2 Samuel 6:1, 2
Again, David gathered together all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand.…
1. The ark was the central point of the religion of Israel. In this sacred chest were deposited the two tables of the Law (the testimony, the great document of the covenant); on it rested the covering (kapporeth) propitiatory (LXX.), expiatory (Vulgate), or mercy seat (Authorized Version), "above it cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat," whereon the invisible King of Israel, the Lord of hosts, was enthroned; and there atonement was made, by the sprinkling of blood, for the sins of the people (Exodus 25:10-22). It was a symbol of Jehovah's presence and fellowship, his righteousness and mercy, his protection and blessing; a type of heavenly things.
2. Of the ark nothing is recorded since it was placed, about seventy years previously, on its return from the land of the Philistines, in the house of Abinadab, on the hill, at Kirjath jearim; and Eleazar, his son, was consecrated to keep it (1 Samuel 6:21, 22). During this long period it continued there, separated from the tabernacle (in Nob, 1 Samuel 21:6; 1 Samuel 22:13, 19; and afterwards in Gibeon, 1 Chronicles 21:29), unsought and neglected (1 Chronicles 13:3), "buried in darkness and solitude." The worship and service of God were necessarily incomplete - an effect and evidence of the imperfect relations subsisting between the nation and its Divine King, and of its divided and distracted condition.
3. The time had now come for the restoration of the ark to its proper place as the centre of national worship. The union of all the tribes under "the man of God's choice," the conquest of Jerusalem, the defeat of the Philistines, prepared the way for the great enterprise; and to it David was impelled by a truly theocratic spirit. "This act had its root in David's truly pious feeling, was the living expression of his gratitude to the Lord for his favour, and aimed at the elevation and concentration of the religious life of Israel" (Erdmann).
4. The truths and principles symbolized by the ark are fully embodied in Christ and Christianity (Hebrews 9:11). It may, therefore, be regarded, generally, as representing the true religion; and its restoration from "captivity" a religious reformation (see 1 Samuel 7:2-6). In the going forth of the king at the head of "all Israel" from Jerusalem "to Baale, that is, to Kirjath-jearim, which belonged to Judah (twelve miles distant), to bring up thence the ark of God," we observe -
I. AN EXALTED AIM.
1. The rendering to God of the honour which is his due, by open acknowledgment of his supremacy, proper reverence for his great Name, cheerful obedience to his requirements. The religious life of a people is not only expressed in a proper regard for the ordinances of public worship (1 Samuel 1:3), but also greatly promoted thereby. When these are neglected, corrupted, or negligently performed, there can hardly be a higher aim than to make them attractive and pure, and induce a worthy performance of them. "O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!" (Psalm 96:9).
2. The realization of closer communion with God, and the reception of the blessings that flow from such communion - mercy and grace, righteousness and strength, safety and peace. "True religion can never be the affair of the individual alone. A right religious relation to God must include a relation to our fellow men in God, and solitary acts of devotion can never satisfy the wants of healthy spiritual life, which calls for a visible expression of the fact that we worship God together in the common faith which binds us into a religious community. The necessity for acts of public and united worship is instinctively felt, wherever religion has a social influence, and in Israel it was felt the more strongly because Jehovah was primarily the God and King of the nation, who had to do with the individual Israelite only in virtue of his place in the commonwealth" (J. Robertson Smith, 'The Prophets of Israel').
3. The fulfilment of the purpose of God concerning his people - that they may be holy, united, prosperous, mighty, and "show forth his praise" (Isaiah 43:21). "O Lord, I beseech thee, send now prosperity" (Psalm 118:25). "The next great step of David (after the conquest of Jerusalem) was the re-establishment of the national religion, the worship of Jehovah, with suitable dignity and magnificence. Had David acted solely from political motives, this measure had been the wisest he could adopt. The solemn assembling of the tribes would not only cement the political union of the monarchy, but also increase the opulence of his capital and promote the internal commerce of the country.; while it brought the heads of the tribes, and indeed the whole people, under the cognizance and personal knowledge of the sovereign, it fixed the residence of the more eminent of the priesthood in the metropolis" (Milman).
II. AN ENEGETIC LEADER. The enterprise was initiated, inspired, accomplished, by David, whose anxious thought on the matter is alluded to in Psalm 132. (written subsequently), 'Jehovah's resting-place.'
"Remember, O Jehovah, to David
All his harassing cares,
Who sware to Jehovah,
Vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob:
I will not come into.the tent of my house,
I will not go up to the couch of my bed,
I will not give sleep to mine eyes,
Nor slumber to mine eyelids,
Until I find a place for Jehovah,
A dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob.'
Lo! we heard of it at Ephratah,
We found it in the fields of the wood.
Let us go into his dwelling,
Let us bow ourselves before his footstool.
Arise, O Jehovah, to thy rest,
Thou and the ark of thy strength."
(Psalm 132:1-8.) At Ephratah, at Bethlehem, the idea of making this great transference (Acts 7:46) may have first "occurred to David's mind" (Stanley; but see Commentaries on this psalm). "And David consulted with the captains of thousands," etc. (1 Chronicles 13:1-4); "gathered together all the chosen men [warriors] of Israel;" and "arose and went."
1. Eminent piety in the individual manifests itself in deep and tender concern with respect to a common neglect of Divine worship, and in wise and diligent effort to repair it. "David's ruling passion was zeal for the house and worship of God" (Psalm 26:8).
2. Men in authority should make use of their position for that purpose; not, indeed, in the way of compulsion, but of example and persuasion. "Where shall we find today men whose first concern is for the honour of God; who really believe that the favour of the Highest is the true palladium of their country's welfare?" (Blaikie).
3. Thus one man sometimes effects a general and lasting reformation. It was so with Samuel and David, and it has been so with others. How much may be accomplished by one man who is thoroughly in earnest!
4. In this manner such a man fulfils the will of God concerning him, and proves his Divine calling (see 1 Samuel 13:14). "These things show David to be 'a man after God's own heart,' every way fitted for the purpose for which he was exalted, a prince of the largest capacities and noblest views; and the extensiveness and national utility of the scheme he formed, in which the honour of God and the welfare and advantage of his people were equally consulted, demonstrate the piety and goodness of his heart, and clothe him with a glory in which no prince could ever rival or equal him" (Chandler, 'Life of David,' pp. 236, 320).
III. A SYMPATHETIC PEOPLE. In response to David's appeal, "all the congregation that were with him," etc.
1. A leader of men, however great, stands in need of their sympathy and support, and can do nothing without them.
2. It is by their means that he achieves success. The age contributes as much to him as he to it.
3. The union and cooperation of the people with him are a sign of the favour and blessing of God, and a condition of further prosperity. "The new enthusiasm and elevation of the community was not the creation of David. It met him as his noblest incentive; but it is the completeness with which he suffered it to take possession of him... that constitutes the secret of his peculiar greatness, and the charm which never failed to attach to his struggles and triumphs all the strongest and purest spirits of his age" (Ewald).
IV. A UNITED AND ZEALOUS ENDEAVOUR. Captains of thousands, every leader, brethren everywhere, all Israel from Shihor of Egypt even unto the entering of Hamath, priests and Levites, chosen warriors, numbering thirty thousand (seventy thousand, LXX.), went "to find the lost relic of the ancient religion." They felt the value of the object of their search; were intent on its possession; "of one heart and one soul;" rested not in wishes and prayers merely, but exhibited their concord in practical, appropriate, persevering activity. It was a fresh starting point for the nation, the commencement of a new religious era. Be it ours now to seek and strive after a still more glorious time!
"Oh, may the hour
Soon come when all false gods, false creeds, false prophets,
Allowed in thy good purpose for a time,
Demolished, - the great world shall be at last
The mercy seat of God, the heritage
Of Christ, and the possession of the Spirit,
The Comforter, the Wisdom! shall all be
One land, one home, one friend, one faith, one law,
Its ruler God, its practice righteousness, Its life peace!"
(Bailey, 'Festus'. = - D.
Parallel VersesKJV: Again, David gathered together all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand.