William M. (William Mackergo) Taylor.

David, king of Israel: his life and its lessons online

. (page 17 of 36)
Online LibraryWilliam M. (William Mackergo) TaylorDavid, king of Israel: his life and its lessons → online text (page 17 of 36)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

honor of my majesty ?" we shall see more clearly into the
piety of David's heart, while at the same time we may all


learn how our joy and prosperity may be consecrated and
turned into a means of hbnoring Jehovah. Elegant man-
sions, costly furniture, art treasures, and extensive posses-
sions will do no harm to those who, as they survey them all,
can turn to God, and say, " Thou hast girded us with glad-
ness, to the end that our glory may sing praise to thee and
not be silent. O Lord our God, we will give thanks unto
thee forever." But if these earthly glories turn our heads,
and puff us up with stupid self-conceit, or lead us to boast of
ourselves and to despise others, then we have built our house
upon the edge of a volcano, whose first eruption may send us
to a degradation deeper than that of him who wandered forth
among the oxen, and ate the grass of the fields.

Before David could turn his attention to the removal of
the ark, however, he had to encounter and overcome the
Philistines. That warlike people could not regard his es-
tablishment on the throne of Israel and his occupation of
Jerusalem with indifference. So long as he held his court
at Hebron, he was too insignificant to be attacked by them ;
but now that he had humiliated the Jebusites, and settled
himself in their reputedly impregnable fortress, they felt it
needful, for the maintenance of their national supremacy, to
take the field against him, with all the forces at their com-
mand. Their chosen battle-field on this occasion was the
Valley of Rephaim, or "the giants," a broad and fertile plain
about a mile in length, which was the southern entrance into
Jerusalem, and which extended northward, terminating in a
narrow ridge of rocks, which breaks abruptly into the ravine
of Hinnom. After inquiring at the sacred oracle what he
should do, David led his troops into " the hold ;" that is, ei-
ther into the region of his sojourning during his war with
Saul, or into some other place of great natural strength, from
which he could repel the invaders. Here he had a signal
victory over the enemy, whom he drove before him as with


the irresistible might of an overflowing flood. But he took
no credit to himself for his success, for, in a spirit of grati-
tude and humility, he commemorated the victory by calling
the name of the place Baal-perazim ; saying also, " God hath
broken in upon mine enemies by mine hand like the break-
ing forth of waters." In this engagement, probably with
the view of stimulating the courage and inspiring the confi-
dence of their troops, the Philistine leaders had brought their
idols into the field ; but David, having taken them with the
other booty, caused them to be burned a proof, on the one
hand, of his pious determination to acknowledge Jehovah
alone as divine, and a manifestation, on the other, of the
helplessness of the heathen divinities, who could not deliver
themselves, much less those who trusted in them, from the
conqueror's hands.

In spite, however, of this defeat, both of their gods and of
themselves, the Philistines, some months afterward, renewed
the contest Again they encamped in Rephaim ; again Da-
vid inquired of the Lord, and was directed to take such meas-
ures as resulted in their complete disorganization. He was
commanded to come upon them from the rear by making a
circuitous march, and was cautioned to take his stand at a
certain spot until, by " the sound of going in the tops of
the mulberry-trees," the signal should be given to advance.
All this being carefully observed by him, his sudden appear-
ance created such a panic in the Philistian host that they
arose and fled, and were smitten by their pursuers all the
way from Seba until the entrance into their own city of

We can not but be struck, in this narrative, with the hum-
ble piety of David in asking guidance from the Lord, and
with his willingness implicitly to obey the commands which
he received. Nor can we fail to observe the clear and ex-
plicit nature of the answers which he received from the Urim


and Thummim. The ancient heathens had their oracles in
connection with the temples in which they worshiped their
divinities ; but the responses given at these places to those
who consulted them were generally expressed so ambiguous-
ly that no great guidance was given by them, and they could
not be falsified by any event. Thus it is on record that
when Crcesus inquired of Apollo what would be the result of
his attacking the Persians, the answer was that, by doing so,
" he should overthrow a great army " a reply which -would
have been appropriate either to the destruction of the Per-
sian army, or, as in the event it happened to be, to that of his
own. When again Pyrrhus, the king of Epirus, asked what
was to be the issue of his war with the Romans, the response
was given in words which might mean either, " I say that
thou, the son of Eacus, art able to conquer the Romans," or
" I say that the Romans are able to conquer thee, the son of
Eacus." But here, in the replies given by the sacred breast-
plate, there is no obscurity. Every thing is definite and clear,
and David could have no hesitation as to his duty in each
case. Of course, there is not now any such means of obtain-
ing the unerring guidance of God as David then enjoyed, in
so far as the contingencies of our daily lives are concerned ;
but still, in answer to prayer, God will lead us in the right
way, provided only we unfeignedly commit ourselves to him,
and willingly accept his direction step 'by step. Here is the
warrant on which every one of us is entitled to proceed : "If
any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all
men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him."
Let us, therefore, use the Bible and the throne of grace as
David employed the Urim and Thummim, and we may de-
pend upon it that, even as " the sound of a going in the tops
of the mulberry-trees " indicated to him when he was to ad-
vance, there will be something, either within ourselves, or in
the arrangement of God's providence external to us, which


shall point out to us what course we are to follow, and when
we are to enter upon it.

And now, having overcome his enemies for the time, David
had leisure to devote to the bringing up of the ark of the cov-
enant. That, as every one knows, was the sacred chest, over-
shadowed by the golden cherubim, which usually stood in the
Holy of Holies of the Tabernacle, and which contained in it
a copy of the law of Moses ; the golden pot of manna, which
was preserved as a memorial of the wilderness and the rod
of Aaron, which blossomed, and which was kept as a proof
of the divine appointment of Aaron and his sons to the
priestly office. The lid of this chest was the mercy-seat, and
was year by year sprinkled with the blood of atonement,
when on the great Day of Atonement the high-priest went
in before the Lord. Its proper place was in the innermost
chamber of the Tabernacle ; but at this period of the histo-
ry of Israel, religious matters were in the greatest confusion,
arising out of the folly of which, many years before, the elders
of the people had been guilty,* when they carried the ark
with them to the field of battle* They trusted in the sym-
bol, rather than in Jehovah, whose the symbol was, and as a
consequence they were defeated, and the ark was taken by
the Philistines, who put it into the Temple of Dagon ; thence,
however, owing to the fall of the image of their idol before it,
they had it speedily removed ; but wherever they took it, trou-
bles and diseases broke out, which they traced to its presence,
and so they sent it back to Israel in a singular manner, of
which a full account is given in the sixth chapter of i Samuel.
It was ultimately received by the men of Kirjath-jearim, a
city on the boundary line between the territories of Judah
and Benjamin ; and Eleazar, the son of Abinadab, was set
apart for the purpose of attending to it there. In that city,

* I Sam. iv., 3.


therefore, all these years during the ministry of Samuel, and
the reigns of Saul and Ishbosheth, the ark had remained ;
while the Tabernacle continued at Shiloh, or perhaps, for a
portion of the time, at Nob. But this was not all ; for while
the Tabernacle was in one city, and the ark in another, there
were also two high-priests Zadok at Shiloh, who was of the
elder line of the sons of Aaron, which had hitherto adhered to
the house of Saul; and Abiathar,-the sole survivor of the Nob
massacre, who had fled to David with the Urim and Thum-
mim when he was in the cave. Now, in seeking to bring or-
der out of all this confusion, David, acting perhaps under the
divine direction, left the Tabernacle untouched, but wished to
bring the ark to Jerusalem, where he had prepared a tem-
porary tent (probably after the pattern of the original one),
in which it might remain until the cherished purpose of his
heart should be accomplished, and a permanent temple erect-
ed for its abode. Furthermore, he retained the two high-
priests as of co-ordinate dignity, thereby binding both of
them to himself without exciting the jealousy of either.

When he had determined to bring up the ark, he gathered
together thirty thousand chosen men, and went in state to
the ancient city in which it had so long been kept ; but a
sad and awful occurrence struck terror into all their hearts,
and led to the postponement of the formal entrance of the
sacred symbol into Jerusalem. Ignoring the command that
the sacred chest should be borne only on the shoulders of
the priests, the two sons of Abinadab put it on a new cart,
and when they came to a place which was known as the
threshing-floor of Nachon, as the cart shook violently, Uzzah,
one of the sons of Abinadab, put forth his hand upon the
ark to steady it, and was at once struck dead. Whether this
was caused by the immediate outflashing of the divine pow-
er, or, as some believe, by a bolt of lightning in the midst of
a thunder-storm which they suppose was raging at the time,


the event was by them all connected with the touching of
the ark by Uzzah, and they were filled with dismay. Harps,
cornets, cymbals, psalteries, and timbrels were silenced, and
David, in sore distress at what had taken place, caused them
to carry the sacred thing into the house of Obed-edom the
Gittite, which happened to be at hand ; while, in memory of
the stroke with which they had been visited, he named the
place Perez-uzzah, " the Breach of Uzzah."

Leaving for the present out of view the purpose that was
to be subserved by this judgment, we may note the different
degrees of punishment by which in different cases the profa-
nation of the ark was visited. The Philistines, whose sin
was ignorance, were smitten only with disease; the men. of
Beth-shemesh who looked into the ark, Levites though they
were, were smitten with death, because they ought to have
known the law of God upon the matter; and now again
Uzzah is stricken down, because ignorance, where knowledge
ought to have been possessed, is no extenuation of guilt.

But though thus sadly interrupted in the carrying out of
his purpose, David would not give it up ; for learning, three
months afterward, that God had greatly blessed, in some vis-
ible manner, the household of Obed-edom, in whose dwelling
the ark was placed, he set out again to bring it to Jerusalem.
But this time, the book of the law having doubtless been
most carefully searched for directions, every thing was done
decently and in order. It was a great and memorable day
in Israel ; and as David had composed many special odes
for the occasion, we may perhaps give you the most vivid
idea of the whole proceedings, by making our narrative lit-
tle more than a statement of the particular order in which
we suppose that these hymns were sung.

Let it be premised, however, that on this day, as on all the
high festival occasions afterward, both in the Tabernacle and
the Temple, the service of song was conducted solely by the



Levites. They were the holy tribe ; and just as the high-
priest offered in the room of the people the sacrifices of
burnt-offering and atonement, so the Levites offered in the
stead of the tribes the sacrifice of praise. We do not, in-
deed, hear any thing of music as a portion of the worship of
Jehovah until the times of David ; but " it is not improba-
ble that the Levites all along had practiced music, and that
some musical service was part of the worship of the Taberna-
cle ; for, unless this supposition be made, it is inconceivable
that a body of trained singers and musicians should be found
ready for an occasion like that on which they made their first
appearance."* No doubt, at the school of the prophets at
Ramah, music formed part of the regular exercises of the
students ; and David's own skill and taste in this exquisite
art must have enabled him to make perfect arrangements
for this great festival, even as they enabled him afterward to
make permanent regulations for the conduct of " the service
of song in the house of the Lord."

From the narrative in the fifteenth chapter of the First
Book of Chronicles, we learn that, in addition to the elders
of Israel (each of whom, as on the day of the coronation,
would be accompanied by a delegation from his tribe), and
the captains over thousands, there were present nine hun-
dred and sixty -two priests and Levites. From these last
would be taken a sufficient number to relieve each other in
carrying, by turns, the ark of the covenant, and then the rest
would be told off for the musical service. The singing was
accompanied by the sound of instruments, the performers
on which were placed under the direction of skilled leaders.
Thus Heman, Asaph, and Ethan were appointed to conduct
the cymbals of brass ; Zechariah, and Aziel, and Shemira-
moth, and Jehiel, and Unni, and Eliab, and Maaseiah, and

* Smith's " Dictionary," article Music.


Benaiah were set over those who played on psalteries on
Alamoth, that is, on the higher notes ; Mattithiah, and Eliph-
eleh, and Mikneiah, and Obed-edom, and Jeiel, and Azaziah
were put over those who sounded the harps on the Shemi-
nith, that is, on the eighth, which, I suppose, may mean the
lower octave ; while others were to blow with the trumpets
before the ark. It was thus a great processional oratorio,
the route being somewhat less than nine miles in length, for
that was the distance between Kirjath-jearim and Jerusa-
lem. When the company had been marshaled, and were
starting from Jerusalem, I conjecture that, with the judgment
that fell on Uzzah still in the minds of all, the Levites broke
forth, in solemn tones, with the beautiful i5th Psalm: "Lord,
who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy
holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh right-
eousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that
backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neigh-
bor, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbor. In
whose eyes a vile person is contemned : but he honoreth
them that fear the Lord. He that sweareth to his own hurt,
and changeth not. He that putteth not out his money to
usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that do-
eth these things shall never be moved." When they came
to the house of Obed-edom, and while arrangements were
being made for the removal from it of the ark, they sang the
opening verses of the i32d Psalm, as if to deprecate a repe-
tition of the calamity which had formerly saddened all their
hearts : " Lord, remember David, and all his afflictions : how
he sware unto the Lord, and vowed unto the mighty God of
Jacob ; surely I will not come into the tabernacle of my
house, nor go up into my bed ; I will not give sleep to mine
eyes, or slumber to mine eyelids, until I find out a place for
the Lord, a habitation for the mighty God of Jacob. Lo,
we heard of it at Ephratah ; we found it in the fields of the


wood," /. e., at Kirjath-jearim. Then, as the priests appoint-
ed for the purpose went into the house for the ark, they sang
by themselves these words: "We will go into his taberna-
cles : we will worship at his footstool." As they emerged,
bearing the sacred burden on their shoulders, and while they
took the first six paces in their march, their brethren resumed
the strain, and sang, "Arise, O Lord, into thy rest; thou,
and the ark of thy strength. Let thy priests be clothed with
righteousness ; and let thy saints shout for joy. For thy
servant David's sake turn not away the face of thine anoint-
ed. The Lord hath sworn in truth unto David ; he will not
turn from it ; of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy
throne. If thy children will keep my covenant and my tes-
timony that I shall teach them, their children shall also sit
upon thy throne for evermore. For the Lord hath chosen
Zion ; he hath 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." At this point the proces-
sion halted, while a double sacrifice was offered unto the
Lord ; and such was the elation of feeling among them all,
that the king, clothed for the time in a linen ephod like the
priests, is said to have danced before the Lord.

But now again the march is renewed. At the sound of
the trumpet they that bare the ark advanced, and the sing-
ers, accompanied by the instruments of music, raised the old
wilderness watch-word, " Let God arise, let his enemies be
scattered," and continued at intervals to sing appropriate
strophes of that grand processional hymn, the 68th Psalm.
It is too long to be quoted entire ; but if you will carefully


study it for yourselves, you will easily be able to divide it
into its separate portions, and will discover how appropriate
it was to the occasion which called it forth. What could be
finer than the following strain, which we give in the spirited
metrical version of an intimate friend and brother in the
ministry ?

" O God, when thou didst march of old before thy people's face,
And led their way, by cloud and flame, through the great wilderness,
Earth shook ; the heavens before thee dropped, on Sinai tremors fell,
Before the presence of the Lord, the God of Israel.
Lord, thou thy weary heritage didst cheer with plenteous rain :
Thy congregation dwelt therein ; their poor thou didst sustain.
God gave the word : anon the land rings with the joyful sound ;
Great was the host of herald tongues that published it around.
Kings fled, with all their bannered state, they bore themselves afar,
And she that dwelt at home did share the trophies of the war :
Now may ye rise and clothe yourselves in splendor manifold,
Like doves whose wings are silver-bright, whose plumes are burnished

The land, when God had crushed the kings, with scattered bones was

white ;

It glistened like the crown of snow on Salmon's crested height :
God's hill is high as Bashan's hill ; why leap ye, hills of pride ?
This Zion is the hill where God forever will abide.
God's cherub chariots, myriad-fold ; come flaming from afar ;
And, as on Sinai, God is there, as in a victor's car.
Thou hast ascended, armed with gifts, and captor captive led,
And thou with men, rebellious men, dost deign thy tent to spread.
Bless'd be the Lord, salvation's Lord, who lifts our load of woe ;
Whose daily bounties, rich and free, in volumed fullness flow ;
For God, he is salvation's God, and each successive breath
We owe to him whose hand doth cast the die of life and death.
Praise God, ye kingdoms of the earth, high be his name extolled,
W r ho rides upon the heaven of heavens, whose splendors were of old.
Forth comes his voice, a mighty voice ; what strength his frown en-
shrouds !

His majesty o'er Israel shines, his strength is in the clouds.
O God ! from out thy holy place, how dread thy terrors gleam,
Where thou art in thy glory throned, between the cherubim.


Thou to thy people givest strength, and mak'st them safely dwell ;
Then be thy name forever bless'd, thou God of Israel.*

When they drew near to Jerusalem they sung the 24th
Psalm, which is, perhaps, the most artistic in its structure of
all those to which we have referred. It is antiphonal in its
nature, and, was evidently designed to be sung by chorus
answering to chorus. Perhaps no more striking idea of the
method of its execution on this occasion can be given than
that which is presented in the following description, by Dr.
Kitto : " The chief musician, who seems to have been the
king himself, appears to have begun the sacred lay with a
solemn and sonorous recital of these sentences, ' The earth
is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they
that dwell therein. For he hath founded it upon the seas,
and established it upon the floods.' The chorus of vocal
music appears then to have taken up the song, and sung the
same words in a more tuneful and elaborate manner ; and the
instruments fell in with them, raising the mighty declaration
to heaven. We may presume that the chorus then divided,
each singing in their turns, and both joining at the close,
' For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it
upon the floods.' This part of the music may be supposed
to have lasted until the procession reached the foot of Zion,
or came in sight of it, which, from the nature of the inclosed
site, can not be till one comes quite near to it. Then the
king must be supposed to have stepped forth and begun
again, in a solemn and earnest tone, ' Who shall ascend into
the hill of the Lord ? or who shall stand in his holy place ?'
to which the first chorus responds, ' He that hath clean
hands, and a pure heart ; who hath not lifted up his soul
unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.' And then the second

* " Sacred Lyrics," by John Guthrie, M.A., Glasgow, p. 170.


chorus gives its reply, ' He shall receive the blessing from
the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.'
This part of the song may, in like manner, be supposed to
have lasted till they reached the gate of the city, when the
king began again in this grand and exalted strain, ' Lift up
your heads, O ye gates ; and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting
doors ; and the King of glory shall come in ;' which would
be repeated then, in the same way as before, by the general
chorus. The persons having charge of the gates ask, ' Who
is this King of glory ?' to which the first chorus answers, ' It
is Jehovah, strong and mighty : Jehovah, mighty in battle ;'
which the second chorus then repeats in like manner as be-
fore, closing with the grand refrain, 'He is the King of glory:
He is the King of glory.' We must now suppose the instru-
ments to take up the same notes, and continue sounding
them to the entrance of the Tabernacle (or tent) which Da-
vid had prepared. There the king again begins : ' Lift up
your heads, O ye gates ; and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting
doors; and the King of glory shall come in.' This is follow-
ed and answered as before all closing by the instruments
sounding, and the people shouting, ' He is the King of glory.' "*
One can not call up thus before the eye of his imagination
such a scene as this, without having his heart stirred to its
very depths ; and we do not wonder that the effects produced
upon the actual spectators were of the most thrilling char-
acter ; nor are we surprised that the greatest poets in our
own language, such as Milton and Young, have appropriated
these very words, as the most sublime they could find, to de-
scribe the procession of the heavenly hosts ; the one, in his
delineation of the Son returning from the work of creation ;
the other, in an attempt to describe the glories of the Re-
deemer's ascension from Mount Olivet, f

* Kitto's " Daily Bible Illustrations," vol. iii., pp. 385, 386.
t Milton's " Paradise Lost," Book vii. ; Young's " Night Thoughts,"
Night iv.


But amidst all these applications of the words of David,

Online LibraryWilliam M. (William Mackergo) TaylorDavid, king of Israel: his life and its lessons → online text (page 17 of 36)