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William M. (William Mackergo) Taylor.

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

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we must not forget another, and perhaps the most important
of all. The ark symbolized Christ in his peace-giving pres-
ence, and the Tabernacle is an emblem of the human heart,
in which he desires to dwell. Even now he may be stand-
ing and knocking at the door of some heart here. He who
is the King of glory, and mighty in battle, is asking an en-
trance, where he well might force his way. But he conde-
scends to plead for admission. Oh, let him not plead in vain !
Open unto him, that you may know what that blessed prom-
ise means : "If any man hear my voice and open the door, I
will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me."

At the close of the singing of the 24th Psalm, the curtains
of the tent were folded back, and, amidst the reverent silence
of the assembled thousands, the ark was put in its appointed
place. Thereafter, as the joyful conclusion of the glad and
sacred services, David gave to Asaph and his brethren, that
they might sing it with every proper accompaniment, that
song which we have preserved in the sixteenth chapter of
the First Book of Chronicles, and which seems to be a com-
bination of portions taken from the io5th, 96th, and io6th
Psalms. Then he offered more burnt-offerings and peace-
offerings before the Lord ; and having concluded the cere-
mony by blessing the people in the name of the Lord, he
most generously distributed refreshments among them all.
So ended this auspicious day. "All the people departed,
every one to his own home ; and David returned to bless
his house." Only one thing occurred to mar his happiness.
After he entered his palace, Michal, the daughter of Saul,
who had never much sympathy with the devotional side of
David's nature, taunted him with scorn for his dancing be-
fore the ark, and sneered at him as if he had been one of
the vain fellows that were altogether regardless of propriety.
But the only result was to widen the breach which already



THE BRINGING UP OF THE ARK. 225

existed between them, and to consign her to the perpetual
isolation of widowhood, while she was still in name a wife.

Two practical lessons are all that space will now permit
me to enforce.

Observe, then, in the first place, as here illustrated, the
majesty of the divine holiness. When Uzzah touched the
ark, he was smitten with death. Many have wondered at
the apparent severity of the punishment; but when you ex-
amine into the matter minutely, you will see that the divine
procedure here harmonizes with the general principle of
God's operations as observed in similar instances. The law
commanded that the ark should be carried on the shoulders
of the priests, and Uzzah and all the people ought to have
known that. Hence this judgment for judgment it un-
doubtedly was was a mark of God's displeasure for irrev-
erence, and was designed to put them all on their guard.
The whole Tabernacle service appears to have been ar-
ranged with the view of intensifying the idea of God's holi-
ness in the minds of the people, and leading them up to the
truth that they could, as sinners, approach him only through
sacrifice. To keep these two things constantly before the
people, they were not allowed to come near the sacred place
where the symbol of Jehovah's presence dwelt ; and those
whose business took them into the sanctuary had to be spe-
cially set apart for the purpose ; while the high-priest was
permitted to go into the Holy of Holies only once a year, and
then only when he carried with him the blood of sacrifice.
Hence, any interference with the arrangements which con-
verged toward the teachings of these important truths was
solemnly guarded against ; and at the outset of every new
period of the history of Israel, some warning was given to
keep them from irreverence : Nadab and Abihu perished in
the wilderness; Uzzah here was struck down at the inaugura-
tion of a new era in the Jewish worship ; and Ananias and

10* -



226 DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL.

Sapphira were punished in the same way in the early infan-
cy of the Christian Church.

Now the connection of this latter case with that of Uzzah
here will show you how we in these days can be guilty of
Uzzah's sin. The Corinthians were guilty of it when, forget-
ting the sacred character of the Lord's Supper, they became
intoxicated at the table of the Lord ; and we shall be guilty
of it if, with hearts estranged from God, and lives which are
inconsistent with his Word, we presume to connect ourselves
with his Church, and take part in the management of its af-
fairs. David, therefore, rightly read the meaning of the breach
of Uzzah when, in addition to rectifying his error by putting
the ark on the shoulders of the priests, he sang these words:
"Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall
stand in his holy place ? He that hath clean hands and a
pure heart ;" and unless we who are members of the Church
have this character, we shall be guilty of Uzzah's sin. But
how shall we get such a character? Only by living union
to the Lord Jesus Christ, who offered himself in sacrifice to
God for us. In and through him we may approach God with
acceptance, and, sprinkled with his blood, we may have no
fear of any catastrophe. Beautiful here, in connection with
the majesty of God's holiness, and the necessity of atone-
ment, if sinners would safely approach him, is the lesson of
the cherubim in the Word of God. We first meet these
symbols (for whether we see them in the form of living
creatures, or in that of artificial figures, they are still sym-
bols), guarding the tree of life, and keeping back our sinful
parents from approaching it; we next meet them over the
mercy-seat, where they are looking down with satisfaction
on the blood of the victim ; we behold them next in Isaiah's
vision, " Crying, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts ;" and
we observe one of them taking a live coal from the altar
mark the altar, which tells of sacrifice and purifying there-



THE BRINGING UP OF THE ARK. 227

with the prophet's life ; we come upon them next in the
vision of Ezekiel, where they are the guardians of the mys-
tic wheels, which indicate, in the minds of many, the provi-
dence of God among the nations ; and we behold them for
the last time in the Apocalypse of John, where they call
again, " Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty ;" but where
there is a throne, with a lamb upon it, as if it had been
slain; and beside the throne four -and -twenty seats, occu-
pied by elders, representing the tribes of the redeemed.
Now observe how the Apocalypse, with its paradise regain-
ed, stands in contrast to Genesis, with its paradise lost. In
Genesis, the cherubim, guarding God's holiness, are warding
men away ; in the Apocalypse, the cherubim still, as before,
zealous for the divine holiness, for they make that the bur-
den of their song are complacent on-lookers, while the eld-
ers are seated on either side of the throne. Why is this ?
because on the throne itself there is the Lamb of God who
was slain from the foundation of the world, and who in the
days of his flesh bore the sins of men. Here is explain-
ed the mystery of the mercy-seat, over which, with its drops
of blood annually renewed, the cherubim stood with folded
wings, and on which they looked with such satisfied gaze.
"Jesus Christ is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours
only, but for the sins of the whole world." If, therefore, we
would approach Jehovah acceptably, if we would not provoke
his judgments upon us, if we would secure our peace with
him, we must sprinkle ourselves with this blood of atone-
ment; that is, we must believingly appropriate to ourselves
the benefits and blessings which Christ has secured for us by
his sacrificial death. While, again, if we would be fitted for
the service of the Lord, we must, Isaiah-like, have our lips
purged by sacrificial fire. We have nothing to fear from God
if we approach him in the right way ; we have every thing to
fear from him if we approach him in the wrong way. Let



2 2 8 DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL.

us, therefore, come "by that new and living way which Jesus
hath consecrated for us, that is to say, his flesh ; and having
a high-priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a
true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprin-
kled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with
pure water."

Finally : let us learn from the conduct of David in retiring
to bless his house, that public religious services should not be
allowed by us to interfere with the discharge of the duties of
family religion. After such a day as that which we have at-
tempted to describe, David might have imagined that he had
a good excuse for omitting all domestic worship ; but it rather
seemed that the devotions of the day gave him new zest for the
exercises of the family altar. And this is what always ought
to be. It is to be feared, however, that many among us con-
tent themselves with a mere go-to-meeting piety, and seem
to believe that religion consists in a round of public religious
services. They attend all manner of holy convocations.
You see them at every important devotional meeting you
take part in. But they rarely enter the closet; they never
bless their houses; and their lives are just as selfish and
unspiritual as are those of multitudes who make no profes-
sion of attachment to Jesus whatever. I do not make light
of the ordinances of God's worship ; on the contrary, I be-
lieve them to be most serviceable in feeding the fire of piety
within the heart. But what I mean to say is, that piety does
not consist in attending on these means of grace, and that
our engagement in public services must never be made an
excuse by us for the neglect of household duties. "Why did
you not come to church last night," said one working-man to
another, on a Monday morning ; " our minister was preach-
ing a third sermon on the duty of family religion ; why did
you not come ?" " Because," was the reply, " I was at home
doing it." I would like to see not less earnestness in at-



THE BRINGING UP OF THE ARK. 229

tendance upon the regular ordinances of the sanctuary, but
more of this " at home doing it." Have you family worship
in your dwelling ? Oh, if you have not, you know not what a
privilege you are depriving yourself of! It is a great means
of promoting family peace and domestic prosperity. Try it,
and you will find that God will deal well with you through
it, as of old he dealt with Obed-edom when the ark was in
his house. Try it at once. Begin to-night. Never mind,
though you may falter in your first utterances. There is
much power in broken prayers. Go, therefore, from this
house of privilege to the family altar, and lay thereon a grate-
ful offering. It will bind the members of your household to-
gether by a cord of spiritual and indissoluble union. It will
elevate your home-life into a miniature of that of heaven.
It will give you a foretaste of the blessedness of those who
form the family above.



XIII.

NATHAN'S MESSAGE.
2 SAMUEL vii.; ix.

WITH great pomp and gladness, the ark of the cove-
nant had been brought to Jerusalem, but David was
not yet satisfied ; for it had been placed in a mere tempora-
ry tent, and his great desire was to erect a splendid temple
for its permanent abode. Hence, before he was well es-
tablished in his own cedar palace, he sent for Nathan the
prophet, who now for the first time appears in the narra-
tive, and intimated to him his purpose in these words : " See
now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwelleth
within curtains." The sentiment underlying these words
was in the highest degree honorable to David. They indi-
cate that he felt it to be a moral anomaly, if not a species
of dishonesty, that he should look so well after his own per-
sonal comfort and regal dignity, while yet the house of God
was but a tent. It were well, in these days, that we all
shared these convictions, for we are too apt to lavish our
wealth exclusively upon our own enjoyment and indulgence,
forgetful of the higher claims which God and his cause have
upon us. I say not, indeed, that it is wrong for a man to
take such a position in society as his riches warrant him to
assume, or that there is sin in spending money on our resi-
dences, or in surrounding ourselves with the treasures of hu-
man wisdom in books, or the triumphs of human art in pic-
tures or statuary ; but I do say that our gifts to the cause
of God ought to be at least abreast of our expenditure for
these other things ; and that if we so cripple ourselves by



NATHAN'S MESSAGE. 231

our extravagance on house, or dress, or luxuries, as to render
it impossible for us to do any thing for the promotion of the
Gospel abroad, or for the instruction of the ignorant at home,
we are "verily guilty concerning our brethren," and before
our God. The principle here acknowledged by David is a
thoroughly sound one, and though he was discouraged from
applying it in the particular way on which he had set his
heart, we must not suppose that his feelings, as expressed to
Nathan, were wrong. On the contrary, the spiritual instinct
in him was true, and God declared that " it was well that it
was in his heart." Now what was this principle ? It was
this, that in proportion as we increase our expenditure upon
ourselves for the comforts and the elegancies of life, we
ought to increase our offerings to God for the carrying
on of works of faith and labors of love among our fellow-
men. If we can afford to enter a larger dwelling, we ought
to make ourselves afford to add proportionately to our con-
tributions for all good objects. If we allow ourselves to
gratify our taste in the purchase of a new picture or a new
book, we should feel impelled to do just so much more for
the gratification of the impulse of Christian benevolence.
The value of this principle, when rightly understood, and
conscientiously carried out, will be very great. It will act
in two ways. On the one hand, it will keep us from ham-
pering ourselves in our benevolence by personal extrava-
gance, and so be a check on that tendency to luxury which
is manifested even in many Christian households. On the
other hand, it will impel us to add to our gifts to the Lord
Jesus Christ; since every time we do any thing for ourselves
there will be a new call made upon us to do more for him.
The world's maxim is, " Be just before you are generous ;"
and, indeed, it would be well if the world's own votaries al-
ways acted thereon, for it is very easy to be benevolent with
other people's money. But the Christian's maxim ought to



232 DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL.

be, "Make your generosity a matter of justice." Be just to
God, as good stewards of his manifold bounties ; and when-
ever you increase your doings for yourselves, be sure that
you proportionately increase your doings for him. There is
no harm in your cedar palace, provided only the erection of
that stimulate you to do more than ever for Christ. I am
the more particular to put the matter thus, because, from a
mistaken zeal for the Lord, many have taken up a position
regarding it which is flagrantly unjust. They do not hesi-
tate to blame Christian men for dwelling in fine houses, and
surrounding themselves with beautiful objects, while so many
poor people are starving for want of food, and so many igno-
rant ones are perishing for lack of knowledge, and this alto-
gether irrespective of the fact that some who do live in ce-
dar houses are among the most benevolent in the land. But
where is this to end ? Are we all to go back to the cheer-
less, carpetless, comfortless houses of hundreds of years ago ?
or are we to be content with the blanket and the wigwam
of the Indian, and give all else to benevolence ? Nay. The
Lord does not blame David here for building his cedar
palace. On the contrary, I believe he was as glad to see
David in it, as a modern father is to visit his son in the com-
fortable home which his industry and integrity have secured
for him. God does not want us to go in threadbare attire,
and live in cold and ugly apartments. He loves to see his
stewards comfortable. But while he rejoices in our comfort,
he desires that we should share it with others. If I were to
go to a wealthy man's house, and, after surveying his paint-
ings and his plate, his carriage and his horses, and all the
other accessories of refinement around him, I should say,
" To what purpose is this waste ? Ought not all these things
to be sold and given to the poor ?" I should feel as if some-
how the meanness of Judas had got into my heart, and I
should not hope to do him any good ; but if, conceding to



NATHAN'S MESSAGE. 233

him that God delights in his comfort and rejoices in his hap-
piness, I should unfold to him this principle, that the enjoy-
ment of so many good things carries with it the obligation to
do just so much the more for Christ, I should expect to make
some impression upon him. There may be those here to-
night who have done much more for themselves than others
could honestly attempt. Let me ask them to consider that
their larger measure of enjoyment involves in it the duty of
doing just so much the more, for the furtherance of the Gos-
pel and the welfare of their fellow-men. Let me beg them
to press this question to their consciences : "Am I doing as
much more than others for Christ as I am doing for myself?"
And if they can not conscientiously say " Yes," then let me
beseech them to do less for themselves, that they may do
more for him.

When Nathan heard David's proposal, which would be, of
course, much more fully explained to him than it is in the sim-
ple summary of the conversation given in the history, he an-
swered, "Go, do all that is in thine heart; for the Lord is with
thee." This, however, was only his own individual opinion,
in which he gave expression, as a good man would naturally
do, to the feelings of gratification with which he had heard
of the royal intention. But during the subsequent night,
God gave him a special message to the king, which, while
preventing him from undertaking the building of the Tem-
ple, yet contained in it predictions of greatest interest, not
only to himself, but to all nations. I need not go over it
in detail. Let it suffice that I indicate what I regard to be
its meaning, premising that for the view which I present I
am indebted to the suggestive comments of Keil upon the
passage.

The first part of the announcement virtually amounts to
this : " Thou shalt not build an house for me, but I, who se-
lected thee when thou wast following the sheep, will build



234 DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL.

thee an house, and then thy son shall rear an house for my
name." Nor is this a mere play upon words, as at first sight
it might appear to be. It refers to the fact that, up to this
time, David's kingdom was not thoroughly established, and
draws from that the inference that God's ark was not yet to
exchange the Tabernacle, which was the symbol of unsettled
abode, for the Temple, which was the emblem of permanent
residence. "As long as the quiet and full possession of the
land of Canaan was disputed by their enemies round about,
even the dwelling-place of their God could not assume any
other form than that of a wanderer's tent. The kingdom
of God in Israel first acquired its rest and consolidation
through the efforts of David, when God had made all his
foes subject to him, and had established his throne firmly,
that is, had assured to his descendants the possession of the
kingdom for all future time. And it was this which ushered
in the time for the building of a stationary house as a dwell-
ing for the name of the Lord. The conquest of the citadel
of Zion, and the elevation of that fortress into the palace
of the king, was the commencement of the establishment of
the kingdom,"* but only the commencement, for many foes
had yet to be encountered and overcome. Till they were
subdued, then, the Temple should not be built ; for the tent,
or symbol of pilgrimage, would not be laid aside by God for
his ark until it had been first made clearly evident that the
people among whom that ark was to reside were themselves
permanently established in the land which had been given
them. This permanent establishment David, aided by Je-
hovah, was to make good, and then his son would rear the
Temple, in token of the perpetuity of the kingdom and dy-
nasty which he was to found. In the version given in the

* Keil and Delitzsch, "Biblical Commentary on the Books of Samuel,"
P-344-



NATHAN'S MESSAGE. 235

book of Samuel, no personal reason is assigned why David
was not to build the Temple, but, from his own words on his
death-bed, we learn that he was forbidden to do what was
in his heart, " because he was a man of war and had shed
blood." Perhaps this was founded on the sacredness of
blood as a symbol, of which so much is made under the
old covenant ; but possibly Keil may be right when he sees,
even in these words, a confirmation of the interpretation
which I have just given, and takes them to indicate that, so
long as wars were necessary or inevitable for David, they
were practical proofs that his kingdom and government
were not yet established. Besides, the Temple, as a symbol
of God's kingdom, was to shadow forth its peace as well as
its permanence, and for that reason not David the warrior,
but Solomon the peaceful, was its appropriate builder.

The second portion of Nathan's message, extending from
the twelfth to the sixteenth verse, gives a more precise ac-
count of the manner in which God would build his servant's
house, and has a clear reference to Solomon and his de-
scendants. In this aspect of the prophecy, it was fulfilled
when God kept the kingdom for Solomon in spite of the
plots of his brother Adonijah, when Solomon built the Tem-
ple, and also, alas ! when Solomon sinned by idolatry, and
entailed upon Rehoboam the loss of the ten tribes. Thus
God " chastened him with the rod of men, and with the
stripes of the children of men ;" but inasmuch as he and his
descendants were continued on the throne of Judah, these
other words were verified : " My mercy shall not depart
away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away be-
fore thee."

But while the primary reference of this prediction to Sol-
omon and his immediate descendants is unmistakable, it
must be evident even to the least thoughtful reader, that " a
greater than Solomon is here." Thrice it is alleged that



236 DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL.

the throne of David's kingdom should be established forev-
er ; and we may not seek to reduce these words to the pop-
ular notion of a long, indefinite period. We must take them
in an absolute sense, as they are understood in the Sgth
Psalm, where there is a clear reference to this prophecy, and
where the expression is thus paraphrased. " His seed also
will I make to endure forever, and his throne as the days of
heaven." Now, as Keil remarks, " The posterity of David
could only last forever by running out in a person who lives
forever, that is, by culminating in the Messiah, who lives for-
ever, and of whose kingdom there is no end."*

Thus we reach a new landmark in the development of
Messianic prophecy in the Old Testament. The promised
deliverer is spoken of first as "the seed of the woman;" then
as the seed of Abraham ; then as the child of Isaac ; then
as the son of Jacob ; and then as the Shiloh of the tribe of
Judah. Now, out of that tribe the family of David is desig-
nated as that in which he was to appear; while with this
description of his lineage there is conjoined the information
that he was to found a kingdom which would be universal in
its extent, and eternal in its duration. Thus, in the course
of the ages, that first Edenic prediction, so nebulous and in-
distinct, acquired definiteness and precision, until at length,
when the fullness of the time was come, there converged to-
ward Jesus of Nazareth so many lines of prophetic proof,
that he could be at once identified as the promised Re-
deemer.

But the connection of a prediction of the Messiah with a
message to David, regarding the building of the Temple, il-
lustrates another peculiarity by which many Old Testament
prophecies are distinguished. While some of these ancient

* Keil and Delitzsch, " Biblical Commentary on the Books of Samuel,"
P- 347-



NATHAN'S MESSAGE. 237

oracles stand out clearly from the circumstances and the
times in which they were given, and refer simply and alone
to Christ, there are others which, while pointing ultimately to
him, yet do so through and in connection with the position



Online LibraryWilliam M. (William Mackergo) TaylorDavid, king of Israel: his life and its lessons → online text (page 18 of 36)