The Book of 1 Chronicles - "Searchlights from the Word" by G. Campbell Morgan.
Adam, Seth, Enosh.
1 Chronicles 1:1
That is a strange beginning for this book. The method is systematic. A principle underlies it, which is illustrated through the first ten chapters, and indeed throughout the history. It is that of Divine election. Let us first remind ourselves of certain facts concerning these books of the Chronicles. The history with which they deal has already been under review in the books of the Kings. Here, however, the history is confined to Judah. Israel is only referred to in cases where Judah is involved. Again, within the kingdom of Judah the history is that of the house of David, all other matters being referred to as they affected, or were affected by, the Davidic line. In the Kings we have seen the history of this period from the standpoint of the Divine overruling of human will; here we see it from that of the Divine choices and procedure. The actual history begins with the death Of Saul, but the chronicler prefaces that history with these genealogical tables, which relate the particular period to all that had preceded. They are not exhaustive, but serve a clearly defined purpose, in that they indicate the Divine choice of channels for the accomplishment of the Divine purposes. Carefully observe the technical method of this first chapter. The only son of Adam mentioned is Seth. From him the line is traced through Enosh to Noah. Then an excursion gives the genealogies of Japheth and Ham, because of the relation of their descendants to the people of God. The direct line proceeds through Shem, and finds a new departure in Abram. Another digression traces the descent through Ishmael and the sons of Keturah. The direct procession continues through Isaac. A third, and elaborate aside, traces the descendants of Esau. The first words, then, suggest the value of the genealogies. Cain is omitted. There are men whom God excludes from the operation of His purpose. Follow this through, and it will be discovered that the choices of God are determined by the character of men.
The sons of Judah.
1 Chronicles 2:3
In this chapter the same method is manifested, and still further illustrated. The twelve sons of Israel are first mentioned. All of them are subsequently referred to, with the exception of Dan and Zebulun, of whose descendants the chronicler gives no account. The direct line of the Divine movement centres in Judah. His sons are named, and once again we see the practice of selection operating upon the principle of character. Er, the first-born, is slain because of his wickedness, and presently also Achar (i.e. Achan), the troubler of Israel. Some lines of the descent of those excluded are again traced, and for the same reason, that of their relation to the history of the chosen people. From Judah the main movement passes through Perez and Hezron to Ram, somewhat indirectly. Then it becomes very direct through Jesse to David, who is the one through whom the royal line is at last to reach the one appointed King. All this is very technical; but carefully observed, it reveals the fact that the elections of God constantly set aside the prejudices and plans of men. The law of primogeniture, for instance, has no place in the Divine reckoning. Of this the last illustration in the series of Divine choices before us is that of David, and he was the seventh son - the youngest of them all. So also the principle of choosing and appointing impressive men, that is, men who by outward appearance seem to be men of power, is entirely ignored. In the economy of the Divine government privilege is not hereditary, neither is it bestowed upon natural ability. Everything depends upon character. Jehovah looketh upon the heart.
The sons of David.
1 Chronicles 3:1
In this chapter the genealogical tables continue to deal with Judah, and have special reference to David. The names of nineteen Of his sons are given. Six of these were born in Hebron, and four were sons of Bathshua (i.e. Bathsheba). There were nine others. From these nineteen, one, Solomon, was chosen, and the descent is traced through him, through the kings of Judah, and right on into the period of captivity. The peculiar character of this Book of Chronicles is very evidently marked in this chapter, in the fact that in referring to Solomon, and his three brothers, no reference whatever is made to the sin of David. They are simply spoken of as the sons of Bathshua. Indeed, nowhere in these books are any of the failures of David referred to save that of his numbering of the people. The standpoint of observation throughout is that of Divine government, and the continuity of the purpose of God in His activity. And is there not here a deeper note? In the election of Solomon we see that God does not allow wrong, for which a man is not in any sense responsible, to be a bar sinister in his life. If God does not count as advantages what man often does, neither does He reckon as disqualifications the things which man does. Everything depends upon the relation of the man to Himself, as to whether the man is a fit instrument for the Divine work. If a man be right with God, his lack of advantages can be supplied, and his disqualifications overcome.
The sons of Judah.
1 Chronicles 4:1
These words were the key-note in chapter 2 also. Here another line from Judah is traced, and must be viewed in the light of the royalty manifested in David. It is the story of the multiplication and settlement of the people, who became workers in the great kingdom. Also in this section we have the account of one man and of how he, by prayer and obedience, obtained the favour of God. As to the people, we have the descent of such as became workers in fine linen, of the potters and of the king's workmen. The king of Judah ever needs the sons of Judah who are equipped by God for the work of the kingdom; and here we are reminded of the fact that such are also chosen and appointed by God to their work. Therefore all their work is as sacred as that of the king. The story of an individual is that of Jabez, in all probability a nephew of Caleb. For some reason his mother gave him this name, which means "bringeth sorrow." Perhaps this knowledge of the meaning of the name had cast a shadow over his life. In his prayer he asked "that it be not to my sorrow." For us, the beauty of the story consists in its revelation of God's interest in individuals. While through these genealogies, and indeed through all the history, we .are occupied with matters of the government of the nation for the accomplishment of the Divine purpose in human affairs, it is refreshing and helpful thus to be halted by the story of one man, who took his need directly to God, and obtained an immediate answer of His grace.
Of him came the Prince.
1 Chronicles 5:2
The section in which these words occur really begins at the twenty-fourth verse of chapter 4. It consists of the genealogies of Simeon, Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh. These words are found in connection with the name of Reuben, and here that of which we have been thinking through all these chapters, the principle of Divine election, flames out centrally. The Prince toward whose advent everything was moving, is named. Yet He is not to come through the line of the birthright. That birthright was taken from Reuben because of his sin, and given to Joseph. But the Prince was to come through Judah. In these occasional gleams of light upon the progress of events, nothing is more clear than the revelation of the God Whose selections are ever based upon His complete knowledge and undeviating justice. Such light is at once the occasion of joy and fear in the heart. The joy is begotten of the confidence that no mistakes are ever made in the Divine government. All the blunders and failures of men are overruled, and resolved into the harmony of the perfect wisdom and might of God. This very assurance, however, must have the effect of solemnizing the heart and filling it with wholesome fear, as it makes clear the fact that no supposed right obtains for one moment in the economy of God, if its conditions be violated by the disobedience of men.
The sons of Levi.
1 Chronicles 6:1
This long chapter of eighty-one verses is wholly devoted to the priestly tribe. This is in harmony with the viewpoint from which the history is now written. Judah, the kingly tribe, is the
only one which has more space devoted to it
one hundred and two verses. The tribe of Levi was God's chosen election for priestly service. The sons of Levi, Gershom, Kohath and Merari are named. Then a list of priests is given, doubtless with the intention of showing the proper priesthood of Joshua the son of Jehozadak in the days of the return under Ezra and Nehemiah. The chain is complete from Aaron to Jehozadak. Then follow lists and details of service. A careful distinction is drawn between the work of Aaron and his sons, and that of the Levites generally. While these latter had charge of the whole of the Tabernacle, and attended to the orderliness of its appointed services, the work of the high priests was specially that of attendance at the altar of burnt-offering, at the altar of incense in the Holy Place, and in connection with the Day of Atonement. The last part of the chapter gives an account of the arrangements made for the dwelling-places of priests and Levites. The distribution ensured the scattering of these men throughout all the land. As we read all this, we do so with the knowledge of the failure of the whole tribe, and indeed the whole system of the priesthood. Nevertheless, we recognize how very complete were the provisions made ideally. These men of God scattered everywhere, and all having vital connection in the discharge of their duties with the religious centre of the national life, ought to have exerted the highest influence. The failure was not in the system, but in the men. This is ever so.
And of the sons . – 1 Chronicles 7:1
"Of Issachar . Benjamin ... Naphtali ... Manasseh ... Ephraim ... Asher." So run the sub-headings of this chapter, the genealogies of six of the tribes being thus given. In this chapter again the matter of principal interest is its revelation of the purpose of the chronicler. His mind was dominated by his recognition of the choice of the tribe of Judah as the kingly tribe, and therefore those tribes most closely associated with Judah have much fuller treatment than others. In referring to Issachar, Benjamin, and Asher, both genealogies and the number of the fighting men are given. These numbers undoubtedly referred to the time of David, around whose reign the principal interest of the book revolves. The special help of these tribes is indicated. Of the men of Issachar it is said that they were mighty men of valour; and of their number, the chief men of the nation were found. All this was true also of the tribes of Benjamin and of Asher. Naphtali is dismissed in a verse. Concerning Manasseh some few names are given, and the possessions enumerated. All this is technical, and yet full of interest, as it reveals another side to the history. Here tribes, and individual men, are seen as gaining importance and value in proportion as they co-operated in the purpose of God. While His elections are sovereign, they ever have relation to the attitude of human choices in the pursuance of His purpose. Issachar, and Benjamin, and Asher were elect instruments so long as they walked in the way of the Divine Will; and no longer, as subsequent history will reveal.
1 Chronicles 8:1
This whole chapter constitutes a fuller account of the house of Benjamin. It is really very little more than a list of names, the genealogy of Benjamin, and a list of the families of Benjamin which settled at Jerusalem. When, at the disruption of the kingdom, after the death of Solomon, the ten northern tribes revolted, Benjamin remained with Judah. This fact in itself would account for the giving of all these particulars by the chronicler. In the course of the reading of the chapter we come across two names, almost buried among the rest, and yet standing out conspicuously in the history of David. They are those of Saul and Jonathan. Of these, the father was his most implacable foe for many years, and the son his choicest friend throughout his whole career. The love of Jonathan very largely cancelled the cruelty of Saul for David - as his subsequent treatment of Mephibosheth revealed. It is an interesting illustration of much of human life, that this tribe, the tribe of the first king Saul, should eventually become the one tribe which remained loyal to the kingdom of David, as it persisted in Judah, when Israel broke away. Notwithstanding the fact that there were strong partisans of Saul who caused trouble, it would seem that the influence of Jonathan was stronger than that of his father among the people. How often as we look back over life we find that our Sauls and our Jonathans come from the same stock of some Benjamin; but in the long issues the force of love and friendship is mightier than that of hate and enmity. Happy indeed are those who in every "now" of stress, can count upon the "long issues" and God.
Very able men for the work of the service of the House of God.
1 Chronicles 9:13
In this chapter the genealogies are completed; that is to say, they here reach the latest point in their history, as they refer to the dwellers in Jerusalem after the return from captivity. They are lists of the heads of the families of Judah, Benjamin, the priests, and the Levites. The words we notice are used in connection with the account of the attempt to restore the order and worship which had been lost through the carrying away into captivity. They refer to the company of the priests, upon whom the chief responsibility rested. Round these were grouped the Levites, both porters and singers, helping them in all their work. The phrase "very able men" means "mighty men of valour," and is so rendered in this historic connection in Nehemiah (11:14). The description is usually employed with reference to military men, and that makes its use here the more arresting. Valour is always spiritual ultimately, and men who are not called to actual physical conflict need it, if they are to fulfil their true functions of leading the people of God in the way of His commandment. If the priests, whose work is ever that of maintaining a relationship between God and the people, lack valour, then the valour of the fighting men will be wrongly inspired, and sooner or later will fail. The valour of the priests must ever be that of courageous and often daring loyalty to righteousness and purity, and all the things which are in consonance with the Divine character.
Saul died for his trespass ... and also for that he asked counsel of one that had a familiar spirit.
1 Chronicles 10:13
Before the chronicler proceeds to tell the story of the reign of David, he records the death of Saul. In sublime and graphic language he recounts the facts of the passing of the king chosen by men. It is a terrible picture of a man of magnificent capacity and opportunity going down in ruin. Magnificent indeed was the ruin, but it was ruin. Saul was a man who had great opportunities, but his failure was disastrous. Of good standing in the nation; distinctly called and commissioned by God: honoured with the friendship of Samuel; surrounded by a band of men whose hearts God had touched; everything was in his favour. From the beginning he faltered and failed. Step by step he passed along a decline of character and conduct. At last, routed by his enemies, he died by his own hand, in the midst of the field of defeat. He went out of life, having failed himself, and dragging his nation into such confusion that its very existence was threatened. These words reveal the secrets of his failure. First and fundamentally, he trespassed against God. He went the way of the disobedient, Then finally, he sought counsel from the dark underworld of evil spirits. These two things constantly follow each other, in this order. When a human being is called of God to service, there is always given to such a one the guidance of God, in direct spiritual communication. If there be disobedience, this guidance is necessarily withdrawn. Then, the forsaken man or woman, craving for supernatural aid, turns to sorcery, witchcrafts, spiritism; and the issue is always destructive. Upon the whole subject of responsible service, the story of Saul throws the light of most solemn warning.
They anointed David king over Israel, according to the word of the Lord, by the hand of Samuel.
1 Chronicles 11:3
We now come to the particular period of history with which this book is concerned, that, namely, of the reign of David. It was undoubtedly in many ways the greatest time in the kingdom of Israel, using the word, kingdom, in its lower sense of describing the monarchy, rather than the theocracy. It is significant that the chronicler makes no reference to the seven years in which David reigned over Judah. Ile begins with the crowning at Hebron, when all Israel acknowledged his kingship. There may be two reasons for this. First, it is evident that the history is written from the standpoint of David's greatness, and therefore the years of the partial reign are omitted. Second, it was in connection with his crowning as king of the complete nation, that the activity of David concerning the ark and the Temple commenced and in the view of this writer these were the central things in the national life. The people for forty years had been under a king "like the nations" in Saul. Then for seven years there had been a divided kingdom. Now, over the united kingdom David, "the man after God's own heart," was to reign. The kingship of God was to be represented to them through this man, at once a statesman, a warrior, a poet, and a man of faith. His imperfections are patent; and also is his failure to represent that Divine kingship faithfully. Nevertheless, it was a wonderful period, during which the whole nation came nearer to the true ideal than at any other time in the monarchy.
These are they that came to David to Ziklag ... and they were among the mighty men, his helpers in war.
1 Chronicles 12:1
The story of David's mighty men is always full of fascination. It is principally interesting in view of what they were in the days of David's exile during the reign of Saul. There had then gathered to him in the mountain fastnesses, a company of men graphically described as those in debt, in danger, and discontented. His influence is seen in their devotion to him, and still more surprisingly in the heroic character which they developed. Some of the statements made concerning them in this chapter are full of suggestiveness. They "could use both the right hand and the left"; this speaks of careful training. They were "mighty men of valour . . . trained for war"; this reveals their disciplined strength. They "could handle shield and spear"; that is, they were able to act on the defensive and on the offensive. Their "faces were like the faces of lions"; they had become a kingly company. They were "as swift as the roes upon the mountains"; that describes their perfect fitness. They were, moreover, men of differing capacities, all of which were consecrated to David. Among the sons of Issachar were "men that had understanding of the times." Among the sons of Zebulun were those "not of double heart," that is, incapable of treachery. It was a great company of great men; and their greatness resulting from the influence of David, was consecrated to his interest. Every word of this chapter carries the mind on to great David's greater Son, and the men He gathers about Him.
Let us bring again the ark of our God to us.
1 Chronicles 13:3
David's consciousness of the true strength of the kingdom is clearly manifested in the fact of his anxiety concerning the Ark of God. This sacred symbol had been for long years at Kirjath-jearim, apparently neglected. He now set himself to bring it into the midst of the people, as a recognition of the nation's relationship to Jehovah. He knew that not he, but Jehovah, was their true King. His own rule must depend upon the will and counsel of God. This it was not only necessary for him to know, the fact must be recognized by the people. Hence his determination to bring in the Ark of God. In connection with this action a terrible event taught David a lesson of deep solemnity. If God's order is to be established, it must be done in His way. The long neglect of the Ark may have rendered these men unfamiliar with the very explicit commands concerning the method of its removal. Or they may have grown careless as to the importance of attending to such details. In any case, they arranged for its removal by a device of their own. The swift death of the man who stretched out the hand to save the Ark, was evidence at once of the presence of God among the people, and of the necessity for perfect conformity to His minutest instructions. David was angry and afraid. The whole movement was stayed, and the Ark was carried to the house of Obed-edom, where it remained for three months, and brought abundant blessing. Most graphically does this story set forth a truth, never to be forgotten by the people of God, that zeal for Him must be according to knowledge.
When thou hearest the sound of marching in the tops of the mulberry-trees, that then thou shalt go out to battle: for God is gone out before thee.
1 Chronicles 14:15
It is very remarkable how constantly these words have been made use of by the people of God. The spiritual instinct which has caused this is a true one. In this chapter David is seen taking counsel of God before going to battle against the Philistines. That is the fundamental note. It shows that he was conscious of his relation to the Throne of God, both for guidance and for strength. In the first case he was told to go, and victory resulted. The second time he was forbidden to go until there should be granted the supernatural indication of the sound of marching in the tops of the mulberry-trees. He obeyed, waited for the sign, went forward, and again to victory. In these days, signs of this particular kind are not given. They are no longer necessary to a people whose holy right it is to live in constant and close fellowship with God through His Son, by the communion of the Holy Spirit. And yet we use the words, and properly. In that very communion of the Holy Spirit, signs are given to the people of God by which they know the hour of their opportunity. They are mystic, but none the less definite. There are times when waiting for such signs is the only true attitude. When they are granted, there is no mistaking them. Their method can never be tabulated or described, but the fact of them is one of the most real experiences of the life of fellowship.
She despised him in her heart.
1 Chronicles 15:29
This is a revealing word. The circumstances were those of the greatest joy to David. Michal, having no understanding of the reasons of that joy, despised her husband for the dancing which gave expression to it. The Ark was brought at last into the city. This account of how it was done shows that David had learned the lesson which the death of Uzzah was intended to teach. He declared that the work must be that of the Levites only. After careful preparation of the Tent for its reception, the ceremony of bearing it to its resting place was carried out. Companies of instrumentalists and singers were appointed, and with high jubilation the Ark was borne by the priests into the prepared Tent. David, full of holy gladness, accompanied the glad procession, playing and dancing. Michal looked at him and despised him. The incident illustrates the perpetual inability of the worldly-minded to appreciate the gladness of the spiritually minded. The external manifestations of the heart of joy of such as hold communion with God, cannot convey to the unenlightened the real meaning of that spiritual delight. A meeting for prayer and praise is still held in contempt by those who have no personal experience of the peace and joy of the secret place of the Most High. Out of such a consideration a somewhat disturbing thought arises. Perhaps we may best express it by asking ourselves whether there is ever anything in our outward demeanour, born of our inward experience, which provokes the contempt of the worldly.
On that day did David first ordain to give thanks unto the Lord, by the hand of Asaph and his brethren.
1 Chronicles 16:7
There is an ambiguity about this verse which admits of two interpretations. The first is that this was the day when Asaph and his brethren were first officially appointed to the service of praise. The other is that this was the first occasion on which this Psalm was employed in that service. Personally I lean to the second view. It is not a vital matter. That which is vital is the Psalm itself, sung in connection with the bringing of the Ark of God into the City of God. The Psalm is found in the Book of Psalms; its first movement (8-22) in Psa. 105:1-15; its second movement (23-33) in Psa. 96:1b-13a; its third movement (34-36) consisting of a quotation of the opening and closing sentences of Psa. 106, verses 1-47 and 48. It has been said that it consists of quotations from these Psalms. It may be that they contain quotations from it. The three movements indicate a growth in the experience of the glory of the Divine government of which the Ark was the symbol. The first is an ascription of praise, merging into a call to remembrance of the works of God, and of His covenant. In the second, the sacrifice of praise moves on to a higher level, as it expresses itself in adoration of God for what He is in Himself in majesty. This has been displayed, under differing circumstances, in their history. In the third, it reaches the highest level, as it utters thanksgiving for what He is in mercy. In the restoration of the Ark after a period of neglect, the people found a sure token of that mercy.
Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that Thou hast brought me thus far?
1 Chronicles 17:16
The presence of the Ark in the city would seem to have created, or at least to have renewed, the desire in the heart of David to provide for it a permanent and worthy resting place. The desire in itself was certainly not unworthy, but it was not in accordance with the Divine purpose. The method of Jehovah with David in this matter is very full of suggestiveness. He was brought into the conscious presence of Jehovah, and there was made to pass before his mind all that God had done for him. The man who desired to build a house for God, was reminded that God was building his house for him. David's desire to do something for Jehovah, was set in the light of what Jehovah had done for him. The response of David was full of beauty, and a radiant revelation of the deepest things in his character. He at once submitted to the will of God, and expressed the worship which was founded upon his sense of his own unworthiness, and of the consequent greatness of the Divine mercy and goodness. He poured out his heart in gratitude to God for all His goodness and His truth, and rested his soul in the blessing promised. In all this there is much of spiritual value for us. Our relationship with God is always based upon what He does for us, never upon what we do for Him. If He wills that we build a Temple, it is ours to do it, but the doing of it creates no merit by which we may claim anything from Him. Conversely, if He wills that we should not build, we have lost no merit by not doing it. Our relation with Him remains the same, sure founded upon His activity in grace.
These also did King David dedicate unto the Lord.
1 Chronicles 18:11
With very slight variations, this chapter is identical with 2 Samuel 8. It tells the story of David's victories over surrounding foes, by which victories he made his position secure as to the boundaries of his kingdom, and with a view to increasing his trading facilities. In view of the desire of the king to build the Temple of God, the chapter is of special interest; it shows how in these wars he was amassing treasure with that purpose in view, not for himself, but for his son. The Moabites and the Syrians brought presents. Shields of gold and very much brass were gathered from the cities and servants of Hadarezer. Vessels of gold and silver and brass were sent by Tou. All these things were dedicated to Jehovah. Thus, through all the days of conflict, and notwithstanding the fact that he was not personally to be permitted to build, the desire for the accomplishment of the purpose burned in his heart. In all this his greatness was manifested. To be willing to do the work of preparation, when not permitted to undertake the principal service, is a proof of real devotion. The story reveals to us the possibility which is always open to us of serving the work of God in very real ways, even when we are not permitted to do those things which we desired to do. The passion of the heart may have moved us to dedicate ourselves to the foreign field for service, and for some reason our way is blocked within the will of God. The temptation which assails us then is that of imagining that we are excluded from the work altogether. It is not so. There are many ways in which we can serve the same high enterprise. If in no other way, we may do as David did; we may gather treasure for the work, and so help it.
I will show kindness unto Hanun the son of Nahash, because his father showed kindness to me.
1 Chronicles 19:2
David's attempt to deal kindly with the new king of Ammon was misinterpreted and resented, and his messengers were treated with indignity. The issue was the utter rout of Ammon by the hosts of David under Joab and Abishai, notwithstanding the confederacy with the Syrians. The attitude of Ammon does not detract from the nobleness of the action of David. In that action he proved that he had not forgotten the kindness which had been shown to him by Nahash. Perhaps it was an impolitic thing to do, using that word "politic" in its lower sense. But David acted in obedience to the higher sanctions of nobility and gratitude. This is the true way of living. That man is always richer in the best things of character who is big enough to act in accord with the promptings of a generous nature, even though such action be misinterpreted and resented. A more cautious man, actuated by suspicion, will silence the higher suggestions in the interest of his own safety or dignity, and by so doing lose irreparably in his character. It is a great thing to hold one's own life true to the highest ideals, even though, in doing so, risks be taken of being thus slandered. The man who has been true to the highest things is never weakened, but rather strengthened. In the subsequent conflict, provoked by the unworthy suspicions of the princes of Ammon, not they, but David, was victorious.
David tarried at Jerusalem.
1 Chronicles 20:1
That is the only reference made in this book to the greatest sin and failure in the history of David. The insertion of the full story, as given in 2 Samuel, would not have served the purpose of the writer of this book, but we ought not to allow ourselves to forget the warning it affords. The story in Samuel is introduced by exactly the same statement concerning the tarrying of David at Jerusalem at the times when kings go out to battle. That was the first stage in that swift passage of shameful sin. There is nothing more full of subtle danger in the life, of any servant of God than that he should remain inactive when the enterprises of God demand that he be out on the fields of conflict. How many have found the peace of ease to be that of deadly peril, when the demands of the Divine service were calling for strenuous endeavour! There is a very old adage, and very simple, at which perhaps we are inclined to smile; but it is well to remember it, not only in childhood, but to the end of the path-way. It declares that:-
- Satan finds some mischief still
For idle hands to do.
If I ought to be at Rabbah with the army, and am tarrying at home in ease, then almost certainly some Bathsheba will present herself, by whom I may be utterly undone. And that is not to blame Bathsheba. She also sinned, and shared the wrong of David; but neither would have been involved had he been in his true place on the field of battle.
Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel.
1 Chronicles 21:1
This statement, that Satan moved David to number Israel, at once reveals his motive in doing so, and explains why the action was wrong. The one sin of Satan, originally and persistently, is that of pride and ambition. This was David's sin on this occasion. His victories had resulted in the lifting up of his spirit, and in arrogance he would know the number of his people, that he might make his boast therein. Numbering of the hosts of Jehovah is not essentially or necessarily wrong; everything depends upon, the motive. There were occasions when the people of God were numbered by the command of God, and there was always a reason for such commands. It is, however, an action that we do well to safeguard with the greatest care. When it is born of pride, it is the subtlest of perils, inclining us to trust in the multitude of an host, and thus to cease to depend upon God. Never was there a more untrue thing said than that God is on the side of the big battalions. He may be, but it is by no means always so. It depends upon the character of the men who make up the battalions. Sometimes our numbering is the expression of our despair. A decrease in membership is not always a calamity. God can do more with 30o men of a certain quality than with 32,000 of a mixed mob of fearful and self-centred souls. When we are moved to number the people, we may rest assured that the impulse is Divine or Satanic, and we may determine which by the motive. If the motive is service, it is God. If the motive is pride, it is Satanic.
This is the house of the Lord God, and this is the altar of burnt-offering for Israel.
1 Chronicles 22:1
Thus the site of the Temple was determined. It was subsequently erected over the threshing-floor of Oman the Jebusite. The rest of this chapter is occupied with the final things David did in preparation for the building; and with the charge he delivered to Solomon concerning his responsibilities in the matter. For the special value of this verse we need to look back at the previous chapter. These words continue and complete the statement found in the twenty-eighth verse of that chapter: "When David saw that Jehovah had answered him in the threshing-floor of Oman the Jebusite, then he sacrificed there." The sins of David were the lapses and accidents of his life. This is not to condone them; it is, however, to emphasize the fact that the habitual set of his life was not what these things suggest. The deepest truth concerning him is revealed, not by these failures, but by his action afterwards. In connection with the sin of numbering the people, he chose to fall into the hand of Jehovah for chastisement. In response to his cry of penitence and confession, Jehovah answered him by fire on the altar he had erected in the threshing-floor of Oman, and there the judgment was stayed. "Then David said, This is the house of Jehovah God." Thus the site of the Temple was the place where the mercy of God operated in staying the plague resulting from the sin of David.
David divided them into courses.
1 Chronicles 23:6
David's interest in the building of the Temple, and its establishment as the centre of worship and of the national life, is manifest, not only in the material preparation he made, in the amassing of treasure and in the preliminary work of getting the stones ready, but in other ways. He practically abdicated the throne, that he might supervise the setting in order of the worship. It was he who "divided them into courses." The specific work of the Levite, as thus arranged, is beautifully described by the chronicler in the closing verses of this chapter. They were the servants of the priests and the House, doing all the things which were necessary in order that the priests might fulfil their specific function, and that the orderliness of the services might be maintained. They were also singers, and were to stand at morning and at evening to praise the Lord. This was a high and holy calling. First, the morning hour of praise, expressive of confidence in God, and of gratitude to His name for all His grace and goodness. Then, the busy hours of service, all in the power of that early praise. Finally, the hymn of adoration for the goodness and guidance of the day, as the shadows of the evening fell. It was a high national ideal, and the measure in which any nation approximates to it, is the measure of that nation's greatness. Israel sadly failed, but the conception was most noble. Never was the true kingliness of David more manifest, than when he sought to make these arrangements for the consolidation around the Throne of God of that kingdom which he was so soon to leave.
Princes of the sanctuary, and princes of God.
1 Chronicles 24:5
With great care, and perfect wisdom of choice, the courses of the priests were set in order. There was a tactful admixture of the older and the younger men, so that in this highest and holiest national service, the experience of age and the enthusiasm of youth were merged. The former guided the latter, and the latter inspired the former. This description of these men - "princes of the sanctuary, and princes of God" - occurring in the course of this chapter, is full of light. In neither half of the description is there any thought of the exercise of rule on their part. They had no authority over the sanctuary, and certainly none over God. Nevertheless they were princes, and called upon to exercise authority. This description indicates the source of their authority, rather than its sphere of operation. Their government consisted in their obedience, within the sanctuary, to the will of God. This was always the one and only authority of the priests. They, by obedience to all the service of God in the holy places, were to make possible approach to God of the people in order that they (the people) might by direct contact render obedience to His sovereign rule. Today, the true exercise of New Testament priesthood on the part of the Church among men consists of the same thing. In proportion as we of the kingdom of priests exercise our holy service in perfect submission to the will of God in daily life, do we exercise the true authority among men of that mediation which attracts them to. God, and makes possible their immediate dealing with Him. To serve is to mediate and reign.
Who should prophesy with harps.
1 Chronicles 25:1
That is a very arresting statement. This whole chapter has to do with the sacred service of praise in the House of God. It is easy to imagine with what delight the poet-king would arrange the song-service of the Temple. Music played a very important part in his career. His skill therein had been his first introduction to Saul. Those Psalms distinctly attributed to him in our collection, breathe out all the spirit of the varied experiences through which he passed; the days of his simple life as a shepherd; the period of his exile and suffering; the hours of battle and weariness; the triumph of his crowning; the agony of his sin; the joy of his pardon - these, and many other experiences, are reflected in the great collection. This man, of poetic nature, would necessarily find great joy in making such arrangements that the House of God, which he described as "magnifical," should have proper and skilful attention, as to its service of praise. This brings us to our statement. This work of praise is here, and twice again (verses 2 and 3), described by this word prophesy. The use of the word in this connection is a revelation of the value and method of the service of music in the sanctuary of God. There is no doubt that it is used in its full sense of forthtelling, rather than in its more restricted one of foretelling. Music is at once the medium for expressing the praise of the soul to God, and for the telling forth of that praise in the hearing of men and for their instruction and blessing.
As well the small as the great.
1 Chronicles 26:13
David seems to have neglected nothing in his arrangements concerning the Temple. Not only Levites, priests, and singers, but porters also, and such as had charge of all the stores, were set apart for the work. Nothing connected with the House of God was considered in any way as unimportant. Everything was most sacred. Those who were appointed to these offices were chosen from the sons of the highest in the national life, as well as from the sons of those less known. In the casting of lots, a principle was observed full of revealing light. The names were selected, not with reference to any privilege of position, due to wealth or official standing. They cast lots as well the small as the great." Whatever grading of society into "small and great," "high or low," may be inevitable in the arrangement of affairs on the human level, it ceases to operate when the service of the House of God in any department is in question. In that service there must be equality and opportunity for all. The decision in this case was made by lot, these men believing, as Solomon expressed it in one of his proverbs, that "the lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of Jehovah." That principle abides. Our method is not that of casting lots, but of seeking the direct guidance of the Spirit. But we need to remember that in our choice of men for office in the work of the Church of God, the things of privilege, which too often count in human affairs, must have no weight with us.
The captains of thousands and of hundreds, and their officers that served the king.
1 Chronicles 27:1
These words have reference to courses of service, and appointed officers, which are not mentioned elsewhere. They would seem to have been toilers who wrought in some specific work, probably that of the actual labour necessary to the building of the Temple. This further emphasizes what we have previously noted, namely, that David neglected nothing, and that everything connected with the Temple was treated as sacred, and therefore as demanding thought and preparation. It is not too much to say that in all the final acts of his life David was preparing for that Temple. All the ordering of the internal things of the kingdom was in that high interest. The greatness of David as a king was manifested in the acts of peaceful administration, as surely as in his victories on the fields of battle. The tilling of the ground, and its careful cultivation; the rearing of cattle; and all the things pertaining to the welfare of his people; were arranged for, under duly qualified and appointed over-sight. Thus the whole nation was enabled to devote itself to that central work of building the House of God. There is no room for doubt that under the reign of David, the Hebrew people reached their greatest strength, even if they did not reach the height of their magnificence till later; and at no period were they stronger than while thus their thought was centred in the Temple. All this work kept the king and people in constant remembrance of the deepest truth concerning the national life, that it was centred in the Divine sovereignty and administration.
Know thou the God of thy father, and serve Him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind.
1 Chronicles 28:9
These words occur in the final charge of David, the greatest of the Hebrew kings, to his son Solomon. In that charge he first made an impressive declaration of his recognition of the government of God in his own appointment as king, and in that of his son. This, however, was but the background against which he made the declaration which was nearest his heart, that concerning the House of his God. The fact which gave him unqualified satisfaction was that it was to be built. His rejection as builder, and Solomon's appointment, were matters of minor importance. The chief thing to him was that the work was to be done. Therein is revealed the deepest stratum in his make-up - his devotion to, and passion for, the recognition of the Theocracy. Out of that conviction came his charge to his son as to the principles 'which were to govern him in his rule of the people in the future. In these words the true attitudes toward God are revealed, and the conditions of soul which make those attitudes possible. The duty toward God is twofold - know Him and serve Him. The condition of soul making this possible is also twofold - a perfect heart and a willing mind. To know God is to serve Him. All failure in service is the result of loss of vision of God, misapprehension of Him, due to some distance from Him. The conditions for knowing God are ever that of a perfect heart, that is, an undivided heart; and a mind willing to obey. To these attitudes it is possible for God to reveal Himself. Moreover, He cannnot be deceived, for He "searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts."
He died in a good old age, full of days, riches, and honour.
1 Chronicles 29:28
With these words the chronicler ends the story of David. His had indeed been a great reign, and he was a great man. In the deepest facts of his life he was a man of God; he was also a poet, a warrior, and an administrator. With his passing the day of Hebrew greatness passed its meridian. Through varied experiences David passed, and to employ the words of Paul; "after he had in his own generation served the counsel of God, fell on sleep." Full of beauty and revelation of all that was best in him is the psalm in which he blessed Jehovah before all the people. In doing this, he was exercising a priestly function, and that of the highest, in that he was offering praise. By this act, moreover, his last among his people, he was finally directing their attention from himself to their one and only King, Who would remain with them. This Psalm first ascribed them all when he had passed away from excellencies to Jehovah, and recognized His Throne and Kingship. Then it confessed that all the riches and honour which men possess are derived from Him. These thoughts were then illustrated in a confession of personal poverty and unworthiness, together with an out-pouring of gladness, because out of the Divine gifts, the people had given gifts to God. Praise then merged into prayer that the state of mind in which they had given might be maintained; and for Solomon, that he might be kept with perfect heart to complete the work of Temple building. It was a fitting and glorious ending to a great reign.