This chapter is the first of four employed on the subject of the Levites and the services distributed among them. The twenty-four orders of priests, sons of Aaron, occupy 1 Chronicles 24:1-31. The twenty-four orders of the singers and musicians occupy the contents of 1 Chronicles 25:1-31. And the divisions of the porters, with their gates; and of those Levites who had the keeping of the treasures of the house of God; and the officers and judges, fill up 1 Chronicles 26:1-32. After which the compiler is again awhile clear of the Levitical tribe.
Returning to our present chapter, it gives an account of the numbers of the Levites, of their classification, of David's fresh arrangement of them and fresh distribution of their work (1 Chronicles 26:1-6). But altogether the largest portion of the chapter (1 Chronicles 26:6-32) is occupied with the rehearsal of the heads of houses composing the four Levite families, and their offices.
1 Chronicles 23:1-5
The numbering and the classification of the Levites.
1 Chronicles 23:1
David… made Solomon his son king over Israel. These words give the key note of what remains in this book. David made his son king, as he himself acknowledges (1 Chronicles 28:5), under the superintending direction of God. The manner in which the formal event was precipitated by the conduct of Adonijah is found at length in 1 Kings 1:11-53. The original occasion alluded to there more than once, on which David promised, "and sware" to Bathsheba, that her son should be his chief heir and successor to the throne, is not distinctly recorded. We can easily assign one convenient place in the history for it to have found monition, viz. in 2 Samuel 12:25. The brevity of the statement which composes this verse, when compared with all the deeply interesting matter recorded in 1 Kings 1:11-53, is one among many other very clear illustrations of the purposed silence of our present history in certain directions.
1 Chronicles 23:2
He gathered together all the princes of Israel, with the priests and the Levites. As on an occasion of supreme importance, David, in view of his own death and of his son's succession at the present time, calls together the full council, and the highest possible representative council of the nation. So 1 Chronicles 22:17; 1 Chronicles 24:6; 1 Chronicles 25:1; in which last passage the word "captains" should have have been rendered "princes" ( שׂרִי). The arrangement of the Levites, and the distribution of their functions in the presence of the princes, as here described, and as it is even more strongly put (1 Chronicles 25:1), "by" them, simply points to the fact that the ultimate outer authority, as between Church and state, lay with the state. The Church was made for it, not it for the Church. And it was the duty of the state to defend the Church.
1 Chronicles 23:3
Now the Levites were numbered from the age of thirty years and upward. The thing which Joab had rightly resisted (1 Chronicles 21:3-6) and shrunk from doing was now rightly done. There was now a practical and a legitimate object for doing it. This consideration helps to determine what it was that "displeased the Lord" in the former general census of David. In connection with this clause, 1 Chronicles 27:23 should be noted, where we read, "But David took not the number of them from twenty years old and under: because the Lord had said he would increase Israel like to the stars of the heavens." The period from the age of thirty years up to fifty (Numbers 4:3, Numbers 4:23, Numbers 4:35, Numbers 4:39) was fixed under Moses, for those "that came to do the service of the ministry, and the service of the burden in the tabernacle of the congregation" (Numbers 4:47). It is not certain, however, that this census did not inquire, in point of fact, respecting some below this limit of age. For we may note 1 Chronicles 27:24 in the first place, and this is partly explained by Numbers 8:23-25. The number "thirty and eight thousand" of our present verse may be compared with the "eight thousand and five hundred and four score" of Numbers 4:47, Numbers 4:48. It is to be observed how promptly the national council did on this occasion commence with the arrangement of the ministers of religion, "the Levites." As we read (Numbers 4:3) of "thirty years" of age as the appointed age for the commencement of their ministry, and (Numbers 7:3) of the present or "offering" of "six covered waggons and twelve oxen," which the twelve "princes of Israel, heads of the house of their fathers, princes of the tribes," offered "before the Lord," which greatly lessened the laborious work of the Levites; so we find the commencing age reduced from time to time, to "twenty-five" years (Numbers 8:24), and to "twenty years" of age, as in our present chapter (Numbers 4:24-28).
1 Chronicles 23:4
To set forward (Hebrew לְנַצֵּחַ, Piel conjugation). The strict meaning of the word here is to superintend. The word has already occurred in the same sense in 1 Chronicles 15:21. Officers and judges (Hebrew וְשֹׁמְרִים וְשֹׁפְטִים). The explanation of the nature of the work of these, as really outward work, for the "outward business of Israel," is distinctly stated in 1 Chronicles 26:29; 2 Chronicles 19:5-11. These officers are mentioned under the same Hebrew term in Exodus 5:6, in a very different connection. It is plain that they were generally foremen, or overseers; while the judges took cognizance of matters which involved the interests of religion. This verse and the following give between them the four divisions of Levites, afterwards to be more fully described. The fuller account of the "twenty-four thousand" priests (including attendants) occupies Exodus 24:1-18.; the "six thousand" officers and judges, 1 Chronicles 26:20-32; the "four thousand" porters, 1 Chronicles 26:1-19; and the "four thousand who praised the Lord with the instruments," 1 Chronicles 25:1-31.
1 Chronicles 23:5
Porters (Hebrew שֹׁעְרִים); doorkeepers. The word is so translated in 1 Chronicles 15:23, 1 Chronicles 15:24. It was the duty of these to keep the entrances of the sanctuary, by day and night, in their courses (see also 2 Kings 7:10, 2 Kings 7:11). The Chaldaic equivalent of this word is תָּרָע (Ezra 7:24; Daniel 2:49). There is no connection between either the word or idea we have here, and those of Psalms 84:11, where the Hithp. conjugation of סָפף is used, and the sense of residence probably intended to be conveyed. The instruments which I made… to praise. Possibly the quotation of a short sentence often on David's lips. Men given to music may have been very conscious of it, in ancient days, as well as in modern. The language, however, does not necessarily assert that David claimed the inventing or in any similar sense the making of these musical instruments, but that he appointed them for the service of praise. What some of them were may be seen in 2 Chronicles 5:12—"cymbals, psalteries, harps, trumpets" (see also 2 Chronicles 29:25-27; Nehemiah 12:35, Nehemiah 12:36; Amos 6:5).
1 Chronicles 23:6
Here begin the families of the Levites, as arranged in courses by David. These arrangements were scrupulously observed by Solomon (2 Chronicles 8:14; 2 Chronicles 29:25).
1 Chronicles 23:7
The heads of the houses of the first Levite family, viz; of Gershon, are now enumerated. The subject occupies the five verses that close with the eleventh. The family of Gershon branches into two—the name of the one Laadan (so written again in 1 Chronicles 26:21; but in 1 Chronicles 6:17, 1 Chronicles 6:20, as well as in Exodus 6:17 and Numbers 3:18, written Libui), and the name of the other Shimei.
1 Chronicles 23:8
This verse contains the names of the three so-called sons of Laadan, but (1 Chronicles 26:22) the last two appear to have been grandsons.
1 Chronicles 23:9
This verse purports to give the three sons of Shimei, but not the Shimei of 1 Chronicles 23:7, but of a descendant of Laadan. This is made clear, not only by the remaining clause of this verse, which says, "These were the chief of the fathers of Landau," and again by the enumeration in 1 Chronicles 23:10 of sons of that Shimei who is coupled with Landau in 1 Chronicles 23:7, but also by a comparison of 1 Chronicles 24:22; 1 Chronicles 26:21-26. It is, of course, possible that the name stands here in error for some other name, but the supposition is gratuitous.
1 Chronicles 23:10
(See Zechariah 12:13.) The Zina of this verse is Zizah in the very next verse, which difference of form cannot be accounted for by any mere clerical explanation. The name Jahath seems to have been a favourite name in this family (1 Chronicles 6:43).
1 Chronicles 23:11
In one reckoning. The Hebrew of the word here translated "reckoning" is פְקֻדָּה, i.e. "enumeration." The meaning is they were accounted as only one "father's house." The derivative significations of the word are "care," "custody," and generally "office" (2 Chronicles 23:18). The total of Gershonite houses will amount to nine, three of these being houses of Shimei, and six of Landau.
1 Chronicles 23:12
This and the following eight verses give the Kohath heads of houses (1 Chronicles 5:1-26 :28; 1 Chronicles 6:2, 1 Chronicles 6:3, 1 Chronicles 6:18; Exodus 6:18; Numbers 3:27), four in their leading divisions.
1 Chronicles 23:13
The sons of Amram. From Amram, the first-mentioned son of Kohath, come the two great names of Aaron and Moses (Exodus 6:20). Aaron was separated,… and his sons for ever. This statement must be read, both with 1 Chronicles 23:3—into the number of Levites mentioned in which Aaron and his sons do not count—and with 1 Chronicles 23:14, which implies that Moses and his sons did count into that number. The sons of Aaron are dealt with in 1 Chronicles 24:1-19, infra. That he should sanctify the most holy things. The Hebrew text renders it doubtful whether the rendering here should not rather be, "Aaron was separated to sanctify him as most holy," etc. If it be so, this is the only place where the forcible term, "holy of holies" (most holy), is used of Aaron. The duties of the priest are described as threefold, in this place, viz.: "to burn incense before the Lord,"—this will carry the idea of making atonement; "to minister to God," on behalf of man, ― this will be one part of the work of a mediator; and "to bless in the Name of God,"—this will fulfil the remaining part. For ever. The proviso may, no doubt, include reference to the "ever-living High Priest." The threefold summary of solemn and beneficent duties receives ample illustration from many passages, and in special connection with the names of Aaron and his sons (Exodus 28:1, Exodus 28:38, Exodus 28:43; Exodus 29:1, Exodus 29:35, Exodus 29:45, Exodus 30:7-10; Numbers 6:22-27).
1 Chronicles 23:14
Moses the man of God. This title is distinguished by the presence of the article. The 'Speaker's Commentary' mentions it as occurring only nine times, of which five instances belong to Moses (Deuteronomy 33:1; Joshua 14:6; 2 Chronicles 30:16; Ezra 3:2; with the present place); three instances show the title applied to David (2 Chronicles 8:14; Nehemiah 12:24, Nehemiah 12:36); and once it is applied to Shemaiah (1 Kings 12:22). Although the sons of Moses belonged, as is here said, to the tribe of Levi, they did not belong to that portion which discharged priestly duties.
1 Chronicles 23:15
We read of the birth of Gershom to Moses and Zipporah (Exodus 2:22; see also Exodus 18:4, where Eliezer is also spoken of).
1 Chronicles 23:16
1 Chronicles 23:17
Rehabiah. He was the chief ( הָראשׁ); but it happened that he was also the only son. Hence it is added in antithesis that his sons were very many (see the name again, 1 Chronicles 26:25). The non-priestly Amramites are therefore seen to correspond with the houses of Shebuel and Rehabiah.
1 Chronicles 23:18
Of the sons of Ishar. While six names in all are mentioned under Amram, only one, Shelomith, is found under his next brother, Izhar. This Shelomith (spelt Shelomoth in 1 Chronicles 24:22) is not the same with the Shelomith of 1 Chronicles 26:25, 1 Chronicles 26:26.
1 Chronicles 23:19
Hebron. This third son of Kohath furnishes four houses. So again in the twenty-third verse of the following chapter.
1 Chronicles 23:20
Jesiah; in 1 Chronicles 23:25 of next chapter written Isshiah. The two houses from Uzziel given in this verse make up the number of houses from Kohath to nine (as given again in 1 Chronicles 24:20-24), and to these must be added the priests through Aaron and his sons, two houses, making in all eleven.
1 Chronicles 23:21
This and the following two verses give the houses of Merari, contributing four houses, and, with the nine Gershonite and eleven Kohathite, adding up to twenty-four. Merari is the third son of Levi (Genesis 46:11). The Mahli and Mushi of this verse were possibly grandson and son of Merari, if we follow the guidance of 1 Chronicles 6:47. Yet it would seem far more natural to explain this last-quoted passage by our 1 Chronicles 6:23, which would then parallel it. Otherwise we must account for the name of Mahli habitually standing first, as here, as in 1 Chronicles 6:19 also, and 1 Chronicles 24:26, as also in Exodus 6:19; Numbers 3:20, Numbers 3:33, etc.; in all of which places the statement is as distinct as in this verse, that Mahli and Mushi were sons. This and the following verse must be compared particularly with 1 Chronicles 24:26-29; the Jaaziah of which passage was evidently no son of Merari, on a par with Mahli and Mushi, but a later descendant. His descendants were three—Shoham, Zaccur, and Ibri (Beno being no proper name, but signifying "his son").
1 Chronicles 23:22
Their brethren… took them; i.e. their kinsmen, as margin, "took them" to wife (Numbers 36:5-12). (For the sons of Kish, see 1 Chronicles 24:29.)
1 Chronicles 23:23
The sons of Mushi.
1 Chronicles 23:24
This and the remaining verses of the chapter contain some general provisions regarding the offices and future work of the Levites—in part David's last edition of such provisions. (On the present verse comp. Numbers 1:1-4; Numbers 4:1-3, Numbers 4:21-23, Numbers 4:29, Numbers 4:30; Numbers 8:23-26.) It is not easy to reconcile this verse with 1 Chronicles 23:3. Keil cuts the knot at once by supposing the "thirty" years of 1 Chronicles 23:3 to be the error of a copyist, to whose memory the Mosaic census was present. And with Bertheau, he objects to the supposition that this verse describes a supplementary census, in conformity with "David's last words" (1 Chronicles 23:27), and as contrasted with his former directions. With the exception of what is contained in 1 Chronicles 23:25-27, it is true that these do not offer themselves sufficient indications to make one feel confident of this explanation. On the other hand, to set down the number "thirty" in 1 Chronicles 23:3 at once to the mistake of a copyist is too summary and convenient a way of escaping an awkward difficulty. It is evident that the following three verses do purport to explain why at this time the age of allowable service was altered to a standard so much lower than of old, and to assert that this alteration was recognized by the last orders of David.
1 Chronicles 23:25
For David said. The "for" of this clause cannot be supposed to account exclusively for the inclusion in the census of Levites beginning from the age of twenty years; it accounts no doubt for the whole proceeding. Since there would be no more journeyings for people, for buildings, or for sacred vessels, it was nosy fully time to organize religious duty and "the service of the house of God" in a manner adapted to permanent institutions. In order to this, the first step was to know and to arrange the number of those who were answerable for sacred duties.
1 Chronicles 23:26
And also unto the Levites. Emphasis is laid on the thought of the relief that permanent habitation in Jerusalem conferred on the Levites over and above the whole body of the rest of the people. They will no more be mere burden-bearers, though the burdens they Bore were of the most sacred character.
1 Chronicles 23:27
The… words of David. Although there are many instances of the expression, "the words of" David or some other king, as equivalent to his "doings" (1 Chronicles 29:29; 2 Chronicles 9:29), and not a few instances of the same phrase, standing for the "account" or "history' of any one (1 Chronicles 27:24; 1 Chronicles 29:29, three times; 2 Chronicles 9:29), the expression here may rather parallel passages like 2 Samuel 23:1; 2 Chronicles 29:30.
1 Chronicles 23:28
Because their office; i.e. probably the office or position of all, including the younger Levites. The development and greater detail of their varied duties, as the working staff of the "sons of Aaron," are alluded to here; and how priests, Levites, and Nethinim (1 Chronicles 9:2) all now formally undertook the whole range and scope of their functions is suggested. The work of these assistants of the "sons of Aaron" is detailed in three or four items, so far as this verse goes. They are first generally for the sacred service of the house of the Lord. That sacred service is in the matter of the courts; of the chambers; of the purifying of all holy things: and of the work, i.e. the performing of the sacred service of the house of God.
1 Chronicles 23:29
Both for the shewbread, and… size. Seven other specifications of service are continued in this verse, with which we may compare 1 Chronicles 9:26-32. For the shewbread. The first mention of shewbread is found in Exodus 25:30. The directions for making it are found in Le Exodus 24:5-9. The twelve unleavened cakes of which it consisted, heaped on the table in two piles, represented the twelve tribes, and intimated the Divine acceptance of the offerings of each faithful tribe (see also 2 Chronicles 13:11). For the fine flour for meat offering. This is spoken of in Exodus 29:40; Le Exodus 2:1-7; Exodus 6:14, Exodus 6:15, Exodus 6:19-27; Exodus 23:13; Exodus 14:5. For the unleavened cakes… the pan… fried. These are spoken of in Le Exodus 2:4-7. For all manner of measure and size; Hebrew וּלְכָל־מְשׂוּרֶה וּמִדָּה. These two words occur also in Le 19:35, 36, where they are rendered respectively "in measure" and "in meteyard." Perhaps the exacter rendering here would be "for all matters of liquid and solid measure."
1 Chronicles 23:30
To stand every morning to thank and praise the Lord (so 1 Chronicles 23:13 of this chapter and 1 Chronicles 25:7). Though Bertheau sees no special sign in the connection for this description to be confined to the four thousand whose special work and privilege it was, yet it is in entire analogy with the whole context so to confine it.
1 Chronicles 23:31
And to offer; Hebrew, "and for all the offering of burnt offerings." For other references to the help which the Levites gave in the matter of the burnt offerings, and for the number (2 Samuel 2:15; Numbers 28:1-31) of them, see Numbers 29:2-34; 2 Chronicles 29:32-34; 2 Chronicles 35:2-12. The priests alone performed the actual sacrifices. The set feasts. These refer to the three:
(1) the Passover (Le 2 Chronicles 23:4, 2 Chronicles 23:5);
1 Chronicles 23:32
Keep the charge of the tabernacle… holy place… sons of Aaron. This concluding verse is equivalent to a quotation from Numbers 18:1-7; in the first verse of which passage Aaron and the priests generally are reminded both of their representative character and position, and of the solemn responsibility which rested on them.
1 Chronicles 23:13.-The threefold functions of the priest.
In the words of this verse the compiler of the Chronicles sums the characteristic functions of the priest. It was now nearly five centuries since these had been distinctly prescribed by heavenly legislation for the religious observance of a nation, and for the religious education of far more than a nation, when David reviews the solemn institution of the priesthood. He wishes to see holy men in their places, and holy duties efficiently discharged. Time has helped to show their importance, and to illustrate the deeper significance which inhered in them. Perhaps it has in some degree availed also to disconnect men's minds from their pure original. A journeying people, a warring nation, a wandering ark and sometimes dishonoured an irregular celebration of religious service, have all tended in some degree to harm the freshness of impression and of stamp which a Heaven-derived "pattern" should make on men's hearts though ages and centuries have passed. Now that the nation was settling in its new territory long promised, the crisis was opportune for David to reconnect the great religious authorities of his kingdom with their original beginning. And our chronicler, though added centuries have passed, when he writes, knows their importance too well to omit the record of the fact, even though it be repetition and copy only. The threefold work of the priest is the matter of description here, and consists of —
I. The duty TO BURN INCENSE BEFORE THE LORD. The burning of the incense on that golden altar in the holy place, which was constantly fed with the costliest of material, was the act distinctively of the priest. For the "stranger to come near" with any view of usurping this function was to incur prompt punishment (Numbers 16:40; 2 Chronicles 26:16, 2 Chronicles 26:18). Do sudden danger and the threat of wrath impend? the ruler, legislator, prophet, conjures the priest to "take a censer, and put fire therein from off the altar, and put on incense, and go quickly unto the congregation, and make an atonement for them "(Numbers 16:46, Numbers 16:47). The burning of the incense was the immediate preliminary of the morning sacrifice, or immediate accompaniment of the evening sacrifice (Exodus 30:7, Exodus 30:9; Luke 1:9,Luke 1:10; Le Luke 16:13), and was a very special part of the arrangements of the ceremonial on the great Day of Atonement, and of its sacrifice (Le 1 Chronicles 16:11-13). It is difficult, amid a choice of many theories, to identify with any comfortable assurance the real symbolical significance of incense and its burning, yet the fact remains patent of its close relationship with the act of sacrifice in all the formal services of the Israelites. As it is said, "And without shedding of blood is no remission" (Hebrews 9:22), so it might almost without qualification be said that without incense there was no shedding of blood for any of the stated sacrificial objects. This would sufficiently defend the use of this part of the high priest's (and later of the ordinary priest's) duty, as speaking the very first and chiefest of all that makes up his raison d'etre. But beyond this, it is impossible to doubt that the burning of the incense, in the golden censer and with the special fire, had its own significance, worthy of the priest's own performing. Whether it were expressive of the fragrant acceptableness of human service and sacrifice to him in heaven, as it ascended; or whether rather its diffusive and pervading influences amid the congregation or the groups of humanity below were regarded; whether it symbolized the rising prayers and aspirations and glowing devotion of those who sought their Father and God, or, as has been suggested, something more specific, as e.g. prayer alone, or that form of prayer called intercession, and so understood, to be regarded as typical of the intercession of the great Intercessor; it spoke some proffered approach of the sinful creature to the condescending Creator, fit to be set forth by the priest himself, and by none inferior to him. For the modern apostle of Christ, for the modern minister and preacher of the truth of Christ, for the modern pastor and under-shepherd of "the flock of God," there is no duty that consists in the offering of sacrifice on their behalf or the burning of incense; but upon such lies perpetual and most solemn the responsibility of pointing to the Sacrifice for sin, and of insisting on all that helps to denote the acceptableness and the fragrance of that Sacrifice so illustrious. There is nothing more incumbent on the man who professes to seek to lead his fellow-creature to God than this. And it should have a prominence given to it, not less decided than that indicated by the place here given in this threefold description of the priest's duties to the burning of incense.
II. The duty TO MINISTER UNTO THE LORD. This simple and expressive description occurs above eighty times in the Pentateuchal, historical, and prophetical books of Scripture. It covers the whole range of those religious services, whether of the congregational or of the individual kind, allowed or appointed as the acceptable methods of the approach to God of his people Israel. He was not accessible to every person directly nor by every directest conceivable method. Long and plain as were the typical teachings of the sacrifices as such, so long and plain was the typical teaching under the ancient system of priests, of this fact, that the high and holy One was to be approached not without introduction, intervention, interposition. The various conditions of the intermediate approach were committed to the faithful priest. He was to become instructed and versed in them. He was to see that the people in no way suffered loss or unnecessary delay or difficulty in complying with them. And he was answerable directly to the Lord, whose servant he was for the people's sake. Hence he is said to "minister unto the Lord," although it was on behalf of the congregation or the individual Israelite. While, again, the modern preacher and pastor has no duty that can be described as the facsimile of this, yet in the first place, for all congregational prayer at least, his voice performs a service not dissimilar, as for some pastoral helps as well. But much rather would we again trace the deeper analogy. The Minister, the Intercessor, is to be pointed to, of whom it is said, "He is Minister of the sanctuary, and true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man;" and that "he hath obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the Mediator of a better covenant" (Hebrews 8:2, Hebrews 8:6).
III. The duty To BLESS IN THE NAME OF THE LORD. This completes the sketch of the priest's work. He not only presents sacrifice and burns incense; he not only ushers the worshipper and his worship into the presence of the high and holy God; he also is privileged to speak the great God's blessings, to pronounce his favour, to assure of his pardon and mercy, and to wake to melody the hearts and voices of the vast congregation sometimes, in response to an announcement of Divine goodness and love. We know now no priests who have power to pronounce in their own right the absolution or remission of sins, or to volunteer the assurance of Divine benediction. The priests of Israel had not themselves such a right. But neither now does God authorize or inspire any class of men, or any individual man, to speak in these tones to their fellow-men, except on the real humble, hearty compliance of these latter with the conditions laid down in Scripture. To these men must apply, not to the voice or even the wisest, holiest judgment of a living man, who cannot tell the inmost heart nor gauge the absolute sincerity of the applicant. Still, indeed, may we speak hope to the repentant, peace to the humble of heart, mercy and love to the trustful and true, but as it were in the quotations of Scripture, and well safe-guarded by the Scripture conditions. All beyond this, all beside this, will be beyond our power and beside our rights. And instead of being the better part of a true priest, we are turned into false prophets even.
Verse. 25.-The eye open to religious opportunity.
And that the eye of David showed itself now open to religious opportunity is not more plain than the reason of it—that his heart was open to it, nay, anxious and eager for it also. A crisis has now come, for which presumably the innermost heart of David has often longed. Though he had been the man of much war and of abounding activity, yet up and down his doings and his sayings there are not wanting indications that his heart sighed for peace and rest. "Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest" (Psalms 55:6); "Rest in the Lord" (Psalms 37:7); "Return to thy rest, O my soul" (Psalms 116:7). The crisis is not one when passion must have its way, when stern measures must be taken, when all things must be left to drift or else all he touched with an unwontedly firm hand. It is a crisis of much happier kind. Volume after volume of the history of Israel has been filled, and volumes not a few of the personal biography of David have been unerringly written. The last opens. Before his nation is spread out a wide, fair, enduring prospect of rest. Jerusalem "is at rest, and is quiet" (Isaiah 14:7). David's whole heart enters into the satisfaction of the thought. Let us note the admirable use he makes of this state of things.
I. HE USES THE CRISIS FOR THE PURPOSES OF REVIEW.
1. Special audible acknowledgment is made of surpassing mercy. "David said" it. He did not merely observe it, ponder it, and then keep it locked in his own heart. While he himself enters into the satisfaction of the thought, he utters it aloud.
2. David owns the Giver of the good in question. It has not come of itself. It has not come of circumstances, of reaction traceable enough, of secondary causes whether more or less remote. "The Lord God of Israel" is the Giver, to whom all the nation's indebtedness shall be confessed.
3. David suggests the harmony of the gift with the Giver. God is the Giver. His people those who take all the benefit of his giving. And this the gift rest. Rest under the Divine protection, in the Divine shade, the shadow of his wings and his throne, who bears a special favour to "his people," and who alone can make them "dwell secure." Full every way of suggestion is the utterance of David, were it but an articulate soliloquy.
II. DAVID, AS A KING, LEADER, TEACHER, ILLUSTRATES THE DUTY OF SUCH IN A CRISIS. While his language necessitates the comparison of the present with the past by very force of the contrast they present, and while it invites men to enter gratefully on the present enjoyments divinely offered, yet it associates new work, new opportunity, with these. Still the quest is to be loyalty and love to duty. He practically reminds a whole nation that:
1. Rest is favourable for order. Now, order may be honoured, recovered where it had been disturbed, studied to greater perfection even where it had not been very palpably infringed. Order is the beauty and glory of the whole universe. What room for improvement in it, in each individual heart and life, and in the life of every community!
2. Rest is favourable to growth. The winds that rock the trees help far down in the earth to provoke their roots to feel room for further growth, but the growing itself is not done while the storm lasts. How true this is of human character! It is our passionate, importunate cry to be hidden, to be sheltered, till the tempest is overpast, and the fury of the storm is spent. But afterward we grow.
3. Rest is the time for the cultivation of the devotion of the heart. It is true with no superficial, no mere sentimental truth, that Ñ
"The calm retreat, the silent shade,
With prayer and praise agree,
And seem by thy sweet bounty made
For those that follow thee."
That Jesus recommended the sanctum of the closet of prayer with the door closed; that he also himself sought retirement, privacy, solitude, with either the cover of deep shade or the suggestion of commanding prospects unfolding to the gaze, on mountain side or summit, are strong testimonies to the genius of rest and to the habitat of genuine devotion.
4. Rest gives grand opportunity for religious enterprise. Does the language sound a contradiction or paradoxical? It is not so in reality. The higher forms and conceptions of rest do not consist in inactivity, in the indulgence of lassitude, but in the cessation of waste energy, toil as unprofitable as laborious, or, if necessary (as the wars of Israel), as painful to the heart as strenuous to the hand. Most significant in this direction the words, "For he that hath entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works" (Hebrews 4:10). Heaven itself cannot possibly be viewed with satisfaction as a place or a state of inactivity. All the tasks of highest devotion may be supposed to be there the material of most strenuous achievement. But it will surely be with a place and a state delivered from the restless worry of care, the restless strife with sin, the restless struggle to elude or to bear sorrow, so familiar to the present. So when all outer care and war and work were removed awhile from the lot of Israel. David flies to the thought of the great opportunity open for the works of religion. To these he directs his own enthusiastic study and labour. To these he calls his princes, priests, and a whole people.
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
1 Chronicles 23:14.-The man of God.
This designation was not peculiar to Moses. In the historical books of the Old Testament, we find prophets sent with a Divine message to their fellow-mortals described as men of God. In the New Testament we meet with the expression in Paul's Epistles, where the inspired writers of the Hebrew Scriptures are denominated "holy men of God," and where Timothy is addressed in similar language. Moses is designated" the man of God" in the Book of Deuteronomy, is so called by Caleb as we read in the Book of Joshua, and is so denominated in the title prefixed to the ninetieth psalm.
I. MOSES WAS THE MAN OF GOD'S SELECTION AND PRESERVATION. A kind Providence watched over him from the beginning of his life. Whilst multitudes were put to death, the child of Divine beauty was spared.
II. MOSES WAS THE MAN OF GOD'S EDUCATION AND DISCIPLINE. Trained in the court and the learning of Egypt, and afterwards in the rougher but wholesome school of the Midian desert, this man was fitted by knowledge, by hardship, by society of the most diverse kinds, for the great future before him.
III. MOSES WAS THE MAN OF GOD'S VOCATION. When God had trained him for his work, he called him, and made known to him his sacred Name and attributes, that thenceforth he might have the living consciousness of the Divine presence.
IV. MOSES WAS THE MAN WHOM GOD ADMITTED TO SPECIAL COMMUNION WITH HIMSELF. By the flaming thorn tree, upon the mountain solitude, at the door of the sacred tent, Jehovah met with his servant, and spake with him as a man with his friend.
V. MOSES WAS A MAN TO WHOM GOD COMMUNICATED HIS OWN SPIRIT AND HIS OWN CHARACTER. Again and again did the Lord speak words of confidence and approval with regard to his servant Moses. His meekness and holiness, his zeal for the glory of God, his patriotic desires for the welfare of his nation, all were indications that he was no unconscious instrument, but a willing and consecrated agent, in the hands of Heaven.
VI. MOSES WAS THE MAN WHOM GOD AUTHORIZED TO DECLARE HIS WILL. "The Law was given by Moses." Hence he is called "the lawgiver." Penetrated with the mind of the Supreme, he was empowered to promulgate, for the guidance of Israel, a code of laws altogether superior to those of other nations in ancient times. These laws embraced the moral as well as the civic life of the community, and aimed at the regulation of the heart as well as the life. Not only ordinances for conduct generally, but instructions for religious worship and sacrifice, were communicated by this "mediator" and "servant" and "man" of God.
VII. MOSES WAS THE MAN GOD CHOSE TO BRING OUT AND LEAD HIS PEOPLE. He was the shepherd who brought up the flock out of Egypt, and conducted the wanderers through the wilderness, and brought them to the verge of the green pastures of Canaan. God led, by the hand of his servant, the people who were his heritage.
VIII. MOSES WAS THE MAN WHOM GOD BURIED AND SO TOOK TO HIMSELF. AS he was often alone with Jehovah in life, so he was alone with him in death.
IX. MOSES WAS GOD'S TYPE OF CHRIST. Jesus was the Prophet whom God raised up like unto his servant Moses. "The Law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ."
PRACTICAL LESSON. If the children of Israel were bound to hear and obey Moses, the man of God, the servant, how much more are we bound to hear and obey Christ, the Son of God!—T.
1 Chronicles 23:30.-Morning and evening praise.
The work of the Levites was "to wait on the sons of Aaron for the service of the house of the Lord." It was, therefore, to some extent servile and menial. Yet the work was dignified and hallowed by the fact that it was truly rendered to the God of Israel, the Lord of all. The function, however, described in the text is the most honourable that can be performed by man. The glorified assembly above, the angelic hosts before the throne, are thus perpetually occupied.
I. THE OFFICE ITSELF OF PRAISE. The Levites were doubtless organized by David, as never before. His poetical and musical gilts were consecrated to the praise of Jehovah. His psalms from that time forward became the vehicle of human thanksgiving and adoration. The instruments of music which he appointed became essential to the ecclesiastical orchestra of the temple. And whilst thanks and praise are due from all intelligent beings to the God of providence, the human race has a special song to present, a special service to offer—thanks and praise to the God of all grace and salvation.
II. THE PERIODICAL OFFERING OF PRAISE. It was appointed for the Levites to stand, in due order and according to their courses, in the presence of Jehovah. And every morning and every evening the sacrifice of praise was offered as regularly as the burnt offering itself. How suitable was this arrangement must be apparent to every reflecting mind. Each day brings with it new favours, which should be welcomed with a grateful song. Each evening summons us to record renewed instances of Divine mercy and forbearance, for which the Giver of all good should be warmly praised.
1. The duty and privilege of thanksgiving and adoration. "It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto the Name of the Most High."
2. The desirableness of periodical and regular daily devotions: "To show forth his loving-kindness in the morning, and his faithfulness every night."—T.
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
1 Chronicles 23:1, 1 Chronicles 23:2.-Our hold upon the future.
When "David was old, and full of days" he contemplated his own death and what should then ensue—who should succeed him on the throne, and what should be the work and history of the nation he had governed. We are reminded of —
I. OUR DESIRE TO KEEP A HOLD UPON THE FUTURE. As the king, like all other monarchs, earnestly desired that, after his death, his own sou should sit upon his throne; as he took the necessary steps to secure this by summoning all the leaders in the kingdom and giving them charge concerning him (1 Chronicles 23:2), so we desire to retain as much hold on human life as we can, even when our eyes shall be closed to its scenes and our ears be deaf to all its voices. Either in the person of those who are our second selves—the children of our love and our charge—or through our deliberately uttered wishes in documents or dying words, we desire to make ourselves felt, as the possessors of power, by the generation which will remain when we are no longer on the earth.
II. OUR POWER TO CARRY OUT OUR WISHES. "David made Solomon his son king over Israel." He had the constitutional right to nominate his successor, and by solemnly designating him as such in the presence of "all the princes of Israel" he ensured his occupancy of the throne. There are ways by which we can make ourselves felt in the days which succeed our own.
1. By indoctrinating our children with our own beliefs and instilling into their minds our own spirit, we may live on in them and in their lives.
2. By bequeathing our property in such a way that future generations shall have cause to remember us (e.g. the founding of parks, hospitals, homes, etc.).
3. By documents which are valid in law by which we decide the way in which our property shall be used or our relatives be circumstanced.
III. THE LIMITATIONS OF THIS POWER. David could only make Solomon king by calling all his counsellors together and getting them to ratify his own decision; and then he had to leave the issue to Solomon's own discretion. Had he (Solomon) acted as foolishly as his son afterwards acted, the throne would soon have passed away from him, and his father's eager anticipations would have been defeated. Do what we may to retain a hold on the future through those who should be the inheritors of our principles and the executors of our will, we cannot really ensure anything we may devise. Those on whom we rest our strongest hopes may disappoint all our expectations and overthrow all our plans. The statesman's great measure is repealed, the warrior's proud conquest is undone, the millionaire's splendid fortune is dissipated, the nobleman's "house" is extinguished, the discoverer's invention is superseded, the writer's chief work is shelved, the teacher's famous doctrine is exploded; the world moves on and leaves us all behind. We need some better solace in the declining hour than the expectation that the kingdom will go to our sons, and thus be retained by ourselves. And we have a better one in —
IV. THE CHRISTIAN ASPIRATION. There are two worthy and honourable ambitions we may cherish respecting the future.
1. To live on, ourselves, in another sphere. Though not acting directly on the men and things we leave behind us, we shall be living and acting elsewhere in some other province of God's great domain. Enough for us that, in the sphere which God chooses for us, we shall be using our powers for good—more than enough, for that will be a wider sphere, and they will be "enlarged and liberated powers."
2. To leave behind us in many hearts and lives the holy influence we have been exerting. If day by day we are scattering "the good seed of the kingdom" in true thoughts, in holy principles, in Christ-like impressions, these must and will appear again in other lives, and be again resown to reappear in others still; thus shall we have a blessed share in a far future, even in this lower realm.—C.
1 Chronicles 23:3-32.-The sacred tribe: their service and ours.
We have here —
I. THE SPECIAL SERVICE WHICH THE LEVITES RENDERED TO ISRAEL. This was four-fold.
1. Assisting at the service of sacrifice. They were "to set forward the work of the house of the Lord" (1 Chronicles 23:4); "their office was to wait on the sons of Aaron for the service of the house of the Lord," etc. (1 Chronicles 23:28, 1 Chronicles 23:29); "to offer [i.e. to help at the offering of] all burnt sacrifices," etc. (1 Chronicles 23:31, 1 Chronicles 23:32).
2. Rendering the service of praise. "Four thousand of them praised the Lord," etc. (1 Chronicles 23:5). These were to stand every morning and evening to thank and praise the Lord (1 Chronicles 23:30).
3. Administration of civic business and pacification: "officers and judges" (1 Chronicles 23:4).
4. Guardianship of the gates; preserving from profanation, and so from Divine displeasure: "porters," i.e. gatekeepers (1 Chronicles 23:5).
II. THE CHANGES WHICH OCCUR IN THE FORM OF SERVICE. Even under the same dispensation occasional changes occurred of the way in which God was served. An instance and indication of this is found here. The Levites had no more need to carry the tabernacle from place to place; they thus laid down one of their most solemn and important functions (1 Chronicles 23:25, 1 Chronicles 23:26). They were also henceforth to be numbered from twenty (instead of thirty) years of age (1 Chronicles 23:27, 1 Chronicles 23:28). And, further, they entered now on the service of instrumental music, systematically arranged (1 Chronicles 23:5, 1 Chronicles 23:30). If such minor changes occurred in the same era of religions history, how much greater changes in the order of service might we expect to find when one dispensation gave place to another, when the Law was lost in the gospel? Such we do find. We look, therefore, at —
III. OUR CORRESPONDING SERVICE UNDER CHRIST.
1. In the matter of sacrifice, the Levites cannot properly be said to have any successors; for, the one all-sufficient atonement having been offered, there is no sacrifice to be presented, and, there being no officiating priest and no altar "in Christ Jesus," there is needed no ministering Levite. Only that we are all to be priests and Levites in that we are all to present "spiritual sacrifices" of prayer and praise, and of "doing good and communicating," continually unto him. However, there are humbler services to be rendered, needful work to be done, "for the service of the house of the Lord" (1 Chronicles 23:24); and in this useful and worthy ministry, those who take their part cheerfully and do their work faithfully are "approved of him."
2. In the matter of praise, the Levites find their successors in
3. In respect of administration (officers and judges), as ecclesiastical law has given place to civil law, this function of Jehovah's servants has passed into other hands; yet perhaps they who are peacemakers between their fellows and help to decide disputes between brethren may be said to be the "judges" of the present time.
4. As to guardianship of the gates, with the open throne of grace and access at all times to all men, there is little room for us to perpetuate this work of the Levite. But we can, and should, take great pains to preserve the spirit of reverence and pure devotion in the hearts of all who come to worship Christ.—C.
HOMILIES BY F. WHITFIELD
1 Chronicles 23:1-32.-Enumeration and arrangement of the Levites for their service.
The four chapters with which this commences give a connected view of the condition of the Levites towards the end, that is, the fortieth year of David's reign, and of the sections into which they were divided according to their various services. In this chapter the first thing with which we are presented is the total number of the tribe of Levi, and their divisions according to the duties devolving upon them. Next we have the enumeration of the heads of the houses of the fathers into which the four families of the Levites had branched out, with a brief account of their duties. All these arrangements immediately preceded Solomon's elevation to the throne. The first part of the third verse has reference to what was the original age at which the Levites were numbered. If we read, "Now the Levites had been numbered from thirty years old and upward," it will present no difficulty (see Numbers 4:1-49.). Moses himself had, however, at a later date, made their time of service from twenty-five to fifty years of age (see Numbers 8:23-26). David reduced even this (see 1 Chronicles 23:24), and made their service to commence at the age of twenty. The reason for this is given (see 1 Chronicles 23:25). The Levites had now not to do the heavy work they had when marching through the wilderness, when they had to carry the tabernacle and its vessels. Now that this was over and the Lord had given them rest, they might enter on their work at an earlier age. The census presents us with the total number, namely, thirty-eight thousand men. Of these, twenty-four thousand were to conduct and carry on the work of the house of the Lord; six thousand were to be officers and judges; four thousand porters, and four thousand to praise the Lord. The work assigned to the twenty-four thousand is more particularly defined in 1 Chronicles 23:28-32. Two great spiritual truths are presented in this chapter.
1. Every man has his own place to fill and his own special work appointed by God. This work is of various and diverse kinds. Some of it was more honourable, in a human point of view, than another; but each man was in his own divinely appointed place. Thus only can there be order and progress in the Lord's work by each one filling that place. "God is not the author of confusion," but of order. "The eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. But God hath tempered the body together… that there should be no schism in the body" (1 Corinthians 12:21-25).
2. The second truth is the great number set apart for praise and thanksgiving morning and evening (see 1 Chronicles 23:5, 1 Chronicles 23:30). This was to form a conspicuous part of their service, and to take a prominent place. This is the highest kind of service. The New Testament is full of injunctions to Joy and praise and thanksgiving. It implied, in Israel of old, "how much we have to praise him for!" And is it not true in all our work and service for God? Surely they who know the Saviour, and think for a moment what he is in himself, what he did for us on the cross, and what he is doing for us every day and every hour, have to praise him now and throughout eternity! Such praises should ever be in the heart and on the lips. One heart-look at Christ should banish all doubt and fear and make that heart sing for joy.—W.
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
1 Chronicles 23:2, 1 Chronicles 23:3.-The mission of the Levites.
They were called to service which men might call "menial," but which was truly "honourable," and might be made "more honourable by the loyal, devout, and loving spirit in which it was done. But there are indications that the Levites were tempted to undervalue their place and their work; they sometimes envied the priests, and fretfully wanted to be other than they were (see Numbers 16:9). Confusion and difficulty are sure to arise when men undervalue the positions in which they are set, and the work that is entrusted to them to do, and begin to envy other people's positions and other people's work. We treat here the mission of the Levites as introducing the subject of our separation unto God's service. What is called the Divine election may be fittingly called the Divine selection, for it really is God, in his infinite foreknowledge, selecting fitting agents, and, in the ordering of his providences, separating them unto the work for which he has chosen them. The sacred Word is full of instances of these Divine selectings and separatings. The race of Seth is separated from the other descendants of Adam. Noah is separated from the ungodly world. Japheth is separated from the new races coming from Noah. Abraham is separated from the idolatrous Chaldeans. Isaac is separated as the sole heir of the covenant. Jacob, Judah, and Ephraim are separated by Divine interference with the right of eldest sons. The nation of Israel is separated from all nations to be the repository of God's revelation. The tribe of Levi is separated to special service in the Divine tabernacle. Saul is separated to be the first king. David is separated from the sheepfolds. Our Lord separates twelve from among his disciples. Barnabas and Saul are separated unto the work of the ministry. Fixing our attention on the senses in which the Levites were separated from the congregation, we may learn some of the ways in which we should regard ourselves now as "separated unto God." The Levites were not made a distinct class, dwelling together; they lived about among the people, and shared the common life. They worked for a part at least of their living; their families grew up around them; they joined in the local feast as well as in the yearly festival. Their pleasures and their daily interests were precisely those of the people about them. And yet they were God's by special call and consecration. Wheresoever they went the stamp of the Holy rested upon them. Their very presence tended to check sin, and to purify the social atmospheres. The distinctness of the Levites belonged to their character, spirit, and tone of conduct. And they were called to a particular service. They were to attend on the worship of the tabernacle, taking their orderly turns. They were selected by God for this one life-work, "to bear the vessels of the Lord." They were called to receive a trust, and called to manifest the spirit which was becoming to that "trust." Still we find separation unto God quite compatible with taking our place among our fellow-men, and entering heartily into everything that properly belongs to family and social and national life. The world in which we live is God's world. In it there is nothing unclean, save to him who makes a thing unclean. Work is holy; rest is holy; pleasure is holy; friendship is holy. The Christian and the Christian Church stand out from all the world, and are set "in the world's eye;" and yet it is equally true that the Christian and the Christian Church blend and mingle in every sphere of life. They force no distinctions upon men's notice, and yet they are "separate" everywhere. Their distinction comes out of their first and ruling principles. The thought of God, the reference of all things to the will of God, and the effort to be in full harmony with the mind of God, are so essential to the Christian, and so characteristic of him, that he must bring the sense of God's presence into every life-association. And just in this lies his peculiarity and his mission. When a Jew looked upon a Levite in the midst of the people, he thought of Jehovah. When a Jew talked to a Levite, if he was a true Levite, he would make the man feel God's relation to the matter in hand. And so it is the Christian's mission to be an open "epistle of Christ." Levites failed from their duty, and from the joy of their duty, when they began to count their separation unto God a light thing. And this came about by their not putting their hearts into their work; by their nourishing jealousies and envyings; and by their failing to recognize how their work fitted into the great whole of God's service. Do we think it a small thing to have been separated unto God? Do we think unworthily of the talent committed to our trust? Can it be a little thing to be God's priests and Levites in his great world, ministering his truth, his will, his love, to men? Can it be a little thing to be the "candlestick" that holds out the light of God's holiness and God's gospel to men? Here is one chief root of the Christian evils which we deplore—under-valuing our Christian standing; under-estimating our Divine call, and the mission which is given us to fulfil. "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain."—R.T.
1 Chronicles 23:3.-Consecrated maturity.
On the occasion of the "census," the tribe of Levi had not been taken. A special enumeration of them was now made, and the pattern of the Mosaic census was followed. Those at the age of thirty and above, but under fifty, alone were numbered. But the years from thirty to fifty represent and include a man's maturity; and, in the case of the Levites, this their maturity lay as a "living sacrifice" on the altar of God's service. It appears that our Lord began his ministry at the age of thirty. But "who shall declare his generation? For he was cut off out of the land of the living; for the transgression of my people was he stricken." For probably at most three years of his maturity did he lie a "living sacrifice." Make the burden of address a serious and earnest plea that strong men should give the strength of their manhood to holy service for God in the Church and the world. It is the weakness of so many Christian institutions and enterprises—. as it so notably is of our Sunday school system—that the experienced men and women of middle life hold aloof from them. There have indeed been cases of precocious development before the age of thirty; and we may not, even in our theories or our thoughts, set limits to the gloriously free operations of that Divine Spirit who "divides to every man severally as he wills." Still, the general rule, comprehensively working, is that full culture—including something like adequate experience and due self-control—is not reached before that age. F.W. Robertson, A. Hallam, R. A. Vaughan, are very familiar illustrations of early maturity. It is also true that there is a limit—all too soon reached in most cases—to a man's freshness, power, and originality. A man reaches maturity, and may maintain it awhile; but the time of strong and individual force for any man is usually very brief. No doubt there are cases of strength retained beyond the age of fifty; and there is suitable work in the world for the older men to do. But still, it is in large measure true that a man's distinct life-witness and life-work are very brief—a few swiftly passing years. When they are done he either passes from the earth-spheres, or else he must step aside lest he be run down by the hurrying throng who go so much faster than he can go, and who, he begins to think, are going wrong. A man's strong manhood is his great trust, and this must be for the Lord, wholly consecrated unto him. Then it may be earnestly pressed upon us that —
I. WE SHOULD ESTIMATE ARIGHT THE PREPARING-TIMES OF LIFE: the spring-times, on which depends the summer beauty; the seed-time, on which depends the autumn harvest; the child-time, on which depends wise fatherhood; the apprenticeship-time, on which depend the business successes.
II. WE SHOULD FEEL THE RESPONSIBILITY OF MATURE TIMES: when we can put strength, good judgment, cultured skill, ripe powers, into whatever work we undertake. It is often pressed on our attention that we are responsible for what we have; it may be much more earnestly impressed upon us that we are responsible for what we are or can be.
III. WE SHOULD ACCEPT THE PROVIDENCES THAT SET US ASIDE FOR RESTING-TIMES. Some such come in the midst of life's works for our refreshing. Such come at last when our great life-work is done. We may be spared awhile in the Beulah-land, but in our resting-times we have new and other missions to fulfil. Alas! it takes much grace to make us willing to step quietly aside, and say of the new generation growing up round us, "He must increase, but I must decrease."
In the mystery of the Divine order the later and resting-times of a man's life may be preparings for the consecrated maturities of the heavenly and eternal spheres.—R.T.
1 Chronicles 23:6.-Orderliness required in God's service.
The chronicler here reviews the arrangements made by David for the efficient conducting of Divine service in the tabernacle and temple, and the importance of order in worship is suggested for our consideration.
I. SUCH ORDERLINESS SECURES DUE PREPARATION. Anything like hurry is unsuitable in connection with Divine worship and work. Each man should know beforehand his place. "Hands should be laid on no man suddenly." Seriousness, quietness, and thoughtfulness are proper in the house of God. Now men need to "sanctify themselves" by meditation and prayer before going to the temple, just as the old priests and Levites did.
II. Such ORDERLINESS AIDS THE DEVOTION OF THE WORSHIPPERS. Stillness and regular occupations that do not call off the attention or disturb meditation are important helps to worshippers. Remember Keble's lines on the sacramental season —
"Sweet awful hour! the only sound
One gentle footstep gliding round,
Offering by turns on Jesus' part
The cross to every band and heart."
III. SUCH ORDERLINESS GIVES RIGHT TONE TO WORSHIP. Show here how distinct the idea of worship is from mere sermon-hearing, or mere receiving of religious instruction, or exciting of religious feeling. Worship should take us wholly out of the self-sphere, and set. us in the God-sphere. And order, quiet, the beautiful in form and expression, are important associations of worship. Illustrate by the way in which our feelings are toned on entering the cathedral or sharing in stately cathedral service. No section of Christian people can safely neglect this element of orderliness; and each Christian worshipper should personally and anxiously aid in its maintenance. Here some of the forms in which modern worship fails may be dealt with: these will differ as apprehended by members of the different religious communities. "Order is Heaven's first law." Order is man's witness for God, who rules and tones all things. Order may be the characteristic feature of all worship, whatever may be its form—whether it be severe as the Puritanic, or artistic as the Roman Catholic. Illustrate by the moral influence exerted by the well-ordered home, and its relation to the comfort, peace, and good culture of the family.—R.T.
1 Chronicles 23:13.-Separation and consecration.
Aaron was separated in order that he might be consecrated to the "sanctifying of the most holy things" (see Exodus 28:1-43.). All of us should be consecrated, but some of us may be also called and separated unto some special service. Expressing the consecrated separateness of Christian believers, St. Peter says, "Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 2:5).
I. THE DIVINE REQUIREMENT OF CHARACTER. Personal holiness and the refined culture of all faculty and virtue are necessary if we would serve God in any sphere. It should be distinctly apprehended that God calls to his service not men's powers, but men with their powers, and so a man's character God wants consecrated for him and to him.
II. THE DIVINE ELECTION TO SERVICE. Much of the difficulty felt concerning God's election has arisen from our fixing attention on election to privilege, and setting in quite the background election to service. But God puts first "election to service," and bases such election on the known fitness of particular men for particular work. The attendant "privilege" is little more than the accident attending on, or the reward given to, faithful service. Aaron was honoured by his place and sphere of work.
III. THE DIVINE SEPARATION TO PARTICULAR SERVICE. God condescends to the minutest things, and fits his people for the smallest places. We easily recognize the Divine call of men upon emergencies, and the special call of the men of genius in every age; but we should feel that every one of us, in the family, the Church, and the world, is called of God, and separated unto his particular work; and "every man, wherein he is called, should therein abide with God."
IV. THE RELATION OF ALL SEPARATED ONES TO THE WHOLE. Each, in his separated sphere, is to become an example, and so a sanctifying power, upon the rest. There is a tendency in us all to feel the force of an example shown in some other sphere than our own, and in this way each one of us exerts a real influence on the whole. Aaron pleaded by his example for the sanctified life of every Israelite. Common consecration to God, and openness to yield to all Divine calls and separations, are the secrets of deliverance from all jealousies and envies.—R.T.
1 Chronicles 23:24.-Work that young people may do.
The time of Levitical service dated from the age of thirty, but service of particular kinds was accepted from those as young as twenty. Some things are beyond the young people. They could not do them well. They require gifts and maturity which the young do not possess. It is well for them to learn what is within their reach—what they may do, and what they may not do.
I. YOUNG PEOPLE SHOULD ACCEPT THE FACT OF THEIR LIMITED POWER AND LIMITED FITNESS. This would check their characteristic disposition to over self-confidence.
II. YOUNG PEOPLE SHOULD ESTIMATE FAIRLY THE MEASURE OF THEIR POWER, and so work up to their highest limit. St. John gives his advice to young men "because they are strong."
III. YOUNG PEOPLE SHOULD HOLD ALL THEIR POWERS AT GOD'S SERVICE, seeing that he asks for life's morning as well as life's noontide.
IV. YOUNG PEOPLE SHOULD BE SURE THAT THERE ARE SPHERES OF SERVICE EXACTLY MATCHING THEIR POWERS. And they should be watching, ever ready to enter upon all such.
In the faithful doing of the least things of our youth-time alone lies our hope of training for the undertaking of more and better work as manly powers unfold. Show that the noblest of God's workers have consecrated their youth-time to his service.—R.T.
1 Chronicles 23:30.-The mission of those who praise.
Some were to "stand every morning to thank and praise the Lord, and likewise at even." This was the special work of certain of the younger Levites, whose voices retained their tone and power. They formed a choir to aid in the interest and beauty of Divine service. As this subject has been somewhat fully dealt with in previous outline homilies, we do but suggest a new framework, which the earlier materials will enable the reader to clothe. Deal with the mission of church choirs and singing bands, and show —
I. THEIR MISSION TO GIVE EXPRESSION TO OTHERS' FEELINGS, and to strengthen them by expression.
II. THEIR MISSION TO INTEREST OTHERS IN DIVINE THINGS.
III. THEIR MISSION IN AROUSING OTHERS TO RELIGIOUS ANXIETY, as with the singing of revival hymns.
Then press the importance of cultured spiritual fitness for the efficient fulfilment of this mission. They who sing for the religious helping and teaching of men must themselves be sincere, devout, earnest, and pious. It is as true of this as of any other form of Christian service, that "we can only kindle fire when we are ourselves on fire." "In order to the high result intended, the music of religion must be religious. There must be a distinction of sounds. As this language is given for the heart, it becomes a first principle that it must be of the heart, else it is an unknown tongue. And so true is this, that nothing can really fulfil the idea of religious music which is not the breathing of true love and worship. Even instruments without life will not speak the true notes of power unless the touch of faith is on them, and the breath of holy feeling is in them; how much less the voice itself, whose very qualities of sound are inevitably toned by the secret feeling of the spirit?" (Dr. Horace Bushnell).—R.T.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 23". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany