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Bible Commentaries

The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
1 Chronicles 11

 

 

Verses 1-4

1 Chronicles 11:1-4

1. Then all Israel gathered themselves to David unto Hebron, saying, Behold, we are thy bone and thy flesh.

2. And moreover in time past , both yesterday and the third day], even when Saul was king, thou wast he that leddest out and broughtest in Israel: and the Lord thy God said unto thee, Thou shalt feed [or, rule] my people Israel, and thou shalt be ruler over my people Israel.

3. Therefore came all the elders of Israel to the king to Hebron; and David made a covenant with them in Hebron before the Lord; and they anointed David king over Israel, according to the word of the Lord by , by the hand of] Samuel.

4. And David and all Israel went to Jerusalem, which is Jebus; where the Jebusites were the inhabitants of the land.

The Election of David

THIS is the instance in which David"s election was not made by Judah only ( 2 Samuel 11:4). Hebron was the birthplace of the patriarchs, and was the capital of Judah, of which tribe David came. Why should all Israel come to one man? Is not this an inversion of an obvious and rational mode of procedure? Would it not have been better had one man come to all Israel, seeking the protection of an innumerable host? How is it that God again and again in human history, apart altogether from any special ideas of inspiration as associated with the Bible, has indicated that one man or another in every department of life has been leader and chief? It would seem as if throughout the ages the whole series of events has been running up into the personality of One man. Christians believe that all these initial and intermediate movements have culminated in the person and reign of Jesus Christ, who is the Son of Prayer of Manasseh , the embodied ideal of humanity. Have all the ages been groping for the true king? There have been stopping-places indeed, and places which have for the moment afforded considerable security and contentment; but even in those cases time has developed some higher instinct or intenser yearning, and soon the age has moved on towards another and grander personality. Instincts and aspirations of this kind must have some deep meaning. It is evident that they were not meant to be limited by any immediate experience, but were charged with still higher energies and endeavours, unfolding in due time, and directed unfailingly to a supreme end. It is the Christian belief that in the fulness of time God sent his Song of Solomon , and that in the Son of God there is sufficient to satisfy every desire or aspiration for personal primacy, official dignity, supreme benevolence, and complete redemption. The human mind cannot transcend the personality of Christ. Even readers who are not theological are bound to admit that in Christ humanity seems to culminate. Jesus Christ could not have come before in the history of the world: the very moment of his advent seems to be a revelation of an overruling providence, fixing all times, bounds, and issues, and doing all things by a might and a will neither to be calculated nor controlled by man. Instead, therefore, of looking forward to some coming One, who will solve all mysteries and subdue all tumult into order, we look up to the ascended and glorified Christ, and find in his mediation a pledge that in due time God shall be all in all.

Mark the reasons given to David why he should become king of Israel. The first reason is that which is founded upon kinship—"Behold, we are thy bone and thy flesh." That is a rational point to begin at. It is always important to have a good starting-point in every argument and in every enterprise of life. Many persons who cannot attain to a comprehension of the sublimities of the atonement, can see clearly that there is what may be termed a line of providence running through all the transactions of human life. We must not narrow this doctrine of kinship too much; that is to say, we must not limit kinship merely to bodily relation: there is a heredity of soul, and kinship of spirit, a family union of genius and aspiration. It is along this often-neglected line that we find great lessons of primogeniture and entail. It is no doubt of great social consequence to be descended from a prince or ruler, but it is of still more consequence to be able to trace the soul"s kinship back to the highest thinkers of the world. It is in this nobler region that many men find compensation for what may have appeared insuperable social disadvantages. They have but little money: but see how large and energetic are their minds; they have no acres: but what an eye they have for the landscape, and what ability to turn it into a parable abounding in moral suggestion and colour; their names are not written in the book of heraldry, but they may be inscribed in the book of life. Aristocracy does not run altogether in one direction. It has indeed been so narrowed as to be associated with family lines or household boundaries, but in the day of true interpretation it will be found that there is an aristocracy of mind, soul, spirit, sympathy, and in that day aristocracy will not be looked upon as an heirloom but as a divine coronation. We see something of that even in the case of David, for not only was the invitation to the throne founded upon kinship but upon work actually done—"in time past, even when Saul was king, thou wast he that leddest out and broughtest in Israel." A kinsman who has done nothing has but frail claim upon attention and confidence; but a kinsman who has also proved himself to be officially competent doubles his claim to honour and obedience. The time will surely come when every man"s record will be perused in order that some estimate may be formed of the uses to which he has put his life. A miserable thing indeed when reference to a man"s history discloses nothing but blank paper. Under such circumstances it is of no avail that he is a king"s Song of Solomon , or a titled ruler, or the descendant of an illustrious sire; his record will challenge his dignity and invalidate all his pretences. The palm be his who wins it. The time is coming when the one inquiry will relate as to what a man has done, in the way of leading out and bringing in all who depend upon his care. Whilst the matter of physical kinship is arbitrary, or is beyond control, this matter of working beneficently, in a shepherdly spirit, yea even under the inspiration of redeeming compassion itself, points to a field in which all men, how humble soever in birth and position, may achieve renown.

It is no surprise that such a man as David should have been marked by special divine indication,—

"The Lord thy God said unto thee, Thou shalt feed my people Israel, and thou shalt be ruler over my people Israel" ( 1 Chronicles 11:2).

Here again we come upon a line full of mystery, yet so broad and clear in the story of the world as to be beyond all dispute. It is not straining language so to use it as to represent the idea that God has actually said concerning this or that man—Behold my chosen, my elect, the prince to whom I have committed great trusts and responsibilities. The divine indication is none the less definite and emphatic because no words are heard and no image is seen: by genius, capacity, temper, actual service, and indisputable superiority the man is marked out as the one to whom the nations are to look for guidance and rulership. A very solemn thought this, and in no wise to be regarded as other than setting out the doctrine of divine vocation in life. The man who is so called will show that over and above all his other credentials there stands the authority of personal modesty. The man who is divinely inspired is never vain, self-conscious, or contemptuous of others. His call does not excite a personal and selfish ambition; it rather solemnises the mind, and so lifts up the entire nature as to invest it with reverence and awe. Those who are not inspired, or specially gifted, or honoured in any significant way, may imagine that the sons of genius—yea, the very elect of God—must be the subjects of happy excitement or gratified ambition; but all history, especially all Bible history, shows that a divine vocation is associated with a divine chastisement, and that the very presence of God in the soul rules the whole character into chastened and sacred humility.

But was there not a deeper motive than that which is discoverable in the three reasons of kinship, work done, and evident divine indication? Is there not the inevitable line of selfishness running through the whole motive and argument of Israel? Was it not because David could do more for them than any other man could do that the assembly of elders, the senate of Israel, sought to confer upon him the kingship of the people? In one aspect the whole transaction seems to be profoundly religious. David was anointed king over Israel before the Lord,—that is to say, in presence of the high priest, and probably in presence of the ark; both in Exodus 21:6, and 1 Samuel 2:25, the priestly judge is called God, because in his official capacity he represented the authority of the divine Judge. But amidst all this religious ceremony was there not an unexplained and a more or less half-conscious action of selfishness? But we must not press this inquiry too closely, because it covers larger ground than the case of the coronation of David. There is no selfishness so profound as that which sometimes operates even in the assumption of Christian profession. Strange as it may seem, and even shocking, yet it is possible that a man may come to Christ in some way or other under the influence of merely selfish feelings. When men profess the Christian name because they are afraid of the punishment which is denounced against sin, they are acting from a selfish motive: when the mind is intent only upon reaching the state which is called heaven, with all its beauty and rest, its exemption from care and its gratification of all pure senses and desires, they are acting also under the same spirit. A very subtle action indeed is the action of selfishness: it taints our prayers; it debases our best professions; it excites suspicion regarding our most benevolent activities. For ever is it possible that men may come to Christ not because of the miracles but because of the loaves and fishes. Here it does not become one man to lecture another as if he were superior. The one duty is that of searching self-examination, the severest analysis of motive and intent, and the most ardent prayer that God would search and try and prove in every way the reality of the heart"s love. "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."

Prayer

Almighty God, give us the blessing of heaven, and we shall never more be poor. Without thy blessing there is no wealth; with it there is no poverty. Send upon thy believing children a double blessing, and no sorrow shall be added with it; it shall be a great peace, a tender light, an assured and inextinguishable hope. They who are thus blessed can never be disquieted; the foam will be on the surface, the depths of their hearts will be as a sanctuary inhabited by the spirit of peace. Great peace have they that love thy law. Give thy Church understanding of the times that it may know what Israel ought to do; clothe thy Church with her garments of beauty, and inspire her with the spirit of courage, and in an age of unbelief may her faith increase day by day, and where clouds of doubt gather may the stars of heaven thicken and shine. Thy presence in the heart is our safety, our immortality. Saviour Jesus, God the Song of Solomon , abide with us: then shall our life be increased in all highest quality, in all noblest forces, and we shall sing while we live, and our zeal shall burn and our knowledge multiply. Help us in the night-time of life, when the sky is dark and cold, and the wind moans among the hills like a troubled spirit: then give us confidence in the living God, and may men hear our song in the night-time and take heart again, because some are glad in the Most High. Amen.


Verses 9-16

The Progress of David

1 Chronicles 11:9

This expression occurs almost identically in Samuel: literally it is—"and David walked on, walking and growing great,"—a Hebrew metaphor well known as indicating steady going and increasing. The Lord of hosts is a contracted form of the fuller expression, Lord God of hosts. It is worthy of notice that this title is derived from God"s sovereignty over the stars, worshipped as deities by the races round about Israel. We understand that the very word for God in the old Babylonian is represented by a star or asterisk, and in the later Assyrian character, star is said to have been represented by the symbol for God thrice repeated. The supreme Assyrian deity is designated "King of the legions of heaven and earth." Being described as the Lord of hosts, the meaning is that the Lord rules the stars: (compare Psalm 8:3; Isaiah 40:26; Judges 5:20). In the remotest antiquity the stars were thought of as a heavenly army marshalled in orderly array. The argument would seem to be that as the Lord of hosts governs and controls all the stars, therefore he governs and controls all lesser things. He is not described as the Lord of hosts in any sense which separates him from daily providence, minute and special inspection of human affairs: in this, as in other instances, the greater is said to include the less. It is interesting to mark David"s line of progress. First of all he dwelt in the castle, and from this circumstance it was called the city of David. Here we have quiet possession, supreme control, sense of security; then we learn that he built the city round about. It was not enough to abide in the castle; David must needs go forth and see what required rebuilding or repairing; David never took willingly to a life of ease or indulgence. His was a spirit so energetic as to be irrepressible; whilst there was anything to be done David was moved ardently to attempt its accomplishment. David not only dwelt in the castle, and built the city, but he waxed greater and greater: he surprised himself by his growth; faculties rightly used increase their own power; so to say, they multiply themselves, and yield a good return for all the uses to which they are put. We should be greater men if we did greater work. The very attempt to do great things strengthens the faculties which we put into exercise. Stir up the gift that is in thee; provoke thyself to do more and more; accept the spirit of emulation, and under its genius incalculable progress may be made. In all things beware of indulgence, contentment with little attainment, satisfaction with immediate and perishing blessings. Greater and greater, more and more, further and further, from conquering to conquer,—such must be the mottoes and watchwords of Christian faith and activity.

How did David wax greater and greater? Was the secret in himself? The reason is given in the text—"for the Lord of hosts was with him." We are not to understand that this is a merely arbitrary association with the Prayer of Manasseh , but that a distinct work was completed within the man himself by the energy of the inspiring Spirit. When the Lord of hosts is with a man he feels himself to be nothing but an instrument which God is using, therefore he is saved, as we have just seen, from vanity, petty ambition, miserable self-satisfaction: he does not say, Behold how clever a man I Amos ,—he rather bows down his head, saying how thankful he is that the Lord has been pleased to make use of him but for a moment as the medium of great messages and deliverances. When the Lord of hosts is with a man the public benefit is all that he thinks about and strives for. He has no personal ends to serve, no limited friendships to gratify, no questionable policies to sustain and perfect. He himself becomes as it were a man of hosts,—that is to say, a man who holds great interests, great stewardships, and who looks upon the order, security, and harmony of all as the one thing to be accomplished by ministry and suffering. When the Lord of hosts is with a Prayer of Manasseh , the man feels himself to be but part of a great scheme of worlds; he is a little atom in an infinite universe; a flickering light amid the glories of creation; something that owes all its importance to divine quickening and recognition. How is all this to be tested in the case of any man who declares himself to have been sent of God, and to have been charged with special missions and prerogatives? The whole test is in the one word Character. What is the man as to goodness, benevolence, sincerity, unselfishness? Not that we are to look for absolute perfection in any human creature, but we may certainly look for the desire which yearns for perfection—longs, prays, and toils for the accomplishment of the heavenly ideal. When we are called upon to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect, we are not called upon to do miracles in the sense of attaining that which is obviously impossible, but our whole mind and heart must be set in the direction of the divine ideal, and nothing less should satisfy us. When we pant for the living God as the hart panteth for the water brooks, when we desire God"s perfectness with the yearning which holds every other attainment in contempt, we may be truly said to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect, within all the limitations imposed upon human capacity and conduct. The Lord of hosts will be with every one of us if we desire his fellowship and inspiration. He will not be with us necessarily in the sense of making us great soldiers, leaders, and rulers, but in the sense of directing every step we take, purifying every thought which engages the mind, and bringing into captivity every passion which agitates and torments the heart. The Lord was with Joseph, the Lord was with Samuel, the Lord has been with his people in all ages, making some great in mind and in power, and making all good in the sense of working in them all the good pleasure of his will. "In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he will direct thy paths." "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth." Invoke the Living One day by day, that all life may be lifted up to a higher plane, and consecrated to nobler endeavours.


Verse 17

A Pathetic Incident

1 Chronicles 11:17

THIS is one of the pathetic incidents in personal history, without which, indeed, personal history would be a monotonous and dreary record. We owe quite as much to the rainy days in life as to the days of sunshine; the sunshine and the rain must, indeed, co-operate, in order to make our life produce its richest beauty and its most satisfying fruit. We have seen David on the mountain, and have watched him in the valley, and have noted that in all places and under all circumstances he is a profoundly religious man. The religious instinct or sensibility expresses itself in innumerable ways. Even in this cry for water from the well of Bethlehem there is a touch of religious supplication. In all such sighing and yearning we find the beginnings of true prayer. Even where men deny formal prayer, and repudiate the thought of holding intercourse with heaven, we find in the expression of daily desire and want the foundation of all prayer. Whatever softens life blesses it. The battle, the business, the wrangling, the controversy, the continued attrition and conflict of life,—how these soon roughen human nature and develop its worst forms and aspects! Hence the necessity and the graciousness of the ministry of affliction and loss. When man reaches any point at which he is conscious of a deep necessity he begins to be a better Prayer of Manasseh ,—if indeed he turn not off into the darkest regions of despair. Whatever the necessity may be, it is fraught with religious interest, if so be the want be deep enough really to excite the solicitude of the heart. Many men can say, "It was good for me that I was afflicted,"—good in every sense; not only because of the supreme benefits accruing from it, but because of many minor advantages and blessings almost too minute to be named or to be traced, but all exercising a subtle influence upon the chastening and beautifying of disposition and character. Some men can date the beginning of their wealth from the day of their losses: up to that day they had been operating upon a false arithmetical basis: they had been calling that something which was really nothing, and had been confusing and misrepresenting values to their own imagination; but the great shock came, the man reeled under the intelligence that all he had was taken away from him, and he was once more cast upon his resources; the proud man bent his head; the man who had made up his mind to retire and enjoy luxurious repose was stung by the thought that he had once more to put out his arms to battle and to service, and undergo all the trial and discipline of his first experiences. These things being taken in a right spirit, a new bravery sprang up in the heart, a new tenderness subdued the disposition, a new motive animated and ennobled the whole life. Some of us planted our first flowers upon the grave of our greatest losses: up to that time we had taken no interest in the flowers or in birds, in things beautiful and musical; but no sooner was the grave dug and covered up, than we began to think what could be done with it in order to crown it with love and tenderness. The garden indeed was small enough in extent, but how rich in suggestion, in possibility; how loaded with all the treasures of compassion and sympathy and love! In a thousand various ways God thus nurtures our life, leads us out of ourselves, and trains us at least to grope after him if haply we may find him.

In this instance David seems to be under the fascination of the past and the distant. There are times in life when our childhood comes up with new meaning and new appeal. We long for the old homestead, for the mountains that girdled us round in early life, for the friends who heard our first speech and answered our first desires; we want to leave the far country and go home again, and forgetting all the burden of the past, start life with all that is richest in its experience. Any water would have quenched David"s thirst, but there are times when mere necessaries are not enough; we must have the subtle touch, the mysterious association, the romantic impulse, all the poetry of life. Had this been a mere question of a burning thirst, then any pool would have quenched it, but this was a thirst within a thirst, a thirst with a difference, a desire that had in it more than mere necessity. So it is in our spiritual life: we cannot be satisfied with great conceptions, brilliant thoughts, miracles of genius, words employed by the tongue of the master; we need a tone, a look, a touch, a peculiar and distinctive something which belongs to the very root and core of life, being charged with a poetry and a force all its own. Any great book would do to read in the time of intellectual vitality: but when the heart is athirst for a specific kind of knowledge, when it cries out for the living God, then it wants a water brook which flows in a particular course, then it can only be satisfied by a Book which carries within it the evidence of its own inspiration and authority. It is foolish to deny the place of sentiment in human life; it is common indeed to describe this or that desire as merely sentimental: but what would life be without sentiment, feeling, poetic impulse,—that noble ardour not kindled by human forces? All hand-shaking is not the same; there is a kiss which a mother only can give; there is a blessing which only a father can bestow; there is a fellowship which can only be begun and sustained by love most eloquent when most mute. Into all these experiences the heart must grow little by little, day by day, understanding them not merely through an intellectual process but by a way quite its own. There will come a time when those who are now neglectful of Christian ordinances may wish to return to the spiritual enjoyments of early years; for a long time they have been in a far country, speculating, conjecturing, debating, fabricating spiritual refuges of their own, drinking at every fountain, and passing through all the tumultuous experience of daily religious change: by-and-by there will come a weariness over the spirit, an ardent longing for something that is far off, a simple childlike desire for first places, first impulses, first affections; in that hour the power of the spirit will be revealed, and the proudest intellects will be brought to say that after all the kingdom of heaven is to be received in a child-spirit; it is not to be taken by force of genius, by the arms of scholarship, or intellectual prowess, but is to be received into a docile and loving heart. We might imagine that any man could help us in certain hours of need, just as any water might have quenched David"s physical thirst. But this is not so. We want the friend who knows us, and the friend whom we ourselves know. The sick man is not content in all cases with seeing a stranger, however Christian and devoted that stranger may be, however gifted in conversation or in prayer; the sufferer wants to see the pastor to whose prayers he has listened, and under whose appeals he has responded to the grace of God; he feels that he knows his pastor; he knows the voice, the touch, and confidence has been established between the one and the other: the man cries out for water of the well of Bethlehem that is at the gate, and none other will satisfy his raging thirst.

When the men brought the water to David, "David would not drink of it, but poured it out to the Lord, and said, My God, forbid it me, that I should do this thing: shall I drink the blood of these men that have put their lives in jeopardy? for with the jeopardy of their lives they brought it. Therefore he would not drink it." Here again we come upon the line of instinct rather than upon the line of reason. David poured out the water as a libation or drink-offering; he turned it indeed into a sacrifice before the Lord. There was no appointment in the law by which this should be done. There are times when we transcend the written law, the formal statute, the prescribed order of worship and ceremony, and under the impulse of unselfish thankfulness we become our greater selves. Whatever our form of worship may be, scope should always be left for free and spontaneous oblation and sacrifice. Whilst we have order we must also have liberty. Man was not intended to be enclosed in a cage: he is so constituted that he can worship under circumstances that have not been anticipated by mechanical laws and ordinances. Why should not men cry out aloud and praise God with a resounding voice, even at the risk of violating cold order? Can the heart always keep itself within statutory bounds? Is there to be no enthusiasm in the service of God? Is there not an instinctive worship, a psalmody of the heart, an outburst of love? Jesus Christ never restrained the enthusiasm of worship. Enthusiasm indeed is but a proof of earnestness. When the children cried out and sang before him he did not rebuke them; he said indeed that if these held their peace the very stones would cry out. We suffer immensely and continually for want of enthusiasm in our religious life. We are too orderly; our dignity is oppressive; our regulation schemes often threaten to devitalise our worship. There is no sadder condition in all human existence than to be "past feeling." Cold worship is worthless; cold worship is indeed a contradiction in terms. Not that men can be always equally passionate or enthusiastic; it would be impossible perhaps to live every day at the same altitude of religious excitement; at the same time it is possible for the heart to be in such a condition as to respond to the least appeal, to go out lovingly and consentingly after those who call to worship on the high mountains, and who would call to their aid trumpet, and harp, and organ many-voiced and solemn. Let us be careful that we do not wreck ourselves by prudence—miscalled, and perverted indeed. Who would talk of making love formal, orderly, and decorous? Who would set mechanical bounds to a child"s enthusiasm on behalf of its parents? Who would bind down patriotism and forbid it to transgress certain limits of loyalty? If we do not so treat love, patriotism, friendship, neither should we so treat the religious instinct, the passion which surpasses and ennobles all other feeling.

Is any man conscious of unusual thirst, saying, "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul for thee, O God"? Satisfaction is offered in the Bible, in the sanctuary, in holy and tender Christian fellowship. Let the existence of the thirst be known. Do not be afraid to say—I am thirsty, and would to God I could drink of the fountains of heaven. In making your religious necessities known you may awaken the enthusiasm of others. To-day the nations are complaining of thirst which they cannot altogether explain. Verily it is a thirst for the living God. We, who are Christians, must explain the nature of the thirst to those who are suffering from it They have drunk at well after well; they have, as it were, devoured river after river; and still their thirst burns unquenchably: they have tried intellectual excitement, penitential discipline, acquisition of knowledge, the enjoyment of pleasure, the pursuit of the world in all its forms and fashions, and yet the great cry pierces the air, We thirst, we thirst! Do we not know where the water flows which can quench that burning desire? Is it not for us to go forth and cry, " Hosea , every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters"? The very thirst of the soul testifies to the greatness of human nature: were man less, he could be more easily satisfied; were man but an animal he could live in the pasture and be satisfied with his fodder: but oh that thirst which burns in the soul—that inexpressible pain which troubles the heart—that ever-crying necessity which continues day and night in youth and age! Its true interpretation is that man has lost God, and is calling out for him, often inarticulately, sometimes unintelligently, but always with a reality which attests the higher origin and solemn destiny of the soul.


Verses 17-21

1 Chronicles 11:17-19

17. And David longed, and said, Oh, that one would give me drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem, that is at the gate!

18. And the three brake through the host of the Philistines, and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem, that was by the gate, and took it, and Drought it to David: but David would not drink of it, but poured it out to the Lord,

19. And said, My God forbid it me, that I should do this thing: shall I drink the blood of these men that have put their lives in jeopardy [or, "shall I drink in this water the souls, and so the blood, of these men; for they have brought the water even for the price of their souls? "] for with the jeopardy of their lives they brought it. Therefore he would not drink it. These things did these three mightiest.

Unrecorded Heroisms

"AND the three brake through the host of the Philistines... with the jeopardy of their lives they brought it." Truly there were heroes before Agamemnon, as has been well observed. There are unrecorded heroisms in life, little things we take no notice of, which being interpreted by God assume grand importance, and will be deemed to be worthy of great rewards. Did not these three men anticipate in some degree the wonderful words of Christ, "Whosoever giveth unto you a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple shall in no wise lose his reward"? These men did give to David, as it were, in the name of a disciple. He was their friend and leader. We may see the character of David through this action as clearly as the character of the men themselves. What love and devotion some men inspire! These men had seen David in the whole of his illustrious career, and they were willing to risk their lives for him, because he asked for water from the well of Bethlehem. Do men throw away their lives for nought? David himself was helpless at the time of his prayer, and yet his friends arose on his behalf, and forced their way through the outpost in front of Bethlehem, and brought the water that was desired. We think of the men in this case, and deservedly praise them as heroes; but we must not forget the other side of the picture—namely, the aspect which it gives of David"s personal character. "For scarcely for a righteous man will one die,"—that Isaiah , for a merely strict, severe disciplinarian. Who would not rather say, He lived by the law, let him be judged by the law? But the Apostle Paul says, "Yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die." By the "good man" he means the generous, benevolent, sympathetic soul, the genial spirit, that was interested in others, and that spared not itself when the fortunes of others were interested. Judged by this standard David comes out well in this instance. The men, who had everything to lose and nothing to gain by the transaction, went forth on behalf of their leader, and brought to him the water which he coveted. As they went on their way what musing was in their hearts! Did they not say to one another, He is worthy for whom this should be done; for the moment he is a disabled lion-heart; he is brave, he is truly grand; this is only what he himself would have done for us had we been in similar need; there is nothing too much that we can do for him, for he is every inch a king—a very son of God. Thus circumstances test quality; thus hypocrisy is brought to bay, and sincere friendship is allowed to disclose itself under its most fascinating forms.

It is in this way that Christians show the character of Christ. What devotion has Christ inspired in our hearts? What are we prepared to do for him? Let the Apostle Paul answer—" Neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry that I have received of the Lord Jesus." And again he says—"I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith." We do not see all that is in Christ when we simply look at Christ himself. There is a sense in which it would seem to be necessary to study the character of Paul, before we can really and accurately estimate some of the qualities of his Lord. Consider what Paul was: how great in mind, how high in position, how reputable in status amongst his brethren; and yet this Prayer of Manasseh , probably the greatest man of his time, counted all things but loss that he might win Christ; said, "For me to live is Christ;" said, "God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of Christ;" said that he had no other object in life than to magnify Christ, whether by life or by death. All this shows us the fulness of Christ himself,—he satisfied the most capacious intellect, he inspired and thrilled the most heroic heart; he was all and in all to the greatest man of his time. In this direction it is in our power also to reveal the riches of Christ to the world. The rich man may so distribute his wealth in Christ"s name and for Christ"s cause, as to compel the world to say what a wonderful Christ he must be who inspires such trust, devotion, and love. Nor is this a mere matter of giving; for if it were limited by simple donation it might be equalled by some of the heathen sacrifices. Not only do men give to Christ, they suffer for him; they study his law, they endeavour to walk according to the purity and exactions of a heavenly discipline; day by day they pay a tribute, not of gold and silver, but of a wholly different kind, which really taxes the heart, and through immediate poverty brings ultimate wealth. There is a giving that may be but a species of bribery or self-flattery, but all the giving that is done at the cross carries with it an expression beyond itself, and is meant to testify that along with the gift the whole heart goes with all its force and passion. It is in the power of Christians to show that the love of Christ constraineth them, and that nothing is kept back from the appeal of that infinite tenderness.

"These things did these three mightiest"( 1 Chronicles 11:19).

Not mighty only; for mere power is seldom praised and is indeed seldom to be admired, but in a very partial and discriminating way. We must not be deterred by the word "mightiest" in the text, or say to ourselves that if we were mightier we would do more, or because we are not mighty we will not attempt anything; this would be mere excuse and subterfuge. Yet there are men who flatter themselves that if they were rich they would give much, if they were strong they would fight hard, if they were agile they would run swiftly in the race. All this, is the simplest self-deception. If a man will not give out of his "little" he would never give out of his "much." If a man will not give according to his ability, whatever it is now, he simply tells lies to the Holy Ghost when he says what wonderful things he would do if his circumstances permitted him. The miracle is not in the extent but in the spirit of doing. To double the first gift is to complete the only miracle that God asks at our hands. We shall make a right use of all that was done by mighty men, by taking encouragement from it to attempt something ourselves. Knox, Luther, and Wesley are not to be regarded as deterrents, driving away all humble-minded and poorly gifted servants of the Cross; they rather stand out among the mightiest, to show that even the humblest labourer does not go without recognition and reward. Spinoza, Leibnitz, and Descartes do not stand at the head of philosophy to rebuke all humble pupils, but rather to encourage them, saying from the heights, Follow us, little by little, a step at a time; and if you are afraid that dizziness will overpower you, remain where you are, and be content that you have been faithful according to the measure of your ability. Let each of us look at the mightiest and say—I, too, am a man. Let us look at the immortals and exclaim—I, too, am alive. Let us in all things consider that in the great household there are vessels of gold, and silver, and of inferior material, and remember that it is enough for us to be a vessel in the household of God. There were three mightiest; there may be a countless host of mighties, and yet the very poorest woman who seeks to touch the hem of the Saviour"s garment, may receive power to go forward and heal and comfort others.


Verse 22-23

Valiant Men

1 Chronicles 11:22-23

BENAIAH is described as "the son of a valiant man." Even if we regard the word "son" in this particular place as a spurious addition, we must remember that the Septuagint reads "son of a mighty Prayer of Manasseh ," and that it is nothing uncommon to find a son traced to a distinguished parent. If we are to expect the virtues of the fathers repeated in the sons, what wonderful progress the ages ought to have seen! It is a marvellous fact that whatever a father may be able to bequeath to his children he is unable to give them the information which he himself has acquired. Every man must learn the alphabet for himself. Some degree of mental force may be traceable to heredity, and unquestionably is so; at the same time that mental force is to be exercised by its owner on quite independent grounds. We cannot live long on the reputation of our fathers. There is hardly a more humiliating spectacle than a man who has to be accounted for as to his social position, by the fact that his father was a man of considerable eminence. A curious law of recession seems to operate in the progress of mankind. The son of Aristotle is not Aristotle plus; he may indeed be Aristotle minus in an alarming degree, quite an indifferent figure, an incapable person, a living irony upon the greatness of the father to whom he belongs; yet in the next generation there may be a distinct advance, and even the original greatness may be transcended; so the law moves on, and retires, advancing, receding, now working miracles on the right hand, and now on the left hand, and now falling into dead monotony, and producing nothing for many a weary day; and then again a man arises who surprises the ages by his mental capacity or transcendent valour of every kind. If the son of a benevolent man were himself to be benevolent, the philanthropy of past ages would soon sink into comparative insignificance. But this is not the case. There would seem indeed to be a wonderful similarity between one age and another in all moral excellency and in all personal acquirements. In the Old Testament and in the New there are men separated by ages whose benevolence is perfectly equal; and so there are men to-day whose philanthropy will compare favourably with the philanthropy which was shown by the earliest Christian churches. Providence appears to rebuke everything like personal vanity in this matter; raising up and casting down by an uncontrollable law, and thus preserving a wonderful equality amongst men, even in the midst of apparent inequalities that would seem to separate men by impassable distances. The dowries are different, but the execution equalises the level, and constitututes a kind of indestructible brotherhood. We must never forget the responsibility of having a great Father. If we cannot claim a great father in the physical sense of the term, yet there is not a man now in civilised society who cannot claim an illustrious parentage in the broadest social sense. Once the only eminence would seem to have been that of merely personal relationship. A man born in a distinguished family became by so much distinguished himself. Now all this is changed: whoever is born in a great civilised land is born to inheritances, rights, and privileges compared with which any merely personal possessions dwindle into insignificance. Every man now Isaiah , as it were, born in a school-house, or a library, or a museum. The great world-house is fully furnished in all its apartments, so that when we awake to consciousness we find that the ages have been here before, providing as it were for our reception into the world. We are embarrassed by riches. We have to invent pleasures and excite our mental powers, in order to surpass what has already been done: in other words we have almost to perform miracles. We are all, therefore, the sons of an illustrious parentage, and we degrade ourselves and dispossess ourselves of many an honour, by simply thinking of our local habitation and our immediate family relationships, instead of looking abroad upon the whole world, and claiming everything we can mentally appropriate as truly part of our possessions. What an irony it is to think of being the son of a valiant Prayer of Manasseh , and yet not being valiant oneself; or the son of a good Prayer of Manasseh , and yet being bad; or the son of a philosopher, and yet being almost an imbecile!

What did Benaiah do to create for himself a place in history? Three things are represented in the text as having been accomplished by this valiant man. (1) He slew two lionlike men of Moab; (2) he went down and slew a lion in a pit on a snowy day; (3) and he slew an Egyptian, a man of great stature, five cubits high. All these constituted so many local anecdotes, and as such they are hardly worthy of quotation in our own day. At the time of the transactions they were no doubt the subject of excited talk, for it was no small thing that a man should go down and smite a lion in the middle of the cistern in the day of snow, or that he should slay an Egyptian so vast in stature and so completely and heavily accoutred. Probably these were the only things which a man like Benaiah could do. His was the rudest kind of power, quite elementary, yet perhaps the only strength that was available or possible, considering the man"s environment. Examples of this kind are not set down for our imitation within the limits of the letter. Yet we are called upon to imitate them in the highest spiritual senses. We, too, are called upon to slay, to destroy, and to overthrow. Are we anxious to slay a lion? "Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour." There is a lion to be fought by every man! Are we inclined to go out and search for the nest of the serpent and destroy the horrible creature? The devil is described as "that serpent," and from the beginning he has been "more subtil than any beast of the field." The Son of man came to crush the head of the serpent, and we are called upon to take part in that great destruction. The battle has only changed its ground, its scope, and its purpose. Life is still a tremendous fight. The weapons of our warfare are indeed not carnal, but they are not therefore the less weapons of war; for us there is a sword and a shield and a buckler: "Take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand." Enemies are the more mischievous and deadly when they are invisible, and when in any sense they partake of a ghostly nature, coming and going quite spectrally over and around the life, without giving any notice of their method of attack or the weapons with which they will strike. We are called upon to fight against self-indulgence, to mortify our members, to crucify the flesh, to keep ourselves under, lest after having preached to others we ourselves should become castaways. Christians are expected to fight against merely worldly fashion: they are not to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed, by the renewing of their minds, by the creation of a new conscience, a new purpose, and a new will in life. They are to see the temporariness, yea pitiful evanescence, of all things earthly; they are to use them as not abusing them; they are to say concerning every pageant, how grand soever its pomp,—"The fashion of this world passeth away." Christians are called upon to fight a battle every day against the insidious attacks of worldly ambition. They are tempted to take one step in advance of their brethren, to have larger estates, finer habitations, wider fame, more determining influence: they are tempted to live in display, and in all the petty vanities which attract and dazzle general attention: they are called upon not to be high-minded but to fear; to have regard to the brother of low estate; to go out and seek that which is lost until it be found; they are to let this mind be in them which was also in Christ Jesus, that being abased in his humiliation they may be raised with him in his glory and honour. A man who sets his military thoughts in this direction will have battlefield enough, and opportunity enough of showing of what metal he is made. We need not lament the old days of war, aggressive and defensive; the days of storm and tempest, the days of Song of Solomon -called heroism and chivalry. Truly there is battle enough now to be done. Whosoever will set himself against the customs of his time, the popular policies of the circle in which he moves, the prejudices of the persons whose friendship he values, will find that he must have a sword in his right hand, and that even whilst he sleeps he must have his armour so near that at a moment"s notice he can be once more in the fray.

A beautiful expression is this—"a valiant man." This is what the Church needs now, both in the pulpit and in the pew. This is no time for indifference, timidity, self-consideration, or cowardice. To his credit or discredit be it said, the devil is valiant enough. He plants his evil places at the corners of the streets; he is up first in the morning and last at night; he studies the tastes of the people, and accommodates himself to them; though a leader he is yet a follower; there is no Prayer of Manasseh , how low or how high soever, whose peculiarities he does not study with a view to his corruption and overthrow. How is it that the Church will operate but in one direction, forgetting the breadth of human life, and the multitudinousness of its necessity? The Church is apt to confine its valour to one line or to one point. It does not follow the sinner, tracking his every step, passing with him from chamber to chamber, pleading with him, wrestling with him, and giving him to feel that he will not be let go until he has answered the great appeals of heaven. Is it enough to build a sanctuary and to say that the people may come to it if they please? The sanctuaries must be built, and steady, careful, scriptural teaching must be maintained; but in addition to all this there must be a spirit of going out, a missionary spirit, an aggressive spirit, and spirit of distribution and evangelisation, that will not rest until the Gospel has been preached to every creature under heaven. Then again we must allow for differences of valour. All men are not valiant in the same direction, any more than they are valiant in the same degree. One man is valiant as a public controversialist: give him his sword and let him fight his battle in his own way. Another man is valiant in the matter of self-culture: let him also have his sword and fight his secret battle as it were in the solitude of prayer. Another is valiant in the way of leading good causes, setting good examples: let him also have abundant scope, that he may stimulate others, and lead them to join in the great battle for right and purity and love. A pitiable day it will be for the Church when it is forgotten that though the regiments are many the army is one. Is it a time to be fighting about uniforms, badges, and mere marks of distinction, when the enemy is at the gate, his mouth filled with loud boasting, and his eyes blazing with malignant passion? Let us forget all petty separations, all merely regimental distinctions and honours, and gather together into one great force to strike a united blow at a common enemy. Blessed be God, every effort is put down in his book as if it were a victory. This is the peculiarity of divine benevolence. Men do not give one another sufficient credit for good intention or strenuous endeavour; they simply look at results, and judge everything by that which is visible and estimable in plain figures. By no such rule does God judge the world. He knows who are heroic in heart, and he writes down the inward proofs of heroism as if they were accomplished facts in arms. He knows who would give much if he had much to give, and he sets down in his book a great sum as if it had actually been contributed. God knows every fight that is proceeding in the heart, in the family, in the Church, in the world. At last many shall be found who have been giants and heroes, mighty and valiant men of war, who have been regarded in this life as timid, silent, and almost useless. But let no man here play the thief, and take encouragement who has no right to take it. Every man knows in his own heart what he Isaiah , what he would be if he could, and what he would do if he could. We need not wait for the least illumination to throw light upon our own character, because at this moment we may see it just as it Isaiah , if we really want to do Song of Solomon , and will study ourselves at the cross of Christ.

Prayer

Almighty God, thou art our Father, though Abraham be ignorant of us. We know it in very deed; our souls are glad in the holy consciousness that we are thine and cannot be separated from thee, that we are bound up in the bundle of life. This assurance we have in thy Son Jesus Christ. We live upon it; we rekindle the torch of our hope by this holy fire; we stand here in all the sacredness and safety of inviolable strength. God is our refuge, the Judge of the whole earth is our upholder; the God of the fathers is our God. We cannot explain this in words, even to ourselves; but behind all tumult, and unrest, and fear, and loss, and pain, we stand in this holy consciousness. We bless thee for the revelation of thyself in Christ Jesus. He is thy Song of Solomon , our Brother, the Captain of our salvation, the Redeemer of the whole world, the ever-living—the unchanging Priest. May we study his words; may we imitate his character; may his mind be in us, and repeat itself in every action of our hands. We bless thee for the quiet place in the midst of the city, for the sweet hymn of praise, for the altar of the Cross, where we now bend in lowliest prostration, in most hopeful affection. Let our coming together be for the profit of our souls, that, being enriched with religious thought, and ennobled by Christian aspiration, and comforted by heavenly solace, we may do all the work of life with a firmer hand, with a completer patience, with a nobler heroism. Undertake for us in all things; we would be servants of thine and in no wise masters, receiving thy will, in a measure understanding it, and gladly attempting in thine own power to carry it out in all its gracious meaning. Thus would we begin our life by spending our few earthly days wisely and well. We do but begin here: our full time is not until by-and-by, when the veil shall be rent and destroyed, and we shall stand in the eternal, and see thy purpose more completely. Cleanse us by the precious blood; give us the consciousness of the nearness of the Holy Ghost in all our thought, and purpose, and speech; and at last, in thine own time, in thine own way, bid us come higher, that we may see all things from a better level, and in a clearer light. Amen.

 


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Bibliography Information
Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 11:4". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jpb/1-chronicles-11.html. 1885-95.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, November 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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