Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
1. This census appears to have been ordered by David in one of the later years of his life. The word "again" (ver. 1) indicates that it was subsequent to the famine (2 Samuel 21:1, 14; ver. 25); and a measure that occupied Joab and the captains of the host nine months and twenty days could only have been accomplished during a time of settled peace, such as succeeded the rebellions of Absalom and Sheba. "Three great external calamities are recorded in David's reign, which may be regarded as marking its beginning, its middle, and its close - a three years' famine, a three months' exile, a three days' pestilence" (Stanley). No man, however advanced in life, or whatever the wisdom he may have "learnt by experience," is wholly exempt from the power of temptation.
2. It was a census of those who were capable of bearing arms (ver. 9), and of the nature of a military organization (2 Samuel 8:15-18). "But David took not the number of them from twenty years old and under," etc. (1 Chronicles 27:23, 24). The result showed a great increase of the people - 800,000 (1,100,000) warriors of Israel, 500,000 (470,000) of Judah, omitting Levi and Benjamin (1 Chronicles 21:6); representing a population of about five millions.
3. Its direct and declared object was that David might "know the number of the people," or become fully acquainted with its military strength, "its defensive power" (Keil). Of any additional object, except what is implied in the words of Joab, "Why does my lord the king delight in this thing?" nothing is stated.
4. It, nevertheless, was wrong and exceedingly sinful. This is evident, not only from the expostulation of Joab, but also from the confession of David himself (ver. 10), and the Divine chastisement that followed. Wherein consisted his sin? A census was not in itself and always sinful; for it had been expressly directed by God (Exodus 30:11-16; Exodus 38:26; Numbers 1:2; Numbers 26:14, 63-65), and it was (as it still is) attended with important advantages. But this census was determined upon by David,
(1) apparently without due inquiry, by means of oracle (1 Chronicles 21:30) or prophet (ver. 11), concerning the will of the Divine King of Israel; without adequate grounds in relation to the welfare of the people; and without proper consideration of the danger of promoting a spirit of pride, and producing other evil consequences (Exodus 30:11, 12). "David forgot the commands of Moses, who told them beforehand that if the multitude were numbered, they should pay half a shekel (the price of a sin offering) to God forevery head" (Josephus). In its omission "he invaded the fights of the supreme King of Israel, and set aside a positive command of God. The demanding the tax by his own authority might have created a national disturbance, and therefore should have prevented him from numbering his people" (Chandler).
(2) Probably with warlike thoughts and intentions, for the strengthening of the army and the farther extension of Israel's dominion by foreign conquests (2 Samuel 22:44, 45). "Warlike thoughts certainly stand in the background; if we fail to see this, we lose the key to the whole transaction, and the Divine judgment is incomprehensible" (Hengstenberg); but it can hardly be supposed that he formed the definite purpose of "transforming the theocratic state into a conquering world state" (Kurtz).
(3) Possibly with a view to "the development of the royal power in Israel" and "general taxation" (Ewald); which made it obnoxious to Joab and the council (for something of the kind seems necessary to account for the opposition of such a man).
(4) Certainly with vain glorious pride, self-elation, distrust of God, who "said he would increase Israel like to the stars of the heavens" (1 Chronicles 27:23), and presumptuous confidence in himself (1 Samuel 15:1-9; Luke 4:5-12). "David's heart was lifted up to rejoice in the number and strength of the people" (Willet). "The very same action, apparently performed with different intentions, becomes essentially different in a moral point of view. It is the motive in which it originates, or the spirit with which it is carried on, that gives it its distinctive character in the sight of God. David was actuated by a vain glorious spirit, which is always an abomination in the sight of God. He was thus indulging a vain conceit of his own strength, a proud confidence in his own greatness, as if his chief dependence were on an arm of flesh; forgetting his own devout profession that the Lord was his Rock and his Fortress and his Deliverer, in whom he would trust" (Lindsay). "From its first origin Israel was called to the supremacy of the world (Deuteronomy 33:29). David now thought that he could rise step by step to such elevation without the help of God, who had provided for the beginning. The records should bear witness for all time that he had laid a solid foundation for this great work of the future" (Hengstenberg). "It was a momentary apostasy from Jehovah; an oblivion of the spirit of dependence inculcated on the rulers of Israel." This was the root of the offence; and in it the whole nation participated. "This history shows that the acts and fortunes of rulers and people are closely connected together; and that the sins and virtues of the one exercise great influence on the happiness of the other" (Wordsworth). Consider that -
I. GOD IS NEVER ANGRY WITH ANY PERSON OR PEOPLE EXCEPT ON ACCOUNT OF SIN, "David's causing the people to be numbered was the immediate cause of the pestilence; for the procedure originated in motives which the Lord condemned. But the primary and real cause is to be found in the verse which introduces the narrative; and which is almost invariably lost sight of in the common accounts of this transaction. It is that 'the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel.' Now, the anger of the Lord could only be awakened by unfaithfulness and evil doing; and that, whatever its precise nature, was the real cause of the calamity that followed, and relieves the case of the apparent harshness, of which so much has been said, of making the people suffer for the offence of their king" (Kitto, 'Daily Bible Illus.').
1. Sin alone excites the anger of God; which is his holy opposition to sin and sinners, and not inconsistent with his love, but rather the effect of resistance to it (2 Samuel 11:27).
2. Whenever sin dwells in the heart, no less than when it is expressed in outward actions, God observes it, and is displeased with those who are guilty of it. "For he knoweth the secrets of the heart" (Psalm 44:21).
3. His displeasure with a whole people implies prevalent and persistent sin among them, such as the spirit of unbelief, disobedience, vain glorious pride, and presumption, which was manifested in the recent rebellions of Israel, and appears to have been subsequently indulged.
4. So far from being palliated or passed over because of their exalted position and privileges, their sin is aggravated, and more fully ensures their chastisement on that account. "You only have I known," etc. (Amos 3:2). "It may be not unreasonably surmised that they were smitten with the same unhallowed elation of heart (as the king); that they were tempted to exult in their own strength; that they rejoiced in the prospect of beholding the proud array of their multitudes of fighting men; and that dreams of grandeur and glory may have been before their eyes, and may have caused them to depart from the Lord" (Le Bas). "The important lesson for all here is this - that even the smallest feeling of national pride is a sin against God, and, unless there be a powerful reaction, calls down the judgments of God. With this feeling even the Romans presented offerings of atonement at their census."
II. SIN IN A PEOPLE IS USUALLY ASSOCIATED WITH SIN IN THEIR RULER.
1. The former may be incited by the latter (1 Kings 15:30). Or:
2. It may be an incitement to it (John 19:12). "The people had infected the king with their own arrogance, which had been called forth by their success." Or:
3. Both people and ruler may alike participate in the same prevalent, sinful disposition or tendency of the age. As formerly (2 Samuel 15:1-5), "soft indulgence" and sensual desire; so now, "the lust of the eyes and the pride of life" (1 John 2:16) seem to have taken possession of his mind.
4. The sin of a people may culminate in, and be manifested and represented by, the sin of their ruler. For this he is eminently responsible, and when his piety, which should have checked the evil tendency of the people, and may hitherto have restrained the righteous judgment of God, begins to fall, it becomes the occasion of the breaking forth of his fiery indignation. "It was the final offence which filled up the cup of wrath, and the punishment smote the nation, and, through the nation, its ruler" (Kirkpatrick, Horn. Quart., 6.). "The Lord was wearied with the sins of Israel and Judah; and he likewise beheld the secret pride of David's heals; and for these things he was resolved to visit both the people and the king." "Pride, or vain glory, or self-sufficiency, which was the sin of David, and which, for the very reason that it effects us less, because it is not so much against man as against God, offends him the more. It is a substitution of ourselves in his place; an impious thought of independence, and transference to ourselves of that confidence and admiration which are due to him alone. It is an invasion of his throne, an assumption of his sceptre, an attempt to rob him of that glory which he will not give to another, a removing of the crown from his head to put it on our own. 'Wherefore it is said, God resisteth the proud'" (J. Leifchitd). "He was, for the time, the image and emblem of all who in any age, or in any country, love to have arrayed before them the elements of their worldly strength; who delight to see spread out the full enrolment of their powers and resources, and who forget that there is One before whose breath all these things shall be even as the cloud capped towers and palaces before the breath of the whirlwind."
III. THE SINFUL MEASURES OF A RULER ARE SOMETIMES THE EFFECT OF THE DIVINE DISPLEASURE WITH HIS PEOPLE, whose sin he shares, and of whose punishment he is made the instrument. "And he [Jehovah] moved [incited, provoked] David to say," etc. "The thought is - there should come a pestilence over Israel, and David become the occasion thereof" (Thenius). "The ruler's sin is a punishment to a wicked people." Sin implies personal responsibility; and "God tempts no man" (James 1:13). But in his universal sovereignty:
1. He appoints the circumstances, which are adapted to test and manifest character, and often conduce to sin.
2. He suggests thoughts which, although right and good in themselves, are sometimes perverted to wrong and evil by human folly and infatuation (ver. 10). "All good thoughts, counsels, just works, come from the Spirit of God; and, at the same time, we are in the most imminent peril at every moment of turning the Divine suggestions into sin by allowing our selfish and impure conceits and rash generalizations to mix with them" (Maurice).
3. He withdraws his restraining grace in consequence of sin, and permits men to be tempted of Satan (1 Chronicles 21:1), who readily seizes the opportunity to lead them into transgression. Deus probat, Satan tentat.
4. He even constrains the manifestation of the iniquity of the heart for holy and beneficent ends. "God's influence, making use of Satan as its instrument, leads the corrupt germ to its development, rousing into action that which slumbers in the soul, in order to bring about the retributive judgment in which man, if otherwise well intentioned, learns fully to recognize his sinful condition, and is moved to repentance. The question is not of simple permission on the part of God, but of a real action, and that of the nature which each one may perceive in his own tendencies. Whoever once yields to his sinful disposition is infallibly involved in the sinful deed which leads to retributive judgment, however much he may strive against it" (Hengstenberg). "Though it was David's sin that opened the sluice, the sins of the people all contributed to the deluge" (Matthew Henry).
IV. AN ADEQUATE REASON IS AFFORDED BY SUCH MEASURES FOR THE CHASTISEMENT OF RULER AND PEOPLE. "It was needful for an external, visible manifestation of the sin to precede the judgment, in order to justify the ways of God to men. The temptation was presented to David; he fell, and in his fall represented truly and faithfully the fall of the nation. The nation was not punished vicariously for its ruler's sin, but for a sin which was its own, and was only embodied and made visible by its ruler's act. And the punishment struck the very point of their pride, by diminishing the numbers which had been the ground of their self-confident elation" (Kirkpatrick, 2 Samuel). "Because David was about to boast proudly and to glory in the number of his people, God determined to punish him by reducing their number, either by famine, war, or pestilence" (S. Schmid).
1. Sinful actions serve to manifest the hidden sin of the heart.
2. They show the connection between such sin and its just retribution.
3. They make chastisement more signal and salutary.
4. They are often overruled to the glory of God and the welfare of men. [Note: Some of the difficulties indicated above would be removed by regarding the first sentence as "the heading of the whole chapter, which goes on to describe the sin which kindled this anger, viz. the numbering of the people" ('Speaker's Commentary'); and by reading, "And one moved David," etc.; i.e. "one of his courtiers or attendants, who is therefore called satan, or an adversary, either designedly or consequentially both to David and his people. The people were themselves very culpable; as they knew, or might have known, that, upon being numbered, they were to pay the prescribed ransom, which yet they neglected or refused" to do; as partners in the offence, they justly shared m the penalty inflicted (Chandler). But this explanation is not satisfactory.] - D.
(2) self-will (vers. 3, 4),
(3) self-deception (during many months),
(4) self-conviction (by self-examination, ver. 10),
(6) self-surrender (ver. 14),
(7) self-devotion for the people (ver. 17),
and self-dedication to God (vers. 24, 25). Of self-elation, pride, presumption, vain glory (the sin of David), it may be said that it is -
I. A COMMON EFFECT OF EXTRAORDINARY PROSPERITY, temporal or spiritual. Pride; war, famine, or pestilence; suffering and humiliation; peace and industry; prosperity - pride again; such is the melancholy circle of human affairs (Exodus 8:14). "If we knew how to enjoy our blessings in the fear of God, they would be continued unto us; but it is the sin of man that he extracts, even from the mercies of God, the poison which destroys his comforts; he grows fat upon the bounties of Heaven, spurns its laws, and awakens its vengeance" (R. Watson).
II. AN UNGRATEFUL PERVERSION OF DIVINE BENEFITS. "The grave sin of proud exaltation, which David and the people of Israel here had in common, presupposed the elevation to victory and power that God had bestowed by his gracious mind; and its consequence was the judgment that revealed God's anger against the perversion of his favours into plans of self-aggrandizement" (Erdmann). What should produce thankfulness and humility too often results in unthankfulness and vain glory (2 Kings 20:13).
III. A SPECIAL TEMPTATION OF THE EVIL ONE. (1 Timothy 3:6.) "And Satan [an adversary] stood up," etc. (1 Chronicles 21:1). "We see that God and Satan both had their hand in the work; God by permission, Satan by suggestion; God as a Judge, Satan as an enemy; God as in a just punishment for sin, Satan as in an act of sin; God in a wise ordination of it to good, Satan in a malicious intent to confusion" (Hall).
IV. A GRIEVOUS EXHIBITION OF SPIRITUAL BLINDNESS; inconsideration of dependence, self-ignorance, self-deception, and foolish infatuation (Jeremiah 49:16). "David, when strongly tempted to this gratification of his vanity, was not at all sensible of the evil of such an act; while Joab was. Joab, though a man of blood, and apparently hardened in iniquity, could see through David's vain and arrogant feelings, while David himself, whose mind was under ordinary circumstances eminently sensitive and pious, could not discover the impiety of his proceeding, but persevered in evil for several months. Such is the infatuation of sin!" (Lindsay).
V. A PECULIAR PROVOCATIVE OF DIVINE WRATH (1 Samuel 2:3; Proverbs 16:5); most odious of all things in the sight of God, because most directly opposed to him. "Pride is the beginning of sin" (Ecclus. 10:13). "And what is pride but the craving for undue exaltation? And this is undue exaltation when the soul abandons him to whom it ought to cleave as its end, and becomes a kind of end to itself. This happens when it becomes its own satisfaction. And it does so when it falls away from that unchangeable good which ought to satisfy it more than itself" (Augustine, 'The City of God' 14:13).
VI. A PERNICIOUS INFLUENCE IN RELATION TO OTHER PEOPLE; inciting in them a similar spirit, and bringing untold miseries upon them. What oppression, strife, and other deadly fruits grow out of this "root of bitterness" (Exodus 14:5)!
VII. A RUINOUS TENDENCY IN RELATION TO MAN HIMSELF. (Daniel 4:28; Proverbs 16:18.) "Pride wishes to dethrone God. Pride takes occasion from virtue itself. Pride was particularly odious in David, who was exalted from so lowly a state. His pride was accompanied by falsehood; for he had protested his humility in the psalms which he made for all the people to sing. David was a just man; but this was a reason why God should punish him more severely. For it is certain that the sins of the children of God are more deserving of condemnation than the sins of reprobates and slaves of the devil. These only offend their master, but those do outrage to their Father; these are only rebel subjects, but those are unnatural children and barbarians; these only abuse the gifts of nature, but those profane miserably the gifts of grace. And how much more abominable is Judas than Pilate! Be not surprised, then, that when David, who was complete in a thousand graces, committed the crime of felony against him, the Eternal could not suffer such an indignity without punishing him severely" (Du Bose, in Vinet's 'Histoire de la Predication'). - D.
2 Samuel 3:24; 2 Samuel 19:5); but his manner was now very different from what it had been before; arising, perhaps, from his recollection of the consequences of his former rudeness (2 Samuel 19:13), and his fear of the displeasure of the king, whose authority was fully restored. His remonstrance appears to have been made in a council of the captains of the army (2 Samuel 23:8), to whom the king declared his purpose, and by whom Joab's objection to it was supported (ver. 4). As often happens in other instances, it was:
1. Greatly needed, on account of a sinful and dangerous course about to be pursued.
(1) Men of the most exalted position and excellent character sometimes go astray from the right path.
(2) The error of their way is often perceived by others, when they are blind to it themselves.
(3) One of the principal means of preventing their continuance therein is to reason, expostulate, and remonstrate with them concerning its real nature and probable consequences (Psalm 141:5).
2. Properly offered.
(1) By those to whom the matter is one of just concern. Joab was captain of the host; and, although a man of depraved character, he possessed a sound practical judgment, and had rendered great services to the nation and the king.
(2) From sincere conviction. "No man is so wicked but that sometimes he will dislike some evil, and it will be abominable (1 Chronicles 21:6) to him" (Guild).
(3) On reasonable grounds. It can neither increase the number of the people (which is with God) nor the power and honour of the king (already supreme, 1 Chronicles 21:3), and it will be "a cause of trespass." "Why doth my lord," etc.? "There are many who can give good counsel to others, for the avoiding of some sins, who in grosset trespasses have not grace to take good counsel themselves" (Matthew 7:3).
(4) In a right spirit; devout, loyal, humble, and courteous. There is nothing to indicate that Joab was actuated by sinister motives; and the event justified the wisdom of his counsel.
3. Impatiently received, and imperfectly considered; it may be because of:
(1) Distrust of the person from whom it comes. "Let none look who gives the counsel, but what it is; and, if good, not to reject it for him who gives the same."
(2) A determination to have one's own way; and the wish to show independence of and superiority to other persons.
(3) Dislike to the nature of the advice itself, and indisposition to abandon a course on which the heart is set.
4. Resolutely rejected and wholly overborne. "The word of the king prevailed," etc. His persistency in his purpose, after the remonstrance,
(1) increases his responsibility,
(2) aggravates his guilt
(3) consummates his transgression. "And Joab and the captains went out from the presence of the king," reluctantly to fulfil their commission; and it was only when it was well nigh accomplished (1 Chronicles 27:24) that he became aware of his sin and folly. "Men seldom accomplish to good purpose those services in which they reluctantly engage; and God does not generally allow those whom he loves the satisfaction which they sinfully covet" (Scott). - D.
Daniel 4:30), the same night" David's heart smote him; and he said unto Jehovah, I have sinned," etc.; "and David arose in the morning," etc. (ver. 11). What the remonstrance of Joab failed to effect was wrought by the operation of his own conscience. "It was well for him that his own ways reproved him, and that conscience sounded the first trumpet of alarm. This is characteristic of the regenerate. Men who have no light of grace, no tenderness of conscience, must have their sin recalled to them by the circumstances which at once reveal its enormity and visit it with punishment; but the regenerate have an inward monitor that waits not for these consequences to rouse its energy, but lights up the candle of the Lord within them, and will not let them rest after they have done amiss till they have felt compunction and made confession" (J. Leifchild). Conscience is of a threefold nature - a law, a judgment, a sentiment (1 Samuel 22:20-22). Observe, with respect to it -
I. THE CAUSES OF ITS CONTINUING LONG ASLEEP. These are summed up in "the deceitfulness of sin" (2 Samuel 12:5, 6). More especially:
1. The persistency of the influence under which sin is at first indulged; viz. the pleasing illusion (arising from partial views, strong passions, and self-will) that it is different from what it really is, and the agent better than he really is; which (even when the true standard of right is recognized) perverts the.moral judgment and deadens the moral emotion. "A concrete fact is presented in a partial aspect; conscience pronounces its judgment according to the representation made to it; this representation, or rather misrepresentation, is made, directly or indirectly by the influence of the rebellious will, the true seat of all moral evil" (McCosh). Hence evil is often deemed good, and self-glory the glory of God.
2. The assumption (arising from self-confidence) that what has been resolved upon is justifiable and right; and indisposition to review the grounds of the determination or to examine one's self so that a too favourable estimate of his character may be corrected.
3. The absorption of the mind in the pursuit of the object sought and in other occupations, preventing due consideration of the state of the heart. Alas! how many on this account "regard iniquity in their heart" with an easy conscience!
"Great crimes alarm the conscience; but she sleeps
II. THE MEANS BY WHICH IT IS SUDDENLY AROUSED. In some cases the publication of the offence, the reprobation of society, the threatening of punishment; in others, serious consideration, deliberate reflection, deeper self-inspection (1 Samuel 24:5; Psalm 4:4), induced by:
1. The feeling of disappointment and dissatisfaction which commonly attends the attainment of an earthly end, or the accomplishment of a selfish purpose. David has 'the number of the people before him; yet, after all, he cannot "delight in this thing" (ver. 3). "All is vanity." Where shall the heart find rest (Psalm 116:17; Psalm 73:25)?
2. The occurrence of circumstances naturally adapted to fix attention on a particular subject and excite inquiry concerning the motives by which one is actuated: a pause in "life's fitful fever;" the necessity of contemplating - what next? and next? a sleepless night (Esther 6:1); "sleep that bringeth oft tidings of future hap" (Dante) - "a dream, a vision of the night" (Job 33:15). "David had made spiritual progress since the time when it required the parable of Nathan, and the prophetic announcement, 'Thou art the man,' to awaken him from his spiritual slumber. At this period of his life he examined himself and Weighed his own actions in private, especially at night time; and no sooner was the census of the men of war reported to him than, instead of being elated with self-confidence and puffed up with vain glory, 'his heart smote him,'" etc. (Wordsworth). "Night and sleep bring us times of revision or moral reflection, such as greatly promote the best uses of existence. Whatever wrong has been committed stalks into the mind with an appalling tread. All those highest thoughts and most piercing truths that most deeply concern the great problem of life will often come nigh to thoughtful men in the dusk of their evenings, and their hours of retirement to rest. The night is the judgment bar of the day. About all the reflection there is in the world is due, if not directly to the night, to the habit prepared and fashioned by it. Great thoughts and wonderfully distinct crowd in, stirring great convictions - all the more welcome to a good man; to the bad, how terrible! 'Thou hast visited me in the night,' says David; 'thou hast tried me;' and again, 'My reins instruct me in the night season.' What lessons of wisdom have every man's reins given him in the depths of the night! - things how high, how close to other worlds! reproofs how piercing in authority, how nearly Divine!" (Bushnell, 'Moral Uses of Dark Things').
3. The operation of Divine grace (in connection with a man's own thoughts), which visits the upright in heart, dispels every illusion, and strengthens every holy and God-ward aspiration. Did the Lord in judgment move David to number Israel? His judgment was founded on love, and his goodness led him to repentance.
III. THE EFFECT OF ITS RENEWED ACTIVITY. "And David said unto Jehovah, I have sinned greatly in that I have done," etc.
1. A right knowledge of himself and a correct judgment of his conduct.
2. A painful sense of his guilt and folly. In the truly penitent:
3. A humble confession before the Lord (1 Samuel 7:6); and:
4. Fervent prayer for forgiveness (2 Samuel 12:13).
Of the way of forgiveness and its own pacification, indeed, conscience is unable to declare anything; the knowledge thereof is afforded by the Word of God alone (ver. 18). Nevertheless, its awakening tests and manifests the character, and results in peace and righteousness, or in increased "hardness of heart," confirmed rebellion, remorse, and despair. The hour of its awakening comes to all; but it may come too late, when there is found "no place for repentance" (ver. 16). - D.
1 Samuel 22:5); and he must have been now far advanced in life. He was "David's seer," or spiritual counsellor; a true prophet of God (1 Samuel 2:27; 1 Samuel 3:19; 2 Samuel 7:3); assisted in the arrangements for the temple service (1 Chronicles 9:22), and (like Samuel and Nathan) wrote a (theocratic) history of his time (1 Chronicles 29:29). "The most celebrated representatives of special prophecy in David's period were Nathan the prophet and Gad the seer. As Nathan connected Messianic prophecy forever with the house of David, so Gad was instrumental in moulding the history of salvation even till the period of the New Testament, since, by directing David to build an altar on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, he laid the foundation of the temple upon Mount Moriah, in which Israel, by prayer and sacrifice, honoured his God for more than a thousand years" (Delitzsch). He was fully acquainted with the king's purpose, the remonstrance of Joab, the completion of the census; and may possibly already, from his intimacy with David, have observed misgivings in him concerning the measure, and surmised his present state of mind. "He said nothing to him about his sin, but spoke only of correction for it; which confirms it that David was made sensible of his sin before he came to him" (Gill). Notice:
1. His Divine mission. "The word of Jehovah came unto the prophet," etc.
(1) It came to him directly, by inward intuition, when "in a state most nearly related to communion with God in prayer" (Oehler).
(2) With the irresistible assurance of its Divine origin. "The prophets themselves had the clearest and most profound consciousness that they did not utter their own thoughts, but those revealed to them by God" (Riehm).
(3) With a powerful impulse to give it utterance, in "fulfilment of a definite duty laid upon him by God."
(4) And it proved whence it came, by its manifest adaptation and actual accomplishment; the Divine wisdom and might with which it was imbued (vers. 15, 25). "The three elements which enter into the true conception of a prophet are revelation, inspiration, and utterance; for the prophet is the inspired medium of truth to other minds. Revelation, the inner disclosure of the Divine thought and will to the human soul, is an essential element of genuine prophecy. But this revelation cannot become realized, cannot become a real disclosure of thought and purpose to the individual as a preparation for prophecy, without inspiration. The soul of the prophet must be ethically quickened and elevated in order that the word of Jehovah may reach the people through him. Nor can the message remain concealed in the prophet's own soul; for it is a message, a Divine commission, to communicate a revealed truth to those for whom it is divinely intended" (Ladd, 'The Doctrine of Sacred Scripture,' 1:124).
2. His prophetic message. More than what is recorded may have been spoken in his two interviews with the king; but his words contain:
(1) An assertion of the sole sovereignty of Jehovah, which had been for a season practically ignored. "Thus saith Jehovah," etc. (ver. 12). The office of a prophet was that of "watchman to the theocracy" (Jeremiah 6:27); he had to observe and denounce every departure from its principles on the part of the king or people, and give warning of coming danger.
(2) An announcement of the approach of judgment. "I lay before thee three things," etc. Already, perchance, the king had a presentiment thereof; but now it was rendered plain and certain. Yet "mercy is mixed with judgment; the Lord is angry, yet shows great condescension and goodness." "His mercies are great" (ver. 14).
(3) An appointment of the means of deliverance. "Go up, rear an altar unto Jehovah," etc. (ver. 18).
(4) An injunction of those duties or conditions, in the fulfilment of which the favour of God would be enjoyed - submission, trust, and unreserved self-devotion.
3. His faithful obedience. "And Gad came to David," etc., with:
(1) Simplicity; uttering the word of God, just as it was revealed to him, adding nothing, and withholding nothing.
(3) Earnestness. "Now advise," etc.
(4) Diligence and perseverance.
4. His salutary influence (in accordance with the purpose of his mission), not only in the removal of the pestilence, but also in
(1) checking the spirit of presumption and of rebellion against Jehovah,
(2) pacifying a troubled conscience,
(3) restoring both king and people to their allegiance,
(4) promoting the interests of the kingdom of God. - D.
1 Chronicles 21:1 the instigator is said to be Satan, or "an adversary;" and it is possible to translate hero ('Speaker's Commentary') "one moved David." Still, the translation in our English versions (both Authorized and Revised) is more natural. The statement reminds us of Numbers 22:20, 22, and is probably susceptible of a similar explanation. God gives permission to men who indulge sinful desires to gratify their desires. He says "Go" when they strongly desire to do so, and thus punishes them by allowing them to sin, and then inflicting the penalty due to such sin. Moreover, the sacred writers speak more freely than we are accustomed to do of the agency of God in connection with the sins of men (see 2 Samuel 12:11; 2 Samuel 16:10; Exodus 7:3; 1 Samuel 26:19; 1 Kings 22:20-23; Ezekiel 14:9, 10; Mark 4:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:11, 12). Our Lord teaches us to pray, "Lead us not into temptation," which implies that God may thus lead men. However, if David knew that in some sense God had bidden him number the people, he none the less felt that the sin of the proceeding was great, and that it was his own.
I. DAVID'S SIN. In what did it consist? As the narrative does not explain, and no law or statement of the Scriptures can be adduced in explanation, it is impossible to answer the question satisfactorily. That there was sin in the numbering of the people at this time, the strong remonstrance of the by-no-means-over-scrupulous or pious Joab (ver. 3) makes manifest. It may have been done in a spirit of pride and vain glory, that the king might delight himself in the contemplation of the greatness of his armed forces. For it should be noted that only those that "drew the sword" (ver. 9) were. counted. The kings of Israel were not, like other monarchs, to trust in the multitude of their armed men, but in their God, who could save or give victory by many or by few (1 Samuel 14:6; 2 Chronicles 14:11). Possibly David may have had ulterior designs that were opposed to the will of God. He may have proposed to himself to reduce the people, as into more complete unity, so into more slavish subjection to the throne (comp. 1 Samuel 8:11-18); or he may have had designs of unjust aggression on other peoples. Similar sins are committed:
1. When men reckon up their achievements or possessions, or the number of their servants and retainers, in a spirit of pride, self-satisfaction, or false confidence (Daniel 4:30).
2. When they sum up their wealth, not to consider how they may best employ it for the good of men and the glory of God, but to frame schemes of sinful indulgence (Luke 12:19).
3. When the calculation of numbers or resources is made in order to determine the safety or otherwise of perpetrating or continuing some injustice to others. Rulers increasing and reckoning their hosts, etc., with a view to unjust wars, or the suppression of the liberties, or other violation of the rights, of their subjects.
II. DAVID'S REPENTANCE. It was long in coming - so long as to excite our amazement. It included:
1. Conviction. "His heart smote him." His conscience accused him. He saw the greatness of his sin and folly. Sin is always folly, though folly is not always sin (see on 2 Samuel 13:13).
2. Humble confession made to God.
3. Earnest prayer for pardon.
III. HIS PUNISHMENT. The reply to his prayer was not such as he may have hoped. The Prophet Gad was sent to him, not to assure him of pardon, but to offer him a choice of punishments (vers. 12, 13). He chose pestilence, as being more immediately from "the hand of the Lord," whose "mercies are great." Accordingly, a terrible plague fell on the people, destroying seventy thousand men in less, apparently, than one day. For although three days had been named as the duration of the pestilence, the time was evidently shortened, and the plague ceased as it threatened to destroy Jerusalem (ver. 16). To that extent the prayers of David (vers. 10, 17), and the sacrifices which he hastened to offer by direction of the prophet, prevailed. The king had sinned; the punishment fell on the people. David felt and pleaded the incongruity (ver. 17). What can we say respecting it?
1. It is according to a universal law of Divine procedure. The difficulty meets us everywhere. Subjects suffer on account of the sins, and even the mistakes, of their rulers; children, of their parents; and, more widely, the innocent, because of the sins and follies of others. It is useless to argue against facts.
2. Events which are judgments to the guilty are simple trials to the innocent, and may be unspeakable blessings. When the godly are struck down with others in a time of general calamity they exchange earth for heaven.
"The sword, the pestilence, or fire,
3. In this case the people suffered for sins of their own. It was because "the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel" for their sins (ver. 1), that David's sin was permitted and its punishment inflicted. Many other cases would admit of a similar explanation.
4. Although the calamity which fell on the nation was great, a greater would have been the death of its sovereign by the plague.
5. David suffered severely in the destruction of so many of his subjects. If his sin was that of pride in the number whom he ruled and could lead to war, the punishment corresponded to the sin. He was made to feel how soon God could deprive him of that in which he boasted.
6. When all has been thought and said that is possible, it is for us
(1) to recognize that God's ways are necessarily beyond our comprehension - we are soon out of our depth as we contemplate them;
(2) to cherish undoubting confidence in his wisdom, righteousness, and love in all his proceedings, whether they are discernible by us or not. Such confidence is required and justified by what we do distinctly know of him; and it is the only way to settled peace in a world so full of misery and mystery.
7. Let us carefully avoid sin, not only because it is evil in itself and will bring pain and sorrow to ourselves, but because others will inevitably be involved in the consequences of our conduct. Many children are sufferers for life through the wickedness of their parents. - G.W.
I. THE VOCATION OF THE PREACHER of the gospel.
1. Every true preacher is sent forth by God.
2. He is put in trust with the Word of God, and is sent to proclaim it to others, as his messenger and ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20); not to teach his own speculations.
3. The purpose of the proclamation is their spiritual welfare - their instruction, edification, salvation. "They watch on behalf of your souls" (Hebrews 13:17). But, too often, The aim of all
Is how to shine: e'en they whose office is
4. The fulfilment of his calling demands the highest qualities - wisdom, sincerity, sympathy, disinterestedness, self-denial, fidelity, courage, zeal, assiduity.
6. He must return to him who sent him, and give account, not only of his own conduct, but also of the manner in which they have treated him and his message (Ezekiel 33:30-33), and the effect produced in their lives. His return takes place in private communion with God on earth, and at "the end of his life" (Hebrews 13:7). "What answer," etc.?
II. THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE HEARER of the Word.
1. He receives through the preacher a message from God of unspeakable importance; not, indeed, an announcement of judgment, but a revelation of mercy and of his will concerning him; repentance, faith, and obedience; "all the words of this life" (Acts 5:20).
2. He has the power of considering and understanding it, and of accepting or rejecting it.
3. He is under the strongest obligation to accept and not reject it.
4. He cannot avoid doing the one or the other; indifference, inattention, or procrastination being itself an "answer" little short of positive rejection.
5. Whatever may be his treatment thereof, it is fully known to God.
6. According to the manner in which he treats the message of God, is he justly treated by God, both here and hereafter. "The word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day" (John 12:48). "Now therefore advise thyself." "Consider" (1 Samuel 12:24). "Take heed. therefore how ye hear" (Luke 8:1-18).
III. THE MUTUAL DEPENDENCE OF PREACHER AND HEARER.
1. On the preacher, his character, adaptation, diligence (as well as on himself), depend the hearer's acceptance of the message and his spiritual benefit.
2. On the hearer, his attention, acceptance, obedience (as well as himself), depend the preacher's efficiency, success, and present joy. "That they may do this [watch, etc.] with joy, and not with grief; for this were unprofitable for you" (Hebrews 13:17).
3. The relation in which they stand to each other will fully appear in the light of the great day; when the salvation of the hearer will be clearly seen to have been connected with the faithful labours of the preacher (Daniel 12:3), and the reward of the preacher will be proportioned to his success (and not merely to his fidelity). "For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing?" etc. (1 Thessalonians 2:19, 20; 1 John 2:28).
4. For his own benefit, therefore (as well as that of the hearer), the preacher should seek that the hearer may be believing, obedient, and fruitful in good works (1 Thessalonians 3:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13).
5. For his own benefit, also, the hearer should seek that the preacher may be faithful and successful.
6. Each should pray for the blessing of God upon the other, so that the proper end of preaching and hearing may be accomplished. - D.
I. GOD'S MESSENGERS. "Him that sent me."
1. True ministers of Christ are God's messengers. Their office is not a human invention. They are not mere lecturers, who may choose their own themes and aims; not mere philosophers, free to speculate at will and give the people the result of their speculations; still less mere performers, whose business is to amuse. They are sent of God, by the operations of his Spirit, the guidance of his providence, and the appointment of his Church; and have a definite message from him to their hearers, viz. the gospel (in the wider sense) of Jesus Christ - its revelations, precepts, promises, and threatenings. In delivering this message, they have a definite end to seek - the salvation of their hearers. He who is not convinced that he is God sent - "inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost to take upon him this office and ministration" (Prayer book) - ought not to assume it.
2. They should cherish a due sense of their position. Which will keep alive:
(1) The feeling of responsibility to God. "As they that must give account" (Hebrews 13:17).
(2) Humility. The consciousness of a Divine mission might tempt them to pride and arrogance, but the consciousness of unworthiness and unfitness for so sacred a work will keep them humble. "Who is sufficient for these things?" (2 Corinthians 2:16).
(3) Care as to what they teach. That it may be the very message of God. "Preach the preaching that I bid thee" (Jonah 3:2).
(4) Care as to the spirit and aim of their teaching. Not to exalt or enrich themselves, or merely please men, but to glorify God and promote the salvation of their hearers (John 7:18; Galatians 1:10; Colossians 1:28).
(5) Faith and hope. That he whose messengers they are will guide and support them, give success to their endeavours, and amply reward them.
3. Hearers should recognize the position of their ministers. Such recognition will:
(1) Regulate their expectations from them. They will not expect them to flatter, or merely entertain, or to suppress unwelcome truths. They will desire them to be faithful to their convictions as to the message God would have them deliver.
(2) Induce them to give earnest heed to their instructions and admonitions. Their attitude will be that of Cornelius and his friends (Acts 10:33): "Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God;" and, when the words addressed to them are perceived to be Divine truth, they will receive them "not as the word of men, but as the Word of God" (1 Thessalonians 2:13), with faith and obedience. (For the opposite spirit and practice, see Ezekiel 33:31, 32.)
II. THE ALTERNATIVES THEY PRESENT. Happily they have not, like Gad, to offer a choice of fearful calamities, but of:
1. On the one hand, eternal life; commencing now in the enjoyment of pardon and peace, holiness and hope; and perfected in heaven. This to be secured by faith in the Son of God as Saviour and Lord, with corresponding love and obedience.
2. And, on the other, eternal punishment; "indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish" (Romans 2:8, 9); to be assuredly secured by rejection of Christ, and of God in him. These solemn alternatives must not, cannot, be kept cut of view by a faithful messenger of God; and the thought of them will give earnestness to his ministrations, and to the treatment of them by his hearers (comp. Deuteronomy 30:15-19).
III. THE ANSWER FOR WHICH THEY PRESS. Christian ministers should endeavour as far as possible privately to urge individuals to consider what answer they will give to the Divine message, what choice they will make between the alternatives presented to them. This cannot be always done; but in their public addresses they ought to be urgent in pressing their hearers to definite consideration and decision. They should show them:
1. That an answer has to be given, and that to God, who searches the heart. That, in fact, they are ever giving a reply; ever choosing the evil, if not the good.
2. That their answer should be the result of careful consideration. "Advise, and see;" consider and determine. A great point is gained when men are induced to consider the claims of God and their souls.
3. That such consideration should be prompt. It is both sinful and perilous to delay. To put off attention to God's message is insulting to him, and may end in his deciding suddenly and unexpectedly for us which of the two alternatives shall be ours.
4. That they are themselves intensely concerned that the answer given should be that which is alone wise and good - the hearty acceptance of Christ and salvation. "As though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God" (2 Corinthians 5:20). - G.W.
2 Samuel 12:10-12), so now, the (temporal) penalties of sin must follow. Throughout he exhibited a spirit the exact reverse of that in which he had numbered. the people. Consider -
I. THE CHASTISEMENT OF SIN which was laid before him. I. It was consequent upon his sin, and adapted to its correction. A vain glorious pride and warlike policy result (in the providence of God, sometimes by means which can be clearly seen) in the destruction of human life; not only directly by war (Matthew 26:52), but also by famine (through lack of proper cultivation of the soil, wasting consumption of its produce, etc.) and by pestilence (to which both contribute); and are rebuked and chastised thereby (Revelation 6:4-8).
2. It was a necessity, from which there was no escape. He and his people must suffer, according to the fixed and just method of the Divine procedure, for the vindication of the honour of God and the promotion of their own welfare. Herein no choice is left.
3. But it was also optional, within certain limits (Jeremiah 34:17). "Every example, public or private, of a sin brought face to face with its suffering, presents an aspect of choice as well as of compulsion. The mere question of confession or denial, with the consequences of either, is such an alternative in the case of individual wrong doing. The adoption of this expedient rather than that, in the way of avoidance or mitigation of consequences, is an alternative" (C.J. Vaughan). Why was such a choice submitted to him? To test his character; to deepen his sense of sin, by the consideration of its terrible effects; to induce the open acknowledgment of his guilt; to perfect his submission; "to give him some encouragement under the correction, letting him know that God did not cast him cut of com-reunion with himself, but that still his secret was with him; and in afflicting him he considered his frame, and what he could best bear" (Matthew Henry).
4. And it caused him great distress; all the greater because he was required, not merely to submit passively to chastisement, but to choose the form thereof, and thus make it, in some sense, his own. "All chastening seemeth for the present to be not joyous, but grievous," etc. (Hebrews 12:11).
II. THE SPIRIT OF SUBMISSION which he displayed. "Is it a choice made? or, is it a choice referred back to the offerer? Is it, 'I choose pestilence'? or is it, 'Let God choose'? Whatever the application, the principle stands steadfast - In everything let me be in God's hand; whether for the choice of my punishment, or for the infliction of it, he shall be my Judge; for his mercies are great - greater than man's; the more free his choice, the more direct his dealing, the better is it for the man, the better is it for the nation that must suffer." "And David chose for himself the mortality [death]" (LXX.); "that affliction which is common to kings and to their subjects, and in which the fear was equal on all sides" (Josephus). Of famine and war, with their untold miseries, he had had experience, not of pestilence. By the former he would become dependent on men (for the sustaining or the sparing of life); by the latter, more directly on God; and whilst "the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel," his "anger endureth but a moment" (Psalm 30:5), and "his mercies are great." The spirit evinced is one of:
1. Self-abasement, before the majesty of the supreme King and Judge.
2. Self-abnegation; with noble disinterestedness, setting aside all care for his personal safety, and enduring, in common with the meanest of his subjects, the just chastisement of Heaven. His position might secure him against suffering and death by famine and "the sword of his enemies;" not by "the sword of the Lord" (1 Chronicles 21:12) -
"The pestilence that walketh in darkness,
"And in his will is our tranquillity:
4. Confidence in the abounding mercy of God. For he is not like man, ignorant, inconsiderate, unjust, wilful, selfish, cruel, and malicious; but knows all things (the secrets of the heart, the force of temptation, the sincerity of penitence, the reality of love), is considerate (of human infirmities, Isaiah 57:16), righteous, "merciful, and gracious," etc. (Exodus 34:6), very pitiful (Psalm 103:13, 14), mitigates affliction (Isaiah 27:8), mingles with it many consolations, and "repents him of the evil" (Jonah 4:4; 1 Samuel 15:29; ver. 16). Such trust is the spring of true submission, and it is fully justified by the event.
5. Cooperation with the merciful and holy purposes of God in relation to the moral welfare of those whom he afflicts. The selfishness of men in famine and their cruelty in war tend to evoke rebellion, wrath, and retaliation; the recognition of "the mighty hand of God" (James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6) tends to produce lowly obedience, tenderness, and kindness.
6. Concern for the welfare of the nation, which would suffer less by the last than by the first two of the calamities; and:
7. Zeal for the interests of religion and the glory of God. "Let thy Name be magnified forever" (ch. 7:26). "When the apostle said to the Hebrews that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, does it not contradict the decision of David? By no means. The apostle meant to speak of those who fall without repentance into the hands of God for punishment; but, in a penitent disposition, nothing is so sweet as to fall into the loving and most gracious hands of the living God" (Du Bose). - D.
2 Samuel 12:31; 1 Chronicles 20:3), how fearfully cruel were conquerors in war in those days, what an awful scourge to his subjects would be the ravages of a victorious invading army. He also doubtless dreaded the disgrace and permanent damage to the kingdom which would be thus wrought, and the dishonour, in the view of the heathen, which would be cast on the Name of Jehovah its God (see Joshua 7:8, 9). Taking the words wider application, they express what will be the natural preference of good men.
I. GROUNDS OF THE PREFERENCE HERE EXPRESSED.
1. The great mercy of God and the unmercifulness, or limited mercy, of men.
2. The righteousness of God and the unrighteousness of men. We can never be sure that in a particular case righteousness will guide human proceedings; we know that the Divine are always thus guided. Many men are utterly regardless of what is right where their own interests, inclinations, or passions are concerned; and even the best men are liable to fail in respect to pure and constant regard for rectitude.
3. The knowledge and wisdom of God, and the ignorance and folly of men. Much of the misconduct and untrustworthiness of men springs from ignorance and folly. When they mean well, they often do ill through not knowing the actual state of the affairs with which they are called to deal, not taking the trouble, perhaps, to ascertain it; or, when they know it, not understanding how to treat it. But the Divine knowledge and wisdom are perfect.
4. The power of God and the weakness of men. Men are often incapable of doing the good they know, and even strongly desire to do; and their weakness often causes them to do mischief while endeavouring to do good. God is Almighty to effect what his wisdom, mercy, and rectitude prompt.
5. The relation of God to good men. Their Father, their covenant God. The certainty that he will honour those that honour him, and turn all things, including his own chastisement of them, to their good, and ultimately bring them to eternal glory. The preference will be strong in proportion to the actual contrast between the men with whom we have to do and God. There are some men who are so God like that we should not be averse to falling into their hands in a considerable variety of circumstances. It would be to a limited extent like falling into the hands of God.
II. CASES IN WHICH THE PREFERENCE WOULD BE EXERCISED.
1. The endurance of suffering. As in the text. It is better to suffer from disease than from human violence. The suffering will be easier to bear, more likely to profit, less likely to excite resentment and other evil passions. The infliction will be more tempered with mercy, and promote in a greater degree the ends of mercy.
2. Judgment of character and actions. To be judged by God is preferable to being judged by men. Men are often fond of passing judgment, but for the most part very incapable. They commonly judge ignorantly, or from prejudice, and therefore unjustly. They are apt to be wrong alike in their favourable and unfavourable opinions of others. When condemned by them, it is well if we can appeal with confidence to the judgment of God, which is always just.
3. Forgiveness. Men forgive reluctantly, in a limited measure, with reserves; and soon grow weary of pardoning the same offender. To pardon "seven times," much more "seventy times seven" (Matthew 18:21, 22), seems to them an impossibility. Indeed, repeated offences, as they appear incompatible with real repentance, may justify hesitation to pardon repeatedly, since the state of the offender's heart cannot be known. But God, who knows the heart, discerns where it is true, notwithstanding frequent falls; and, pitying human weakness, forgives many times a day. And his pardons are full and complete. Add that forgiveness from men does not ensure forgiveness from God, and that having the latter we can, if need be, dispense with the former. There is then abundant reason why, in the matter of pardon, we should prefer to have to do with God rather than men.
4. Spiritual guidance and help. God has appointed that men should instruct and aid their fellow men in matters of religion and morals. But those who offer themselves as spiritual guides are fallible, and they differ widely on important points. It is then encouraging and assuring that Divine guidance and help are available. By the devout study of God's holy Word, and earnest prayer for the Holy Spirit, whose aid is promised to those who seek it (Luke 11:13), all may obtain such heavenly wisdom and strength as shall ensure them against serious error and failure. And after listening to the conflicting statements of human teachers, and their denunciation of those who decline their counsel, a religious inquirer may in many instances wisely turn from them to God, saying, "Let me fall into the hand of the Lord rather than of man." In conclusion:
1. It is a great comfort to sincere Christians to know that they are ever in the hand of the Lord. When they seem to be most left to the will of arbitrary, unjust, and cruel men, God is over all, controlling, overruling, sanctifying, compelling their most malignant foes to promote their real and lasting good. He will rectify and compensate for all the injustice and injury which he permits men to inflict upon them.
2. Impenitent sinners might well prefer to fall into the hands of men rather than of God. The limited knowledge and power of men, as well as their feeble hatred of sin, would be in their favour; at the worst, they can only "kill the body." But God abhors sin with a perfect hatred, knows fully the guilt of each sinner, and "hath power to cast into hell" (Luke 12:4, 5). "Who knoweth the power of thine anger?" (Psalm 90:11). - G.W.
1. Its sudden appearance.
2. Its rapid diffusion; "from the morning to the [a] time appointed [the time of assembly]." "It burst upon the people with supernatural strength and violence, that it might be seen at once to be a direct judgment from God" (Keil).
3. Its extensive presence; "from Dan to Beersheba."
4. Its dreadful destructiveness; "seventy thousand men" (fourteen in the thousand of the whole population). "Such a pestilence and loss of life as this [at Athens, ] was nowhere remembered to have happened" (Thucydides, 2:47). At Rome (A.D. 80) ten thousand perished daily; in England (1348) more than half the population; in London (1603) over thirty thousand; and again (August 1665) eight thousand persons weekly. These are only a few of the many recorded instances of the awful "visitation of God."
II. ITS MERCIFUL ARREST. "And the angel" (1 Samuel 29:9; 2 Samuel 14:17; 2 Samuel 19:27; Psalm 104:4; Psalm 34:7; Psalm 35:5; Psalm 91:11), who had been "destroying through all the territories of Israel" (1 Chronicles 21:12), "stretched out his hand" (having a drawn sword therein, 1 Chronicles 21:6) "upon Jerusalem to destroy it," etc. The pestilence approached the city, threatening its destruction, and filling all hearts with terror (1 Chronicles 21:16, 20). We can conceive that it might have spread until the whole human race perished. But its destructive force was limited (as it always is):
1. When its purpose was accomplished and the law of retribution satisfied. "It is enough."
2. By the same Divine power as sent it. "Stay now thine hand." God has placed in the human constitution a self-healing power. "Our natures are the physicians of our diseases" (Hippocrates). He provides special remedies for special diseases; alleviates and often cures them in unexpected, extraordinary, and mysterious ways, The Christian religion is a remedial system by which mortality itself is "swallowed up of life." "I am Jehovah thy Physician" (Exodus 15:26; Matthew 8:16; John 3:14, 15; Revelation 22:2).
3. With tender pity toward the afflicted, involving a change of his procedure. "And Jehovah repented him of the evil" (1 Samuel 15:24-31).
4. In connection with the moral condition of men and their altered relation to himself - humiliation (ver. 10), trust (ver. 14), and prayer (ver. 17). "Then David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell upon their faces" (1 Chronicles 21:16), their spirit being doubtless shared in by the people, whose representatives they were. God deals with men according to the state of their hearts (ver. 1), and commences doing so even before it is fully expressed in outward actions. Psalm 91. ("by David," LXX.), 'Under the shadow of the Almighty.' "Because he hath set his love upon me. Therefore will I deliver him," etc. (Psalm 91:14.) "Some years ago an eminent physician in St. Petersburg recommended this psalm as the best preservative against cholera" (Perowne).
III. ITS MORAL USES, with respect to those who suffer from it or to mankind generally in.
1. Producing efficient impressions of the majesty of God; his sovereignty, justice, and might.
2. Proving the real condition of the hearts of men; whether they will "keep his commandments or no" (Deuteronomy 8:3).
3. Inducing, in those who are rightly disposed, proper feelings of penitence, humility, dependence, submission; and correcting vanity, pride, and self-win.
4. Inciting a purer and loftier trust in God, and more complete devotion and self-sacrifice. "Plagues to us are not funerals of terror, but exercises of holiness. We understand their meaning. They are messages sent to us by God, to explore our hearts, to sound the depth of our love to him, and to fathom our faith in God" (Cyprian, 'De Mortalitate').
5. Presenting a terrible picture of the evil of sin, by exhibiting, not only the natural consequences thereof, but also its degrading effect on the ignorant and unbelieving, who pass rapidly from the extreme of fear to the opposite extreme of recklessness, licentiousness, and despair (1 Corinthians 15:32). "So they resolved to take their enjoyment quickly, and with a sole view to gratification; regarding their lives and their riches alike as things of a day. And fear of gods or law of men there was none to stop them" (Thucydides).
6. Teaching the solidarity of the race; and, more especially, constraining "the higher and more privileged ranks of mankind to own their oneness of life with the humbler and more degraded or even savage classes" (Bushnell).
7. Promoting, in still other ways, the advancement of mankind in knowledge, virtue, and piety; for it is through the discipline of suffering that the race, like the individual, "learns obedience." "The Lord's dealing herein is not penal, but paternal and medicinal" (Guild). - D.
2 Samuel 5:2). His numbering the people in a spirit of self-exaltation was the occasion (not the cause, ver. 1) of the pestilence; his intercession for them in a spirit of self-devotion is now the means in connection with which the calamity is limited in its duration (from three days to nine hours) and wholly removed (ver. 25). Already, with an "awful rose of dawn," the agent of destruction goes forth on his mission, and a "great cry" of distress reaches the city (Exodus 12:30). Then the king gathers the elders together (at the tabernacle and before the curtained ark, 2 Samuel 7:2; 2 Samuel 12:20; 2 Samuel 15:25; adjoining the palace in Zion, 2 Samuel 5:7); they are clothed with sackcloth, and overwhelmed with fear and grief (1 Chronicles 21:16; 2 Samuel 12:16; 2 Samuel 15:30); and at length, "about the time of assembly," or evening oblation (Acts 3:1), there appears (beyond the Tyropoean Valley) on Mount Moriah (2 Chronicles 3:1), "by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite" (just outside the city), "the angel of the Lord standing between the earth and the heaven, having a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem;" and they "fell upon their faces" in humiliation before the Lord. "Significantly, it was as the Divine command of mercy sped to arrest the arm of the angel messenger of the judgment, that he became visible to David and his companions in prayer" (Edersheim). "As in 2 Kings 6:17 the source of seeing the heavenly powers was in Elisha, and by his mediation the eyes of his servant were opened, so here the flight of David's mind communicated itself to the elders of his retinue, whom he collected about him; and, after he had repaired to the place where he saw the vision, was revealed even to the sons of Araunah" (Hengstenberg). "And David said unto God," etc. "And Gad came that day to David," etc. (ver. 18; 1 Chronicles 21:18). Here is -
I. A FEARFUL VISION OF JUDGMENT impending over the people. This judgment may be regarded as representing that to which nations are exposed in this world, and individuals both here and hereafter; real, terrible and imminent; the result and reflection of human sin and guilt, which
"Blackens in the cloud,
3. Only a few persons have any adequate impression thereof; whilst they behold "the wrath to come," the rest are blind and unconcerned, immersed in the pleasures and cares of this life (Luke 21:34; Matthew 7:14).
4. They whose eyes are opened are naturally impelled to seek the salvation of themselves and others, and are under the obligation of doing so (Jude 1:22, 23). "Take a censer," etc.; "and he stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stayed" (Numbers 16:46-68; Joel 2:17).
1. Takes the burden of their guilt upon himself; whilst he recognizes his responsibility, openly confesses his transgression in "commanding the people to be numbered" (1 Chronicles 21:17), and honours the justice of God in inflicting punishment; he "forgets their sin is his own," regarding them, "not indeed as free from every kind of blame, but only from the sin which God was punishing by pestilence" (Keil). "Many of those sheep were wolves to David. What had they done? They had done that which was the occasion of David's sin and the cause of their own punishment; but that gracious penitent knew his own sin; he knew not theirs" (Hall).
2. Feels a tender compassion for them in their misery and danger. His language "shows the high opinion he had of them, the great affection he had for them, and his sympathy with them in this time of distress" (Gill).
3. Offers himself freely, and his "father's house" (his life and all his most cherished hopes) to the stroke, that it may be averted from his people. "Hitherto David offered not himself to the plague, because, as Chrysostom conjectureth, he still expected and made account of himself to be taken away in the plague, but now seeing that it was God's will to spare him, he doth voluntarily offer himself" (Wilier).
4. Urges an effectual plea on their behalf; not merely that they are blameless (in comparison with himself), and may be righteously spared, but that they are the chosen flock of the Divine Shepherd, whose mercies are great, whose promises to them are numerous and faithful, and whose glory they are designed to promote in the earth (1 Samuel 12:22; Psalm 74:1; Psalm 95:7). "Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?" (Genesis 18:23); "Yet now if thou wilt forgive their sin," etc. (Exodus 32:32; 1 Kings 18:36; Daniel 9:3); "I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ on behalf of my brethren," etc. (Romans 9:3); "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34); "The good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep" (John 10:11); "He ever liveth to make intercession" (Hebrews 7:27). "In his hands intercessory prayer is the refuge of the guilty, the hope of the penitent, a mysterious chain fastened to the throne of God, the stay and support of a sinking world."
III. A FAVOURABLE ANSWER FROM THE LORD. Although David sees not the interposition of God, by which the hand of the angel is stayed, yet his prayer "availeth much in its working" (James 5:16). "And the angel of the Lord [now transformed from a minister of wrath into a minister of mercy] commanded Gad [who previously announced the message of judgment] to say," etc. (1 Chronicles 21:18); "And Gad came that day to David, and said unto him, Go up, rear an altar," etc.; "And David went up as the Lord commanded" (vers. 18, 19). The answer is propitious; a sign of Divine reconciliation. But why the command to rear an altar, instead of the direct assurance of forgiveness (2 Samuel 12:13)?
1. To show forth to all the people (who confess by their elders and representatives that they have part in the king's transgression) that forgiveness is possible only in connection with sacrifice, wherein justice and mercy are alike exhibited.
2. To call forth their renewed and open obedience and self-devotion.
3. To give there a public sign of the Divine acceptance and removal of the judgment (1 Chronicles 21:26, 27).
4. To establish a new and permanent centre of Divine worship, in fulfilment of previous promises (2 Samuel 7:13); so overruling the evil for good, and turning the curse into a blessing (1 Chronicles 22:1). This was a turning point in the history of the nation; and henceforth the service of the tabernacle began to be superseded by that of the temple.
CONCLUSION. Let it be remembered, that the intercession of Christ (unlike that of David) is the intercession of the Innocent for the guilty; that he is also himself the Altar, "which sanctifieth the gift," and "the Propitiation for our sins;" and that in dependence upon him, as well as after his example and in his spirit, all our prayers and "spiritual sacrifices" must be presented unto God. - D.
1. A Gentile by birth; almost the last relic of the Canaanitish tribe whose fortress was taken nearly thirty years before (2 Samuel 5:6). "He was not slain by David in the siege of Jerusalem, because of the good will he bore to the Hebrews, and a particular benignity and affection which he had to the king himself" (Josephus); with whom, during his exile, he may have become acquainted.
2. A proselyte to the faith of Israel (ver. 23). "There was no other people who were specially called the people of God; but they (the Jews) cannot deny that there have been certain men of other nations, who belonged, not by earthly but heavenly fellowship, to the true Israelites, the citizens of the country that is above" (Augustine).
3. A prosperous owner of property on the hill Moriah (at that time outside the city), where he had his threshing floor, and dwelt with his four sons. His prosperity was due, not merely to his own industry, but chiefly to his friendship with David and his people.
4. A partaker of the sufferings, as well as the privileges, of the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Whilst occupied in threshing wheat (by means of sledges drawn by oxen), it was given him to see the supernatural messenger of wrath (1 Chronicles 21:20); and "his four sons with him, hid themselves" from fear.
5. A loyal subject; respectful, courteous (ver. 20), and grateful for the king's visit to him in his threshing floor (ver. 21). "It was a piece of condescension to be marvelled at; and the language expresses a desire to know his pleasure concerning him, supposing it must be something very urgent and important" (Gill).
6. A generous donor and public-spirited man (ver. 22). "All does Araunah, O king, give to the king" (ver. 23). "His liberality and princely munificence is registered to all after ages in the Holy Scripture; what is done by a pious heart to the honour and worship of God shall never want its own reward and blessed remembrance; as was the breaking of the box of precious ointment" (Guild).
7. A devout worshipper of God. "Jehovah thy God accept thee."
8. A ready helper toward the building of the altar and temple of God.
9. A pattern to Christians.
10. A pro-intimation of the willing homage of the Gentile world to Christ (2 Samuel 22:50); an earnest or firstfruits of the harvest (Psalm 72:10, 11). "In every place incense shall be offered," etc. (Malachi 1:11). - D.
I. THE BLESSING DESIRED. Araunah referred to the favourable reception by God of David's offerings. In the widest sense, acceptance with God includes:
1. Acceptance of ourselves. Our reception by God into his friendship and favour. Unless the man is accepted, his offerings cannot be. God receives nothing from his enemies - a truth which should be very seriously pondered by multitudes of his professed worshippers, who give him outward homage, but withhold from him themselves. Who, then, are accepted by God? Those who come to him according to his appointment, with repentance, faith, self-devotement, confessing sin, trusting to the mercy and entering on the service of God. Under the Christian dispensation, men are accepted through faith in Jesus Christ. When we receive him as Saviour and Lord, God receives us (comp. Romans 5:1, 2).
2. Acceptance of our worship. Which includes devout exercises of mind and heart, study of the Word of God, pious meditation, praises and thanksgivings, prayers. What worship is accepted? Such as is offered in the name of Jesus (John 16:23, 24; Ephesians 3:12; Philippians 2:10, Revised Version). Sincere (Isaiah 29:13; John 4:24), humble (Luke 18:10-14), reverential (Hebrews 12:28), yet trustful and affectionate as children (Romans 8:15). Not that of slaves or mercenaries.
3. Acceptance of our gifts. We give to God when we give for the support of his worship and the spread of his kingdom, and when we give to the poor for his sake (Matthew 25:40). Our gifts are acceptable
(1) when presented with pure hearts, not ostentatiously to gain human applause (Matthew 6:2-4), not with a view to atone for sin and obtain pardon, not to bribe men to unholy compliances;
(2) when they are our own property, not the fruit of dishonesty, oppression, or injustice;
(3) when they are in due proportion to our ability (2 Corinthians 8:12).
4. Acceptance of active service. Labours for the good of others, temporal and spiritual. All honest work springing from and guided by Christian principles.
II. THE DESIRE ITSELF. In this case it was a patriotic desire. It is always pious and benevolent. Pious, as it recognizes the necessity of God's favour and approbation to the well being of men, and implies his willingness to be favourable to them. Benevolent, as it is a desire that others should enjoy the most essential and all comprehensive of blessings, without which other blessings are of small and temporary value. Not health or wealth, not acceptance with men, not long life, not intellectual superiority, not refinement of taste, etc., are of primary importance; and these should not be first in our minds when seeking the welfare whether of ourselves or of others; but the favour of Almighty God, and, as the sure means of securing this, the possession of Christian . faith and holiness. "Wherefore" let us "labour that, whether present or absent" (living or dying), "we," and all in whom we are interested, yea, all mankind, "may be accepted of him" (2 Corinthians 5:9). - G.W.
(1) humbly recognizing the obligations that rested upon him, and animated by a spirit of self-devotion,
(2) he nobly repudiates an offering which would have been, not really his own, but another's; or rendering to God a selfish and mercenary service; "which rebukes and condemns the avaricious disposition of many in this age, who can part with nothing for the maintenance of God's worship or promoting religion or any good work" (Guild). "It is a heartless piety of those base minded Christians that care only to serve God good cheap" (Hall).
(3) He also generously resolves (acting toward the Divine King of Israel in the same spirit as Araunah acted toward himself) to purchase all that was required at "the fullprice," and thus serve God at his own cost, with self-denial and self-sacrifice. "And David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver" (1 Chronicles 21., "the place," the whole hill perhaps, for "six hundred shekels of gold by weight"). The principle applies not only to gifts of money (2 Samuel 8:11); but also to the employment of thought, effort, time, talents, relationships, influence; the renunciation of ease, pleasure, convenience, name, and fame; the endurance of privation, pain, opposition, dishonour, and shame; its highest application is to the "whole burnt offering" of a man himself (heart, soul, will), which virtually includes all other offerings, and without which they are vain. "What a change it would make in the Christian world if Christians of all sorts would put this question seriously to their souls, 'Shall I serve God with that which costs me nothing?'" (Manton, 22:94). Personal sacrifice is:
1. Enjoined by the express commands of God. "None shall appear before me empty" (Exodus 34:20); "Every man as he is able," etc. (Deuteronomy 16:16); "It shall be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no blemish therein. Neither from a stranger's hand," etc. (Leviticus 22:21, 25). Men were required to offer what was valuable, not worthless; what was their own, not another's. Even the poorest were not exempt. Self-denial is also "the law of Christ" (Mark 8:34; Mark 10:21-27).
2. Incited by the supreme claims of God; arising from his greatness and goodness, his ownership of all things (1 Chronicles 29:14), his manifold mercies (ver. 14), above all, the unspeakable Gift of his only Son (Romans 8:32; Romans 12:1).
3. Expressive of a right feeling toward God. Reverence, gratitude, love, self-consecration, holy zeal (John 12:3). "Everything depends on the predominant principle and purpose. If a man's prime feeling be that of self, he will go the easiest and most economic way to work and worship; if a man's prime feeling be that of God, he will rebuke all thoughts of cheapness and facility. In the first ease, he will seek the largest possible results from the least possible expenditure; in the second, the expenditure will be itself the result. Now, it is the end and essence of all religion to turn the mind from self to God; to give it absorbing views of the Divine beauty and glory; to fill it with Divine love and zeal; to make it feel honoured in honouring God, blessed in blessing him; to make it feel that nothing is good enough or great enough for him; and when the mind is thus affected and thus possessed, it will understand and share the spirit of David's resolve" (A.J. Morris, 'The Unselfish Offering').
4. Essential to the true service of God; for this depends not so much upon the form or amount of the offering as upon its relation to the offerer; its being.the genuine expression of the heart (as it professes to be); without which the service is formal, unreal, and insincere. That which costs nothing is worth nothing (Malachi 1:8; Isaiah 1:11; Psalm 51:16, 17).
5. Necessary to the assured acceptance of God. It alone is attended with the sign and sense of his approval (1 Chronicles 21:26).
6. Conducive to the proper honour of God amongst men; in whom it begets a spirit like its own.
7. Embodied in highest perfection in Christ; "who gave himself up for us, an Offering and a Sacrifice to God," etc. (Ephesians 5:2). "A Spanish proverb says, 'Let that which is lost be for God.' The father of a family, making his will and disposing of his goods upon his death bed, ordained concerning a certain cow which had strayed, and had been now for a long time missing, if it were found it should be for his children, if otherwise for God. Whenever men world give to God only the lame and blind, that which costs them nothing, that from which they hope no good, no profit, no pleasure to themselves, what are they saying in their hearts but that which this man said openly, 'Let that which is lost be for God'?" (Trench, 'Proverbs'). - D.
I. REVERENCE FOR GOD. Sense of his majesty and excellence. The feeling that he who is so great and glorious should be served with the best we can present to him, internal and external; and that to come before him without any worthy gift is to insult him (see Malachi 1:7, 8, 14).
II. GRATITUDE TO GOD. For his great and manifold gifts to us, especially that of his Son, with all the unspeakable blessings which come to us with and through him. If duly sensible of what we have received from God, we shall be eager to make him such return, poor though it is, as is possible to us, and shall feel that we can never do enough for him who has clone so much for us.
III. LOVE TO GOD AND MAN. The substance of true religion. Love to God, awakened and kept alive by his love to us and by increasing knowledge of his all-perfect and lovely character, will produce love for his worship, his people, his cause in the world, our fellow men. In helping these by deed and gift, we offer sacrifices to him (Philippians 2:17; Philippians 4:18; Hebrews 13:16), and all who love him will offer such sacrifices. In proportion to the ardour of their love will be the measure of their services; and they will never grow weary of them, since love makes them a delight.
IV. JUSTICE TO OTHERS. The worship of God cannot be maintained, nor his kingdom extended, nor his will as to the poor done, without cost of various kinds, in which it is right that all should do their part according to their capabilities. If some shirk their duty, others may be compelled to do more than fairly belongs to them. The thought of this will move each to take his proper share of gift or labour.
V. THE EXAMPLE OF OTHERS.
1. The liberal expenditure of some on their idols. Heathen. Worldly men. Ourselves, perhaps, before we were converted.
2. The liberality of many Christians. In every circle a few are known who are generous in deed or gift, or both, in the service of God and the poor. Their zeal incites others by the power of sympathy and the feeling that they are themselves under equal obligation to their Saviour and their God.
3. The cost at which multitudes of Christians have had to serve God. In times of persecution their religion has cost many their property, liberty, or lives; and they have borne the cost bravely and gladly (Hebrews 10:34; Acts 6:41; Philippians 2:17; Colossians 2:24). Shame on us if we grudge the much smaller cost of religion to us.
4. Above all, the example of our Lord and Saviour. (2 Corinthians 8:9; Titus 2:14.) Remembrance of the cost to him of our opportunity of serving God acceptably will strengthen us when tempted to make our religion as cheap as possible.
VI. PERCEPTION OF THE WORTHLESSNESS OF A RELIGION THAT COSTS US NOTHING.
1. It is unreal. A mere name and pretence. Real religion begins and is maintained at the cost of much thought, feeling, and prayer. Where it exists it must move the heart to zeal and generosity in the service of God, cannot but manifest itself in works and gifts.
2. It is unacceptable to God. Instead of accepting, he abhors it. It is contrary to his will. The spirit of the old injunction, "They shall not appear before the Lord empty," is plainly of universal application; and the New Testament abounds in precepts enjoining zeal and generosity in the service of God.
3. It is therefore fruitless of good, now and hereafter. It may be correct in creed, fair in profession, interesting in sentiment, beautiful in phrase; but it is useless. It answers no substantial end of a religion. It does not elevate and improve the worshipper. It can hardly secure even the approval of men. It does not avert, but ensure and increase, the judgments of God. Those who practise it will justly have their "portion with the hypocrites" (Matthew 24:51).
VII. ASSURANCE OF RECOMPENSE. God will not let any man be a loser in his service.
1. He gives valuable rewards now to those who expend their energies or substance for him. The practical manifestation of Christian principles, strengthens them. Talents employed are multiplied. "Unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance" (Matthew 25:29). Service opens opportunities and develops capacities for service. Influence for good widens, honourable positions in Christ's Church are reached without ambitious striving for them, the esteem and affection of the good are enjoyed. The pleasure of doing good is experienced, and, withal, the pleasures of a good conscience - the consciousness of Christian principles, affections, and aims, and of the approval of God.
2. Great is their reward in heaven. Perfected character; enlarged and exalted service; the unclouded light of the Divine countenance; the blessings of those whom they have helped to save; the eternal joy and glory of the Lord. In conclusion:
1. This resolution deserves the serious consideration and adoption of: (l) Ministers and other teachers of religion, who are often tempted to do their work with as little trouble to themselves as possible. The help afforded by such books as this may be abused by the indolent.
(2) All who have opportunity to expend money, time, or talents in the service of Christ. Cordially adopted, it will make the numerous calls on Christian zeal and liberality in our day matter of thankfulness rather than of annoyance. It will induce even the poor to render aid according to their means.
2. The subject shows the disadvantages attending endowments of religion. They tend to deprive worshippers of the pleasure and profit of worshipping God with cost to themselves. Where they exist, Christians should compensate themselves for the loss thus inflicted on them by exercising all the greater generosity towards other branches of Divine service, such as missions at home and abroad, charity to the poor, etc. - G.W.
1. An altar was a place of sacrifice (Genesis 4:3, 4; Genesis 8:20; Genesis 22:14); consisting (according to Divine direction, Exodus 20:24, 25) of earth or unhewn stone, and constituting (according to Divine assurance) a point of meeting or reconciliation between God and men; the offerings which it sustained and sanctified (and with which it was identical in purpose) being of divers kinds, symbolic of certain truths, and expressive of various feelings on the part of those who brought them. It was a prime necessity of religious worship in ancient time; the appointed way of access to God; the table at which Divinity and humanity held fellowship with one another.
2. The altar erected by David on the threshing floor of Araunah marks the commencement of a new chapter in the history of the kingdom of God under the old covenant. Heretofore sacrifice was offered in different places (1 Samuel 1:3; 1 Samuel 2:33; 1 Samuel 6:15; 1 Samuel 7:9, 17; 1 Samuel 9:12; 1 Samuel 11:15; 1 Samuel 14:35; 1 Samuel 16:3; 1 Samuel 20:6; 2 Samuel 6:13, 17; 2 Samuel 15:12); and the requirement of the Law (Deuteronomy 12:13, 14) was imperfectly fulfilled, in consequence of the unsettled condition of the nation and the disorganized state of religious worship (1 Kings 3:2). Whilst the ark was at Jerusalem, "the altar of the burnt offering" remained at Gibeon (1 Chronicles 21:29, 30); and although not finally abandoned till some time after (1 Kings 3:4), it henceforth began to be superseded by the new altar, which was divinely appointed and consecrated by fire from heaven (1 Chronicles 21:26), and chosen by Jehovah (Deuteronomy 16:15) as the place of his worship, the central sanctuary for succeeding ages. "Now when King David saw that God had heard his prayer, and had graciously accepted of his sacrifice, he resolved to call that entire place the altar of all the people" (Josephus). "And David said, This is the house of the Lord God," etc. (1 Chronicles 22:1, 2; Genesis 28:17); "And Solomon began to build the house of the Lord at Jerusalem in Mount Moriah, where the Lord appeared unto David," etc. (2 Chronicles 3:1). Psalm 30., inscription: 'A song at the dedication of the house' (see Hengstenberg). "I wilt extol thee, O Lord," etc.
"And as for me - I had said, in my prosperity,
3. The chief interest for us of this altar (as of every other) arises from the fact that it was not merely symbolic of spiritual truth, but also typical of its embodiment in Christ - the Altar (as well as the Offering and the Offerer), the new and only true (Hebrews 7:2), perfect, effectual, central, universal, and enduring Altar and Temple (John 2:21), where God records his name, and where we draw nigh to God, offer spiritual sacrifices, and find acceptance with him. It was "a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ" (Colossians 2:17). "We have an altar [his cross and sacrifice], whereof they have no right to eat who serve the tabernacle" (Hebrews 13:10). Consider, with this reference -
I. THE ERECTION OF THE ALTAR, as (in connection with the offerings, apart from which it cannot be fully contemplated):
1. Rendered necessary by human sin, through the temptation of Satan; estrangement from God through pride and disobedience to his Law; exposure to condemnation and death (Hebrews 9:22).
3. Adapted to the fulfilment of that purpose; by the atonement there made (2 Samuel 21:3; Leviticus 1:4; Isaiah 53:6; John 1:29; 1 John 2:2; 2 Corinthians 5:19; Galatians 3:13); by the exhibition of the duty, sinfulness, and desert of men, and the sovereignty, righteousness, and mercy of God (Romans 3:21-26). "When sinful souls approached the altar of God, where dwelt his holiness, their sinful nature came between them and God, and atonement served the purpose of covering their sins, of cancelling the charges on which they were arraigned" (Kuper).
4. Designed to do away with every other altar and to afford free access to God for all people in all places and ages (Isaiah 56:7; John 4:23; Ephesians 2:18). The language in which the death of Christ is described in the New Testament is derived from the sacrifices of the former dispensation, and can only be properly understood by some acquaintance with them. It is no longer needful or possible to set up an altar (according to a common mode of expression), except in the sense of recognizing, approaching, and making known "the altar of God" which is set up in Christ Jesus (Psalm 43:4; John 14:6). "Let us draw near," etc. (Hebrews 10:22).
II. THE OFFERINGS PRESENTED THERE. "And offered burnt offerings and peace offerings" (1 Samuel 1:3; 2 Samuel 6:17-19). In becoming himself an Offering (Isaiah 53:12) and Propitiation for our sins (complete and incapable of being repeated or rendered more efficacious), Christ displayed a spirit (Hebrews 10:5-7) in which (coming to him with penitence, ver. 10, and faith) we must participate, and thus "offer up spiritual sacrifices," etc. (1 Peter 2:5).
1. The free, entire, and continual surrender (ver. 14) and dedication of ourselves, spirit, soul, and body, to God (Romans 12:1).
3. "The sacrifice of praise" (Hebrews 13:15).
4. Holy obedience (ver. 19), generous gifts (ver. 24), and benevolent activities. "To do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased" (Hebrews 13:16; Philippians 4:18). "The altar is not to stand in its beauty and stateliness a solemn, unapproachable thing, on which we may reverently gaze, but which we may not touch without sacrilege. It is for use; its broad summit is to be laden with oblations and crowded with victims; it stands in the midst of us; it accompanies us wherever we wander, that it may invite our offerings, and be always ready to receive what we should always be ready to give" (Psalm 4:5; Psalm 26:6; Psalm 118:27).
III. THE ACCEPTANCE OF THE OFFERER. "Jehovah thy God accept thee" (ver. 23); "And the plague was stayed from Israel." Christ's offering was well-pleasing to God; and we are accepted in him (Ephesians 5:2; Ephesians 1:6, 7).
2. The presence, favour, and sanctifying power of God are manifested to us (Acts 2:3, 4).
3. Peace with God, and "the communion of the Holy Ghost," are vouchsafed to us.
"Thou didst turn for me my mourning into dancing;
1. "Jesus Christ is the Object of the two Testaments: of the Old, its expectancy; of the New, its model; of both, the centre" (Pascal). As in every part of the country there is a way which leads to the metropolis, so in every part of Scripture there is a way which leads to Christ.
2. The method of human salvation has always been the same in the mind of God; but it has been gradually revealed to the mind of man; and wherever faith has been exercised in God, in so far as he has revealed his saving purposes, it has been accounted for righteousness.
3. "To the cross of Christ all eternity looked forward; to the cross of Christ all eternity will look back. With reference to it all other objects were created and are still preserved; and every event that takes place in heaven, earth, and hell is directed and overruled" (Payson).
Romans 3:25, 26), and that men, while seeking and obtaining forgiveness, might discern more clearly, feel more deeply, and acknowledge more heartily, the righteousness of the sentence which condemned them to death. These remarks apply more especially to the "burnt offerings." The "peace offerings" (thank offerings)were added apparently as an expression of joyful gratitude for the deliverance which was confidently expected through the sacrifice of the burnt offerings. The text reminds us of another sacrifice which was offered ten centuries later near the site of David's altar, and which has rendered all other offerings for sin superfluous and unlawful. It may tend to the better understanding of both to view them together, noting their resemblances and contrasts.
I. THEIR RESEMBLANCES.
1. In their origin. Both were of Divine origin and appointment. They originated in the love and righteousness and wisdom of God - his perception of what "became him" (Hebrews 2:10).
2. In their nature. As making atonement for sin, by which God was "entreated," and the exercise of his forgiving mercy rendered consistent with a due regard for justice.
3. In their significance for men. Displaying the evil of sin and the Divine displeasure against it, and at the same time the loving kindness of God - his readiness to pardon; and thus tending to produce at once abhorrence of sin and penitential grief, and the assured hope of pardon.
4. In their results. Reconciliation between God and sinners; forgiveness of sin and deliverance from its penalties; renewed enjoyment of the favour of God; renewed confidence in and obedience to him; added strength to resist temptation.
II. THE INCALCULABLE SUPERIORITY OF THE SACRIFICE OF OUR LORD.
1. David offered the lives of animals; our blessed Lord offered himself. They were of little value; but who shall calculate the worth of him who was not only the perfect Man, but the Word Incarnate, the only begotten Son of God? They could not understand the transaction in which they were made to participate, and could gale no voluntary part in the sacrifice. But Jesus entered fully into the mind of God, shared to the utmost his love to sinners and hatred of their sins, made the Divine purpose his own, and in devoted obedience to the will of the Father surrendered himself willingly to suffering and death for our salvation. The virtue of his sacrifice arose from his Divine dignity, his perfect oneness with the Father in mind and heart, and his perfect obedience unto death (John 10:17, 18; Philippians 2:6-8; Hebrews 9:14; Hebrews 10:5-10).
2. David provided his own sacrifices; Jesus was the Gift of God. (l John 4:9, 10.) No man, no creature, could provide a sacrifice of sufficient worth to really and effectually atone for the sins of men.
3. The moral significance of the sacrifice of Christ is immeasurably greater than of the offering of any number of animal sacrifices. As a revelation of God and man, of holiness and sin, of the Divine hatred to sin and love to sinners, of the beauty and glory of self-sacrifice, etc., it is altogether unique.
4. The efficacy of the sacrifice of Christ transcends incalculably that of the sacrifices offered by David.
(1) The value of the latter for atonement depended wholly on the will and appointment of God; the worth of the former was essential and intrinsic.
(2) The one atonement was of limited, the other of boundless, efficacy. The former removed limited guilt - of a single nation, and for the time; the other was for the sins of all men, everywhere, and in all ages of the world (John 1:29; 1 John 1:7; 1 John 2:2; Hebrews 10:14).
(4) The former had doubtless some influence on some of the Israelites, favourable to repentance, faith, and obedience; the latter has produced and will yet produce a complete revolution in the position and character of vast multitudes belonging to many nations. Those who believe are by the death of Christ brought to God (1 Peter 3:18; Hebrews 10:19, 20), made partakers of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 3:13, 14), pardoned and justified (Ephesians 1:7; Romans 5:9), sanctified (Romans 8:3, 4; Ephesians 5:25-27), led to thorough consecration of life to him who died for them (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15), and to assured hope and unspeakable happiness (Romans 5:5-11; Romans 8:32-39), issuing in the perfection, glory, and bliss of heaven (Revelation 7:9, 10, 13-17).
5. The animals offered by David ceased to exist; the great Redeemer obtained for himself by his self-sacrifice exaltation to universal dominion and immortal glory, including the honour of leading and saving those for whom he died, and of receiving their loving and devoted homage (Romans 14:8, 9; Ephesians 1:19-23; Philippians 2:8-11; Hebrews 13:20; Revelation 1:17, 18).
6. The benefits of David's offerings came to the people through his faith, penitence, and obedience; those of the sacrifice of Christ come to each Christian as the result of his own. Its moral and spiritual power is thus enhanced.
7. The burnt offerings of David laid the foundation for his thank offerings; much more does the death of Christ call for, induce, and render acceptable, thank offerings of a nobler kind, and these innumerable, unceasing, and throughout eternity. Such are the presenting of ourselves to God, and the offerings of praise, prayer, and beneficence (Romans 12:1; Philippians 4:18; Hebrews 13:15, 16; Revelation 8:3, 4). Let us not fail to present such thank offerings. Let us take up the song of the banished apostle (Revelation 1:5, 6), "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood...to him be glory and dominion forever and ever." Let us now join angels and the Church and all creation, and purpose and hope to join them forever, in the sublime anthem (Revelation 5:12, 13), "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing... Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever. Amen." - G.W.