I Chronicles 15


1 “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.” The contents of this verse and the

following verses up to the twenty-fifth have no parallel in the Book of Samuel, and

excite suggestion respecting the different objects with which the compiler of Chronicles

wrote, as compared with those of the author of the former work. They also

direct fresh attention to the sources upon which they drew. The history of

the preparations made for the reception of the ark, and for its safe and

religious escort into the city, is now proceeded with. These preparations

occupied the three months, or part of the three months, spoken of in ch.13:14.

The houses may have been both his own (ch.14:1) and the buildings referred

to in ch.11:8 and II Samuel 5:9. The old tent, or tabernacle, is repeatedly alluded

to, as in ch.16:39; II Chronicles 1:3. It will be remembered that the tabernacle

established by Joshua at Shiloh remained there till the time of Eli, and the ark within

it (I Samuel 3:3). Afterwards we find it removed to Nob, for there David ate the

shewbread (Ibid. ch.21:6).  From thence, very possibly after the savage slaughter

of the priests by the order of Saul, it was removed, and we find it at Gibeon,

according to the above references. Here at Gibeon was an altar and “high place,”

which, in the earlier time of Solomon, formed the chief religious center. The

wanderings of the ark already given from Shiloh, through Philistia to Bethshe-

mesh, Kirjath-jearim, Perez-uzzah, now land it in this tent in Jerusalem.

It is no more sheltered in the tabernacle. But the tabernacle, as well as the

ark, was ultimately brought to the new-built temple of Solomon (I  Kings 8:4;

ch. 9:19; II Chronicles 1:4).


2  Then David said, None ought to carry the ark of God but the

Levites: for them hath the LORD chosen to carry the ark of God,

and to minister unto him for ever.” This verse together with vs. 12-15 show

that the severe lesson of the destruction of Uzzah had been laid to heart, and had

made David supremely anxious to take better counsel of the Law. Uzzah,

though possibly the son of a Levite, more probably of a Hivite (Joshua 9:7,17),

was not a priest, nor is there any sufficient evidence that he was a Levite; and most

distinct was the order of the Law (Numbers 1:51-53; 3:29-32; 4:15-20), that

when the tabernacle setteth forward, the Levites shall take it down; and

when the tabernacle is to be pitched, the Levites shall set it up; and the

 stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death.” So the sons of Kohath

are to come to bear the sanctuary with all its sacred vessels, “but they shall

not touch any holy thing, lest they die.” Many things were allowed to be

carried on wagons under the charge of the Gershonites and Merarites, but the

strict contents of the sanctuary were to be borne in a specified manner by the



3 “And David gathered all Israel together to Jerusalem, to bring up the

ark of the LORD unto His place, which he had prepared for it.”

All Israel;  i.e. as before, representatives of all Israel. So v. 25 decides:

“The elders of Israel, and the captains over thousands, went to

bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord.”


4 “And David assembled the children of Aaron, and the Levites:” -

This classification of the children of Aaron, as the special priests, and of the

Levites, is constantly observed (ch.12:26-27; 27:17). The mention of the six

representative Levitical families follows.


5 “Of the sons of Kohath; Uriel the chief, and his brethren an hundred

and twenty:”  That of Kohath takes the lead, because, though second in order of

birth (Genesis 46:11; Exodus 6:16-19; ch.6:1-30), its priestly importance gave it

always first rank. To the same head belonged also three of the remaining five

 families, viz. Hebron (v. 9) and Uzziel (v. 10), who were brothers, as being

both sons of Kohath (Exodus 6:18); and Elizaphan, who, though son of Uzziel

(Ibid. v.22), had come to represent a distinct family (Numbers 3:30). The other

two required to complete the six are Asaiah (v. 6) of the house of Merari,

and Joel (v. 7) of the house of Gershom. The representatives, then, of

these six families, with the company of the brethren belonging to each of

them, and the two priests Zadok and Abiathar (v. 11), are now

summoned into the presence of David, to receive a short but special



6 Of the sons of Merari; Asaiah the chief, and his brethren two

hundred and twenty:  7 Of the sons of Gershom; Joel the chief and

his brethren an hundred and thirty:  8 Of the sons of Elizaphan;

Shemaiah the chief, and his brethren two hundred:

9 Of the sons of Hebron; Eliel the chief, and his brethren fourscore:

10 Of the sons of Uzziel; Amminadab the chief, and his brethren an

hundred and twelve.  11  And David called for Zadok and Abiathar the

priests, and for the Levites, for Uriel, Asaiah, and Joel, Shemaiah, and

Eliel, and Amminadab,


12 “And said unto them, Ye are the chief of the fathers of the Levites:

sanctify yourselves, both ye and your brethren,” -  Nothing of

the appointed observances of the Law are to be omitted this time, as in the

haste and want of premeditation of the former occasion (Exodus 19:22;

28:41; 40:13; Leviticus 8:12; 20:7; 21:8; II Chronicles 5:11; 29:15).

These sanctifyings consisted of different observances, according to the

person and the occasion, but largely of ablutions of the body, washing of

the clothes, and keeping separate from all natural and ceremonial causes of

uncleanness in ordinary cases of Levitical service. “that ye may bring

up the ark of the LORD God of Israel” -  The word here employed for

bring” is not the same with the “carry” of v.2. But the following

verses (13-15) seem to intimate that, whatever the exact reason for which

Uzzah had been peremptorily cut off, the Levites had also been to blame

in not sanctifying themselves to carry the ark by its staves in the way

originally appointed -“unto the place that I have prepared for it.”


13 “For because ye did it not at the first, the LORD our God made a

breach upon us, for that we sought Him not after the due order.”

This verse purports to say that the Levites had been deficient in their duty

in the double sense of”


o       not having themselves exclusively undertaken the removal

of the ark, and


o       not having executed that removal after the due order.



                                                  Due Order (v.13)


David explained the failure of the former attempt to bring the ark to

Jerusalem, by a reference to the neglect by himself and his people of the

regulations divinely prescribed and applicable to such a case. In directing

the Levites to prepare for their proper service, he acknowledged that, when

he had before purposed to bring up the ark to its resting-place, he had

acted thoughtlessly and profanely, and had suffered in consequence. This

lesson is inculcated by the text — God’s order is the due order.


·        RELIGION DOES NOT CONSIST IN FORM. Even under the elder

dispensation, in which forms and ceremonies were prescribed in

abundance, true religion did not consist in such things. The psalmists and

the prophets rose altogether above a merely sacrificial and ceremonial

religion. And under the new covenant, the letter, the form, sink into

insignificance, compared with the spiritual reality they are designed to

express and to promote. “God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him

must worship Him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).  We, as

Christians, serve Him, not in the oldness of the letter, but in the newness

of the spirit.  (Romans 7:6)




a bad thing to substitute the form for the reality; but it does not follow that it

is a good thing to have no form at all. It is the direction of an inspired

apostle: “Let all things be done decently and in order” (I Corinthians

14:40).  Our worship should be seemly and reverent; our work should be

organized and systematic; our liberality should be upon principle.



OBSERVED AND OBEYED. If, for instance, it is found that the New

Testament lays down certain principles of Church government, prescribes

certain ordinances or ministries, spiritual Christianity expects that these will

be reverently considered and observed. Obedience is required as homage to

the authority of the Lawgiver and Lord. We have no right to set our

fancies and preferences above Divine laws.




a friend of Christ, there is nothing harsh or repugnant in compliance with

Divine regulations in attention to “due order.”  (“For this is the love of

God, that we keep His commandments:  and His commandments are

not grievous.”  (I John 5:3)


14 “So the priests and the Levites sanctified themselves to bring up the

ark of the LORD God of Israel.  15 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 the LORD.”  (So see Exodus 25:13-15;

Numbers 4:15; 7:9.) It is plain that from the first stress was laid upon the rings and

the staves through them by which the ark was to be carried, as also the “table of

shittim wood” (Exodus 25:26-28) and the “altar” (Ibid. ch.27:4-7) and the

altar of incense” (Ibid. ch.30:4-5). However, these rings and staves were not

found in the permanent furniture of the temple, except only for the ark.



The Bearers of the Ark (vs. 1-15)


In the account (II Samuel 6:11-23) of the bringing of the ark into Jerusalem, only the

principal facts are recorded. In this chapter we are presented with the religious aspect

of this solemn act and the preparation David made for it. The motive for bringing the

ark to Jerusalem was (see Ibid. v.12) that David had heard of the great blessing the

ark had brought upon the house of Obed-edom during the time it had been there.

David arranges that the ark should be borne only by Levites, for them only had the

Lord chosen to carry it. By this arrangement it is expressly acknowledged that it

 was contrary to law to place it on a cart (ch. 13:7; that was the way the

heathen had transported it – I Samuel 6:7).  The heads of the priests and Levites are

summoned to take the matter in hand. Kohath is first named, because Aaron was

descended from Kohath, and because to the Kohathites, on account of this near

relation to the priests, there belonged the duty of serving in that which was most holy,

and in bearing the holiest vessels of the tabernacle. The transport of the ark was the

Kohathitesspecial work. These priests and six of the Levites were commanded by

David to consecrate themselves with their brethren to bring up the ark. This consecration

consisted of the removing of all that was unclean, the washing of the body and clothes

(Genesis 35:2), the keeping aloof from every defilement, and from touching unclean

things. David reminds them (v. 13) that because God was not sought according

to his Word, there came a breach. That Word required that the ark on which Jehovah

was enthroned should be carried by Levites, and should be touched by no unholy

person or one who was not a priest (see Numbers 4:15). So the Levites, we are told,

bare the ark on their shoulders with staves, according to the Word of the Lord. From

this portion of our chapter let us learn three spiritual lessons.


·        It was because David heard of the blessing the ark had been to the house

of Obed-edom that made him send for it. That ark was Christ. Wherever HE

IS in a heart, a family, a Church, or a nation, there a blessing will be left.

He came to bless (see Acts 3:26); and none who receive Him shall be

without that blessing. But as in the case of Obed-edom those who receive

His blessing are made the channel of blessing to others. They cannot be

Hid! (Matthew 5:14).  David sends for the ark because Obed-edom had

been so blessed by it.


·        Those Levites who bore the ark, though they had been from of old

divinely appointed to this work, had again to be consecrated. No touch of

uncleanliness, or defilement of body or garment, must come near it. So

must it be now with all those who have to do with Christ. To be Christians

is not enough any more than it was to be Levites. They must be clean

Christians. There must be plenty of “washing,” plenty of “keeping aloof”

from things, and plenty of careful walking with all those who have to do

with him. “Be ye holy that hear the vessels of the Lord” (Isaiah 52:11);

“Be ye holy, for I am holy.” (Leviticus 11:44-45)


·        It might seem to human observation a very trifling difference between

carrying the ark on a cart or carriage, and carrying it on the shoulders with

staves. But the great point is — What was the Lord’s word? It was this

made the difference (v. 15). So is it now in everything. It is not what I

think or what you think or what any man thinks. It is, “What saith the

Word of the Lord?” This is to settle every question. And he would not

have been a true Levite any more than that man could be a true Christian

who would for a moment hesitate to accept this decision as final.


16 “And David spake to the chief of the Levites to appoint their

brethren to be the singers with instruments of musick, psalteries

and harps and cymbals, sounding, by lifting up the voice with joy.

17  So the Levites appointed Heman the son of Joel; and of his

brethren, Asaph the son of Berechiah; and of the sons of Merari

their brethren, Ethan the son of Kushaiah;”  To appoint their brethren

to be the singers. This was the first step towards what we have already read

in ch.6:31- 39, 44; 9:33-34 (where see notes).


18 “And with them their brethren of the second degree, Zechariah, Ben,

and Jaaziel, and Shemiramoth, and Jehiel, and Unni, Eliab, and Benaiah,

and Maaseiah, and Mattithiah, and Elipheleh, and Mikneiah, and Obededom,

and Jeiel, the porters.” Ben. This word is either altogether an accidental

interpolation, or a remnant of some statement of the patronymic character regarding

Zechariah. Another indication of the state of the text in this verse is to be

found in the probable omission of the name Azaziah of v. 21, after Jeiel.

It will be observed that no trace of this word Ben is found in the repeated

list of v. 20.


19 “So the singers, Heman, Asaph, and Ethan, were appointed to sound

with cymbals of brass;  20 And Zechariah, and Aziel, and Shemiramoth,

and Jehiel, and Unni, and Eliab, and Maaseiah, and Benaiah, with psalteries

on Alamoth; 21  And Mattithiah, and Elipheleh, and Mikneiah, and Obededom,

and Jeiel, and Azaziah, with harps on the Sheminith to excel.”  The psalteries on

Alamoth (v. 20), and harps on the Sheminith to excel (v. 21), are descriptions the

exact significance of which is not yet satisfactorily ascertained. Yet their connection in

a series of four divisions of musical duty does throw some light upon them. These

four verses manifestly purport to describe a special part to be performed by

those of whom they respectively speak. Gesenius explains psalteries on

Alamoth to mean such instruments as savored of virgin tone or pitch, i.e.

high as compared with the lower pitch of men’s voices. This lower pitch he

considers intimated by the word “Sheminith,” literally, the eighth, or

octave. The added expression, “to excel,” need scarcely be, with him,

understood to mean “to take the lead musically,” but may be read generally

to mark their supassing quality.


22 “And Chenaniah, chief of the Levites, was for song: he instructed

about the song, because he was skilful.”  For song. There is considerable

diversity of opinion as to the meaning of this word. Some think its meaning to be

in the carrying (aC;M"B")” i.e. of the ark. Its exact position here seems not

unfavorable to such interpretation. On the other hand, its position in v. 27 seems

conclusively to point to the translation of the Septuagint and of our Authorized

Version in this place as the correct one. Dr. Murphy, however, to escape this,

thinks “with the singers” in v. 27 to be a “copyist’s inadvertent repetition.”


23 “And Berechiah and Elkanah were doorkeepers for the ark.”

Berechiah and Elkanah. It appears from the following verse that there was

also another couple of doorkeepers (i.e. persons to protect the openings of

the ark, that it should not be opened), viz. Obed-edom and Jehiah.


24 “And Shebaniah, and Jehoshaphat, and Nethaneel, and Amasai, and

Zechariah, and Benaiah, and Eliezer, the priests, did blow with the

trumpets before the ark of God: and Obededom and Jehiah were

doorkeepers for the ark.”  Between these couples probably went the seven

priests blowing the trumpets (Numbers 10:1-9). These trumpets were of

solid silver, of one piece, were straight and narrow, and had an expanded

mouth. They are found on the arch of Titus, and are described by Josephus.

On the other hand, the trumpet, more correctly rendered “cornet’’ (rp;wOv,

as distinguished from our hr;[]wOxj], which was used for proclaiming the

jubilee, for announcing the new year for sentinel and other special signals,

and for war, was shaped like a ram’s horn, and probably made of the same.

The particular appropriateness of the use of the former on this occasion is

manifest, in addition to the fact that they were the appointed trumpets for

the journeying of the camp and a fortiori of the ark itself at a time so

essentially religious as the present. Yet, as we learn from v. 28, the latter

were used as well, and cymbals, psalteries, and harps. The original number

of the silver trumpets was two only, and they were to be sounded strictly

by the anointed priests, sons of Aaron, at all events when their employment

was within the sanctuary. Their employment, however, grew far more

general, and we find (II Chronicles 5:12) that their number had risen to

a hundred and twenty (so too Ibid. ch.13:12; Nehemiah 12:35). For

Obed-edom, the doorkeeper, see ch.16:38; and therewith note on ch.13:14.


25  So David, and the elders of Israel, and the captains over thousands,

went to bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of the

house of Obededom with joy.”


26 “And it came to pass, when God helped the Levites that bare the ark

of the covenant of the LORD, that they offered seven bullocks and

seven rams.” This verse with the following four are paralleled by II Samuel

6:12-16.  The contents of this verse in particular reveal the intense

anxiety and the trembling fear and awe with which the sacred burden was

now again lifted. A world of meaning and of feeling for all those present at

least underlay the expression, When God helped the Levites that bare

the ark (compare I Samuel 6:14-15; II Samuel 6:13, 18). The offering of

seven bullocks and seven rams is thought by some to be additional to David’s

offering, when he had gone “six paces” (Ibid. v. 13). Much more probably,

however, the “six paces” meant, not six footsteps, but six lengths that would

make some distance.


27 “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.”  Several things in this verse indicate a somewhat uncertain and

unsteady selection of particulars by the compiler from his original sources.

The natural reading of the verse would seem to say that David and all

those Levites who bore the ark, and the singers, and Chenaniah, all

wore the robe of byssus, while David had, in addition, the ephod of

linen. Yet it is unlikely that all did wear the robe. Again, the Hebrew text

exhibits no preposition before the singers, on the second occasion of the

occurrence of the expression in this verse. Yet little sense can be found

without a preposition. The robe was not distinctively a priest’s garment

(I Samuel 18:4; 24:5, 12; Job 1:20; 2:12), though priests did wear it.

The robe of byssus is spoken of only here; II  Chronicles 5:12; and

Esther 8:15. Byssus, however, is spoken of as material for other purposes in

ch. 4:21; II Chronicles 2:14; 3:14; Esther 1:6; Ezekiel 27:16. The ephod, on

the other hand, was no doubt distinctively a high priest’s garment (Exodus 28:4-12),

though we read of Samuel wearing one (I Samuel 2:18, 28), and of

David doing the same, as on this occasion. The fine linen (xwB), in the first

clause of this verse, is not the same with that (ËB;) in the last clause. The

first clause of this verse (which makes the last clause somewhat redundant)

bears some resemblance in letters to the first clause of  II Samuel 6:14,

which means, “and David danced with all his might,” and the two clauses

exactly answer to one another in position — another suggestion of an uncertain

text here.



28 “Thus all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the LORD

with shouting, and with sound of the cornet, and with trumpets,

and with cymbals, making a noise with psalteries and harps.”

Making a noise. This description qualifies the cymbals alone,

and should rather appear in our translation as “noise-making cymbals.”



Sacred Joy (vs. 16, 25-26, 28)


In the bringing up of the ark from the house of Obed-edom, the prevailing

note is that of sacred joy. We learn:



The act was one of obedience in two ways. It was so in spirit; for though

not commanded to take this particular step, the Israelites were desired by

God to show all possible honor to that with which His service was

connected. In removing the ark, therefore, to the capitol, David was acting

conformably to the will of God. It was also obedient in form. This time the

error in the mode of conveying the sacred chest was avoided, and the

Word of the Lord strictly consulted. And the result was a large measure of

sacred joy. Gladness of heart filled the souls of king, priests, Levites,

people. Everything was done, from beginning to end, “with joy” (vs. 16,

25). Holy obedience will always have the same effect upon the heart. If we

serve the Lord with our whole heart, endeavoring to do His will, both in

spirit and in form, we shall have “gladness in our heart more than in the

time when their corn and their wine increase.” (Psalm 4:7)



PSALMODY. “David spake… to appoint… the singers with instruments

of music,” etc. (v. 16). Sacred song often gives utterance to sorrow and

distress, and there are plaintive strains, vocal and instrumental, which are

profoundly expressive and touching. But gladness and song seem to be

best associated. “Is any merry? let him sing psalms” (James 5:13). When

our heart is glad in the Lord, we cannot do better than join in “psalms and

hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in our heart to

 the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19).



SACRIFICE. (v. 26.) The ceremony would not have been complete

without sacrifice. This was probably a burnt offering or thank offering; it

was, at any rate, an offering taken from their “flocks and herds” unto the

Lord, and may suggest to us that now, when God will not take such

sacrifices at our hands, we should, in the time of our gladness, present such

sacrifices as those with which he is well pleased. We can “do good and

communicate (Hebrews 13:16). Of our fullness we can contribute to

the need of those who lack. Or from our store we can take that which

will help to fill the treasury of the Lord.



THING. David wished to extend this rejoicing to all who would enter into

it; he made it as public as possible; so general was it that we read that “all

Israel brought up the ark… with shouting,” etc. (v. 28; see II Samuel

6:19). We may keep our grief much to ourselves, not inflicting them on

others, much less parading them before others; but we should strive to

make our friends and neighbors the sharers of our joy. This is true of all

gladness of heart, but it is peculiarly applicable to sacred joy. When our

souls are glad in Him, our Father and Saviour, we should seek to make all

whom we can reach and influence partakers of “like precious faith”

(II Peter 1:1) and hope and joy. Of the joy that is not diffusive we may be

suspicious, The joy that is Divine, that comes from God, and that is in

God, will be after His own nature, bountiful, generous, communicative.


29 “And it came to pass, as the ark of the covenant of the LORD 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.”   Thus briefly is given by our compiler what occupies five

verses in II Samuel 6:19-23. Neither of the words here rendered dancing

and playing (but which would be better rendered “leaping and dancing”)

is the same with those employed in Samuel (Ibid. vs.14, 16, where our Authorized

Version rendering is “dancing” and “leaping and dancing” respectively.

The word in both of those verses that represents the dancing, does correctly so

represent, but is a somewhat generic form, as it carries the idea of dancing in a

circle. The reason of Michal “despising David in her heart” can only be found

in the unreason and the irreligion of that heart itself. She was a type of not a few,

who despise devotion, enthusiasm, and above all practical liberality and

generosity, on the part of any individual of their own family, when these

are shown to Christ and his Church, and when they think they may be a

trifle the poorer for it, or when they feel that the liberality and devotion of

another exposes their own “poverty” in both these respects.  (Compare

Cain’s jealousy of Abel – “Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and

Slew his brother.  And wherefore slew he him?  Because his own works

were evil, and his brother’s righteous.”  (I John 3:12)



  Intensity in Religion is Often Misunderstood (v. 29)


One only incident tarnished the brightness of this greatest day of David’s

life. Michal, his wife, in the proud, we may almost say conservative, spirit

of the older dynasty — not without a thought of her father’s fallen house

— poured forth her contemptuous reproach on the king who had

descended to the dances and song of the Levitical procession. There are

marked differences in the dispositions of men in relation to religion.

The colder-natured are apt to regard the impulsive as extravagant; and the

warm-hearted and excitable too readily conclude that the quieter-toned

people are insincere. Eastern ecstatic modes of expressing joy are quite

different from that of the west.  In time of excitement, rhythmical movements,

such as dancing, afford great relief. And such clanging of trumpet and cymbals

was the very thing to set the company upon dancing. Distinguish the natural

movements and gestures of excited feeling from the ordered fashionable dancing

with which we are familiar. What lessons may be learned from Michal’s inability

to appreciate David’s religious intensity?



INDIVIDUALS. We must not look for the same experiences and

manifestations in all. Each man’s religious conduct will bear the plain

impress of his character and disposition. This may be applied to

experiences of conversion-time, or the beginnings of the Christian life. As

also to the forms in which men stand related to public worship and

Christian work. If we venture to make molds for the necessary Christian

life, we must take care that they are large and general, with no fine lines of

must-be peculiarities in them. Christ gives a new life, and sends each man

forth to express it according to his own genius and character.



DISPOSITIONS. So we may not, even in thought, exempt any man from

its gracious influence; and we may not be anxious to have the natural

dispositions of men changed. Men do not need to be made other than they

are. The all-sufficing change is the inward regeneration, the renewal of the

vital principle. We need not want to make the channel of the river bend and

turn in any other and, as we think, more graceful forms. Our anxiety should

concern the purity of the waters flowing down from the fountain-head,

which fill the stream. Preservation of the characteristic disposition is,

however, quite consistent with all due Christian culture, and this may

sometimes so bring out to the front the best in men, that they may seem

other than they were.



MAN. Just in this Michal failed. She had not charity enough to give David

credit for the sincerity which would have clothed his act with dignity. A

man’s ways may not be our ways, may not even be such as we can

approve; but it should suffice for us if we can see in them the signs of

genuine religious life and feeling. Then we may wish him “Godspeed.”


Application of a practical character may be carefully made to those more enthusiastic

and excited phases of religious life and association which are so marked a feature of

twenty-first century Christianity. From the calmer, colder point of view, such as Michal

would take, there may seem in all these only a perilous fanaticism. The charity that

hopeth all things” (I Corinthians 13:7) may at least enable us to say, in the spirit

of our Lord, “Forbid them not, for they that are not against Him are on His part”

(Mark 9:39-40).  And His kingdom has its oncoming in wondrous ways; no man

knoweth how.



A Chapter of Practical Repentance (vs. 1-29)


There are few happier, and perhaps no better, chapters in any one’s life than the

chapter of practical repentance. To have to sorrow over the past and to undo it is,

no doubt, the incident of a fallen nature and of a frail, imperfect life. When once,

however, the necessity has arisen, then to sorrow no barren sorrow, but to add to

it reparation, alteration, amendment, is at one and the same time to fling a just, manly

defiance at the merciless spirit of remorse and TO PAY THE MERITED HOMAGE

TO THE GOODNESS OF GOD!   The life of many a good man owns to many a sin,

many a folly, and, when he goes not so far as these, to many a great and to-be-regretted

mistake. But the most marked differences between the good man and the bad are then

to be seen. This goes from bad to worse, and the tangled victim ere very long becomes

the mournful and miserable sacrifice. That goes from bad with tear, with striving, with

prayer, toward the lost or awhile eclipsed good. The very mark of the man made

divinely wise is discerned in the repentance wherewith he repents, the promptness

of the sorrow and the fear inspired, the deliberateness and the thoroughness of

the amendment made or attempted. This chapter gives the history of such a

repentance and of its happy consequences. Notice:





ENERGY. Given a little time to recover nature’s tone — some three

months had by this time passed — and something better than nature did

also return. A willing thoughtfulness supervened; deep searchings of the

heart, of the written Word, and of what had been actually done had their

way; and convictions just and right and wholesome were formed. There is

always one great model exhibited in Scripture of repentance. To Saul’s

exceeding fear and intense and sudden visitation there needed some interval

for recovery, and such interval was granted. Even where it may be

possible, it is not advisable to act, when under the influence of the

extremes of feeling, when the storm of mental emotion is at its height. But

it is infinitely hazardous to neglect the right time of action; and, so soon as

the first intensity of feeling is passed, how many have waited prostrate till

all disposition to rouse to altered and improved action has also passed!



ERROR THAT HAD BEEN. David now lays down the Law (vs. 2, 13)

in the very act of confession of that Law broken. He lays down the Law,

but not out of his own lip — by distinct and emphatic quotation of itself.

He now saw and read the Law exact, and he saw how far distant the

conduct for which he was in an eminent degree responsible, and of

 which he had literally been part, had strayed from the letter and

spirit of that exact Law. This is in fact what still in deepest sense, and

in the deepest hidings of our spiritual nature, produces conviction of the

most spiritual kind conviction of sin. When the eye of the conscience

can be gained for a moment to see this sight, and to notice the wide difference

between a holy perfect Law and the actual life, which should lie under its

governance but does not so, the Spirit of God has gained this end — our





quotes the Law that concerns the occasion (v. 2). He exhorts “the chief

of the fathers of the Levites” to sanctify themselves and prepare in all

respects according to the Law for the great and holy work now before

them (v. 12). He also does not shrink from addressing these pointedly, as

those who were officially and in their own persons to blame. But he does

not finish his remonstrating and warning sentence without distinctly

including himself among those in fault, and superseding “ye” by “we

(v.13). There was never any bare verbal confession of sin more open than

that of Adam, but there was never any confession more worthless, for he

wished to lay all the essence of the sin on Eve. The same may be said of

Eve, as regards her tempter, the serpent. That kind of confession of sin is

nothing worth. It has no semblance of meritoriousness in it. No sacred

virtue inheres in it. A double depth of the heart’s hardness, a double

sluggishness of conscience, sleep, a double self-deception is there. Short of

this, however, there are not a few, whose it is to exhort and warn others,

who will largely forget in spirit, even when not in letter, to include

themselves in needful reproof and in united confession. Yet how often is

the leader of the flock doubly answerable, in reality doubly blamable,

and in deep truth tenfold called upon to make humblest and most penitent





well of ourselves individually, and sometimes speak too forgetfully of the

inherent disease of human nature, yet we are frequently disposed to

underrate the effect of the word that is spoken in the Name of the Lord, of

the faithful appeal that is pointed plainly but lovingly to the consciences of

those who have been in error, and of the influence of our own repenting

and confessing example. Put three such incentives as these together, and

they will rarely fail to find their converts of some amongst a number.

Moreover, great as is the contagion of evil, as seen when the multitude

 Will flock together to do evil, yet, on the other hand, correspondingly great

 Is the attraction of goodness. The multitude of those who worship, the

multitude of those who keep the holy day, the multitude of those who join

to work in and for the Lord’s temple, literal or spiritual, — all these are

facts as patent, bearing witness to the affection that will subsist to the

highest ends, within A MULTITUDE BENT ON GOOD as other facts

bear patent witness to the contagion that works in a multitude to do evil. The

happier aspect of the multitude is here before us. The shepherd-king is

shepherding rightly, with truth to the Law, with careful warning for all as

regards the past, with a faithful rebuke of others, and loving confession of


MAN!   They are of one heart, of one mind, and they proceed to be

 of one deed.




WERE RESPECTIVELY MOST FITTED. This feature of the occasion is

shadowed forth in all the careful and nice order of the proceedings from

beginning to end. But it is more than shadowed forth in the distinct

emphasis of allusions, such as those of vs. 16, 17, 22, 24, which point to

the hierarchy, so to say, of office, of gift, of grace. The Church of God as it

is in perpetual quest of the brotherhood of humanity, so is it, pari passu,

perpetually contributing to reproduce the order, the very cosmos of the

world. One of the grandest evidences of the presence of the living Spirit of

God in any portion of the Church is THE VISIBLE PRESENCE OF

ORDER!   Paul loved to lay stress upon this: “Let all things be done decently

 and in order” (I Corinthians 14:40); “Peace... as in all Churches of the saints.”

(Ibid. v. 33).  That Church of living, modern times, that may first and best find all

its members awake, all ready for work, each falling into his assigned place

without pride or without envy, without murmur or without assumption, will first

and best prove the Divine presence and glory, and challenge a usefulness and

praise in the earth” for Zion, hitherto unknown except by scantiest earnest.



APPROVAL, BLESSING. It is certain that God has never been slow to

acknowledge the service that has been humbly and faithfully done to Him.

And it is most noticeable that, after His severest and largest chastisements,

swift He will come again to receive and to welcome those who have learned

to set their face again to Him. How glad was Noah, when he came forth

from the ark to set foot upon a deluged desolate world, to find how the

smoke of his sacrifice ascended, acceptable to God, and so accepted by

Him, that the “Lord smelled a sweet savour, and said in his heart

(Genesis 8:21), as we are told, but evidently said elsewhere as well, the



may well be said, “He smites to heal.” And so now, when all is

done reverently and in order, and the whole scene is sacred with obedience

and with practical repentance, God’s “help” was given, and it was felt such

a comfort, such an encouragement, such a present performed blessing, that

anon the whole procession halts to offer “sacrifices of joy,” and to

sing, yea, sing praises to the Lord.” It is observable that we are not

told how the Lord “helped the Levites that bare the ark,” or in what

signs and indications they recognized His helping presence. It may have

been that as they feared to lift, lest another fatal stroke of the invisible

mighty hand should descend, no such stroke fell, and the departing of fear

was equivalent to a very inrushing of joy and confidence. Their hands were

stronger, their feet walked more steadily, their shoulders rejoiced in their

hallowed burden. They didn’t stumble. The inner peace and confidence that

God’s true and faithful children and servants know, even early after they

have needed the severest chastening, pervade a quickened and sensitive

state of mind, so as to produce convictions, experience, language,

unintelligible to the world, surpassing all its power to give, outliving all its

power to take away.





WORLD READY TO FLOUT IT. The well-known form on this occasion

needs not to be dwelt upon. But two things under it are well worthy of

note and remembrance.




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