The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
1 Chronicles 15
1 Chronicles 15
DAVID"S thoughts still recur to the ark of the Lord. He cannot allow it to remain in the house of Obed-edom; he must have it nearer to himself. How ennobling it is to have in the heart some grand impulse of this kind! Life is controlled by one master-motive. Whatever David built, so long as the ark was absent, he could find no rest for himself. Although the ark itself was not there, yet David occupied himself in preparing a place for it, and pitching for it a tent or tabernacle. The old tent was at Gibeon, where Zadok ministered as high priest. David builds a new tent, but it is for the old ark. The new and the old are thus happily associated in all religious progress. The church was built but yesterday, yet the word to be spoken in it comes up from everlasting. Only the tent is new; the ark is historical and is symbolical of the Eternal One, who settled its every dimension, and determined its whole building and quality.
Now David will proceed according to the right plan. He reminded the people that none ought to carry the ark of God but the Levites, and he reminded them ( 1 Chronicles 15:13) that they did not thus carry it at the first, and therefore the Lord God made a breach upon them, because they had not sought him after the due order. Thus we may learn by our mistakes. We may proceed in one of two courses: either, first, accepting the mistake, and losing all heart, and going down under the spirit of discouragement into utter religious neglect, and from neglect sinking into more positive disobedience and profanity; or we may, secondly, recognise our early mistakes in life, and seek opportunities for their correction, amending our ways and accepting the order of God. The second course is the only right one for wise men to pursue. Who is there who has not made great mistakes in the beginning of his religious life? Some of us have seen men as trees walking; some of us have been superstitious, in that we have attached too great importance to the letter and have forgotten the spirit; or we have exalted the ceremony above the inward and spiritual grace; or we have trusted to men when we ought to have used them as a medium through which to approach the Most High; or we have read the Bible itself in the wrong tone, or under the influence of a misleading prejudice, or under the fear of priestly criticism: all this may have happened, but because it has happened we are not to be discouraged, or turned aside from the hope of mankind; the thing to be done is to confess the fault, to feel penitently concerning it, and to go in a docile spirit to the consideration of what God himself has marked as "the due order." The due order is not necessarily a human arrangement: all human arrangements that are wise are attempts to discover and Revelation -establish the due order: an arrangement is not right because it is old, neither is it wrong on that account; the supposition, however, is that that which goes furthest back in history may be the most simple interpretation of the divine mind, because as we have come upon the line of a complicated civilisation, we may have embarrassed ourselves with multitudinous and worthless inventions. There is a "due order" even in Christian worship. Christianity is not lawlessness. We are to approach the Father through the Song of Solomon, and thus hold fellowship with him. There is to be no attempt on our part to set aside the due order which was established in the Apostolic Church: it is of consequence to whom we pray; prayers are to be addressed to the Father, and are to be offered in the name and for the sake of Jesus Christ, and are to be filled with the grace and unction of the Holy Spirit. There is an appointed place for public prayer; there is "an hour of prayer," such as the apostles themselves observed. All these arrangements do not relate to private religious exercises; therein every man must study the whole question for himself, and make such arrangements as he can adopt with the fullest consent of reason and conscience: but it is obvious that wherever public worship is contemplated, due order cannot be dispensed with without loss and confusion and disappointment. There is a spirit which boasts of its contempt of details, but history has not left the record of the exercise and results of that spirit. The men who have done most for the world"s religious progress have been those who have walked by the same rule, and minded the same thing, and been steadfast in all approved methods and customs of worship. Liberty and law may happily combine in religious observances. No man can pray for us in any sense which renders it needless for us to pray for ourselves. When the whole body of the Church begins to come together, all must not speak at once or with divers tongues; otherwise confusion will be the result: when two men come together the principle of order begins to assert itself, if their relations are to be moderate, considerate, and beneficent; much more when hundreds of men come together for the purpose of expressing a common feeling of adoration and thankfulness to God.
In verse sixteen we read that "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." We also read of cymbals of brass, psalteries on alamoth, harps on the sheminith to excel; and we read of one who was chief of the Levites for Song of Solomon, who instructed about the Song of Solomon, because he was skilful; nor are the doorkeepers of the ark omitted from the record. We are entitled to reason from these arrangements that all instruments, faculties, or degrees of service, are to be utilised in the unfolding and propagation of the kingdom of Christ. It does not follow that the man who could play the harp could also use the cymbals effectively; nor does it follow that the teacher of song would have been a capable keeper of the door; nor is it necessary to pour contempt upon the doorkeeper because he was not instructed in the use of instruments of music, psalteries, and harps, and cymbals. Every man in his own order. No one man is complete in himself. No preacher represents the whole ministry of Christ. No single form of Church government is to be looked upon as typifying the ideal kingdom of God. All ministries must be brought together, all forms, methods, and customs; all varieties of intellectual energy must be constituted into a whole before we can get God"s view of the operations which are daily proceeding in the manifestation of his ultimate purpose. We see but a man here and there, and instantly we set up our criticism as if all the case were open to it: we forget that we see but a point or two in the infinite circle, and that criticism ill-becomes those who see next to nothing of the divine idea in the universe. The man who played cymbals, taken out and viewed in his separate individuality, seemed to be doing but little if anything in connection with the progress of God"s purpose in Israel. The men who stood before the door of the ark were but mutes, who could give little or no account of themselves that would be satisfactory, except that they were watching hardly knowing what and awaiting orders which appeared never to be delivered. The author, the preacher, the musician, the poet, the man gifted in prayer, the critic,—all these must be regarded in their individuality, and in their relations and unity, if we would see how great is the force which is working in society on behalf of truth and righteousness and love.
Whilst David was filled with joy, and clothed with a robe of fine linen,—yea, whilst he was so excited that he danced and played before the Lord, being wholly carried out of himself, Michal, the daughter of Saul, looked at him out of a window, and despised him in her heart. Thus people who are related to one another, legally and otherwise, may be living in totally separate worlds. A house may be divided against itself: the husband may be in heaven whilst the wife is on earth, and contrariwise, and so there may be lack of mutual understanding and sympathy. How sad it is to be outside of a great enthusiasm! We have here two opposite pictures, the one of passion, and the other of cold disdain. Such pictures are never absent from the canvas of human history. This same thing is proceeding day by day in our midst. There are men who are carried away with the spirit of religious enthusiasm until they can scarcely speak the common language of the world—until indeed they are impatient with all the discipline of this mean and transient life: they seem to live in heaven, to walk on the mountain-tops of a loftier world, and to hold converse with intelligences diviner than other men have known;—and they are mocked in all this by the cold-hearted, the narrow-minded, the worldly spirited: they are not understood, but misunderstood; their enthusiasm is regarded as violence, and their worship is sneered at as superstition. We must content ourselves with recognising these facts, for the two opposing forces can never be reconciled: earth can never understand heaven; winter can never comprehend summer; the dumb can never appreciate the eloquent; the self-considering can never hope to understand the self-sacrificial. There Isaiah, however, great danger lest those who are cold and worldly should evilly affect those who are ardent and heavenly-minded. It would seem as if it were easier to do harm than to do good, to cool enthusiasm than to fan its sacred flame. Let us be sober and vigilant, and watch unto the end; our enthusiasm should be a growing fire, becoming more and more intense day by day. The waters which are thrown upon it should but increase the intensity of its glow. May God help us in this matter. It is not easy, limited as we are by a body of flesh and surrounded on every hand by material appeals, to keep up the faith-life in all its eagerness and ardour. It is indeed the supreme difficulty with which we have to contend, but the grace of God is sufficient for us; we can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth us; blessed be God it is possible so to live that prayer may every day enlarge its compass, and love may every day renew its ardour. We are called upon to realise this possibility and to work for its attainment; such recognition and such labour may be said to constitute the whole Christian life, for out of it there will come those endurances, activities, and sacrifices, which comprise the whole circle of religious culture.
Almighty God, the children of Zion will be glad in the Lord; they will praise his name in the dance, and on the timbrel and harp, and their shout of triumph shall be the shout of men who reap harvests and take great spoil in war. We bless thee for the lifting up of the heart in sacred praise. It ennobles the spirit; it gives hope to the heart; it bears upon our life with all the healing of a divine benediction. We thank thee for lights from above, from portals opening upon heavenly places, for thoughts that lead the mind into infinite liberty, and for emotions that cleanse the hearts which they agitate. This is the delight of the sanctuary; this is the reward of those who live within the shadow of the altar. Such joy have all thy saints, and such honour have they that wait upon thee. The water of thy fountain is living water; the gift of God is eternal life. There is no word like thine; it finds out our life in dejection, in shame and in darkness, and gives us hope; it is a gospel; it is a voice, not of angels, but of the Three-One God. May we hear it, answer it, live in the spirit of its music. Then shall our life be a process ending in immortality, a discipline to be exchanged for the completeness of rest and service. We thank thee for thine house; make it large as the earth and bright as heaven; extend the walls until they enclose every broken heart, all wandering men,—yea, all obstinate rebels. Give thy Church such wondrous power in uttering thine invitations that the most reluctant shall listen and gratefully obey. Take out of our tone all harshness, all argument that is of the nature of irritating controversy, and may our voice be like thine own, full of sweetness, tenderness, benevolence,—a voice soft as with tears, made tremulous with reverence, and reaching the farthest away, and bringing back those who had renounced all hope. Let thy word come to us as we need it most—a great welcome, a sharp stimulus, a gentle rebuke, even a threat of judgment, if so be; but especially as a great redemption, a living gospel, a healing balm. All men are in sorrow; all men answer the touch of love. May we know that this is our Father"s house by the nobleness of. its doctrine, by the hospitality of its invitation, by the graciousness of its spirit; yea, may the most reluctant say,—Surely God is in this place. Amen.
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Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 15". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. https://beta.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25