Charles Simeon's Devotional Commentaries
THE DEATH OF ABNER
2 Samuel 3:31-34. And David said to Joab, and to all the people that were with him, Rend your clothes, and gird you with sackcloth, and mourn before Abner. And king David himself followed the bier. And they buried Abner in Hebron; and the king lifted up his voice, and wept at the grave of Abner; and all the people wept. And the king lamented over Abner, and said, Died Abner as a fool dies? Your hands were not bound, nor your feet put into fetters: as a man falls before wicked men, so fell you. And all the people wept again over him.
AFTER the death of Saul, David was anointed king in Hebron: but still he reigned over one tribe only; for Abner had prevailed on the other eleven tribes to adhere still to the house of Saul, and to make Ishbosheth, the son of Saul, their king. From the unselfishness and forbearance which David manifested during all the persecutions which he experienced from Saul, we can have no doubt but that e would have rested satisfied with the government of one tribe, until God in his providence should open the way for the full possession of the throne of Israel: but Ishbosheth and his adherents accounted David an usurper, and therefore waged incessant war with him for seven years 2 Samuel 2:10-11 with 2 Samuel 3:1. At last however a circumstance occurred, which seemed likely to effect the promised union of all the tribes under David as their head. Ishbosheth had offended Abner by accusing him of illicit fellowship with a concubine of Saul: and Abner, filled with resentment, determined to transfer his allegiance to David, and to carry over all the eleven tribes with him. Ishbosheth, knowing that Abner's influence would effect this measure, acquiesced in it, and submitted to the terms prescribed by David as a preliminary to the league which should be made between them: he sent and took Michal, Saul's daughter, from Phaltiel her husband, and gave her up to David, from whom she had been wrongfully withheld. Everything was now ready to be carried into execution: Abner had succeeded in his conference with David, and nothing remained but to bring over the heads of the eleven tribes to the plan proposed. But behold, the treachery of Joab defeated and destroyed the plan. Joab, just returned from an expedition against the Philistines, heard what Abner had done; and immediately expostulated with David on his credulity, for suffering Abner so to impose upon him: and then, sending privately in David's name to Abner, as though some further communication with him was wanted, he met Abner on his return, and took him aside, and slew him.
This murderous act of Joab's, together with its attendant circumstances, will furnish us with some very useful, and, at this time, seasonable Just after the assassination of Mr. Perceval, before the presenting to the Prince Regent the Address from Cambridge, observations.
We observe then,
I. That there is no crime so atrocious, but a person under the influence of a vindictive spirit will commit it—
Revenge was the principle from which Joab, in concert with his brother Abishai, acted on this occasion verse 27, 30; Abner had slain his brother Asahel; and they sought to avenge his death. But if they had candidly considered, they might have found in this matter an occasion for gratitude rather than resentment: for Abner had exercised towards Asahel a forbearance and tenderness that could not reasonably have been expected; nor had lifted up a hand against him until the last extremity 2 Samuel 2:20-23. They were blinded however by their own passion, and overlooked everything for the gratification of it. Joab never once reflected on the baseness of the action he was about to perpetrate, nor on the loss which David and the whole nation would sustain, nor on the account which he should one day give of it to God; but with horrid treachery, and deliberate cruelty, plunged the dagger into the side of Abner.
Alas! alas! how awfully has this scene been renewed among us! It was no political animosity, but revenge alone, that instigated the murderer to the commission of his crime. Under the influence of that infernal passion he proceeded in the most deliberate manner to execute his cruel purpose. Thoughts of mercy and compassion found no place in his bosom. The injury that would be done to a fellow-creature, (who would in one instant be hurried into the presence of his God;) the bereavement that would be felt by all his family, and the loss that would be sustained by the whole nation, (a loss to all appearance irreparable;) seemed to him as nothing, when weighed against the gratifications of revenge: nay, the thought of his own account that he should have to give at the judgment-seat of Christ could interpose no bar to the execution of his design. Yes, after the perpetration of the deed, he justified his act, and, like Joab, continued impenitent to his dying-hour.
Ah! what an evil is revenge! What need have we to guard against the very thought of it rising in our hearts! Truly, we know not to what an extent the inundation may reach, when once the smallest breach is made in the dam that obstructs this current Proverbs 17:14.
We all are called upon at this time to mourn on the sad occasion: for it is certain,
II. That the crimes of individuals will be imputed to us as national, if they be not nationally reprobated and deplored—
Of this David was aware; and therefore he endeavored to avert the guilt from the nation, by calling on them all to humble themselves before God, and to express in penitential sorrow their abhorrence of the crime verse 28, 29, 31. On this occasion he himself set them the example: he mourned, he wept, he fasted: he followed the corpse to the grave: he poured out the most pathetic lamentations over it; reflecting with just severity on the atrocity of the crime; and lamenting that he had not power to inflict punishment on the offenders verse 33, 34, 35, 39; and it was greatly to the honor of his people that they participated so deeply in his affliction. All approbation of the crime was thus formally disavowed; and the guilt of it was made to rest on him who had committed it.
We rejoice that an universal abhorrence of the assassination has been expressed in our land: or, if there have been any so abandoned to all sense of duty both to God and man as to approve the deed, they have made themselves partakers of the crime, and contracted in the sight of God the guilt of murder. We would however remind you all, that this should be a season of deep humiliation among us, and of earnest prayer. We must mourn over the deed, and wash our hands in the blood of our great Sacrifice, if we would not have the guilt of blood imputed to us, or visited upon our land Deuteronomy 21:1-9.
It is some consolation to us however to consider,
III. That whatever obstructions arise, God's purposes shall surely be accomplished—
The establishment of David on the throne of Israel was now nearly completed; yet in the very moment of its completion, as it were, was it counteracted by this horrid crime; the influence that was to accomplish the measure was destroyed; and the rival monarch deterred from his purpose. No prospect now remained but that of continued war: and the very counsels of Heaven appear to have been defeated. But God's counsel shall stand, though the expected instrument of its accomplishment be taken out of the way, and the greatest obstacle to its accomplishment remain. Accordingly in an unlooked-for way the point was effected, and the promise made fifteen years before to David, was fulfilled.
We did hope, that by the elevation of him, whose loss we deplore, to the government of this country, God had designs of mercy toward us: and we have reason to adore our God for the benefits which through his instrumentality our nation has received. Such a character, all things considered, has rarely been seen at the head of our affairs; for piety is but a rare associate with political power. But, if the channel of God's mercy is withdrawn, the Fountain still is full; and if we plead with him to pour out his benefits upon us, he will yet find other channels through which to communicate them to our land. True it is, that this is a season of uncommon difficulty, and the political horizon is gloomy in the extreme No person being found to take the lead in our government; and new difficulties arising, by means of Russia being just about to be again involved in war with France; but we hope that our nation shall yet be preserved a blessing to the world; and that all the efforts which are making for the enlarging of our Redeemer's kingdom, and which were sanctioned and aided by him whom we have lost, will yet be honored with success. "The wall is to be built in troublous times:" "the kingdoms of the world shall become the kingdoms of the Lord and of his Christ:" and, though darkness should yet increase upon us, we hope and trust that "in the evening time it shall be light."
But though God's counsel shall stand, we are not the less accountable to him for our actions; nor can we doubt but,
IV. That however men may escape punishment in this world, their sins shall be recompensed in the world to come—
To that tribunal David looked forward, when he saw that "the sons of Zeruiah were too hard for him;" and he found consolation in the thought, that "the Lord would reward the doer according to his wickedness verse 39." It was a misfortune to him to have a subject so powerful, that he could set the laws at defiance. Through the goodness of God, the laws of our land are enforced; and the atrocious act that has been committed has met with its deserved recompense. But there are sins of a less heinous nature, which are committed daily with impunity. Let us not however suppose that they will be unnoticed by the Judge of quick and dead. The vindictive thought will there be noticed, as well as the vindictive act; yes, and the impure desire also, as well as adultery itself: for God will bring into judgment every secret thing, whether it be good or evil. Nor will there be any respect of persons with him. Now there is a kind of partiality in favor of the rich and great; evils are allowed in them, which, if committed by persons of the lower class, would be reprobated and abhorred: but the high and the low will hereafter be equally tried by the unerring standard of God's law, and be judged "according to what they have done in the body, whether it be good or evil." Let not the hope of impunity therefore encourage any man to sin; for God has warned us, that "though hand join in hand," (yes, though earth and Hell should unite for the protection of any,) "the wicked shall not pass unpunished."
2 Samuel 6:6-9
UZZAH'S PUNISHMENT FOR TOUCHING THE ARK
2Sa. 6:6-9. And when they came to Nachon's threshing-floor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God. And David was displeased, because the Lord had made a breach upon Uzzah: and he called the name of the place Perez-uzzah to this day. And David was afraid of the Lord that day, and said, How shall the ark of the Lord come to me?
THE noblest use of power is to exert it for God. So David thought: for no sooner had he attained the quiet possession of the throne of Israel, than he determined to bring up the ark of God from Kirjath-jearim, where it had remained in obscurity perhaps for seventy years, and to place it in Jerusalem, where it might receive the honor due unto it. But, as persons striving in the Grecian games "were not crowned except they strove lawfully," and conformed to the rules prescribed for them, so neither can they be accepted who exert their influence for God, except they use it agreeably to the dictates of His revealed will. Accordingly in this very act David met with a repulse: the person whom he employed to bring up the ark was struck dead upon the spot; and the whole measure was disconcerted: yes the very frame of David's mind also was changed, from joyous exultation, to vexation, sorrow, and despondency.
Let us contemplate,
I. The punishment inflicted on Uzzah—
Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, having long had the charge of the ark in their father's house, undertook to drive the cart whereon it was to be conveyed to Jerusalem. Ahio went before to prepare the way, and Uzzah drove the oxen: but, when they were arrived at the threshing-floor of Nachon, the oxen by some means shook the ark; and Uzzah, apprehensive it would fall, put forth his hand to keep it steady: and for this offence he was struck dead upon the spot.
Now at first sight it appears as if this punishment was exceedingly disproportionate to the offence: but we shall be of a very different opinion, if we consider,
1. The offence committed—
This was of a complicated nature: it was the offence, not of Uzzah only, but of David, and of the whole nation. As it related to Uzzah, it was highly criminal: for God, in the orders he had given respecting the removal of the ark from place to place, had directed that the priests only should touch the ark, or anything belonging to it; and that the Levites should carry it: and so strict was this order, that it was enforced by the penalty of death: "The sons of Kohath shall bear it (by its long staves;) but they shall not touch any holy thing, lest they die Numbers 4:15." Now Uzzah was not a priest; and therefore he should on no account have presumed to touch the ark. It may well be supposed, that this violation of God's command was the fruit of an habitual irreverence, which a long familiarity with the ark had nourished in his mind: and therefore God took this occasion of punishing his presumption.
But David, also, and all the nation were to blame: for the very accident that occasioned Uzzah to put forth his hand, arose from their criminal neglect. God had given plain directions about his ark; and had ordered that it should be carried on the shoulders of the Levites. The other articles belonging to the tabernacle were large and cumbersome; and for the conveyance of them God had given wagons and oxen; but "to the sons of Kohath he had given none; because the service belonging to them was, to bear the ark upon their shoulders Numbers 7:6-9." Why then was this forgotten? "Why did David and all the priests and people presume to substitute another way, different from that which God had prescribed? The Philistines, it is true, had sent home the ark in this way: but they knew nothing of the directions given in the law, nor had they any of the sons of Aaron with them to employ in that service. Were these ignorant heathens a fit pattern for David to follow, in direct opposition to the commands of God? If David did not know what God had commanded in relation to the ark, should he not have examined; or should he not have inquired of the Lord, as he had so recently and so successfully done in reference to his conflicts with the Philistines? This neglect then was highly criminal, and justly merited the rebuke it met with.
2. The reason of noticing it with such severity—
Besides the enormity of the offence, there was additional reason for punishing it with severity, arising out of the very nature of that dispensation. God had shown himself so gracious and condescending towards that nation, that there was great danger lest they should entertain erroneous notions of his character, and overlook entirely his majesty and greatness. Indeed even his condescension itself would be undervalued, unless they should be made sensible of his justice, his holiness, and his power. Hence on many occasions He had taken care to blend some displays of his power with the manifestations of his love. When he came down upon Mount Sinai to give them his law, he accompanied the revelation with awful demonstrations of his greatness. When he had sent fire from Heaven to consume the sacrifices on his altar, and to declare his acceptance of them, he destroyed Nadab and Abihu by fire for presuming to burn incense before him with fire different from that which he had kindled Leviticus 10:1-2. When a single individual in the nation had offended him, he withdrew his protection from all, until the person was discovered and put to death Joshua 7:5; Joshua 7:11-12. Thus, he was now suffering the symbols of his presence to be transported to Jerusalem; and the people would be ready to think that they had conferred an honor upon him: he therefore showed them, that no service could be accepted of him, unless it were regulated by a strict adherence to his revealed will; and that while they received from him such signal tokens of his favor, they must at the peril of their souls conduct themselves towards him with the profoundest reverence Leviticus 10:3. In this view the judgment inflicted upon Uzzah was an instructive lesson to the whole nation, and is a standing proof that "God is greatly to be feared, and to be had in reverence of all them that are round about him Psalm 89:7."
We lament however to observe,
II. The effect it produced on the mind of David—
Truly the best of men are but weak, when they are visited with any heavy trial. Fervent as David's mind was, no sooner was he thus rebuked than he was filled,
1. With proud resentment—
It is probable that there was in his mind an undue degree of delight, from the idea that he was the honored instrument of thus exalting and glorifying his God. To meet therefore with such a check, in the midst of all his glory, and in the presence of all the great men of the nation, was very mortifying to his pride; and in an instant he betrayed what was in his heart. Had he been displeased with himself, it had been well: but "he was displeased" with God, whom he considered as dealing wrongfully and unjustly towards him. Alas! that so good a man should indulge such an unhallowed disposition. Had he himself corrected one of his little children, he would have expected the child to conclude of course, from the very correction itself, that something was amiss in him, though he could not immediately see wherein the evil of his conduct lay: and should not David have exercised that same temper towards God? Should he not have concluded that God was too wise to err, and too good to do anything which was not strictly right? Should he not have acted, as he did on another occasion, "I was dumb and opened not my mouth, because you did it?" It is characteristic of the vilest of men to fly, as it were, in the face of God Isaiah 8:21; yes, it is their very employment in Hell to curse him for the judgments he inflicts Revelation 16:9-11. Did such a temper then become "the man after God's own heart?" No; he should rather have said, "It is the Lord; let him do what seems him good 1 Samuel 3:18." "I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him Mic. 7:9." But in this conduct of his we have a lamentable illustration of that proverb, "The foolishness of man perverts his way, and his heart frets against the Lord Proverbs 19:3."
2. With unbelieving fear—
He now concluded that God was an hard master, whom it was impossible to serve: he therefore would not venture any more to take to him the ark: "He was afraid of the Lord, and said, How shall the ark of the Lord come unto me?" This was a slavish fear, and utterly unfitting one who had so often experienced the most signal tokens of his favor. This was to act like the rebellious heads of the tribes, when, in their contest with Aaron for the priesthood, God had decided the cause against them Numbers 17:12-13; or rather it was a repetition of the conduct of the Philistines upon a precisely similar occasion 1 Samuel 5:10-11. But this was very unfitting his high character. He should rather have instituted an inquiry into the reason of the divine procedure; and should have humbled himself before God for the errors that had been committed. For this he might have found precedents in plenty in the Sacred Records Joshua 7:6; Judges. 20:26; but he yielded at once to despondency, and dismissed the whole assembly of Israel, and left the ark to be taken in by any one that was bold enough to receive it.
Such was his unhappy frame on this occasion: and such, alas! is the temper of many under the chastisements of the Almighty: they are ready to say, "It is in vain to serve the Lord;" there is no hope: I have loved idols, and after them will I go".
1. Let us be especially on our guard, when we are engaged in the service of our God—
God is a jealous God, and will not be trifled with. The conduct which would be connived at by him among the heathen, will provoke him to anger when observed among those who enjoy the light of revelation: and in proportion as we have the knowledge of him, may a conformity to his will be justly expected of us Amos. 3:2. Happy would it be, if the professors of religion would lay this thought to heart! for, so far are they from having any dispensation from the practice of morality, that a far higher tone of morals is expected of them; they are called upon to "shine as lights in the world," and to "be holy as God himself is holy."
And must not this thought be pre-eminently interesting to those who are engaged in the service of the sanctuary? What manner of persons ought they to be in all holy conversation and godliness!" Sins even of ignorance are highly criminal Leviticus 5:17-19; but most of all in them Compare the offerings required in Leviticus 4:3; Leviticus 4:13-14; Leviticus 4:27-28; of the priest, a bullock, equivalent to the whole congregation; but of a common person, a female kid. Let those then who "bear the vessels of the Lord be clean Isaiah 52:11." Let a holy fear attend them in all their ministrations, lest, instead of finding acceptance with their God, they bring on themselves the heavier and more signal judgments. Miserable it is to die; but most of all to "die by the ark of God."
2. Let nothing divert us from the path of duty—
If, when engaged in the service of our God, we meet with obstacles which we did not expect, let us search to find wherein we have done amiss; but let us not yield to despondency, as if it were impossible to please the Lord. Let us examine the Sacred Records, and pray for the teachings of the Holy Spirit, that "we may know what the good and perfect and acceptable will of God is:" then may we hope for success in our undertakings, and shall have tokens of God's acceptance both in this world and the world to come This may be applied to Ministers with good effect.
2 Samuel 6:14
DAVID DANCING BEFORE THE LORD
2 Samuel 6:14. And David danced before the Lord with all his might.
RELIGION is, indeed, a source of joy. In this light it was viewed by the angelic host, when they proclaimed to the shepherds the birth of our Savior, saying, "Behold, we bring you glad tidings of great joy!" And thus was it found to be by the converts on the day of Pentecost, the Ethiopian Eunuch, the people of Samaria Acts 8:8; Acts 8:39, and by all, in every place, who received the word aright Acts 15:3. The Psalms of David place this matter beyond a doubt, they being almost one continued effusion of praise and thanksgiving. In the history before us we have an extraordinary exhibition, strongly confirmatory of this truth. David was bringing up the ark of God to Jerusalem; and so strong were the emotions of joy within him, that, in the presence of not less than thirty thousand of his subjects, he danced before the Lord with all his might.
Let us consider,
I. The expressions of David's joy—
Certainly, at first sight, it appears strange that a monarch, stripped of his royal robes, and clad in the simple habit of a priest, should be dancing thus extravagantly, as it might appear, at the head of all his subjects. But he was serving and honoring his God: and therefore, under any circumstances, his joy would be great. But it was exceedingly heightened,
1. By his reflections upon the past—
The ark, with the exception of one short interval, had abode at Baaleh, or Kirjath-jearim, for nearly fifty years, where it had been carried twenty years after its restoration by the Philistines who had taken it captive. David had greatly desired to bring it up to Jerusalem, where he had prepared a tabernacle for its reception. He ordered it to be put on a new cart, and drawn by oxen, in the manner in which the Philistines had restored it; forgetting that God had given special commands, that none but the Kohathites, who were Levites, should carry it; and that they should never either behold or touch it, but that it should be covered, and they should bear it by means of the staves which were made for that purpose. In its progress, the ark was shaken, at the threshing-floor of Nachon; and Uzzah, one of the conductors of it, put forth his hand to hold it up, lest it should fall: and for this error God struck him dead upon the spot. This judgment was intended as a rebuke, not to Uzzah only, but to all the priests and Levites who were present; and especially to David, who had been so regardless of the divine commands, with which he doubtless was well acquainted, and of which he ought to have been most strictly observant. By this judgment David was disheartened, and he dared not to proceed, lest he himself, also, should fall a sacrifice to the divine displeasure. Accordingly, the ark was turned out of its course, and carried to the house of Obed-edom, the Gittite. But during its continuance there, for the space of three months, such manifest and extraordinary blessings flowed down upon Obed-edom and all his family, that David was assured that God was reconciled towards him: and, inspired with fresh zeal, he proceeded again to bring it up from thence, taking especial care that everything should be conducted in God's appointed way. After advancing only six paces, he stopped to offer burnt-offerings and peace-offerings; and then he felt in his soul, that God had accepted this service, and would crown it with good success 1 Chronicles 15:1-3; 1 Chronicles 15:11-15.
Now, to enter into David's feelings aright, we must mark the contrast between this present effort and that which had so lately failed: and we must remember, that, not content with expressing his gratitude to God by secret aspirations, he strove, by his open and visible acknowledgments, to inspire all his people with the same ardent gratitude with which his own breast was filled. This will account for what might otherwise appear extravagant in this outward demonstration of his joy.
2. By his anticipations of the future—
The ark was the symbol of the divine presence: and by having it at Jerusalem, he hoped that he should have more easy access to Jehovah at all seasons, and bring down, both on himself and all his people, a rich abundance of spiritual blessings. Of this, David himself informs us in the 132d Psalm, which he wrote on that express occasion. He tells us, that he had sworn he would not come up into the tabernacle of his own house, nor go up into his bed, until he should have found out a place for the Lord, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob. He then adds, "Lo, we heard of it at Ephratah, (Kiriath-jearim,) and found it in the fields of the wood: and we will go into his tabernacle, and worship at his footstool." Then, declaring what his prayers to God should be, he anticipates the future advent of the Messiah, and states the answers he should receive to his prayers, repeating the very words of his petitions as the precise terms of God's promises: "The Lord has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his habitation. This is my rest forever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it. I will abundantly bless her provision; I will satisfy her poor with bread: I will also clothe her priests with salvation; and her saints shall shout aloud for joy. There will I make the horn of David to bud: I have ordained a lamp for mine anointed. His enemies will I clothe with shame: but upon himself shall his crown flourish Psalm 132:1-7; Psalm 132:13-18." After such prospects as these, can we wonder at any expressions of his joy, however ardent, or however extraordinary? Methinks, his zeal in this instance was temperance, and his excess sobriety.
And now let me show,
II. What occasion we also have for joy at this time—
This whole matter was typical of our blessed Lord's ascension into Heaven. In the 68th Psalm, written by David on this occasion, he says, "The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place. You have ascended up on high, you have led captivity captive: you have received gifts for men, yes, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them Psalm 68:17-18." And Paul quotes these very words as declarative of our Lord's ascension to Heaven, and the out-pouring of the Spirit upon his Church as the very bestowment of those gifts which he had obtained for her Ephesians 4:8-12.
Here, then, we have already marked for us the nobler grounds of joy which we possess at this time,
1. In the dignity of the person so exalted—
The ark was dignified as a shadow, and an emblem, of the Lord Jesus: but we commemorate the exaltation of the Lord Jesus himself. And I wish you particularly to notice how this also was announced by the holy Psalmist: "Lift up your heads, O gates; and be lift up, you everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O gates, even lift them up, you everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory Psalm 24:7-10."
2. In the richness of the benefits imparted by him—
In the passage before mentioned we see, in a general view, the gifts which our ascended Savior bestows upon his rebellious subjects. But who can recount them all, or even estimate so much as one of them aright? See the first-fruits of those benefits on the day of Pentecost; and behold them spread over the face of the whole earth, and poured out in the richest possible abundance at this day. See the Savior "seated at the right hand of God, far above all principalities and powers, and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come. See how God has put all things under his feet, and given him to be head over all things to the Church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all Ephesians 1:20-23." See him "exalted thus, and having a name given him above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in Heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father Philippians 2:9-11." All these his victories must be contemplated, and all the felicity of his redeemed people both in time and eternity, before we can estimate, in any measure, what ground we have for joy in the resurrection and ascension of our blessed Lord. My dear Brethren, only view these things by faith as David did, and even your lowest notes will resemble those of "that sweet singer of Israel:" "God is gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of the trumpet. Sing praises to God, sing praises: sing praises unto our King, sing praises: for God is the King of all the earth: sing praises with understanding Psalm 47:5-7."
But it will be profitable to inquire,
III. How far the expressions of our joy should correspond with his—
In point of ardor, we should not fall short of him, but should, if possible, exceed him. Yet in the mode of expressing our joy, I think he is not a proper pattern for us—
1. There is a great difference between his dispensation and ours—
The Jewish dispensation abounded with "carnal ordinances:" and every service of the saints was marked with outward and visible signs. Every penitent that would obtain mercy of the Lord must carry his appointed offering, and conform in everything to some peculiar law. The same must be done by those who would return thanks to God for mercies received. But we, under the Christian dispensation, are to enter into our chamber, and shut our door, that we may not be seen of men, but be seen by Him only whom we serve, the heart-searching God Matthew 6:6. The Jews needed the priests to mediate between God and them: but we may approach God, every one of us for ourselves, through that One Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ; yes, and may enter into the holy of holies itself, through the blood of his sacrifice which he once offered for us on the cross Hebrews 10:19-22. This, then, marks a broad line of distinction between David's services and ours, and renders such "bodily exercise" as his unsuitable to us.
2. Our frame of mind should be more spiritual and more refined—
I will not say that the body is not to participate in the emotions of our minds: for in this our fallen state such a sympathy must of necessity be called forth by any intense feeling, whether of joy or sorrow. But there is a delicacy and refinement in the Christian's feelings: and the less they savor of what is animal, the better. A Christian's joy is "the joy of the Holy Spirit:" and when it rises to the highest pitch, so as to be utterly "unspeakable," it is then a "glorified joy," such as the glorified saints and angels experience in Heaven 1 Peter 1:8. The Greek. Behold all of them before the throne of God: they are all prostrate on their faces, while yet they sing praises to God and to the Lamb. Their joy is a meek and holy joy: and sure I am that such is the joy that becomes us in this lower world, compassed as we are with so many infirmities. And I would the rather recommend that, because it will be less likely to cast a stumbling-block before us, and less likely to deceive your own souls. I am far from justifying Michal for casting such severe reflections on David. But her spirit shows what feelings will be generated in the bosoms of the ungodly, by anything which seems to border on excess. By an inattention to the feelings of others, we may do considerable injury both to ourselves and them also. Our Lord, therefore, cautions us "not to cast our pearls before swine, lest they turn again and rend us." On such occasions, I think, we should rather put a veil over our faces, as Moses did, than blind them by a splendor which they cannot bear. Yet we are not so to regard the ungodly, as to be deterred from serving God in any, and in every, way that he requires. But if we bear in mind the infirmities of others, we may the better hope to allure them to the service of their God, and to bring them to a participation of all the blessings which we ourselves enjoy.
2 Samuel 6:22
DAVID DANCING BEFORE THE LORD
2 Samuel 6:22. I will yet be more vile than thus, and will be base in mine own sight.
A MEASURE of firmness is necessary in the whole of our fellowship with mankind, to prevent us from being drawn aside from the path of wisdom into a compliance with the prejudices and passions of those around us. But in all that pertains to religion it is more especially necessary; because in opposition to true piety the current is exceeding strong; and we must inevitably be borne away by it, if we do not cleave unto our God with full purpose of heart. The great and powerful may be supposed to be more free than others from the influence of public opinion: but their very elevation exposes them to storms and tempests more than others; and they have therefore the more need of firmness, to bear up against the taunts with which they will be assailed, in proportion as their zeal for God is ardent and conspicuous. David was a mighty monarch: yet not even he could serve God according to his conscience without exciting the contempt and indignation of one most nearly related to him. But from the words which we have just read, we see how manfully he withstood the temptation. Let us notice,
I. The trial he met with—
This was very severe—
He was bringing up the ark to Mount Zion; and had good reason to believe, that the service he was performing was pleasing and acceptable in the sight of God. Hence his soul overflowed with joy; and in the fullness of his heart "he danced before the Lord with all his might verse 14." "As the ark came into the city, Michal, Saul's daughter, looking through a window, saw him leaping and dancing before the Lord, and despised him in her heart verse 16." Unconscious of the impression he had made on her mind, he went home to bless both her and all his house: but instead of finding the reception which he had expected as suited to the occasion, he was greeted with reproaches more keen and scandalous than one should have supposed it possible for the most ingenious malice to invent: "How glorious was the king of Israel today, who uncovered himself today in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovers himself verse 20." How must he be thunder-struck, if I may so say, with such a salutation as this! To hear such a construction put upon his conduct! to be accused of an act which no one that was not lost to all sense of decency would commit even in private, and much less in the presence of thousands! to be accused of committing this too under the guise of religious zeal! and to hear this accusation from the lips of his own wife, and in language too as acrimonious and insulting as Hell itself could inspire! and all this at a moment when his soul, inflamed only with love to God, was enrapt into the third heavens! how inconceivably painful must this have been! Methinks, the cursings of Shimei were nothing in comparison of this.
Yet do we see in this what all who are zealous for their God must expect—
Religious zeal is hated by the world, who will never fail to misconstrue it as proceeding from some hateful principle, and as forming a cloak for some hidden abomination. Pride, conceit, fanaticism, and hypocrisy, are usually considered as the springs of action to those who profess godliness, especially if they bear any conspicuous part in the service of their God: their very activity is made the ground of accusation against them. Thus it has been in every age. David "wept and chastened himself with fasting; and that was turned to his reproach Psalm 69:10-11." John Baptist came in an abstemious way; and the people said of him, "He has a devil." The Lord Jesus Christ came in a way more suited to the liberty of the gospel dispensation; and his enemies took occasion from that to revile him as a "gluttonous man, and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners Luke 7:33-34." Thus it is also in the present day; and thus we must expect to find it: for "the servant cannot be above his Lord: if they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub, much more will they those of his household Matthew 10:24-25." Our blessed Lord has told us, that, "if the world hated him, they will hate us also John 15:18;" that they will "speak all manner of evil against us falsely for his sake Matthew 5:11;" and that they will even think they render service to God by putting to death his most faithful servants John 16:2. Nor will any eminence in rank, or power, or talent, or wisdom, or piety, exempt us from this lot. If David could not escape it, neither can we: if Paul was said to be "beside himself Acts 26:24," those who tread in his steps must not expect to be regarded as of a sound mind. Nor will this opprobrious treatment proceed only from avowed enemies: our nearest friends and relatives will often be foremost in the assault; and "our bitterest foes be those of our own household Matthew 10:36."
Having seen somewhat of David's trial, let us consider,
II. The determination he formed in consequence of it—
Neither abashed nor irritated, he calmly avowed his unalterable determination,
1. To serve his God without fear—
If to bear this open testimony for his God, and to glorify him thus in the sight of all Israel, was to render himself vile, "he would be more and more vile" as long as he lived. A noble resolution this, and worthy to be adopted by every child of man! Are the servants of Satan bold, and shall Jehovah's servants be cowards? Shall the ungodly commit all manner of iniquity without shame, and the godly be ashamed of walking in the ways of righteousness? No: there should be a holy energy in the soul of every saint, a readiness to rise to the occasion, however formidable that occasion be: he should have within him the elasticity of a strong well-tempered spring, whose reaction is always augmented by the pressure. If religion be decried through the whole land, so that not a second family could be found in all Israel to adhere to God, we should say with Joshua, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord Joshua 24:15." Reproach for Christ's sake should be regarded as honor Acts 5:41, and, though not coveted, yet be welcomed as the truest riches Hebrews 11:26. It should be considered as a precious gift of God for Christ's sake Philippians 1:29, and be gloried in as a participation of Christ's sufferings, and a means of advancing his glory 1 Peter 4:12-14. We should be cautious indeed not by extravagance or misconduct of any kind to merit reproach: but, if it come for righteousness' sake, we should rejoice in it, and glorify God for it 1 Peter 4:15-16, "taking pleasure in it 2 Corinthians 12:10." as a testimony in our favor Luke 21:13, and a pledge 2 Timothy 2:12. of an accumulated 2 Corinthians 4:17. and everlasting weight of glory Romans 8:17. Nor is it against reproach only that we should stand, but against the most envenomed persecution that men or devils can raise against us. We should be moved by no menaces, however cruel; but be ready to lay clown our lives for Christ's sake Acts 20:24, and account martyrdom a ground, not of pity and condolence, but of congratulation and joy Philippians 2:17-18.
2. To abase himself without shame—
The chief reason of Michal's rage was, that she thought David degraded himself by this public exhibition, which, however it might have become one of his inferior servants, was unsuited to his dignity. But David felt that a monarch in the sight of God is no more than other men; and that any elevation of rank which he possessed above others was rather a call to honor God the more, and not a reason for withholding from God any expression of gratitude and love. Hence he determined to regard himself as on a level with the least and meanest of his subjects in everything that had respect to God. Nor would he value himself on this as an act of condescension, and thus convert humility into pride; but he would really be in his own estimation, what he professed before others to be, "less than the least of all saints Ephesians 3:8," unworthy to "be a door-keeper in the house of his God Psalm 84:10," or to unloose the latchet of his Master's shoes John 1:27.
And this is the frame of mind which we also should cultivate. So far from regarding earthly distinctions as a reason for rendering to God a more measured service, as though the highest acts of piety were fitted only for the vulgar, we should consider wealth, honor, learning, and influence of every kind, as talents committed to us for the purpose of honoring God with them, and of rendering our example more effectual for the good of others. And, while the world is reproaching us for the excess of our piety, we should be ever abasing ourselves on account of its defects. If we keep in view the perfect requirements of God's law, and the unbounded obligations which he has laid us under by the gift of his only-begotten Son, how infinitely short of our duty will our best services appear! "Our very righteousnesses, in this view, will be as filthy rags Isaiah 64:6," in which we can never hope to appear before God, and which can never come up with acceptance before him, until they have been washed in the Redeemer's blood Revelation 7:14. Thus, whether men admire or reproach us for our piety, we should equally abase ourselves, as in reality deserving neither their admiration nor their reproach, but rather their pity on account of the defectiveness of our services, and the smallness of our attainments.
1. Those who cast reproaches on the saints—
Behold Michal and David on this occasion, and say, whether you would not rather be the persecuted saint, than the malignant persecutor? Is there a creature in the world who must not acknowledge the superiority of David's state, in the midst of all the ignominy that was cast upon him? Such then is the state of God's people in the midst of all the calumnies with which they are loaded, and such is the light in which their calumniators are regarded by Almighty God. In the instance before us, God marked his displeasure against Michal, by inflicting the curse of barrenness upon her to her dying hour verse 23. And us also he warns in the most solemn manner to avoid the rock on which she split: "Be you not mockers, lest your bands be made strong Isaiah 28:22." If we choose not to serve God ourselves, let us beware how by scoffing and ridicule we discourage others: for our Lord tells us, that "it were better for us that a millstone were hanged about our neck, and we were cast into the depths of the sea, than that we should offend one of his little ones Matthew 18:6." To perish under the guilt of our own sins will be terrible enough: but to have "the blood of others also required at our hands" will be an inconceivable augmentation of our guilt and misery. This then would I entreat of all who despise and persecute the followers of Christ. Look into the Scriptures: see whether you approve of Cain, of Ishmael, of Michal, of Festus, or of any who bear the stamp and character of revilers in the Sacred Records: see whether in your consciences you do not rather side with Abel, and Isaac, and David, and Paul, and all the other sufferers, "of whom the world itself was not worthy Hebrews 11:38." And if your own consciences bear testimony to the saints, dare not to walk in the steps of their oppressors, persecuting the living saints, while you raise memorials to the dead Matthew 23:29-31.
2. Those who are called to sustain them—
Think it not strange that reproach is cast upon you for righteousness' sake; for thus it has been from the beginning: "They who have been born only of the flesh ever have persecuted those who are born after the Spirit," and so they will continue to do even to the end. You may, if you please, avoid persecution: "if you will be of the world, the world will love its own." But are you prepared to sacrifice all your hopes and prospects in the eternal world? James says, that "the friendship of the world is enmity with God; and that they who will be the friends of the world, must be the enemies of God:" say then, Are you in doubt which of the alternatives to choose? What good can the world do you by its friendship, or what evil can it inflict by its enmity? To kill the body is the worst that they can do. But what will not God do for his faithful servants? and what will he not inflict on those who turn back from him? Can you think of being denied by Christ before the assembled universe, and not tremble Matthew 10:32-33. O consider this, and you will not hesitate a moment whom to serve; but will "choose that good part which shall never be taken away from you." You will gladly "suffer affliction with the people of God, and esteem the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of the whole world."
2 Samuel 7:18-19
2 Samuel 7:18-19. Then went king David in, and sat before the Lord, and he said, Who am I, O Lord God? and what is my house, that you have brought me hitherto? And this was yet a small thing in your sight, O Lord God; but you have spoken also of your servant's house, for a great while to come. And is this the manner of man, O Lord God?
IT is no small comfort to reflect that the dispositions of our hearts are noticed by God, and, if good, are well-pleasing in his sight. There are many holy desires and purposes which we are not able to accomplish; which yet are accepted before God, as much as if they had been carried into effect. David had conceived a wish and determination to build a house for God, in order that the ark, which was the symbol of the divine presence, might no more dwell within curtains, while he himself was dwelling in a house of cedar. But God did not suffer him to execute his purpose, on account of his having shed much blood in war 1 Chronicles 22:8; nevertheless he commended the desire ("you did well that it was in your heart 1 Kings 8:18.") and made it an occasion of discovering to him the honor that was to be conferred on him and his posterity. Struck with the majesty and condescension of God, David went in before him, and burst forth into these expressions of devoutest adoration. We shall show,
I. What grounds David had for gratitude and thanksgiving—
Though David was not suffered to gratify his own inclinations in the particular before mentioned, yet he found abundant cause of thankfulness in,
1. The mercies already given to him—
He had been taken from a very low employment verse 8; chosen in preference, not only to all his own family, but also to the whole nation; preserved in the midst of numberless dangers; exalted in due season to the throne prepared for him; made victorious over all his enemies; and brought to a state of unrivaled power, affluence, and prosperity verse 9. On a review of these mercies, he could not but be astonished at the divine goodness to him, or refrain from proclaiming it with rapturous admiration.
2. The mercies yet further promised to him—
God had promised that he should have a son, on whom the honor of building a temple should be conferred; yes, moreover, that the Messiah also should spring from his loins, and sit upon his throne forever and ever verse 12–14 with Hebrews 1:5. In comparison of this, David observes that all his personal advancement was "but a light matter:" and then, as utterly at a loss to express his sense of the divine goodness, he exclaims, "Is this the manner of man, O Lord God?" is this the way in which mean and worthless men, such as he felt himself to be, are treated by their fellow-creatures See 1 Chronicles 17:17. No: it is peculiar to God, who magnifies his own sovereignty in conferring the richest benefits on the most unworthy of mankind.
But however distinguished a favorite of Heaven David was,
II. We have still greater reason for gratitude and thanksgiving—
Let us view our obligations to God,
As creatures, we were originally formed of the dust of the earth: yet, though so mean in our original, we were distinguished above the whole creation by having a rational and immortal soul breathed into us, and a capacity given us to know, to love, to serve, and to enjoy God. Let any one of the human race reflect on this, and say, whether he has not reason to adore the goodness of God, who has given him powers so infinitely superior to any that are possessed by the brute creation, and faculties that shall enjoy eternal blessedness, if it be not utterly his own fault. Let but this elevation of our nature be considered, and we shall exclaim, with profoundest reverence, "Who am I, O Lord God, that you have brought me hitherto?"
As sinners, we have still further ground for praise. We are by nature mean; but by practice we have been inexpressibly vile. Yet when we were deserving of nothing but his wrath, God loved us, and gave his own Son to die for us. Further, when we were even trampling on the blood that was shed for us, he sent his Spirit to reveal his Son in our hearts, and both to fit us for his glory, and to bring us safely to the possession of it. And "is this the manner of man, O Lord God?" Man selects those who are great and worthy, in order to bestow on them his richest favors; but God, in choosing us, "has lifted the beggar from the dunghill, to set him among princes, and to make him inherit a throne of glory 1 Samuel 2:8." O what marvelous condescension is this! and what gratitude does it demand at our hands! "Who is a God like unto you Exodus 15:11."
2. Particularly, as compared with David—
In no respect are the obligations here specified to be put in competition with those given to us. Was he chosen from the low estate of a shepherd? Look at the state from which God has chosen us. We were fallen, guilty, hell-deserving creatures, utterly incapable of ever restoring ourselves to his favor; yet did God set his love upon us, and elevate us, not to an earthly throne, but to a crown and kingdom in Heaven itself. And not from earthly enemies, such as David had to encounter, has he preserved us, but from all the powers of darkness, against whose wiles and devices it was not possible for us to stand, if we had not been upheld by his almighty power and grace. And though it must be confessed, that to be the progenitor of the Messiah was an inconceivably high honor, yet to be interested in him, and united to him as members of his mystical body, and made fellow-heirs with him of all the glory and felicity of Heaven, is an infinitely higher honor. And all this is given to us, so that in all the points which David enumerates, we are far above him: our election is from a far more degraded state; our elevation is to a far higher throne; our preservation is from far greater dangers, and more powerful enemies; and our destiny, to an infinitely higher honor than any which a carnal relation to Christ could confer. How well then may we exclaim, What are we, that we should ever be brought to such a state as this?
That this subject may be brought home more powerfully to our hearts and consciences, let us comprehend it under two pertinent reflections:
1. How wonderful has been God's love to us!
Well may we say with David, "Is this the manner of man, O Lord God?" No: nothing like it ever did, or could, exist among men. Man selects the most worthy as the objects of his love: but God has chosen the most unworthy, even us, who had reduced ourselves to the condition of the fallen angels, and deserved nothing but their portion at his hands. Man confers but small benefits, which, however valued by his fellows, scarcely deserve a thought: but God confers riches and honors which far exceed all human comprehension. Man soon repents of the favors he has conferred, when those on whom he has bestowed them prove themselves unworthy of them. But "the gifts and calling of God are without repentance" on his part Romans 11:29; yes, "if it had not been that He was unchangeable, not a soul among us could ever have been saved Malachi 3:6." Further, what man bestows is but for a little time: the present short life is the only season wherein we can possess any benefits conferred by man. But what God bestows, he gives forever and ever: and death, so far from terminating our felicity, brings us into the most complete and everlasting enjoyment of it.
"Behold then, what manner of love is this with which the Father has loved us!" Truly, if David was quite overwhelmed with the favors conferred on him, much more may we, whose obligations are so infinitely higher, and more permanent than his.
2. How faint and cold is our love to him!
See David coming into the presence of his God, and sitting in the temple before him. His mind is quite oppressed with a sense of gratitude, and words seem altogether inadequate to express his feelings. Yet, notwithstanding our obligations to God so infinitely exceed his, how rarely has God ever seen us in the posture of David! Many of us, it is to be feared, have never spent so much as one hour in our whole lives, in his contemplations, and in his exercises.
Do you ask, How shall I attain his frame? Beg of God to work it in you by his good Spirit. And especially do as he did. He determined to promote to the very utmost of his power the honor and glory of his heavenly Benefactor: and then it was that God revealed to him all the purposes of his grace respecting the raising up of a son from his loins to execute the work which he had contemplated, and to make that son of his the progenitor of the Messiah himself. Improve you in like manner for God all the faculties and powers that you possess; and in honoring God you yourselves shall be honored. Only exert yourselves for God, and everything which you do, or only devise, for him, shall return in blessings into your own bosom.
2 Samuel 7:27
THE PROMISES AN ENCOURAGEMENT TO PRAYER
2 Samuel 7:27. You, O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, have revealed to your servant, saying, I will build you an house: therefore has your servant found in his heart to pray this prayer unto you.
IF we were to judge from the infinite distance which exists between the Creator and his creatures, and especially between a holy God and sinful man, we should say, it was vain, if not impious, to imagine that any request of ours could enter into the ears of Jehovah, or that he could by any means be induced to notice it with his favorable regards. Indeed, it God had not, of his own sovereign mercy, commanded us to spread our wants before him, and assured us of an answer to our supplications, Beelzebub himself might as well hope for acceptance in prayer, as we. But "God has given us exceeding great and precious promises;" which we may plead with him, just as David pleaded in the passage before us.
David had desired to build an house for the Lord: and Nathan, the prophet, had encouraged him in his purpose. But God, not willing that David, who had shed so much blood, should execute that office, devolved it upon one who should spring from his loins verse 12, 13; at the same time assuring David, that God would make his family to be of long continuance upon his throne: "The Lord tells you, that he will make you an house verse 11." Encouraged by this promise, David poured out his soul before God in prayer, saying, "Now, O Lord God, the word that you have spoken concerning your servant, and concerning his house, establish it forever, and do as you have said verse 25." Then, apologizing, if I may so speak, for presuming to offer such a prayer, he refers expressly to the promise before specified, and assigns that as the ground on which he had found it in his heart to pray this prayer The text. Then he goes on, again and again reverting to this in vindication of himself: "And now, O Lord God, you are that God, and your words be true, and you have promised this goodness unto your servant. Therefore, now let it please you to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever before you: for you, O Lord God, have spoken it: and with your blessing let the house of your servant be blessed forever verse 28, 29."
Now, in speaking upon this subject, I will show,
I. The connection which exists between the promises of God and our prayers—
The promises of God are, in fact,
1. Our warrant for asking—
Pardon, peace, holiness, glory! How should it be, that we, sinful creatures, should dare to ask such blessings at God's hands? But God has promised them all. There is not any one thing that an immortal soul can need, which is not the subject of an express promise in the word of God. Moreover, he permits his sinful creatures to come to him "as his remembrancers." By this very name are his suppliant people designated Isaiah 62:6-7. See the marginal version; and every one of them is authorized to spread his promises before him, saying, "Remember your word unto your servant, wherein you have caused me to hope Psalm 119:49;" and "do unto me as you have said verse 11, 16."
2. Our security for receiving—
God is altogether immutable, both in his nature Malachi 3:6; James 1:17, and in his word Hebrews 6:17; "Sooner should Heaven and earth pass away, than one jot or tittle of his word should fail Matthew 24:35." As for difficulties, we have nothing to do with them. Sarah sinned in suffering these to have the least influence upon her mind: for "Is anything too hard for the Lord Genesis 18:10-14." Our confidence cannot possibly be too strong, when we have an express promise to rely upon. We should have this as an abiding principle within us; as a principle which no difficulties whatever should shake: "God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: has he said, and shall he not do it? or has he spoken, and shall he not make it good Numbers 23:19." Never did any one trust in the Lord, and find himself disappointed of his hope. As Joshua appealed to all Israel, so may we appeal to every believer in the universe: "You know, in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing has failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spoke concerning you: all are come to pass unto you; and not one thing has failed thereof Joshua 23:14."
From the example of David I will further point out,
II. Our duty in relation to them—
1. We must embrace them as made over to us in Christ Jesus—
It is "in Christ alone that they are all Yes, and Amen 2 Corinthians 1:20;" and it is to those only who are in Christ by a living faith, that any of them are made. True, indeed, there are general promises given to those who come to Christ Matthew 11:28; John 6:37; but we never have any part in them, until we actually perform the conditions on which alone they are given. The Covenant of grace provides for us all that we can ever stand in need of. But we must "lay hold on that covenant," and on "Jesus the Mediator of that covenant," before we can possess the blessings of it. Let not this be forgotten. Let us not suppose that we are to obtain mercy in ways of our own devising. We must come to God by Christ: we must plead what Christ has done and suffered for us: we must trust in him alone. There is "no access to God, for any of us, but by Him John 14:6; Ephesians 2:18;" "nor is there any name but His, whereby any man can be saved Acts 4:12."
2. We must treasure them up in our minds, in order to plead them before God—
In going to God, we greatly honor him, when we remind him of his promises, and declare our entire dependence on them. See the example of Jacob, who for his power in prayer was surnamed Israel Genesis 32:24-28. He had been assured, in a dream, that God would be with him in all places, and never leave him until he had fulfilled to him his promises in their fullest extent Genesis 28:15. Full twenty years afterwards, Jacob, in a season of great distress, reminded God of this promise, saying, "O God of my father Abraham, and God of my Father Isaac, the Lord which said unto me, Return unto your country and to your kindred, and I will deal well with you: deliver me, I pray you! for you said, I will surely do you good Genesis 32:9; Genesis 32:11-12." Thus we should bear in mind the promises which God has given us, and present before him those which are in a more peculiar manner suited to our state. This will give us confidence before God; and it will secure to us infallibly an answer of peace: for "this is the confidence that we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us: and, if we know that he hear us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him 1 John 5:14-15."
3. We must wait with patience for the fulfillment of them—
God may not answer, either at the time, or in the manner, that our impatient spirits may wish. But though we may ask of him, we are not to dictate to him. We must wait His time, and leave everything to His disposal. The saints of old "saw the promises afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them Hebrews 11:13." Thus must we do. Times and seasons must be left to God, who alone knows what will be eventually best for us. If we "have found it in our hearts to pray unto him," we may be sure of two things: first, that God himself has put it into our hearts to pray; and next, that he therefore put it into our hearts to pray, because it was previously in his heart to give. It is "through faith and patience that we are to inherit the promises Hebrews 6:12;" and the more dark his dispensations, whether of providence or of grace, may be, the more must we "hold fast our confidence in him," saying, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him Job 13:15."
2 Samuel 12:1-7
2 Samuel 12:1-7. And the Lord sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor. The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds: but the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter. And there came a traveler unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man's lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him. And David's anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the Lord lives, the man that has done this thing shall surely die: and he shall restore the lamb four-fold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity. And Nathan said to David, You are the man.
GOD, in the disposal of his gifts, does not conduct himself by any such laws as are necessary for the regulation of human actions. He is a Sovereign who may deal with his creatures as he pleases, without "giving account to us of any of his matters." Accordingly we find that sometimes he has exercised a severity beyond what we, with our limited apprehensions, might have expected: and at other times he has shown mercy, where we could have expected nothing but the heaviest judgments. We have lately seen him striking Uzzah dead for a well-meant error, and taking the kingdom from Saul for not waiting quite so long for Samuel as he should have done: but in our text we behold him sending a prophet unto David to bring him to repentance, after the commission of such crimes as cannot be contemplated without horror and amazement. But "His ways are not as our ways, nor his thoughts as our thoughts."
The conduct of David as portrayed in our text, together with the means used by Nathan to humble him for it, lead us to show,
I. To what an awful extent a man's conscience may be seared—
We read of persons whose "consciences are seared as with an hot iron 1 Timothy 4:2;" and such was now the state of David—
One would have supposed that, after the commission of adultery with Bathsheba, he would have been scarcely able to endure his existence through the agonies of his mind: but he was only concerned about concealing it from man: accordingly, on finding that her pregnancy must of necessity lead to a discovery of the crime, he adopted various means to deceive Uriah; and when he did not succeed in them, he sent an order to Joab to expose, and to desert, him in battle, so as to ensure his death by the hands of the enemy. Would one not suppose that such complicated crimes as these should awaken him? Yet behold for nine or ten months he was, as far as appears to us, altogether insensible of his guilt.
At the same time he was quick-sighted enough to the crimes of others, and severe in the extreme against the man, whom Nathan represented as oppressively taking the favorite lamb of a poor neighbor in preference to one out of his own flock: he deemed that man to be worthy of death, because he had shown no pity; and adjudged him to pay four-fold for the injury he had committed.
Who can reflect on this without utter astonishment? That so holy a man as David, who had been so honored of the Lord, and had done so much for the honor of his God, should be left to fall in so grievous a manner, and to lie for so long a time impenitent in his sins! Who can look upon it, and not weep for him? Who can look upon it, and not tremble for himself?
But awful as this state of mind appears, it is, alas! too common in this world—
Such enormous crimes indeed as those of David are not common: but who has not committed some evils which ought to have humbled him in the dust before God?: yet who has not continued months, and even years, without ever abasing himself with humiliation and contrition? Who has not shown a strange insensibility with respect to the guilt he has contracted?: We can easily discern the faults of others, and can censure them with severity; but towards our own we are most blind and most indulgent.
Nor must we be considered here as referring altogether to those who despise religion: it is a common evil: it is found even in the house of God: there are professors of religion who are as blind to their own sins, as if they never had known what sin was; and who, if their misdeeds are unknown to man, continue for years unhumbled in the sight of God. Yes; there are too many, who are both blinded and "hardened by the deceitfulness of sin;" and, if ever God should give them true repentance, they will be as much astonished at their present insensibility, as now they are at that which is recorded in our text.
Seeing then how callous a man's conscience may become, let us inquire,
II. In what way it may be most successfully excited to perform its office—
Much may be learned from the conduct of Nathan on this occasion:
1. We should endeavor to divest men of the self-love that blinds them—
This was well contrived in the parable that Nathan spoke. David did not see the drift of the parable as relating to himself, and therefore felt no personal interest in his decision. Hence his judgment was free, and his determination of the cause unbiased. Had he been aware that he was about to condemn himself, he would have been far more indulgent towards the offending person.
Now this mode of convicting persons, who would have revolted at any plainer dealing, has been frequently practiced with good effect. It was to such an expedient that Joab resorted, in order to prevail on David to recall his son Absalom from banishment 2 Samuel 14:5-11; 2 Samuel 14:20; and by a similar device a prophet constrained Ahab to condemn himself for sparing Benhadad, whom God had delivered into his hands to be destroyed 1 Kings 20:35-42; Our Lord himself also frequently adopted the same method of counteracting the prejudices of the Scribes and Pharisees Matthew 21:40-45; By such means a person is silenced at once, and is "condemned out of his own mouth." True indeed, in cases where the mind is open to conviction, these precautions are less necessary; but the sentence that is founded on such grounds is always less offensive, because the criminal passes it upon himself.
2. We should however combine fidelity with ADDRESS—
Sooner or later we must come to the point, "You are the man." We are to consider ourselves as messengers of the Most High God, who has said, "He who has my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat Jeremiah 23:28." We must not fear the face of man: our concern for his welfare must swallow up all dread of his displeasure; and the consideration of the account which we must one clay give to God, must impel us, even at the peril of our lives, to bear a faithful testimony in his service. Behold the boldness of Elijah in reproving Ahab 1 Kings 18:17-18; 1 Kings 21:19-21; and of John in condemning the incestuous commerce of Herod Matthew 14:4; these are the examples which we must follow, when milder methods have proved ineffectual: but our object must always be, not merely to acquit ourselves to God as faithful monitors, but to win the souls of those whom we admonish. The recollection of our own weakness, and proneness to fall, must ever render us as tender as possible towards our fallen brother: "we must restore him in the spirit of meekness; considering ourselves, lest we also be tempted Galatians 6:1."
Let us then, in the view of this history, learn,
1. To tremble for ourselves—
Did David fall? Who then is safe? Did David sink into such an obdurate state? Who has not reason to dread lest he be given over to a reprobate mind? Clear enough it is from whence repentance must proceed, whether in its first commencement, or in its further progress: if God work it not in us by his Holy Spirit, we shall be altogether as insensible as a rock of adamant. Let none of us then indulge a proud security, or imagine ourselves out of the reach of temptation; "Let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall".
2. To rejoice in God—
O what mercy did God display on this occasion; that instead of cutting off the royal miscreant by some signal judgment, he sent a prophet to awaken his drowsy conscience, and bring him to repentance! We lament indeed, that many have taken occasion from David's fall to make light of sin; and from his recovery, to imagine, that God will never execute his threatened judgments: but we have reason to bless our God that such a monument of mercy has been exhibited in the Scriptures. How many thousands of backsliding Christians have been restored by means of this one example! We are now encouraged to say to all, however heinous their iniquities have been, "Return, you backsliding children; and God will heal your backslidings, and love you freely." "Only acknowledge your iniquity," and then "it shall not be your ruin." Is there any one among us who has become hardened in his sins? O, hear what God says to his people of old Isaiah 57:17-18; and seek "repentance unto life," even that "repentance which is not to be repented of."
2 Samuel 12:13
DAVID'S HUMILIATION AND ACCEPTANCE
2 Samuel 12:13. And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said unto David, The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.
IT is scarcely to be conceived to what a degree sin will blind the eyes, and harden the heart. We see indeed that the ungodly world will commit every species of iniquity without either shame or remorse: but who would imagine that a person enlightened, renewed, and sanctified by the Spirit of God, should in the space of a few days be reduced by sin to a state of utter obduracy? Yet such was the change which one single temptation speedily effected on him who was "the man after God's own heart." The circumstances of David's crime are so well known, that they need not at present to be enlarged upon. But his long impenitence, his apparent forgetfulness of his horrid deeds, and his excessive severity against a man whose fault bore no proportion to his own, are less noticed; though they cannot fail to strike every one who reads the account of his conversation with Nathan. By an apposite and well-wrought parable, the Prophet Nathan had led David inadvertently to pass sentence against himself; and then availed himself of the opportunity to charge home upon him the crimes he had perpetrated. Then it was, and not until then, that David felt a just sense of his guilt: though nine months at least had elapsed since his criminal fellowship with Bathsheba, yet his conscience had slept, until it was now awakened to perform its office. On this occasion he confessed his sin to Nathan; and received from Nathan a consolatory assurance, that his iniquity, heinous as it was, was pardoned.
There are two points to which the text directs our attention;
I. David's humiliation—
There does not at first sight appear anything worthy of notice in David's confession: but, if we examine it carefully, we shall find in it several things which indicated a deep and true repentance.
1. He acknowledged his sin as an offence against God—
The evil of sin in this view is generally overlooked; and the quality of actions is appreciated and determined by their effects on society. Hence the offences which are committed solely against God, such as unbelief, impenitence, self-righteousness, and the like, are never condemned by the world, or even considered as blemishing the moral character at all; while such crimes as theft and perjury render a man universally execrated and abhorred. But it is from its relation to God that sin derives its principal malignity: its chief heinousness consists in its being a violation of God's law, a contempt of his authority, and a practical denial of all his attributes. If any sin whatever could deserve to be marked with superior infamy on other considerations, it would surely be the crimes which David had committed: yet, in adverting to these very actions, David passes over their criminality in relation to man, and notices them only as offences against God See Psalm 51:4. Joseph's views of sin perfectly agreed with those of David. See Genesis 39:9. This shows that he had just views of his conduct: and that the grounds of his humiliation were precisely such as the occasion required.
2. He made no attempt to extenuate his guilt—
Unhumbled persons uniformly endeavor to palliate their faults. Adam cast the blame of his transgression on Eve; and Eve transferred it to the serpent Genesis 3:12-13. Saul, when reproved for sparing Agag and the chief of the spoil, shifted the blame from himself upon the people; and, as far as it still attached to him, excused himself as acting involuntarily, and as overawed by the people 1 Samuel 15:15; 1 Samuel 15:24. But David's mouth was shut: he uttered not one single word in extenuation of his crimes: heavy as Nathan's charge against him was, he fell under it. This was another excellent proof of his penitence and contrition: and it is certain, that wherever real humiliation is, the penitent will be more ready to aggravate his guilt, than to palliate and excuse it.
3. He manifested no displeasure against his reprover—
Men in general, and great men in particular, are very apt to take offence, when told of their faults. They think themselves at liberty to insult God as much as they please: but no one must take the liberty to maintain the cause of God in opposition to them. Some indeed have been found, in different ages, who have ventured to speak with faithfulness to monarchs: but they have always done it at the peril of their lives See 1 Kings 13:4; 1 Kings 21:20; 1 Kings 22:8 and 2 Kings 1:9 and 2 Chronicles 16:10, and not unfrequently have paid the penalty of death for their presumption 2 Chronicles 24:21; 2 Chronicles 25:16 and Matthew 14:3-5; Matthew 14:10. But in the present instance no displeasure at all was manifested: on the contrary, we have reason to think that Nathan was more endeared to David than ever by his fidelity, since David afterwards called one of his own children by the prophet's name 2 Samuel 5:14; and showed confidence in him to the latest hour of his life 1 Kings 1:24; 1 Kings 1:27; 1 Kings 1:32-34. In this therefore we have a further evidence of the sincerity and depth of David's repentance.
4. He was willing to take shame to himself even before men—
There is nothing which men will not do in order to conceal their guilt from men: they will "add iniquity to iniquity," and perpetrate murder itself, in order to avoid the shame to which their crimes have exposed them. How keenly was Saul affected by Samuel's refusal to honor him before the people! The dread of that public dishonor pained him more than all the denunciations of God's wrath 1 Samuel 15:25-30. But the reproaches of men, however severe, were of no account in David's eyes: that which pained him was, that he had given occasion for those reproaches, and that God would be dishonored by them: and therefore, though he thereby published and perpetuated his own shame, he wrote some of his penitential Psalms, and set them to music for the use of penitents in that and all succeeding ages. Being "vile in his own eyes," it was a matter of small concern to him that he was vile also in the eyes of others: he loathed and "abhorred himself," and therefore submitted readily to be abhorred by others.
The truth of his repentance being manifest, we proceed to notice,
II. His acceptance consequent upon it—
Very remarkable was the answer of the prophet to the royal penitent. We remark from it that David's acceptance with God was,
There was no interval of time between the confession of David and the reply of Nathan. The very instant that David repented, God forgave him. This is particularly noticed by David himself as a marvelous expression of God's love and mercy; "I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and you forgave the iniquity of my sin Psalm 32:5." We should have expected that God would suspend his forgiveness, until David should have evinced the truth of his repentance by a subsequent life of piety: but "God's ways and thoughts are not like ours; yes rather, they are as much above ours as the heavens are above the earth Isaiah 55:8-9." God acts in a way worthy of himself. His grace is his own, to dispose of according to his sovereign will; and he dispenses it to whoever, and in whatever way, he sees fit. He shows, if we may so speak, peculiar pleasure in manifesting his compassion towards repenting sinners. He represents himself as falling on the neck of the returning prodigal, and as interrupting his confessions by testimonies of his parental love and pardoning grace. Towards the dying thief also our incarnate God displayed the same readiness to forgive, in that he not only complied with his petition, but far exceeded, without one moment's hesitation, his most enlarged desires Luke 23:42-43.
Thus has he given us a practical comment on his own gracious declarations, and demonstrated, for our comfort, that he is "slow to anger and ready to forgive."
Nathan spoke, not as a man who suggested only a surmise or doubtful opinion, but as a prophet who was inspired to declare what God had really done. God willed not that his repenting servant should be kept in suspense; and therefore ordered Nathan to communicate to him the joyful tidings, not that God would put away his sin, but that he had put it away, and that the penal consequences of his transgression should never come upon his soul. It is thus that God frequently acts towards his people: as he made known to David by his prophet, so he reveals to them by his Spirit, that their iniquities are forgiven, and their sins covered See Isaiah 6:7; Isaiah 38:17; Zechariah 3:4. He desires not the constrained service of a slave, but the willing and grateful obedience of a child. "Though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies Lamentations 3:32;" and will cause his believing people to enjoy an assured sense of their acceptance with him Isaiah 12:1 and Romans 8:15-16.
The sins which David had committed were from that very moment "blotted out as a morning cloud:" neither his adultery nor his murder, nor one particle of guilt of any kind, was imputed to him. There were indeed some temporal judgments entailed upon him: the fruit of his adulterous commerce was blasted, and the child stricken with death. David's own wives were all defiled publicly by his son Absalom: and the sword, according to Nathan's prediction, never departed from his house. These things however were merely temporal, and were designed as much for the benefit of others as for his correction: they tended to impress on all a sense of the malignity of David's crimes; and to show that, however God might pity and forgive a sinner, he utterly and unchangeably abhorred sin. But, notwithstanding these remembrancers of his iniquity, his sin was "cast, as it were, into the very depths of the sea;" as ours also shall be, if we truly repent; nor will God ever remember them against us any more forever Mic. 7:18-19; Hebrews 8:12.
We may learn then from this subject,
1. The benefit of a judicious and faithful Ministry—
The method which Nathan used in order to reach the conscience of David, was extremely judicious: and when he had succeeded in making a breach, then he commenced a direct attack, "You are the man." Had he been less cautious, he had probably shut the ears of his royal master; and had he been satisfied with offering some oblique hints, he had failed to impress his callous mind. But by a happy union of wisdom and fidelity, he gained his point Proverbs 25:12. Well was it for David that he had such a prophet in his court; for, without his admonitions, he might probably have become more and more obdurate, until he had perished in his sin. Thus should all esteem themselves highly favored of God, if they have a minister, who, while he fears not the faces of men, has a tender love for their souls. They should gladly listen to his admonitions, and thankfully receive his reproofs: they should make it a continual subject of their prayers, that his word may come with power to their souls, to awaken them to a sense of sin, and to bring them to the enjoyment of salvation.
2. The boundless extent of God's mercy—
Who would have conceived it possible that such sins as David's should be so soon forgiven? But, "as God's majesty is, so also is his mercy." "He delights in mercy;" and "waits that he may be gracious unto us." His message to us is, "Only acknowledge your transgressions that you have sinned against the Lord your God Jeremiah 3:13." And for our encouragement he declares, "If any say, I have sinned, and it profited me not; I will deliver him from going down into the pit, and his soul shall see the light Job 33:27-28." Let us then carry all our sins to him: whether they have been more or less heinous in the sight of men, let us not continue under the guilt of them, when they may be so speedily removed: let us remember, that, in and through Christ, God is reconciled to a guilty world; and that, while "they who cover their sins shall not prosper, whoever confesses and forsakes them shall find mercy Proverbs 28:13."
2 Samuel 13:15
AMNON AND TAMAR
2 Samuel 13:15. Then Amnon hated her exceedingly; so that the hatred with which he hated her, was greater than the love with which he had loved her.
THE word of God will surely take effect in due season; and every threatening in it, as well as every promise, will be accomplished. God had, with most astonishing mercy, so far pardoned the iniquity of David, as to remit all punishment of it in the future world: but, as his sin had produced a public scandal, and had caused the name of God to be blasphemed through the land, God warned him by Nathan, that he should be visited with troubles through life; with troubles in his own family, not unlike to those which he himself had brought on the family of Uriah. Accordingly we find that these troubles speedily commenced. His eldest son Amnon, the heir to his throne, conceived a criminal desire after his half-sister, Tamar; and so violent was his passion, that his health was visibly impaired by it. By the advice of his friend Jonadab, he laid a plan for getting her within his reach; and then, when she would not consent to his impious purposes, he effected them by force. But no sooner had he accomplished his wishes, than his love was turned into a most inveterate hatred; insomuch that, as our text informs us, "the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her." Now this change of his mind gives us a deep insight into human nature; and affords us occasion for many profitable remarks upon,
I. The love of the ungodly—
As it is not our design to dwell more than is necessary on the particular event that is here recorded, we shall consider personal attachment as comprehending both love and friendship. Now love, in this extended sense, may exist in a very high degree where there is no religious principle; it may even in some respects vie with the most exalted instances that are to be found in the Church of God; with the love of Jacob to Rachel, for the sake of whom seven years of servitude appeared but as a few days Genesis 29:20; and with the friendship that subsisted between David and Jonathan, whose love for each other exceeded even the love of women 2 Samuel 1:25-26. But it must be confessed, that far the greater part of that which passes for love and friendship in the world, is bad; and that even the best of it is very defective. For the elucidating of this point we shall show,
1. The criminality of that which is evil—
Behold that which is spoken of in our text: it was exceeding ardent, it is true; but it was selfish, cruel, impious: it had respect to nothing but personal gratification; it sought that gratification at the expense of the honor, the interest, the happiness of the object beloved; and it trampled under foot every law whether human or divine. In the case before us this is plain and obvious; and it will be found that very much of that which is called love and friendship, is of precisely the same stamp and character. It is scarcely needful to advert to that which issues in the seduction of innocence, and a dereliction of the seduced object to all the horrors of infamy and want; yet, how many thousands, of the lower classes especially, have reason to deplore and execrate the existence of such love, among their family, their friends, or their acquaintance! Nor is the friendship of innumerable classes both in higher and lower life unlike to this. Behold the gamester; he has his friends to whom he is strongly attached, not for any valuable qualities in them, but because they administer to his pleasure: but so cruel is his attachment, that if he can win from them all that they possess, he will gladly do it, though he thereby reduce both them and their families to the lowest ebb of misery and ruin. In like manner the persons that unite for what is called conviviality and good fellowship: what are these, but confederates against the God of Heaven and earth, associated together to encourage one another in a contempt of his majesty, and a violation of his laws? If men unite for the purposes of plunder, or in resistance to the constituted authorities of the land, we conceive that we do them no injustice, when we speak of them as thieves or rebels: nor will God designate by any gentler terms the union of those who uphold one another in a systematic opposition to his holy will. Whatever be the particular line of conduct they pursue, whether the more flagrant one of open licentiousness, or the more approved one of sober sensuality, their love is selfish, because it centers in self; it is cruel, because it seeks its own ends without regard to the happiness of others; and it is impious, because it is a conspiracy to banish God from the world.
2. The deficiency of that which is good—
Nothing is more honorable than virtuous love, nor anything more delightful than friendship founded on virtuous principles. But still if the attachment be merely that which springs from natural affections, it is defective: it is defective in its foundation, its exercise, its continuance.
That cannot be perfect which has not piety for its basis. Our love to each other should spring from our love to God, and have respect to his image in the person beloved. The person's conformity to God's mind and will should be the reason, and the measure, of our love to him. Where this is not the case, the union will be in danger of being dissolved by that very thing which ought most powerfully to cement it. If one of the parties become pious, the change will only produce alienation of heart in him whose attachment was founded on natural qualities or attainments: the correspondence of sentiment which is essential to love will have ceased; and the most ardent affection will from thenceforth either be changed into hatred, or subside into cold respect.
As the foundation of merely natural attachments is defective, so also is the exercise: for how can our love aim at the spiritual welfare of its object, when we ourselves have no spiritual sensibility? We may do much, and suffer much, for the temporal happiness of those we love; but we shall retard, rather than advance, whatever could conduce to the good of his soul. How miserably defective then must such attachment be, when, instead of promoting, it obstructs the most valuable ends of life!
Nor is it possible, in the very nature of things, for such attachments to continue beyond the present state of existence. The righteous have a prospect beyond the grave. As a river gliding sweetly through its banks is separated at last by an intervening pier, and then flows in renewed union to the ocean to part no more, so do the godly pass their days together in sweet communion, until separated for a moment by death, they meet again in the future world, to spend an eternity together in unfading bliss. But no such prospect opens to the worldly man: however happy he may be in his love or friendship, his views are bounded by the narrow limits of this present world. We might add too, that even in this world its continuance is most uncertain: for where religion does not reign in the heart, and form the basis of our affection, the attachment is liable to be easily interrupted, and speedily dissolved: and it is but too often found, that when the object ceases, through illness or poverty, to administer the usual satisfaction, attachment languishes, and gives way to indifference and neglect.
Intimately connected with this subject is,
II. The hatred of the unjust—
That men should hate those who injure them, will not create in us any surprise; but that they should hate those whom they have injured, and because they have injured them, may seem strange indeed: but this is really the common course of human events. The instance recorded in our text is worthy of particular notice; The injury which Amnon had done to Tamar was beyond measure great: and, if his love underwent any change at all, we might well suppose that it would give way to pity and compassion. But behold, instead of harboring any tender emotions towards her, he was instantly inflamed with the most inveterate resentment; insomuch that, ardent as his love had been, his hatred now far exceeded it. But this change was founded in human nature, and was precisely such as injustice is calculated to produce. We hate those whom we have injured,
1. Because we have lowered ourselves in their esteem—
We all affect the esteem of our fellow-creatures; and it is well to do so: "a good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold Proverbs 22:1." While we are unconscious of having done anything to forfeit a person's esteem, we conclude, as a matter of course, that we possess it: but when we are sensible that we have injured him in any respect, we feel that we have suffered loss in his esteem: and this loss we resent as an injury done to ourselves. It is by no means uncommon for persons so to expose themselves to censure by their follies, as to render the society in which they mix, and even the town or village in which they live, disgustful to them; and they hate all the people whose censure they have incurred, for no other reason than because they have seen and noticed the improprieties of their conduct. Their pride is wounded; and they impute that to the malignity of others, which they should ascribe rather to their own folly. Thus it is with respect to injuries of every kind: we feel that the commission of them lessens our character in the eyes of him whom we have injured; and not having any suitable humiliation in our own souls, we impute that to malignity in him, which is the sole fruit of our injustice.
2. Because we have enabled him to lower us in the estimation of others—
We can easily go to sleep in sin, provided our iniquity be unknown; but a discovery of it fills us with the most pungent grief. Now if we have injured any person, we have put ourselves in the power of that person, so that he can inflict upon us the severest wounds, by exposing our conduct to public reprehension. Some indeed there are who care but little about their character, and who are therefore indifferent whether their conduct be exposed or not: but, where character is dear to a man, and he has done anything which would involve him in much disgrace, there his hatred will proportionably rise against the person that is privy to his shame. We cannot find a more striking instance of this than in the history of David. He had injured his friend Uriah in the basest manner; and used all possible methods to conceal his shame. Having failed in these, he found that Uriah must of necessity before long discover the injury he had received; and therefore he longed for Uriah's death; yes, he actually laid a snare for his life, and was delighted to hear that he had successfully attained his murderous object. We are far from saying that every man's resentment would carry him to this length, even where the same grounds for it existed: but we have no doubt, that there is not any one who, in similar circumstances, would not rejoice to hear that the person whom he had injured was dead: all concern about his life would be swallowed up in the hope of concealing his own shame, and retaining an unblemished character before men.
3. Because we conceive him to be our enemy—
It is natural to suppose that those whom we have injured are our enemies: and that consideration is quite sufficient to excite hatred in the bosom of an unjust man. Hence Solomon observes, "A lying tongue hates those that are afflicted by it Proverbs 26:28." Indeed it is from this consideration that men hate the Scriptures, and even God himself: they know that the Scriptures are against them, and that God is displeased with them: and therefore "they hate the light, and will not come to the light, lest their deeds should be reproved:" yes, they say, "Make the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us;" or, as the fool in his heart, "I wish there were no God Isaiah 30:11; Psalm 14:1." In like manner they hate pious ministers also, as Ahab did; "I hate Micaiah, because he does not speak good concerning me, but evil." While we suppose that men love us, there is no difficulty in loving them: the vilest of publicans and sinners will do this: but when we think that our persons or our characters are odious to others, it requires much grace to feel a loving spirit towards them; a grace which no ungodly man can exercise, nor any unjust man possess. Resentment is the only fruit which nature, so circumstanced, will produce.
Many valuable lessons may be learned from this subject: we may see in particular the importance,
1. Of cultivating a religious principle—
Had Amnon felt the power of religion in his soul, he would have withstood the first impulse of his desire, and said, "How shall I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" Or, if he had been overcome with the temptation, he would at least have sought to repair the injury he had done, and not have aggravated it by such cruel treatment. But, being destitute of all religious principle, he was the sport of every lust, and was driven from one extreme to another, as a leaf before the wind. And what can we expect, but to be equally unstable, though we should not commit exactly the same enormities as he? Yes; nothing but a religious principle will keep us firm. If we have the fear of God in our hearts, we shall "stand in awe, and not sin," even though we know that our iniquity will not be discovered by mortal eyes: and if we have the love of Christ in our hearts, that will constrain us to live to him, in a holy conformity to his will, and in a cheerful obedience to his commands.
2. Of associating with pious friends—
Had Jonadab been pious, he would have instantly endeavored to divert Amnon from his purpose: but, being himself an ungodly man, he offered himself a pander to Amnon's lusts, and suggested to him the plan whereby he might obtain the gratification he desired. Thus was he, in fact, the instrument whereby these horrid impieties were accomplished. Thus it is with ungodly companions at all times: instead of discountenancing evil, they will encourage it, and facilitate the execution of it to the uttermost. Knowing then, as we do, how apt we are to imbibe the spirit of our friends, should we not be careful with whom we associate? Should we not select our friends from the wise and good, rather than from among the giddy and profane? "He who walks with wise men," says Solomon, "will be wise; but a companion of fools shall be destroyed Proverbs 13:20." Let us remember that "evil communications will corrupt good manners;" and let us choose those for our associates in this world, whom we shall wish to dwell with in the world to come.
3. Of setting a good example—
We cannot but trace, in some degree at least, the wickedness of Amnon to the sad example which David had set him. Amnon would be ready to excuse his own conduct towards Tamar, in comparison of David towards Bathsheba and Uriah. "At all events," he would say, "my father cannot be very severe in censuring me, when he recollects what he himself has done." In like manner, if we give the world occasion to reproach us, we shall lose all weight and influence in reproving them; yes, we shall harden them in their iniquities, and encourage them to vindicate themselves from our example. Let parents, and masters, and all that are in authority, bear this in mind, that one bad act of theirs will do more to countenance sin, than ten good admonitions will do to repress it. Let religious professors in particular remember it; for if they cast a stumbling-block before men, they will be accountable to God for all the evil that ensues. Methinks, in this, and in many subsequent events, David could not but see the sad fruit of his own iniquities; and that very consideration would add ten-fold poignancy to all his grief: and many parents may find in the conduct of their children the severest reprehension for their own neglects. Let us guard against all such occasion for self-reproach; and endeavor so to act, that we may be able to say to all around us, "Whatever you have seen and heard in me, do, and the God of peace shall be with you."
2 Samuel 15:25-26
DAVID DRIVEN FROM HIS THRONE BY ABSALOM
2 Samuel 15:25-26. And the king said unto Zadok, Carry back the ark of God into the city; if I shall find favor in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me again, and show me both it, and his habitation: but if he thus say, I have no delight in you; behold, here am I, let him do to me as seems good unto him.
SIN, though forgiven, rarely passes unpunished in this present world: on the contrary, God marks his indignation against it here, in order to embitter it the more to the offender who has committed it, and to endear to him the more that mercy which has been exercised towards him. At the very time that he forgave the sin of David, he declared to the pardoned penitent, that the sword should never pass from his house, even to the latest hour. Accordingly we find, that David was afflicted in no common degree in his own family; and in such a way as strongly to bring his sins to his remembrance. He had dishonored the wife of his friend Uriah; and his own son Amnon violates his daughter Tamar. He had contrived and accomplished the death of Uriah; and his son Absalom contrived and accomplished the death of his own brother Amnon. He had dishonored God in the face of the whole world; and he himself is driven with scorn and infamy from his throne. Yet, though in this respect a monument of God's displeasure, he was now living near to God, in the exercise of all holy duties, and heavenly affections. At no period of his life was grace more in exercise within him, as appears from the spirit which he manifested under his afflictions. To exhibit this spirit in its true colors, and to make a suitable improvement of it for our own souls, is the scope and object of our present discourse.
I. Mark his spirit and conduct under his afflictions—
To two points in particular the text calls our attention:
1. His reverence for God—
David having suddenly fled from Jerusalem in order to escape from the sword of Absalom, Zadok and the Levites brought forth the ark to David, that he might be able in this emergency to consult it. But David ordered Zadok to carry it back: for, though nothing in the world was so desirable to him as the presence of God, he regarded this measure as highly inexpedient.
It was unauthorized; and therefore wrong. That sacred symbol of the Deity was not to be moved about according to the wishes or conceits of men. In the wilderness it had never moved, but as the pillar and the cloud, in which the Deity resided, led the way. And to dispose of it in this manner, without any direction from God, was such an act of impious presumption as he dared not to commit. He well remembered the rebuke which he himself had met with, when, with the best intentions, he had moved the ark without attending to the forms prescribed by God himself; suffering it to be drawn in a cart by oxen, instead of carrying it on the shoulders of the Levites: for the smiting of Uzzah was a testimony of God's displeasure against him for his inattention, no less than against Uzzah himself for his presumption 1 Chronicles 15:13. He remembered too the judgments inflicted on above fifty thousand men of Bethshemesh for daring to look into the ark 1 Samuel 6:19; and therefore he trembled at the thought of acting towards it with irreverence or indiscretion.
It was also unnecessary. He knew by experience that God's presence was not confined to the ark; but that he was accessible to his people at all times, and in all places. Often had he, when driven out from Jerusalem by Saul, made known his requests in prayer to God, and obtained from him the most gracious answers: and therefore he doubted not but that God would still continue to him his gracious communications in the time of need, notwithstanding the absence of that symbol, through which, under other circumstances, he ought to have been approached.
It was moreover unavailing. What could the ark do, unless accompanied by God himself? What had it done for Israel when taken from Shiloh to protect them against the Philistines? Of itself it had no power: and therefore it was taken prisoner by the Philistines, while those who bare it were slain 1 Samuel 4:11. And what if this unauthorized measure should lead to a similar result? How could he ever lift up his head again, after having brought such dishonor upon God?
It was impious. What was this, but to transfer to a creature the attributes of Deity, and to expect from, the ark the help which could proceed from God alone? This would have been to provoke God to jealousy, and to excite his displeasure at the very time that he most needed an interest in his favor.
On these grounds David sent back the ark; and humbly committed his cause into the hands of his invisible but almighty Protector.
2. His submission to God—
Exceeding heavy were the afflictions of David at this time. He was driven from his throne; in hourly danger of being destroyed with all his faithful attendants; and this through the ambition and cruelty of his favorite son. Forsaken by some of his most endeared friends, and loaded with curses by his envenomed enemies, he fled in the most disconsolate state that can be imagined. Hear the pathetic account given of him in the following context: "David went up by the ascent of Mount Olivet, and wept as he went up, and had his head covered; and he went barefoot. And all the people that were with him covered every man his head; and they went up, weeping as they went up verse 30." But his afflictions were great, no less in a spiritual than in a temporal view. Indeed it is in this view that he chiefly complains of them throughout the Psalms See Psalm 42:1-5; Psalm 42:10; Psalm 43:3-4; Psalm 84:1-4.
But in the midst of all, he submitted meekly to the painful dispensation, leaving it to God to order for him whatever in His wisdom he should see fit. He knew that, if God should interpose in his behalf, all should yet issue well, and he should yet again worship God in his sanctuary: but, if God had ordained otherwise, he was prepared to kiss the rod, and to bless the hand that chastised him with it. "If I shall find favor in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me again, and show me both the ark and his habitation: but if he thus say, I have no delight in you; behold, here am I, let him do unto me as seems good unto him."
In all this he was doubtless actuated by a sense of his own extreme unworthiness: he saw that the affliction which was laid upon him, was an accomplishment of the threatening long since denounced against him by God himself, and "he received it as the punishment of his iniquity." At the same time, assured in his own mind that the strokes were inflicted by a loving Father, and not by an avenging Judge, he desired only that God should glorify himself in any way which he saw best: "I was dumb, and opened not my mouth, because you did it Psalm 39:9."
Confine not however your views to David; but,
II. Improve the subject for the benefit of your own souls—
1. See here the sufferings of that Savior whom he typified—
David was a most remarkable type of Christ, no less in his sufferings than in his exaltation to the throne of Israel. In all the Psalms where he speaks of his sufferings, he speaks quite as much in the person of the Messiah as in his own person See Psalms 22, 69; Even where he seems most exclusively to refer to his own case, he is quoted by Paul as pre-eminently typifying the Lord Jesus: "Innumerable evils have compassed me about: mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of my head; therefore my heart fails me." Doubtless these words, as far as they relate to Christ, speak of him only as bearing the sins of others, while David suffered only for his own: but the whole Psalm is in a very peculiar degree descriptive of the Lord Jesus Compare Psalm 40:6-8 with Hebrews 10:5-9. Behold Jesus then as cast out by his whole nation, who said, "We will not have this man to reign over us verse 23 with John 18:1." Behold him forsaken by his own Disciples whom he loved, and betrayed by one who had eaten bread with him, even by Judas, who was actually typified by Ahithophel Psalm 41:9 with John 13:18. Behold him going over that very brook Kedron John 18:1, pursued by armed bands John 18:3, who sought and labored to destroy him!
But behold more particularly His deportment under his afflictions. Here was David pre-eminently a type of Him. When the bitter cup was put into his hands, though he prayed for the removal of it, he said, "Not my will, but your be done." When loaded with execrations, as David was by Shimei, he submitted meekly to the insults, as the Apostle says; "When he was reviled, he reviled not again; when he suffered, threatened not; but committed himself to Him that judges righteously." As David too was chiefly solicitous for the welfare of the very man who sought his life, (giving express charge to all to spare the life of Absalom,) so did our blessed Lord pray and plead for his murderers; "Father, forgive them! for they know not what they do."
Thus while you admire the spirit and conduct of David, you may well take occasion to admire the infinitely sublimer spirit of the Lord Jesus.
2. Look to him as an example under any sufferings which you yourselves may be called to bear—
This is the improvement which an inspired Apostle teaches us to make of the subject: "Take, my brethren," says James, "the prophets who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience." We ourselves are all exposed to sufferings, even as David was: for "we are born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward:" nor do we know how soon troubles may come upon us. The possession of a crown was no exemption to David; nor can any situation, in which we may be, prove an exemption to us. The more secure we are in our own apprehension, the more reason we have to expect that some calamity is near at hand. The saying, "My mountain stands strong; I shall not be moved;" will be a prelude to the hiding of God's face, and the incursion of some heavy trouble Psalm 30:6-7. The very things to which we looked for comfort may become an occasion of the bitterest anguish. Absalom was considered as the most beautiful youth in all Israel, and no doubt had often been looked upon by David with inexpressible delight; yet this was the man who assassinated his brother and dethroned his father. And thus it is often found, at this day, that the objects of our fondest delight become, not the innocent occasions only, but even the guilty sources, of our bitterest affliction.
Are there then any among us oppressed with trouble? Let us look to David, and after his example commit our cause to God with meek submission and with humble affiance. Let us see the hand of God in our trials, and view men only as his instruments, raised up by him to fulfill and execute his will Psalm 17:13; Isaiah 10:5; Isaiah 10:15. Let us view men and devils only as the axe or saw in the hand of him that uses it; and, under a sense of our own extreme unworthiness, let us "receive evil at the Lord's hands as well as good," and "bless him" equally for whichever in his providence he ordains for us Job 1:21.
3. Seek a kingdom of which you can never be dispossessed—
David was at that time the mightiest monarch upon earth: yet how soon, and how easily, was he dispossessed of his throne. To what then can we look as stable and permanent? Alas! like Shebna, we may in an instant be cast out from all that we possess, even as a stone is cast out from a sling Isaiah 22:15-19. But there is "a kingdom which cannot be moved," and "against which the gates of Hell shall not prevail." This is the inheritance which our Lord Jesus Christ will give to all who truly believe in him: Of this David was secure: and therefore he regarded not the loss of an earthly kingdom; but willingly submitted to it, if God had so ordained. Do you likewise secure a portion that is out of the reach of any enemies. Have God for your friend; and you need not care who is your enemy: for "if He be for you, none can with any effect be against you." You may look with delight on the gathering storm, and defy all the powers of earth and Hell to hurt you. So did David Psalm 46:1-3; and so did Paul Romans 8:35-39; and so may the least and weakest of the human race: for "the lame shall take the prey Isaiah 33:23; Isaiah 26:6;" though they were prisoners too, "they should take those captives, whose captives they were; and should rule over their oppressors Isaiah 14:2;" yes, though they were even skin, yet should they rise to resume the conflict; and "their enemies should fall under the slain Isaiah 10:4." "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom Luke 12:32;" and, once possessed of that, "all tears shall be wiped away from your eyes forever Revelation 21:3-4."
2 Samuel 15:30
DAVID'S SUBMISSION TO HIS AFFLICTIONS
2 Samuel 15:30. And David went up by the ascent of Mount Olivet, and wept as he went up, and had his head covered, and he went barefoot: and all the people that was with him covered every man his head, and they went up, weeping as they went up.
A CONSCIOUSNESS of ill desert has a tendency to reconcile us to the afflictions with which our sins are visited. In some respect indeed it embitters our trials, which the testimony of a good conscience would alleviate: but in other respects it has a good effect, in that it silences every murmur against the dispensations of a righteous Providence. The troubles which David had experienced in his family as the punishment of his own sins, had already been great and manifold: but in the rebellion of Absalom they were risen to their height: they were borne however with a spirit of piety suited to his state, and worthy of his high character.
Let us consider,
I. The circumstances in which he was placed—
These were most afflictive—
He was now driven from his throne, banished from the ordinances of religion, and in danger of immediate destruction. Now considering him as a man, such adversity must be painful in the extreme; and still more when we recollect that he was a king, and therefore susceptible of pain in proportion to the degradation which he suffered. But view him as a man of humanity, and then how distressing must it be to see his country involved in civil war, and to be himself on the eve of a bloody engagement with thousands of his own subjects! View him also as a man of piety, driven from the ordinances of religion, and suffering under the rebukes of an offended God; what can be conceived more distressing than such a state as his?
But they derived ten-fold poignancy from the source from whence they flowed—
The people that inflicted these wounds were his own subjects. Had he been attacked by foreign enemies, he would have gone forth against them with alacrity: but to be constrained to fight with those over whom he had reigned so many years, in whose defense he had so often exposed his own life, and for whose benefit he had labored all his days, this filled him with the deepest grief Psalm 55:1-8 with Zechariah 13:6.
But among the insurgents was his own peculiar friend, from whose counsel and assistance he might have derived the greatest benefit. How keenly he felt this disappointment, we learn from the lamentation he poured out on this memorable occasion Psalm 55:12-14; and who that has known the sweets of friendship must not sympathize with him? But the bitterest ingredient in his cup was, that it was mixed for him by his own son; that son, whom he had so recently, and so undeservedly received to favor, and in whose professions of piety he had begun to rejoice 2 Samuel 15:7-9. As the most exalted joys, so also the acutest sorrows, flow from those who stand to us in the relation of children: and in proportion as this worthless son was beloved by him, was the anguish occasioned by his rebellious conduct. The insulting language of Shimei was of no account in the mind of David; that he was willing to bear 2 Samuel 16:5-11; but to be so treated by his beloved Absalom, was a grief almost insupportable verse 30. And we doubt not but that every tender parent will readily understand how greatly such a consideration must have overwhelmed his mind.
Let us next proceed to notice,
II. His conduct under those circumstances—
Zadok and Abiathar had brought to him the ark, judging that it must be a comfort and a benefit to him to have access to God under his heavy trials. But David ordered them to carry back the ark, being himself prepared for every event, inasmuch as he enjoyed in his own soul,
1. A confidence in God's care—
David well knew that God's presence was not confined to the ark, nor his agency necessarily connected with it. He knew that wherever his enemies might drive him, God's ear would be open to his prayer, and his arm be extended for his relief. Hence, though he honored the ark as the symbol of God's presence, he did not confide in it: but trusted in God, who was represented by it. He knew that, if God should be on his side, the efforts of his enemies would be all in vain; and that, however menacing their aspect at the present, he should in due time be brought back again in safety.
Such is the confidence which God's people should maintain under all the trials which they may be called to endure. "The name of God is a strong tower to which they may run," and in which they may defy their bitterest enemies. "If He be for them, none can be against them;" "nor can any weapon that is formed against them prosper." It is the privilege of every saint to know, that his affairs are in God's hands; and that as nothing can be done but by the divine permission, so nothing shall be done, which shall not work for his spiritual and eternal good. The language of his soul therefore should at all times be, "The Lord is on my side; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me".
2. A submission to his will—
What God might have ordained respecting him, David did not know; nor was he curious to inquire: but, whatever might be the issue of his present afflictions, he was contented and satisfied. Well he knew that he deserved all that God could lay upon him; and he was ready to say, "I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him Mic. 7:9." This is one fruit of sin, if I may so speak; or rather, of that humiliation which accompanies true repentance: we become reconciled to whatever God may do, seeing that any chastisement in this world must be less than our iniquities have deserved. O that in the prospect of the heaviest calamities we might have such a view of our ill desert, as should dispose us humbly to commit ourselves into God's hands, and cordially to welcome every trial which his all-wise providence may appoint for us! Under every affliction, our acquiescence should be like that of Eli, "It is the Lord, let him do what seems him good."
2 Samuel 16:5-12
DAVID'S PATIENCE AND FORBEARANCE
2 Samuel 16:5-12. And when king David came to Bahurim, behold, thence came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera: he came forth, and cursed still as he came. And he cast stones at David, and at all the servants of king David: and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left. And thus said Shimei when he cursed, Come out, come out, you bloody man, and you man of Belial: the Lord has returned upon you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose stead you have reigned; and the Lord has delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom your son: and, behold, you are taken in your mischief, because you are a bloody man. Then said Abishai the son of Zeruiah unto the king, Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over, I pray you, and take off his head. And the king said, What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? so let him curse, because the Lord has said unto him, Curse David. Who shall then say, Why have you done so? And David said to Abishai, and to all his servants, Behold, my son, which came forth of my affections, seeks my life: how much more now may this Benjamite do it? Let him alone, and let him curse: for the Lord has bidden him. It may be that the Lord will look on mine affliction, and that the Lord will requite me good for his cursing this day.
IT is thought by many, that situations of rank and eminence are conducive to happiness. But the very reverse of this will be found true for the most part, because persons in authority are beset with numberless temptations, to which their inferiors are scarcely at all exposed. Behold David exalted to a throne; and see to what trials he was reduced, by those who sought his favor, or envied him his power! It is the unhappy lot of kings to be surrounded no less by lying friends, than by bitter enemies. When David fled from Absalom, Ziba, the servant of Mephibosheth, the son of Saul, met him with a present of needful provisions for himself and followers, under a feigned plea, that his master had joined the conspiracy of Absalom, in the hope of regaining his father's kingdom: and thus he obtained from David an hasty and inadvertent grant of all Mephibosheth's possessions; a grant, which David afterwards, when better informed, was constrained to rescind. Scarcely had David been thus betrayed by a pretended friend, before he was fiercely assaulted by a bitter enemy, who now took advantage of his misfortunes to load him with all manner of reproaches. From this evil, however, David escaped with far greater honor to himself. In the former case he was imposed upon, and was led to act with unwise precipitation: but in this latter case, when urged to avenge himself on the delinquent, he forbore; and thus manifested a disposition of mind that is worthy of universal imitation.
To place David's conduct in its true light, I will set before you,
I. His heavy trial—
His condition, independent of Shimei's conduct, was exceedingly afflictive—
He was now driven from his throne, and forced to flee for his life. To this he was forced by his own subjects, led on by his most favorite son, Absalom. To be reduced to such an extremity by a foreign foe would have been an exceeding great calamity: but to be brought to it by his own beloved son, at the head of his rebellious subjects, was as afflictive a dispensation as could well be conceived.
But in this cup of sorrow there was an ingredient that was incomparably more bitter than even death itself; namely, a consciousness that it proceeded from God, as a punishment of the sin he had committed in the matter of Uriah. Nathan had long since delivered to him this warning from the Lord: "Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your house 2 Samuel 12:11." And this judgment had already been executed in part, by Amnon's ravishing of his sister Tamar; and by Absalom's murder of his brother Amnon; (in both of which there was an awful correspondence with his own sins in the matter of Bathsheba and Uriah:) and now it came home more immediately to his own person, in the conduct of Absalom towards himself. This consciousness very deeply oppressed his mind, and added a ten-fold poignancy to all his other stings.
But the conduct of Shimei greatly aggravated his misfortunes at this time—
It came upon him at a time when he was wounded, and disconsolate, under the rebukes of the Almighty Psalm 69:26. And the bitterness of this man's reproaches could scarcely be exceeded. Shimei, being a Benjamite, was zealous for his own tribe, from whence the sovereign authority had been transferred to the tribe of Judah. (Such jealousies, alas! pervade all ranks and classes of society throughout the world, from rival states to rival districts, communities, towns, families, and parties of every description: and often the feelings subsisting between the adverse parties, are scarcely less acrimonious than those of Shimei himself.) Besides, being of the family of Saul, perhaps Shimei's prospects in life were in a great measure blasted: and therefore, while he regarded David as the occasion of his ruin, he considered the Deity himself as vindicating his cause, in the punishment of the usurper. But his accusation of David, as having imbrued his hands in the blood of Saul, was without the least foundation: for it was well known that he had not been in the least degree accessory to the death of Saul, or Jonathan, or of Abner, or Ishbosheth, or of any whose blood was now laid to his charge. But such an accusation, at such a time, was most distressing to the feelings of the royal sufferer: and the rather too, because it brought the more forcibly to his mind the evils which he had indeed committed, and for which God was indeed inflicting upon him this sore punishment.
We wonder not at the indignation of Abishai, or at the proposal which he made to avenge his master's cause on this insulting adversary. But we do wonder at David's forbearance under this heavy trial, and at,
II. His meek submission to it—
David would not suffer Abishai to execute his project, and to inflict on this daring rebel the deserved punishment. He chose rather to endure all the insults that were heaped upon him: and to this he was led by two considerations:
1. He saw the hand of God in this trial—
Repeatedly does he say, that "God had bidden this virulent adversary to curse him:" and from that consideration he puts the question to Abishai, "Who then shall say, Why have you done so verse 10, 11." Of course, he did not imagine that God had enjoined this man to behave thus, or had actually infused into his mind a disposition to commit so great a transgression. When "God hardened the heart of Pharaoh Exodus 4:21," he only left him to harden his own heart: and when he "sent forth an evil and lying spirit into the prophets of Ahab," he only gave permission to the evil spirit to enter into them 1 Kings 22:21-23. In fact, the creature, even while he acts most freely, executes, even as the murderers of our blessed Lord did, "what His mind and His counsel had determined before to be done Acts 4:28." The creature, whatever his own mind and purpose may be, is only "a rod, or staff, or sword in Jehovah's hand," to execute his holy will Isaiah 10:5-7. And though this does not excuse the creature, who, in fact, thinks of doing his own will only, it must reconcile us to what is done, no less than if it had been done directly and immediately by God himself. Thus Job viewed the losses he sustained through the rapacity of the Chaldeans and Sabeans, who took away all his cattle, and slew his servants: "Shall I receive good at the Lord's hands, and shall I not receive evil? The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away: blessed be the name of the Lord Job 1:21; Job 2:10." From this consideration, David was enabled to submit with meekness to the invectives of Shimei, and to say, as Eli, "It is the Lord; let him do what seems him good 1 Samuel 3:18." This is the account he himself gives us: "I was dumb, and opened not my mouth, because you did it Psalm 39:9."
2. He looked to God to overrule it for his good—
It is God's privilege to bring good out of evil, for the benefit of his believing people. David was no stranger to the history of Joseph, nor of the testimony which Joseph bore respecting the sufferings which had been inflicted on him by his brethren: "It was not you that sent me hither; but God, to save your lives by a great deliverance." "You indeed thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass as it is this day, to save much people alive Genesis 45:7-8; Genesis 50:20." And he fondly hoped that God would in some way sanctify to him this dispensation. He well knew, that God "chastens his people for their profit, to make them partakers of his holiness: and that affliction, though not joyous at the present, but grievous, will, through God's blessing upon it, work out the peaceable fruits of righteousness to them that are exercised thereby Hebrews 12:10-11." And he hoped that God would make this severe visitation "work for his good Romans 8:28;" or, at all events, whatever might be the effect of it here, it would issue well at the last, by "working out for him a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory in the eternal world 2 Corinthians 4:17." This hope pacified and composed his mind, and enabled him to "possess his soul in patience;" while Abishai, yielding to the impulse of an irritated mind, would gladly have executed on the offender the judgment he deserved.
Learn, then, Brethren, from this subject,
1. What spirit you are to manifest under any injuries you sustain—
In no respect are you to indulge an angry and vindictive spirit; but, rather, to follow the example of our blessed Lord, who, under the most injurious treatment that ever was endured in this world, opened not his mouth, but was dumb, even as a "sheep before its shearers." Instead of rendering evil for evil, we are to return nothing but good; and to seek for victory in no other way; as God has said, "Be not overcome of evil; but overcome evil with good." Doubtless this is a difficult path: but it will surely bring upon us the divine blessing, both in this world and in the world to come.
2. How you are to obtain it—
You have seen what considerations influenced the mind of David: and the same will produce a similar effect on your minds. The first thing to be sought by you is a deep sense of your own sinfulness. Let that abide upon your minds, and nothing that man can inflict will greatly wound you. How heavy soever your trial may be, you will say, "Shall a living man complain? a man for the punishment of his sins Lamentations 3:39." Anything short of the miseries of Hell, especially if it tend to avert those miseries, will be accounted rather a mercy to be thankful for, than a judgment to be deplored Matthew 5:10-12; 1 Peter 4:12-13.
The next thing is, to realize in your souls the universal agency of Divine Providence; so as to see, that "no trouble whatever springs out of the dust Job 5:6," but that everything, even to the falling of a sparrow, or of a hair from your head, is ordered of the Lord Matthew 10:29-30. Your nature may indeed recoil from suffering; and you may deprecate it, even as our Lord himself did, when he desired that the cup which had been put into his hands might pass away from him. But this you will do with submission, saying, "Not my will, but your be done:" and when you see what the Lord's will is, you will chide your reluctant spirit, saying, "The cup which my Father has given me, shall I not drink it John 18:11."
Finally, look to the issue of your trials, and then you will be moved by nothing that either men or devils can do Acts 20:24. You have "seen in the case of Job the end of the Lord," even in this world James 5:11. And, if the furnace be to purge away your dross, you will not greatly regret that God suffers you to be put into it. You will expect his presence with you in your troubles for your comfort and support Malachi 3:3; Daniel 3:25, and a rich compensation for them in the world to come 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 7:14-15.
Get but these thoughts wrought into your hearts, and you will bear with resignation even the heaviest calamities, and "commit your souls to God in well doing, as into the hands of a faithful Creator 1 Peter 4:19."
2 Samuel 18:33
DAVID'S LAMENTATION OVER ABSALOM
2 Samuel 18:33. And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and, as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for you, O Absalom, my son, my son!
THIS life is at best a chequered scene: the happiness of man is rarely of long continuance; nor is it ever altogether without alloy: the sweetest cup we taste has always in it, either in a greater or less degree, an infusion of gall: it is in Heaven alone that our blessedness is complete. David had attained a full possession of the throne of Israel: but troubles arose to him from various quarters, and especially from his own family; even his own son rose up in rebellion against him, to dethrone him. The rebellion was scarcely matured before it was quashed: but alas! his son, his favorite son, was slain: and how bitterly he laid to heart this calamity, may be seen from the words which we have now read.
We propose to notice,
I. The grief of David for the loss of Absalom—
This was in some respects right and commendable—
He did well in mourning for the death of a son. God has put into the heart of parents a love for their offspring: and indeed such a love was necessary to counterbalance the cares and troubles which a family entails. That love of necessity contains in it the seeds of sorrow, when evil befalls the offspring, or death snatches them away. Even the irrational creation are deeply penetrated with this feeling, and manifest it in a very high degree, whenever the loss of their offspring calls it into exercise. We wonder not, therefore, that a man of David's piety should greatly bewail the death of his favorite son. We do not disapprove of him when for seven successive days he wept, and fasted, and prayed for the life of his dying infant; much less can we blame his grief for a son of mature age and eminent accomplishments.
But still more was his grief justified, when we consider the circumstances under which his son was taken away. Absalom, alas! was very unfit to die: he was a man of an abandoned character. He was an assassin, and had murdered his own brother Amnon. He was a rebel against the king whom God himself had called to the throne, even against his own father. He was, in heart at least and design, a murderer of his own father: for when the proposal was made by Ahithophel so to contrive the attack as to destroy his father only, it was highly gratifying to this unnatural son. Moreover, for the express purpose of making himself "abhorred by his father," and or precluding all possibility of reconciliation with him, "he went in to his father's concubines in the sight of all Israel." Such was the state of Absalom, when death arrested him. What a tremendous load of guilt was here, under the whole of which he expired, without any space given him for repentance! Well then might David weep for him, even tears of blood. David well knew the misery of those who died in their sins, and had often wept for the inconsiderateness of those who overlooked their danger: well therefore might he weep as he did for the miserable end of Absalom.
In other respects it certainly was wrong—
The dispensation was indeed most afflictive; but still it called for different feelings in the mind of David. In it there was a mixture of mercy and of judgment: and, if he had viewed it aright, his sorrows would have been tempered with resignation and gratitude. The death of Absalom was in part a punishment of David's sin in the matter of Uriah; and therefore when the judgment was inflicted, he should, like Aaron, have "held his peace Leviticus 10:3," or have said, like Eli, "It is the Lord, let him do what seems him good 1 Samuel 3:18." The death of Absalom was also a mercy both to David and to all Israel, inasmuch as it put a speedy end to the calamities of civil war, and was the means of re-establishing David on the throne of Israel. Should not this then have called for thanksgiving on the part of David? Yet behold, there was but too much justice in the remark of Joab, that David was insensible of all these mercies; and that he would have been better pleased with the loss of all his faithful adherents that had exposed their lives for him, than of this graceless wretch who had sought his destruction 2 Samuel 19:3-6. Surely such grief could not be justified: after all the allowance that must be made for the affection of a parent, and the compassion of a saint, we are constrained to acknowledge, that the feelings of David on this occasion were ill regulated and unchastised. He seems almost to have quarreled with God, when he should rather have said, like Job, "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord Job 1:21."
Much instruction however may be gathered from this expression of David's grief. Let us proceed to consider,
II. The lessons it is calculated to teach us—
Much instruction does it impart,
1. To men in general—
It teaches us loudly to moderate our affections towards the creature. Whatever God bestow upon us, we are apt to fix our affections too strongly on it, and to forget that it is a loan rather than a gift: we forget that it still remains the Lord's, and that he has a right to call for it whenever he will. Hence if it he unexpectedly withdrawn from us, we are ready to grieve and murmur, as if every source of happiness were cut off from us: because a cistern is broken, we lament, as if the fountain itself also were dried up. This is especially the case in reference to near and dear relations: but such inordinate regard to the creature is idolatry; and it will sooner or later bring its own punishment along with it.
It teaches us also to proportion our sorrows to the occasion. Sorrow is allowable, especially for the loss of our friends or relatives. So far was our Lord from condemning the grief of Martha and Mary for the death of their brother, that he himself joined in it; "Jesus wept." Grief too on such occasions may sometimes be very deep. If, for instance, a minister be removed in the midst of all his usefulness, as Stephen was, there is good reason why "great lamentation should be made for him," because the loss of such an one to the Church of God is incalculable Acts 8:2. If this be a Funeral Sermon, any observations respecting the character of the deceased may be introduced, where it best accords with the subject as here treated. If a man be not taken away in the midst of life, yet, if he have been eminently good and greatly distinguished, he may also be deeply lamented Genesis 50:7-11. Nor is this due to public characters only: private individuals also, who have rendered themselves useful in their day and generation, may well be thus deplored. Dorcas had laid herself out for the comfort and support of the poor: she had assisted them in the way that best suited her ability and their wants: and therefore when she was withdrawn by death, the loss of her was much bewailed, and a lively interest was excited to get her, if possible, restored to life Acts 9:36-39. Thus a concern for the general good may fitly increase the tide of our sorrows on the removal of any one by death: but there are occasions, as when any saint is released from a state of deep affliction and distress, when we may rather rejoice over them, as resting from their labors, and happy in the fruition of their God Revelation 14:13. But in any case we must guard against that inordinate sorrow which renders us unmindful of God's mercies, or insensible of our own desert.
2. To parents and children in particular—
Parents, surely you may learn from the history before us to cut off all occasion for self-reproach in the event of your children's death. No doubt David was too indulgent towards Absalom, and had forborne to punish him as he deserved. And what a bitter reflection it will be to you to think, that you had not exerted yourselves to the utmost of your power for the repressing of sin in your children, and the cultivating of an heavenly principle in their minds! You well know how God marked his indignation against Eli for this very thing 1 Samuel 2:27-34; 1 Samuel 3:13-14. His fault was, not that he encouraged his sons to sin, but that he did not exert himself with sufficient energy to reclaim them. O think what you will say, if you neglect to warn, to reprove, and to instruct your children! how will you answer it at the tribunal of God? Are ministers responsible for the souls committed to their charge? so are you for the children whom God has entrusted unto you. He has said to you, as Pharaoh's daughter, "Take these and bring them up for me;" and, if they perish through your neglect, "their blood will be required at your hands." Endeavor then to impress them with a sense of their duty to God. You often try to convince them how much you have loved them; but you are apt to forget to show them how Christ has loved them. David's love to Absalom was nothing in comparison of Christ's to them: Christ did not merely under a momentary conflict of mind wish that he had died for them; but he actually did die for them, yes, and endured the curse due to their sins, and left the bosom of his Father on purpose that he might do so; and foreseeing from eternity all that he must suffer, he formed the purpose, and never receded from it, until he had accomplished all that was necessary for their salvation: and all this he did, when they were in open rebellion against him. You may convince them of your love, and yet produce no permanent effect upon them; they may continue hostile both to God and you: but convince them of the love of Christ to them, and that will constrain them to live in all dutiful obedience both to God and man.
Children, learn you also from this history to regard the instructions of your parents. See, in Absalom, the effect and recompense of willful disobedience! And be careful not to grieve the souls of your parents, by constraining them to "sorrow for you as without hope." If you die before them, what distress will your state occasion! or, if you survive them, how will they be pained in a dying hour to have no prospect of meeting you in a better world! Remember, that however much they love you now, they will be swift witnesses against you in the day of judgment; and all the efforts which they made for your salvation, will only aggravate your eternal condemnation. Be wise then in time, and labor, that whether you survive your parents or die before them, you may be their joy and crown of rejoicing to all eternity.
2 Samuel 19:34
THE SHORTNESS OF LIFE A GROUND FOR INDIFFERENCE TO THE THINGS OF THIS WORLD
2 Samuel 19:34. And Barzillai said the king, How long have I to live?
GREAT virtues rarely, if ever, exist alone: the soul that gives them birth is actuated by a principle, which is generally, though perhaps not universally, operative. We behold in the history before us an instance of great generosity towards David and his attendants, in their flight from Absalom. And we have a no less amiable instance of modesty in the same character, when David, after the defeat of Absalom, and the consequent restoration of peace, desired to reward the services of his benefactor "Barzillai had provided David with sustenance while he lay at Mahanaim;" and David now entreated him to come and spend the remainder of his days with him at Jerusalem, that he might repay all his kindness to the utmost of his power: but Barzillai declined the offer, and said, "How long have I to live, that I should go up with the king to Jerusalem?"
The question, "How long have I to live?" is proper for us all to put to ourselves at this time New-Year's Day, or on occasion of a Funeral; and it will be profitable for us to consider it,
I. In reference to the things of time—
This is certainly its primary import in the passage before us. Barzillai "was a very aged man," and intimated to David, that, on account of his great age, he had no longer any relish for the gratifications of sense, nor could he hope to continue much longer in the world; and that therefore it would ill become him to be an attendant at court, when he ought rather to be thinking only of death verse 35–37. In this view the question was most just, and pathetic: and in this view it deserves universal attention.
Our time must of necessity be short—
If we are advanced in life, this truth is obvious; but if we be in the bloom of youth, it is no less certain: for, what is the space of man's life? it is only seventy or eighty years at most: and though that appears long in the prospect, it appears as nothing in the retrospect: every aged man will tell you that his life has passed away as a dream: And besides the shortness of life, we must take into the account its uncertainty also: for who can tell what a day, or even an hour, may bring forth? Truly, every man may justly say, "There is but a step between me and death".
From this consideration we may well rise superior to all the vanities of time and sense—
Let us suppose a man condemned to death, and about to be executed in a few hours; What would be his feelings in reference to everything here below? Would he take much delight in anything he possessed, or be much affected with any tidings either of loss or gain? No: the things of time and sense would appear to him in their true colors, and be regarded by him as of little importance: the near prospect of that hour when he must bid an eternal farewell to all of them would show him their emptiness and vanity. Now this is the feeling which every man should cherish. We say not, that any man should neglect his worldly business, or be forgetful of any relative duty; but that he should have his affections withdrawn from everything here below, and set on things above: he should be divested of anxious care about the acquisition of earthly things; and, in his enjoyment of them, "his moderation should be known unto all men." This is the direction given by Paul; and it is founded on the very consideration that is suggested to us in the text 1 Corinthians 7:29-31.
Just as this sentiment is in reference to the things of time, it is still more so,
II. In reference to the things of eternity—
In the view of eternity, a thousand years may be represented but as "the twinkling of an eye." How long then have any of us to live,
1. That we should neglect our eternal concerns?
Have any of us made a covenant with death? or has God said to any of us, as to Hezekiah, "I will add unto your life fifteen years?" Is it not, on the contrary, almost a certainty that God has said concerning many who are here present, "This year you shall die?" How then can we think of continuing any longer to neglect our souls? If repentance be necessary for every child of man; if there be no possibility of acceptance for us but by fleeing for refuge to the Lord Jesus Christ; and, if they who die in an impenitent and unbelieving state must perish forever; then is it folly to defer the concerns of our souls to a more convenient season, which very probably may never arrive. The concerns of time are so utterly insignificant when compared with those of eternity, that to give them a preference in our minds is not folly only, but madness.
2. That we should be lukewarm in our attention to them?
Most men will allow that some attention to the soul is proper: but with the generality, even of those who would be thought religious, the welfare of the soul is only a subordinate and secondary concern. Such lukewarmness however is no less displeasing to God, and injurious to the soul, than total indifference Revelation 3:15-16. We are apt to think that a little exertion will suffice for the securing of our eternal interests: but is there so little to be done, that it may be finished in a day? or are we sure that so many days will be added to our life as shall make up the deficiency of our zeal and diligence? Do we find that people in a race have time to loiter? How much less then have we, whose career may terminate so soon? And what have we in life that shall compensate for the loss of our souls? Is there any earthly gratification, even if it could be enjoyed a thousand years, to be compared with the felicity of Heaven? "Whatever then our hand finds to do, let us do it with all our might."
1. The young—
You are looking for years to come; but may soon "be cut down as a flower." Youth is the time most fitted for holy exercises and heavenly employments: Begin then without delay, and "remember your Creator in the days of your youth."
2. Those in middle age—
You are thinking that you have nearly attained the object of your wishes: but you have found your past attainments vain; and such will be the character of all that you may yet acquire. Temporal duties, we repeat it, are to be performed with diligence; but nothing is of any value in comparison of the soul,
3. Those who are far advanced in life—
Say whether Barzillai's conduct do not well become you? You feel infirmities; you know that in the course of nature you have but a short time to live: let earthly things then be regarded by you with indifference, and heavenly things increasingly occupy your minds. Familiarize yourselves with the thoughts of death and judgment; and "press forward" with ever-increasing alacrity to secure "the prize of your high calling."
At every period of life, but especially in old age, should we pray with David, "Lord, make me to know my end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am Psalm 39:4;" "So teach me to number my days, that I may apply my heart unto wisdom Psalm 90:12."
2 Samuel 21:1
FAMINE A PUNISHMENT FOR SIN
2 Samuel 21:1. Then there was a famine in the days of David three years, year after year; and David inquired of the Lord. And the Lord answered, It is for Saul, and for his bloody house, because he slew the Gibeonites.
THE reign of David was full of troubles occasioned by his own sin: but here we view him and his people afflicted for the sins of others. Saul, his predecessor in the government, had grievously oppressed the Gibeonites, whom Joshua, at his first entrance into Canaan, had pledged the nation, by covenant and by oath, to protect. This breach of covenant God overlooked, as it were, at the time, but now punished by three successive years of famine.
The history teaches us,
I. In what light we should view public calamities—
The Scripture uniformly represents them as punishments inflicted on account of sin. Personal troubles may be sent for the purpose of calling into action the grace that has been bestowed, and for the advancing of God's glory in the exercise of that grace This was the case with respect to Job But the troubles of a nation are judgments sent from God. In this light, "war, famine, pestilence, and the noisome beast," are frequently mentioned; and in this light they should be viewed. We are indeed very averse to regard them as coming from God: we are ready to ascribe them to second causes, and to overlook the first Great Cause of all: but in the Scriptures we behold them, as in the plagues of Egypt, so manifestly proceeding from a divine hand, that we cannot help referring them to God: and thus we ought to do, whatever be the more immediate occasion of them Isaiah 26:11. David in the first and second years of famine did not behold any expression of the divine displeasure, or think of inquiring why the visitation was sent: it was only when the pressure of the affliction was very heavy and of long continuance, that he thought of tracing the hand of God in it: had he acted in the first year as he did in the third, we have no reason to think that the judgment would have been repeated: but his blindness constrained God to repeat the stroke, until it was noticed as proceeding from him. In like manner God will continue his chastisements to us, until we are made sensible that we have offended him, and provoked his just displeasure.
Whatever be the calamities with which we are afflicted, we may learn from this history,
II. The way in which we may get them removed—
1. We should inquire into the sinful causes of them—
David inquired of the Lord; and was informed that the troubles now sent were visitations for sin committed by Saul long ago. The particular offence of Saul is not elsewhere noticed in the history; nor does it appear to have been much regarded by any of the people. His cruelty to the Gibeonites indeed had been notorious; but, as the Gibeonites were the lowest of the people, and not descended from Abraham, the oppression they endured excited no sympathy or compassion. God however resented it; and he will resent the injuries that are done, however mean the objects may be who suffer them, or however great the tyrants may be who inflict them.
And, if we would inquire of the Lord, might not we find some cause for the long protracted war in which we have been engaged, and for the repeated failure in our crops of corn? Yes, many public causes may be assigned, such as the general contempt poured upon God's word, and Sabbaths, and name, and people, and, above all, upon his blessed Gospel; and every individual (for it is of individuals that the community is formed) may find in himself abundant reason for those judgments with which God has visited the land Preached in June 1812.
It is highly necessary also that those whose distresses are of a private and personal nature, should take occasion from them to inquire of God, as Job did, "Show me, O Lord, why you contend with me Job 10:2."
2. We should put away whatever is displeasing to God—
The injuries which had been done to the Gibeonites could not be repaired; nor could Saul who had committed them be punished, because he was now dead. David therefore asked the Gibeonites what redress they required? They sought not anything for themselves, either in a way of financial compensation, or of freedom from the yoke which they had so long borne: but they required that seven of Saul's sons should be delivered into their hands, to be put to death. This was not a vindictive act, but an act of retributive justice: and it was approved by God, who after the execution of these persons was pacified towards the land verse 14. Such a kind of retribution would not be justifiable among us; because the children are not to suffer for the parents' crimes: but, as ordered of God, it was right: and, if the whole truth were known, we should probably find that the sons of Saul had aided and abetted the wicked devices of their father; and that they therefore justly suffered as partners in his crime.
But though we cannot act precisely as David or the Gibeonites did, we may, both nationally and individually, put away the evils which have displeased our God; and indeed we all without exception are bound to "crucify our flesh with its affections and lusts." It is in this way only that we can hope to avert the divine judgments from us; for, though nothing but the blood of Christ can wash away sin, it never will or can avail for the pardon of any, who do not turn unto God in newness of life.
From hence then we may learn,
1. The danger of sin—
Sin, however forgotten by us, is remembered by God; yes, the whole of our sins, even from the earliest period of our existence, are as much in the immediate sight of God, as if they had been committed this very day: and there is a time when we must answer for them all. Let sin then be repented of, and put away; for it will surely bring the wrath of God on all who retain it unlamented, and unsubdued.
2. The benefit of Christ's atonement—
The blood of Saul's sons was poured forth as a sacrifice to national justice, and as a means of averting the divine displeasure; and it was considered by God as an atonement for the sin which Saul had committed. How much more then will God accept in our behalf the blood of his own Son, who was sent into the world for the express purpose that he might expiate our guilt, and procure for us reconciliation with our offended God! Think of this, all you who are accused by Satan and your own consciences, and who are trembling for fear of the divine judgments; and know that his blood once shed on Calvary is now available for you, as much as it was the very instant it was shed: it is a fountain, which, if you bathe in it, will effectually cleanse you from all sin.
3. The importance of searching our own hearts—
The crime of Saul was probably thought a meritorious act both by himself and those whom he employed as his agents in the persecution; for we are told, he sought to extirpate the Gibeonites "from a zeal for the children of Israel and Judah." But God did not judge as he judged; nor will he form his estimate of our conduct from our opinion of it: self-love is apt to blind us, and to make us think well of many things which God abhors. But he will judge our actions according to their quality in his sight. Let us then "search and try our ways, and turn unto the Lord:" and, forasmuch as we are blinded through the influence of our own corruptions, let us beg of him to "search and try our hearts, and to lead us in the way everlasting."
2 Samuel 23:1-4
THE EQUITY OF CHRIST'S GOVERNMENT
2 Samuel 23:1-4. Now these be the last words of David. David the son of Jesse said, and the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet Psalmist of Israel, said, The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me, and his word was in my tongue. The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spoke to me, He who rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun rises, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain.
THESE words are generally understood as descriptive of the duty of civil governors, and of the happiness of any people who live under a government that is thus administered. But they have doubtless a further reference, even to Christ himself, whose character they designate in the most appropriate terms. The very energetic manner in which the prophecy before us is introduced, and the strong profession which the writer makes of his immediate inspiration from God, leave no doubt upon the mind, but that something more must be intended in this passage than a mere direction to earthly magistrates. A very small alteration in the Translation will exhibit it in its true light The passage might more properly be translated thus: David the son of Jesse says, and the man, etc. says, The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me, and his word is in my tongue; the God of Israel says, the Rock of Israel speaks to me, The Just One rules over men; he rules in the fear of God: as the light of the morning A SUN shall rise, even a morning without clouds, when the tender grass springs out of the earth, etc. Christ is frequently spoken of in Scripture as the Just One Acts 3:14; Acts 7:52; Acts 22:14, in contradistinction to all others; and as the Sun that enlightens the whole spiritual world John 8:12. The Prophet Malachi, probably having an eye to the very passage before us, combines the two ideas, and foretells the advent of Christ, as "the Sun of Righteousness Malachi 4:2." In this view of the words, we shall be led to consider,
I. The nature of Christ's government—
In the sacred oracles, a peculiar stress is laid on the equity of that dominion which Christ exercises over his chosen people Isaiah 9:7; Isaiah 11:2-5. "in the fear of the Lord." And who that has submitted to his government, must not confirm the truth that is so much insisted on? Behold his laws; is there one which does not tend to the happiness of his creatures? They are all comprehended in one word, Love; love to God, and love to man: and can anything be conceived more excellent in itself, or more beneficial to man, than such a law? Well does the Apostle say of it, that it is "holy and just and good Romans 7:12." Behold his administration; is there any one point in which a righteous governor can excel, that is not found, in its most perfect measure, in him? He relieves the needy, supports the weak, protects the oppressed, and executes judgment without any respect of persons: and though none merit anything at his hands, he dispenses rewards and punishments in as exact proportion to the conduct of men, as if he weighed their merits in a balance. Who ever sought him diligently, without gaining admission to his presence? Who ever implored a blessing at his hands and was rejected? Who ever did much or suffered much for him, without ample testimonies of his approbation? On the other hand, who ever drew back from him, or violated his holy laws, without "receiving in himself that recommence which was meet?" Whatever inequalities may appear in his government (as when virtue is oppressed, and vice is triumphant) he removes them all, by vouchsafing to the sufferer the consolations of his Spirit, and the prospects of his glory. Thus truly may he be said to "rule in the fear of God!"
If prosperity and happiness result from a righteous administration of civil governments, much more are they the portion of Christ's subjects. This is beautifully illustrated in the words before us; wherein his government is further delineated in,
II. The blessed effects of it on all his faithful subjects—
The sun rising in the unclouded hemisphere, cheers and exhilarates all who behold it: and, when it shines on the earth that has been refreshed with gentle showers, it causes the grass, and every herb, to spring forth almost visibly before our eyes. And is it not thus with all who submit themselves to Christ? do not new prospects open to them, and, with their more enlarged views, are they not revived with proportionable consolations? are they not gladdened with the light of his countenance? are they not sometimes almost overwhelmed with the brightness of his glory, so as to be transported with joy unspeakable? Yes; to them there is an unclouded sky, except as far as sin prevails: if they were as perfectly obedient to the will of Christ as the saints in Heaven are, they would possess a very Heaven upon earth. If they have any intermission of their joy, it is not owing to any strictness in his laws, or any defect in his administration, but to their own indwelling lusts and corruptions.
What an astonishing effect too does the light of his countenance produce with respect to fruitfulness in good works! let the soul, watered with showers of divine grace, and softened with the tears of penitence and contrition, once feel the genial influence of his rays, and there will be an instantaneous change in its whole state: "it will revive as the corn, and grow as the vine; and the scent thereof will be as the wine of Lebanon Hosea 14:7." Every holy affection will be called forth into exercise; and every fruit of righteousness abound to the glory of God.
Such are the effects which the Psalmist elsewhere ascribes to Christ's government Psalm 72:2-7; and such, in all ages, have invariably resulted from it Acts 2:41-47.
1. How earnestly should we desire the universal establishment of Christ's kingdom!
Little do men consider the import of that petition, "Your kingdom come." In uttering this prayer, we desire that our whole souls, and the souls of all mankind, may be subjected to Christ. And truly this event would restore the golden age of paradise. Ungodly men indeed would persuade us, that an unlimited submission to Christ would be an occasion of melancholy, and a source of misery. But if once they were to experience the effects of his government upon their own souls, they would learn, that obedience to him is the truest happiness of man. Let us then take upon us his light and easy yoke, as the only, and the certain means of finding rest unto our souls.
2. What madness is it to continue in rebellion against Christ!
It is not at our option whether Christ shall be our ruler or not; for "God has set him upon his holy hill of Zion," and in due season, will "put all his enemies under his feet." If we will not bow before the scepter of his grace, he will "break us in pieces with a rod of iron." Shall we then provoke him to wrath, when we have so much to dread from his displeasure? No: rather let the truth which is here with such awful solemnity announced, be with all holy reverence received: yes, let us "kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and we perish from the way Psalm 2:1-12." Thus shall we now enjoy the felicity of his chosen; and, in the day when all his enemies shall be slain before him, we shall be made partners of his throne for evermore.
2 Samuel 23:5
THE COVENANT OF GRACE
2 Samuel 23:5. Although my house be not so with God; yet he has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire.
IN all the trials and troubles of life, religion alone can afford us any effectual support. To this the saints in all ages have fled for refuge, and in this they have found all the consolation they could desire. The latter days of David were a continual scene of domestic sorrows. The defilement of Tamar by her brother Amnon, the murder of Amnon by his brother Absalom, the rebellion and untimely death of Absalom, and the conspiracy and consequent destruction of Adonijah, all embittered his life: and God had foretold, that such afflictions should await him, as a punishment for the horrible sins he had committed in the matter of Uriah. David however was not without his consolations. Though he could not have the happiness of seeing his house walking in the ways of God, yet he had good reason to believe that God had accepted him; and in the view of the covenant which God had made with him, he could not but rejoice. We do not apprehend that this covenant related exclusively to the succession of his posterity upon the throne of Israel, or even to the advent of the Messiah from his loins: it can be no other than that covenant which God made with his own Son, and with us in him; for no other covenant corresponds with the description here given of it, nor could David speak of any other as all his salvation and all his desire. That covenant relates to the salvation of a ruined world by the blood and righteousness of the Lord Jesus.
The representation which David here gives us of it will lead us to show,
I. The excellence of this covenant—
This is set forth in a striking view in the words before us. We notice,
1. Its duration—
Long before man had fallen, God, who foresaw his fall, devised a plan for his recovery: and in this plan his co-equal, co-eternal Son concurred: "The council of peace was between them both," says the Prophet Zechariah 6:13. To this Paul alludes, when he says, that he was "in hope of eternal life, which God had promised before the world began Titus 1:2." To whom could that promise be made, but unto the Lord Jesus Christ, as the Representative of his Church and people? Some divines have called this the covenant of Redemption, as contra-distinguished from the covenant of Grace; the one being made with Christ only, and the other with man. But this appears not founded in Scripture. There is one covenant only; and that was made with Christ personally, and with him as the federal Head and Representative of his elect people: as made with him personally, it promised him a seed, if he would lay down his life for them Isaiah 53:10-11; and as made with him federally, it promised salvation to all who should believe in him, and become members of his mystical body Galatians 3:16-17.
Now this covenant is "everlasting;" it has existed from the beginning, and shall exist to all eternity. No human being ever has been saved but by virtue of it; nor shall any child of man ever be admitted into Heaven, but agreeably to its provisions. We say not that no person ever has been, or shall be, saved without a distinct acquaintance with it: for we believe that many heathens who never heard of it, and millions of children who have been incapable of understanding anything about it, have been saved; but not a single soul has ever been accepted of God the Father, but as redeemed by the blood of his only-begotten Son. And perhaps we may say, that this circumstance gives to the glorified saints an advantage over angels themselves: for angels, though confirmed, we trust, in their happiness by the power of God, do not hold that happiness by so sure a tenure as the saints hold theirs: they cannot boast of holding it by the promise and oath of Jehovah; they cannot show a covenant securing to them the everlasting possession of their inheritance, and that covenant confirmed and ratified with the blood of God's only dear Son: but we can refer to such a covenant, as the sure ground of all our expectations, and as the pledge that nothing shall ever separate us from the enjoyment of our God 2 Corinthians 1:20.
2. Its fullness—
It may truly be said to be "ordered in all things." There is not anything that can conduce to our happiness either in this world or the next, that is not comprehended in it. Everything is prepared for us both in a way of providence and of grace. All our comforts, and all our trials, are therein adjusted for our good. All earthly things are secured to us, as far as they are necessary Matthew 6:33; and even afflictions themselves are promised, as the appointed means of fitting us for the realms of bliss Jeremiah 30:11. Whatever grace we stand in need of, it shall be given at such times, and in such a measure, as shall most display the glory of God. It is true that God requires of us many things, as repentance, faith, and holiness; but it is equally true that he promises all these things to us: he has "exalted his own Son to give us repentance Acts 5:31;" he also gives us to believe in Christ Philippians 1:29; and he promises that he will, by the influence of his Spirit, cause us to walk in his statutes, and to keep his judgments and do them Ezekiel 36:25-27. We cannot place ourselves in any situation wherein God has not given us promises, "exceeding great and precious promises," suited to our necessities, and commensurate with our wants: nor is so small a thing as the falling of a hair of our head left to chance; it is all ordered by unerring wisdom: and though there may be some events which, separately and distinctly considered, may be regarded as evil, yet, collectively taken in all their bearings, they shall "all work together for our eternal good Romans 8:28."
3. Its certainty—
It is "sure" to every one who trusts in it. In this it differs widely from the covenant of works which was made with man in innocence: for that depending on the fidelity of the creature, was violated, and annulled: whereas this, depending altogether on the fidelity of God, who undertakes to work in us all that he requires of us, and who engages not only not to depart from us, but not to suffer us to depart from him Jeremiah 32:40, shall never fail in any one particular: "The mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but the covenant of my peace shall not be removed, says the Lord that has mercy on us Isaiah 54:9-10." True it is that, as under the Jewish dispensation many were not steadfast in that covenant, which was a mixed, and national covenant, so many who profess religion do really "make shipwreck of the faith 1 Timothy 1:19;" but they have never truly embraced the covenant of which we are speaking: they have embraced it only in a partial way, looking for its blessings without duly considering its obligations: they have been more intent on salvation from punishment, than salvation from sin. "Had they been really of us," says the Apostle, "they would no doubt have continued with us 1 John 2:19." "The foundation of God stands sure: the Lord knows them that are his. But let every one that names the name of Christ depart from iniquity 2 Timothy 2:19. Êá should here be translated but. Compare 1 Corinthians 12:5; 1 Corinthians 16:12 and 2 Timothy 3:11 in the Greek." This being our indispensable duty, God promises and engages, "that sin shall not have dominion over us, because we are not under the law, but under grace Romans 6:14;" and we know that "He is faithful who has called us, who also will do it 1 Thessalonians. 5:23-24. Mark the connection of these two verses;" and this very circumstance of its being an article in God's covenant, a blessing to be gratuitously conferred by him, and freely received by us, this, I say, it is, which makes "the promise sure to all the seed Romans 4:16."
When once we view this covenant aright we shall see immediately,
II. The regard which it deserves—
We should not regard it merely as an object of curious research, or even of grateful admiration; but should make it,
1. The ground of all our hopes—
Every other method of acceptance should be renounced; and this should be deliberately and cordially embraced 2 Timothy 1:9. The two members of this sentence may be greatly enlarged; We should contemplate every offer of mercy, every communication of grace, every mean of salvation as originating in the eternal counsels of Heaven: everything should be traced up to the love of God the Father, and to the plans arranged by the sacred Three, for the magnifying of the divine perfections in the salvation of man: Even the atonement itself must be considered as deriving all its efficacy from this covenant: for, if God the Father had not consented to accept his Son as a surety for us, and to regard his death as an atonement for our sin, however honorable to Christ his mediation for us might be, it would not have been available for our salvation. We should get such a distinct view of this covenant as David had; of its duration, (from everlasting to everlasting;) its fullness, its certainty; and then should say of it as he did, "This is all my salvation;" except in this, I have no more hope than the fallen angels: but through the provision which this has made for me, I scarcely envy the angels who never fell: for "I know in whom I have believed, that He is able to keep that which I have committed to him 2 Timothy 4:8;" and "I am confident that he who has begun a good work in me will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ 2 Timothy 1:12."
2. The source of all our joys—
Whatever comforts we may possess in this world, we should derive our chief happiness from this: this should be "all our desire," or, as the word imports, all our delight: To this also we should have recourse in every season of affliction. David betook himself to it under all his domestic troubles, and in the near prospect of eternity. "His house, alas! was not so with God," as he could wish. And how many are there who have great trials in their families! some from their unkindness, and others from their removal by death This may be amplified so as to apply to many cases which may greatly interest the feelings of an audience; Let every one that is so circumstanced learn from David where to flee for comfort: let him contemplate the riches of divine grace as exhibited in the covenant, and the blessedness of having an interest in it, and he will soon forget his sorrows, and have a heart overflowing with the most exalted joy: If, in addition to other troubles, we are lying upon the bed of death, we may well, like David, seek comfort in this covenant, and make "the last words of David verse 1." our last words also. What can so effectually remove the sting of death, as to behold a covenant-God in Christ Jesus, engaged to "keep him unto the end," and to receive him to an everlasting enjoyment of his presence and glory?: Study then the wonders of this covenant, that they may be familiar to your minds in a time of health; and so shall they fill you with unutterable peace and joy, when every other refuge shall fail, and your soul be summoned into the presence of its God.
2 Samuel 23:15-17
DAVID'S DESIRE FOR THE WATER OF THE WELL OF BETHLEHEM
2 Samuel 23:15-17. And David longed, and said, Oh that one would give me drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate! And the three mighty men brake through the host of the Philistines, and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem, that was by the gate, and took it, and brought if to David: nevertheless he would not drink thereof, but poured it out unto the Lord. And he said, Be it far from me, O Lord, that I should do this: is not this the blood of the men that went in jeopardy of their lives? therefore he would not drink it.
THE best of men are liable to err: but in this they differ widely from the ungodly, that they are glad, as soon as they find out their error, to have it rectified. David inconsiderately expressed a wish for some water out of the well of Bethlehem; but when he saw what his inconsiderateness had occasioned, and especially what might have arisen from it, he was grieved at himself for what he had done, and rejected with abhorrence the gratification which he had before desired.
This anecdote respecting him may appear unworthy of a distinct consideration: but it is in reality very instructive. Let us consider,
I. This wish of David's—
To view it aright, we must notice it,
1. As foolishly indulged—
That water was not necessary to him; for his army was not at all reduced to straits for want of water: and by the circumstance of its being in the possession of his enemies, it was unattainable, unless his enemies should be first subdued. To wish for it therefore merely to gratify his appetite, was foolish; and to express that wish to others was wrong. But in him we see a picture of human nature in general: all are wishing for something which they do not possess, though it be neither necessary to their welfare, nor easy to be attained. "You desire and have not," is the account given of men by the voice of inspiration James 4:2. See the Greek; and it characterizes all from early childhood, until age or infirmity has cured the disease: This tendency of our minds is decidedly sinful, inasmuch as it argues discontent with the lot assigned us by Providence, and too high an estimation of the things of time and sense Numbers 11:4-5. God, and heavenly things, may be desired with the utmost intenseness of our souls Psalm 42:1-2; Psalm 63:1; but earthly things, whatever they may be, are no further to be desired than as God may be enjoyed in them, or glorified by them Psalm 73:25; and, as David in this wish had respect to nothing but mere personal gratification, he so far acted in a way unworthy of his high character.
2. As rashly countenanced—
Three of his most distinguished warriors determined, if possible, to gratify his desire; and, of their own accord, without any order from him, cut their way through the Philistine army, drew the water, and brought it to him. This was rash and presumptuous in the extreme. Had they been moved to it by God, as David was to go against Goliath with a sling and a stone, or as Jonathan was to climb up a rock, and, unsupported by any one but his armor-bearer, to attack a Philistine garrison, they would have acted right; because in executing the divine will they might expect the divine protection: but to go on such an errand without any command either from God or man, was to expose themselves unnecessarily to the utmost peril, and in reality to tempt God. Doubtless a contempt of danger is a great virtue in a soldier; but it may be unduly exercised: and we are persuaded that, before men put their lives in jeopardy, they should inquire, whether the occasion be sufficiently important to demand it, or, at least, whether they be called to it in the way of duty.
3. As piously suppressed—
When the water was brought to him, he refused to drink of it; and, with a mixture of shame and gratitude, poured it out as a drink-offering unto the Lord. To him it appeared, that the drinking of it would be like drinking the blood of his most faithful servants: and therefore, much as he had desired it before, he would on no account gratify his appetite at such an expense. This argued true love to those who had served him at so great a risk, and genuine piety towards God, whose merciful kindness he thus gratefully acknowledged. But how little of such self-denial is there in the world! how few, when a desired gratification is within their reach, will abstain from the indulgence of it, from the consideration of the evils which may accrue to the object that administers to their delight!: If however we condemn David for cherishing such a wish, we cannot but applaud the forbearance he exercised in reference to it, when it was obtained.
Let us now contemplate,
II. The lessons to be learned from it—
1. How strong a principle is love!
Love dictated the measure which these soldiers took: while therefore we disapprove the act, we must admire the principle from which it proceeded. It is a principle "strong as death;" nor can "many waters quench it." It is a principle also by which, not soldiers only, but persons in every situation and relation of life should be actuated: and how happy would it be for the world, if it operated universally in its full extent! How happy if, in our social and domestic circles, the only contest was, who should show most love, and exert himself in the most self-denying way for the good of others! This is the spirit which God himself approves Hebrews 10:24; and the Lord grant it may increase and abound among us more and more 1 Thessalonians. 3:12.
2. How should we delight to exercise love towards our Lord Jesus Christ in particular!
He is "the Captain of our salvation," and "of all the hosts of Israel:" and he has opened to us access to the waters of life, "of which whoever drinks shall never thirst John 4:10; John 4:13-14." Moreover, to effect this, he has not merely jeopardized his life, but actually laid down his life: knowing assuredly all the sufferings he must endure in order to procure these blessings for us, he voluntarily undertook our cause, and never drew back, until he could say, "It is finished." Is He not then worthy to be loved by us? Yes, should there be any bounds to our love to him? Should we not be "willing to be bound, or even to die, for his sake?" Surely, whatever dangers we may be encompassed with, we should say, "None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto me," so that I may but fulfill his will, and promote his glory.
3. With what grief and indignation should we mortify every sinful desire!
When once we see what sin has done, we shall see what it merits at our hands. It was to counteract the effects of sin, that Jesus shed his blood. Shall we then indulge sin of any kind? However gratifying it may be to our feelings, should we not say, like David in our text, "Is not this the blood of God's only dear Son, even of my best Friend, who laid down his life for me? I will not drink it; I will sacrifice my every lust unto the Lord." Ah, Brethren! look at sin in this view: and if it be dear to you as a right eye, or apparently as necessary as a right hand, do not hesitate one moment to cast it from you with abhorrence; humbling yourselves for having ever conceived a desire after it, and adoring your God that it has not long since involved you in everlasting death and misery.
2 Samuel 24:11-15
DAVID NUMBERING THE PEOPLE
2 Samuel 24:11-15. When David was up in the morning, the word of the Lord came unto the prophet Gad, David's seer, saying, Go and say unto David, Thus says the Lord, I offer you three things; choose you one of them, that I may do it unto you. So Gad came to David, and told him, and said unto him, Shall seven years of famine come unto you in your land? or will you flee three months before your enemies, while they pursue you? or that there be three days' pestilence in your land? Now advise, and see what answer I shall return to him that sent me. And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait: let us fall now into the hand of the Lord; for his mercies are great: and let me not fall into the hand of man. So the Lord sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning even to the time appointed: and there died of the people from Dan even to Beer-sheba seventy thousand men.
SINS, punishments, humiliations, forgivenesses, succeed each other in a melancholy train throughout the Bible, even as clouds after rain in the material world. Even the most pious characters have their faults and blemishes, which call forth the divine chastisements on themselves and others. We have here an account of David numbering the people, and bringing a heavy judgment on the whole land. The history will lead us to notice,
I. The severity of God in punishing sin—
The sin which David committed was exceeding great—
It had been enjoined by God, that the people never should be numbered without a half shekel being collected from every one of them as a tribute to the Lord, or, as it is called, "a ransom for his soul," "that there might be no plague among them when they were numbered Exodus 30:12-14." Now as David never once mentioned this in the order that was given, and as this collection was not made in all the time that the census was taking, it seems that David greatly transgressed in this particular, and that the plague was sent among them on this account. But it is manifest that David was actuated by pride, in wishing to know the extent of the population he governed; and that he was indulging confidence in an arm of flesh, instead of trusting in God only. That he was faulty in these particulars was visible even to so wicked a man as Joab, who expostulated with him on the subject, and warned him that he was bringing guilt and punishment upon the whole nation 1 Chronicles 21:3. Now of all sins, these are the most hateful in the sight of God Jeremiah 17:5-6; and to persist in them so long, in opposition to such plain warnings as were delivered to him, was a very grievous offence.
The punishment inflicted for it was proportionably severe—
God sent a prophet to him, to offer him a choice of three judgments, of seven "Seven years of famine" should probably be read "three," that being the number annexed to the other judgments, and it being expressly so represented in the parallel account. See 1 Chronicles 21:12. years of famine, or three months of unsuccessful warfare, or three days of pestilence: a painful choice indeed! but David wisely preferred the falling into the hands of God, and not into the hands of man. The election being made, the judgment was immediately executed: and no less than seventy thousand men were slain by a destroying angel, before the expiration of the appointed time Some have taken occasion from this expression, which they say may signify the evening, to represent the pestilence as lasting only to the evening sacrifice of the same day, that is, only nine hours in all: but there is strong internal evidence in the history that it continued the whole three days. What now shall we think of sin? Is it so light a matter as the generality of men imagine? and are not they justly called "fools" who "make a mock at it?" The sins of the heart are considered as altogether venial: pride and self-confidence are scarcely numbered in the catalogue of sins: but behold in what light they are viewed by a holy God! O that we might learn, if not from God's declarations, at least from his judgments, what an awful thing sin is, and with what tremendous punishment it will be visited!
Next let us view,
II. The goodness of God in pardoning sin—
David and the elders of Israel humbled themselves before God—
David had expressed, and that too in very energetic language, his shame and sorrow on account of his transgression: but God determined to punish his iniquity. On the execution of vengeance upon the land, the elders of Israel united with him in the deepest humiliation 1 Chronicles 21:16; and David, when he saw the angel standing over Jerusalem with a drawn sword in his hand, pleaded most earnestly with God, that the punishment might fall on him who had been the author of the sin, and not on the people who were innocent 1 Chronicles 21:17. This was a mark of true contrition. When the soul is not really abased before God, it will rather extenuate its guilt, or cast the blame upon others 1 Samuel 15:20-21; but when it has a just sense of its guilt, it will be willing to take shame to itself to the utmost extent of its deserts: and such a spirit will never be exercised in vain.
Now therefore God removed the punishment, and pardoned the iniquity—
Instantly did God command the angel to "stay his hand:" but at the same time a command was given to build an altar there, and to offer sacrifices to the offended Majesty of Heaven. God from, the beginning had honored his own institutions, and had taken all fit occasions of directing penitents to that great Sacrifice whereby alone the sins of men could be forgiven: and now he stopped the angel on the very spot where he had, many centuries before, arrested Abraham's hand when sacrificing his son; and where, but a short time after, the temple itself was built; that temple in which all the sacrifices were offered, and in the services of which the death of Christ was so abundantly prefigured 2 Chronicles 3:1. Nay, on this occasion God was pleased to put peculiar honor on the sacrifice, in that he sent fire from Heaven to consume it 1 Chronicles 21:26. Thus did he point out to David and to all Israel, thus also has he shown to the whole world, that though penitence and prayer are indispensable requisites in those that shall be pardoned, it is the sacrifice of Christ only that avails for our acceptance with God.
The history very particularly leads us to notice, in the next place,
III. The effect which the sins of individuals produce on the community—
It was in reality for Israel's sin that this punishment was inflicted—
"The anger of God, we are told, was kindled against Israel:" and on this account "he moved David against them, to say, Go, number Israel and Judah verse 1." In the parallel place we are told, that "Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel 1 Chronicles 21:1." We are not to suppose that God himself actually tempted David; for we are expressly told, that "he does not tempt any man James 1:13;" but he permitted Satan to tempt him; and we well know, that if God's restraining hand be removed, Satan will prevail against the strongest of men, and "sift them as wheat." But when David had thus voluntarily sinned, both he and his people were punished for their iniquity. In a word, for Israel's sin he was left, and for his sin they were punished. In this dispensation there was nothing unworthy of the divine character; for both David and Israel justly deserved punishment, and might have been visited with God's judgments independently of this sin: but by this dispensation God would show us, that, in this world, communities should be dealt with as one body; the head being afflicted for the members, and the members for the head: that so all may be led to the utmost of their power to consult the welfare of the whole.
Let us therefore be on our guard, lest we be instrumental to the destruction, rather than to the welfare, of each other—
What evil may not a head of a family bring on the members; a ruler on his subjects; a minister on his people! or what may not they suffer through the misconduct of those over whom they are placed! Let this connection be duly considered; and, whatever station we are called to fill, let us determine, through grace, that we will perform the duties of it, every joint supplying its utmost aid for the edification of the whole body Ephesians 4:16. And let us be more ready to take blame to ourselves, than to cast it on others. More particularly, let us watch and pray, that we enter not into temptation; and that Satan may not be permitted to get advantage against us. Thus shall we be blessings to the community, and to the Church of God; and shall through the great Sacrifice be accepted of God in the eternal world.