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for them. Nevertheless, we must remember it is not David himself, as a godly man, who speaks in the Psalms; it is by the inspiration of the Spirit he utters them; and it is a very precious thing for us that, in circumstances where faith might fail and the heart be discouraged, the Word supplies us with language suitable to faith, and to faith in one who has perhaps been unfaithful; a precious testimony that, even in this condition, God does not cast us off, and that Christ sympathises with us, since He furnishes us with expressions and sentiments adapted to such a condition. The Psalms supply this, and in especial suitability to the remnant of Israel in the last days. They are characterised by integrity of heart and confession of sin. The Spirit of Christ gives the sentiments and assures of His sympathy. Ps. xvi. gives us very strikingly this position of Christ. His goodness extends not to God. He calls the Lord, His Lord; but of the saints on earth He says, “ in whom is all my delight.” By His baptism, which was the expression of this, He connected Himself
, not with Israel, but with the first movement of the Spirit, responding in the remnant to the condemnation of the people as such. This is the principle of the Psalms-the upright and faithful man in the midst of the perverse nation. The book opens with this distinction, drawn by God; it next presents us with the King in Zion, according to the decree of God, rejected by the nation and hated by the heathen, who oppress the people. All this developes itself through a variety of circumstances, and all the relationships of the remnant are there depicted, as well as all affections of the heart. All connected with it is gone over by the hand and the pen of God, and according to the Spirit and the sympathies of Christ.
Chapter xx. ends this part of David's history, and his history in general. He is re-established on his throne, and has overcome the efforts of his enemies, and the rebellion of his own people. The order of his court and officers is restored in peace. Sundry details are added by the Spirit of God.
And, first of all, the government of God who forgets nothing, and with whom everything has its result, is recalled to David and to his people by means of the
Gibeonites. It is no longer necessary for the establishment of God's economy that David should pursue the house of Saul. There is a righteous judgment, a moral principle of God, which is above all economies. Saul, in ħis formal and fleshly zeal, although it was for God, had not acted in the fear of God. It is this which especially distinguishes a godly zeal from a zeal for the outward interests of His kingdom. Saul forgets the oath which Israel made to the Gibeonites. God remembers it, and does not despise the poor Gibeonites. David also recognizes its obligation; after having inquired of the Lord on account of the thrice repeated chastening upon Israel, he submits to the demand of the Gibeonites. The whole house of Saul perishes, except the little remnant attached to David. With respect to the latter, the circumstances of Rizpah's touching and faithful affection, awaken in David's heart the remembrance of brighter moments in poor Saul's career, and he pays the last honours to his memory. After this, God was entreated for the land.
If with a sling and a stone faith can overthrow its enemies, the flesh is at fault before their attacks. David, when king, as we have clearly seen, gave himself up more to his lusts and to his own will, than David suffering. Nevertheless, it is beautiful to see, that where faith has acted amid the people's ruin, it has stirred up many other instruments, who-animated and encouraged by its success-act fearlessly with the same power as that which wrought the first deliverance. It is well, however, to observe, that to conquer valiant foes when all Israel was flushed with success, and strengthened the hands of the mighty men, is a very different thing from the faith which reckons upon God, when strength and success are on the enemy's side, and the people are fleeing before him. The latter was David's case with Goliath. The former that of the men who slew the other giants.
The songs that follow contain instruction of deep interest. David comes forth from his sufferings and his affliction, with a song of triumph and of praise. He had learnt what God was, in his sufferings. He celebrates all that God had been for him, all that he had found Him to be in his necessities and dangers, the effect of God's power on his behalf, and the glorious and blessed result of this power. All this is given in a song, the expressions of which will only be fully accomplished in Christ Himself. In chap. xxii. he celebrates his prosperity. But, what a difference! He declares, it is true, what Christ will be when He reigns; and he does so in language of most attractive beauty, a beauty which ravishes the mind and transports it into the reign of Christ, that blessed world to come of which we speak. But then this sorrowful thought presents itself—“ my house is not so with God."
In the first of these two songs there is something more, of profound interest. David speaks às a prophet; and, as he had done in so many other instances, he personifies the Lord Jesus, the Lord Jesus in connection with Israel. This song then sets before us the sufferings of Christ, as the representative of Israel, and often speaking of the nation as though it were Himself, (sufferings which obtained also other deliverance of far surpassing excellence) as the cause of the deliverance out of Egypt and of all Israel's blessings, until the establishment of Messiah's glory in the age to come.
He surrounds the agony of Christ with the whole history of Israel in salvation and in blessing, from Pithom and Raamses unto the destruction of the violent man at the end of days, and the submission of the nations to Messiah's sceptre; and He gives a voice to their distress in Egypt. În chapter xxiii. the covenant was “all his salvation and all his desire,” although at that time “He made it not to grow.' Judgment must be executed, ere the full blessing he expected could be brought in; and these thorns of iniquity must be 16
utterly burned in the same place.” This will take place at the coming of Christ.
If God honors and glorifies David, He does not forget those whom the energy of David's faith had brought around him. The Holy Ghost enumerates the mighty men of David, and recounts their deeds of valour and devotedness—deeds which obtain a name and a place for them when God writeth up the people (Psa. lxxxvii). Joab is not among them.
Chapter xxiv. leads us into a subject which requires
particular notice. The wrath of God is kindled again against Israel. It is not in the mind of the Spirit to inform us on what occasion this took place; but to lay open God's dealings both in government and grace.
In the preceding chapter, God “writeth up” the mighty men who prefigure the companions of the true David in glory. Here it is His grace in staying his anger and bringing in His blessing.
God punishes the pride and rebellion of Israel, by leaving them to the consequences of the impulse of David's natural heart. Joab's habitual cleverness and good sense made him perceive its folly. When it is the flesh in another, it is easily discerned. Joab felt that it was not worth while to despise God when nothing was to be gained by it; for, in this way, the flesh fears God. But the thing was of the Lord, and Satan gains his point. What, in truth, can man's good sense avail, in opposition to the will of God in chastening, and Satan's malice? It is an awful thing to be given up to his power. Nine months of sin on David's part and of patience on God's part, shows us the fatal influence of the enemy; but the sin accomplished only awakens David's conscience. The enjoyment of the fruit of our sin undeceives us. It is the pursuit of it which allures our hearts.
When he has succeeded in inducing the children of God to commit the evil to which he tempted them, Satan cares no longer to conceal from them its emptiness and folly. Happily, where there is life, conscience resumes its power in such a case. Nevertheless, chastening must follow sin which has been carried out in spite of so much long-suffering. But God, who reaches His servant's conscience, brings into play the sincere affections of His heart, in order to bring about His own sovereign purpose.
David exhibits that never-failing token of a heart that knows the Lord, i e. confidence in God above all, and at whatever cost. • Let me fall into the hand of the Lord.” Sweet and precious thought of what the Lord is unto His people, and well He knows how to fill the heart with the certainty that He deserves its confidence ! Even while chastening, God is more loving, more faithful, more worthy of confidence than
any other. The plague breaks out; but, in the midst of judgment the Lord remembers mercy, and commands the destroying angel, when he had reached Jerusalem, to stay his hand.
It is Jerusalem, the city of His affections, that attracts His attention. God chooses it for the place where His altar shall be built, and His grace shown forth; His appointed mercy-seat. It is there that His wrath, justly kindled against Israel, ceases; and sin gives occasion to the establishment of the place, and of the work, in which He and His people shall meet, according to that grace which has put away the sin. This will characterise the cross of Christ—this will stay the plague in Israel, and introduce the reign of the true Prince of Peace. David stands in the breach to deliver his people, and at his own cost (verse 17), and according to the counsels of God, he offers the sacrifice of appeasement.
The Thoughts on the First Book of Chronicles will contain a fuller examination into this latter part of David's history.
That I may live and keep Thy Word;
Wonderful things out of Thy law;
Hide not Thy commandments from me; Grievously my soul breaks
For the longing it hath for Thy judgments at all times; Going astray from Thy commandments
The proud are cursed and rebuked by Thee;
For I have kept Thy testimonies;
But Thy servant did meditate in Thy statutes;
Are Thy testimonies.