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This chapter is paralleled by 2 Samuel 7:1-29; and the parallel is for the most part very close. The purport of the two accounts may be said to be identical, while the variations of some few words and sentences just suffice to indicate the somewhat different objects of the two writers, and the very different time when our compiler was having recourse to the common authority. The "good" purpose which was in David's heart is, like many other good purposes, obstructed by the will and providence of God himself. It is not one of that other kind of "good intentions," with which the way to hell is so often paved, when the man who forms the resolution and entertains the intention is he who of his own choice, or fickleness, or indifference, breaks it. It is acknowledged, therefore, and meets in fact with a large and gracious reward, in being made the occasion of the distinct revelation to David of a lasting house and perpetuated kingdom in his line. The interest of this chapter is heightened, as will be seen, by the aspects of royal "home" life and peace which it presents.
1 Chronicles 17:1
We may easily imagine how the excitement, though not the deeper interest, attending the removal of the ark and the festival on occasion of its safe establishment on Zion had now subsided. David's thoughts respecting the honour due to God and to the ark of the covenant had time to grow into convictions, and they were greatly and rightly stimulated by reflection on his own surroundings of comfort, of safety, of stability and splendour. He revolves the possible methods and the right methods of showing that honour due. The completion of his own house, one presumably fit for the permanent abode of the King of Israel (1 Chronicles 14:1), is the clear demonstration to him that the ark should not dwell in a mere tent. It is a true touch of life, when it is written that as David sat in his house these thoughts possessed him, and so strongly. The exact time, however, here designed, and the exact occasion of his revealing the thoughts that burned within him, to Nathan, do not appear either here or in the parallel place. In the opinion of some, an indication of some interval having elapsed is found in the words (2 Samuel 7:1), "The Lord had given him rest round about from all his enemies;" while others consider those words to refer to the victories gained over the Philistines, as recorded in 1 Chronicles 14:1-17. Nathan the prophet. This name suddenly breaks upon us, without any introduction, here for the first time. Nathan is emphatically entitled "the prophet," but perhaps merely to distinguish him from Nathan, David's eighth son. Amid many other important references to Nathan, and which speak for themselves, must be specially noted 1 Chronicles 29:29; 2 Chronicles 9:29. And it will be noticed from the former of these references, in particular how Nathan is the prophet (הַגָּבִיא); not (like Samuel and Gad) seer (הָרֹאֶה or הַתֹוֶה). Possibly he is intended in 1 Kings 4:5. An house of cedars. The cedar here spoken of does, of course, not answer to our red, odorous cedar. The word employed is אֶרֶז, in the plural number. The first Biblical use of this word is found in Le 1 Kings 14:4, 1 Kings 14:6, 49-52. It is derived by Gesenius from an obsolete word אָרַז, from the grip and the firmness of its roots. It is probably the derived signification, therefore, that should be adhered to (as in the Authorized Version), and not the original, where in Ezekiel 27:24, the plural of the passive participial is found, "made of cedar," not with A. Schultens, "made fast." The cedar genus belonging to the order Coniferae, is odoriferous, very lasting, and without knots. The numerous good qualities which it possesses are spoken to in the variety of uses, and good kind of uses, to which it was put—these all crowned by the almost solitary spiritualized appropriation of the tree, found in Psalms 92:12. From a comparison of 1 Kings 5:6, 1 Kings 5:8 (in the Hebrew, 20, 22) with 2Ch 2:3, 2 Chronicles 2:8, and some other passages, we may be led to believe that the cedar as the name of timber was used occasionally very generically. Nevertheless, the very passages in question instance by name the other specific kinds of wood. Two of the chief kinds of cedar were the Lebanon and the Deodara, which is said not to have grown in Syria, but abounds in the Himalayas. And as the use of the Lebanon cedar for some purposes (e.g. for the masts of ships) is almost out of the question, it is exceedingly probable that this Deodars and some other varieties of pines are comprehended under the eh-rez. Dean Stanley points out what may be described as very interesting moral landmark uses of the celebrated cedars of Lebanon, in those passages which speak of Solomon's sweep of knowledge, commencing in the dewing direction from them (1 Kings 4:33), of the devouring fire that should begin with the bramble and reach high up to those cedars (in Jotham's parable, Judges 9:15), and (in the parable of Joash, King of Israel, to Amaziah, King of Judah, 2 Chronicles 25:18) of the contempt with which the family of the cedars of Lebanon is supposed to hear of the matrimonial overtures of the family of the thistles of Lebanon. Stanley's pages are full of interest on the subject of the cedars of Lebanon. Cedar was the choice wood for pillars and beams, boarding and ceiling of the finest houses; and alike the first and second temples (Ezra 3:7) depended upon the supply of it. Under curtains. Here rightly in the plural, though our parallel (2 Samuel 7:2) shows the singular (Exodus 26:1-13; Exodus 36:8-19).
1 Chronicles 17:2
This verse gives Nathan's response on the spur of the moment. And that it was not radically wrong from a prophet may be inferred from the stress afterwards laid upon the acceptableness to God of what had been in the heart of David to do. Even with God, silence would sometimes be understood by a prophet to be equivalent to assent.
1 Chronicles 17:3
The express word of God came, however, that same night. It proved to be an overruling word. But it brought with it the point of a fresh and most welcome new departure for David. We might glean here by the way a suggestion of the beneficent operation of express revelation, superseding the thought, the method, the reason of man.
1 Chronicles 17:4-15
These verses are the unfolding to David of the magnificent and far-stretching purposes of God's grace towards him in his son Solomon and his descendants for ever. The revelation is made by the mouth of Nathan.
1 Chronicles 17:4
Thou shalt not build. The Hebrew marks the personal pronoun here as emphatic, "Not thou shalt build," i.e. but some one else. In the parallel this prohibition is conveyed by that interrogative particle which expects the answer No, and may be thus translated: "Is it thou shalt build for me," etc.?
1 Chronicles 17:5
This verse contains the three terms—house, tent, tabernacle (see notes on 1 Chronicles 16:1). Gesenius observes that when the Hebrew of the last two words is used distinctively, the tent describes the outer coverings of the twelve curtains; and the tabernacle, the ten inner curtains and framework as well, in other words, the whole equipment of the well-known tabernacle. As compared with the version we have here, the parallel place speaks an almost pathetic condescension, "I was a shifting traveller in tent and tabernacle." God meant to remind David how surely and faithfully he had shared the pilgrim lot and unsettledness of his people. What most holy the tabernacle contained was herein a type of the bodily tabernacle of Jesus Christ in later times.
1 Chronicles 17:6
The judges of Israel. The substitution of the Hebrew character beth for pe, in the word "judges," would make it "tribes," and bring it into harmony with the parallel place. But the succeeding clause, Whom I commanded to feed my people, would rather suggest that the parallel place, which adds the same clause, should be brought into harmony with this (see again 1 Chronicles 17:10 of this chapter). The general meaning and the gracious spirit underlying it is evident enough. God had never made a suggestion to tribe, or leader of tribe, nor to judge, who had been temporarily raised up to lead, and so to feed, all his people Israel, to build him an house. He had shared their lot, and had shared it unmurmuringly. He also "had not opened his mouth" (1 Kings 8:12-16; 1 Chronicles 28:3, 1 Chronicles 28:4; Psalms 78:67-71). Note also the expression, "I chose no city out of all the tribes of Israel" (1 Kings 8:16). It is to be remarked that we learn from 1 Chronicles 22:8 and 1 Chronicles 28:3 the fuller causes why David was not to be permitted to be the builder of the house. It is not apparent why those causes are not recited here. The same remark applies to the parallel place.
1 Chronicles 17:7
I took thee. (So 1Sa 16:11, 1 Samuel 16:12; 2 Samuel 7:8; Psa 78:1-72 :80.) The sheepcote. The Hebrew נָזֶה strictly signifies a resting or place of resting. Hence the habitation of men or of animals, and in particular the pasture in which flocks lie down and rest (Psalms 23:2, plural construction; Job 5:24; Hosea 9:13; Jeremiah 23:3; Jeremiah 49:20). The sheepcote was sometimes a tower, with roughly built high wall, exposed to the sky at the top, used for protection from wild beasts at night; sometimes the sheepfold was a larger low building of different shape, to which a fenced courtyard was adjacent, where the peril of cold or of wild beast was less imminent. The word of our present passage, however, cannot be compared with these places; comp. rather Exodus 15:13; 2 Samuel 15:25; Isaiah 33:20; Isaiah 65:10; Hosea 9:13, as above.
1 Chronicles 17:8
And have made thee. This may be rendered and will make thee; in which ease the promise to David commences with this rather than the following clause.
1 Chronicles 17:9
All the verbs of this verse are in the same tense as those of the foregoing verse, which are correctly translated. For an expression similar to the last clause of the verse, Neither shall the children of wickedness waste them any more, may be found in Psalms 89:22.
1 Chronicles 17:10
This verse should read on continuously with the preceding, as far as to the word "enemies." The time here denoted will stretch from the people's occupation of the laud to the death of Saul, as the expression, "at the beginning," in 1 Chronicles 17:9, will point to the experience of Egyptian oppression. Will build thee an house; i.e. will guarantee thee an unfailing line of descendants.
1 Chronicles 17:11
The promise is now, not to "David and his seed," but to David personally. The verse contains, no doubt, the original of the Apostle Peter's quotation (Acts 2:29, Acts 2:30; see also Acts 13:34; Luke 1:32, Luke 1:33). The last clause of this verse has Solomon, for the object of its pronoun "his."
1 Chronicles 17:12-14
The reference of these promises was also to Solomon, and to him they were faithfully fulfilled. They were early perceived to be prophecies also, and of the highest significance and application (Psalms 89:26-37; Isaiah 9:7; Isaiah 55:3, Isaiah 55:4; Jeremiah 23:5, Jeremiah 23:6; Jeremiah 33:17-21; Zechariah 6:12, Zechariah 6:13; Hebrews 1:5; Hebrews 3:6). The alternative of the "son who commits iniquity" (2 Samuel 7:14) is omitted from the middle of our thirteenth verse. The latter half of 1 Chronicles 17:13 manifestly purports to say, "I will not take my mercy away from Solomon, as I did take it away from Saul." The close of our fourteenth verse is in the parallel place (2 Samuel 7:16) distinctly referred to David, with the use of the second person possessive pronoun.
1 Chronicles 17:16-27
These verses contain David's response to the gracious communication which had been made to him, and thanksgivings for the promise made to him as regards his seed. His appreciation of the contents of that promise is expressed in a manner which would seem to indicate that he was not altogether untaught, even then, by the Spirit of some of the deeper significance of the far-reaching promise.
1 Chronicles 17:16
Sat before the Lord; i.e. before the ark. It has surprised many that it should be said that David sat before the Lord, in the act of prayer or devotion. But this was not altogether unusual (1 Kings 19:4) in the first place; and then, secondly, it is not quite clear that this is said. Possibly he sat awaiting first some such token as he might know how to construe into the presence of Jehovah, and into his gracious vouchsafing to give him audience, and thereupon he may have altered his attitude. Confessedly, however, the other is the morn natural reading.
1 Chronicles 17:17
David here makes a clear sad very just difference between all that had been done for him, and the very great prospect now in addition put before him: Thou… hast regarded me according to the estate of a man of high degree; i.e. thou hast treated me, or dealt with me, in this promise as though [ had been of high rank indeed. The parallel reading is very concise (2 Samuel 7:19), and perhaps somewhat obscure, "And is this the manner [or, 'law'] of man?" or, "And this is to be a law of man," i.e. this continuity of a great while to come. Elliptical as this reading may seem, there is no real difficulty in feeling its essential harmony with the passage before us. David's unfeigned surprise and joy in the "great while to come" nature of the promises made to him and his house overpower all else in his estimation. It is, indeed, a most opportune emphasis that he lays upon this element of the full promise, and accords exceptionally well with our later knowledge and brighter light. Our Authorized Version rendering throws out sufficiently this surprise, and gives not inadequately the drift of the passage. The continuity and exaltedness of the promise, which was only fully realized in the greater Son of David, the Christ, might well astonish David.
1 Chronicles 17:18
Thy servant. The Septuagint Version has not got these words on their first occurrence. They may have found their way in wrongfully out of the next clause. They are not found in the parallel place. If they remain, they can mean nothing else than "How can David further acknowledge the honour conferred on thy servant,"—a sense by no means far-fetched.
1 Chronicles 17:19
For thy servant's sake. The parallel place reads, "For thy word's sake." This reading is superior, and well suits the connection, suggesting also whether the first occurrence of the word "servant" in the previous verse might not be similarly explained. The similarity of the characters of the words in the Hebrew would render easy the exchange of the one word for the other.
1 Chronicles 17:21
In the parallel verse (2 Samuel 7:23), our Authorized Version, following the Hebrew text (לְכֶם), reads, "To do for you great things and terrible." The transition is awkward, no way in harmony with the other short clauses of the passage, and it would be inexplicable except for the alternative open to us, of regarding it as a quotation from Deuteronomy 4:34, brought in regardless of the context into which it was introduced. The difficulty does not meet us in our present passage, being obviated by the other sentences of our compiler. Both places, however, manifestly quote from the Book of Deuteronomy, with the grand passages and grand verbiage of which we may well imagine David familiar. A similar familiarity is also betokened in the following verses, as regard other Pentateuchal passages.
1 Chronicles 17:22
Didst thou make. This appears in Samuel, "Thou didst confirm."
1 Chronicles 17:24
The Hebrew text reads here naturally enough, And let be established and magnified for ever thy Name. The "established" in the last clause of the verse is not the same word with that used here.
1 Chronicles 17:27
The marginal, It hath pleased thee, is the correcter rendering of the Hebrew here, though the parallel place exhibits the imperative mood. That it may be before thee for ever. The fulfilment of these words can be found in the Messiah alone (comp. Psalms 2:6-12).
1 Chronicles 17:1-27.-The purport and the service of one individual life unfolded authoritatively.
The contents of this chapter afford general aspects of great interest and of great importance. It is not often that we can do more than surmise the real use and intent of the life of a fellow-creature, or indeed even of one's self. Certain it is that from the beginning none can see to the end, and the lip that presumes to prophesy of the child or of the young man, prophesies at least as often vainly as correctly. Nor in the midst of life, its heyday of joy and vigour, or its day of enforced reflection and calmer retrospect, is the power very materially added to that would enable to gauge the life at all adequately, its genius, its measure of usefulness or success, or the place it should be justly counted to win in the universal race. While, lastly, the biographer's verdict—whatever the increased and enlarged opportunity of his horoscope—is among those things that are notorious for the suspicion they arouse. But here we have very much of a Divine pronouncement on the work of a life. And that this should occur in the case of David, harmonizes well with what Paul remarked (Acts 13:36) respecting him: "For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid to his fathers, and saw corruption." His life is not yet closed, his work not yet finished; but on a remarkable occasion a voice from heaven speaks of it, at the same time that it also speaks to it. David is taught his place; it is his own fault if he is not greatly assisted to learn his own character, and to see, plain as a sunbeam, his life's duty, or what remains of it. The chapter exhibits a parable true in large part of it of many a life, yet in a very great proportion of those lives true still only like a parable, unknown, unacknowledged, while life's best part is being lived. It shows —
I. A LIFE LONG SPENT IN SOME OBEDIENCE TO DIVINE MONITIONS AND PRINCIPLE SUDDENLY SEEMING TO LIFT ITSELF UP FOR ITS HIGHEST EFFORTS GOD-WARD. It cannot be said nor thought that the life of David, when a boy, had been an irreligious life—a life thoughtless of God, his ways and works, or defiant towards him. All the indications are to the contrary. From very earliest manhood, we know as fact that David's life had been remarkably answerable to Divine interposition, reverently received, gratefully and modestly acknowledged. Further, through the best and proudest of life's days that life had been so baulked, so endangered, so keenly exercised, that it were not too much to say that even nature would have taught it some religion, and that it was glad to keep near to the mighty Friend. Yet had it known many a lapse, many a weariness, many an hour of faint faith, many an impure or very mixed motive. There can be no doubt, however, that hitherto the victory had always been of the good. Its greatest temptations were now upon it, when ease, peace, grandeur, luxury, were its lot. It bears the strain, and at the very time seems gathering together its strength for its supreme religious effort. Heart and conscience approve. Nay, a nation's heart and conscience join to approve. Conscious human purpose and love offer themselves volunteers for Divine work. Can there be a doubt of their acceptableness? At all events there proves to be a refusal of some sort to their acceptance.
II. A LIFE LONG AND BRAVELY SPENT IN THE EXERCISE OF ALL ITS OWN ACTIVE ENERGIES SUDDENLY DISCOVERED STRICTLY BOUND BY DIVINE CONTROL. David had been no passive recipient of Divine favour and protection. He had been constrained to employ all his own best judgment, talents, effort, and to add thereto many a loud and hearty and impassioned prayer for help, mercy, deliverance. Judging from what we know of human nature, of our own nature, we should not have wondered if the latter exercises of the soul had often seemed lost in comparison of the former energies of the mind and body. But again it turns out that it was not really so. In this character we do not have to do with the restless, brooding, defiant soul, of one who feels so pressed by circumstance that he cannot wait for priest, or prophet, or his God, but must act for himself and by himself. No; a blank refusal evokes from David the testimony that. he holds himself practically and intelligently to the distinct order of a master. He knows control, submits to control, promptly and gracefully answers to it.
III. A LIFE THAT THROUGH A LONG TIME HAD BEEN UNABLE TO SEE THE REASON OF ITSELF, AND TO WHAT IT WAS TO LEAD, AND WHERE THE STRANGE VICISSITUDE SHOULD END, SUDDENLY AUTHORITATIVELY INFORMED THAT IT WAS AND ALL THE WHILE HAD BEEN TRIBUTARY TO HIGHEST ENDS. God tells David that from "the sheepcote" to his present "house of cedars" he had been with him, he had been training him, he had been evoking good out of all evil, for him personally and for all his people Israel. He had not been living, working, suffering, rejoicing, anguished with fear and cruelty, buoyant with hope and victory, for nothing, nor for a spasmodic, theatric, sensational display, nor for a mockery of collapse at last. No; it was to make him a name, and a great name, and a name divinely and historically through all time worth having—a model ruler, a model king, and a blessing to his people Israel. All the while, from the first breathing of David's name to this present, David had been drawn through a career which, all appearances notwithstanding, had been tributary to Divine results. What firmness, what confidence, what glory, is it to any life that can embrace this creed, and that believes it with the heart!
IV. A LIFE THAT HAD BEEN CONDUCTED THROUGH EXTREMES OF EXPERIENCE, AND MANY AN HUMILIATING VARIETY AMONG THEM, IS NOW APPRISED THAT IT IS ADMITTED TO PARTICIPATION IN FULFILLING THE VERY HIGHEST OF DIVINE COUNSEL. It is what astounds David beyond all else. It is what rejoices him above all else. It is what more than compensates for all the past. It pours streams of enraptured joy and corresponding vigour through all his nature. What thanks come from his lip! What adoring praise wells up from his heart! What prayer—a veritable "making request with joy"—he has strength and confidence to pour forth! HIS gladness for himself (whoso purpose was just denied) and for his people is indistinguishably mingled—one with his gladness in his God, the incomparable God of Israel, Lord of hosts, to whom there is none like for "greatness," for "terribleness," for "goodness," and for the "eternal blessedness" of his "blessing." Such was the course, such the fulfilment, such the final "manifestation," in that early "day of revelation," of one human life under heavenly guidance and Divine benediction. And it utters forth a parable for every true servant of God which little needs an interpretation.
1 Chronicles 17:1.-A lust consideration of one's own position in life an incentive to works of practical piety.
Up to this point the life of David had been, to a remarkable degree, one of action. From childhood upward it is likely that he had passed little enough time which could be called idle time. The first employment, however, in which he had been engaged, that of the shepherd, may be safely presumed to have fostered the power of contemplation as well as of action, and to have been distinctly favourable to meditation. There can be little doubt that the very germs of the moral reflection which the psalms of later life manifest in such rich abundance took their origin thence. The grandeur of the aspects of external nature were thence suggested to him many a time, in strange contrast to many of the aspects of human life and the individual character. And again, from the same source of personal knowledge, at a glance, and quick as the twinkling of an eye, he saw the analogy that obtained between the works of nature and those of providence. Most noticeable, likewise, is it, that David rarely enough speaks in the slightest approach to the temper of the censorious critic of others, or of men in general. When his meditation is most comprehensive, and his deliverance universal in its application, it is perhaps even too plain, rather than not plain enough, that they come forth strongly marked with the impress of personal conviction, personal struggle of thought, personal experience. Nor is it likely that the months and years of his fearing and persecuted life had passed without much and deep thought. These are the realities of life that make to think those who have a mind to think. Amazed, pathetic, melancholy, and anon all strong in faith and buoyant with confidence, were the thoughts that paced what none would deny, were the ample spaces of the large mind of David. Yet perhaps, what with personal fear and danger, wars and rumours of wars, and an ever-increasing load of responsibility, succeeded now, and somewhat suddenly, by greatness and prosperity, his care of late had been somewhat too self-regarding. He has made his position—at all events, his position is made. His home is no longer the den and cave of the earth; he has builded himself a mansion of mansions—at all events, such a mansion is builded for him. We wait with interest and anxiety to know how he will use these great gifts, with what sort of heart and hand he will address himself to them. We do not wait very long, nor to be disappointed in the event. David shows that he is moved by a right principle himself, and he exhibits that principle in a very simple manner, the convenient example for all others. Let us observe —
I. THE GENERAL PRINCIPLE, THAT IN WHAT A MAN HAS, OR IN WHAT HE IS HIMSELF, HE FINDS THE SUGGESTION THAT BEARS UPON OTHERS. This principle is the prohibition of selfishness, absolute and pure. It is one of the most elementary, most radical, most significant of the distinctions of the nature of man, as containing a moral element, and the nature of the brute presumably devoid of any such element, Resident as it is almost within the sphere of the mere mental qualities of human nature, unless destroyed or impaired first by causes of a moral complexion, it is nature's own simplest assertion and easiest illustration of the outrage it must be on all creation's design in man, when any one "liveth to himself" to such a degree as to disown it practically. To exemplify this principle both consciously and unconsciously, alike instinctively and intelligently, is to remain one of the brotherhood of humanity; to disacknowledge it, or to fail in practice to acknowledge it, is to exclude one's self, an impoverished and miserable outcast, from the comity of the family as such.
II. THE PRINCIPLE THAT IN WHAT A MAN HAS HIMSELF OF GOOD, HE FINDS THE SUGGESTION WAKENED IN HIM TO SEEK THE ADVANTAGE OF OTHERS. There are not a few who, thinking they have nothing or little, will think of others quickly, but only to compare themselves disparagingly to God's providence with them. There are not a few who, knowing that they have much, will promptly think of others, but it is to feed the ill nature within them, on envy of those who have more than they. And there are those who, having all that heart could wish and hands can hold, think that it is all absolutely so their own, that to think of others is only to think that they are without part or lot in the matter. They owe none of it to God's gift. They owe none of it to man's help. They have gained and they have risen, all thanks and all credit only to themselves. And all that they have and all that they are is to and for themselves. But there are in human nature different dictates from these. There are those who compare themselves with others, to wonder unfeignedly why God has made them to differ, and in deepest humility to acknowledge their indebtedness to him. There are these who from the heart believe that "it is more blessed to give than to receive," and whose first dictate is to give of all which they gain. They know and heed well the word that reminded them once," Freely ye have received, freely give," and they have found for themselves that there is no life they so really have as that they give. Alike those who long to have but think they have not, and those who beyond question have, and have much, need most to be reminded what things possession, and large possession, has proved its power to effect. It is very apt to kill sympathy, to chill charity, to ingrain selfishness, and to create the overweening and haughty temper. Happy indeed when the contrary holds good, and that which should be in the nature God once created, exists and is still manifest. This was the case now with David, in spite of the peril in which he was placed. He had already abundantly shown that in all his own good he wished others to take a share.
III. THE PRINCIPLE OF BEING STIMULATED BY THE EXPERIENCE AND ENJOYMENT OF ONE'S OWN GOOD TO SEEK THE GOOD OF OTHERS, PRESENTED NOW IN ONE OF THE HIGHEST POSSIBLE OF ITS APPLICATIONS. The visible object of David's loving and sympathetic anxiety is now no longer human; it is the ark of God. Everything helps favour and set forth happily the example here given to us. Though the words are so few, the description so brief, it is a very living impression which they combine to produce upon us. It is not so often that the imagery of the East, the life of three thousand years ago, and the very language of the Old Testament, so accord for a moment with our own modern habits and feeling. We are invited to see David at ease in his own new house. He sits in that house. A friend and sacred friend, a prophet, is with him. He has been thinking many a time of that which he now resolves to put upon his lip, and confide to his prophet-friend. He has a house now for the first time, it may be said, in all his life. It is his own, and in every way his own, built for him and built by him. He knows every piece of cedar in it, and every block of stone. This means comfort for a man who has had a very driven, anxious, wearying life. It means stability for a man who was ordered about at first, hunted about secondly, and more lately in his own responsibility has been compelled to strain every nerve to meet the urgencies of his position. It means also safety, for David is now undisputed and sole king of all the land. And it means splendour exceeding all that his nation had ever known, and all that surrounding nations had known. That grand new house, however, would never have been the joy and satisfaction it is but that other work of his hand had been blessed, and the ark is in Zion. Yes, but the ark is not housed so worthily as David is himself, whereas he feels justly that it should be entertained far more worthily. It appears that it is not human sympathy merely which warms the heart of David. The principle is great and sacred, but there is for all that something which is higher, more sacred still. David would do honour to the God of the ark in finding a worthy temple-canopy for the ark of God. He believes in the Church of the living God, and in the living God of the Church. The "invisible appears in sight;" his gaze, his thought, his heart, are all held by it. He would spend untold labour, lavish unmeasured wealth, summon the pick of all the earth's wisdom and art and skill, in the service of him, who nevertheless needs no richest gifts of man, because all the wealth of all the universe is his. And David's thought is acceptable, and his purpose is right. There is the unwonted nobility of a spiritual purview about it. The homage of the heart is indisputably there. Practical faith is there. The merit of a grand national, ay, and universal, example is there. Here is no covert showing of sympathy, and giving of gift, and rendering of honour due, with indirect calculations and sidelong glances of how much shall come back in kind from admiring and surrounding and obsequious courtiers and friend. No, the servant is in the presence of the Master. The subject before the King of kings. The creature before the great Creator. The blessed dependent before the sole Giver of all good. And this fills him with shame, with humility, with impassioned desire, and the worship of practical piety. I, who have received all, and am but what God has given and God made me, dwell in a house of cedar, while the ark of his covenant remaineth under curtains!
1. There is doubtless no position in human life but has sufficient cause of thankfulness to stir up men of grateful heart to the exercise of compassion toward their fellow-creatures, and to the service and devotion of God.
2. But there is a law going further. It should be observed that for all increase of worldly good, strength, comfort, wealth, splendour, more sympathy with others, more compassion and charity toward them, should be yielded by the heart, and likewise more service and devotedness to God.
3. The highest and the surest forms of sympathy are those that obtain between man, and the Invisible, Spiritual, Eternal.
1 Chronicles 17:2-5.-God's obstructions of the good purposes of men, and the uses of such obstructions.
The greatest trials of man's faith lie in the working of the sovereignty of God. Yet there is not an individual attribute of the Creator to be yielded to him more unreservedly than this same sovereignty, which may be said to include in it the rights of many an attribute. The Divine frustration of our purposes, disappointment of our hopes, and summary determination of many a life that we thought made for the highest service, often enough elude all the acumen of our reason, and bring to nought in one moment the pride of creature-wisdom. But so soon as ever we are recovered from the first severity of the blow and from the deep prostration which it has inferred, it is always left to us to search for, gather, and compare the relative uses that may attend cases of this description of suffering. We may vainly seek the reason, as vainly as try to search the immortal mind itself; but far from vainly shall we attempt to observe attendant uses and lessons. Human wisdom is, indeed, never in so fair a way for increase and improvement as when thus engaged. The present narrative contains little or nothing of difficulty, however, either in respect of finding the reasons of God's prohibition, in the instance before us, or in respect of gathering the lessons and uses suggested by that prohibition. Let us notice —
I. THE REASONS, SO FAR AS HERE GIVEN, OF GOD'S DENIAL OF DAVID IN THE GOOD PURPOSE OF HIS HEART. It is remarkable that neither this passage nor the parallel to it states the one of these reasons on which the real stress would have been supposed to fall. We will notice this, therefore, in its place (1 Chronicles 22:8), inasmuch as the silence about it here is entire. We must not pass unnoticed, however, one and perhaps the only sign of an explanation of this silence which we can find. In both this and the parallel place the historian speaks. In 1 Chronicles 22:8, 1 Chronicles 28:3, where all the facts are boldly stated, it is the noble-hearted David himself who speaks; and in 1 Kings 5:3, where we have what may be called an intermediate account as regards fulness, the son Solomon speaks. Equally honourable to the historian and to David himself are these circumstances, to whatever further use they lend themselves. And no distant analogies will the New Testament yield, as e.g. when it is not the Evangelist John who will record some shortcoming of Peter, where Peter himself would have made clean breast of it all, with noble spirit of confession and self-surrender. Confining ourselves, then, to the reasons recorded in our present passage, they must stand confessed as of the most condescending and touching description. We must notice, first, that the reasons assigned for the refusal of permission to David to build do not carry the slightest reflection on him or his character, or the character of his foregoing life—the matter is viewed now not from the "standpoint" of David at all, but, if that may be reverently said by human lip which is so graciously done by Divine act, from the "standpoint" of the Divine Personage himself; and secondly, that those reasons do not exclude from consideration the fulfilment of the purpose of David's heart, but only his own fulfilment of that purpose. "Praying breath," sings one, "is never spent in vain." And holy purpose and noble religious ambition are not learn and nourished in vain. They often fulfil more purpose in the subject of them, than their realization by himself would fulfil for the object of them, or for others generally. Personal disappointment, times without number, shall signify personal improvement, and not signify any loss to the general community, nor to the course of the world. Those reasons are delicately put, but will have been fully appreciated by David; and they are full of tenderest suggestion. They are:
1. That the Divine Friend, Leader, Captain, has for ages and generations shared the pilgrim lot of his people. If they have not had a fixed home, so has it been with him also. If they have travelled from place to place, so has he also.
2. That he has shared this pilgrim lot of the people without a murmur, without a reproach, a request, or even a suggestion addressed to them. How often had they murmured, but he never! How often had they done worse than murmur! They had rebelled against the Holy One of Israel; but he had forgiven their backslidings, had not forsaken them, and to the last ripe hour would carry on his own wise, consistent, gracious purpose. They for whose sake all the journey, all the discipline, all the teaching, all the promise were, had wearied, and been impatient; but he had borne all the sorrow, and stood the mark of all the ingratitude, and gives up no jot nor. tittle of the good purpose of his great decrees. He suffers with them, for them; he hears and still forbears.
3. That he will not even now anticipate by an hour, as it were, the established peace, happiness, and home of his people. Not till they are where he designs to place them, and have all that he purposes to give them, will he permit his own house to be builded, his own throne to be set, or himself to "arise and enter into his rest." Great every way is the moral sublimity of this position, when brought into comparison with that so often assumed by men. Each thinks for himself, each snatches for himself, each hastens to make secure above all his own position first. And in the very instance before us, whether more or less rightly, David has built his own house first—has set the example, and established himself first, a representative of the people, and of how it should be with them also. But the Divine Leader and Lord of the people all, both nation and king, observes this different order. He fixes the time, the place, the peace and rest of all, before he will allow that the hour has come for himself. It is a little type and a suggestive analogy of what is ever going on throughout nature and the entire world. All the forces of these are at work, and intensely active; their push and strife and tumult are wonderful. They are beneath all appearances finding their own place and fulfilling their legitimate mission, till when they all are satisfied, the Lord shall enter in an emphatic sense his holy temple. A moment all the earth shall keep silence before him, but the next moment the vast theatre shall resound again with his praise. Whatever fitness of time there may have seemed to David to be present now, we may understand God to say that he knows all that shall he yet, and is biding the moment of supreme occasion. Nor is there a lesson that more needs, in all our impatience and short-sighted eagerness, to be made familiar with us, and to be accepted with the sacredness of a principle.
II. THE USES OF GOD'S DENIAL OF HUMAN PURPOSES, EVEN WHEN AS WELL MEANT AS THAT OF DAVID. Such uses may have been very many, and a large proportion of them very indirect, in the present instance. But if not so in any one particular case—if, on the contrary, very few and definite in their character—the other alternative will prove the rule. The apparent slight which God puts on our purposes and our higher aspirations, we may rest assured, is but an apparent slight. It is not real, and is compensated for by what vastly outweighs the pain and disappointment and sorrow of it. Those Divine contradictions:
1. Save us from self-dependence and spiritual pride. These are two of the most noxious weeds, and most baneful their shade, which grow in a nature spiritually inclined.
2. They exert a direct tendency to increase the wisdom and circumspection and adaptedness of our human purposes. If our aspirations are not still continued, they were not deep, and are not entitled to any sympathy if blown away like chaff by the wind. But if they were deep and genuine, then we take them back again, nurse them in our hearts, and even improve upon them. The poor thing called our wisdom then grows ― perhaps only then.
3. They increase the deep, calm purity of our heart's purpose. Amazing is the proportion of ecclesiastical zeal, priestly zeal, zeal to have dominion over other men's souls, and to usurp domination over their whole life thereby, compared with the zeal for God's glory, simple and pure, and man's soul in its infinite value, infinite danger. If any spiritual purpose were fed by the inflammable fuel of success, a fire would be lighted which would know no suppression, but which would inevitably, in a vast majority of cases, fatally envelop first of all them that lit it.
4. They will increase the reverence and deep religious fear of our noblest human purposes. Easy usefulness, uniform success, rapidly engenders perfunctory service, and perfunctory service bespeaks prompt disaster, wherever it touches the temple, the Church, the altar.
5. They will, in fact, increase force. No loss will in the event be sustained. That which can best be spared will have disappeared. The good will be left. And though that good may not show the same bulk, nor utter the larger volume of sound, it will be irresistible. It will work its way, steal its way, penetrate its way; it will thaw the ice, break the stone, melt the iron of human hearts; it will be mighty with the breath of God's own spirit. When, therefore, God holds back awhile our good purpose, it is to make good better. And the better good will always make in the long run the mightier good.
1 Chronicles 17:17.-The last glory of God's goodness to his servants found in the distant horizon he offers to their vision.
This verse contains a part of David's response to the communication which had been made to him. That communication had contained a refusal, and one which under most circumstances would have been felt to be charged with a disappointment sufficient to overspread all the scene with gloom, and to require some little time to recover from. But there was much in the communication to heal at once that disappointment, and to prevent the rankling of offended feeling and affection. It was all couched in gracious language, spoken in a gentle tone though firm, accompanied with reasoning and some individual reasons, softened by tender memories, and memories very suggestive and instructive; and above all, if it wanted in the present, the present want was abundantly compensated for by a sure promise of the future; if it lacked anything directly to himself, it were easy to bear it, when that lack was to be turned into glorious abundance in the person of his own best-loved Son. Accordingly, this response of David is found to be one of very prompt, very dutiful submission. David bows to the Divine fiat and kisses the rod which smites. The response goes beyond meek surrender and unhesitating acquiescence. David cordially accepts the representations made, and every turn and illustration and enforcement of them drawn from his own fast life. He knows every word to be true. He knows what he owes to special favour, special promotion, special deliverance, and continued faithful protection. The "sheep-cotes" of old, and his "palace of cedars" of to-day, proclaim facts and tell a tale that melt his heart not to submission only, but to grateful love. And his response is filled with grateful thanksgiving, trustful prayer, adoring praise. In all this response of David, nothing, perhaps, is more effective, nothing meant more than the touch contained in this verse, "Thou hast spoken of thy servant's house for a great while to come." Let us notice here —
I. THE FIRST FORM OF A VERY GREAT PRINCIPLE, AS IT PRESENTED ITSELF TO THE VIEW OF DAVID. Something, it is abundantly evident, took very firm hold of David's fancy in the continuity of the promise made to him, in his son Solomon and the line of his succession. But it is a little thing to say it took hold of his fancy. It took hold of much that was deepest in him—far deeper than fancy is generally held to go. The light of David, we often say, and probably not incorrectly, was dim. But something else was not very dim, it would appear. Nature and instinct, feeling and affection, aspiration and its silent pertinacious testimony, looking ever to the upward and the onward,—these were not so very dim. All, however, that appears on the surface now was this. David has been reminded, in language very plain, of the rock whence he was hewn, and the pit whence he was digged; of the low estate of his onetime life, and of how he owes an unwonted much to the goodness, unmerited, sovereign, of his almighty Patron and Defender. His early life is summarized. All his past life to this throbbing hour is exhibited, brought well into the foreground. Not a feature of it does David dispute. No wounded vanity, nor vanity unwounded, strives to draw a veil on his humble origin. To the full he accepts and proceeds upon the description given him of himself, and acknowledges, Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto? And yet" (one might have thought David knew the modern adage, though reverently, "Gratitude a lively sense of favours to come") "this was a small thing in thine eyes, O God" (it evidently was now, comparatively speaking, a small thing in his own eyes); "for thou hast also spoken of thy servant's house for a great while to come." The continuity of the goodness and favour of God, and the continuity of them to a future a great distance off, evidently riveted and fascinated the thought of David. And was there not something great, something good, something of a high type in this? Let us track —
II. THE ESSENTIAL SIGNIFICANCE, THE RADICAL ELEMENTS PRESENT IN THE PRINCIPLE WHICH APPEARS TO TAKE NOW SUCH A HOLD ON DAVID. Very true it is that the indications are many, and scarcely mistakable, of sense pressing heavy on patriarch and priest, king and prophet, of Old Testament history. Some striking exceptions, however, there are to the contrary. And perhaps, in almost all cases, there are to be found traces of exception in a direction least to have been reckoned upon a priori, viz. in the matter of the admirable distribution of attention and love, which marked their regard for both body and soul after death. For the pious Israelite great was the fascination of the future—that future that began where sense ended. His reverent provision for the body then meant something altogether different from the ostentation of funeral obsequies. It was thought and imaginings upborne on strong pinions of faith, and impelled by the temperate and obedient force of a far-enduring patience. Pride of pedigree and of the traceable genealogies of a dozen centuries forepast, how this dwarfs before the excursions of a taught faith, a trained imagination, an inspired hope, that peer into that "great while to come" called the eternal future! It is evident that this lies at the root of David's deep satisfaction and adoring gratitude now. He had been reared of nothing, and was but of yesterday, but the revealed word that is spoken to him gives him to 'scry a far future. And for him to feel joy in this, two elements must have been present.
1. A very vital faith took hold of the idea that was contained in assurance and promise for his son and his people.
2. And the idea becomes at once welcome fact; the earnest is possession. His heart transports him into the future, and converts that future into so much good bona fide present. These are among the greatest triumphs of a taught, a receptive, a willing spiritual nature. It is the diametrical opposite of the disposition of those who must have all now, and to whom the future is less than shadow, nothing more than utter fiction. There are not a few who want to have things irreconcilable. They want to have the pleasures of sin, which are essentially "for a season," and not forfeit those advantages which as essentially come of present abstinence and a patient waiting. The faith that really apprehends the unseen, the patient waiting that willingly defers fruition, are the two guarantees, so far as human quality and human conditions are involved, that qualify the human to transmute itself into the Divine, and the mortal to merge into immortality. And David testifies to these imperial possessions now. He acquiesces in one moment in everything that is evidenced derogatory to claim, merit, dignity, in his own past, in order to seize with passionate eagerness, with grateful acknowledgment, on that which is spoken concerning him and his, for the "great while to come." In these essential facts, then, David is a religious model for even Christian times, for all times. To be able to lose sight in favour of gaining faith, to part with sense to apprehend spirit, to quit the present in order to dwell in the future and occupy it with the objects of affection beforehand,—these are the distinguishing characteristics of the spiritual anti the newborn. And the best part of these David had, when he pleaded guilty to any and all disparagement of the past; didn't stop to look a second time at the personal disappointment of the present, but did "embrace" eagerly and with all his heart the proffered possession of the "great while to come."
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
1 Chronicles 17:1, 1 Chronicles 17:2.-Generous purposes.
Some time had elapsed since David had brought up the ark from Kirjath-jearim to Jerusalem. Although the king had lodged the sacred chest in a handsome tabernacle, he was not satisfied; for he did not consider that he had rendered to the symbol of the Divine presence and authority the honour that was due. Himself dwelling in a palace of cedar-wood, he desired to see a house of stately magnificence built for the service of his God.
I. A KING'S PROPOSAL. It was in David's heart to adorn and sanctify his metropolis by a temple which should serve as the emblem of the nation's consecration to Jehovah.
1. We observe in this desire of the king how respect for God and the ordinances of his worship may lead to purposes of labour and self-sacrifice. It is possible that vanity and ostentation may lead to some enterprises of magnitude which may pass for evidences of religious fervour. Yet oftentimes an affectionate and grateful heart has found expression in costly and at the same time useful undertakings.
2. We observe also that generosity is never better employed than in advancing the glory of God. This may be done not merely by what are distinctively termed religious acts, but by deeds of benevolence and philanthropy, animated by the love of Christ.
II. A PROPHET'S ENCOURAGEMENT. David unfolded to his counsellor, Nathan the prophet, the generous intention of his heart. Sometimes those who in such circumstances are taken into confidence and counsel repress the liberal designs unfolded to them. But Nathan took another course. What wisdom and right feeling are apparent in the counsel, "Do all that is thine heart"! And it should be remarked that Nathan brought the truths and promises of religion to bear upon the royal heart. "God is with thee." That was as much as to say—God has put the desire in thy heart; God will assist thee in carrying out thy project; and God will accept what it is thy purpose to offer him.—T.
1 Chronicles 17:7-11.-Assurance of favour.
The Lord acknowledged the goodness of David's wish to build him a house, even when refusing permission for that wish to be gratified. And the Lord made this occurrence an opportunity for expressing his regard for his servant. Reminding David of his past faithfulness, he assured him of continued favour. He who had been so distinguished by marks of Divine interest and approval in the past, could not fail to place confidence in the expression of an unchanging kindness. This passage is remarkable as representing the favour of God revealed in especial fulness and richness.
I. David was assured of God's favour, TO HIMSELF PERSONALLY. We are told that the poet-king was "a man after God's heart." Certainly, all his life through he was the object of singular kindness and forbearance. Elevation from a lowly to the loftiest station, assistance against all his enemies, an honourable reputation, an established throne,—such were the instances of Divine favour which David received at the Lord's hands. Prosperity and power, wealth and fame, followed a youth of romantic adventure and hardships and vicissitudes. That outward prosperity shall attend every one of the Lord's people is what no intelligent person can expect; but every true Christian may' rejoice in the assurance of that loving-kindness which is "better than life," of that faithfulness which never leaves, never forsakes, those who confide in it.
II. FAVOUR WAS PROMISED TO DAVID'S POSTERITY. All men, and especially nobles and kings, count the prosperity and advancement of their children as part of their own well-being. The reader of Aristotle's 'Ethics' is aware that the ancient Athenians were wont to consider a man's happiness as bound up with the good fortune of his children. David had won a throne by his ability and valour; it was natural that he should desire to have a successor upon that throne who should maintain the renown and the power of the founder of the royal house. Hence the assurance, "The Lord will build thee an house," was one peculiarly welcome to the son of Jesse. No true Christian can be indifferent as to the welfare of his children. Nothing gives such a one greater joy than to see his sons and daughters walking in the truth. He sins if he sets his heart upon their temporal advancement and prosperity. But he is right in seeking and in praying for their salvation. When God's favour brings them to fellowship with Christ, it seems to him that his "cup runneth over."
III. FAVOUR WAS PROMISED TO DAVID'S PEOPLE. When the Lord sent to his servant a message of mercy and a promise of peace and blessing, he perfected the grace by a large and liberal declaration of his intentions of favour toward Israel Monarch and subjects were to be alike blessed. Israel should be planted, should not be moved or wasted, and should be victorious over all enemies. When a nation is assured of Divine care and protection, "blessed is the people that is in such a case." For his is the blessing that maketh rich, and with it he addeth no sorrow. A true patriot will desire for his country, not only wealth and renown and power, but the righteousness which "exalteth a nation." Such prosperity as, in the ninth and eleventh verses, was promised to Israel, could not but be welcome. When we implore the Divine favour, let it not be for ourselves alone, but for "our kindred according to the flesh." The king, the statesman, the reformer, rejoices when his country's good is secured, when the smile of the Almighty rests upon the land "from the beginning unto the end of the year." The prayer of every true patriot should be, "God be merciful unto us, and bless us, and cause his face to shine upon us."—T.
1 Chronicles 17:7, 1 Chronicles 17:8.-God in individual history.
In what way the Lord communicated with Nathan we do not know; but the sacred history represents him as choosing the prophet as the means of making known to the king his holy will. On this occasion, Nathan was directed to preface his divinely given instructions by the remarkable declaration of the text; to remind David that God had been near him, had been with him, all his life through. General truths of the most vital interest are propounded in these simple words.
I. DIVINE PROVIDENCE HAS CARE OF EACH HUMAN LIFE. A very childish notion of providence is that God concerns himself with the affairs of nations and Churches, bat cannot condescend to interest himself in individuals. This misconception arises from too mean a view of the omnipresent and omniscient Supreme. Well may we exclaim, "What is man, that thou art mindful of him?"
II. DIVINE PROVIDENCE CAN SUMMON FROM THE LOWLIEST TO THE LOFTIEST STATION. David was raised from the sheepcote to the throne. And his is but one of many similar cases of marvellous exaltation. God's election of his servants for work which he has for them to do calls for our amazed admiration; he finds and fashions instruments for every service. And Scripture is full of examples of the exercise of his sovereign prerogative. He exalts the lowly and abases the proud. He proves his royalty by choosing those whom men would have passed by, and the event ever honours and attests his wisdom.
III. DIVINE PROVIDENCE CAN ACCOMPLISH ITS PURPOSES NOTWITHSTANDING ALL OBSTACLES. The Lord reminded David of his presence, of his protecting and delivering care and mercy, of the prosperity which he had vouchsafed to his servant. When God takes a work in hand, he suffers nothing to thwart him. Obstacles disappear; opposition is disarmed; enemies are defeated. When God designates a man for a special service, he imparts all needful qualifications; he removes every hindrance to efficiency; he gets himself glory in the glory of his servant.
1. Be content with your lot; high or low, it is what an all-wise Father has appointed.
2. Be grateful for the past, remembering the way by which he has led you.
3. Be trustful for the future.
"Father, I know that all my life
Is portioned out for me,
And the changes that will surely come
I do not fear to see:
But I ask thee for a present mind,
Intent on pleasing thee."
1 Chronicles 17:12.-A mutual covenant.
This prophetic declaration must be read in the light of subsequent events; for it was fulfilled in the annals of Solomon's peaceful and prosperous reign. The king did build God a house, a service and honour not permitted to his father. God did establish Solomon's throne, giving him victory, peace, wealth, wisdom, and fame. The connection between the two parts of this verse is very instructive, exhibiting as it does the relation between God and his people. He, in mercy, condescends to accept their services, and at the same time confers upon them the tokens of his favour, blessing and prosperity.
I. WHAT WE MAY DO FOR GOD. In using such language, we must bear in mind our entire dependence. It is only by employing the powers our Creator has given, the opportunities he has afforded us, that we can be enabled to accomplish any work for his glory. He gives the motive to all service in the love of Christ, the power for all service in the grace of the Holy Spirit. Still, just as Solomon was permitted to build God a house, so every Christian has some edifice of holy, devoted, acceptable service to rear to his Saviour's praise. It is matter for wondering gratitude that we, poor, ignorant, feeble, helpless creatures, should be allowed to do anything for the honour of the Most High God; that he should deign to accept anything at our unworthy hands. Yet we are not only at liberty, we are actually invited, first, to provide in our heart an habitation for the Eternal, and further to construct some building of fair deeds of holiness and benevolence which shall glorify his sacred name.
II. WHAT GOD WILL DO FOR US. Regarding Solomon, this was the Lord's promise: "I will establish his throne for ever." Our calling, our circumstances, differ from those of Israel's king. Yet there is a certain appropriateness in this language, as applied to all the people of God. The blessings of spiritual strength, stability, and peace, are assured by a gracious and covenant God to all his people. He is their "Sun and Shield." His compassion toward them shall not fail. They shall rejoice in his favour and his faithfulness. "They shall not be ashamed or confounded, world without end."
1. Let us diligently seek God's favour. It is in Christ that he has shown himself gracious. His favour is life, and it may be secured by every lowly, faithful applicant.
2. Let us show our sense of God's favour to us, by offering our devoted service to him. The wonder is even greater that God should suffer us to do aught for him, than that he should do so much for us. Let us respond to his summons, and "arise and build."—T.
1 Chronicles 17:13.-Father and son.
These words are by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews applied to the Lord Jesus Christ, who was, in an especially and pre-eminent sense, the Son of God. Yet the context, and still more the parallel passage in the Second Book of Samuel, makes it evident that they were originally spoken with reference to Solomon. We are warranted, by the teaching of the New Testament, in applying them to all those who are children of God by faith in Christ Jesus, who have been adopted into the spiritual family, and made heirs of Divine promises. Of this glorious doctrine of the Divine Fatherhood, so clearly and powerfully revealed in the New Testament, there are intimations, such as the present, in various parts of the Old Testament Scriptures.
I. IN WHAT GOD'S FATHERHOOD CONSISTS. This is shown to some extent in the context, and in the narrative of Solomon's early life and reign. But generally speaking we may rejoice that the fatherhood of God is shown in:
1. His providential care. As a Father, our Creator supplies the wants, both temporal and spiritual, of his dependent family.
2. His tender love. There is more than goodness, more than bounty, in God's treatment of his children. They have a moral nature able to appreciate kindness, forbearance, sympathy, and love. And, in his treatment of them, he has adapted his communications and his conduct to their spiritual need.
3. His wise discipline. It is distinctive of a true father's sway, that it aims at the highest good of the children. God certainly appoints trials for his offspring, and he reveals to us the consolatory truth, "Whom he loveth he scourgeth, and chastensth every child whom he receiveth." When we suffer he is not insensible. "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him."
4. His purposes for his children's future. As a father looks forward, and trains his son for the duties and responsibilities of after-life, so the great Father in heaven is maturing us for other scenes, higher employments, purer joys.
II. WHAT HUMAN SONSHIP INVOLVES. A true son is sensible of his father's watchful care, thoughtful kindness, tender affection. And he renders a filial return. In worship there is involved:
1. Gratitude. From God's spiritual family there goes up to heaven a daily song of thanksgiving and praise, for favour and forbearance never failing.
2. Reverence and submission. The awful superiority of God must impress every just mind. The prayer offered will begin with the ascription, "Hallowed be thy Name."
3. Love. For, though so high, God is yet a Father, and "we love him, because he first loved us."
4. Obedience. This is the true test of filial reverence and of filial affection. There is no unfailing proof of love's sincerity save this.
5. Likeness. For, born anew by God's Spirit, God's children are imitators of God, resembling him in the moral features of his holy and amiable character. Admire the glorious work of the Divine and gracious Spirit.—T.
1 Chronicles 17:16.-Humility.
This chapter is one of peculiar beauty, as exhibiting at once the gracious intentions of the Lord towards one of his servants, and the grateful response of that servant to the condescension and loving-kindness with which he was treated. The spirit of self-abnegation and humility breathing in the language of the text awakens our admiration, and calls for our imitation. We are reminded by these words of —
I. OUR UNWORTHINESS AND ILL DESERT. "Who am I… that thou hast brought me hitherto?" It is an unwonted attitude for many minds. Men are so prone to regard their own fancied excellences, that language of humiliation and contrition is often suspected of insincerity. Yet, in the presence of him who is at once the perfectly holy and the Searcher of hearts, what more appropriate than prostration of soul and acknowledgment of sin?
II. GOD'S GRACE AND KINDNESS TO THOSE WHO DEPEND UPON HIM. The Lord exalts the humble and meek. The king acknowledged not only his own utter unworthiness of the distinction accorded to him, but God's infinite mercy and goodness in his treatment of his servant. "According to thine own heart hast thou done all this greatness." There are in Scripture many beautiful examples of God's grace to the lowly in heart. Read the song of Hannah, and the Magnificat of Mary the mother of Jesus; and observe how the Lord is acknowledged as the great King who delights to have mercy upon the feeble who yet are faithful, and to put honour upon them, and reveal to them his love and mercy. In fact, revelation abounds with practical proofs of God's purpose ever to reject the proud, and to favour and exalt the meek, the lowly, and the contrite. It is upon those who sincerely ask, "Who am I?" that the Lord of glory delights to confer the tokens of his approval and favour.
III. THE SPECIAL FAVOUR SHOWN TO US BY GOD, WHO DEIGNS TO USE US IT HIS SERVICE ANY KINGDOM. Evidently David felt that the highest honour was put upon him in being allowed to serve Jehovah—to be an instrument in his hands for the carrying out of Divine purposes. What dignity and happiness does it give to life, to know that we are commissioned and employed by the King of kings!
1. These considerations should enhance our conceptions of God's glory and grace. Let us recount his mercies, and acknowledge their Divine source.
2. They should induce us to consecrate afresh to Heaven the nature Heaven has created, and the powers Heaven has conferred.—T.
1 Chronicles 17:20-22.-God incomparable.
Surrounded as they were by idolatrous nations, it was natural that the Israelites should often draw comparisons between their own God, and the God of the whole earth, on the one hand, and the so-called gods of the heathen on the other. The most important contrast would be in character; for, whilst the idolatrous peoples worshipped gods who were the impersonation of cruelty, caprice, and lust, Jehovah was worshipped as a holy, a righteous, a merciful Lord and Ruler. Yet there was another contrast—that between the powerlessness of the idols of the nations, and the might and wisdom of the true and living God. In Psalms 115:1-18. this contrast is wrought out with vigour and irony.
I. THERE IS NONE LIKE GOD IN HIS BEING. All creatures, as their name implies, are fashioned by a superior power, and upheld in life by him in whom they "live and move and have their being." The Lord is the self-existing Being, who is from eternity to eternity.
II. THERE IS NONE LIKE GOD IN HIS ATTRIBUTES. All our qualities of mind are derived from him, and, so far as they are excellent, they are gleams of his brightness. Human virtues are the growth of a Divine seed. But in Jehovah all perfections meet and harmonize.
III. THERE IS NONE LIKE GOD IN HIS PROVIDENCE. This seems especially to have impressed the mind of the king, when he poured forth his adoring thanksgiving before the Lord. The recollection of God's goodness and faithfulness, not only to himself and his household, but also to the nation of Israel, awakened his grateful and admiring praises. And we too have these reasons in abundance to prompt our thanksgivings and confidence.
II. THERE IS NONE LIKE GOD IN MERCY AND LOVING-KINDNESS. These are attributes of God; but they are attributes called into exercise by our state and position as sinners in the sight of the Searcher of hearts, the righteous Judge and King. In this passage David acknowledges that God redeemed his people Israel, made them his own, became their God. How gloriously are these expressions justified in the dispensation of the gospel, of God's infinite love towards our race in the gift. and the effective mediation of his dear Son! Let these reflections
(1) awaken our gratitude to him who has made himself known to us, and who, though incomparable and alone, deigns to communicate in grace and compassion with us; and
(2) prompt us to testify to his adorable excellence, and to summon our brethren, the children of men, to put their trust under the shadow of his wings.—T.
1 Chronicles 17:27.-A father's prayer.
This was a prayer founded upon a promise. God had declared his purposes towards the seed of his servant David, and David was honouring God's faithfulness, as well as expressing his own heart's desire, when he thus solemnly and confidently invoked the blessing of the Giver of all good upon his household and his posterity.
I. FAMILY FEELING IS DIVINELY ORDAINED. Nations of warriors have sometimes regarded and treated such feeling as weakness. On the contrary, it is implanted by the Creator; and God, the universal Father, cannot but be pleased with fatherly sentiment and fatherly care on the part of the heads of human households.
II. FAMILY FEELING IS HALLOWED BY RELIGION. Always a beautiful thing, a father's love becomes a holy thing when it is sanctified by a spiritual tone of mind and a spiritual habit of life.
III. FAMILY FEELING WILL PROMPT A FATHER'S PRAYERS. If it is natural to wish well to our children, it is religious to express those wishes before him who does so much to fulfil our best and purest desires. As it would be criminal in any parent to be careless as to his children's future, so it would be monstrous in a Christian parent to omit to commend his offspring to the care and guidance, love and sympathy, of our Father in heaven.
IV. FAMILY FEELING WILL LOOK FORWARD TO THE COMMON ENJOYMENT OF BLESSINGS DURING THE ENDLESS FUTURE. It is questionable whether the language of the text has any reference to the future state. In praying that his house might be "before the Lord for ever," and so "blessed for ever," David was probably contemplating the permanence of his throne and that of his descendants. His prayer has been answered in a manner deeper than he could have anticipated. But we are bound to seek for our posterity an immortal happiness, and to anticipate for our families reunion in the presence and in the service of the Eternal.—T.
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
1 Chronicles 17:1-6.-Truths under the surface.
A very pleasant picture is here presented to our imagination. We see the King of Israel sitting in his house, "the Lord having given him rest round about from all his enemies" (2 Samuel 7:1), with a happy and grateful sense of prosperity and security, not wrapping himself in the dangerous robe of complacent self-congratulation, but rather clothed with humility and thankfulness. As he surveys the stateliness and elegance of his palace, he thinks of God's goodness to him in placing "his feet in a large room" (Psalms 31:8), and his thought naturally passed to the place where the ark rested—the ark with which the presence of Jehovah was so closely connected (Exodus 25:22). We do not wonder at the thought which then occurred to him. We see in these verses those truths which are not upon the surface, but which we have no difficulty in recognizing beneath it.
I. THE SOUND SENTIMENT AT THE HEART OF DAVID'S DESIRE, David felt that there was an impropriety in himself dwelling "in an house of cedars" while "the ark of the covenant of the Lord remained under curtains" (1 Chronicles 17:1). Was it for him to be in better and more costly surroundings than was the manifested presence of God himself? Should he be more honoured in his dwelling-place than the ark of the covenant of the Lord? There is a sound sentiment here; one that was and is worthy not only of respect but cultivation. We are always to give God the very best we can offer him; the less costly we may expend on ourselves, the best we should reserve for him. We should be ashamed to lay out large sums of money on our own homes while the house of God needs renovation or repair; to expend a large proportion of our income on our own honour or gratification when the cause of Christ is languishing for want of funds, when the treasury of Christian benevolence is empty. Not most for ourselves with a very small fraction for God and his kingdom, but enough (or even more than enough) for ourselves and the most and best we can furnish for him and for his. That is the true thought of the reverent mind, Hebrew and Christian.
II. THE TRUE THOUGHT AT THE HEART OF NATHAN'S COUNSEL. "DO all that is in thine heart; for God is with thee." The prophet's encouragement of the king's desire proved to be mistaken, but the thought at the heart of his words was true and sound. Nathan spoke as one who believed that the man with whom God dwelt was likely to come to right conclusions. So he was; and David was only wrong in wishing that he himself might be the instrument of carrying out a praiseworthy project. If God is with us as he was with David, it is most likely we shall be guided to right decisions. It is not the very learned, nor the very clever, nor the very "practical" man, but the very godly man, who is likely to have the true sentiment in his mind respecting the things of God. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him," etc. (Psalms 25:14; see John 7:17; John 15:15). The man who walks with God and with whom God dwells may fall, now and again, into a mistake, but he is not likely to be "greatly moved" flora the path of wisdom. He is in the way of being led in the paths of wisdom, of being "guided into all truth."
III. THE VALUABLE TRUTH CONTAINED IN THE DIVINE DECLARATION. (1 Chronicles 17:3-6) God declared that he had never demanded of his people that they should make other provision than that of the simple tabernacle or tent. He had been pleased hitherto to manifest his presence in connection with this humble fabric. He would remind his servant David that as there could be no structure, however grand and stately, which the art of man could raise that would be a worthy home of him whom the heaven of heavens could not contain, so, on the other hand, there was no covering, however humble, within which he was not ready to abide if hearts were true and lives were holy. The precious and vital thought of the passage is that God does not require the elaborations of human art or the expenditure of human wealth to vouchsafe his presence and make known his power. Let there be
(1) the contrite heart,
(2) the childlike, believing spirit,
(3) the obedience of the pure and loving life, and then God's abiding home will be found.
Whom the costly cathedral will not hold, the cottage roof may shelter. He may desert the breast which is covered with the priestly garments to dwell in the heart of him who is "clothed in camel's hair."—C.
1 Chronicles 17:7-15.-Three spiritual necessities.
The message which Nathan was charged to deliver to David calls before us three necessities of our spiritual nature, which apply to all men everywhere, in every position, and in all ages. We have need of —
I. AN OPEN MIND TO RECEIVE GOD'S SPECIAL TEACHING. Nathan was familiar with the broad and general principles of religious truth. He was an enlightened servant of Jehovah—a prophet whose inspiration was from on high. But he needed a special vision (1 Chronicles 17:15) to see the truth which was to be declared on this occasion. Until he received that vision he was under the impression that David would do well to carry out his pious purpose (1 Chronicles 17:2), but from that time he discouraged and, indeed, arrested the intention of the king. If such a man as he, with whose spirit God was in close communion, needed to be instructed on particular occasions, how much more do we? Our general knowledge of Divine truth, even taken in connection with an abiding relation to the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 6:19), does not ensure to us an understanding of special questions without special illumination from the Source of all wisdom. Again and again we need to have the quick eye to see the pointing of the Divine finger, the open ear to hear the Divine voice, the sensitive heart to respond to the Divine touch. This in respect to our temporal affairs, to the government of the home, to the ordering of the Church of Christ.
II.. A READY REMEMBRANCE OF GOD'S PAST MERCIES. (1 Chronicles 17:7, 1 Chronicles 17:8) David was to Be disappointed in being denied the gratification of this strong wish of his heart; but he was to remember what great things God had done for him, taking him from the sheepcote and placing him on the throne, attending his steps as Guardian and Guide, giving him the victory over his enemies, raising him to a position of eminence even among kings. It was a small thing to be denied this one desire. We should carry about us at all times such a sense of the great blessings God has given us—the endowments, the deliverances, the recoveries, the bestowments of our whole past course—that at any time this may weigh down and bury out of our sight any small disappointment which the Ruler of our lives may permit us to suffer. A strong and full sense of mercies in the past will silence the first sigh of discontentment, will turn it into a song of holy gratitude.
III. AN AN INTELLIGENT GRASP OF DIVINE PROMISES. It may be that we may need more than a view of past mercies: we may require a prospect of good things to come. God graciously provided David with beth. He intimated to him through Nathan that he was intending to do great things for him. He would
(1) consolidate the kingdom of Israel so that it should become strong and safe (1 Chronicles 17:9);
(2) multiply his victories over his enemies (1 Chronicles 17:10);
(3) establish his dynasty (1 Chronicles 17:10, 1 Chronicles 17:14);
(4) give his son the privilege which he was withholding from him (1 Chronicles 17:11, 1 Chronicles 17:12);
(5) show to this son of his a fatherly patience (1 Chronicles 17:13).
These were very great promises, amply sufficient to compensate for one disappointment. What large promises does God make to us! "Exceeding great and precious" they are (2 Peter 1:4). They begin with his guidance and presence through life, and they culminate in everlasting joy and glory at his right hand. We often need to have recourse to the promises of our Divine Saviour. When we do resort to them, and do draw upon them, we find a bountiful sufficiency for all our need.—C.
1 Chronicles 17:10 (latter part).-The Divine response: its righteousness and riches.
I. THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF THE DIVINE RESPONSE. David had it in his heart to build God a house, but he did not actually do so. Yet God honoured his intention, and met it by the response intimated in the text: "The Lord will build thee an house." In this we can recognize the act of a righteous God—righteous because
(1) the essence of any act is in the intention of the agent;
(2) the intention of the human mind is often defeated by irresistible obstacles.
We are not responsible for the event. With David, in this instance, the direct Divine prohibition was interposed. With us, insuperable obstacles often intervene, and the result is not ascribable to anything but the limitation of our faculties. Our righteous God accepts, approves, honours, not indeed barren and Worthless sentiment, but an earnest desire and honest intention to please and serve him. This may be in our personal, family, or Church relations.
II. THE AMPLITUDE (OR RICHES) OF THE DIVINE RESPONSE. David desired to build for God a house. God replied to his servant, "I will build thee an house." The house which David wished to build was one of stone and wood, of silver and gold; but that which the Divine Giver purposed to build was far more precious. It was a human house; it was the elevation of the king's children and of their children to honour and power and influence; it was a bestowment of a kind and character which in its nature far outweighed the gift which the servant of Jehovah proposed to present. God's response had a Divine largeness, amplitude, wealth, answering to his beneficent and bountiful nature. Thus does he meet his children now. He makes us to know the length, and breadth, and depth, and height of his responsiveness in the gospel of Christ. He acts toward us in the spirit of the promise in Mark 10:28-30. He responds
(1) to our penitence with free forgiveness and full reconciliation;
(2) to our trust with constant guidance, provision, guardianship, "all our journey through;"
(3) to our trust with the indwelling of his own Divine Spirit;
(4) to our faithfulness during the brief period of time with everlasting glory.—C.
1 Chronicles 17:16-18.-Our relation to God.
The attitude which David assumed and the words of devotion he uttered on this occasion are suggestive of the relation in which we stand to our Creator and Redeemer. We gather —
I. THAT WE CANNOT BE LED TO A BETTER STATE THAN A DEEP SENSE OF OUR NOTHINGNESS AND THE DIVINE GREATNESS. When Nathan had delivered his message David placed himself in the posture of deliberate reflection (1 Chronicles 17:16), and, thus seated, he became possessed of a profound sense of his own unworthiness. "Who am I, O Lord, and what is my house?" etc. (1 Chronicles 17:16). He soon passed on to cherish a deep feeling of God's supremacy. "O Lord, there is none like thee," etc. (1 Chronicles 17:20). This is a most suitable end to any transaction between our God and ourselves. We are then arriving at the truth, reaching a place of spiritual safety, in an attitude that is most becoming, when we are impressed with our own nothingness and with the absolute greatness of our God and Saviour.
II. THAT GOD NOT ONLY CALLS US TO SONSHIP, BUT TREATS US AS HIS CHILDREN. "Thou hast regarded me according to the estate of a man of high degree" (1 Chronicles 17:17). This probably means that, in David's thought, God had treated him as one who was most exalted, and who might on that ground look for the largest things. At any rate it was true—if this be not the exact thought of the obscure passage—that God was treating David in a way which corresponded with the exalted position to which he had called him. And this truth has its illustration in the Divine dealing with all his sons. In the gospel we are all called to be the sons of God (John 1:12; 1 John 3:2). And having reinstated us in this filial position, our heavenly Father treats us as the reconciled sons and daughters we have become.
1. He confides in us; not laying down a multitude of precepts in detail, but giving us a few living principles to apply for ourselves.
2. He gives us constant access to his person; whensoever we will we may approach and address him.
3. He chastens rather than punishes us (Hebrews 12:5-11).
III. THAT GOD HAS CONFERRED ABOUNDING HONOUR ON US IN JESUS CHRIST. David felt that God had put so much honour on him that he did not know how he could ask for more (1 Chronicles 17:18). The utmost desires of his heart were fulfilled. And what more of honour and position could we have asked of God that he has not given us in the gospel of his grace? We are even said to be "kings and priests unto God" (Revelation 1:6).
1. We are children of the heavenly Father: "now are we the sons of God."
2. We are heirs of God (Romans 8:17).
3. We are the friends of Christ (John 15:14,John 15:15).
4. We are fellow-labourers with the living God, "workers together with him" (1 Corinthians 3:9; 2 Corinthians 6:1; Acts 15:4). What could we speak more for the honour of his servants?—C.
1 Chronicles 17:19-24.-Pleas in prayer.
David was pleading with God, and, in asking him to confirm and establish his word of promise, he made reference to four grounds of appeal. These we may substantially adopt, adding another "all-prevailing plea" which David could not introduce.
I. GOD'S LOVE TO US AS INDIVIDUAL SOULS. "Thy servant's sake" (1 Chronicles 17:19). At other times we read, "For thy servant David's sake;" i.e. for the love which God bore to this servant and son of his. We may ask God to help us because we know he loves us; because he pities us who fear him (Psalms 103:13); because he remembers us in our low estate, and counts our tears, and desires our happiness and well-being.
II. HIS OWN DIVINE BENIGNITY AND HONOUR. (1 Chronicles 17:19, 1Ch 17:20, 1 Chronicles 17:24.) "According to thine own heart;" that he may act like himself, with the boundless grace and goodness which belong to his Divine nature. "That thy Name may be magnified for ever," etc. (1 Chronicles 17:24); that all nations may know that thou art a faithful God, continuing thy loving-kindnesses, and redeeming thy word to the land that is so peculiarly thine own. We may well plead the nature of God as a very strong reason why he should bless us. If he grant our request "according to his own heart," if he fill our treasury and satisfy our want in accordance with the tenderness of his heart, the strength and bounty of his hand, and to the glory of his Name, we shall be enriched indeed.
III. HIS CARE FOR HIS CHURCH. (1 Chronicles 17:21, 1 Chronicles 17:22.) As David prayed God to fulfil all the good pleasure of his will on account of Israel, whom he had redeemed and attached to himself by his special mercies, so may we ask for all great things to be done for us on account of that Church for which the Son of God suffered and died, which he "redeemed with his precious blood."
IV. THE DIVINE PROMISE. "The thing that thou hast spoken concerning thy servant," etc. We have great promises to plead with God, based on his own inviolable word; and there can be no more solid ground on which to build our hope in prayer to God. There is one additional plea with which we are familiar, but which the King of Israel lived far too soon to urge (see Luke 10:24). We plead with God —
V. THE NAME AND WORK OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. For the sake of him who loved us and gave himself for us, who lived and died on our behalf, we ask for all those blessings we need; for mercy, for acceptance and sonship, for Divine guidance and protection along the path of life, for the indwelling Spirit, for help and blessing in Christian work, for an abundant entrance into the kingdom of heaven.—C.
1 Chronicles 17:25-27.-Our relation to the Divine promise.
I. THAT GOD'S PROMISE DOES NOT EXCLUDE THE PROPRIETY OF OUR PETITION. "Thou hast told thy servant that thou wilt build him an house: therefore thy servant hath found in his heart to pray before thee" (1 Chronicles 17:25). The fact that God has promised to do anything for us is a reason why we should—not why we should mot—ask him to give it to us. He has promised to supply all who love him with all needful things (Matthew 6:32, Matthew 6:33; Philippians 4:19). But this does not countermand the injunction to pray for our daily bread (Matthew 6:11). There are many promises of the gift of the Holy Spirit; we are therefore to ask for his outpouring (Luke 11:13). We are assured that the kingdom of God shall be established in the earth; none the less, but all the more, are we to pray, "Thy kingdom come." God's promise is not to be the excuse for our silence, but the ground of our supplication.
II. THAT GOD'S PROMISE DOES NOT EXCLUDE THE NECESSITY FOR OUR HOLY OBEDIENCE. David affirms in 1 Chronicles 17:26 that God has "promised this goodness unto thy servant;" but in 1 Chronicles 17:27 his petition shows that he was conscious that something more was needed beyond the bare and simple promise, in order that it might be ultimately and fully realized. And he was right. Obedience was an essential and vital condition. If not expressed, it was always understood. The rending of the kingdom in twain under David's grandson proved only too surely and sadly that this was the case. All God's premises to us are conditional on our loyalty to him. If we are faithful unto death, we shall have his abiding love, his constant care, his gracious blessing, and finally his blissful presence. But we must not be so confident because of the promise that we are negligent of the understood conditions.
III. THAT GOD'S PROMISES ARE OFTEN FULFILLED IN OTHER AND BETTER WAYS THAN WE LOOK FOR. (1 Chronicles 17:27.) David was assured that, if God blessed, there would be blessedness for ever. He was right; but the good thing in store for him was far different from that which he was presenting to his own mind at the time. Could he have foreseen the speedy rupture of the kingdom, and the captivity after a few generations had come and gone, he might have been sadly disappointed, and his faith might have received a serious shock. But could he have foreseen the way in which the Divine promise was fulfilled at length, could he have realized that One who was "the Son of David" would reign as Prince of peace and Lord of righteousness over all the human world, he would have rejoiced indeed. God's purpose was larger than his servant's thought. So with us. The hope of one period is ever found to be realized further on in another way, at first disappointing but afterwards most satisfying, from that which we expected. Youth is other, and really better, than childhood pictures it; and manhood than youth imagines; and the rest of declining days than laborious prime expects to find it. The promises of life are fulfilled, but in ways which God knows to be far better for us than those which our imagination fancies and our heart desires. And it may be that the heavenly world will prove to be something very different from that which piety has predicted or poetry has sung—different but better; something which will be more fitted for our faculties as they are at first unclothed and clothed upon, as death is first swallowed up of life.—C.
HOMILIES BY F. WHITFIELD
1 Chronicles 17:1, 1 Chronicles 17:2.-The house of the Lord: David and Nathan.
The event recorded in this chapter must have been separated from the events of the previous chapter by a period of several years. It is in all essential points identical with the parallel account in 2 Samuel 7:1-29; the differences being of a purely formal kind. The contrast which David felt between his own dwelling and that of the ark of the covenant awakened within him a feeling of sorrow, and led him to resolve to put an end to it by building for the latter a house worthy of it. This was a right feeling, and was commended by the Lord (see 1 Kings 8:18). But though right in itself, and indicating a true state of heart towards God, it was for other reasons not in accordance with the Divine will. David had been a man of war, and had shed much blood, and on this ground God would not allow him to carry out the desire of his heart. David communicated his desire to Nathan the prophet. The prophet, knowing well the character of David and his devotion of heart to the Lord, and that the Lord was with him in all that he did, said, out of the impulse of his heart, "Do all that is thine heart; for God is with thee." From this we learn how a man's heart may be right with God, how all that he purposes to do may be highly commendable, but for other reasons it may not be for God's glory that the Lord may use him. It may be more for that glory that he may be passed over and another be preferred. Man proposes but God disposes. Not even a prophet can step in between. Observe another truth here, How graciously David allows himself to be passed over and that another should have the honour! This is often hard to bear. Nothing but the grace of God ruling in a man's heart can enable him to do this. Moses endured forty years' trial and hardship in leading God's people out of Egypt, and yet just as he gets in sight of the promised land all his brightest anticipations are to be unrealized, and another steps in to reap the reward. David had formed the kingdom, fought the battles of the Lord, and brought up the ark to its resting-place; but just as he is about to reap a full reward in seeing the temple built for the Lord, his son is to step in and enjoy it, while David, like Moses, is to lie down and die. Life is full of unrealized anticipations; but in the case of God's people all to be realized in a brighter and better world, to a degree that "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath entered into the heart of man to conceive." Oh for grace to be passed over, nay, even to rejoice in being passed over, and that others should receive the honours for which we have toiled, provided only that it is God's will and for his glory! Oh to be nothing, nothing; only a "vessel fit for the Master's use," to be used by him when he will, how he will, and where he will! This should ever be the Christian's desire and prayer.—W.
1 Chronicles 17:3-15.-God's message to David.
Though David was not to build the house of the Lord, God gives him "great and precious promises" with respect to his posterity and to the future glory of his people Israel. We see here that there is one thing nearer to the heart of our God than an outward building, however grand it may be. "I have not dwelt in an house since the day that I brought up Israel unto this day; but have gone from tent to tent, and from one tabernacle to another." The Lord loves to be identified with his children in all their circumstances, however lowly those circumstances may be. "I dwell with the humble and contrite heart." This is the joy of the Lord's heart, and it comes infinitely before a grand house or a magnificent palace. Mark further the prophetical character of God's message (see verse 9). I will ordain a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, and they shall dwell in their place, and shall be moved no more; neither shall the children of wickedness waste them any more, as at the beginning." Israel has been "moved" and "wasted" since this promise was made, and is being "moved" and "wasted" at the present moment. It is clear, therefore, that this is an unfulfilled prophecy of blessing yet in store for wasted and scattered Israel. That time is at hand. When "the Lord shall set his hand the second time [it was done the first time by Cyrus the Persian] to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth" (Isaiah 11:11, Isaiah 11:12). Mark another truth: "And it shall come to pass, when thy days be expired that thou must go to be with thy fathers." Three thoughts are suggested by this passage.
1. Man lives by days, not by years. "As thy days, so shall thy strength be;" "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the days." We speak of years and look forward to them. God would teach us that we have only days to count on, and should therefore use each one for him.
2. "Thou must go." David was wanted in another world. There are places to fill there. Just as the stones that were to form the temple on Mount Zion were hewn, shaped, and polished in Lebanon, and were sent for just as they were wanted, so is it with the departure of every true child of God. What may be the nature of the employments we cannot tell; but of each one who is taken we may hear the Lord's voice saying of him to the weeping ones left behind, "He must go" for he is wanted there."
3. "Thou must go to be with thy fathers." It is a family gathering. In the Old Testament how frequently is this word used l It is not death. It is—"gone to join the family gathering." "Dead" is the Bible word for those out of Christ. "Asleep" is the word for God's children. What a precious word! It is a striking contrast to our word "dead" which is always on the lips. It is like another word we use. A manufacturer looks upon his men and women in his employ and regards them as goods, and calls them "hands"—"so many hands." The Bible word is "souls"—"the souls he had gotten in Haran." How sadly men have departed from the spirit of patriarchal days! Verses 12-14 are manifestly a reference to the Messiah, of whom Solomon was a type, and to the Messianic times of rest yet to come, of which his reign was a shadow. It is clear from David's prayer (verse 17) that he so understood them, especially when he speaks of God having regarded him "according to the estate of a man of high degree."—W.
1 Chronicles 17:16-27.-David's prayer.
God's great and precious promises to David drew forth from his heart this prayer. It is so at all times. The constraining motive of prayer, praise, and thanksgiving is God's great mercy and wondrous love contained in the "exceeding great and precious promises" to the soul. We see also David's great humility: "Who am I, and what is mine house?" God's grace always humbles. We see also how David exalts God—another effect of God's great and precious promises: "O Lord, there is none like thee, neither is there any God to be compared with thee." And all this grace in God is "according to all that we have heard." Every experience of the believer at all times confirms the Divine testimony of God in his Word. He is ready to exclaim as he reads, "It is all true, all of it, and I have found it so." And this God is moreover "the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel and a God to Israel." He is not only the God of his people, but a God to them, to each one. He is all that his name means to each one of his family. And mark David's closing words. "Let it please thee to bless the house of thy servant, that it may be before thee for ever." This is the end for which we should ask any blessing—that we ourselves may be before him, walk before him and live before him. "Walk before me and be thou perfect," was his word to Abraham of old, and still is to each one of his people; and it is only as God's promises and God's blessings lead to this that they can be real blessings.—W.
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
1 Chronicles 17:1.-God's dwelling-place and man's.
This verse shows us the good man's proper anxiety to have his God better housed than himself. We may properly assume that David thought about this matter immediately after his success in bringing the ark of God to Mount Zion, and restoring the ancient service. When David had taken the city of Jerusalem, and proposed to make it the capital of his kingdom, he found a royal palace was as important as safe fortifications. The erection of this palace indicates the new era which dawned in David. The previous king, Saul, did but make a beginning of a kingdom, and was little more than the previous judges had been. David is the proper founder of the Jewish kingdom. It appears, from 2 Samuel 5:11, that David's alliance with Hiram of Tyre enabled him to secure Phoenician artists, workmen, and materials for his palace; and this may have been necessary because the Israelite workpeople had no training for such work, and no experience of such buildings as David required. The one point on which David's thought more especially rests is, that a character of permanency and abiding rest attached to his own house, while God's earthly dwelling-place was still a movable and perishable tent. He very properly felt that there should be a closer harmony between the two, and God's house suggestive of associations suitable to a settled and permanent kingdom. We may never be indifferent to the "sense of fitness" in Divine things.
I. THE SENSE IN WHICH GOD MAY HAVE AS EARTHLY DWELLING-PLACE. See the teaching of Isaiah 66:1, Isaiah 66:2 There is a proper sense in which the created world may be called "God's dwelling-place." There is a much higher sense in which the heart of man may be so called. But, seeing that an external and ceremonial worship is found to be necessary for man, and earthly things may wisely be made the symbols of Divine truths and relations, place is made for the work of the architect and the builder in expressing religious truth by sacred edifices, churches, or temples. We, however, need to watch lest any building should limit our thought of God, as though he could be wholly contained within it; or as though we could put human limitations to his revelations, or to himself. God permits us to raise temples for him mainly that we may have, carried home to our hearts, the conviction of his permanently dwelling with us. His house is with us; his home is here; he does not come and go; he is with us always.
II. THE DUTY DEVOLVING ON MAN TO FIND FOR GOD AN EARTHLY DWELLING-PLACE. This is not a duty directly enjoined, but one recognized and felt by the sincere and pious soul. It is like the duty of worship, and follows of necessity upon it. Explain that man cannot satisfy himself with the conception of God as spiritual, and that he wants material help even to realize this. Also the very sense of appropriating God leads to desire to fix him to a house. Illustrate by Genesis 10:17 Show that in all ages this sense of the duty of "localizing" God has influenced men to plant sacred groves, consecrate hill-tops, raise tabernacles or temples, and build—at cost of amazing labour and sacrifice—magnificent churches and cathedrals. Impress the duty of aiding in the erection and maintenance of Divine sanctuaries.
III. THE RELATION BETWEEN SUCH DIVINE EARTHLY DWELLING-PLACES AND THE DWELLINGS OF THE MEN WHO MAKE THEM. This is David's point. He felt that one ought to match the other; and if there was any "best," that should be for God. Tent was fitting enough while the people were tent-dwellers. But a house was needed now the people dwelt in houses; and a palace, a magnificent house, now the king dwelt in a palace. Illustrate the relations which should now be maintained between the architecture and decorations of our houses and of God's house. Show what a help to the conception of our kinship with God, and to what we may call the humanity in God, is found in the erection of a house for him. Lead on to show by Paul's teaching that man may be himself the temple of the Holy Ghost.—R.T.
1 Chronicles 17:4.-Unfitness for some parts of God's work.
God sent a distinct refusal of David's request by the Prophet Nathan. "Thou shalt not build me an house to dwell in" But this refusal may not be regarded as an act of mere sovereignty; it was based upon the Divine recognition of the unfitness of David as the instrument for this particular work. Much he might do for God, but this he may not do; and the disability even followed upon his very fitness for the other work which God had called him to do. He was a man of war. His work had been the extending and settling of the new kingdom. But the "man of blood" must give place to the "man of rest," to whom could be more wisely committed the work of building a temple for God. We are here taught that God's work, which he would have done on earth, is divided into pieces; that one piece only is usually committed to the trust of each man; that every man finds he has one such trust, and that all the pieces and parts fit together, and make up one great whole of Divine purpose. There is a Divine arrangement of the pieces. There is a Divine allotment of the pieces to individuals. And this involves the selection of individuals upon a Divine recognition of particular gifts and endowments. Then a man may be either fitted or unfitted for some positions and for some work; and God will, by his providence, guide each man to the work that he may hopefully do; and no man has occasion to envy the place or work of another man.
I. MAN MAY WISH FOR SPHERES or SERVICE. God does not reproach David for wishing to build the temple. He now says, "Thou didst well that it was in thine heart." It is a good sign that we want to serve; though so often it is only a sign of our restlessness in the work we have, and our foolish fancying that some one else's work is better, or easier, or nobler than our own. Faithful doing of present duty may be quite consistent with earnest desire to do something else and better, provided it finds expression, as David's did, in patient waiting on God, and earnest prayer for Divine direction.
II. MAN MAY BE UNDER DISABILITIES WHICH HINDER HIM FROM THE SPHERES HE SEEKS. Such disabilities may arise out of natural disposition and character; educational conditions; local circumstances; or, as in David's case, out of the very life-work which may be entrusted to us. When we remember how actions bear the stamp of the character of those who perform them, and men receive their impressions of the thing itself from the person who does it, we realize how God may properly refuse to permit us to do just the work we may wish to do. We need to satisfy ourselves that God knows both us and our work, and so can fitly match the two together, and keep us from unfitting spheres.
III. THE GREAT SECRET OF OUR DUTY IS THE DOING WELL WHAT WE PLAINLY HAVE TO DO. Forming a very high value of our present trust. Quite sure that it is the very thing for us; and cherishing the assurance that God makes our work fit into the work that others do, and that the very thing which we would like to have done ourselves, God gets done in his own time and way, and by the agents he pleases. "One planteth, another watereth," and God gives the increase that crowns the union of various labourers and labours.
We may learn:
1. The lesson of submissive obedience to the Divine appointments.
2. The importance of keeping our minds free from all envy of other workers, even of those who seem to he doing the very work which we would like to have done.
3. And to be thankful for the work that is entrusted to us; quick to discern the dignity and importance of it; and supremely anxious that we should be found of God faithful in the doing of it.—R.T.
1 Chronicles 17:5, 1 Chronicles 17:6.-God's earthly dwelling-place a tabernacle, not a house.
In the Divine reply sent to David it is made an important point that God had hitherto dwelt in a tent, and had expressed no desire for a more permanent form of habitation. As the message is given in 2 Samuel 7:6, God had "walked in a tent and in a tabernacle"; the term "tent" properly indicating an erection of curtains and ropes, and the term "tabernacle" a somewhat more stable structure of boards. In either case the point of comparison is the movableness of the building God had hitherto used, and the fixity of the one which David now proposed to raise. The verses indicate that permanency in the symbol of the Divine presence is not offered by God, but sought by man. It would seem that there is some peril in the settledness of things—even in the thought of the Divine presence—for sinful man. His conditions and his associations had better be changing and transitory. Permanence can only belong to that which is "perfect" and "holy." Again and again this reproach has rested on men: "Because they have no changes, therefore they forget God." It may also be shown that elaboration of the external, artistic form and beauty in the house itself has always for man this peril, that it may satisfy him, and take away his thought from that spiritual reality of which it is the expression. Religious symbols assume a certain amount of religious culture and sensitiveness to the spiritual; if they become of value to us for their own sakes, they are mischievous as was the old brazen serpent, and spiritual reformers may well call them "Nehushtan," worthless brass. None seem to have valued the old tabernacle for its own sake, but in after days men thought the temple sacred, and assumed the peculiar acceptableness of prayer offered within its courts, when the Shechinah glory had passed away from its holy place.
I. A TABERNACLE BETTER REPRESENTED MAN'S BODY THAN A HOUSE COULD DO. See St. Paul's figure in 2 Corinthians 5:1-3. Illustrate such analogies as these: A tent is frail; easily taken down, and removed; seriously affected by storms, and manifestly decaying swiftly.
II. A TABERNACLE BETTER REPRESENTED MAN'S LIFE. Especially in its lasting but a little while —
"Brief life is here our portion;
Brief sorrow, short-lived care;"
and in its changeableness. The shepherd's tent is set up but for the shelter of a night; journeying on to find fresh pastures, he knows not where he may be on the morrow. So in our life on earth we can seldom gain the security that we may rest. Again and again, so unexpectedly, the moving pillar-cloud bids us be up and away.
III. A TABERNACLE WAS MORE SUGGESTIVE OF DEVINE ADAPTATIONS TO MAN'S CIRCUMSTANCES. As an easily movable thing, it could be where it was most wanted: sometimes in the centre of the camp, while the people tarried in one spot; at other times in the front of the camp, when the people journeyed; and at another time in the midst of the divided Jordan, holding back, as it were, the waters until the people passed over. Yet in this there was a peril of misuse, for, in their wilfulness, the people sort for the ark to their camp, seeking to make it a mere charm to ensure their victory, and in consequence the symbol of God's presence fell into the hands of the enemy. No one would have thought of taking the ark away from the fixed and permanent temple.
IV. A TABERNACLE WAS LESS LIKELY TO TAKE ATTENTION OFF FROM GOD HIMSELF THAN A HOUSE WAS. For this, which may be the lesson to impress in conclusion, see passage in the introduction to this homily, and also the previous sketch on ver. 1.—R.T.
1 Chronicles 17:7-10.-God's grace magnified in David's history.
Every age of the world and every nation has had its prominent men, its striking instances of Divine endowment and special mission. But we mistake such special cases if we assume that they are intended to absorb our attention, or merely to magnify individuals. They are always designed to be impressive illustrations of great principles which are surely working, though not so manifestly working, in the smaller and the quieter spheres. The" great" is never set before us for its own sake, but always
(1) to show us what "almighty grace can do;" and
(2) to make solemn the possibilities of our smaller and feebler lives.
The mission of all biographies is expressed in two sentences from St. Paul's writings: "They glorified God in me" (Galatians 1:24); "For this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting" (1 Timothy 1:16). David is set before us as a striking instance of Divine grace overshadowing, guiding, and sanctifying a whole life. God reminds him in these verses of his "gracious goodness" which had ever rested upon him; and with the remembrance comforts him under the refusal of his request which God judged it necessary to send. In this light the life of David may be reviewed.
I. THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GRACE IN DAVID'S SELECTION. Carefully distinguish between sovereignty and favouritism. There is "no respect of persons" with God. He elects, not upon particular affections for an individual, but upon omniscience of fitness for particular work. Election is not to privilege but to service, and to privilege through the service. Here, in the case of David, Divine sovereignty is seen in the selection of one who was not at all in men's thoughts, and was indeed in circumstances which seemed to indicate unsuitability. David was the youngest of his family, somewhat despised by his grown-up brothers, and engaged in simple shepherding work among the hills of Judah. Yet God estimated character, and found in the young shepherd the founder of a kingdom and a dynasty. Illustrate the Divine call of men to be poets, artists, preachers, reformers, and rulers; and show that now, as truly as ever, God calls those he needs to come up out of lowly and unknown places to do his work. And he may have need of us.
II. THE FAITHFULNESS OF GRACE IN DAVID'S PROSPERITY. "Faithful is he who calleth you, who also will do it." To the position to which he was called David in due time attained; because, whenever God bids a man do a thing, he gives the needed grace for the doing. If he tells a man with a helpless hand to "stretch forth his hand," he gives the strength for such stretching forth. Trace in David's life how all hindrances and difficulties were surely overcome; his "enemies were cut off," his throne established, and his name honoured (1 Chronicles 17:8).
III. THE BENEDICTIONS OF GRACE RESTING ON OTHERS FOR DAVID'S SAKE, It is one of the best signs of Divine acceptance of us that others are blessed through us. This exceeding joy our Lord Jesus Christ had. For his life-work of loving service he was "highly exalted." So David was the means of settling the people, introducing all the advantages of order and good government, and restoring to full vigour the worshipping side of the national religious life.
IV. THE CONTINUANCE OF GRACE OF DAVID'S DESCENDANTS. The man who lives in the grace of God himself may be sure that not only God's grace will abide when he is gone, but that the grace will still use his influence and example, as agency, for the blessing of the children for a long while to come (1 Chronicles 17:10-12). Apply to that exceeding great grace which is manifested in our personal redemption. That grace, we may be sure, will cover and hallow all our lives, and all our children's lives, even as it did the life of David, and the story of his descendants.—R.T.
1 Chronicles 17:11-15.-The purposes of God concerting Solomon.
In the Divine communication made to David through the Prophet Nathan, there is a tone of very tender consideration, and an evident desire to solace and comfort the aged servant of God, whose request it was found necessary to refuse. In one way the desire of his heart could be met. He should have an immortality in his descendants and in his dynasty. He should live on in his son, and accomplish even his purpose concerning the temple. And he may have, before he dies, the comforting assurance that God's purposes were set upon his son, and the Divine favour would overshadow his reign. Those gracious Divine purposes are indicated in these verses. Man's brief life on the earth, which so seldom permits him to accomplish any great thing, would be very painful to him were it not for the hope he cherishes that he will live on in his children, and by them his great life-work may win completion. We cannot bear to think that death cuts off our influence and spoils our work. Man can scarcely say a thing that hurts him more in the saying than this, "My purposes are broken off." What is called fame may be won by but the few among even good men; but every true-hearted and earnest servant of God may be sure that his personal impress is an abiding one; it will get its continuance in those who have known him and live after him; his spirit, his principles, his witness, even in measure his experience will be still working. Philips Brooks well says, "No man or woman of the humblest sort can really be strong, gentle, pure, and good, without the world being the better for it, without somebody being helped and comforted by the very existence of that goodness." Illustrate how a man lives on in a book he has written, or a building he has raised. So a man lives on, oftentimes, in the son who takes up his work. David really lived on in Solomon, and did, in fact, build the temple, seeing that Solomon used the materials he had gathered, and carried out the plans which he had arranged. It is interesting to notice what in the temple which was actually reared was due to the genius and consecration of David, and what in it bore the personal stamp of Solomon. "The design fixed upon indicates fully the spirit of the times and of the king. A general relation to the older tabernacle must be carefully preserved—the outline of the form, the proportions, and the principal division of the building into holy place and most holy must be continued; but where Moses permitted ornamentation and decoration it was developed, and almost carried to an extravagant extent." In view of God's unfolding to David his purposes concerning Solomon, we may learn that it is full of comfort to the man who is passing away from earth to be assured that his son will virtually have —
I. HIS WORK TO DO; at least, in its more prominent and important aspects. Certainly his work in the large sense of living for God, and doing his will.
II. That he will have, if he seeks it, the same GRACE FOR THE DOING. God's years are throughout all generations, and will give our children the joy and help of the same fatherly relations that he has given us (1 Chronicles 17:13).
It may be shown that, still, saints pass away from earth, made willing to leave their life-work incomplete, and their most cherished desires unfulfilled, and restfully saying in their hearts, "God's grace remains, though I pass away. That grace is working on, and working out, the great purpose, and will surely raise up other agencies." David may die, but he may know this—the temple will be built; the kingdom he had founded shall be secured, and even for him the veil shall be uplifted, and he shall see the glory of this Divine purpose. In a high and spiritual sense David's kingdom shall, in his greater Son, be established for ever and ever.—R.T.
1 Chronicles 17:16.-The humbling influence of the Divine goodness.
Precisely the position and the attitude of David we cannot with certainty explain. The expression came indicates that he left his palace and crossed over within the tabernacle precincts. But we have no means of knowing whether he sat in the court facing the sacred tent, or whether he was permitted to go within the sacred curtains, and face the entrance to the holy of holies, where the ark was. It is possible that the king may have claimed priestly rights so far as to enter the holy place. His attitude is explained by some knowledge of Oriental customs. "One of the postures by which a person testifies his respect for a superior is by sitting upon his heels, which is considered as a token of great humility." The sitting was really half-sitting and half-kneeling, so as to rest the body upon the heels. The Talmudists say (but apparently only on the authority of this passage) that none may pray sitting except only the kings of the house of David. But we fix attention on the spirit in which David responded to the very gracious message which God sent to him, and in his spirit we find an example well worthy of our imitation. God's goodness brought home to him a sense of his own unworthiness, and filled him with wonder that he should be made such a monument of mercy. The goodness of God humbles true hearts much more than does his frown. Its right work is to "lead us to repentance." The following points are suggested by this example: —
I. WITH GOD FAR OFF, MAN MAY GROW PROUD. He can then see nothing but his own doings.
II. WITH GOD NEAR, MAN BOWS IN REVERENT AWE, as is seen in Abraham, Moses, Job, Isaiah, and St. John.
III. GOD SPEAKING WORDS OF GRACE HUMBLES MAN INTO PENITENCE AND HUMILITY. Gifts are always humbling, because they awaken the sense of desert. So Divine gifts are ever most humbling.—R.T.
1 Chronicles 17:20, 1 Chronicles 17:21.-The uniqueness of the Divine dealings.
David saw plainly a troth which seems equally plain to us from the records given in the Scriptures, that God's ways of dealing with the nation of Israel had been throughout singular, unique, and surprisingly gracious. A few illustrative instances from the history may be given. But this is precisely the impression which each one of us receives upon a review of our own lives. The Divine dealings with us seem, in the preciseness of their adaptations, and the tenderness of their grace, quite unique; and it seems, to the sincere heart, that nobody can sing just such a thankful, happy song as he can. Now on earth, and much more yonder, we shall adore that special grace which is so manifest in our individual lives.
I. DIVINE DEALINGS ARE ALWAYS THE SAME. 'Very much is made in these days of the uniformity and absolute working of law in the physical spheres. But we can more than match the truth by our teachings respecting the uniformity and the absolute working of law in the moral and spiritual spheres. Sin always carries its consequences. Personal influences on others can be as strictly assured as laws of nature. St. Paul boldly affirms that "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." The forces God brings to bear on men are always the same. There is but one gospel for man's redemption. Nobody can come to God save by the way of penitence and faith and prayer. The truth may be applied to the minutest conditions and circumstances of life. There is nothing new in the circumstances, and God will deal with us in them exactly as he dealt with our fathers. Because of this uniformity of Divine dealings in the moral spheres, we can use the experiences of the fathers, and be warned, encouraged, or taught by the records left of their life-histories and the Divine dealings with them. No right-minded man would ever wish any deviation from either the eternal principles or practices for his sake. He would rather just be in the Divine order, within the conditions and provision of the infinitely wise and infinitely good Divine law. We require to press this point, because fanaticism has often assumed that God steps aside of his laws to deal in special ways with favoured individuals. There is a sense in which Divine dealings are special, but it is of the utmost importance that we gain first hold, and firm hold, of the truth that God's ways are orderly and regular, fixed and unalterable, because settled in the infinite Divine wisdom. It may be necessary here to deal with the idea of a miracle. It may be said, "Does not God work miracles? And has he not worked them for individuals?" We are coming more clearly to see that a miracle is not a contravention of law, but only a modification of the workings together of law, made apprehensible by man. Thus God's law of the vintage is that vines bear grapes, Man's apprehension of the law is that vines bear grapes in so many months. Christ's miracle shows us that man's time-law is no essential part of the law; the vintage may come in what man calls a moment. Christ's miracles contravened no laws, if the laws be relieved of man's additions to them.
II. DIVINE DEALINGS BECOME UNIQUE BY ADAPTATION TO THE INDIVIDUAL. We must never conceive of law as if it were working distinct from the Lawgiver. It is not like an "act of parliament," which is passed, and then set free to its work. Law, in its proper sense, is the condition on which the Lawgiver acts. And God acts as a Father, with special knowledge and care of each individual, and due adjustment of law to each case I am individual to myself; individual and unique. And I may hold the confidence that God will deal with me just as if no other being lived. The uniformity of moral law has this sublime qualification, "The Lord knoweth them that are his."—R.T.
1 Chronicles 17:22-24.-The eternity of David's kingdom.
It seems quite evident that the term "for ever" is used in the Scripture as a figure of speech, and one which carries wish it several distinct suggestions. It is a condition of human thought that we must set things in the order of time; and it is usual for us to estimate the value of things according to the time they will last. The words "eternal" and "for ever" and "everlasting" often stand for long continuance. Mountains that outlast the generations are called "everlasting hills." Canaan was given to Israel as an "everlasting possession." So here, in these verses, God promises a throne to David, an eternal kingdom, a posterity that will never be extinguished; and the first idea we should attach to the promise is that David and his descendants' empire should be of long duration, and of a stable character. It is a further truth, embodied in the expression, that the material kingdom of David should by-and-by pass into the spiritual kingdom of David's greater Son, and that in him should be established that spiritual theocracy which could be, and should be, absolutely eternal, enduring as long as there should be a God to rule, and creatures of God to be ruled. Taking the Old Testament term "for ever," we may see what thoughts are properly suggested by it, and consider them in their advancing order.
I. "For ever" means LASTING THROUGH MANY GENERATIONS. Matching the idea concerning "length of life" is the idea of "continuance and permanence of dynasty." To live long was, to the Jewish mind, the direct reward of virtue, a sign of the Divine recognition of personal goodness. And so the pious king who founded a kingdom passed the thought on to the life of his race. Its prolongation through many generations would be the proof of Divine favour and acceptance resting upon it. Show how the writer of a book seeks fame in the continuity of its influence. The rich man, nowadays, hopes to found a family which shall outlast the generations. And this desire for permanence of influence is found, in various measures, influencing all men. So still God can promise to us that noble living and faithful working shall be made to bear the "eternal" stamp. In this first sense the good man never dies; on earth he may be said to live "for ever." David lives on to-day. He influences men now, rules hearts and lives, more truly than ever.
II. "For ever" means UNDER CHANGED FORMS LASTING THROUGH ALL HUMAN GENERATIONS. We must find what is the very essence of David's kingdom, for the notion of its eternity can properly only be applied to that. The essence is this—God's immediate rule of men through the administration of man. David's kingdom was this—the theocracy practically realized. Then all that belonged to the mere human form and order may change to meet the exigencies of changing ages; the essence would remain, and by-and-by appear in the theocracy of the Church, in the administration of the exalted Man Christ Jesus. We now are members of David's everlasting kingdom; since Christ's kingdom is essentially David's. In its central principle—its spiritual principle—of direct governmental relations with Jehovah, David's kingdom must last absolutely for ever and ever.
III." For ever" has this limitation—IN ITS EARTHLY FORM IT IS DEPENDENT ON THE ALLEGIANCE OF DAVID'S DESCENDANTS TO THE SPIRITUAL PRINCIPLE. So far as their earthly features are concerned, God's promises are always conditional. And the condition is always the same. It is loyalty, full loyalty, the obedient service of the truehearted. This point David anxiously impressed on his son Solomon (1 Chronicles 28:9, 1 Chronicles 28:10).
Work out the conditions of perpetuity still. "He that doeth the will of God abideth for ever." And show what is the assurance of our earthly and our heavenly "for ever." We shall live on here, we shall live on yonder, in what we have been for God, and done for him, in his grace and strength.—R.T.
1 Chronicles 17:24.-God's relation to his people. I. The relation which God bears to his people.
1. He has chosen them out of the world, which lieth in wickedness.
2. He has given himself to them in a peculiar way.
3. He avows that relation to them before the whole universe.
II. Inquire what, under that relation, we may expect at his hands.
1. The care of his providence.
2. The communication of his grace.
3. The manifestations of his love.
4. The possession of his glory.
III. What, under that relation, he is entitled to expect from us.
1. That we "be a people to him."
2. That we give ourselves to him, as he has given himself to us.
Conclude with two proposals:
1. That we, at this very hour, accept Jehovah as our God.
2. That we now consecrate ourselves to him as his people (Revelation C. Simeon, M.A.).—R.T.
1 Chronicles 17:26.-The faithful Promiser.
David pleads before God the fact of his having promised; he reminds God of his own Word. But he does more than this. He testifies his perfect confidence that the promise will be fulfilled because of what God's. "Thou, Lord, art God"—there is his rest. It is much to have received a gracious promise, but it is much more to have, and to trust, a "faithful Promiser." The promises help and comfort us; but we want to rise above even the promises, and find the "eternal life," and deep "heart-rest" of knowing God, and being able to say to him, "Now, Lord, thou art God."
I. THE VALUE OF A PROMISE DEPENDS UPON THE PROMISE-MAKER, This may be efficiently illustrated from our ordinary life-associations. Some men's promises we never heed, never depend upon, because we know them, and know that they promise hastily or thoughtlessly; or they have formed the habit of getting out of seeming difficulties by a promise which puts off the evil day. (This tradesmen too often do.) Other men's promises we implicitly trust, because we know them, and know that they count promises to be sacred, and only fail to keep them by some unexpected disabilities, or some physical impossibilities. It may be shown that the value of a promise does not depend on its subject or on its form; it would be no surer if confirmed with the most terrible oaths. It depends on the character first, and then on the ability, of him who makes it; and we inquire concerning him both can he perform and will he perform it? Our confidence or otherwise is in him; and it may be shown that the confidence rests very much more upon his character, which is the essential thing, than upon his mere ability, which is the accidental thing. We never really trouble over promises whose fulfilment circumstances may prevent. We feel the bitterness of broken promises when the failure reveals the weak will, or the unsound character of those in whom we have trusted. "Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help."
II. GOD'S PROMISES. GAIN THE INFINITE VALUE OF BEING FROM THE DIVINE PROMISE-MAKER. This is David's point of assurance, "Thou art God," and thou "hast promised," therefore in thy promise I put absolute and perfect confidence. And what is gathered up in this simple but most comprehensive expression, "Thou art God" I
1. "Thou art God" who hast been faithful. So the saints of all the ages testify. So David himself could both feel and say.
2. "Thou art God," and as God thou must be faithful. Show what is necessarily included in the very idea of God, and that faithfulness is absolutely essential. If we could show one broken Divine promise, we would dethrone God and make him take rank with fallible man. "Hath he spoken, and shall he not do it?"
3. We may advance to a higher region, and say, "Thou art God" who, in giving Christ, hast so kept the great promise as to assure all other promises. St. Paul forcibly argues, "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall ha not with him also freely give us all things?" (Romans 8:32).
Then we may set forth how God's promises cover and hallow all our earthly life, coming into precise adaptation to all our infinitely varying circumstances and needs. And so we may walk and work in the light and cheerful joy of this confidence—all are trustworthy; all will gain wise and gracious fulfilment, since "he is faithful that promised," and he speaks calmly over our life's tumult, saying, "Be still, and know that I am God."—R.T.
1 Chronicles 17:27.-The blessedness of God's blessings.
David puts his desire and prayer into the one expressive word "bless," and that because he has such a full apprehension of what God's blessing is to his people. "For thou blessest, O Lord, and it shall be blessed for ever." Men ask for the summum bonum. David finds it in the enrichment and the satisfying of the Divine goodness. "The blessing of the Lord maketh rich." As the verse on which we are dwelling reads in 2 Samuel 7:29, "With thy blessing let the house of thy servant be blessed for ever." The word "bless" is used with great frequency in the Old Testament, and evidently with a variety of meanings. It is difficult to fix upon a definition of the term which will express the essential idea that underlies the diversity of its forms. A distinction, however, is made in Psalms 145:10, "All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord; and thy saints shall bless thee." From this choice of different terms we may learn that "bless" carries the idea of the intelligent agent who knows and loves the object with which he deals, and seeks for gracious adaptations to feeling as well as to need. If saints bless God, it means that they intelligently and lovingly apprehend the goodness of his dealings, and express their feelings of thankful love. If God blesses saints, it means that he intelligently considers their conditions, and finds and adapts grace precisely to their needs; and that whatsoever he does for them turns out to be for their ultimate good. We have come to use the term without due consideration, and as a mere formality. It often hides the fact that we have no precise petitions to present; and so we fall back upon the general prayer for blessing. We should be placed in extreme difficulty, if God were to say in reply to our prayer for blessing, "Say precisely what it is you want. Translate your word. Use exact terms. Ask for the very things which press upon your heart. For my blessing is this—'the supply of all your needs out of my riches in glory.'" It may be well to show further what God's blessing would be to a royal house or dynasty, and to a nation or people, noting the special features of that blessing as applied to David's house and kingdom.
I. "BLESS" STANDS FOR ALL KINDS OF REAL GOOD—without venturing to specify any. It may fittingly be used in prayer when we have no specific desires, and only want to run into the shadow of God's goodness. And it may be used when we are in difficulty, and do not even know what things we ought to ask. Sometimes we are afraid to ask definitely lest we should ask amiss; and then we may leave the form of the answer with God, only asking him to bless.
II. "BLESS" THROWS THE MATTER WHOLLY BACK ON THE PERSON FROM WHOM THE GOOD IS SOUGHT. Compare the cry of Esau, "Bless me, O my father!" He could not tell what to ask, but left the matter with his father, and with full confidence in the fatherly love. So for us to ask God to bless us should be the expression of our full submission and entire surrender to his wisdom and grace in fixing the form which the good shall take; so it may be—and should be—a fitting expression of the right attitude and spirit of God's people, who trust the whole matter of their temporal and spiritual good to him, and will not even seem to dictate to him. Enough for all true hearts to pray with David, "Let it please thee to bless us," "for with thy blessing shall the house of thy servant be blessed for ever."
III. THE BLESSINGS WHICH GOD FINDS, FOR THOSE WHO THUS FULLY TRUST HIM, MUST MAKE THEM INFINITELY BLESSED. The things God sends will make them blessed, and their gracious moral influence on such recipients will make them double blessings. Christ's miracles of healing were Divine blessings, and the healed ones were doubly blessed, in body and in soul. God's gifts and providences now become double blessings; they order and hallow our lives; they help to meeten us for the "inheritance of the saints in the light." God still blesses with the eternal blessings.—R.T.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 17". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14