The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
And David consulted with the captains of thousands and hundreds, and with every leader.Holy Ebullitions
1 Chronicles 13
CHAPTERS 13-16 form a section complete in itself, relating to the transfer of the ark from Kirjath-jearim to Jerusalem. There is a short parenthesis in chapter xiv. The fourteenth chapter is almost parallel to 2Samuel 6:1-11, except that the introduction goes into much more detail. Even David, though so mighty, was wise enough to consult with the captains of thousands and hundreds, and with every leader. The hundreds were the smaller military divisions of the tribe. Every leader means every prince or chief; when all the chiefs were gathered together they constituted what was known as the Great Council of the nation. David was about to enter upon a distinctly religious enterprise, yet he surrounded himself with all the forces at his command. None could tell the difficulties with which he might meet, so like a sagacious prince he prepared himself for every exigency. To bring the ark from one locality to another was easy enough, so far as mere weight and distance were concerned; but who knows what enemies may unexpectedly arise, or what obstructions may suddenly be developed? Those who conduct the enterprises of the Church should take a complete survey of all the possibilities of the case, and not allow themselves to be surprised by things which might have been foreseen and prepared for. They are not wise Church statesmen who see only the one particular thing to be done; they rather are the true philosophers and leaders who note every circumstance, and upon a complete survey of the entire detail base their plan of operation. Men work best when they are thus consulted; their sense of responsibility is developed; their instinct of honour is happily touched; so the work becomes more than personal, it broadens itself into a national enterprise. David does not want the ark simply as an ornament; he wishes to inquire at it, that he may hold more direct and distinct communication with God. David remembers that in the days of Saul the ark was neglected, men were secularists, or atheists, or self-idolaters; they supposed that they had the directing voice within themselves, and need not have recourse to instrumentalities: David now sees the mistake of all this, and re-institutes the ark, and looks upon it as the medium through which God will come to him in all the exigencies and perplexities of life. David gathered all Israel together to bring the ark of God from Kirjath-jearim (1Chronicles 13:5). The ark did not belong to one man nor to the chiefs of the nation, nor to the rich and the mighty; it belonged to the whole people of Israel. This is the true conception of all Christian ordinances; they are not priestly ceremonies; they belong to the whole people, to the human heart, to that one peculiar element which constitutes Humanity. The ark was at Kirjath-jearim, a city of Judah, and Judah was the tribe to which David himself belonged: but it was not enough that the ark should be associated with one tribe; the king desired to place it at the centre, in the capital, and in the royal residence. Though we may not follow this direction literally, we may adopt it in all its spiritual meanings. The ark of God is not to occupy some side-place, some outside locality, however respectable; nor to be identified with one tribe or family how distinguished soever: it is to be in the supreme place, in the imperial city, accessible to all; yea, it is to be as "a city set on an hill that cannot be hid," and which is not kept apart by gates of man's formation or erection. According to verse seven, the ark was carried in a new cart out of the house of Abinadab, where it had been for twenty years after it had been returned by the Philistines. These little attentions to what may be called the spirit of homage or courtesy, such as the providing of a new cart, are not to be omitted when looking carefully into the nature of ancient religion. Men may be right in points, and yet wrong in the whole. A great character cannot be built upon individual excellences, or exceptional attentions to duty and ceremony. The spirit which is within determines the quality of the character, and the measure of its best influence. As David and all Israel played before God with all their might, and with singing, and with harps, and with psalteries, and with timbrels, and with cymbals, and with trumpets, they expressed a great religious joy. Enthusiasm is of the very nature of religion. David and his people were filled with a higher gladness than if they had captured a city. We should be careful upon what objects we expend our purest enthusiasm. Here we find great numbers of people rejoicing, because their connection with heaven had been more visibly established. This ought to be the one joy of the human heart, absorbing all others, and giving quality to every degree of minor gladness. There is nothing merely sentimental in holy ebullitions of this kind; they expressed deep conviction, they signified indeed the real passion and consecration of the heart. There is a quietness that is not decent, because it is not just. Many persons mistake indifference for peace, or self-control, or dignity: it is nothing of the kind: it is simply an offence against the very spirit of the sanctuary, which is one of jubilance, of triumph, and music. Whenever a church is consecrated to the service of God all the people should celebrate the event with singing, and with harps, and with psalteries, and with timbrels, and with cymbals, and with trumpets, if not literally yet in the spirit represented by these words, a spirit of abounding, grateful enthusiasm and gladness.
"Uzza put forth his hand to hold the ark; for the ox shook it." On this we have already commented. The lesson is not difficult to learn, when men are moving along the commandment of God, they may be sure that God will see to the fulfilment of his purpose without their excitement and interposition, as if everything depended upon themselves. God takes care of his own stars: God takes care of his redeemed Church. We may be impious even in the defence of our religion. The religion is not ours, except as a spirit that is to rule our life; it is God's gift, as is the sun in the heavens, and he himself is the one Defender of the faith, and to him must be left the answer to every difficulty, the reply to every form of opposition and assault. David, however, was affrighted by what he saw. He thought that God was calling him to do that which was impossible, to walk along a line fraught with danger; a line perforated, so to say, with the deepest pits, into any one of which he might fall at any moment. David was so alarmed indeed that he "brought not the ark home to himself to the city of David, but carried it aside into the house of Obed-edom the Gittite" (1Chronicles 13:13). Who knows whether this turning aside was not the real meaning of the punishment which fell upon Uzza? Things may be larger than they seem at first sight. By very small occurrences the course of great lines may be changed in history. If we look at any little occurrence we may be surprised that God should have taken action upon it, because of its insignificance; yet if we take into view the whole history following, we may see that a great door was hung upon a small hinge, and that what we considered insignificant was needful to the development and progress of a stupendous plan. How much we owe to the "asides" of God! But for these how many would have remained unblessed! Obed-edom owed the benediction which descended upon his house to this "aside." God's way through life is thus wondrous: always, indeed, one great main line of progress, yet who can count the detours which he makes, the asides, the incidental variations, the small things which men regarded as unworthy of notice,—who can tell how all these are wrought up into a comprehensive revelation of wisdom and love? If we only took the things which came to us on the great main thoroughfares of life, some men would hardly be blessed at all: they owe nearly all they are and have to circumstances which appear to be out of the general course, quite exceptional, so unique indeed that the men receiving the benefits accruing therefrom have no difficulty in proclaiming the doctrine of special providence. A study of the "asides" of life would confirm us in our general Christian faith.