:12-14.-Due preparation for Divine service.
Not only was David on this occasion careful to employ the proper persons, but he was anxious that they should be properly prepared and fitted for their solemn duty. He commands them to "sanctify themselves," that is, to go through the ceremonies by which the Mosaic priesthood were prepared for ritual duties (see Le 1 Chronicles 11:44; Numbers 11:18; 2 Chronicles 29:5, etc.). God has ever shown anxiety over men's preparation-times. A long preparation-time may precede a very brief period of work, but the efficiency of the work always depends on the preparation. Illustrate from the preparations for the first Passover; from the answer of our Lord's disciples, "Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the Passover?" from the actual experience of our Lord, who had thirty silent years, and then a long spell of desert meditations; from such cases as that of Moses, who had forty years in the Horeb district, and of Saul, who was a long while in the deserts of Arabia; from such a case as that of Savonarola, who had many years of study and prayer in the monastery before he commenced his brief eight years of public ministry. In all ages, and now, the holiest and best men have deeply felt the need of times of devout meditation and prayer and spiritual preparation, before engaging in Divine service; and such personal preparations are quite as important for worshippers as for ministers. The neglect of them is the secret of the limited blessing that so often attends the means of grace.
I. PREPARATION-TIMES ARE NECESSARY.
1. Because of the solemnity attaching to every form of Divine worship or work.
2. Because of God's reasonable demand that everything we do for him shall be done with our best powers and our whole heart, therefore with due consideration and effort.
3. Because man is so absorbed in worldly things, that he cannot at once disengage himself so as fittingly to attend to heavenly and Divine things.
4. Because the hurry and bustle of life makes an agitation and excitement of mind and feeling that are unsuited to religions occupations,
II. PREPARATION-TIMES BEAR DIRECT RELATION TO FAITHFULNESS. Because they test our spirit when no eye is upon us, and there is none but God to take account of our doings. It is an easy thing to be devout and attentive and particular when we have all the surroundings of the great congregation; but only God knows whether we are really in tone for our work and our worship. He reckons faithfulness by our heart-states, not merely by our life-actions.
III. PREPARATION-TIMES BEAR DIRECTLY ON SPIRITUAL PROFIT. This is the other side of the matter. Blessings come to us only as we are in moods to receive them. There is a "set of the soul" towards heavenly and Divine things on which the influence of teachings and holy surroundings entirely depends. When that "set of the soul" is secured, the smallest and simplest "means of grace" prove nourishing. And we are in large measure responsible for securing it. The great things of God are revealed unto "babes," unto the simple-minded and open-hearted and devoutly toned. Our spiritual profit depends on ourselves.
IV. PREPARATION-TIMES ARE NEVER WASTED TIMES. Though we are liable to regard them as such, because they seem to have no tangible result, the issues of them we cannot count and measure. But school-time is not wasted time, for it fits the boy for life. Apprentice-time is not wasted time, for its issues are seen in vigorous and skilled manhood. There never can be waste in efficiently getting ready; and this is fully true in religious spheres.
Practical application of these points may be made to three or four forms of modern religious life: e.g. prayer, almsgiving, worship, sacraments, Christian work. In relation to them all God's call to us is, "Sanctity yourselves for it."—R.T.
1 Chronicles 15:16-24.-Music and song consecrated to God's service.
For traces of singing in connection with religious ceremonies, see Exodus 15:21; Judges 5:1; 1 Chronicles 13:8. It seems to have been cultivated in the "schools of the prophets" (1 Samuel 10:5). From the time of David's appointment of these Levites to this special department, "the services of the tabernacle and the temple were regularly choral, and a considerable section of the Levites was trained in musical knowledge, and set apart to conduct this part of the national worship." Reference may be made to the prejudices of the Puritans, the Scotch, and some sections of the older Nonconformists to music and song in Divine worship. Even Christian hymns have sometimes been introduced with difficulty, and any elaboration of the musical part of Divine worship is, even now, often regarded with anxiety. Such facts seem to us strange; but they are adequately explained by a wise estimate of the struggles and conflicts through which the Christian Church has passed. The conflict has often been over some non-essential, and even indifferent, matter; but this was only the outward seeming. The conflict really concerned vital principle. The trivial matter over which the fight seemed to wage gained an undue importance thus, and the relics of its fictitious value linger long with conservative-toned Christian people. Cultured Christian feeling may be safely left to decide the appropriate and the inappropriate in Church music and song; and no precise standards need be fixed for all classes of the Christian community. Historical associations properly affect the ritual of some. And successive generations of witnesses for the claims of spiritual life over ritual observance cannot fail to influence the practices of others. Still the development of the heart of music has greatly tended to unite all parties in the full dedication of this gilt to the service of the house of the Lord. As this subject has been previously treated, a simple outline may here suffice.
I. MUSIC AND SONG SERVING GOD IN FAMILY SPHERES. It is often made a gracious power in the home. The home is a temple, and should always be thought of as a sanctuary of the Lord, to which should be brought the best gifts.
II. MUSIC AND SONG SERVING GOD IN SPHERES OF PRIVATE CHRISTIAN WORK. During a recent period of distress in Manchester, some cultivated Christian ladies proved how the otherwise closed doors of the sick and suffering poor could be opened by the attractions of beautiful song.
III. MUSIC AND SONG SERVING GOD IN PUBLIC CHURCH SERVICES. Show the importance of choirs in relation to the pathos and the pleasure of Christian worship.
IV. MUSIC AND SONG SERVING GOD IN SPECIAL EFFORTS TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO MASSES. As illustrated in the creation of hymns and tunes for evangelistic services, and in recent revival movements.
Plead that the faculties and talents of music and song are for the Lord, and that they come under this twofold law:
(1) they must be laid on his altar of service; and
(2) they must be cultured for efficient use.—R.T.
1 Chronicles 15:29.-Intensity in religion is often misunderstood.
"One only incident tarnished the brightness of this greatest day of David's life. Michal, his wife, in the proud, we may almost say conservative, spirit of the older dynasty—not without a thought of her father's fallen house—poured forth her contemptuous reproach on the king who had descended to the dances and song of the Levitical procession." There are marked differences in the dispositions of men in relation to religion. The colder-natured are apt to regard the impulsive as extravagant; and the warm-hearted and excitable too readily conclude that the quieter-toned people are insincere. Explain the Eastern ecstatic modes of expressing joy. In time of excitement, rhythmical movements, such as dancing, afford great relief. And such clanging of trumpet and cymbals was the very thing to set the company upon dancing. Distinguish the natural movements and gestures of excited feeling from the ordered fashionable dancing with which we are familiar. What lessons may be learned from Michal's inability to appreciate David's religious intensity?
I. RELIGION FINDS DIFFERENT RESPONSE IN DIFFERENT INDIVIDUALS. We must not look for the same experiences and manifestations in all. Each man's religious conduct will bear the plain impress of his character and disposition. This may be applied to experiences of conversion-time, or the beginnings of the Christian life. As also to the forms in which men stand related to public worship and Christian work. If we venture to make moulds for the necessary Christian life, we must take care that they are large and general, with no fine lines of must-be peculiarities in them. Christ gives a new life, and sends each man forth to express it according to his own genius and character.
II. RELIGION CAN FIND EXPRESSION THROUGH ALL DISPOSITIONS. So we may not, even in thought, exempt any man from its gracious influence; and we may not be anxious to have the natural dispositions of men changed. Men do not need to be made other than they are. The all-sufficing change is the inward regeneration, the renewal of the vital principle. We need not want to make the channel of the river bend and turn in any other and, as we think, more graceful forms. Our anxiety should concern the purity of the waters flowing down from the fountain-head, which fill the stream. Preservation of the characteristic disposition is, however, quite consistent with all due Christian culture, and this may sometimes so bring out to the front the best in men, that they may seem other than they were.
III. CHRISTIAN CHARITY FINDS A FREE SPHERE FOR EVERY MAN. Just in this Michal failed. She had not charity enough to give David credit for the sincerity which would have clothed his act with dignity. A man's ways may not be our ways, may not even be such as we can approve; but it should suffice for us if we can see in them the signs of genuine religious life and feeling. Then we may wish him "Godspeed."
Application of a practical character may be carefully made to those more enthusiastic and excited phases of religious life and association which are so marked a feature of nineteenth-century Christianity. From the calmer, colder point of view, such as Michal would take, there may seem in all these only a perilous fanaticism. The charity that "hopeth all things" may at least enable us to say, in the spirit of our Lord, "Forbid them not, for they that are not against him are on his part." And his kingdom has its on-coming in wondrous ways; no man knoweth how.—R.T.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 15". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13