1 Chronicles 13
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
The resolve to fetch back the ark of God was a sign of reviving interest in religion, of a more lively desire for the Divine favour, and of a deeper sense of the importance of observing religious ordinances. As the symbol of the Divine presence, as the depository of mementos and pledges of Jehovah's authority and mercy, the ark was held sacred by the Hebrew people. Its proper position was in the most holy place of the tabernacle. It was justly felt to be a national calamity when the ark was taken by the Philistines in battle. That it was allowed to remain after its restoration at Kirjath-jearim for seventy years was culpable negligence, which was significant of religious indifference. The newly elected king was acting rightly as the human head of the theocratic kingdom in advising that the almost forgotten ark should be brought up with joyful solemnities to Jerusalem. His resolution, supported by the sympathy and cooperation of the people, was indicative of a revival of religion. The incident suggests several highly important lessons.

I. NATIONAL IRRELIGION ENTAILS NATIONAL CALAMITIES. It is always unjustifiable to attribute specified individual instances of calamity to the intentional interposition of a retributive Providence. At the same time, the world is under a righteous Ruler, and communities as well as individuals are subject to his sway. National vices and crimes have unquestionably a tendency to produce national troubles and disasters. Sin cannot go unpunished; a nation suffers when a nation errs.

II. REPENTANCE IS A NATIONAL DUTY. If a people in its corporate capacity can err, why can it not in the same capacity repent? David reminded the chiefs that, as a people, Israel had not inquired at the ark in the days of Saul. Thus he quickened the conscience of the community. Insensibility to sin is of all sins the worst. To recognize and confess, to mourn and to forsake sin, is the indispensable condition of acceptance and of reformation. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful," etc.

III. IN A GREAT MORAL CRISIS IT BECOMES THE REPRESENTATIVES OF A NATION TO CONSULT WITH A VIEW TO UNITED REVIVAL. David consulted every leader and referred the matter to all the congregation. In a theocracy, no doubt, action was possible which would be impracticable in a nation where great diversity of opinion and practice prevails. But how obviously appropriate is it that religious societies and their leaders - the devout, the wise, the experienced - should take counsel with a view to religious revival and reform!

IV. GENERAL COUNSELS OF REFORMATION SHOULD ISSUE IN PRACTICAL ACTION, The people were not brought together merely to "talk over" the existing state of things. They were summoned under the king's leadership to act, and they did act. (What are called "resolutions" at religious meetings are often misnamed; it is sometimes the case that those who pass them never dream of exerting themselves to carry them into effect.) If religion is to be revived and the land to be purged of iniquity, if the favour of God is to be recovered and the honour of God to be sought, it must be by united effort and action. Each godly person must ask, "What can I do towards such an end?" True acknowledgment of God is not merely verbal, it is practical. When all the people, repenting of sin, turn unto the Lord, he too will turn them again unto himself, and they shall be saved. - T.

As King of Israel, David made an excellent beginning; he commenced his reign by an act in which piety and policy were happily united. His action was:

1. Indicative of the piety which was characteristic of him. We who know David so well from his psalms, as well as from the Biblical history of his life, are not surprised that, when anointed king over all Israel, his first thoughts were directed to the service of God. With many monarchs this would have been the last consideration. But it was deepest and uppermost with David. He felt, and most truly, that he owed his elevation to the distinguishing goodness of Jehovah, and when he had reached the height of his ambition he was not going to forget the hand that had lifted him up. Piety was a vein that ran straight through the life, because right through the character of the king.

2. Politic in all particulars. He acted:

(1) With sound constitutionalism. Instead of deciding and decreeing absolutely, he "consulted," etc., he "said unto all the congregation of Israel," etc. (vers. 1, 2). This was "the manner of the kingdom" (see Judges 20:7; 1 Kings 12:6; 2 Chronicles 20:21). It was an act likely to impress the nation very favourably.

(2) With consideration toward the sacred tribe. "Let us send... to the priests and Levites," etc. They would naturally expect that special reference would be made to them, and they would be gratified by the royal attention.

(3) With regard to the general wishes of the people. All that could come to such a ceremony would like to be present; all were to be invited: "Our brethren everywhere" were to gather together (ver. 2); "David gathered all Israel together" (ver. 5).

(4) With tenderness toward the fallen house. He did not reproach Saul with the neglect with which he might have been justly charged; he gracefully included himself in whatever condemnation was implied: "For we inquired not at it in the days of Saul" (ver. 3).

(5) Reserving one point which must be final and supreme. Their wishes were consulted and should be carried out, but subject to one condition - the approval of God himself: "And that it be of the Lord our God."

(6) With personal participation and co-operation. He did not send up and fetch the ark; he "went up, and all Israel" with him (ver. 6).

I. POLICY WITHOUT PIETY IS A POOR AND VAIN THING. It seems clever or even brilliant to those who imitate and practise it; but it is contemned of God, disregarded by the wise and good, and certain to come to an ignominious end. It works in the ground, and then sports in the sun for its little hour, and then it falls utterly to pieces and cannot be lifted up again.

II. PIETY WITHOUT POLICY IS A DEFECTIVE THING. A reverent spirit and a pious purpose are admirable things, but if they are dissociated from discretion, and proceed on their way without regard to the claims, wants, and wishes of men, they will commonly, if not always, fail to secure the object they have in view.

III. PIETY AND POLICY TOGETHER ARE A BENIGNANT POWER. Let good men be prudent as well as reverent, discreet and considerate as well as godly and zealous; let the cause of God be championed and conducted by those who have a knowledge of "what is in man" and what are the conditions under which they work in harmony, and then will the goal be reached and the prize be won. - C.

Now that David had been anointed king over Israel, his first act was to think of the ark. During the reign of Saul it had been utterly neglected, and the people had become careless about the ordinances of Divine worship. This was the thought ever uppermost in David's heart. The ark, the outward symbol of the Divine presence, was everything to him. He could not live outside the sunshine of God's favour. To him God was everything, and without him there was nothing. What to him was all the popularity, the loyalty of those who rallied round him to proclaim him king, the devotion of the many thousands of Israel, if the Lord was not with him, the Centre and Source of all? Nothing. We see what David's estimate of God's presence was by the praises which he and all Israel offered on the occasion of bringing up the ark (ver. 8). What had been of old a terror to the Philistines (see 1 Samuel 6.) was the highest joy to the people of God. It is so always. God's presence is to God's people their highest joy. To those who are out of Christ what can it be but terror? Notice, again, how David adds to "if it seem good unto you" the words "and it be of the Lord our God." A true Christian will never, in any question, leave out the latter words. They must ever qualify all that precedes. - W.

The ark was the national religious symbol. Its return, was a matter of interest to the whole nation. So David made a very earnest effort to unite the whole nation in the work of its restoration. It was but a little thing that David, as the king, should order the ark to be fetched. It was a great mark of respect and honour shown to Jehovah that the whole nation should rise, as one man, and show its care of the Divine symbol. Religion has its private spheres. It is strictly an individual and personal thing. Men cannot be saved in masses; the regenerating grace of God only reaches them one by one. But while we see this with the utmost distinctness, we must also admit that religion has its public spheres, and that these are properly a care and anxiety to all sincere and earnest men. We are not to "forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is." Our Lord gave us his own example of reverent sharing in public worship. With much suggestiveness the evangelist says, "Jesus, as his custom was, went into the synagogue" (Luke 4:16). The apostles afford the example of sharing together in worship and work. And the best men in every age have fully recognized both the duty and the moral value of public religion. It has been left to our times of luxurious self-indulgence to find excuses for half-day attendance at the sanctuaries, which too often grows into entire neglect of all public means of grace. Bishop Wordsworth notices, in ver. 3, that "David, in his charitable spirit towards the memory of the departed king, does not say that Saul, being possessed by an evil spirit, became indifferent and careless to religion, and was given over to a reprobate mind; but he speaks in general terms, and takes a share of the blame to himself: 'We troubled ourselves little about the ark in the days of Saul.' Here is a happy example of mildness and charity, joined with piety and zeal."

I. THE MORAL VALUE OF UNITY IN RELIGIOUS ENTERPRISE AND WORSHIP. The complete circle of human culture cannot be reached and covered by a purely private religious life. This is fully illustrated in the case of hermits, nuns, and monks, who have isolated themselves from their fellows for purposes of personal soul-culture. But the results have never been the harmonious development of the whole nature. Some sides have been unduly cultured, others have been neglected. In our commoner life private culture can no better suffice. The side of feding becomes unhealthily exaggerated. Certain necessary things in the religious life are only nourished by united and public acts of devotion and worship. We only notice a few of the chief influences for good exerted by such scenes.

1. They check the self-centering, introspective habit, the undue attention to feeling.

2. They take us out of ourselves by presenting to thought matters of common rather than individual interest.

3. They sway us to higher ranges of feeling than we could otherwise reach.

4. They culture reverence, and so counteract the tendency of private devotion to nourish undue familiarity with God.

5. And they provide peculiar help for those who, being weak in piety, are very dependent on sympathy.

II. THE POWER THAT MAY BE GIVEN TO ONE MAN TO SECURE SUCH UNITY IN ENTERPRISE AND WORSHIP. Illustrated in David. So, now, a man may give the initiative, as has been again and again illustrated in modern missions. Especially note Hudson Taylor's starting of itinerant work in China. A man may give a leading example. A man may use effort to secure efficiency and attractiveness in worship. Illustrate from reformers of modern services - those who have improved Church singing, etc. Impress how superior a force the Church has and wields to that exerted, in Christian work, by any number of private individuals. - R.T.

David no sooner set before the people their duty with regard to the ark than they immediately resolved to act in accordance with his counsel. The chronicler explains why they did so; he tells us, in language remarkably dignified and simple: "For the thing was right in the eyes of all the people."

I. A NATION SOMETIMES NEGLECTS TO DO WHAT IS RIGHT THROUGH INATTENTION. The ark seems to have been overlooked during the years it remained at Kirjath-jearim: "We inquired not at it in the days of Saul." It is singular that nations sometimes connive at great national sins, that national conscience seems to slumber. How otherwise can we account for the prevalence of war, of slavery, of cruelty to prisoners, and other evils, which have disgraced civil and Christian communities?

II. IT IS A HAPPY THING WHEN THE QUESTION IS PUT TO A NATION - WHAT IS RIGHT? It is too common to ask the people - What is customary and in accordance with precedents? What is expedient? What will contribute to national fame? But nations as well as individuals are under the government of a righteous moral Ruler and King. And there is one question which those who would elevate and guide a nation should ever raise - What is right?

III. THE NATIONAL CONSCIENCE SOMETIMES CORDIALLY RESPONDS TO THE REVELATION OF RIGHT. Let not the multitude be flattered; they are prone to bow before the furious gust of passion; yet, when the impulse of prejudice or anger is past, they are capable of proving themselves amenable to higher motives. Great acts of justice and self-sacrifice have, in such cases, been performed by a morally awakened society. If "the thing be fight in the eyes of all the people," then there may be witnessed magnificent displays of heroism and unselfishness. Then is the adage true, Vox populi vox Dei.

IV. NATIONAL CONSCIENCE ONLY FULFILS ITS PART WHEN IT LEADS TO NATIONAL ACTION. "All the congregation said that they would do so." Feeling must lead to corresponding achievement, or it is mere worthless sentimentality. A people's protest is good, but a people's action is better still.


1. Let those who would forward a great movement appeal to the people at large, and seek to enlist the national judgment and conscience on their side.

2. Let nations that would enjoy the Divine favour seek it by doing the Divine will, by pursuing "the thing that right is." - T.

We cannot read this story of the first attempt to bring the ark to the capital without being impressed, if not depressed, with a sense of the weakness and imperfection characterizing our human service. We learn -

I. THAT A SLIGHT DEPARTURE FROM THE DIVINE WILL MAY LEAD TO SERIOUS CONSEQUENCES. David, in a moment of thoughtlessness or presumption, decreed that the ark of God should be "made to ride" (ver. 7, marginal reading) "in a new cart." This was not the way prescribed in "the Book of the Law of the Lord" (see Numbers 4:15). This irregularity led to the act of Uzza (ver. 9), and this to the stroke of Divine wrath which so sadly and seriously interrupted the day's proceedings (vers. 10-13). We are not now called upon to conform our ritual to any prescribed order. The commandment of Christ does not go into the details of outward observance. But it is nevertheless true that any actual departure from his will, though it may seem to be but slight, may lead on and down to a most serious breach. This may apply to his revealed will in regard to

(1) the temper and spirit we should cherish,

(2) the attitude we should assume,

(3) the relations we should enter upon, in our various spheres.

II. THAT IT IS A MATTER OF GREAT MOMENT TO KNOW OUR PLACE IN THE SPHERE OF THE SACRED, AND TO KEEP IT. Uzza was not entitled to lay his hand on the ark of God; he exceeded his right; he intruded into a position for which he was not qualified, and he paid for his presumption the last penalty of sudden death at the hand of God. Those who now attempt a work for which God did not design them and to which Christ does not summon them, whether that of the Christian ministry, of missions, or any other sacred calling, will find that they have committed themselves to duties and responsibilities, the faulty and (perhaps) mechanical, the uncongenial and therefore unspiritual discharge of which will redound to their own serious if not mortal injury. We must take care to keep within the sphere for which our Lord designed us, in the realm of the sacred as well as the secular.

III. THAT OUR BRIGHT AND HOLY JOYS MAY BE MOST UNEXPECTEDLY DASHED. The eighth verse gives us a picture of a company of men in the full enjoyment of sacred pleasure; they were exulting before God in the act of service they were rendering. Sacred joy had reached its very summit, and in the very midst of it, without a moment's interval of preparation, there occurred the transgression and the punishment. Song was turned into lamentation, dancing into weeping, gladness into perplexity and sorrow, day into night. So may it be with us at any hour in this lower earthly sphere. We cannot reckon on the continuance of any present good. Even our joy in God, our delight in his service, may suffer sudden and sad eclipse, and our noon of devout exultation descend at once into the midnight of discomfiture and grief.

IV. THAT GOOD MEN MAY BE MUCH PERPLEXED AT DIVINE DISPOSALS. We read that David was "displeased" (ver. 11), and also that he was "afraid" (ver. 12). We also often find ourselves both perplexed and alarmed at the dealings of God with us. God's way is often "in the sea, his path in the great waters, and his footsteps are not known." He is sometimes "terrible in his doings toward the children of men." Why he lets the assassin do his deadly work so well, the storm wreck the vessel which is carrying missionaries to their post, the father of the family catch the fatal fever, the irreplaceable minister perish in the railway accident, etc., we do not know and cannot think. Our hearts are saddened, perplexed, troubled, awed. Let us feel that we are but very little children trying to understand a Divine Father, whose wisdom and love must be unfathomably deep, must go down far lower than our poor plummet will sound. "Blessed are they who do not see, and yet believe." We "walk by faith, not by sight." - C.

Since the ark was last heard of it had been in Baalah, or Kirjath-jearim. For upwards of fifty years, since it had been in the hands of the Philistines, it had been in the house of Abinadab of Gibeah, under the charge of his two sons, Uzza and Ahio, who were Levites, and who had been consecrated for the office. For the purpose of removing the ark to Jerusalem it was set upon a new cart, he was instantly smitten of God, and "there he died by the ark" (2 Samuel 7:7), "before God" (ver. 10). David was grieved at this, and, instead of proceeding further and carrying the ark as he had intended to Jerusalem, he left it in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite, where it remained three months (ver. 14). The setting of the ark on a cart was a hasty and inconsiderate procedure, in direct violation of the command of God (see Numbers 4:14, 15; Numbers 7:9; Numbers 18:3). Setting it upon a cart instead of having it carried upon the shoulders may seem to be a very small mistake. Touching it against an express command may seem to admit of extenuation, especially as it seemed to be falling. To the eye of man the fault, under such circumstances, may seem only to require a mitigated punishment. But it is not so with God. The entire act betrayed a forgetfulness of the majesty and holiness of Jehovah's presence. It was also a departure from the Word. Such departures from the Word, to us who are accustomed to estimate evil by quantity and degree rather than by principle, may seem light things; but God looks at the motive, the principle, the underlying spirit. - W.

To some minds the two ideas, holiness and mirth, do not seem to harmonize. Whether because goodness is sometimes associated with austerity, and religious observances with dulness, or because mirth is sometimes associated with sensual indulgence and profanity; the fact is that to many minds there appears a mutual repugnance between the two.

I. WE HAVE HERE A SUITABLE AND INSPIRITING OCCASION OF HOLY MIRTH. General rejoicing should not take place only when temporal deliverances or material prosperity have been experienced. When God shows his mercy towards a people, in conferring upon them spiritual privileges, then should they show forth his praise, and make a joyful noise unto the Lord.

II. THE UNION OF ALL CLASSES IN HOLY MIRTH. King, priests, and people rejoiced together, and if all orders and ranks are alike indebted to God's goodness, all should alike join in his service and praise. Widespread is the beneficence of the heavenly Father; let all the children give thanks, and be joyful before the Lord the King.

III. HOLY MIRTH FINDS AN APPROPRIATE EXPRESSION IN CONJOINED AND CORDIAL SERVICES OF MUSIC AND SONG. Such utterance of mirth is natural, is in accordance with the constitution God our Maker has given us. It is scriptural, for both under the old covenant and the new, vocal praise was practised by the saints of God. It is acceptable: "With such sacrifices God is well pleased." It is an anticipation of heaven, where the praises of the redeeming God are universal and perpetual.


1. Discourage a severe, morose piety.

2. Let songs of rejoicing abound in Christian homes and Churches.

3. Let the young be trained to associate happiness with religion - to take pleasure in "the service of song in the house of the Lord." - T.

The natural and fitting expression of the kingly and national gladness in the restoration of the sacred ark was, "Playing before God with all their might, and with singing, and with harps, and with psalteries, and with timbrels, and with cymbals, and with trumpets." The three kinds of musical instruments are here indicated - those producing sound by wind, by the vibration of strings, and by the clanging together of metals. For a picturesque realization of the scene brought before us in this verse, see Stanley's 'Jewish Church,' vol. 2:74-76. The mission of music and song is to find expression for man's gladness and joy. It is as natural to sing as to laugh. Man has wonderfully developed the faculties of music and song, and now it is one of our chief modes of expressing human emotions, and of relieving them by expression. It is as truly one of the great forces for exciting and stirring emotion, as is well shown when it is necessary to raise the martial spirit of a nation. Dr. Horace Bushnell has a very striking paper on 'Religious Music,' in his volume 'Work and Play,' in which he opens out and illustrates these two points: "The very wonderful fact that God has hidden powers of music in things without life; and that when they are used, in right distinctions or properties of sound, they discourse what we know - what meets, interprets, and works our feeling, as living and spiritual creatures." "How carefully this (musical) part of the worship was ordered in the temple service of Israel is known to every reader of the ancient Scriptures; how exactly also the chorus of singers and of players on instruments were arranged, one to answer to another in the deep wail of grief or penitence, the soft response of love, the lively sweep of festive gladness, or all to flow together in choral multitudes of praise, that might even shake the rock of Zion itself." "And if any one wishes to know what power there may be in music, as an instrument of reliction, let him ask what effect the songs of this one singer (David) have had, melted into men's hearts, age after age, by music, and made in that manner to be their consecrated and customary expressions of worship."

I. THE REASONABLENESS OF JOY IN RELIGION. We feel the reasonableness of the songs and joy of Israel when redeemed from Egyptian bondage and delivered from their raging foes. Much more is joy and song right and natural as our response for redemption from penalty, and deliverance from evil. It can only be a distorted religion that fits with melancholy. "The joy of the Lord is our strength;" and with "joy we draw water from the wells of salvation." Illustrate from the Old Testament point of view: David and the prophets give high examples. Illustrate from the New Testament point of view: apostles tell us if we "are merry, we should sing psalms;" "Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs." Modern religious life makes music and song essential features, and these do much towards preserving a healthy tone in our piety. This may be applied to private devotion; it is greatly aided by hymn and song. It is the most attractive feature of public worship.

II. THE HELPFULNESS OF SONG IN EXPRESSING RELIGIOUS JOY. What could David have done else, or so well, in uttering his over-charged feelings? Music at once soothes and gives adequate expression. A man can put his very heart into a song, and ease and quiet his intense emotions by so doing. Estimate the influence of song: it

(1) uplifts;

(2) brightens;

(3) aids feeling;

(4) comforts.

Illustrate by the incidents and influences connected with Paul Gerhardt's hymns. Then we should fully recognize the importance of the gifts of song and music which have been granted to the Church, and see that these are duly consecrated and cultivated. Religious joy cannot be always maintained, and yet true hearts may even find "songs in the night "and in the prison. - R.T.

The incident here recalled to mind is one full of difficulties. Uzza seems to have been struck dead for what was, in intention, an act of consideration and care for She safety of the ark. To human view his sin does not readily appear, and some explanations are necessary in making it clear. Uzza's death was not, mainly, a judgment on Uzza, but a lesson, taught in a very solemn manner, to David and the people. They had not been associated with the ark for a long time, and so may have lost some of the due solemnity of feeling concerning it. By the Mosaic rules, the ark was on no account to be touched by human hands. It would not have needed any steadying if, in obedience to the Law, it had been carried by poles on the priests' shoulders. So God permitted this one man's death to teach the solemn lesson of reverence. The sin was really David's in neglecting the due order and regulations, but it pleased God that he should receive his warning through the suffering of another. One tradition says that Uzza was struck by a lightning flash; another represents his death as occasioned by the withering of his hand and arm. "We cannot fully explain this judgment from the side of Uzza. We must add that man, in life and in death, may be used by God to teach his lessons and accomplish his work; and Uzza, in his sudden death, was God's appeal to a king (and to a nation) who had forgotten his holy Law, and were 'following the devices and desires of their own hearts.' That which was a judgment to Uzza was a merciful call to repentance and right-heartedness given to king and people."

I. ATTENTION TO FORMS MAY EXPRESS REVERENCE. Illustrate by the way in which kneeling aids in securing the spirit of prayer. Herein lies the importance of care in arranging the externals, the ceremonials, of Christian worship. The associations of God's house should both secure and cultivate a due and becoming reverence.

II. THE NEGLECT OF FORMS MAY TEND TO NOURISH IRREVERENCE. Some pride themselves on freedom from forms. But while it is quite conceivable that overdone forms may crush out spiritual life and feeling, it is even more likely that a despising of religious forms may lead to undue familiarity with God's Name, and sanctuary, and worship, and sacraments. If to some it may seem that undue attention to ritual is replacing a true reverence by a mere formalism, to others it appears that the age is singularly and perilously irreverent, and sorely needs again the warning of Uzza's death.

III. THAT WHICH IS DONE FOR GOD MUST BE DONE IN GOD'S WAY. A lesson which every age and every individual needs to learn. David made the very common mistake of trying to do God's work in Ms own way. He must be impressively shown that the fully obedient spirit waits on God to know the how as well as the what. It not only says, "What wouldst thou have me to do? "but also, "How wouldst thou have me do it?" To win willingness to take God's way is often, as with David, the issue of humiliating failures; and it is precisely the lesson which life-failures are designed to teach.

IV. BY SOLEMN PROVIDENCES SOLEMN LESSONS MAY BE IMPRESSED. Our Lord taught us that we must not venture to convict public sufferers of special sins bringing on them judgment (Luke 13:1-5). God often teaches the mass of men by his dealings with a few. The victims of so-called accident vicariously suffer for the good of others. Illustrate by those who die of diseases caused by neglect of sanitary laws. They awaken attention to existing evils, and are the means of saving men. Uzza really saved the judgment that must have fallen on David and the nation if they had kept on acting in this self-willed way. Make final appeal to modern feeling respecting worship. There are signs of the danger of losing the worshipping idea, and overdoing the instruction idea, in our public services. We need recalling to a due reverence. - R.T.

To understand this narrative it is necessary to bear in mind the character of the older dispensation. It was an economy in which persons, things, and places were set apart as holy, doubtless in order to instil into the minds of the people ideas of spiritual purity and consecration. The ark was a holy thing, in a sense in which nothing material is holy under the Christian dispensation. But there are principles which underlie these ceremonial appointments and provisions, which are deserving of our serious and discriminating attention.

I. THE HISTORICAL INCIDENT. The chronicler here relates:

1. A serious offence. When Uzza put forth his hand and touched the ark, though he did so only for the security of the sacred chest, he incurred the Divine displeasure. His act was one of officiousness; it was not his business to interfere with the apparatus of Divine worship. He was guilty of irreverence; for he showed that he did not stand in awe of the symbol of the Divine presence. And we may discern even profanity in his conduct; it was only for the chosen tribe to minister in connection with the sanctuary and what it contained, and although the ark was in transit to its resting-place, its safe conduct should have been left to the Levites.

2. A severe punishment. "The Lord smote him... there he died before God." The penalty seems at first view disproportionate. Yet it was both what might have been anticipated and what was necessary to produce a wholesome impression. That it did produce awe and trembling there can be no question. The severe judgment tempered the national rejoicing and even altered the purpose of the king as to the residence of the ark of the Lord.

II. THE MORAL LESSON. AS we read this narrative we are impressed with the general lesson of:

1. God's displeasure with disobedience. The Scriptures are full of lessons illustrating this principle; they begin on its first page and continue to its last. There is a more special lesson, viz.:

2. That unspiritual men should not meddle with spiritual things. In Christian Churches it is of the highest importance that men actuated by carnal and worldly motives should not be allowed to intrude and to influence their affairs. Let those be clean who bear the vessels of the Lord. The profane cannot with impunity discharge sacred functions. LESSON1 Chronicles S.

1. Let God and all that is his be regarded with reverence.

2. Let sinners spared by Divine mercy adore the forbearance and loving-kindness of the Lord, and "seek him whilst he may be found, and call upon him whilst he is near." - T.

We must take care to read these verses intelligently, or we may misread them altogether. It is possible to draw from them a conclusion which is not in accordance with the mind of God. There is -

I. A SUPERSTITIOUS ERROR AGAINST WHICH TO GUARD. It would be a great mistake to suppose that the mere fact of the presence of the ark in the house ensured prosperity; or that, similarly, the mere presence of sacred rites or persons will now command the favouring regard of God. That there was something more than this in the case of Obed-edom is proved by the facts:

1. That the presence of the ark in the midst of the Philistines proved to be disastrous (1 Samuel 5).

2. That the presence of the ark in the camp of the Israelites proved to be fruitless of help (1 Samuel 4.).

3. That the ark was nothing more in itself than a box of wood, and, apart from God's determination to bless, could not possibly effect anything at all.

4. That to trust in a thing manufactured of man and not in the living God himself would partake of the idolatrous (see 2 Kings 18:4). If we cherish the idea that, because we are connected by blood (or in any other way) with sacred persons, or that because we have much to do officially with sacred things, with the utterance of sacred words, or the performance of sacred rites, or the care of sacred buildings, therefore it will be well with us in the books of heaven, we are only harbouring a fiction, we are leaning on a brittle reed, we are building the house of our hope upon the sand.

II. THE RELIGIOUS TRUTH TO BE RECEIVED AND WELCOMED. God blessed the house of Obed-edom because he cheerfully and reverently made room for the sacred chest. His act was one of simple piety, rendered in an hour of need and offered devoutly, intelligently unto God; therefore God "blessed the house of Obed-edom, and all that he had." It was the mark of God's approval of a service rightly and worthily rendered. The truth for us to gather is that God's abidingfavour is the one sure source of blessedness. If God be "with us," i.e. for us, on our side, who or what can be against us? "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." Those who, in constructing their life, leave God's favour out of the account, make a fundamental and fatal error. Those who go on the principle that his Divine favour will secure true prosperity are proceeding along the lilies of truth. Let every man be discontented and disturbed in soul until he has first made sure of the abiding approval of the Most High. Till then it will be wrong with him and with all that he has; when that is gained, all is well with him and his. But how is this approval to be secured?

1. By doing the one thing which God demands of all his children now. This, first of all and most of all, is the work or the will of God, that we "believe on the Name of his Son Jesus Christ," etc. (see John 6:29; 1 John 3:23). The acceptance of Christ as our personal Saviour and Lord is the way to secure the abiding favour of the Father of all. Having thus gained his Divine regard, we must continue therein.

2. By striving to be and to do all those things in all our relations which are pleasing in his sight (see Philippians 4:8; Colossians 3:17, 23). Among many other ways of pleasing Christ, we may win his approving smile in the particular way suggested in the text.

3. By showing special attention to that with which, and to those with whom, he is specially connected - his house and his disciples. - C.

The ark was in the house of Obed-edom three months, and "the Lord blessed the house of Obed-edom, and all that he had." Why was this? Obed-edom was a Levite. He had been prepared of God to minister before it. None but a prepared heart can enjoy Christ. The ark was at home with Obed-edom, and he with it. So it is always with Christ and his people. But God not only blessed Obed-edom and his family; the significant words are added, "and all that he had. Everything went right with Obed-edom, in his house, his family, his duties, his joys, and his sorrows, because the ark was there. What a lesson! Reader, why do things not go right with you? Because Christ has not his right place in your heart, in your affections, in your home, in your duties, and in all you have. Let Christ be in all, and then it cannot but be with you as it was with Obed-edom, the Lord blessed his house, and all that he had." - W.

Prosperity, says Lord Bacon, "is the blessing of the old covenant, adversity of the new." Certainly Old Testament Scripture abounds in instances of temporal abundance, fertility, and happiness, represented as proofs of the favour of the Most High. In the text Obed-edom is recorded to have received the ark into his house, and with it to have received an abundant blessing upon himself and upon all that pertained to him.

I. THE GROUND OF BLESSING. Apparently this was, in the case before us, a regard for what was God's. But this was doubtless an expression of regard for God himself. The Divine Searcher of hearts and Judge of all sanctions this principle; and although we can give nothing, save our hearts, to God, we can give to his people much that is acceptable to him. Our Lord Jesus often puts this motive before his disciples. What we do we are to do for his sake; and what we do to his people we are deemed to do for him. Still, as in the olden days, God honours those that honour him.

II. THE SIGNS AND TOKENS OF BLESSING. Whom God blesses he blesses in them-selves - in their own persons. He enriches them with spiritual knowledge; he reveals to them his favour; he fits them for his service. He bestows upon them relative blessings. As God blessed the house of Obed-edom, so there is no more delightful way in which he reveals his favour to his people than by visiting in mercy those most dear to them - encompassing them with the protection of his providence, and bringing them to a knowledge of his grace and love. He blesses them in their possessions; sometimes, according to the Hebrew saying, "in their basket and their store," but always by granting them grace to make a sanctified use of all they have. Let all unite in the prayer, "God be merciful unto us, and bless us, and cause his face to shine upon us!" - T.

The subject introduced here is "God in the home, God cherished in the home, and God blessing the home." God was pleased to teach Israel by symbols, by incidents, by personal experiences, and by actions, as well as by words. There is given a picture of Obed-edom's home, and we see that God's cherished presence is assured blessing for the heart and the home.

I. GOD'S PRESENCE WITH US CAN BE GRANTED AND REALIZED. Man can be, and know that he is, the temple of the living God. The possibility of this is the assurance given us in the incarnation of Christ. God can dwell with men; for be has dwelt in the "Man Christ Jesus."

II. GOD'S PRESENCE WITH US CAN BE CHERISHED; So David, fearing the Divine removal, prays, "Take not thy Holy Spirit from me." We cherish the Divine indwelling by

(1) daily openness;

(2) dependence; and

(3) prayer;

but especially by daily following, in simplicity and loyalty, the consequent inward Divine leadings. Compare George Macdonald's sentence, "If any man will do the truth he knows, he shall know all the truth he needs to know." God only stays with the obedient.

III. GOD'S PRESENCE TAKES GRACIOUSLY HELPFUL FORM IN CHRISTIANITY, It is the presence of Jesus Christ, and from the records of his earthly life we know what an infinite charm and help that presence can be. Our Lord promised, "I will come to him, and sup with him," and he left this last assurance, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world."

IV. GOD'S PRESENCE STILL ENSURES PERSONAL AND FAMILY BENEDICTIONS. It does not ensure freedom from care, but it does our sanctification through the care. We cannot be alone in any trouble. It brings a gracious actual reward of

(1) soul-prosperity;

(2) family peace and success.

Plead for the recognition of God in the home, by maintaining the habit of family prayer. And show the mystery of grace in God's even using the incentive of promised rewards of godliness, and giving Scripture examples of such rewards. - R.T.

The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database.
Copyright © 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2010 by Biblesoft, Inc.
All rights reserved. Used by permission. BibleSoft.com

Bible Hub
1 Chronicles 12
Top of Page
Top of Page