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The Pulpit Commentaries The Pulpit Commentaries
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 6". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tpc/ 2-samuel-6.html. 1897.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 6". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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2 Samuel 6:1
And David gathered together. The long subjection to the Philistines was at an end, and David's first care is to bring the ark of Jehovah from Kirjath-jearim to Jerusalem. In this he had a twofold object. For, first, it was an act of piety, testifying David's gratitude to God, who had so quickly raised him from the condition of a despairing fugitive hiding away in the cave of Adullam to that of a victorious king reigning over an independent and free people. But David had also a political purpose. The weakness of Israel in the past was the result of its divisions, he would heal this by giving it a capital, whither the tribes would come up for worship, and where they would feel that they formed one nation. David had seen the evils of a divided sovereignty, when he and Ishbosheth were wasting the strength of Israel in civil war. For more than half a century he remedied this, but before there had been time for the union of the tribes to be cemented by the gradual influence of religion. Solomon's oppressive levies of unpaid workmen, forced to labour in his costly buildings, and the despotic stupidity of Rehoboam, broke up united Israel into two feeble states, which henceforward had to struggle hard for a mere existence. The condition of Israel was very similar to that of the United States of North America before their great civil war; except that their president, elected by all the people, and their Congress at Washington, were far stronger bonds of union than any that were possessed by the Israelites. But when there was danger of even these failing to keep them together as one people, the statesmen of the north put forth their utmost powers, and spared neither life nor treasure, because they saw clearly that the victory of the south meant the breaking up of their empire into a multitude of feeble governments, which, by their mutual jealousies, would paralyze and thwart one another. With equal discernment David endeavoured to counteract the jealousy and separate action of the tribes, which was bringing about the disintegration of Israel, by giving them a point of union. Had he gone further north for his capital, he might, perhaps, have overawed the stubborn tribe of Ephraim, which was always the most unmanageable of the sections of Israel. But the situation of Jerusalem upon the borders of Benjamin and Judah, on a hill-top which neither had really possessed, and which was marked out for noble use by its wonderful natural conformation, fully justified David's choice; and it has had the assent of mankind ever since. David then made this unrivalled spot his capital, and placed there, first of all, his royal residence, whereby it became the centre of all public business and of the administration of law; and, secondly, as a matter of still higher importance, he made it the headquarters of their national religion and the abode oF their God. We see the weight of this religious influence in the anxiety of Jeroboam to counteract it, and in the strength given to Rehoboam by the migration into Judah of those who valued the temple services more than their worldly prosperity. Even Saul had valued the national religion, and had established its headquarters at Nob; but, giving way to the ungoverned anger of a despot, he had destroyed his own work. It was left to one who to the bravery of a soldier added the discernment of a statesman to consolidate the tribes into a nation by establishing their religion upon a sure and influential basis. For this reason also he made their services full of delight and enjoyment by the institution of choral chants and the use of instruments of music; while the psalms which his singers recited were so spiritual and ennobling that we to this day use them in our solemn worship. Granting that there are expressions in them harsher and more intolerant than a disciple of the loving Jesus would now apply to any earthly enemy, yet, as a whole, the Psalms, written in these rough far off times, still form our best book of devotion! In the parallel place in the First Book of Chronicles we have the narrative of this re-establishment of the Mosaic Law given as looked at on the Levitical side, and with many interesting additions. Here the narrator looks at it with the eye of a statesman. We must not, however, suppose that the history there given is arranged in chronological order, as, if so, the two victories in the Valley of Rephaim would have both taken place in the three months during which the ark was resting in the house of Obed-Edom. If this were so, then David would first have had more than three hundred and forty thousand warriors with him at Hebron to anoint him, and with their aid would have captured Jerusalem. lie would next have assembled thirty thousand picked men to bring the ark up to Zion; and yet would have had only his body guard of "mighty men" wherewith to fight Israel's battles and win its independence. Most probably the order, both here and in Chronicles, is not chronological, and the course of events was as follows. With the help of the men gathered at Hebron David captures Jerusalem. As soon as it is made safe they withdraw, and leave him occupied with planning out and building his city. Alarmed at the vast concourse at Hebron, and made angry by David's seizure of a strong fortress, the Philistines hastily pounce upon him in numbers too vast for him to resist. He escapes, leaving but a few men to defend Jerusalem, and hides in his old fastness. Encouraged there by finding three of his mighties more than a match for the garrison at Bethlehem, he gathers the mere valiant spirits, and makes a sudden attack upon the Philistines, who were engaged in ravaging the country as a punishment for its rebellion. They are defeated, but with no great loss; and so with uubroken strength they again invade the country, and march up once more to Jerusalem, prepared to fight a pitched battle, and seize that fortress as the prize of victory. Again, David, with far larger forces, surprises them, and, driving them from ridge to ridge, so utterly vanquishes them that the power of Philistia was destroyed forever. It was after this double victory that Hiram, King of Tyre, whose dominions bordered upon the Philistines, and who had found them disagreeable neighbours, made a close alliance with David; and so at length, free from all fear at home, and honoured abroad, he was able to turn his thoughts to the consolidation of his kingdom and the establishment of Jehovah's worship. And in the Book of Chronicles we have the details of that spiritual service of psalmody which David added to the Levitical routine of sacrifice, and which bears the significant name of "prophecy," as being the expression of the moral and spiritual side of the Mosaic Law (1 Chronicles 25:1). Instead of "Again David gathered," the words of the Hebrew are" And David gathered together all the chosen men of Israel." The first gathering was at Hebron (2 Samuel 5:1), and before they came David must have given his consent to their wishes, and invited their presence at his anointing. They soon gather together a second time to endow their new kingdom with the safeguards necessary for their spiritual welfare, and the maintenance among them of morality and virtue and the fear of God. Chosen men. This usually means picked men fit for war. But doubtless on this occasion the eiders and all good men possessed of power and influence would be present to strengthen the king's hand. Thirty thousand. A large number, but not too large. David probably chose one of the great feasts for the occasion, and by the presence of a large number of warriors, and the display of much military pomp, he would impress upon the minds of the people the value of religion. They would thus learn also to respect their new capital as being the place where was the presence of their Deity, and where they were to come to worship him.
2 Samuel 6:2
From Baale of Judah. We learn from Joshua 15:9, Joshua 15:60 that Baalah, or Kirjath-Baal, "the city of Baal," was the old Canaanite name of Kirjath-jearim, the "city of woods." It lay about eight miles westward from Jerusalem (see 1Sa 6:21; 1 Samuel 7:1, 1 Samuel 7:2). The preposition "from" is very startling, as really David went to Baale. Yet all the versions have it, but they put on Baale an incorrect meaning. Baal means "lord," "master," and they render, "David went with all the people that were with him from [or, of] the citizens of Judah," understanding by "master" a householder, one who was master of a family. The real explanation probably is that the narrator wrote according to the sense, and not according to the grammar. The thought in his mind was the bringing up of the ark from its long resting place, and not the prior physical necessity of going down to the place where it was. With all the people. David had consulted with "the captains of thousands and hundreds, and every leader" (1 Chronicles 13:1), and it was with their good will that he drew the ark of God out of its long concealment. A select body of these nobles, or sheiks, would accompany the king, while the rest, with their attendants, would be posted along the eight miles of road. Whose name is called by the name. In the Hebrew, the word "name" is twice repeated, the words literally being, the ark of Elohim, whereon is called the Name, the Name of Jehovah of Sabaoth. Most of the versions omit the second Name, and the translators of the Authorized Version also felt it to be a difficulty, which they have tried to escape by inserting words between the two. Really it is a most interesting sign of the existence at this early date of a special reverence for the name "with four consonants" which we call "Jehovah." Subsequently it was never pronounced, but the word "Lord" was read instead, in the Revised Version, the importance of the passage is well brought out by the first Name being written with a capital, of the use of which the Revisers are very chary. With their usual inconsecutiveness, they retain Lord for Jehovah, though this is "the Name," and though they have restored the word Jehovah in several less important places.
2 Samuel 6:3
And they set the ark of God (Hebrew, made it ride) upon a new cart. This was contrary to the Levitical Law, which required that only Levites should bear the ark, and that it should be veiled even from their eyes (Numbers 4:15). But this mistake is not surprising. It is easy enough for us to turn to our Bibles, and see what the exact letter of a command was. But such reference was no easy matter when the Law was contained in manuscripts which were rare and costly. We cannot imagine that David or even Abiathar carried a manuscript about with them in their wanderings. David very probably had a considerable knowledge of the Pentateuch, gained in Samuel's schools, and stored up in his memory, as was the custom in old days when books were scarce. But this knowledge would be chiefly of its narratives and doctrines, and would comprise such portions as Samuel thought most fitting to influence the lives of his scholars. Abiathar probably added to this a knowledge of all such ritual as was in daily use in the sanctuary at Nob. He had fled thence in terror, escaping alone from the cruel destruction of the priests by Saul's decree; but even there the restoration of the Levitical services had been too recent to have given time for much study of the old Law. We can quite believe that the murder of the priests at Nob, following upon the catastrophe at Shiloh, had reduced the knowledge of the priests to a very low ebb. Now, the exact way of bearing the ark was a matter that had long been dismissed from their memories, but they would call to mind that it had been brought to Abinadab's house in a new cart drawn by oxen; and they would take this as a precedent, which would justify them in acting in the same manner a second time. But in so solemn a matter the priests ought to have made diligent search, and have gone for instruction to the copies which they possessed of the Divine Law. David did so subsequently (1 Chronicles 15:2), but possibly there was no such copy at present in Jerusalem, and they would have to go to Ramah, where Samuel would deposit whatever records he had saved from the ruin of Shiloh, and where the great work of the prophets was to study the sacred books, and even copy them. But this want of inquiry and easy assumption, that as the ark was brought in a cart to Abinadab's house, so in a cart it should be carried away, was an act of great irreverence, and all the guilty were punished. The heaviest blow fell on the house of Abinadab, which lost a dear son. Entrusted for seventy years with the care of so sacred a symbol of Jehovah's presence, Abinadab and his family ought to have made a special study of the taws concerning it. Apparently they left it very much to itself; for it is never said that God blessed them for their care of it as he did Obed-Edom. And David also was in fault; for he ought to have commanded the priests to make diligent search. His punishment was the breaking out of the Divine wrath, terrifying the people, and turning the joy of the day to mourning. The house of Abinadab that was in Gibeah; really, that was upon the hill. Uzzah and Able, the sons of Abinadab. "Sons" in Hebrew is used in a large sense, and these two men were probably the grandsons of Eleazar, the son of Abinadab, who had been set apart to keep the ark. For seventy years, as it seems, lind passed since the ark was hurriedly put in Abinadab's house, namely, twenty during the Philistine supremacy up to the battle of Ebenezer, forty during the reign of Saul, and about ten since. As Eleazar must have been thirty years of age for his consecration to be legal, he must have died long ago, and his sons would be old and decrepit men. His grandsons would be in the prime of life.
2 Samuel 6:4
Accompanying (Hebrew, with) the ark. The verse is evidently corrupt, and we have no aid from the parallel place in Chronicles, except the fact that it is omitted there. The most probable explanation is that the first half of the verse has been repeated from 2 Samuel 6:3 by the error of some copyist, and that the original words were "Uzzah and Ahio drove the new cart with the ark of God, and Ahio went before the ark." While Uzzah walked at the side, Ahio went before the oxen to guide and manage them, as the Basques may be seen at the present day doing in the south of France.
2 Samuel 6:5
Played. The word does not mean "played on a musical instrument," but "danced and rejoiced." On all manner … of fir wood. The Hebrew literally is, with all cypress woods. In 1 Chronicles 13:8 we find "with all their might, even with songs," etc. Gesenius, in his 'History of the Hebrew Language,' describes this as a mere guess at a misunderstood text, and Maurer ridicules it as a stupid emendation. More sensibly Thenius regards it as the right reading, and the words here as a corruption of it, caused by some scribe misspelling the words, which are nearly identical. In our version the ambiguous meaning of the word "played" makes the passage less startling. For "they danced with all cypress woods" is unintelligible. The musical instruments mentioned here are the harp, Hebrew chinnor, a guitar; the psaltery, Hebrew nebel, a kind of harp of a triangular shape, with the point downwards; the timbrel, Hebrew tof, a tambourine or small drum; the cornet, Hebrew mena'na', a bar on which were a number of loose metal rings, which were shaken in time to the music, but others think that "castanets'' are meant, which are pieces of wood beaten in time. The Revised Version adopts this rendering. And finally cymbals. For "cornets" we find in the parallel place "trumpets," whence the translators of the Authorized Version took their rendering; but the Hebrew word means "things to shake."
2 Samuel 6:6
Nachon's threshing floor. In the parallel place (1 Chronicles 13:9) we find "the threshing floor of Chidon," and "Chidon" is proved to have been a proper name by the feebleness of the attempts made to find for it a meaning. We therefore gather that "Nachou" is also a proper name, but otherwise we should certainly have translated it "a fixed threshing floor." The people did indeed thresh or trample out their corn often on summer threshing floors (Daniel 2:35), that is, on fitting spots in the fields themselves. But as a large quantity of earth was sure in this cash to be mixed with the corn, they preferred to use places with solid floors or pavements, which lasted for many generations, and.often became well-known spots (Genesis 50:10). Even if "Nachon" be a proper name, this would be a permanent floor, paved with stones, the approaches to which would be worn and made rough by the tracks of the carts bringing the corn. Here the oxen shook it; Hebrew, stumbled, and so the Revised Version. Nothing is said of the ark being in danger. Uzzah's act was one of precaution. The ground was rough, the oxen stumbled, and he put forth his hand to hold the ark till the cart had reached level ground. If the threshing floor was formed in the natural rock, those who have been in Spain, and seen how the tracks in the Pyrenees are worn by the native carts into deep ruts in the solid stone, can well understand that the neighbourhood of this much-frequented spot would need very careful driving.
2 Samuel 6:7
Error. The word so translated is one quite unknown, and Ewald renders it "unexpectedly." The Revised Version puts "rashness" in the margin. But all three alike are mere guesses, of which "error" is that approved by Keil and others. The Syriac has the same reading here as that found in 1 Chronicles 13:10, namely, "because he put his hand to the ark." This would require the insertion of four or five letters in the Hebrew. By the ark. The word translated "accompanying the ark" in 1 Chronicles 13:4.
2 Samuel 6:8
David was displeased; Hebrew, David was angry. Neither David nor his people had intended any disrespect, and so severe a punishment for what was at most a thoughtless act seemed to him unjust. Uzzah's death was probably caused by apoplexy, and the sudden effort of stretching forth his hand and seizing the ark had been its immediate cause. So tragic an event spoiled the happiness of the day, filled all present with disappointment, made them break off in haste from the grand ceremonial, and placed David before his subjects in the position of a malefactor. He had prepared a great religious festival, and Jehovah had broken in upon them as an enemy. In his first burst of displeasure he called the place Perez-Uzzah, the word "Perez," or "Breach," conveying to the Hebrews the idea of a great calamity (Judges 21:15) or of a sudden attack upon a foe (2 Samuel 5:20). The historian adds that the place bore this name unto his day; but we cannot tell whether these are the words of the original compiler of the Book of Samuel, or, as is more probably the case, those of some subsequent editor or scribe. Many such remarks are supposed to have been inserted by Ezra and the men of the great synagogue.
2 Samuel 6:9
David was afraid. This was his next feeling. Neither he nor Uzzah had offended wilfully, and so severe a punishment for an "error" made him dread the presence of so dangerous a thing as the ark seemed to be. Instead, therefore, of taking it into "the city of David," he turns aside and leaves it in the house of the nearest Levite. In both his anger and his dread David manifests himself to us as one whose ideas about God were somewhat childish. He regards Jehovah as a powerful and capricious Being, who must be appeased. He had attained to juster views in Psalms 16:1-11. and other such trustful hymns.
2 Samuel 6:10
Obed-Edom. We find two Levites of this name among David's officials—one belonging to the family of Merari, a singer and doorkeeper for the ark (1 Chronicles 15:18, 1 Chronicles 15:21, 1 Chronicles 15:24); the other of the family of Korah (1 Chronicles 26:4, 1 Chronicles 26:5). And as it is there said that "God blessed him," he probably it was into whose house the ark was taken. He is called a Gittite, because he belonged to Gath-Rimmon, a Levitical city in the tribe of Dan (Joshua 19:45; Joshua 21:24).
2 Samuel 6:11
Jehovah blessed Obed-Edom. So far from there being anything unlucky in the ark, its presence brings with it a manifest blessing, and thus David's fears are allayed. But before he returns to his purpose, he commands that proper inquiry be made. The priests must examine the holy book, and, having learned from it where his former conduct was wrong, he assembles the people once again to carry the ark to its home (1 Chronicles 15:2, 1 Chronicles 15:12-15).
2 Samuel 6:12
With gladness. The words mean, "in a joyful procession with music and dancing."
2 Samuel 6:13
When they that bare the ark of Jehovah had gone six, paces, he sacrificed oxen and fatlings; Hebrew, an ox and a fatling. Many suppose that David sacrificed an ox and a fatling every six paces along the whole way from the house of Obed-Edom, which was probably near or even in Jerusalem, unto the tent prepared for the ark in Zion. "Evidently the way to the holy city was a way of blood. The stained streets of Zion, the rivers of blood, the slaughtered heaps and the blaze of altar fires formed a strange contrast to the dancing, the singing, and the harping of the multitudes who crowded the city". It is not necessary to suppose, with some objectors, that the ark waited till each sacrifice was completed, or that the road thus lined with victims was many miles in length. The ark did not remain at Perez-Uzzah, but was carried in silent awe to the house of a Levite; and such a house probably was not to be found until they were inside the city walls. There were no country houses in a region lately twice ravaged by the Philistines. But there is an objection to this view, namely, that it is not the sense of the Hebrew. What is there said is that at starting, after stepping six paces, David sacrificed an ox and a fatling (by the hands, of course, of the priests), to ask a blessing upon the removal of the ark, and avert all misfortune. In Chronicles we read nothing of this, but of a sacrifice of seven bullocks and seven rams, offered by the Levites. The one was David's offering made at the beginning, to consecrate the removal; the other was made at the end, and was a thank offering of the Levites, because they had carried the ark safely (1 Chronicles 15:26). The Vulgate has a remarkable addition to 2 Samuel 6:12, taken doubtless by Jerome from manuscripts which existed in his day. It is as follows: "There were with David seven choruses and a calf as victim." The fact is not in itself improbable, and means that the musicians and dancers were divided into bands which mutually relieved one another. And as a sacrifice was also a feast, each band had a calf provided for it. The LXX. omits the thirteenth verse altogether, and substitutes for it, "And seven choruses accompanied him. bearing the ark, and a calf and Iambs as a sacrifice."
2 Samuel 6:14
And David danced. The word used means the springing round in half circles to the sound of music. Conder has given a very interesting account of the dancing of the Malawiyeh, which consisted in turning round in whole circles, resting on the heel of the left foot. As David danced with all his might, he was evidently strongly excited with religious fervour. We have the expression of his feelings in the psalm composed for this occasion (1 Chronicles 16:7-36); subsequently it seems to have been rearranged for the temple service, as it is broken up into Psalms 96:1-13. and Psalms 105:1-15. Dancing was usually the office of the women (Exodus 15:20; Judges 11:35; Judges 21:21; 1 Samuel 18:6); but men may also have often taken part in it, as Michal's objection was that it was unbefitting a king. David was girded with a linen ephod. David wore this as a tightly fitting garment, which left him free to exert himself in the dance. So far from the use of it being an assumption of the priestly office, it was regarded by Michal as an act of humiliation, as it was a dress worn even by a child when admitted to service in a priest's family (1 Samuel 2:18). Probably David did mean to rank himself for the time among the inferior servitors of the ark. He might have claimed more. In the theocracy he was the representative of Jehovah, and his anointing was a solemn consecration to a religious office. To have burned incense or offered sacrifice would have been to invade the priestly office, an office parallel to "the administration of the Word and the sacraments," denied, in the Thirty-Seventh Article of the Church of England, to princes. To wear the garb of a servitor was to do honour both to Jehovah and to his priests.
2 Samuel 6:16
Michal Saul's daughter. Possibly these words are merely to identify Michal, but they suggest the thought that, as a king's daughter, she valued her royal dignity. The procession evidently passed near David's palace, and his wives and children would be eager spectators.
2 Samuel 6:17
In the midst of the tabernacle (i.e. tent). This tent would he arranged as nearly as possible like that erected by Moses in the wilderness. The ark would be placed in the holy of holies, a shrine probably of cedar-wood, and the burnt offerings and peace offerings would then be offered and would consecrate the whole. When it is said that David offered them, it means that the sacrifices were at his cost and by his command.
2 Samuel 6:18
David … blessed the people in the name of Jehovah of hosts. Blessing the people was an important priestly function, for which a special formula was provided (Numbers 6:22-26). But this did not deprive the king, who was Jehovah's anointed representative, of the right of also blessing them, and Solomon, at the consecration of the temple, followed his father's example in a very solemn manner (2 Chronicles 6:3).
2 Samuel 6:19
A cake of bread, and a good piece … and a flagon. Of the first of the three gifts there is no doubt. It was the round dough cake baked for sacrificial meals (Leviticus 8:26). So, too, there is no doubt of the third; it means "a cake of raisins" (see So 2 Samuel 2:5; Hosea 3:1, in which latter place raisins, or dried grapes, are expressly mentioned, boldly rendered in the Authorized Version "wine"). The Revised Version has given the correct rendering of the passage. The second word occurs only here, but the rendering of the Authorized Version is that of the Jews; and as it is some common domestic term not likely to be found in literature, but well known in every kitchen, they are most probably right. On the same sort of local authority Jerome renders it in the Vulgate "a piece of beef for roasting." As it is coupled with the bread and the raisin cake, we may feel sure that it was a portion of the flesh of the animals which had been killed in Sacrifice, and which the people were now permitted to take to their homes.
2 Samuel 6:20
To bless his household. David, in the midst of his public duties, was not forgetful of the nearer claims of his own family. Doubtless there also a joyful feast would be prepared, and all be gathered together to praise God and rejoice with one con sent. Who uncovered himself … as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself! David's offence in the eyes of Michal was, not his dancing, but his divesting himself of his royal robes, and appearing before his subjects clad in the dress of an inferior class. The Levites were to occupy a humble social position (see Deuteronomy 14:29; Deuteronomy 26:12), and Michal's words are a proof that such was in David's time the case. The language of Michal is that of a woman vexed and irritated. After reminding David of his high office as "King of Israel," she reproaches him for appearing on a grand public occasion without the upper and becoming robe in which an Oriental enwraps himself. And this he had done before the female slaves of his own servants, with no more self-respect than that shown by the "vain fellows." "Vain" is the "raca" of Matthew 5:22, and means "empty," void of virtue, void of reputation, and void of worldly means. The Hebrews, when expressing the greatest possible contempt for a man, called him an "empty," and no word could be found better conveying the meaning of thorough worthlessness.
2 Samuel 6:21
It was before the Lord. The Hebrew is much more forcible than the confused rendering of our version. "Before Jehovah, who chose me above thy father, and above all his house, to appoint me prince over Jehovah's people, over Israel, yea, before Jehovah I have rejoiced" (Authorized Version, "played;" but see notes on 2 Samuel 6:5). The preference of David over Saul was proof that that king's affectation of royal state, and his self-importance, were not pleasing in God's eyes.
2 Samuel 6:22
And of the maidservants which thou hast spoken of, of them shall I be had in honour. These words have been variously interpreted, but their simplest meaning is also the best; that even the most uneducated women, though surprised at first at David's want of stateliness, would, on reflection, be led to a right understanding of the greatness of God; and would then feel that even a king was right in owning himself to be nothing in God's presence.
2 Samuel 6:23
Therefore Michal. The Hebrew is, and Michal had no child, Michal's barrenness was long antecedent to this outburst of pride, and was not a punishment for it. It is noticed as a proof that the blessing of God did not rest upon her; and as such it was regarded by the people, and doubtless it lessened David's affection for her. We must not, however, suppose that he imposed upon her any punishment further than this verbal reproof. Nor does the interest lie in Michal's conduct, but in the glimpse which the narrative gives us of David's tender piety towards God, so exactly in agreement with the feelings which animate very many of the psalms. To unite with this a harsh bitterness to the woman who was his first love, who had so protected him in old time, and whom he had summoned back at the first opportunity because of his affection for her, is a thing abhorrent in itself, and contrary to David's character. His fault in domestic matters rather was that he was over fond, not that he was unfeeling. A little more sternness towards Amnon and Absalom would have saved him much sorrow. As for Michal, the story sets her before us as earing a great deal for David, and not much for Jehovah. She could not have approved of such a number of rivals in David's household, but she had not lost her love for him. And the narrative represents her as not having Jehovah's blessing in a matter so greatly thought of by Hebrew women, and as valuing too highly royal state, and forgetting that above the king was God. But she did David no great wrong, and received from him nothing worse than a scolding. In the parallel place (1 Chronicles 15:29) the matter is very lightly passed over; and the reason why it holds an important place in this book is that we have here a history of David's piety, of his sin and his punishment. In itself a slight matter, it yet makes us clearly understand the nature of David's feelings towards Jehovah. It is also most interesting in itself. For David is the type of a noble character under the influence of grace. Michal, too, is a noble character, but she lacked one thing, and that was "the one thing needful."
The removal of the ark is a matter so important as to call for careful consideration. For the time it established two centres of worship—one with the ark at Zion, the other at Gibeon. The ark in Saul's days had been forgotten (1 Chronicles 13:3). It had long lain in the house of a simple Levite in the city of woods, and Saul's religious ideas were too feeble for him to be capable of undemanding the importance of establishing a national religion. Still, such as they were, they made him summon Ahiah, the grandson of Eli, to be his domestic priest (1 Samuel 14:3); and subsequently he even set up at Nob the tabernacle with its table of shewbread, and other holy furniture, saved somehow from the ruin of Shiloh, with Ahimelech as high priest (1 Samuel 21:1). But when in a fit of senseless jealousy he destroyed his own work, the nation was left for a time without an established religion. Gradually, however, this primary necessity for good government and national morality was supplied—how we know not; but we find a tabernacle at Gibeon, with the altar of burnt offerings, and the morning and evening sacrifice, and apparently the same service as that erewhile set up at Nob; only Zadok of the line of Eleazar is high priest (1 Chronicles 16:39, 1 Chronicles 16:40). He thus belonged to the senior line, while the last survivor of the race of Ithamar, Abiathar, Eli's great-grandson, was with David. Gibeon was in the centre of the tribe of Benjamin, some few miles from Jerusalem, with Nob lying halfway between; and probably Saul had permitted this restoration of Jehovah's worship at Gibeon, both because he half repented of his deed, and because the worship there was ministered by priests not allied to Ahimelech and Abiathar. But now the ark, which was Jehovah's throne, had been brought out of its obscurity, and solemnly placed in a tabernacle in Zion, with Abiathar, David's friend, the representative of the junior line, as high priest; and probably the only difference in the service was that David's psalms were sung to music at Zion, while the Mosaic ritual, with no additions, was closely followed at Gibeon. There was thus the spectacle of two high priests (2 Samuel 8:17), and two rival services, and yet no thought of schism. Zadok had been one of those foremost in making David king of all Israel (1 Chronicles 12:28); he and Abiathar were the two who moved Judah to bring David back after Absalom's revolt (2 Samuel 19:11). The whole matter had grown out of historical facts, and probably David always intended that Zion should absorb Gibeon, and be the one centre required by the Levitical Law. But he was content to wait. Had he acted otherwise a conflict would necessarily have arisen between the rival lines of the priesthood, and between Abiathar and Zadok, the two men who represented them, and who were both his true friends. We find even Solomon doing great honour to the tabernacle at Gibeon (2 Chronicles 1:3, etc.), but after the temple was built it passed away; and the race of Ithamar, weakened by the calamity at Shiloh, and still more by the cutting off of so many of its leading members at Nob, never recovered itself after Abiathar was set aside by Solomon for taking part with Adonijah. The line continued to exist, for members of it returned from Babylon (Ezra 8:2); but though it produced a prophet, Jeremiah, it never again produced a high priest, and therefore only the line of Eleazar, to which Ezra himself belonged, is given in 1 Chronicles 6:1-81.
Thus Abiathar's misconduct and the growing fame of Jerusalem put an end to all fear of schism. We easily trace in the Psalms the increase of the nation's regard for Zion. In Psalms 24:1-10; written probably by David to celebrate the entry of the ark thither, it is simply "the hill of Jehovah … his holy place." In Psalms 9:1-20. it is "his dwelling," but in Psalms 20:1-9. a higher note is struck. Zion is "the sanctuary" whence Jehovah sends "help" and "strength;" and in Psalms 48:1-14; written at a later date, Zion is found installed in the very heart of the people's love. Thus the Divine blessing rested fully upon David's work. To Jehovah's worship he gave a grand and noble centre, which from his day has had no rival, unless it be in some respects Rome. The city of David's choice has been, and continues to this hour to be, the most holy spot upon earth alike to the Jew and to the Christian, though to the latter it is so because of David's Son. At Zion, moreover, David's spiritual addition to the Mosaic ritual has given the Church its best book of devotion and the brightest part of its services; forevery hymn sung to God's glory, and every instrument of music played in God's house, is but the continuance of the prophesying with harp, psaltery, and cymbal (1 Chronicles 25:1), first instituted by David, though, like all that was best in David personally and in his institutions, it grew out of Samuel's influence and the practices of his schools (1 Samuel 19:20). Finally, the temple services were doing much to weld the discordant tribes into one nation, and would have succeeded in so doing but for the unhappy degeneracy of Solomon's latter years, and the obstinacy of his son. Yet even so, Jerusalem remains forever a memorial of the genius and piety of this extraordinary man, and the symbol of "Jerusalem the golden, the home of God's elect."
2 Samuel 6:1-11
The facts are:
1. David, deeming the time to be come for reorganizing the religious services, raises a select force wherewith to bring the ark from its obscurity at Kirjath-jearim.
2. Providing a new cart, the ark is set thereon, and brought out of the house of Abinadab under charge of his two sons.
3. David and the people move in joyous procession before the ark to music from all manner of instruments.
4. Arriving at a certain place, Uzzab, putting forth his hand to steady the ark, is smitten for his rashness, and dies before the ark.
5. Thereupon David's spirit is much troubled, and is filled with dread at the thought of taking charge of so sacred and terrible a treasure.
6. David is restrained by this apprehension from his purpose, and meanwhile leaves the ark in the house of Obed-Edom.
7. The sojourn of the ark in the house of Obed-Edom for three months proves an occasion of great blessing to him and his family. The remarkable events of this section naturally arrange themselves in a threefold order—the bringing up of the ark; the judgment on Uzzah; and the suspension of the undertaking. We here find three topics, which we will take in succession.
I. RELIGION IS THE FOUNDATION OF NATIONAL PROSPERITY. This is the interpretation of David's action in seeking to bring the ark out of its obscurity to the central seat of government. From the time when the ark was captured by the Philistines (1 Samuel 4:1-22.) and its deposit at Kirjath-jearim (1 Samuel 6:21), all through the reign of Saul, with the exception of the brief revival at Ebenezer, the religion of the nation had been at a low ebb. That so sacred a treasure should have been left in obscurity, without the forms and order of worship enjoined in the Law of Moses, was an indication of spiritual decadence, and goes far to account for the political weakness of the nation during the life of Saul. David saw clearly that the elevation of his people depended chiefly on two things—vigorous, enlightened statesmanship, and fidelity in all things to their covenanted God. The establishment of a strong centre of government at Jerusalem was one step; but he saw that, if the nation was to fulfil its highest destiny, the prosperity he desired must also rest on a strictly religious foundation. Hence the effort to restore religious life by bringing up the ark of the covenant. Leaving out of view the particular form of religion, and the symbolism appropriate to that stage in the development of God's revelation, we can see how profoundly wise David's judgment was. The human activities developed in national civilized life can only be counted on to run into right and safe channels, and to avoid mutual destruction, when they are pervaded by the spirit of true godliness. Wealth, art, science, commerce, military display, free and easy interchange of thought,—these are not self-preservative, these do not give rest to the heart, these do not check the tendencies that carry in themselves the germs of decay and death. Only when the national mind is purified, rendered calm, self-restrained, and God-like in feeling by knowledge and worship of the Holy One is there a guarantee that all will go well and endure. This is taught in the history of Greece, Rome, and other lands where God was not honoured by proper worship, and his Spirit not cherished in daily life; and it is the strenuous teaching of prophets and apostles, and especially of the Saviour, who makes clear what is the light of the world and the healing of the nations.
II. THE RESTORATION OF RELIGION IS AN EVENT OF GREAT JOY. The very idea of a restoration of the piety of former days was to David an inspiration. His calling the chief men from all quarters of the land, his expounding to them his sense of what was due to the symbol of God's presence, his grand processional march, and the exuberant delight with which he sang and danced,—reveal the high appreciation he had of the great turn now coming in the religious, life of the nation. The awakening of a new enthusiasm by his influence certainly was a remarkable incident in the national life regarded in contrast with the stolid indifference of the age of Saul. The power of a new and healthy religious emotion over all the faculties, and consequently over all departments of activity, is very great, giving elevation, spring, and purpose to all that is done or attempted. In this case there were special elements entering into the joy. The ark was the symbol of God's presence; it contained the overshadowed mercy seat, which told of forgiveness and communion; it was the exponent of covenant relationship, and the prophetic indicator to the devout mind of a glory yet to he revealed, and of a covenant on wider basis and embracing vaster blessings. Ezra knew something of this joy of restoration of religion to its proper position. There was joy also when, after centuries of error and wrong, the attention of men was directed once more by Luther and his coadjutors to the mercy seat where men could find a new and living way of access to the Father. No greater occasion for joy could arise for our own land than a full national enthusiasm for those sacred deposits of truth and holy influence which God has given us in his revelation and in the institutions of his Church. What is thus true of restorations on a large scale holds of our own lives, when, after seasons of dreary separation from our God and cold miserable observance of occasional acts of worship, we go forth with all our soul after the living God, and welcome him afresh to our love and trust as the God of our salvation.
III. INDIRECT PERSONAL INFLUENCE CONDUCES TO A RESTORATION OF RELIGION. It is instructive to see how, in the providence of God, great movements have sprung out of individual consecrations. The soul of David, purified, elevated, and aroused to grasp spiritual realities, was the human spring of this great change. Of course his official position would secure attention to his requests and commands; but it depended on the bent of his mind as to the form and scope of his commands. This reformation proceeded from him, but not entirely by direct personal influence. His tone and manner, his habits of devotion and strict regard for God's will, would tell on those in direct contact with him; but that was not enough. Hence in his sagacity he summoned select men from all parts of the land, and through them sought to act on the thousands who could not leave their homes. This call from all towns and villages would awaken thought there, would lead to explanations, would quicken conscience, would disseminate his ideas and the enthusiasm of his spirit, would create the feeling that a holier and wiser time was at hand; and when, subsequently, the thirty thousand returned home, they would further diffuse the influence caught by contact with the godly king, and contribute elements of good to their respective localities. The great reformations of the world have all been effected thus. Few come into direct personal contact with the originators. The multitude get the secondary influences. Nor can we tell how far our influence may thus be diffused. The wave moves on in proportion to the susceptibility of those who first receive its impact. The question of indirect influence deserves much consideration on the part of Churches and individuals.
IV. A TIME OF REFORMATION IN RELIGION DEVELOPS MUCH FEELING NOT PURELY SPIRITUAL. Although a great interest was awakened by David's zeal in the restoration of the more regular worship of God, yet we must discriminate between such devout feelings and clear views of spiritual things as were true of him, and the vague sentiments of the multitude. If Psalms 68:1-35, and Psalms 132:1-18, may be taken as indicative of his real state of mind, we are not to suppose that all the rest who joined in the procession or were stirred to excitement in their homes rose to the same height in the religious life. Men cannot help being roused when powerful religious minds put forth their energies; and in some instances they are awakened to a really new spiritual life; but contagion of thought and sentiment and fervid interest in a great public movement are not the same as vital godliness. They may be better than dull indifference, and may even serve as a step to a higher and more permanent elevation, yet if they be all the reformation is very superficial. Forming an estimate on the general rules that govern human action, we may be sure that many who sang and danced before the ark were only nominal worshippers, and had but slight sympathy with the deep meaning of the words of the psalmist. The same was true of the Protestant Reformation. Multitudes took an interest in doctrinal discussions and in the freedom from priestly domination who knew little of that inner spiritual life which, in the case of Luther and the leaders, found its core in personal union with Christ. Our modern revivals are to be estimated in the same way. We may be thankful that crowds flock to sing and hear and welcome ostensibly the true Ark of the covenant, and many, no doubt, sing with the understanding and rejoice in spirit, but the mass have still to be regarded as relatively strangers to the new and deeper life.
Human judgments on Divine acts of judgment.
The part of the narrative referring to the conduct of Uzzah and the consequences to himself always awaken in the reader a feeling of surprise at the apparent disproportion of the punishment to the offence. Sympathy is felt with the feeling of David, who was "displeased," and could no further carry out his project of conveying the ark to Jerusalem. Evil minded men have not been alone in pointing to this record as an evidence of what they would call the unworthy representations of the Divine Being contained in the Old Testament. It is well to look this difficulty fully in the face, and see, if possible, how far man is warranted to express a judgment at all upon an event so terrible and seemingly inexplicable, on such principles at least as govern human acts of justice. Note here—
I. THE REASONS FOR DIVINE JUDGMENTS ARE NOT ALWAYS APPARENT TO MAN, AND YET MAY BE MOST VALID. It is a first principle that the "Judge of all the earth" cannot but do right. That is the solid rock on which to rest when events occur in providence that do not admit of explanation. It is, further, a sound position that God locks at the inner life of men, and knows exactly the tone and spirit concealed from human view; and it is this condition of the inner man, and not the bare outward act, which constitutes the real character and determines the moral value of the action in the sight of God. Also, incidental actions are incidental in their form because of passing circumstances; but the state of mind out of which they spring is permanent; for given two minds of different spiritual tone and bias, they will, when placed under pressure of the same external circumstances, produce totally different actions. Now, we have a right to assume, prima facie, that, if there are no adequate reasons for the sudden terrible punishment discoverable in the bare and apparently well-disposed act of Uzzah, there must have been, in his habitual state of feeling towards the symbol of God's presence and the whole events of the day, something determinately evil, and of which that which seemed to others to be an innocent act was known by God to be the natural outcome. That was the case in the destruction of Dathan and Abiram. The falsehood of Ananias Was outwardly only like other falsehoods, but we are told that God saw something more than the ordinary antecedent of a lie in common life. There have been judgments on nations and families and individuals, and are still, which do come in the providence of God, but the hidden reasons of which only eternity will reveal. As our Saviour during his earthly life often spoke to the unuttered thoughts of men, and not to meet definite words, so here and in other cases the Divine act was doubtless to meet an unuttered, a permanent, not fully expressed state of mind, of which Uzzah was conscious, but of which men knew little. The same will be true of future judgments of God; they will be based, not on the ostensible act merely, hut on the tenor of the whole life (Matthew 7:22, Matthew 7:23; Matthew 25:40-46).
II. THE GUILT OF ACTIONS IS DEPENDENT VERY MUCH ON PRIVILEGES ENJOYED. The Philistines had handled the ark (1 Samuel 5:1, 1 Samuel 5:2), and no immediate evil came to them for so doing. Their subsequent affliction seems to have been owing to their detention and mockery of the ark (1 Samuel 5:3-7), not to the fact of touching it. But it was a positive injunction that the Levites should not touch the sacred thing (Numbers 4:15); and the particular injunction was illustrated and rendered more significant by the regulation that the ark should always be carried on staves, thus not needing the touch of any hand. The Philistines were men "without law;" Uzzah was a man "under law." The whole history of his people in relation to ceremonial had been full of instruction of the same kind. The guilt of a deed depends on previous knowledge or means of obtaining knowledge. Capernaum is not judged by the same rule as the people of Sodom. The Jew is pronounced inexcusable because of his superior light (Romans 2:1-29.). Severer punishment comes on those who, possessing gospel light, do deeds worthy of darkness (John 3:19; Hebrews 10:29). Judgment may fall on the "house of God" which would not come on those not in the house (1 Peter 4:17).
III. INDIFFERENCE TO DIVINE LAWS IS PROGRESSIVE. The disregard of the well-known injunction in this case was probably the culmination of an indifference which had been growing for a long time. An evil tendency or mental habit may be in process of formation, and may constitute a state of actual spiritual degeneracy, a long time before an occasion occurs for its manifestation in any overt act that is distinctly in violation of positive law. The degeneracy which was far too common during the reign of Saul doubtless had penetrated to the home of Uzzah, and the neglect of honour paid to the ark during those long years of its stay in his father's abode, together with the kind of familiarity with it bred of its presence as a relic of a former elaborate ritual, could not but have resulted in a rather decided insensibility to the sacredness of minute regulations. The act of touching the ark may have been a consequence of this condition, and the "error," or "rashness," spoken of (Psalms 132:8) may indicate that there was not in him that quickness of spiritual sensibility which would at once have seen that no casual circumstance can set aside a command based on a great and Divine order of things. There is not a more subtle evil of our life than this gradual deepening of indifference arising from neglect of spiritual culture and encouraged by unthoughtful familiarity with sacred things. The conscience passes through stages of degeneration till we come to do things without compunction which once would have caused us anguish of spirit. How far our children are in danger from constant familiarity with religious phrases and usages is a serious question. The same applies also to ordinary worshippers in our sanctuaries.
IV. THERE IS POSITIVE IMPIETY IN DISTRUSTING GOD'S PROVISION FOR THE SAFETY OF HIS OWN GLORY. The ark was the visible symbol of God's presence. His glory was there, so far as it could be manifested in visible form to man at that stage of his religious education. The command that no Levite should ever touch it was among the arrangements made for its stay among the people. All such arrangements of God are made on full prevision of every possibility. To say that circumstances might arise when the command would he inadequate to the maintenance of the ark in its integrity among men, would be an impeachment of the Divine wisdom and power. The command had reference solely to human action, and did not reveal what reserve of power and appliance there might be for securing the safety of the ark at all times. Common sense, to say nothing of religious faith, ought to have taught that the Eternal would take care of his own if he declined the aid of man, or at least that it was his will that his own should suffer temporary injury now and then. It was irrational and impious, therefore, to distrust his provision for securing his own ends. The putting forth of the hand in contravention of the command may have been the expression of this. The same applies equally to the New Testament manifestation of the glory of God in Christ. For times of danger and of seeming safety he has enjoined on us certain conduct in relation to the kingdom of Christ, which proceeds on the presupposition that he has means of securing the integrity of that kingdom on the basis of our restricting our conduct to that prescribed order. By prayer, by truthfulness, by spirituality of mind, by love, by persuasive words, by blameless, meek lives, by quiet faith in the invisible power of the Spirit, we are to do our part in relation to the preservation of the integrity of the kingdom, and to its processional march to final triumph. If, when supposing it liable to suffer, or when observing a great shock arising from the circumstances of its position in our time, we depart from the order laid down, and trim to the world and become unspiritual and untruthful, or depend less on faith in the invisible power of the Holy Spirit than on mere human science and social influences, then we virtually fall into this view of the sin of Uzzah, we distrust God's provision for securing in the world those interests that are bound up with the work and Person of Christ. Man is responsible for the observance of what is enjoined, not for imaginary temporary consequences that will ensue from an observance of what is enjoined. Here is the clue to hosts of failures of duty and wretched expediencies.
V. PROFOUND REVERENCE AS AN ELEMENT OF CHARACTER IS OF PRIME IMPORTANCE IN PERSONAL AND NATIONAL LIFE. No great character is formed without profound reverence as a chief feature. Men are mean, weak, morally low, in so far as they are trifling and destitute of awe. The spirit of levity, which treats all things as common and fit subjects for free and thoughtless handling, never reads the great lessons of existence, and never wins respect. A reverent man alone forms a true estimate of himself in relation to the vast order of things of which he is but a part. An irreverent nation lacks the strong, sober qualities which alone grow out of reverence as their root, and which alone can produce noble, strenuous actions. Now, the whole drift of the Mosaic ritual and commands was to develop and foster reverence in the people. The solemnities and details in reference to the ark, the sanctuary, the altars, the sacrifices, the cleansings, and assemblies were rational in their specific relations. The great gathering at the foot of Sinai, and the solemn restrictions there laid down (Exodus 19:1-25.), were evidently designed to develop a becoming "fear of the Lord" and profound regard for sacred things. The judgment on Dathan and Abiram was a check on a tendency to irreverence. The very hope of the people depended on the due maintenance of this reverent spirit. All had understood the command not to touch the ark in that light, and the judgment on Uzzah for the violation of that command was only another solemn way of impressing the people with the prime importance of this feeling. Hence, also, our care to encourage such forms of worship as best foster reverence of spirit, and such styles of teaching as exhibit the facts and principles from the recognition of which reverence will naturally arise. Hence, again, our appreciation of those providential events, such as sickness, bereavement, and stupendous manifestations of untraceable wisdom and power, which awaken or strengthen the feeling, "Great and holy is the Lord: who shall stand in his presence?"
VI. THERE IS AN EDUCATIONAL CHARACTER IN JUDGMENTS. The dull heart of man often needs something more than the still small voice and quiet order of events to arouse it to a sense of what is due to God and what is wisest and best for man. In every judgment—say of Sodom, of Pharaoh, of Dathan, of Ananias—there is pure justice; no wrong is done to the individuals concerned; but the acts have a reference beyond the persons affected thereby. The contemporaries of Abraham, the Egyptians, Israel in the desert, and the primitive Church, were instructed by what occurred in their midst. Many judgments are connected with the explicit statement that "the nations may know." The judgment on Uzzah formed part of the educational process by which God was bringing the people out of their low spiritual condition to the elevation in tone which would render them more effective in carrying out Divine purposes in the world. We cannot fully estimate how much we owe to the influence over us of the record of God's judgments contained in his Word. Nor is it enough to say that they are repressive in their influence, and not conducive to the developing of love and filial trust and the free joy of a superior life; for the repression and restraint of evil tendencies is requisite in creatures strongly under their influence, and, while checking from what would soon be utter, hopeless ruin, they open the way for the action of other gentle, tender influences which do develop the free joyous spirit of the obedient child.
VII. THE SEVERITY AND GOODNESS OF GOD ARE PERFECTLY CONSISTENT AND OFTEN COEXIST. It is had theology based on defective knowledge of Scripture to represent God in an exclusive aspect of mildness. Though we need not become material in our conceptions, and think of contrary attributes in him as so many quasi-physical forces contending one against the other or finding an outlet at the expense of one another, yet the very conception of love, when just, implies a rigid, severe guardianship of the order of things on which the welfare of the holy depends. This combination shines forth in the death of Uzzah. In case he was a really devout man, and simply in an unguarded moment of unwatchfulness put forth his hand, then his sudden death—though necessary to the maintenance of the ritual which we have seen was based on the principle of inculcating reverence, and useful, as an educational act, for the People—would not include, necessarily, loss and ruin in the next life. He might be saved, though as by fire. This combination of severity and goodness shines forth most conspicuously in the work of our Saviour, in whose life and death the reprobation of sin and the outflow of mercy to sinners form the two elements which render the cross a mystery of justice and mercy.
Distrust a foil to faith and love.
it is said that David was displeased, and in his displeasure there arose a fear hitherto unknown to him, and, as a consequence of these, the enterprise on which he had entered with so much joy and confidence was abandoned till, as we shall see further on, the reward which came to Obed-Edom's faith and love, standing in contrast with David's gloomy imaginings, brought him round to a better mind.
I. DISCONTENT WITH THE ORDER OF PROVIDENCE PROCEEDS FROM A COMBINATION OF SELF-WILL AND IGNORANCE. David was dissatisfied and vexed in spirit with what had occurred to interrupt the joyous carrying out of his programme. It was not so much dissatisfaction with what Uzzah had done, or pare that he was dead, but annoyance that for such a deed the great terror of death should have come on them all. Had he spoken out all his feelings and thoughts, he would have said that such an event was undesirable, out of proportion to the deed, and an intrusive disturbance of a great and important ceremonial. Had he been at the head of authority, no such calamity as that should have interfered with a grand national undertaking. Possibly, apart from frustration of his own immediate plans for festivity, he may have been apprehensive of the effect of such a dreadful doom upon the mass of the People whom he was anxious to interest in the restoration of religion. But we can now see how all this was the outcome of self-will and ignorance. He wanted things to go on in his own way; he did not know, as he might have known on more profound reflection, that to maintain the authority of law and inculcate reverence and check national tendencies to levity were for the highest good of the People, and that these could be most assuredly promoted by this sad event. We have here an instance, in conspicuous form, of the very common circumstance of men secretly complaining of the order of events which Providence chooses. A rainy season, a sweeping earthquake, a transmission of evil consequences from parent to child, the destiny of the wicked, and many other things which do come in consequence of the constitution of the physical and moral worlds, often raise within the heart the feeling that some other arrangement would surely have been better, and that had we our way such things would not be possible. This is really self-assertion, love of our own way, ignorance of the innumerable ramifications of single events and acts, and inability to penetrate into the conditions on which alone a permanent and generally beneficial order of things can be secured. The psalmist rose to wiser thoughts and holier feelings (Psalms 73:13-22; Psalms 92:4-6; cf. Matthew 11:25, Matthew 11:26; Romans 11:33, Romans 11:34).
II. STRONG UNHOLY FEELING IMPAIRS THE CONCEPTION OF TRUTH AND DUTY. That David's annoyance with the order of Providence was a decidedly unholy feeling is obvious—it was the opposite of that meek, loving acquiescence in the ways and acts of God, even when they are most painful, which characterizes the truly filial spirit; and that it was strong is seen in the fact that from that moment he failed, under its action, to see the glorious truth enshrined in the symbol before him, and was moved to abandon the work to which he had committed himself and the people. Psychologically it can be proved that all emotion affects more or less the steadiness of intellectual perception. Morally it is a matter of experience that an emotion of anger, distrust, or annoyance always interferes with a clear perception of spiritual truth. Plato was right in affirming that the νοῦϚ unaffected by the storms or' passion and sense alone can see reality. The god of this world, by engaging and exciting feelings, blinds the minds of men, so that they see not the glory which shines in the face of Christ. David's fear of the ark, his dread lest something should happen (Psalms 132:9), was contrary to all he had felt before. Hitherto the ark had been to him the symbol of that blessed presence which had brought joy and comfort to his heart—a reminder of the mercy which endureth forever. It was not possible to see this precious truth through the mists of unholy feeling that had been permitted to rise in his soul. And this shrinking from what had once been reverently regarded as the spring of purest joy and satisfaction at once weakened the resolve be had formed to bring the blessed symbol to his seat of government and give it there the honour due. Duty gave way to the disgust and disappointment and foolish apprehensions generated by his own proud will. The correlative truths are clear, namely, in so far as we are lowly and absolutely acquiescent in the Divine wilt is our spirit calm and clear and strong in its recognition of highest spiritual truth, and in so far as this truth is perceived the path of duty is steadily followed. None knew the truth and pursued the path of duty as Christ, because none were so pure and calm and one in will with the Father. Herein is a lesson to teachers and taught; to those who meet with trouble and those who move on in joyful procession.
III. FAITH AND LOVE EXERCISED IN A TIME OF RELIGIOUS BACKSLIDING ARE ABUNDANTLY REWARDED. David's piety was now at fault; he had slipped backwards in the path of godliness; his conduct was an unjust reflection on Providence and on the holy symbol that shadowed forth the presence of the people's real Protector and Friend. Had men followed his example or caught his temper, they would have shrunk from the ark as from the source of death; and it would have been left in an obscurity and neglect equal to that of Kirjath-jearim. But all this serves as a foil to set forths in striking beauty, the conduct of Obed-Edom, who, not dreading with slavish fear the Holy One of Israel, but, doubtless, in a quiet way, proud of the privilege, welcomed the ark to his house. Whether he first sought the honour, or whether this was the nearest Levite's house, we know not. In any case we can imagine, from the tenor of the narrative, how with careful haste the house was cleansed and prepared for its holy guest; the best and fairest chamber made, if it might be, yet more meet for such high honour; the Levite and his sons purified, that they might fitly bear in the ark to its destined place, venturing, perhaps, as they bore it along, to utter or think of the' ancient words, "Return, O Lord, unto the many thousands of Israel!" Honoured, happy Obed-Edom] What faith in God! what love for the blessed presence! Did sleep fall upon him that first night? Was there not a joy that would make "songs in the night"? The bliss, later on, of Zacchaeus was in a sense forestalled by Obed-Edom. The reality of the faith and love, and its continued manifestation in various forms of reverential interest, is proved by the rich blessing that came upon him and all belonging to him. The house became the abode of the higher forms of religious sentiment which in themselves are choicest treasures. Honour fell upon parents, and children felt the blessed charm. Servants began to feel, as never before, that their services were more than attentions paid to man. Providence smiled on field and vineyard. Men saw that somehow this home was now blessed above all homes. What lessons here for all! Who would dread with slavish fear the Christ, the Manifestation of the glory of the Father? Who would not welcome him as chief, most cherished Guest? Who would not subordinate all the arrangements of home life that he may be duly honoured there? Who would 'not rejoice that the Holy One does condescend to dwell thus with man, and brighten the fairest scenes of home life? Blessings abound where he is welcome Guest. No fear of flashing fire to destroy. To faith and love there is only mercy and peace.
"O happy house, O home supremely blest,
Where thou, Lord Jesus Christ, art entertained
As the most welcome and beloved Guest,
With true devotion and with love unfeigned;
Where all hearts beat in unison with thine;
Where eyes grow brighter as they look on thee;
Where all are ready, at the slightest sign,
To do thy will, and do it heartily!"
1. Times of religious excitement may arise in the natural progress of religion, but they obviously are not to be regarded as a normal condition of thought and feeling, and they may, by their absorption of one class of feelings, lay us open to peculiar temptations.
2. In every season of apparent and real prosperity in religion we ought to exercise self-control, in prospect of the possibility of events arising through the imperfection of men which, from their nature, mar our joy.
3. Secret murmuring against what Providence ordains is a sin to which all are very prone, and therefore it is important to watch against it very closely, especially as it does more damage to our inner life than is often supposed.
4. We ought to ponder carefully the enormous injury done, both by our loss of personal influence and the force of example, when we, out of a feeling of sudden disappointment, throw aside solemn duties.
5. Those who render service to the cause of God in times of urgency may be sure that a rich blessing will come that will cause them to forget any temporary inconvenience experienced.
2 Samuel 6:12-23
The facts are:
1. David, learning the blessing that had come upon the house of Obed-Edom, resolves to bring up the ark to Jerusalem.
2. Having made arrangements in accordance with the Law for the proper bearing of the ark, he inaugurates the procession by a sacrifice.
3. Girded with a linen ephod, he dances before the ark, and with music and shouting it enters Jerusalem.
4. Placing the ark in the tabernacle he had provided for it, he offers burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord, pronounces a blessing on the people, and distributes to them meat and drink.
5. Returning to his house, he is met by his wife Michal, who, having witnessed his dancing before the ark, now reproaches him with having demeaned himself in the eyes of the people.
6. With mildness of temper, but great firmness, he not only admits the fact, but glories in it as due unto God, and affirms his readiness to again debase himself in the same manner, being sure of winning the esteem of others less prejudiced.
7. Michal his wife remains childless. We have here a great change in David's religious condition; an event of supreme national interest; and the domestic sorrows of a devout man. The topics suggested may be taken in succession.
There is a marked change in the David mentioned in 2 Samuel 6:13-15 as compared with the David of 2 Samuel 6:8-10, and in general terms it may be expressed as a restoration to the joy of his life. But it is well to notice the process implied.
I. THE SINS AND ERRORS OF A REALLY GOOD MAN CAUSE HIM GREAT SUFFERING. In general terms, all sin entails suffering; but facts prove that the degree of personal suffering consequent on particular sins depends on the actual goodness of the man who sins. David was truly a "man after God's own heart," a man of pure sensitive nature, of enlightened conscience and intense sincerity. In some respect his very sin (2 Samuel 6:8) was consequent on his noble ambition to see God glorified in a great national demonstration. We may be sure, although the historian says nothing of it, that the days immediately after his return to Jerusalem were full of bitterness. The fact that a great project, in which the nation was concerned, had come to a sudden collapse, that elders and common people throughout the land would be talking of his chagrin, that strange impressions would be conveyed as to the stability of his purposes, and the consciousness that his God was not to him now as he had been in days past, must have robbed him of former peace and embittered all the relationships of life. Peter's life was anguish after his fall, because he was so good a man. Dark days and painful sense of solitariness are the lot of many of the faithful after having turned their heart in distrust from their God.
II. REFLECTION ARISES AND GRADUALLY TONES DOWN THE TUMULT OF FEELING. For a time the passion of discontent and distrust, like a storm, would rage, and, while making David wretched by virtue of their own nature, would throw the reflective powers into confusion. No sinner is perfectly sane when under the stormy influence of his sin. In the case of a really bad man the confusion becomes worse by deliberate indulgence in fresh sins in order to get rid of what slight uneasiness is experienced; but with David the disturbing force of sin would gradually expend itself, and the reflective powers would begin to review the situation and gradually allow the influence of truth and fact to reveal the folly and shame of what had been done. The monarch retired from the cares and toils of the day, and, though fretted and vexed by the bad impression his people might entertain as to his persistency of purpose, he could not but ponder the recent path of his feet, and the great truths on which he had formerly been wont to "meditate day and night" (Psalms 1:2). In good men, though fallen and wretched, the intellectual faculties, as under the action of a magnet, will be sure to concentrate on the truths that help to recovery.
III. THE MIND COMES IN DUE COURSE INTO DIRECT CONTACT WITH ACTUAL FACTS AND THE WORD OF GOD. Reflection would clear away the mists of passion, and David would see in the light of the written Word the error of setting out with the ark on a cart; the exposure, therefore, by his own arrangement or connivance, of the man to the temptation to violate the Law, and the justice of the blow which fell, as also its use in checking a spirit of indifference and inculcating reverence for sacred things. The piety of his nature, thus brought into direct contact with truth, would at once recognize its force, the shamefulness and folly of the discontent and distrust, and the desirability of placing the life once more in its proper relation to the general interests of religion. Penitents and backsliders are not far from restoration when once they gaze with calm and steadfast eye on the actual facts as illumined by the light of God's Word. The revealed truth of God is the material on which the reflective powers act, and so the truly sorrowful spirit does not become the victim of false imaginings.
IV. THERE IS BROUGHT ABOUT A VIVID RECOGNITION OF THE MERCY OF GOD IN CHRIST. AS long as the passions engendered by indulgence in sin darken the soul, there is a loss of that clear and restful view of God which is the peculiar privilege of the pure in heart. David's sin (2 Samuel 6:8) had transformed the all-merciful, covenanted God into an object of dread (2 Samuel 6:9). But now that passion was subsiding, and the Word was allowed once more to shed its light on the facts of the case, the true character of God, as set forth in the sacred symbol, reappeared; and love, and mercy, and faithfulness, and care were seen to be concentrated in the glory over the mercy seat. The memory of all that the ark had been to Israel, in the passage of the Jordan and elsewhere, also confirmed the returning conviction of the most precious of all truths. Once more the ark of the covenant of the Lord was, as of old, the revelation of Divine love and mercy. The same spiritual change occurs in men now when, on the subsidence of the passions, the full light of Scripture falls on the soul. God ceases to be full of terrors—an object of dread and avoidance. Christ is seen to be the express Image of the Father's Person, full of grace and truth. The old relation to him as God manifest in the flesh is restored; and the vastness and freeness of the mercy in him outshine all other truth, and shed a radiance on every thought and feeling. There is another transfiguration (Matthew 17:2).
V. THE FACTS OF HISTORY ARE SEEN TO ILLUSTRATE THE TRUTH RECOGNIZED. It was told David how the Lord was blessing the house of Obed-Edom. The experience of the godly who loved and trusted the ark as a symbol of the true character of God was thus in accord with the conviction arising from the exercise of reflection and the subsidence of sinful passion. History was in accord with the best thought concerning God, and furnished striking instances of the reality of a love and mercy by no means to be dreaded. Thus wonderfully does God interweave the experiences of his people for the common good of the Church and for the special help and cheer of those who have fallen into the snare of the evil one. Many a lowly Obed-Edom, by means of a love and trust simple and strong, and the blessedness resulting therefrom, has been the instrument of restoring to right views and feelings others whose position and powers were far more distinguished. Nothing is lost in the kingdom of God; small and obscure persons and things are employed for great ends. The bearing of the actual experiences of sincere and humble Christians in the common walks of life upon the formation, by the more gifted and influential, of just conceptions of the revelation of God in Christ, is a subject worthy of much consideration.
VI. THE TRUTH BEING FULLY RECOGNIZED, THE OLD JOY RETURNS. The narrative sets forth the strong abounding joy of David exhibiting itself in forms which, judged by the cool feelings and conventional standards of Western life, seem almost fanatical. The question of form and degree is here really one of naturalness, and of this there can be no doubt. The king gave himself up to the full dominion of the present joy. The spring of that joy lay in his restored perception of what the ark of the covenant really was to himself and his people. It was not now the seat of flaming fire and source of destruction, but was the visible sign of the presence and favour of the God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in redemption. It told of protection, and guidance, and pardon, and holy communion. It was the reconciling meeting place, where the trembling sinner became the loving, trustful child once more. The Jordan, the walls of Jericho, the restfulness of pious souls on the great Day of Atonement, all told of what a blessed heritage is theirs whose God is the Lord; and could he as a man and a king feel other than boundless joy now that the Refuge and Dwelling place of all generations was coming to make a permanent abode in the very midst of his people? So it is with us all when, having known the oppression and darkness of sin, we come to see in Christ the Manifestation of the reconciling God, who forgiveth our iniquities, shelters us from condemnation, comes into close sympathetic fellowship with our spirits, and abides with us as Guardian and Friend. There are seasons when this restored joy is so pure and strong that all song and music seem too meagre for its due expression—when the spirit exults inexpressibly in the God of salvation. If dancing, when natural, is the gesticulated expression of what cannot be put into word or tone, then it might be an outlet for a joy unspeakable and full of glory.
Wise religious leadership.
The narrative from 2 Samuel 6:13-19 describes David's conduct throughout the great processional march to Jerusalem. He was here acting the part of leader of a great religious movement, and in his spirit and deeds we see the conditions of a wise religious leadership.
I. ABSOLUTE DEFERENCE TO THE AUTHORITY OF GOD. By comparing this account with the fuller record in 1 Chronicles 15:1-29; it will be seen that David was most anxious that every step taken should be in accordance with the will of God. On the former occasion he seems to have left the people to follow the precedent set by the Philistines (1 Samuel 6:7-9; cf. 1 Samuel 6:3), and we have seen with what sad consequences. The bitter experience of the past few months had, at all events, issued in the desire to pay deference to the revealed will of God in everything, and no longer adopt the questionable methods of men. This feeling is the first prerequisite to all spiritual success. Leaders whose minds are charged with the feeling that God is supreme, and that his will enters into all things and is first of all to be considered, carry with their own actions and words a force of the highest character. Their work is Divine, and God should fill the whole area of their vision. In so far as the thought of God as supreme dominates our mental life do we ensure action on sound principles, and put force and determination into our words and deeds.
II. MANIFESTATION OF A SPIRIT SUITABLE TO THE OCCASION. Whether the wearing of the linen ephod meant the assumption, by inspiration of God, of priestly functions in combination with the kingly and prophetic—typical of him who is our Prophet, Priest, and King—or whether it was but a garment of royalty used on special sacred occasions, this is clear: that by it David manifested a spirit appropriate to a very holy and blessed occasion. He would have people see that this was a time of consecration to the Lord, a time for purity to be the clothing of all, a time of exceptional sacredness. The impression on the people could not but be serious and elevating. Men who lead others have much in their power by virtue of the general spirit they manifest. It should always be in harmony with the occasion, indicating its special character, and bringing other minds into holy sympathy with the end in view.
III. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS OF GRATITUDE AND DEPENDENCE. There must have been among the people some trepidation on the first movement of the ark, and it was a wise arrangement that, on clearing the house of Obed-Edom, sacrifice should be offered expressing gratitude for mercies vouchsafed, and a sense of dependence on God for pardon and all needful good. The same is true of the offerings at the end of the journey. It was characteristic of the leadership of Moses that he sought to cultivate these sentiments in the minds of Israel all through the desert. We do wrong to ourselves and to God when we fail to recognize our obligations to him on every stage of our life's course. Thankfulness of heart for the past, and trustful submission for all things needed, are the two elements of a cheery, earnest, and lowly service. The preacher, the missionary leader, the teacher, and parent, who knows how to foster these sentiments in others, is in a fair way of carrying through any spiritual work that may be in hand (Philippians 4:6, Philippians 4:7).
IV. PREVISION FOR COMPLETENESS OF WORK. David not only sought to bring up the ark in a manner agreeable to the will of God, and by such personal bearing and special arrangements as should impress and elevate the people, but he looked on, and, by preparing a tabernacle beforehand, secured a completion of the work befitting its nature. Many a good undertaking is left incomplete for want of this prevision. It is true each man should be intent on the work of the hour, but the work of each hour is to be regarded as having relations to all future time; and so far as lies in our power we may anticipate the success of the succeeding hours and prepare the crowning work. The architect provides for the cupola while careful of the foundations. The statesman arranges for participation in wider privileges while educating the people up to them. The religious reformer looks on to the need of positive instruction and formation of new institutions on newly recognized principles even before releasing the people from the supposed errors of the past. The evangelist who seeks to arouse the people and bring them up to a better life, if wise, will anticipate the result of his efforts by providing solid instruction. Church leaders who seek to conduct the Church through phases of faith and practice, will forecast what is necessary when the present discipline has done its work.
V. HELPFUL WORDS AND BROAD SYMPATHIES. The people must have felt, when David stood up and blessed them in the name of the Lord, and then sent them home with substantial tokens of his sympathy, that he was indeed a leader of whom they might well be proud. The right choice of words, and the deeds which express a personal interest, are things which give a just and beneficial power over men. Human life is very dependent for its highest welfare on words fitly spoken and on deeds which symbolize affection and interest. A master of words that really convey blessing to human hearts is indeed a great man, a worthy leader. It is not by mere assertion of official authority, or performance of deeds strictly in accord with propriety and law, that hearts are won and characters moulded to a nobler type. The leader who can send his people home thankful for his existence and satisfied with the largeness of his heart, is wise -in that he not only blesses men, but also renders them accessible in future to his influence.
Domestic hindrances to piety.
A day of high festivities and holy gladness was closed by an event which must have made David feel how imperfect is the best estate at which man can arrive in this world. The reviling of his wife Michal was indeed a bitter element in the cup, and suggests to us a sad subject, too frequently illustrated in the lives of good men, namely, the hindrances to piety in domestic life.
I. THE MOST PERFECT HUMAN CONDITION IS MARRED BY SOME BLEMISH. To an ordinary observer David would seem to have been on that day the happiest and most honoured of men—monarch of the chosen race, in the flush of health and fulness of power and intellect, beloved by his people, and filled with joy in having brought to pass an event of great religious significance. But even for him there was a bitterness most bitter. In his home, where love and joy and full sympathy with all his noble aspirations ought to abound, there awaited him scorn, distrust, and the venom of spite. Truly, royal personages are not free from common woes. The fairest, most beautiful life is shaded by some sorrow. Every heart knoweth its own bitterness. In this we have, doubtless, an illustration of what has been true in all ages of all men. Behind all grandeur there is some destroying moth. The most charming prosperity is attended with some defect. There is "a crook in every lot." Even the great apostle knew the "thorn in the flesh."
II. DOMESTIC OPPOSITION TO PERSONAL PIETY IS AMONG THE MOST BITTER OF TRIALS. Though, as king amongst men of stubborn will and perverse disposition, David carried on his heart many a care, there was, doubtless, no trouble of his life comparable to that of the opposition of his favourite wife to the conduct which he, as a pious man, felt bound to adopt. Such sorrow presses heavily in the home where only joy ought to be found, and attends, as a dark, unwelcome shadow, the pathway of daily duty out of the home. In so far as we believe godliness to be the best of all things, and the particular expression of it we may adopt as the tribute due to God, so must the antagonism of those we love most of all embitter the spirit. This wearies and worries when, after the toil of day, the domestic circle is sought for repose and refreshment of heart. Apart from the pain of being opposed in what is most sacred and binding and precious, there is the oppressive feeling that two human beings abiding under the same roof, and pledged to mutual love and confidence, are pressing towards eternity with no assurance of being one there. This is a tender subject, the very mention of which may open the floodgates of weeping.
III. THE FORMS OF ANTAGONISM MAY VARY, BUT THE AIM IS ONE—TO WIN OR DRIVE FROM HIGH-TONED SERVICE. The sharp tongue of Michal was employed to reproach David for a form of service in which he rejoiced, and which he believed to be due to God and for the good of the people; and the ulterior aim was to hinder his adopting such courses in future. Others may meet with smiles and persuasions and all the engaging arts of the charmer, which in themselves do not assume the form of antagonism; but are designed for the same end. The manifestation of earnest piety is too earnest, too spiritual, too elevated, for the carnal mind; and hence must be brought down to a lower level. There are unspiritual wives who thus strive to despiritualize their husbands, and sometimes, but not so often, husbands strive to despiritualize their wives. Through unfortunate alliances many a godly soul has to experience this dreadful evil.
IV. THE TRUE WAY OF MEETING THIS TRIAL IS BY COMBINED MEEKNESS AND FIRMNESS. The rasping tongue of Michal and her base insinuations only provoked a gentle reply in a firm spirit. David would not increase the trouble by bitter, cutting words. Referring to God's choice of him and the consequent obligations to do all he could to raise the tone of religion, he calmly informed his wife that his purpose was unchangeable, and expressed the belief that some at least would see honour and not disgrace in his conduct. It is a hard fight to hold one's own in such a contest, and many, it is to be feared, gradually yield for the sake of what is called "peace," only to sink down to a formality in religion congenial to the unspiritual companion of the domestic hearth. Those thus tried have need to lift up their hearts to God for the wisdom and grace by which they shall know how to be true to their God and disarm the opposition or else neutralize its power. They have this encouragement, that, while the favour of the world can only tend to spiritual death, fidelity to God is sure to win the respect of all the good, command the silent reverence of even the hostile mind, and gather up daily strength wherewith to bear the burden of sorrow, and at last end. one's course as a "good and faithful servant."
HOMILIES BY B. DALE
2 Samuel 6:1, 2 Samuel 6:2
(1 Chronicles 13:1-6). (JERUSALEM.)
The ark sought after long neglect.
1. The ark was the central point of the religion of Israel. In this sacred chest were deposited the two tables of the Law (the testimony, the great document of the covenant); on it rested the covering (kapporeth) propitiatory (LXX.), expiatory (Vulgate), or mercy seat (Authorized Version), "above it cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat," whereon the invisible King of Israel, the Lord of hosts, was enthroned; and there atonement was made, by the sprinkling of blood, for the sins of the people (Exodus 25:10-22). It was a symbol of Jehovah's presence and fellowship, his righteousness and mercy, his protection and blessing; a type of heavenly things.
2. Of the ark nothing is recorded since it was placed, about seventy years previously, on its return from the land of the Philistines, in the house of Abinadab, on the hill, at Kirjath jearim; and Eleazar, his son, was consecrated to keep it (1 Samuel 6:21, 22). During this long period it continued there, separated from the tabernacle (in Nob, 1Sa 21:6; 1 Samuel 22:13, 1 Samuel 22:19; and afterwards in Gibeon, 1 Chronicles 21:29), unsought and neglected (1 Chronicles 13:3), "buried in darkness and solitude." The worship and service of God were necessarily incomplete—an effect and evidence of the imperfect relations subsisting between the nation and its Divine King, and of its divided and distracted condition.
3. The time had now come for the restoration of the ark to its proper place as the centre of national worship. The union of all the tribes under "the man of God's choice," the conquest of Jerusalem, the defeat of the Philistines, prepared the way for the great enterprise; and to it David was impelled by a truly theocratic spirit. "This act had its root in David's truly pious feeling, was the living expression of his gratitude to the Lord for his favour, and aimed at the elevation and concentration of the religious life of Israel" (Erdmann).
4. The truths and principles symbolized by the ark are fully embodied in Christ and Christianity (Hebrews 9:11). It may, therefore, be regarded, generally, as representing the true religion; and its restoration from "captivity" a religious reformation (see 1 Samuel 7:2-6). In the going forth of the king at the head of "all Israel" from Jerusalem "to Baale, that is, to Kirjath-jearim, which belonged to Judah (twelve miles distant), to bring up thence the ark of God," we observe—
I. AN EXALTED AIM.
1. The rendering to God of the honour which is his due, by open acknowledgment of his supremacy, proper reverence for his great Name, cheerful obedience to his requirements. The religious life of a people is not only expressed in a proper regard for the ordinances of public worship (1 Samuel 1:3), but also greatly promoted thereby. When these are neglected, corrupted, or negligently performed, there can hardly be a higher aim than to make them attractive and pure, and induce a worthy performance of them. "O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!" (Psalms 96:9).
2. The realization of closer communion with God, and the reception of the blessings that flow from such communion—mercy and grace, righteousness and strength, safety and peace. "True religion can never be the affair of the individual alone. A right religious relation to God must include a relation to our fellow men in God, and solitary acts of devotion can never satisfy the wants of healthy spiritual life, which calls for a visible expression of the fact that we worship God together in the common faith which binds us into a religious community. The necessity for acts of public and united worship is instinctively felt, wherever religion has a social influence, and in Israel it was felt the more strongly because Jehovah was primarily the God and King of the nation, who had to do with the individual Israelite only in virtue of his place in the commonwealth" (J. Robertson Smith, 'The Prophets of Israel').
3. The fulfilment of the purpose of God concerning his people—that they may be holy, united, prosperous, mighty, and "show forth his praise" (Isaiah 43:21). "O Lord, I beseech thee, send now prosperity" (Psalms 118:25). "The next great step of David (after the conquest of Jerusalem) was the re-establishment of the national religion, the worship of Jehovah, with suitable dignity and magnificence. Had David acted solely from political motives, this measure had been the wisest he could adopt. The solemn assembling of the tribes would not only cement the political union of the monarchy, but also increase the opulence of his capital and promote the internal commerce of the country.; while it brought the heads of the tribes, and indeed the whole people, under the cognizance and personal knowledge of the sovereign, it fixed the residence of the more eminent of the priesthood in the metropolis" (Milman).
II. AN ENEGETIC LEADER. The enterprise was initiated, inspired, accomplished, by David, whose anxious thought on the matter is alluded to in Psalms 132:1-18. (written subsequently), 'Jehovah's resting-place.'
"Remember, O Jehovah, to David
All his harassing cares,
Who sware to Jehovah,
Vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob:
'I will not come into.the tent of my house,
I will not go up to the couch of my bed,
I will not give sleep to mine eyes,
Nor slumber to mine eyelids,
Until I find a place for Jehovah,
A dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob.'
Lo! we heard of it at Ephratah,
We found it in the fields of the wood.
Let us go into his dwelling,
Let us bow ourselves before his footstool.
Arise, O Jehovah, to thy rest,
Thou and the ark of thy strength."
"At Ephratah, at Bethlehem, the idea of making this great transference" (Acts 7:46) may have first "occurred to David's mind" (Stanley; but see Commentaries on this psalm). "And David consulted with the captains of thousands," etc. (1 Chronicles 13:1-4); "gathered together all the chosen men [warriors] of Israel;" and "arose and went."
1. Eminent piety in the individual manifests itself in deep and tender concern with respect to a common neglect of Divine worship, and in wise and diligent effort to repair it. "David's ruling passion was zeal for the house and worship of God" (Psalms 26:8).
2. Men in authority should make use of their position for that purpose; not, indeed, in the way of compulsion, but of example and persuasion. "Where shall we find today men whose first concern is for the honour of God; who really believe that the favour of the Highest is the true palladium of their country's welfare?" (Blaikie).
3. Thus one man sometimes effects a general and lasting reformation. It was so with Samuel and David, and it has been so with others. How much may be accomplished by one man who is thoroughly in earnest!
4. In this manner such a man fulfils the will of God concerning him, and proves his Divine calling (see 1 Samuel 13:14). "These things show David to be 'a man after God's own heart,' every way fitted for the purpose for which he was exalted, a prince of the largest capacities and noblest views; and the extensiveness and national utility of the scheme he formed, in which the honour of God and the welfare and advantage of his people were equally consulted, demonstrate the piety and goodness of his heart, and clothe him with a glory in which no prince could ever rival or equal him".
III. A SYMPATHETIC PEOPLE. In response to David's appeal, "all the congregation that were with him," etc.
1. A leader of men, however great, stands in need of their sympathy and support, and can do nothing without them.
2. It is by their means that he achieves success. The age contributes as much to him as he to it.
3. The union and cooperation of the people with him are a sign of the favour and blessing of God, and a condition of further prosperity. "The new enthusiasm and elevation of the community was not the creation of David. It met him as his noblest incentive; but it is the completeness with which he suffered it to take possession of him … that constitutes the secret of his peculiar greatness, and the charm which never failed to attach to his struggles and triumphs all the strongest and purest spirits of his age" (Ewald).
IV. A UNITED AND ZEALOUS ENDEAVOUR. Captains of thousands, every leader, brethren everywhere, all Israel from Shihor of Egypt even unto the entering of Hamath, priests and Levites, chosen warriors, numbering thirty thousand (seventy thousand, LXX.), went "to find the lost relic of the ancient religion." They felt the value of the object of their search; were intent on its possession; "of one heart and one soul;" rested not in wishes and prayers merely, but exhibited their concord in practical, appropriate, persevering activity. It was a fresh starting point for the nation, the commencement of a new religious era. Be it ours now to seek and strive after a still more glorious time!
"Oh, may the hour
Soon come when all false gods, false creeds, false prophets,
Allowed in thy good purpose for a time,
Demolished,—the great world shall be at last
The mercy seat of God, the heritage
Of Christ, and the possession of the Spirit,
The Comforter, the Wisdom! shall all be
One land, one home, one friend, one faith, one law,
Its ruler God, its practice righteousness, Its life peace!"
2 Samuel 6:3-5
(1 Chronicles 13:7, 1 Chronicles 13:8). (KIRJATH-JEARIM.)
The ark brought out of deep obscurity.
The enterprise was marked by—
I. A GREAT DISCOVERY. "We found it in the fields of the wood" (Psalms 132:6).
1. An invaluable treasure, long hidden, from view; like the "treasure hid in a field," and the "pearl of great price" (Matthew 13:44-46).
2. A significant memorial of God's mercies in times past. What manifold and mighty events would be brought to remembrance by the sight of the sacred, venerable, and mysterious coffer, when it came forth, as from its grave, into the light of day!
3. A sure pledge of the continued favour of God in time to come. "The ark was, as it were, the palladium of Israel, the moving sacrament of that rude people; not itself Divine any more than our sacramental bread is Christ's body, or our symbolic water God's grace, but the visible symbol of a presence supposed to be local, or of a power manifested in answer to prayer" (Rowland Williams). Yet it was "not a mere dead, idle shadow to look upon, but what certainly declared God's nearness to his Church" (Calvin).
II. A JOYFUL PROCESSION. "And they set [carried] the ark. of God upon a new cart [waggon]; and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons [grandsons] of Abinadab, drave the cart; and Ahio went before [Uzzah going alongside.] the ark. And David and all Israel played [sported] before Jehovah with all their might, with songs, and with harps," etc. (1 Samuel 10:10; 1 Samuel 19:20). Already commenced the higher order of Divine service, to be afterwards more fully organized and established. For this occasion (as some have supposed) David wrote Psalms 68:1-35. 'The ark setting forward in victorious might.'
"Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered,
And let them that hate him flee before his face."
Such language was historically appropriate (Numbers 10:35). The sacred procession served:
1. To express their gratitude, gladness, and triumph.
2. To deepen their devotion, union, and joy.
3. To produce a beneficial and lasting impression on the nation.
4. To exalt the Name of Jehovah among surrounding peoples.
"No less than eleven psalms, either in their traditional titles, or in the irresistible evidence of their contents, bear traces of this great festival. The twenty-ninth psalm (by its title in the LXX.), is said to be on the 'going forth of the tabernacle.' The thirtieth (by its title), the fifteenth, and the hundred and first (by their contents), express the feelings of David on his occupation of his new home. The sixty-eighth, at least in part, and the twenty-fourth, seem to have been actually composed for the entrance of the ark into the ancient gates of the heathen fortress (Psalms 96:1-13; Psalms 105:1-45; Psalms 106:1-48; Psalms 6:1-10; Psalms 46:1-11; Psalms 132:1-18.)" (Smith's 'Dictionary'). "The hymns of David excel no less in sublimity and tenderness of expression than in loftiness and purity of religious sentiment. In comparison with them, the sacred poetry of all other nations sinks into mediocrity. They have embodied so exquisitely the universal language of religious emotion, that (a few fierce and vindictive passages excepted, natural in the warrior poet of a sterner age) they have entered, with unquestioned propriety, into the ritual of the holier and more perfect religion of Christ … How many human hearts have they softened, purified, and exalted! Of how many wretched beings have they been the secret of consolation! On how many communities have they drawn down the blessings of Divine providence, by bringing the affections into unison with their deep devotional fervour!" (Milman).
III. AN INEXCUSABLE TRANSGRESSION. "The act of David and of Israel was evidently intended as a return to the Lord and submission to his revealed ordinances; but, if so, obedience must be complete in every particular" (Edersheim). It was ordained that the ark should be borne with staves on the shoulders of men, the elect men of the nation (Numbers 7:9), and, in placing it on a new cart drawn by oxen, after the manner of the heathen (1 Samuel 6:10, 1 Samuel 6:12), they acted contrary to the Divine ordinance, as David subsequently recognized (1 Chronicles 15:13). Were they fully aware of the nature and importance of that ordinance? Perhaps not; especially after it had been so long in abeyance. Were they altogether ignorant of its existence? This could hardly have been the case with the priests and Levites. Such ignorance, moreover, would have been highly culpable: They were doubtless acquainted with it; but they were forgetful, careless, negligent, and adopted the method which seemed most expedient and to have been previously sanctioned.
1. "All religious reformations which are wrought by men, are blemished by human infirmities" (Wordsworth).
2. Long neglect of Divine ordinances commonly renders, the renewed performance of them exceedingly defective.
3. Fresh and fervid zeal is often inconsiderate, self-confident, and rash.
4. Example is apt to mislead; and should be imitated only in so far as it accords with the Word of God.
5. The end sought may be in accordance with the Divine will, whilst the means employed for the attainment thereof are contrary to it.
6. Good intentions do not justify forbidden actions. "Two things make a good Christian—good actions and good aims. A good aim maketh not a bad action good, as here; and yet a bad aim maketh a good action bad, as we see in Jehu" (Trapp).
7. The conduct which is blameless in some may be sinful in others who have received higher privileges.
8. Although the transgression of God's Law may be borne with for a time, it is sure to be followed by deserved chastisement.
9. If negligence and disobedience in relation to the material symbol were displeasing to God, much more must they be so in relation to the spiritual truth of which it was a shadow (Hebrews 10:29).
10. The noblest agents should be chosen for the performance of the noblest services.—D.
2 Samuel 6:6-8
(1 Chronicles 13:9-11). (GOREN NACHON.)
The ark upheld with irreverent hands.
Read who the Church would cleanse, and mark
How stern the warning runs:
There are two ways to guard her ark—
As patrons and as sons."
The fair prospects of a great enterprise are sometimes darkened, as by a thunderstorm, in consequence of the improper manner in which it is conducted. The forbearance of God toward those who transgress his ordinances is often unheeded, and becomes an occasion of further transgression, until the occurrence of a signal disaster fills them with fear and trembling. The act of one man, it may be, gives definite expression to the spirit which influences many, and on him falls the lightning stroke of Heaven, as a punishment for his sin and a chastisement of all who are associated with him; a solemn call to consideration and amendment.
"Give unto Jehovah, O ye sons of God,
Give unto Jehovah glory and strength;
Give unto Jehovah the glory of his Name;
Worship Jehovah in holy attire.
The voice of Jehovah is upon the waters.
The God of glory thundereth."
I. A SEEMING EXIGENCY. The ark in danger! "For [at the threshing floor of Nachon, or Chidon] the oxen shook it [kicked, broke loose, or stumbled]," so that the support of Uzzah was apparently needful to arrest its fall. In like manner religion—the Church, its worship, sacraments, doctrines—sometimes appears in perilous need of human help. But the apparent exigency:
1. Is commonly the result of previous neglience and disobedience on the part of those to whom its interests are entrusted, and the false position in which it is placed. If the "due order" (1 Chronicles 15:13) had been observed, the danger would never have arisen.
2. Serves the purpose of testing and manifesting the character of men. Will it lead them to consider, Perceive their error, and amend; or occasion further aberrations?
3. Can never warrant an interference which is expressly prohibited, however great the danger or sincere the desire to avert it. "You must rather leave the ark to shake, if it so please God, than put unworthy hands to hold it up" (Bacon).
4. Is not so great as it appears; for God is able to prevent its fall or overrule it for good. "The special moral of this warning is that no one, on the plea of zeal for the ark of God's Church, should resort to doubtful expedients and unlawful means for the attainment of his end" (Wordsworth).
II. A SERIOUS ERROR. "Uzzah reached forth to the ark of God, and took hold of it." The Levites (of whom Uzzah was one) were to carry it on staves; but "not touch any holy thing, lest they die" (Numbers 4:15). His error was practical; though in itself trivial, a direct breach of the legal requirement; and (as is often the case with an apparently insignificant act) indicated an unsanctified mind. He was "a type of all who, with good intentions, humanly speaking, yet with unsanctified minds, interfere in the affairs of the kingdom of God from the notion that they are in danger and with the hope of saving them" (O. von Gerlach).
1. He acted "unnecessarily, and from the precipitate impulse of human nature" (Ewald), unregulated and unrestrained by proper thought and a higher will.
2. With rashness, irreverence, and profanity; begotten of long familiarity with the venerable relic (see 1 Samuel 6:19). He looked upon it as little other than a piece of sacred furniture.
3. In a spirit of official pride and presumption, as its hereditary guardian and immediate conductor. "Perhaps he affected to show before this great assembly how bold he could make with the ark, having been so long acquainted with it" (Matthew Henry). Men of high position, great possessions, and eminent gifts in the Church, sometimes display a similar spirit, and even affect to patronize the worship of God!
4. With improper anxiety about the means of progress and success, and want of faith in the Divine presence and might. "In our own days there are not awanting men like Uzzah, who act as if it were all over with Christianity if they did not maintain it against the power of modern negations." Their zeal is shown in various ways. But "this zeal, notwithstanding its good intention, is yet unholy, because it is as faint-hearted as it is presumptuous. The Lord needs not such helpers" (Krummacher).
III. A STARTLING JUDGMENT. "And the anger of Jehovah was kindled …. and he died there by the ark of God." A flash of lightning, an apoplectic stroke, or other secondary cause, was the instrument thereof; in the presence of all Israel, and even before the mercy seat, he suffered the penalty of his error ("rashness," 2 Samuel 6:7); and the spot where he fell became a monument of the wrath of God and his power to protect his "holy things" (Ezekiel 22:8).
1. On those who continue to break the Divine Law "the fiery indignation," though long delayed, breaks forth suddenly and "without remedy" (Hebrews 10:31).
2. Punishment is most severe on those who are most honoured, and who ought to be a pattern to others of reverence and obedience (Numbers 3:4; 1 Samuel 5:6; 1 Samuel 6:19; 2 Chronicles 26:21; Acts 5:5; Acts 12:23).
3. The consequences of sin reveal the measure of its sinfulness.
4. The judgment inflicted on one affects many, and represents their desert, The procession was stopped, the enterprise hindered, rejoicing turned into mourning, "and great fear came upon all" (Acts 5:11). "When many have sinned God commonly punishes one or two of the leaders, in order that others may remember their sin and beg forgiveness" (Osiander). Judgment is mingled with mercy. The punishment of one is for the good of many.
IV. A SALUTARY ADMONITION.
1. To consider the awful holiness and majesty of the great King (Malachi 1:11, Malachi 1:14); "for our God is a consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:29).
2. To learn the spiritual meaning and sanctity of his ordinances.
3. To cherish a spirit of profound humility and reverence in his service.
4. To exercise repentance and trust, and new and faithful obedience to his will in all things. Then—
"Jehovah will give strength to his people;
Jehovah will bless his people with peace."
2 Samuel 6:9, 2 Samuel 6:10
(1 Chronicles 13:12, 1 Chronicles 13:13). (PEREZ-UZZAH.)
The ark regarded with a fearful heart.
"And David was afraid of the Lord that day" (2 Samuel 6:9). By none was "the disaster of Uzzah" more keenly felt than by the king. He was disappointed, grieved, and displeased at the interruption of the enterprise on which he had set his heart; and, clearly perceiving the primary offence that had been committed, he was angry with all who were responsible for it, not least with himself (2 Corinthians 7:11). "The burning of David's auger was not directed against God, but referred to the calamity which had befallen Uzzah, or, speaking more correctly, to the cause of the calamity which David attributed to himself or to his undertaking" (Keil). His attitude of soul toward Jehovah "that day" was not, indeed, altogether what it should have been. Conscious of sinfulness and liability to err, he was full of apprehension of a similar judgment on himself, if he should receive the ark; and his fear (though springing up in a devout heart) was an oppressive, paralyzing, superstitious terror, like that of the men of Bethshemesh (1 Samuel 6:20), rather than an enlightened, submissive, and becoming reverence. "This was his infirmity; though some will have it to be his humility" (Trapp). We thus see wherein fear is—
I. NEEDFUL. It is as natural and proper a motive as gratitude, hope, or love; is often enjoined; and, in the sense of unbounded reverence, it constitutes "the religious feeling in its fundamental form" (Martensen). To men in their present condition it is specially needful in order to:
1. Arrest heedless footsteps and constrain to serious reflection and self-examination. "Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling" (Psalms 2:11; Psalms 4:4).
2. Convince of sin, restrain pride and presumption, and lead to godly sorrow.
3. Deter from disobedience, and induce circumspection and diligence (Psalms 89:7; Pro 16:6; 1 Corinthians 10:12; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Philippians 2:12; 1 Peter 1:17). "Fear is a great bridle of intemperance, the modesty of the spirit, and the restraint of gaieties and dissolutions; it is the girdle to the soul and the handmaid to repentance; the mother of consideration and the nurse of sober counsels. But this so excellent grace is soon abused in the best and most tender spirits. When it is inordinate, it is never a good counsellor, nor makes a good friend; and he that fears God as his enemy is the most completely miserable person in the world" (Jeremy Taylor, 'Of Godly Fear').
II. SINFUL. It is so when associated with:
1. Misinterpretation and false judgments of God's dealings; such false judgments being themselves due to personal disappointment or other self-blinding influence. "In his first excitement and dismay David may not have perceived the real and deeper ground of this Divine judgment;" and thought that God had dealt hardly with him.
2. Suspicion, distrust, and "the evil heart of unbelief departing from the living God;" from which even the best of men are not exempt, especially when impressed with his severity and forgetful of his goodness (Romans 11:22).
3. Servile thoughts of the service of God, as a restraint upon freedom and a source of trouble and danger. "How shall the ark of the Lord come to me?"
4. Immoderate and morbid indulgence of the feeling, instead of immediate return to God at "the throne of grace," in penitence, hope, and renewed devotion (1 Samuel 16:2; 1 Samuel 28:1).
III. HURTFUL. By:
1. Producing inward distraction and despondency.
2. Estranging from the fellowship and service of God, and preventing the accomplishment of holy purposes. How many excellent enterprises are abandoned through unworthy fears!
3. Depriving of invaluable blessings. The loss of David appears by the gain of Obed-Edom (2 Samuel 6:11), into whose dwelling the ark brought sunshine and prosperity. But with time and reflection his misjudgments were corrected, his faith revived, his fear was sanctified (Psalms 101:2) and associated with holy and ardent aspiration after the presence of God in his tabernacle, and he wrote Psalms 15:1-5; 'The character of the true worshipper and friend of God.'
"Jehovah, who may sojourn in thy tabernacle?
Who may dwelt in thy holy mountain?
He that walketh uprightly and worketh righteousness,
And speaketh truth in his heart ….
He that doeth these things shall never be moved."
2 Samuel 6:10, 2 Samuel 6:11
(1 Chronicles 13:13, 1 Chronicles 13:14). (THE HOUSE OF OBED-EDOM.)
The ark received with a right spirit.
By means of the ark "the thoughts of many hearts" were "revealed." Whilst Uzzah treated it with irreverence, and David regarded it with dread, Obed-Edom the Gittite (of Gath-rimmon) received it" with reverence and godly fear." He was a Levite, and (like Samuel) of the sons of Korah, a branch of the Kohathites, whose office it was to "bear upon their shoulders" (Numbers 7:9); and is subsequently mentioned as porter (musician), and doorkeeper of the ark (1 Chronicles 15:18, 1Ch 15:21, 1 Chronicles 15:24; 1 Chronicles 16:5, 1 Chronicles 16:38; perhaps "the son of Jeduthun"). He did not seek to have the ark placed under his care; but, when requested by the king, he was not afraid to receive it, well knowing "that, although God is a consuming fire to those who treat him with irreverence, he is infinite in mercy to those who obey him." "Oh, the courage of an honest and faithful heart!" (Hall). The ark in the house of Obed-Edom may be considered as representing religion in the home; and wherever it truly dwells there is:
1. A consciousness of the presence of God; of which the ark was the divinely ordained symbol As often as he and his household looked upon the sacred vessel, mysteriously veiled with its blue covering, they would be the more deeply impressed with the conviction of that presence. We have no longer the symbol; but we have the spiritual reality which it signified; the one is taken away that the other may be more fully recognized, and its recognition cannot but produce in the home thoughtfulness, reverence, and self-restraint.
2. Obedience to his commandments; which were deposited in the ark (2 Chronicles 2:10). The Law must be written on the fleshy tablets of the heart; made the rule of life; and diligently taught to the children (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). The sins which it forbids will thus be avoided, the virtues which it enjoins practised; "righteousness, goodness, and truth," the foundation on which the home is built; and the will of God being recognized as supreme, order and harmony will prevail.
3. Confidence in his mercy; according to the appointed method of reconciliation set forth by the mercy seat, and fulfilled in Christ (Romans 3:25; 2 Corinthians 5:19; 1 John 2:1). The fatherly love of God, being "known and believed," becomes a perpetual incentive to love God and one another (Ephesians 4:32; Romans 13:10). The pervading element of the home should be love. "Jesus Christ—Love; the same."
4. The enjoyment of his fellowship; which was assured at the mercy seat. "There will I commune with thee" (Exodus 25:22). "Communion with God is the very innermost essence of all true Christian life;" and it is maintained and perfected in the home by family prayer (2 Samuel 6:20).
5. Repose under his protection; represented by the overshadowing cherubim. While Obed-Edom guarded the ark of God, he was himself guarded by the God of the ark. "The Lord is thy Keeper" (Psalms 121:5). "He shall give his angels charge over thee," etc. (Psalms 91:1, Psalms 91:11).
6. The reception of his blessing. "And Jehovah blessed Obed-Edom, and all his household" (2 Samuel 6:11), "all that he had" (1 Chronicles 13:14)—blessed him with spiritual, providential, enduring benefits (1 Chronicles 26:4-8). "It paid well for its entertainment. The same hand that punished Uzzah's proud presumption rewarded Obed-Edom's humble boldness, and made the ark to him 'a savour of life unto life'" (Matthew Henry). "A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children's children" (Proverbs 13:22; Psalms 102:28).
7. The promotion of his honour and glory. "And it was told King David," etc. Religion in the home "cannot be hid;" the fame thereof goes abroad and incites many—perchance a whole nation—to render to God the honour which is his due, "so that glory may dwell in our land."—D.
2 Samuel 6:12-15
(1 Chronicles 15:1-29.). (JERUSALEM)
The ark led forth with devout enthusiasm.
A man's ruling passion, although repressed for a season, surely reappears. It was thus with David's affection for the ark of God, and his desire to bring it up to Zion, where he had prepared a new tent, tabernacle, or pavilion (Psalms 27:5), for its reception (2 Samuel 6:17), in or adjoining his own palace (1 Chronicles 14:1; 1 Chronicles 15:1). His zeal, which had been checked by fear, now revived
"As florets, by the frosty air of night
Bent down and closed, when day has blanched their leaves,
Rise all unfolded on their spiry stems."
I. A RENEWED PURPOSE IS ofttimes:
1. Incited by the example of another, and the manifest success attending his conduct. "And it was told King David," etc. (2 Samuel 6:12); "And David said, I will go and bring back the ark with blessing to my house" (Vulgate). To this also his study of the Law, meditation and prayer, during the preceding three months contributed.
2. Accompanied with the conviction and confession of the cause of previous failure (2Sa 6:13; 1 Chronicles 15:2, 1 Chronicles 15:13, 1 Chronicles 15:15). "Pious men will profit by their own errors, stand the stronger for their falls, and not abate in their zeal and affections, but learn to connect them with humility, and to regulate them according to the precepts of the sacred Scripture" (Scott).
3. Carried out with more careful and diligent preparation than before. "David gathered all Israel together"—the priests (Abiathar, 1 Samuel 30:7; Zadok, 1 Chronicles 12:28) and the Levites (mentioned only once in 2 Samuel, viz. 2 Samuel 15:24); charged them to sanctify themselves to bring up the ark, and directed the chiefs of the latter to appoint singers with musical instruments for the procession (1 Chronicles 15:12-16), among whom he seems to have "found a faculty of song and music already in existence" (Hengstenberg).
II. AN AUSPICIOUS COMMENCEMENT. "When they had. gone six paces, he sacrificed oxen and fatlings" ("seven bullocks and seven rams," 1 Chronicles 15:26)—"a thank offering for the happy beginning, and a petition for the prosperous continuation of the undertaking" (Bottcher).
1. The first steps of an enterprise are of high importance, and, until they are actually taken, even the best prepared are seldom without misgiving.
2. When taken with the manifest approval of Heaven, they afford strong confidence and hope of a successful issue.
3. The gladness (2 Samuel 6:12) of successful effort is all the greater because of previous anxiety and grief (Psalms 126:6). The procession was led by eight hundred and sixty-two Levites clad in white, in three choirs, playing respectively on cymbals, psalteries, and harps; over the first of which were Heman (grandson of Samuel), Asaph, and Ethan, or Jeduthun. Then followed Chenaiah, "chief" or marshal "of the Levites for bearing;" two doorkeepers; the ark, attended by seven priests blowing silver trumpets (Numbers 10:1-10); and two other doorkeepers (of whom Obed-Edom was one). Last of all came the king, with the elders and captains of thousands, and the whole body of the people.
"Before went the singers, behind the players on stringed instruments;
In the midst of damsels striking timbrels.
There is Benjamin the youngest, their ruler;
The princes of Judah—their motley band,
The princes of Zebulun, the princes of Naphtali."
(Psalms 68:26, Psalms 68:28.)
III. A FESTAL AND TRIUMPHAL PROGRESS. "With shouting and sound of trumpet" (2 Samuel 6:15). Again arose the well-known shout, "Let God arise," etc.! (Psalms 68:1-35.; Psalms 132:8). The king may have composed the hymns sung by the Levites, and himself carried a harp in his hand. His clothing "had a priestly character, and not only the ephod of white, but also the meil of white byssos, distinguished him as the head of a priestly people" (Keil, on 1 Chronicles 15:27). And David, having laid aside his royal garment, which would impede his movements, "danced before Jehovah with all his might" (2 Samuel 6:14).
"The same who sang
The Holy Spirit's song, and bare about
The ark from town to town; now doth he know
The merit of his soul-impassioned strains
By their well-fitted guerdon."
(Dante, 'Par.,' 20.)
"Simonides used to say of dancing that it was silent poetry, and of poetry that it was eloquent dancing" (Delany, from Plutarch). There is "a time to dance" (Ecclesiastes 3:4). David's dancing was a religious act (2 Samuel 6:21); customary among a people of simple and demonstrative habits, on a return from victory and in public worship (Exodus 15:20; Judges 11:34; 1 Samuel 18:6); rendered familiar to him in the school of the prophets (1 Samuel 19:24); practised only on an extraordinary occasion; a natural expression of personal gratitude and joy (Psalms 30:11) in a man of ardent temperament; a sign of humble, avowed, and unreserved devotion to Jehovah (Psalms 150:4); a means of identifying himself with the people, and of infusing his own spirit into them. Those persons who condemn him as deficient in modesty and dignity should remember these things: those who commend dancing as a social amusement or recreation by his example must find other grounds for their commendation; and these who justify the unseasonable, vain, and indelicate manner in which it is ordinarily performed, by his conduct, either misunderstand or shamelessly pervert it (Job 21:7-15).
Of religious excitement it may be said that:
1. It does not prevail to such an extent as might have been expected from the glorious truths set forth in the Word of God.
2. It is of great value in inducing the performance of duty, overcoming obstacles, and leading to a decisive course of action. Reason and conscience are often insufficient of themselves to influence the will effectually.
3. It is fraught with serious danger—of not being properly regulated by intelligence, of running into imprudence and excess, of being superficial and transient, and perverted to an unworthy and sinful end.
4. It requires to be controlled by an enlightened conscience, transformed into fixed principles, and translated into holy and useful deeds. Unless it be immediately acted upon it is injurious rather than beneficial.—D.
2 Samuel 6:17-19
(1 Chronicles 16:1-43.). (ZION.)
The ark established in its chosen restingplace.
The ascent of the ark into "the city of David" may be regarded as:
1. A termination of a state of things that had long prevailed, in which the relation of the people of Israel to their Divine King was interrupted, his service neglected, their power impaired. Even the early military successes of Saul were followed by disaster, dissension, and civil strife, which had been only recently healed. Once more there was rest (1 Chronicles 23:25).
2. An inauguration of a new era: the more manifest and abiding presence of Jehovah among his people, the more general recognition of his sovereignty, the organization of a worthier and more attractive form of worship, the more complete union of the tribes under the Lord's Anointed (Messiah), and the victorious expansion of his kingdom. "It was the greatest day of David's life …. It was felt to be the turning point in the history of the nation. It recalled the great epoch of the passage through the wilderness. David was on that day the founder, not of freedom only, not of religion only, but of a Church, a commonwealth" (Stanley).
3. A representation (a type, or at least an emblem) of the coming of "Messiah the Prince" in his kingdom; either, more generally, in his whole mediatorial course from his first advent to his final triumph, or, more specially, at his ascension "far above all, the heavens, that he might fill all things" (Ephesians 4:8-10).
"Thou hast ascended up on high,
Thou hast led captives captive," etc.
I. A GLORIOUS CONSUMMATION. "And they brought in the ark of the Lord, and set it in its place," etc. "This is my rest forever," etc. (Psalms 132:13, Psalms 132:14). To this occasion may be referred Psalms 24:1-10; 'The King of glory entering his sanctuary.'
"The earth is Jehovah's, and the fulness thereof;
The world, and they that dwell therein ….
Who shall ascend into the hill of Jehovah?
And who shall stand in his holy place?"
It is here declared that the proper preparation for communion with God is moral purity, not merely external pomp (Psalms 24:9, 11; Psalms 15:1-5.; Isaiah 33:15, Isaiah 33:16). The former part of this grand choral hymn was probably sung on the way to Zion; the latter on entering the gates of the venerable fortress and city of Melchizedek.
Lift up your heads, O ye gates,
And be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors,
That the King of glory may come in.
Who is, then, the King of glory
Jehovah strong and mighty,
Jehovah mighty in battle.
"Lift up your heads, O ye gates …
Who is, then, that King of glory?
Jehovah of hosts;
He is the King of glory."
"Amidst the glorious wave of song and praise, the ark was placed in the tabernacle." So Christ (in whom the Divine and human king are one) has entered the heavenly Zion, dwells with men, and prepares those who receive him, in faith and love, to dwelt with him forever (Hebrews 10:12, Hebrews 10:22).
II. AN ACCEPTABLE SACRIFICE. "And David" (as head and representative of priestly nation, Exodus 19:6) "offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before Jehovah;" the former expressive of self-dedication, the latter of thanksgiving, praise, and joyous fellowship with God and one another. At the close of the service of dedication he instituted a regular "service of song in the house of the Lord" (see Hengstenberg, 'On the History of the Psalmodic Poetry'), due in part to the influence of Samuel and his prophet associates (1 Samuel 19:20), but having him for its real author, and, receiving its mightiest impulse from his sublime compositions. He was a prophet as truly as Samuel or Moses (Acts 2:30). "David, as well as Moses, was made like to Christ the Son of David in this respect, that by him God gave a new ecclesiastical establishment and new ordinances of worship" (Jon. Edwards). "On that day then David ordered for the first time to thank the Lord by Asaph and his brethren" (1 Chronicles 16:7).
"Thank ye the Lord, call on his Name,
Make known his deeds among the people," etc.
(1 Chronicles 16:8-22; Psalms 105:1-15.)
"Sing ye to the Lord, all the earth,
Proclaim from day today his salvation," etc.
(1 Chronicles 16:23-36; Psalms 96:2-13; Psalms 106:1, Psalms 106:47, Psalms 106:48.)
"A day to be remembered for all time! Then 'the sweet singer of Israel' first gave the suggestions of his inspiration, and the product of his pen, to embody and guide the praises of the Church. What effects have followed that first hymn! What streams of praise … what clouds of incense have gushed and risen and are ever rising and gushing the world over at this moment, from the immortal impulse of that Divine act!" (Binney). Yet it is Christ himself "in the midst of the Church" (Hebrews 2:12) who inspires its noblest praises, and by whom the sacrifice is rendered acceptable to God (Hebrews 13:15).
III. A GRACIOUS BENEDICTION. "And he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts;" recognizing him as "the God of omnipotent power in heaven, who victoriously accomplishes his work of salvation" (1 Samuel 1:3), and solemnly invoking a blessing on his people in accordance with his Name and covenant. His act, although not strictly an assumption of the office of the Levitical priesthood, was of a priestly character (even more so than the patriarchal blessing); "and thus, though but in a passing and temporary manner, he prefigured in his own person the union of the kingly and priestly offices (Perowne), alluded to in Psalms 110:1-7. (written after this event), 'The victorious king and priest.'
"Jehovah hath sworn, and will not repent:
Thou art a priest forever
After the order of Melchizedek."
It was while the Lord Jesus "lifted up his hands and blessed them" that "he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven" (Luke 24:51)—a sign of his continual intercession and benediction. "Wherefore also he is able to save," etc. (Hebrews 7:25).
IV. A GENEROUS BENEFACTION. "And he distributed to all the people, even to the whole multitude of Israel, as well to the women as to the men, to every one a cake of Dread, and a measure [of wine], and a raisin cake," that they might feast together before the Lord (according to custom in the case of peace offerings, 1 Samuel 1:4; 1 Samuel 9:13) as a nation, with thankfulness, gladness, and charity. "It is a good thing when benedicere and benefacere go together, and when in a prince is seen, not only piety toward God, but love and liberality toward his people" (Guild). How much greater are the benefits bestowed by the exalted Redeemer than those conferred by any earthly monarch (Mark 16:20; Acts 2:33) I "Christ has risen bodily into heaven that he may be spiritually present in the earthly heaven of the Church; the bodily ascension and the spiritual indwelling are two aspects of the same act The mystical David, from his own high home, dispenses his own flesh for the life of the world, and that spiritual bread which he that hungers after righteousness shall eat of and be satisfied, and that 'fruit of the vine' which is even now to be drunk in the earthly 'kingdom of the Father'" (W. Archer Butler).—D.
2 Samuel 6:17
The ark and the Bible.
The ark of the covenant has been taken as representative of religion, of Christ, of the Church, or of the sacraments and means of grace. It may also be compared with the Bible (or Scriptures of the old and new covenants), which is of even greater value to us than the ark was to Israel. The resemblance appears in their:
1. Supernatural origin. The ark was made according to the pattern shown (in vision) by God to Moses in the mount (Exodus 25:9), by Bezaleel, who was "filled with the Spirit of God" (Exodus 31:3), and other wise-hearted men; and the tables of stone which, it contained were "written with the finger of God" (Exodus 34:1). The Bible is the product of Divine inspiration (2 Timothy 3:16), though, like the ark, in connection with the (literary) skill of man. "It is a Divine-human book."
2. External characteristics, such as choice and precious materials (acacia wood and pure gold), durability, painstaking workmanship ("beaten work"), simplicity, compactness, beauty ("a crown of gold round about"), practical utility (rings and staves), which are all apparent in the Scriptures.
3. Spiritual significance—the presence of God, the Law (as a testimony against sin and a rule of life), atoning mercy, Divine fellowship and favour. "In the words of God we have the heart of God." The ark was a sign of these sublime realities, "not the very things themselves." With the Bible, wherein they are so much more clearly and fully set forth, it is the same.
4. Wondrous achievements; not, indeed, by their inherent virtue, but by the Divine might of which they were appointed instruments; in blessing or bane according to the diverse moral relationships of men. By the ark the Israelites were led through the wilderness, their enemies scattered, the waves of the Jordan arrested, the walls of Jericho demolished, the land subdued, Dagon destroyed, the rebellious punished, the irreverent smitten, the obedient blessed. Who shall describe the achievements of the Word of God? What enemies it has overcome! what reformations effected! what blessings conferred!
5. Varied fortunes: after long wanderings finding rest; misunderstood and superstitiously perverted, lost for a season to its appointed guardians, persistently striven against, treated with irreverent curiosity, buried in obscurity and neglect, eagerly sought after and found, cherished in private dwellings, exalted to the highest honour.
6. Transcendent claims on human regard—attention, reverence, faith, love, and obedience.
7. Preparatory purpose and temporary duration. At the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians the ark perished or was lost beyond recovery; in the new dispensation there is no place for it (Jeremiah 3:16); but the mercy and judgment which it symbolized cannot fail (Revelation 11:19). The Bible is necessary only in a state where" we see by means of a mirror obscurely" (1 Corinthians 13:12, 1 Corinthians 13:13), not where we see "face to face." But, though in its outward form it vanish away, yet in the spiritual realities of which it testifies, the efforts which it produces, the fulfilment of its promises and threatenings, "the Word of the Lord endureth forever."—D.
2 Samuel 6:20
(1 Chronicles 16:43). (ZION.)
"And David returned to bless his household." A benediction or blessing is essentially a prayer to God that his blessing may be bestowed upon others; and, being uttered in their presence by one who (like the head of a household) holds a position of authority in relation to them, it is also, to some extent, an assurance of the blessing. Of family worship notice—
I. ITS OBLIGATION; which (although it is not expressly enjoined) is evident from:
1. The relation of the family to God: its Founder, Preserver, Ruler, Benefactor, "the God of all the families of the earth" (Psalms 68:6; Jeremiah 31:1; Ephesians 3:15). Out of this relation arises the duty of honouring him (Malachi 1:6); acknowledging the dependence of the family, confessing its sins, seeking his mercy, and praising him for his benefits; nor, without family worship, can its spiritual end be fulfilled (Malachi 2:15).
2. The responsibility of the head of the household to order it in the fear of God (Genesis 18:18; Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:4; 1 Timothy 3:4), which involves this obligation.
3. Precepts, promises, etc; with reference to prayer, which have a manifest application to social worship in the family (1 Chronicles 16:11; Jeremiah 10:25; Matthew 6:9; Romans 16:5; 1 Timothy 2:8; 1 Timothy 4:5).
4. The conduct of good men, approved of God, and therefore indicative of his will and recorded for imitation. Abraham (Genesis 12:7, Genesis 12:8), Jacob (Genesis 35:2, Genesis 35:3), Job (`:5), Joshua (Joshua 24:15), David, Daniel (Daniel 6:10), Cornelius (Acts 10:1), and others. "Wherever I have a tent, there God shall have an altar" (John Howard).
II. ITS MANNER. It should be performed:
1. With regularity and constancy; other family duties being arranged with reference to it, and public worship made, not a substitute, but a preparation for it or an adjunct to it.
2. In such a way as is suitable and profitable to those who take part in it.
3. Always with thoughtfulness, reverence, and cheerfulness.
4. Accompanied by the reading of the Scriptures, by instruction, discipline, and consistent practice, and by holy purposes, such as are expressed in Psalms 101:1-8. (written shortly before this time),'David's mirror of a monarch' (Luther).
"Of mercy and judgment will I sing,
Unto thee, O Jehovah, will I harp.
I will give heed to a perfect way—
When wilt thou come unto me?—
I will walk with a perfect heart within my house," etc.
III. ITS BENEFITS.
1. The sure approbation and rich blessing of God (Proverbs 10:22), temporal and spiritual. By its means, perchance, a parent effects "the saving of his house" (Hebrews 11:7; Luke 19:9).
2. The 'worthy performance of all the duties of life.
3. Abounding affection, harmony, peace, happiness, and hope that
"When soon or late they reach that coast
O'er life's rough ocean driven,
They may rejoice, no wand'rer lost,
A family in heaven!"
4. Holy influences, not only on all the household—parents, children, domestics—but also on the neighbourhood and society. What a mighty reformation would be implied in the general adoption of family worship! And to what a moral and spiritual height would it exalt our land!—D.
2 Samuel 6:20-23
The greatest day of David's life did not end without a cloud. His wife Michal, "Saul's daughter" (2 Samuel 6:16; 2 Samuel 3:13; 1 Samuel 19:11-17), had not, from whatever cause, gone forth to meet him with the other women (2 Samuel 6:19)on his return to Jerusalem with the sacred ark; on beholding from a window of the palace, as the procession swept past, the enthusiasm which he displayed, "she despised him in her heart;" and when, after he had blessed the people, he returned to bless his household, she met him with sarcastic reproaches. "When at a distance she scorned him, when he came home she scolded him" (Matthew Henry). "Whereas David came to bless his house, she, through her foolishness, turneth his blessing into a curse" (Willet). Her scorn (like that of others) was—
I. INDULGED IMPROPERLY.
1. Without adequate cause; and even on account of what should have had an opposite effect. Fervent piety is not understood by those who do not possess it, and is therefore wrongly and uncharitably judged of by them (1 Samuel 1:13-18). "In Saul's time public worship was neglected, and the soul for vital religion had died out of the family of the king" (Keil).
2. From want of spiritual sympathy; in love to God and joy in his service. Her religion (like her father's) was marked by superstition, formality, and cold conventional propriety. She "knew nothing of the impulse of Divine love" (Theodoret). "The life from and in God remains a mystery to every one until, through the Spirit of God himself, it is unsealed to his experience" (Krummacher).
3. With a sinful mind—vain, proud, discontented, unwifely, irreverent (Ephesians 5:33), and resentful. "Probably she bitterly resented her violent separation from the household joys that had grown up around him in her second home. Probably the woman who had teraphim among her furniture cared nothing for the ark of God. Probably, as she grew older, her character had hardened in its lines, and become like her father's in its measureless pride, and in its half-dread, half-hatred, of David. And all these motives together pour their venom into her "sarcasm" (Maclaren). She had not "a meek and quiet spirit" (1 Peter 3:4).
II. EXPRESSED OFFENSIVELY. "How glorious the King of Israel made himself today," etc.!
1. At an unseasonable time; when, full of devotional feeling, he was returning from public worship "to bless his household," and when such language was calculated to be a cause of pain and of stumbling. But scoffers are inconsiderate, and reckless of the mischief their words may occasion.
2. With exaggerated statements and misrepresentation of motives. David had neither committed any impropriety, nor been desirous of vain display in the eyes of others, nor careless of affording occasion for their contempt. Mockers often ridicule in others what is really the creation of their own imagination or suspicion, and the reflection of the evil that is in their own hearts.
3. With bitter irony and derision. How keenly it was felt by the sensitive spirit of David may be learnt from what he says of an evil tongue (Psalms 52:2; Psalms 57:4; Psalms 120:3). "Scoffing at religion is irrational; rude and uncivil; a most cruel and unhuman sin; a most hardening vice; its impiety in the sight of God surpasses all description; it is a contagious and injurious vice" (J. A. James).
III. ANSWERED CONCLUSIVELY. By:
1. A sufficient explanation and defence. "It was before Jehovah" that he had "played;" conscious of his presence and desirous of giving him honour. He was not insensible to his own royal dignity; but recognized the surpassing greatness and goodness of Jehovah, from whom it was derived, and acted only in accordance therewith by giving free expression to his humble gratitude and abounding joy. His language was restrained (Psalms 39:1; Psalms 141:3); though not without rebuke of the proud daughter of the king in preference to whom, and all his house, himself had been chosen.
2. An expression of his resolve to proceed still further in his course of self-humiliation (Psalms 131:1).
3. And of his expectation of finding honour instead of reproach among others. In the affectionate regard of those who sympathize with fervent piety, there is abundant compensation for the contempt of those who despise it. "In this incident we have the clue to that spiritual conception of his duties and position which distinguished David from Saul. It was, in fact, his spiritual conception of the true Israel, of the high privileges and duties of worshippers in the holy place, and above all of the privileges and duties of a king, as one who should carry out Jehovah's counsels upon earth, which distinguished David's reign, not only from that of Saul, but from that of any subsequent Jewish monarch" ('The Psalms chronologically arranged,' by Four Friends).
IV. PUNISHED DESERVEDLY. "Michal's childlessness is specially mentioned as a punishment of her pride. This was the deepest humiliation for an Oriental woman" (Erdmann). The scorner:
1. Inflicts a self-injury, by hardening the heart and rendering it less capable of faith, love, hope, sympathy, and joy; more solitary, discontented, useless, and unhappy.
2. Becomes unamiable and odious in the sight of others.
3. Incurs the displeasure of God; for "surely he scorneth the scorners" (Proverbs 3:34). "Now therefore be ye not mockers, lest your bands be made strong" (Isaiah 28:22).
1. Expect to meet with opposition and contempt in your zeal for God. Even Christ himself was despised and mocked.
2. Count it no strange thing, if in your household, which you desire to bless, there should be those who deprive themselves of the blessing and dislike your devotion.
3. Suffer not their scorn to quench your zeal for God and your love for their souls.
4. Seek in Divine fellowship consolation amidst human reproach.—D.
HOMILIES BY G. WOOD
2 Samuel 6:6, 2 Samuel 6:7
The death of Uzzah.
A startling event. Startling to us to read of. How much more to witness, in the midst of all the pomp and joy with which David was bringing the ark to consecrate his newly founded capital, to inaugurate a revival of religion amongst the people, and thus make some fitting return to God for all his goodness to monarch and subjects, and promote in the best and surest way the welfare of all! It is by sudden, startling, and terrible events that God very commonly calls attention to his laws, and avenges the breach of them. By such means the laws of nature come to be known, reverenced, and obeyed; and are thus brought into subjection to man, and made to promote his well being. And by similar means men are made to reflect upon the laws of God with respect to religion and morals, and so the spiritual good of men is promoted. With reference to the sudden death of Uzzah, we remark—
I. IT WAS THE PUNISHMENT OF HIS SIN. "The anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah." Every sudden death is not a judgment, even when the result of disobedience of some law. Instances: a child killed while playing with fire or deadly weapons; a man struck dead by the electric fluid while experimenting with it. But the phrase we have quoted compels us to regard Uzzah's death as a punishment of sin. At first it seems difficult to discover in what the sin consisted. His conduct, in reaching out his hand to the ark and laying hold of it, seems to have been at least well-meaning: he desired to preserve it from falling to the ground. But well-meaning acts may be wrong and severely punished. In this case there were:
1. Disobedience to a plain law, with the penalty of death attached. (See Numbers 4:15.) Indeed, the method of bearing the ark on this occasion was altogether contrary to the Law (Exodus 25:14; Numbers 7:9), as David learned by this event (see 1 Chronicles 15:13-15). There appears to have been at this period a general neglect of the Law of Moses, and ignorance of its requirements. How, otherwise, can we account for the ark itself lying so long neglected (1 Chronicles 13:3)? But, surely,.those who had the care of the ark ought to have known the law of God respecting it, or searched it out diligently when a new departure was contemplated, that they might both act rightly themselves and prevent the king from copying the Philistines (1 Samuel 6:7) instead of obeying the Divine Law. In the swift punishment that followed Uzzah's act, the memorable maxim was again, and most impressively, proclaimed, "To obey is better than sacrifice" (1 Samuel 15:22)—better than the most splendid pageant in honour of religion from which obedience is absent.
2. Irreverence. The ark was one of the most sacred things in the religion of Israel. It was a symbol of God's presence, his local dwelling place, "called by the Name, even the Name of the LORD of hosts, that sitteth upon the cherubim" (2 Samuel 6:2, Revised Version); a witness, therefore, for him: an assurance that he was with them while they were loyal and obedient; the central point of worship and national life. It was, therefore, to be treated with utmost reverence. In the services of religion it was, as a witness for the invisible God, to be itself invisible, concealed by the second veil; it was to be approached only by the high priest, and by him only once a year, and with incense, the smoke of which should prevent his beholding it (Le 2 Samuel 16:13). But it had long been separated from its proper place in the tabernacle, and kept in a private house, the inmates of which had probably become so familiar with it that they ceased to cherish due reverence for it. Hence the rash act of Uzzah. True, the temptation was sudden and strong. But so are many temptations. All the more need to cherish such habitual piety, self-control, and watchfulness, as shall preserve us in the hour of peril. The recollection of the circumstances under which the ark had been brought into the house of Abinadab should have been sufficient to arrest the impulse to lay hold of it (1 Samuel 6:19-21).
3. Presumption. In pushing himself forward without warrant, and against the law, to preserve the ark from injury. Better to have left it to the care of him to whom it belonged, and who had shown in former days his care for it and his power to protect it (1 Samuel 5:1-12.). It was an instance of zeal without knowledge and faith, and in which self was prominent rather than God.
II. THE DEATH OF UZZAH WAS FOR THE INSTRUCTION AND WARNING OF DAVID AND HIS PEOPLE. David was seeking to revive and re-establish religion, and this act of God appeared to be a hindrance to his good design; but in fact it tended to promote it more effectually than all the measures of the king.
1. It was an impressive demonstration that Jehovah their God was still among them, the living God, the Almighty, the Holy One, observing and punishing sin. It showed that his laws were still living laws, not obsolete, though forgotten; that the sacred things which he had appointed were still sacred in his eyes, however neglected, and were to be so esteemed by the people; that, in particular, the ark was still the symbol and pledge of his living presence, as a God to be approached and worshipped with reverence, yet also with confidence in the covenant of which it was the sign. Thus the impression produced by the terrible event would tend to the revival of religious faith and feeling, and secure that David's endeavours should not end in the establishment of a mere ritual, however orderly and stately, but in sincere worship and corresponding life. It was not the first time, nor would it be the last, that the revival of religion began with terrible judgments. We also need a living faith in the living God—faith in his relation to us and presence with us; faith in his love, awakening our confidence and affection; faith also in his majesty, holiness, and justice, awakening our "reverence and godly fear." To this end we should meditate on the awe-inspiring aspects of the Divine character and government, as they appear in nature and providence and in the inspired book. Otherwise our religion is likely to become a weak, superficial, and sentimental thing, without depth and power.
2. It was a warning that was adapted to guide and restrain the religious zeal of the king. There was danger that, in his ardent desire for the re-establishment of the national worship with fitting circumstances of splendour and orderliness, he should not pay due attention to the instructions of the Law, but should violate the will of God in the endeavor to pay to him and secure for him due honour. Uzzah's death would teach him that the Divine will must be first regarded. He learnt this lesson so far as the mode of removing the ark was concerned. He could scarcely fail to keep it in mind. in all his subsequent proceedings. Great zeal for religion has ever a similar peril. Under its influence there is danger of adopting, with the best intentions, means and methods which are not according to the Divine Word. The most powerful persons are the most likely to feel as if their own will might be their law. Thus carnality and worldliness come to regulate the affairs of the Church, and the Law of God is violated in letter or in spirit. Hence the "will-worship, the volunteered, self-imposed, officious, supererogatory service" (Lightfoot on Colossians 2:23), which has so extensively prevailed in Christendom, and which has originated or fostered errors of doctrine; hence also the terrible crimes against Christian liberty and love which have been committed ad majorem Dei gloriam, and thought to be sanctified thereby.
3. There remain the common lessons taught by every death, especially by sudden deaths, and yet more especially by sudden deaths in the midst of displays of human power and glory. The uncertainty of life, the certainty of death, the awfulness of death in sin (John 8:21, John 8:24), the vanity of earthly pomp and splendour, the necessity of habitual preparedness, the value of sincere and spiritual worship and service of God, the appropriateness of the admonition, "Be ye also ready," and of the prayer, "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom."—G.W.
2 Samuel 6:9
Dread of God.
The death of Uzzah made David "afraid of the Lord," and deterred him from fulfilling his purpose to bear the ark into the place which he had prepared for it in his newly founded metropolis. He seems for the time to have dreaded lest it should bring evil with it instead of good—a curse instead of a blessing. So the vast assembly was dispersed, and the day which was to have been so glorious and auspicious ended in disappointment and gloom. David's feeling is an illustration of religious terror, or the dread of God.
I. ITS NATURE.
1. It is to be distinguished from that "fear of the Lord" which is so often inculcated in the Word of God, and which is especially characteristic of the piety of the Old Testament. This is reverence of God, of his nature, authority, and laws. It includes, indeed, a dread of offending him, because of the certainty and terribleness of punishment; but it includes also veneration, esteem, and love. The feeling which is described in the text is simply alarm, terror.
2. It may be awakened by various causes.
(1) Terrible acts of God: sudden deaths, as that of Uzzah, those of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:5, Acts 5:10, Acts 5:11); violent tempests; earthquakes; deadly pestilence.
(2) Terrible aspects of his nature. Holiness and hatred of sin; justice, displeasure against sinners; together with his perfect knowledge and unbounded power.
(3) His threatenings.
(4) The consciousness of sin. This is the secret of the dread which springs from the thought of God. A solemn awe is compatible with innocence, but the holy would not be "afraid of God," or if for a moment, at some startling and threatening event, only for a moment.
II. ITS VALUE. In itself and standing alone, it is of no religious worth at all. It is compatible with enmity to God, which is the opposite of true religion. When it springs into the heart of a good man it may be associated with very wrong feeling. David was "displeased" with God, while "afraid" of him (2 Samuel 6:8). It tends to drive them from him while seeming to draw them to him; for it is apt to generate a religion without love, without even reverence—an obedience which is slavish and destitute of true virtue. It is favourable to superstition, indeed, and may stimulate to great liberality; but, while acting alone, it cannot produce genuine godliness and true holiness. It is the feeling on which priestcraft in all lands flourishes. Yet it is good as a first step in those that need it, and a preparation for what is better; and some measure of it, blended with other emotions, is always of value to many, if not all. In Psalms 119:1-176; where every feeling of a pious soul finds expression, this is included (Psalms 119:120). And our Lord enjoins it as a safeguard against the fear of man (Luke 12:4, Luke 12:5). This fear is of great value:
1. To arouse the conscience and prepare for better things. Many are so hardened that they are incapable of being, in the first instance, drawn by love; their fears must be excited.
2. To make the gospel welcome; which, revealing the love of God and the redemption which is by Jesus Christ, is fitted and intended to allay the dread of God and awaken confidence and affection.
3. To stimulate in obedience to God and deter from sin. It is true that love is the noblest stimulus, and that perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18); but love is not perfect in this world, and fear is needed when temptation is strong and the better feelings are for the time dormant.—G.W.
2 Samuel 6:11
God's blessing abiding with the ark.
Divine chastisements and Divine benedictions have in this world the same end in view—the promotion of true religion. The judgment on Uzzah and the blessing on the house of Obed-Edom were alike intended to reawaken a living faith and piety in the nation, by showing that Jehovah, the living God, was amongst them, and was still prepared to honour his own institutions and bless those who honoured them, whilst those who dishonoured them would incur his displeasure. Obed-Edom honoured God by receiving the ark into his house and caring for it; and, in return, God's blessing rested on him and all his. They act a similar part who receive into their homes and honour there God's book, God's servants, God's poor; those also who establish in their houses the practice of family worship, and keep alive in their families a warm interest in all that concerns the Church and kingdom of God. They and theirs enjoy the abiding presence and blessing of him who has said, "Them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed" (1 Samuel 2:30). Notice—
I. THE INTRODUCTION OF THE ARK INTO THE HOUSE OF OBED-EDOM. It was owing to the panic occasioned by the death of Uzzah. May illustrate the apparently accidental circumstances which have sometimes introduced religion and the practice of family worship into families.
II. THE WELCOME IT RECEIVED. Obed-Edom, in this instance, excelled David. The alarm excited by Uzzah's death did not deter him from receiving the ark into his house. Faith subdued fear. He may well have felt that the act would be well pleasing to God; that it would bring him and his nearer to God; that the ark would sanctify his home and turn it as into a temple; and that it could and would occasion no harm to those who honoured it for God's sake. So should the things, persons, and practices that bring God nearer to a household be welcomed; and so will they be welcomed by such as have begun to reverence and love him.
III. THE BLESSING WHICH ACCOMPANIED IT. "The Lord blessed Obed-Edom, and all his household." What form God's blessing took in this case, so that in the course of three months it could become manifest to others, we are not told; perhaps some marked increase of worldly prosperity. And such an indication of God's blessing is not uncommon in households where piety rules. But there are other blessings of God which to his children are more precious, and which are to be confidently expected by families which honour him.
1. A pervading sense of Gears presence and love. This would surely result from having the ark in the house; and not less is it the result of having a Bible which is really valued and consulted, and a family altar.
2. The enjoyment of the Divine Spirit. The actual living operation of the present God on the conscience, heart, and life. He "gives his Holy Spirit to them that ask him." As the result of these:
3. A new sacredness given to family life and duty. The presence of the ark in the house would sanctify everything there, making the relationships sacred, and turning common duties into holy rites. Hence:
4. Higher and more steadfast family affections. Love to each other sanctified and elevated by common love to the heavenly Father and Divine Brother and Friend; unselfishness; unity; mutual helpfulness.
5. More cheerful and free, and therefore stricter, obedience to the Divine laws. The will of God as to the duties of parents, children, and servants, and of all towards those without, shining in a diviner light, better understood, and better practised. Hence the virtues which promote material and social welfare.
6. Family happiness. Springing naturally, as we say, but none the less as the result of the Divine appointment and active blessing, from such living. Happiness in and from the daily round of duty and affection. Happiness in the enjoyment together of God's gifts. Peace in trouble. Hope when one departs to the better home; a sense of union still ("We are seven"), and assurance of reunion in due time.
7. Moral and spiritual fruitfulness. Such a family dwells in an atmosphere highly favourable for the production and growth of piety and all moral excellence in those connected with it. It is a nursery for the Church. From such the best Christians and Christian workers go forth. Similar family life is multiplied and perpetuated in the subsequent homes of sons and daughters.
IV. THE EFFECT OF THE BLESSING ON DAVID. He was reassured, and took measures, at once more according to the Law and more successful, for fulfilling his purpose to bring the ark to Zion. Similarly, the aspect presented by families which serve God and manifestly enjoy his blessing is adapted to incite, and has often incited, others to go and do likewise. Finally, families which regard not God may have many desirable things, but cannot really enjoy the Divine blessing. "The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked," while "he blesseth the habitation of the just" (Proverbs 3:33).—G.W.
2 Samuel 6:12-19
The ark brought to Zion.
A grand day for Israel, and indeed for the world; the beginning of the religious significance of "Zion" and "Jerusalem," and the mighty spiritual influence which has gone forth far and wide from that centre. With respect to the bringing of the ark "into the city of David," we remark—
I. IT WAS THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF A DELAYED PURPOSE. Although David was shocked and alarmed by the event which compelled him to desist from his first endeavour, he did not give up his purpose, but evidently set himself to prepare for a more imposing and appropriate introduction of the sacred symbol into his metropolis than he at first contemplated. The narrative in 1 Chronicles 15:1-29. and 16. shows this; for such elaborate arrangements could not have been made in a short time. Delay tests the resolutions and purposes of men, reveals their quality, intensifies those which spring from true and reasonable zeal, and issues in their fuller execution.
II. IT WAS MARKED BY STRICT OBEDIENCE TO THE LAW OF GOD. The death of Uzzah had led to careful study of the Divine directions, which were now rigidly obeyed (1 Chronicles 15:12-15, with which corresponds 1 Chronicles 15:13 of our text, "they that bare the ark of the Lord"). It is well when painful experience of the penalties of disregard to God's laws leads to inquiry and improvement. Unhappily, multitudes who suffer the penalties fail to profit by them.
III. IT WAS ACCOMPANIED WITH MUCH WORSHIP. Sacrifices were offered when a successful start had been made. Others, in greater number, when the ark had been placed in the tent prepared for it. The praises of God were sung as the procession moved on; and at the close of the ceremonies David "blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts." The suitableness of all this to the occasion is obvious.
IV. IT WAS A SEASON OF GREAT GLADNESS. Indicated by David's dance "before the Lord with all his might." Also by the shouting and the noise of musical instruments; and the royal gifts to the people at large, that all might feast.
V. IT WAS A NATIONAL TRANSACTION. All the tribes, by their representatives in great numbers, and all classes of the people—the king, the priests and Levites, the nobles, the officers of the army and their forces, the rich and the poor—united in the celebration. It was an act of national homage to the supreme Sovereign of the people—a kind of enthronement of him in his metropolis. It was intended and well adapted to make the people realize afresh that they were one nation, and to bind them in a closer unity hereafter, religious as well as civil.
VI. IT WAS THE INAUGURATION OF A NEW AND BETTER ERA IN RELIGION. The ark was not thus brought to Jerusalem to remain solitary and neglected, as it had so long been, but that before it Divine worship might be conducted daily in a manner becoming the new circumstances of the people. For this David had made careful preparation, organizing part of the priests and Levites for the purpose, while others were appointed to minister at Gibeon, where the tabernacle proper and the altars were (1 Chronicles 16:4-42). For the national worship was not even now conducted in strict accordance with the Mosaic Law, since that required the ark and the altars, and the priestly and Levitical ministrations, to be all in one place. On account of Circumstances which are not explained, though they may be surmised, the king could not do all that he would, but he did what he could; and this prepared the way for the more exact obedience to the Law which was rendered when the temple was built.
VII. IT MADE MANIFEST THE CHARACTER OF THE KING. His convictions as to the claims of God over him and his people; his zeal for the worship of God, and desire to infuse a similar spirit into the nation; his humility in descending from his elevation and fraternizing with, whilst he led, the people.
By the whole narrative we are reminded of:
1. The necessity and worth to a nation of true religion. To elevate its life, unite its various parts and classes, promote mutual justice and a spirit of brotherhood, regulate its conduct towards other peoples, and withal secure the blessing of God.
2. The worth of godly rulers. From their position, rulers necessarily exercise a wide influence, and it is a happy circumstance when their example is in favour of religion and virtue.
3. The difference between national religious pageants and ceremonies, and true national religion. Many will unite in the former who have no part in the latter. The former are often more brilliant and imposing as the latter decays. National Christianity can exist only as the individuals who compose the nation are sincere Christians.
4. The lessons which the proceedings here recorded suggest to those engaged in opening a new Christian sanctuary. Concern to secure the abiding presence and blessing of God. Much praise and prayer: praise for all the mercies which have led up to the day, and all the revelations and promises that give hope to its proceedings; prayer for the help of God in all, his acceptance of the work done in his Name, his use of it for the promotion of his kingdom, the good of his Church, and the salvation of those without. Much gladness and mutual congratulation on account of the work accomplished, and the good that may be hoped for from it to individuals, families, the neighbourhood, etc. A hearty union of all classes in the services, introductory to permanent union in mutual love and combined effort.—G.W.
2 Samuel 6:16
Religious zeal despised.
"She despised him in her heart." A graphic picture here. A numerous and joyous procession marching into the city with the ark of God, with sacred music and singing and dancing; the king at the head of all, more joyous and enthusiastic than all the crowd besides; and Michal, behind her window, cool and collected, without sympathy with the object or spirit of the proceeding, yea, looking on with contempt, especially for her husband, who was so demonstrative in his display of zeal and gladness. She has many imitators. There are many who regard fervid zeal in religion with contempt.
I. WHY FERVENT RELIGIOUS ZEAL IS DESPISED.
1. Alleged reasons; as
(1) that it is fanatical; or
(2) unintellectual, a sign of weak mind; a style of religion fit only for women and weak-minded men; or
(3) hypocritical; or
(4) not respectable.
The better sort of people, it is alleged, keep their religion within due bounds; certainly will eschew forms of religious earnestness which associate closely the upper classes with the common people.
2. Secret causes. May be:
(1) Ignorance. Want of knowledge of Christianity. Acquaintance with its great facts, doctrines, and precepts, and the exemplification of them in the lives of our Lord and his apostles, would make it clear that they demand and justify the utmost warmth of love and zeal; so that for Christians to be zealous in holding, practising, and propagating their religion is simply to be consistent.
(2) Irreligion, with or without knowledge. Unbelief or disbelief. The absence of religious faith and feeling. Possibly a settled hatred of religion and goodness. Men of this class cannot possibly understand or appreciate the operations of religion in the heart. The sincerely religious may disapprove of certain forms in which others display their zeal, but they will not indulge contempt of them.
(3) Formalism or superficiality in religion. To which ardent devotion and self-consecration are unintelligible.
(4) Pride of intellect, taste, or station. "Hath any of the rulers believed on him, or of the Pharisees? But this multitude which knoweth not the Law are accursed" (John 7:48, John 7:49, Revised Version).
(5) Sometimes would be found secret uneasiness. Zeal in others awakens conscience, which utters condemnation; and conscience is relieved (or attempted to be) by fixing attention on what is regarded as objectionable in the religious zeal of others, and cherishing contempt for them.
(6) Religious bigotry, which has no tolerance for forms of religion, however sincere and good those who adopt them may be, that differ from those of the bigot himself. The piety of many good men is sadly marred by this spirit, and its earnestness feeds something very like hatred of fellow Christians. In this case also contempt springs largely from ignorance, as well as from a lack of that principle of religion which is supereminent, viz. love.
II. WHY SUCH ZEAL OUGHT NOT TO BE DESPISED.
1. It is in harmony with right reason. In view of the nature and works of God and our obligations to him, especially the redeeming love of God in Christ, the evils from which we are redeemed, the blessings which are brought within our reach, the cost of our redemption. It is not zeal, but indifference and coldness, which are irrational. Nothing but the willing devotement of heart and life to Christ is suitable as a return for his love. Devotion without warmth, service which is ever measured and stinted, are absurd.
2. It is required by Holy Scripture. The great duties of Christianity, love to God and man, necessarily include warmth and earnestness. And the terms in which we are exhorted to seek our own salvation and the good of others all imply zeal; the production of which is represented as one great end of the offering of himself by Christ (Titus 2:14).
3. It is countenanced by the highest and best society. By cherubim and seraphim, angels and archangels, apostles, prophets, martyrs, saints in heaven and on earth, and him who is higher than them all, the Lord Jesus Christ, to whose burning zeal we owe everything. The grandest intellects in the universe may be appealed to by the zealous Christian.
4. It is productive of the greatest good. Christianity has conferred and is conferring the greatest blessings on mankind, and is ever extending the area of its beneficial influence. But it is its zealous, not its cold-hearted, adherents to whom men owe its extension and powerful operation.
5. It secures the approbation of God, and final acceptance and reward. He who zealously uses his talents is to be received into the joy of his Lord, while the slothful servant is rejected 'rod punished. The highly respectable and self-complacent Church at Laodicea is severely reproved and threatened on account of its lukewarmness (Revelation 3:15, Revelation 3:16). Only religion in earnest fits for heaven. There are no lukewarm Christians there.
1. Let despisers of zealous Christians beware lest they be found despising Christ and God (Luke 10:16).
2. Let zealous Christians take heed of needlessly exposing their religion to contempt. As by associating it with things unworthy of it, such as narrowness of mind, cant, eccentricity, worldly policy, excessive ceremonialism, great ardour about small matters, little ardour about great matters, uncharitableness.
3. Some zeal in religion deserves to be despised. That, in particular, which is dissociated from truth, uprightness, holiness, or love. True religious zeal includes zeal for these; and no ardour of professed religion can be a substitute for them.—G.W.
2 Samuel 6:20
"Then David returned to bless his household." An interesting contrast with what precedes. Would have been a pleasing close of the narrative but for what follows. Presents David in an attractive light. His piety did not shine merely in public before a crowd; it illuminated and blessed his home. He did not regard his high station and the weight of the cares of state as raising him above, or releasing him from, his duties as head of a household. Nor did he, after that busy and exciting day, think himself excused from family duty. He had blessed the people in the name of the Lord; he now returns to bless his household, i.e. to invoke God's blessing on them.
I. HOW A MAN MAY BLESS HIS HOUSEHOLD.
1. By maintaining and conducting family worship. Praising God with his family. Praying with and for them. Giving the worship a family character by the mention of family blessings, needs, sorrows, joys; the especial mention of special circumstances and events which affect the family, as they arise. Doing this regularly and perseveringly.
2. By the religious instruction of his family. Reading the Word of God as part of the daily worship. Teaching the children the truths and duties of Christianity, formally and informally. The latter as important, to say the least, as the former. Let the New Testament be the recognized guide of the house, to which every, thing is brought for judgment. Let its teaching be instilled insensibly as occasions arise in family life.
3. By family discipline. "Ruling well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity" (1 Timothy 3:4); encouraging right, forbidding and suppressing wrong conduct; regulating the companionships and occupations of his children. Family government on Christian principles and in a Christian spirit is itself a mode of instruction, and blesses a household.
4. By leading and accompanying his family to the house of God.
5. By setting a good example. The head of a household cannot perform his duties aright without personal piety. He cannot teach what he does not value and practise; his instructions and prayers will lack the reality which impresses; his character will deprive his words of their proper force. But a good life is a constant lesson. Children will learn from the spirit and conduct of a good father how to think of their Father in heaven, and how they may serve and please him. The unconscious influence of the parent's life will be a perpetually operating power for good.
II. WHY HE SHOULD DO SO.
1. It is his manifest duty. Seen as we contemplate:
(1) The relation of the family to God, as its Founder, the Originator of each household, the Lord of family life, the Source of all its peculiar affections, the Bestower of all its blessings, the Guardian of its weaker members (Christ's "little ones").
(2) The relation to God of the head of a household. His servant, his representative, appointed for this very service.
(3) The promptings of parental affection and godly principles, which are from God.
(4) The express injunctions of Holy Writ.
(5) The just claims of society, which has a right to expect that in the household good citizens should be trained and good members of the Church. The character and welfare of a people depend more on family life than on public law and force; and most fathers can best serve their country by training well their children. Let them render more public services if they are capable of them, but ever let them "return to bless their households."
2. He will thus best promote the welfare and happiness of his household. (See division III. of homily on 2 Samuel 6:11.)
3. His own happiness in his family will be greatly increased. If his desires for their good are granted, he will be a necessary partaker of their happiness, will rejoice that he has so largely contributed to it, and will receive a constant reward for his endeavours in their love and gratitude. If, through untoward circumstances, or counteracting influences against which he had no power to defend them, or through their own perversity, his efforts should fail, he will at least have the satisfaction of a good conscience.
In conclusion, what has been said of the duty of fathers applies equally to mothers, who have more influence than fathers over the younger children, and often over the elder also, and always have most to do with the order and comfort and moral atmosphere of the home.—G.W.
2 Samuel 6:20-22
A despiser rebuked.
The history of Michal is rather an unhappy one. In early life she became enamoured of David, to whom she was reluctantly given by her father. Afterwards, when Saul became the enemy of David, she was given to another, from whom, after many years, she was torn by her first husband, more, probably, from policy than affection. It is likely she had no warm affection for him now. She may have resented his succeeding to her father's throne. She had no sympathy with his religious zeal. Probably she originally admired the hero rather than loved the saint; and now that his fervour in religion has so strangely displayed itself, she can contain herself no longer. She felt herself—a king's daughter—disgraced by his vulgar conduct; and she resolves to tell him her mind about it; and so, as he returns to his house in joyous religious excitement, eager to bless his family, as he had just blessed the people, she meets him with bitter reproaches, to which he, surprised and mortified, returns a bitter answer, in which are, nevertheless, good reasons for his conduct.
I. HER REPROACH. It was in substance that his conduct had been undignified and indecent. The charge was plausible, but unjust. Her anger and want of sympathy with her husband's zeal led her to misrepresentation of proceedings which were innocent and praiseworthy. Similar lack of sympathy with ardent piety often leads to similar unjust judgment. Many are ready to condemn modes of expressing or promoting religion which are foreign to their own habits. But what would be unsuitable and unprofitable to one class of persons may be the reverse to another; and what would not be suitable as an ordinary practice may be allowable and commendable under special circumstances. In times of general excitement men will do what would be ridiculous at other times. Zacchaeus climbed a tree to get a good view of Jesus, regardless of dignity and the possible ridicule of the crowd; and he was rewarded for it. David would not have displayed his zeal by leading the multitude in music and singing and dancing under ordinary circumstances. Reproach and condemnation are to be estimated partly according to the persons who utter them. Many who are ready to do so are incapable of passing just judgment, on account of a total or partial want of religion. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:14). And some who are not destitute of religion are so contracted in their views and feelings that they are unable to estimate rightly the religion of others. John the Baptist practised abstinence, and was said to have a demon. Jesus lived as ordinary men, and was condemned as a glutton and winebibber. The apostles on the Day of Pentecost were said to be "full of new wine." Those who are fond of orderliness and dignity in religion are prone to condemn all kinds of excitement and the freedom of form and expression which it favours. Bat it is possible to sacrifice efficiency to order. While the lovers of order and good taste are exclusively indulging their preferences, multitudes may be left uncared for and untouched. When, therefore, by means which are thought objectionable, they are attracted and benefited, the objectors may properly be asked to find and employ better methods which shall answer the same end; and meanwhile to bear with, yea, thank God for, those who are doing a good work in a manner which they cannot wholly approve. On the other hand, those who love and employ excitement and freedom may well be warned lest they frustrate their aim to save men by using means inconsistent with that reverence and thoughtfulness which are essential to true religion, and lest they unjustly condemn their fellow Christians who pursue their ends by calmer methods. There are room and need for variety of modes of worship and activity with one spirit and aim. Let us not condemn those who, in the Name of Jesus, are really casting out evil spirits, and bringing men to a right mind, though they do not follow with us (Luke 9:49, Luke 9:50).
II. DAVID'S REPLY. It was severe, and likely, as it was doubtless meant, to sting. Notice:
1. His defence. That what he had done he had done for Jehovah.
(1) Him who in himself was worthy of all possible honour and public praise and confession.
(2) Him who had chosen and exalted him, in the place of Saul and his house, to be ruler over his people. Piety and gratitude combined to impel him to rejoice before the Lord on an occasion so remarkable and auspicious. All of us have similar reasons for honouring God to the utmost of our power. In view of them, the most ardent zeal for the worship of God and the promotion of his kingdom is justified, and cold and measured service stands condemned.
2. His determined resolve. To do as he had done. Yea, to surpass his recent displays of zeal for the Lord. If this was accounted vile, he would be viler still; if this were to lower himself, he would sink lower still. Similar should be the effect upon us of the reproach which fervent piety may subject us to. If, indeed, objection be made to some of the ways by which we show it, we should reconsider them, especially when the objection comes from Christian brethren; but undeserved reproach should stimulate us to greater devotedness and more resolute determination.
3. His assurance of honor. From "the maidservants" of whom Michal had spoken so disparagingly. He virtually appealed from her judgment to theirs. What just foundation is there for satisfaction in the approval of the humbler classes?
(1) They may be more capable of right judgment in matters of religion than many who are above them in worldly condition, and even in general education and intelligence. They may have more spiritual susceptibility and fewer prejudices. They may feel more their ignorance, and be more humble and teachable. They at least know what does them good, which is the end of all religious ministrations. Hence they are often right when their scorners are wrong. Our Lord was accepted and listened to gladly by many of the common people, while few of the upper and the learned classes received him; and he rejoiced and thanked his Father that, while the truths he taught were hidden from "the wise and understanding," they were revealed unto "babes" (Luke 10:21). And in the early Churches St. Paul tells us that there were "not many wise after the flesh, or mighty, or noble;" but that these were put to shame by the weak and despised (1 Corinthians 1:26-28).
(2) The good of the humbler classes is to be sought. To secure this end they must be interested, and their approval won; and he who can, without unworthy arts, succeed in winning them so as to lead them to Christ, may well rejoice and he thankful. David's language may be in substance adopted by preachers who are despised because approved and followed by the common people; while the ministry or Church which fails to lay hold of them ought to mourn and reconsider its spirit and methods.
1. It is an unhappy thing when man and wife differ radically in matters of religion. It deprives them of the unspeakable benefits of mutual sympathy and helpfulness. It is the occasion of dispute and unhappiness, if not settled alienation. It hinders very seriously the religious and moral education of the Children. Let these things be thought of before the irrevocable steps are taken which bind two lives together.
2. There are worse faults in relation to religion than vulgarity, undue excitement, or eccentricity. These may be in some degree injurious, but indifference or hostility is fatal.—G.W.