Lectures on 1 Chronicles 13-15

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1 Chronicles 13-15
But the next thing shows us what was most in David's heart. Not the throne: that was most in their hearts—that David should reign. But David's heart thought of Jehovah's throne; and therefore he consults and says, “If it seem good unto you, and that it be of Jehovah our God, let us send abroad unto our brethren everywhere, that are left in all the land of Israel, and with them also to the priests and Levites which are in their cities and suburbs, that they may gather themselves unto us. And let us bring again the ark of our God to us; for we inquired not at it in the days of Saul” (chap. 13). And all the congregation agreed. “So David gathered all Israel together, from Shihor of Egypt even unto the entering of Hemath, to bring the ark of God from Kirjath-jearim.”
Shihor is, I presume, not the Nile, although it may be called sometimes so, but rather that brook of El-heresh that divides the land of Israel from the borders of the desert on the Egyptian side. “And David went up, and all Israel, to Baalah, that is, to Kirjath-jearim, which belonged to Judah, to bring up thence the ark of God Jehovah, that dwelleth between the cherubims whose name is called on it. And they carried the ark of. God in a new cart out of the house of Abinadab; and Uzza and Ahio drave the cart."There was the great mistake. It is all very well for Philistines to send the ark of God in a cart—not for Israel. Israel should have known better. When the Philistines did it there was a propriety. They had an object too. It was not to be driven; it was to be committed to the kine that were yoked to it. It was particularly meant as a test, because the cows would naturally care for the young they had left behind; and the very point of God's power and manifestation of His glory was this—that although there was very natural feeling on the part of the cows to go after their young, on the contrary they took an opposite direction, and carried the new cart with the ark upon it to the land of Israel, thus giving a most illustrious proof of the power of God above nature. It was not chance; it was not nature; it was God that governed. But with Israel it was a very different thing. Yet I presume they adopted the cart because it was the last thing. So it is that we often do. Even a Philistine tradition will carry away the people of God, so that although the only people as far as we know that ever employed a cart for the ark of God were these Philistines, here we find that wonderful man David and the priests and the Levites, and indeed all Israel, all joining in this Philistinian way of bringing in the ark of God to the site that was destined for it.
Well, one bad step leads to another, and although there was apparent joy, and no doubt there was plenty of outward honor to the ark, when they came to the threshing-floor of Chidon God allowed, that there should be something that tested their state. “Uzza put forth his hand to hold the ark; for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of Jehovah was kindled against Uzza, and he smote him, because he put his hand to the ark.” He at least ought to have known better. He who belonged to the tribe of Levi—he who ought to have felt that God was able to take care of His own ark let oxen stumble or not—he put forth his hand unhallowedly to sustain the sign of the presence of the God of Israel as if He were not there to care for His own glory. He was smitten on the spot, “and there he died before God.” David was displeased, instead of humbling himself, “because Jehovah had made a breach upon Uzza; wherefore that place is called Perez-uzza to this day. And David was afraid of God that day, saying, “How shall I bring the ark of God home to me?” That was the next effect; first displeasure, next dread. “So David brought not the ark home to himself to the city of David, but carried it aside into the house of Obed-edom the Gittite. And the ark of God remained with the family of Obed-edom in his house three months. And the Lord blessed the house of Obed-edom, and all that he had.” There was such manifest blessing in that house that as we find afterward it could not abide, but there it abode at any rate for three months.
The next chapter, however, gives us not so much this religious picture of the state of things, which you will find to be extremely important afterward, but what I may call more practical—the manner in which the throne of David was regarded by the Gentiles; not the humiliation of the king before the ark of God—David's relation to Jehovah, but the Gentiles' relation to David. “Now Hiram king of Tire sent messengers to David, and timber of cedars, with masons and carpenters, to build him an house. And David perceived that Jehovah had confirmed him king over Israel, for his kingdom was lifted up on high, because of his people Israel.” (chap. 14). The effect upon the Gentiles showed how truly it was Jehovah who had exalted David. Nobody ever thought of that when Saul was there.
We find, then, David in Jerusalem, and the Philistines now thinking that as he was anointed king it was time to bestir themselves. “So all the Philistines went up to seek David. And David heard of it, and went out against them. And the Philistines came and spread themselves in the valley of Rephaim.” But David abides in the simplicity which brought him to the throne. He inquired of God. He did not say, Now I have got an army. If I was conqueror over the Philistines in the days of my weakness, how much more when now in power! Not so. He inquired of Jehovah. It requires more faith to be dependent in the day of prosperity than in the day of adversity; and there is where we are often put to the test, and souls that stand well when they are tried; often fall deeply when they have been blest greatly of the Lord. This does not prove that the blessing was not of God; it does prove that we may fail to walk in dependence upon God. But as yet David stood, and stood because dependent. “And David inquired of God, saying, Shall I go up against the Philistines? and wilt thou deliver them into mine hand?” —for that was the great point. “And Jehovah said unto him, Go up; for I will deliver them into thine hand.” There was his answer. “So they came up to Baal-perazim; and David smote them there. Then David said, God hath broken in upon mine enemies by mine hand like the breaking forth of waters; therefore they called the name of that place Haal-perazim” (the place of breaches). “And when they had left their gods there, David gave a commandment, and they were burned with fire.”
Thus you see vengeance was taken, according to Israel's God, on the insult done to the ark of God. If they had carried off the ark they never burnt it. It burnt them, rather, and obliged them to consult how it should be restored to the God of Israel—to His people; but in this case they left their gods, and David burnt them. Such was the requisition of the law of God as we find in Deuteronomy. David, therefore, walks not only in dependence and in obedience, but, further, “the Philistines yet again spread themselves abroad in the valley.” That might have been an accident: “therefore David inquired again of God, and God said to him, Go not up after them.” How beautiful! We learn that God would have us ever to wait on Him; for the answer of God at one time may not at all be the answer at another. “Go not up after them; turn away from them, and come upon them over against the mulberry trees. And it shall be, when thou shalt hear a sound of going in the tops of the mulberry trees, that then thou shalt go out to battle; for God is gone forth before thee to smite the host of the Philistines. David therefore did as God commanded him: and they smote the host of the Philistines from Gibeon even to Gazer. And the fame of David went out into all lands; and Jehovah brought the fear of him upon all nations.”
Now the heart of David turns back, for meanwhile God had been blessing the house of Obededom. “And David made him houses in the city of David, and prepared a place for the ark of God and pitched for it a tent” (chap. 15). His heart could not rest without that. “Then David said, None ought to carry the ark of God but the Levites.” Now he has learned. He had been waiting upon God. He had got his answer from God in the outward affairs of the kingdom, now he gathers the mind of God as to what concerns His worship, and why his former plan had failed. “Then David said, None ought to carry the ark of God but the Levites; for them hath Jehovah chosen to carry the ark of God, and to minister unto him forever. And David gathered all Israel together to Jerusalem to bring up the ark of Jehovah unto his place, which he had prepared for it. And David assembled the children of Aaron, and the Levites.”
Here we find the greatest care not merely to have Israel, but to have the priests and the Levites. But it is David that does it. Remarkable the difference —that now it is no longer a Moses or an Aaron. It is no longer the high priest. He is not the highest. There is a higher than the high priest. The king is above all—the shadow of Messiah. So we have them, then, ranged in due order. And David calls for Zadok and Abiathar the priests, and tells them that they were the chief of the fathers of the Levites, that they must sanctify themselves, not merely the Levites who did the work, but those that were at their head. “Ye are the chief of the fathers of the Levites: sanctify yourselves both ye and your brethren, that ye may bring up the ark of Jehovah God of Israel unto the place that I have prepared for it. For because ye did it not at the first, Jehovah our God made a breach upon us, for that we sought him not after the due order.”
We are often surprised why the Lord should deal with those who are walking according to the word of God so as to expose them when anything goes wrong—why God should not allow things to be hidden, but should bring out what is painful and humiliating, This is the reason. It is the very fact of having His word—the very fact of seeking to walk by the Spirit of God, by His word. God instead of allowing to pass what would be concealed elsewhere, discovers it. Thus we have all the profit, but we have the shame—all the profit of God's word, but the shame of our own want of proper feeling. So it was with David and Israel now, “So the priests and the Levites sanctified themselves to bring up the ark of Jehovah God of Israel. And the children of the Levites bare the ark of God upon their shoulders with the staves thereon, as Moses commanded according to the word of Jehovah.” And we find another remarkable feature now, and that is that David appoints, according to his word, music and psalmody. “And David spake to the chief of the Levites to appoint their brethren to be the singers with instruments of music, psalteries and harps and cymbals, sounding, by lifting up the voice with joy.”
This is no warrant for Christians using such instruments in the worship of God, because the distinctive feature of the Christian is, as the apostle says, to “sing with the spirit and with the understanding also.” Clearly that can not be where it is a question of mere instruments of music. But all this was perfectly in season for Israel, because Israel was a nation that represented the earth and the things of the earth; but we, if we are anything ought to represent heaven and the things of heaven. Of course we can only do it by faith. There can be no such things there. There are harps, no doubt, spoken of, but no one that has any understanding of scripture would suppose literal harps. There will be finely tuned joy in heaven—joy founded upon divine righteousness, but no such thing as mere material instruments there; and we can see, therefore, how the church's praise ought to be by the Holy Ghost, and not merely, of the earth, earthly. But an earthly people would have an earthly form of expressing their praise. Therefore all is in season. “So the Levites appointed Heman the son of Joel.” And then we find the singers and others—the doorkeepers, even—everything appointed in the most orderly manner.
“So David, and the elders of Israel, and the captains over thousands, went to bring up the ark of the covenant of Jehovah out of the house of Obed-edom with joy. And it came to pass, when God helped the Levites that bare the ark of the covenant of Jehovah, that they offered seven bullocks and seven rams. And David was clothed with a robe of fine linen, and all the Levites that bare the ark, and the singers, and Chenaniah the master of the song with the singers; David also had upon him an ephod of linen.” He takes a priestly place. He was the king, but although he takes the lead and was the manifest chief of all this great procession which brought the ark of God to Zion, nevertheless it is no show—of royal apparel or of earthly grandeur. David was most exalted when he took the place of nearness to the ark of God. The linen and the ephod were for the very purpose that he might fitly be near to the ark of God. That was his point—not the throne but the ark. He had the throne—valued the throne as God's gift, and himself chosen and called to it, but the ark of God was to him incomparably nearer and deeper.
“Thus all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of Jehovah with shouting, and with sound of the cornet, and with trumpets, and with cymbals, making a noise with psalteries and harps. And it came to pass, as the ark of the covenant of Jehovah came to the city of David, that Michal the daughter of Saul looking out at a window saw king David dancing and playing; and she despised him in her heart.” But there are no details here. We must look to the Book of Kings for completeness. The Chronicles give us simply a glance, a fragment, and nothing more. The great point is God's part, and not man's. Michal merely represented the unbelief of Saul's house, the unbelief of the natural heart. She had no sympathy. She felt herself degraded with David's humbling himself before the ark of Jehovah. She had no appreciation of the moral grandeur of the scene.
I shall not dwell upon the next chapter now, except just to look at the simple fact that they brought in the ark, and that David, filled with joy himself, sheds joy around about him, and dealt accordingly to every one of Israel, as we are told; and then come the thanksgiving and the psalm, on the details of which I do not now enter.
[W, K.]