1 Chronicles 8
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Reading between the lines, or extracting from these tables some moral truths which, if they do not contain, they may fairly suggest, we gather -

I. THAT ALLIANCES OFTEN END IN ENTANGLEMENTS AND ENTAIL UNCONSIDERED CONSEQUENCES. Shaharaim went into Moab and there married a Moabitess, having children of her (ver. 8). The names of his sons (ver. 9) were Moabitish - Mesha (see 2 Kings 3:4), Malcham (an idol of Moab; see 1 Kings 11:33 and Jeremiah 49:1, 2). This fact points clearly to the evil influence under which his children came through this matrimonial alliance. If we "make affinity" with those who are not of like mind and like principles with ourselves, we must be prepared for serious spiritual consequences.

II. THAT HUMAN ACTIVITY MAY HAVE VERY LONG RESULTS. Shamed, the son of Elpaal, built two cities; one of them was Lod (ver. 12). This is identical with the Lydda of our New Testament (Acts 9:32), and with the modern Ludd. Here we have an instance of the results of one man's activity being witnessed more than thirty centuries after he has been gathered to his fathers. Who can say how far down the stream of time our influence will go? It may be visible to the eye of men for generations; it will be apparent to the eye of God to the end of time.

"Our echoes roll from soul to soul,
And live for ever and for ever."

III. THAT VIOLENCE IS A BAD FOUNDATION OF REST AND POWER. In ver. 13 we learn that, by a noteworthy coincidence, Beriah with Shema "drove away the inhabitants of Gath." In the previous chapter (ver. 21) we read that the inhabitants of Gath slew the sons of Ephraim. Truly "they that take the sword shall perish with the sword." Violence seizes on a neighbour's land, and by violence is itself dispossessed. That which we gain by mere physical force we must be prepared to part with to the next comer who is stronger than we. The history of the world has, in a large and painful degree, been the record of unlawful seizure and reluctant forfeiture of lands and goods. How much wiser and better to secure by honourable and worthy means that which "no man taketh away" from us, treasure which we shall carry with us whithersoever we go, which time itself cannot steal, and death cannot hold in its grasp!

IV. THAT IT IS WISE TO STAMP BAD THINGS WITH AN EVIL NAME. Esh-baal (ver. 33) is the Ishbosheth of 2 Samuel 11:21; while Merib-baal (ver. 34) is the Mephibesheth of 2 Samuel 4:4. In these two cases Baal is turned into Bosheth, which signifies shame. Thus, by a simple name, the heathen deity was branded with public reprobation. The evil thing was made to seem the ugly and offensive thing.it was. Nothing can be more perilous to the community than the wrapping up of a sin m some pleasant euphemism; e.g. if a daughter has been sinful she should not be called "unfortunate." Vice does not lose half its evil by losing all its grossness. If we label sin with a name that passes current in society, we are co-workers with the tempter himself. Speak of sin in terms that will bring it into disrepute and reprobation.

V. THAT FAITHFUL REMEMBRANCE IN THE DAY OF POWER IS AN EXCELLENT GRACE. The line of Jonathan is traced to many generations (ver. 34, etc.). Is not the hand of David here? Is this not a sign that his vow (1 Samuel 20:15) was honourably fulfilled? What we promise as we are rising we should scrupulously discharge when we have attained the summit of our desires. Many are profuse in promises when the day of performance is distant, but very forgetful of their vows when the hour has come to redeem them. It is the mark of a true man to carry out with generous fulness all that he undertook when he was a long way from the goal and the prize.

VI. THAT THE THOUGHT OF A WORTHY ANCESTRY IS AN HONOURABLE INDUCEMENT TO WELL-DOING. "These dwelt in Jerusalem" (vers. 28, 32). When the captives returned from Babylon there was a lack of men to populate the sacred city. In the country were inviting fields waiting for cultivation, while in the city was danger to be dared and civic duty, to be discharged. So that "the people blessed all the men that willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem" (Nehemiah 11:2). The fact that their ancestors dwelt in the city would probably operate as a powerful inducement to lead many to offer themselves as citizens, and these would thus be led to serve their country in a very serious crisis. The knowledge of the honourable position taken by our ancestry is a very lawful motive to obedience and aspiration. We should, indeed, range ourselves on the right side, and do the noblest deeds because our God, our Saviour, summons us to his side and to the service of our race. But there are many subsidiary motives by which we may be impelled. And among these is the consideration of the part and place our fathers took in their day. We may well be inspired by the thought of their fidelity, their courage, their piety, their usefulness. We do well to cherish the ambition to be worthy of our sires, to maintain and magnify an honourable name, not only to be "the children of our Father who is in heaven," but the children of our earthly ancestors who dwelt in the city of God and wrought his work in the world. - C.

The name Merib-baal, or Mephibosheth, recalls the story of one who was unfortunate from his birth to his grave; one on whom the burdens and disabilities of life pressed very heavily. And it reminds us that we find similar cases within the sphere of our personal experiences. There are always among us the lifelong victims of accidents; the bearers for weary years of congenital defects; those heavily weighted with frailty of the vital organs; the victims of incurable disease; the blind, deaf and dumb, idiot, lame, etc. Of all such we may regard Mephibesheth as a type, and with the class before our minds so typified, we may learn some lessons of practical importance and permanent application. The outline of the story of Mephi-bosheth is as follows: - He was the son of David's friend Jonathan, and, at the time of the catastrophe at Gilboa, when his father was slain, he was only five years old. In the excitement and alarm of the defeat, his nurse caught up the child to flee away with him, but she stumbled and fell, and caused thereby the child's incurable lameness. Mephi-bosheth grew up a weak and helpless cripple. The family estates were secured to him, but his affliction put him sadly in the power of his bailiff and manager, Ziba, who was of a self-seeking and treacherous disposition. By Ziba's schemings and misrepresentations, Mephibosheth fell under the displeasure of David at the time of the Absalomic rebellion, and, though explanations were eventually made, the scheming servant was allowed to retain the advantages he had gained. The affliction of Mephibosheth had its influence upon his character. He was of a gentle, retiring disposition, too ready to let others ride over him, but capable of warm affections, faithful to those he loved and from whom he had received kindnesses, and in the difficult circumstances of his life able to manifest great magnanimity of spirit (see 2 Samuel 4:5; 2 Samuel 9; 2 Samuel 16:1-4; 2 Samuel 19:24-30; 2 Samuel 21:7). In the different recorded passages of his life these points find illustration.

I. THE IMPORTANCE OF SECURING HEALTH AND VIGOUR IN THE TIME OF CHILDHOOD. The relation of robust childhood to energy, happiness, and success in the years of maturity is becoming every day better understood and more fully realized. The conditions of civilized life put infancy under much disability, and much motherhood is concerned in the mastery of those disabilities, and the strong growing of the young life. Perils come out of hereditary taints, infantile diseases, and, as in Mephibosheth's case, the accidents, or ignorance, or carelessness of nurses. It is not, therefore, a little thing that mothers and all having to do with young children should be skilled in their work and trained into efficiency; and this duty we urge in faithfulness to the great Father, who gives this trust of his young children to the mothers. And no nobler or more responsible earthly work is committed to any one than this watching and culturing of the children.

II. THE INFLUENCE WHICH FRAILTY IN CHILDHOOD MAY HAVE UPON CHARACTER, The relation between our bodily frame and our moral character is fully recognized, though It is too subtle for us precisely and adequately to trace. Scripture admits it when it says of God, "He knoweth our frame." There is a kind of harmony between the two, so that strength in one is matched by a kind of strength in the other, and frailty in the one is matched by a kind of weakness in the other. This is seen in Timothy. He evidently had a weak and sickly bodily organization, and it was matched by a shrinking, retiring disposition, which St. Paul earnestly urged him to overcome, "enduring hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ." The secret of fretfulness in after life, of suspiciousness, despondency, absence of perseverance, and lack of proper self-reliance, may be found in the frailties of the childhood stages. And oftentimes even the bodily pamperings and self-indulgences and failure to hold the passions under wise restraints, which are degrading features of the permanent character, find their true genesis in the unnourished early life. This is a subject of practical bearing on the moral and spiritual well-being of the race, and deserves to be thoroughly thought out, and presented in careful and impressive detail. It becomes a consideration full of solemnity for all who deal with children, that the men and women may as plainly bear on their characters the marks of the neglect or error of mother and nurse, as Mephibosheth bore for his life the consequences of his childish fall.

III. THE DISABILITIES OF FRAILTY AND DEFORMITY IN THE IMPORTANT CRISES OF LIFE. As seen in Mephibosheth's inability to show his real feeling to David when the rebellion tested David's friends. His frailty put him into Ziba's hands. So it is found, again and again, that a man's poor constitution, or his lameness, or his partial deafness, or his deficient eyesight, or his passionate temper, come up against him, and close door after door which otherwise he might hopefully enter. And while this thought should make us very considerate and gentle with any who thus spend life under infirmities, it should also serve to impress the one lesson we are learning from Mephibosheth's life, viz. that too much care cannot be shown in dealing with the young, tender, imperilled life of our children. All this man's troubles were the fruitage of the fall in his childhood.

IV. THE MEASURE OF MASTERY OVER FRAILTY GAINED BY A SINCERE PIETY; or, to put it in Christian form, by a full consecration of heart and life to Christ. This is seen in Mephibosheth, whose piety finds expression in his submission under wrong. It is well illustrated in the life of Calvin, Melancthon, or Baxter, and in such frail men as Henry Martyn. The young man who was thought too weak-bodied to go as a missionary, nobly urged that "he wanted to give his very weakness to Christ." The history of Christ's Church most encouragingly records that God has ever found gracious ways in which feeble instruments might do his noblest works. - R.T.

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