Godís King, Godís Ark, Godís Worship
It is evident that 1 Chronicles was written after Israel had returned from their 70 years of captivity in Babylon. It covers much of the same period of Israelís history that is given in 2 Samuel. But in 1 Chronicles there is a distinct emphasis on instruction, instruction in the worship of God. This Book is not so much about Israelís history as it is about Godís king, Godís ark, and Godís worship.
This Book might be compared to the gospel of John in the New Testament. We call the first three gospel narratives (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) the synoptic gospels because they give us the historical account of our Lordís earthly life and ministry. But the gospel of John is different. Johnís gospel was the last Book of Holy Scripture to be written (probably about 90 or 95 A.D.). It distinctly teaches us the meaning of our Saviorís accomplishments. He gave us selected incidents in the Lordís earthly life and ministry, and shows us their meaning. He tells us that his purpose was not to give a chronological history of our Lordís life on earth, but to teach us the meaning of it (John 20:30-31)
John made no attempt to cover the whole of the Lord's ministry. Instead, he carefully selected certain things out of Christ's ministry to illustrate the great point that he wanted to make.óThe Lord Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Messiah, the King of whom all the prophets spoke. This was his purpose. The book of 1 Chronicles is like that. It gives us selective bits of Israelís history, focusing our attention on Godís king, David, Godís ark, and Godís worship, constantly pointing us to Christ, of whom David and the ark were typical, and in whom alone God is worshipped.
The first nine chapters read a little laboriously. They give us a long genealogical record of the nation of Israel. 1 Chronicles reaches all the way back to Adam, and takes us through the reign of David and the earliest days of Solomonís reign.
If you are like me, you are tempted to hurry pass these long lists of names and get to the ďimportantĒ stuff. We feel sort of like the old preacher who was reading Matthew 1. He started out reading, "Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judah and his brethren." Then he said, "They kept on begatting one another all the way down this side of the page and clear on to the other side." And he picked up the reading and went on from there. We ought not do that. The genealogies are very important.
The genealogies give us an indisputable chronological connection and order concerning the various events recorded in Old Testament history. They also show us clearly and indisputably that our Savior is the seed of Abraham and the seed of David according to the flesh. óIn fact, he is the only Person now living who is positively known to be of Davidís seed, possessing a right to Davidís throne. Of all the things the Jews questioned about our Lord, of all the excuses they made for their refusal to bow to him, of all the accusations they raised of him being an imposter, never once did anyone question our Masterís clear genealogy. It was indisputable.
The genealogies display the movement of Godís providence toward the goal for which the world was made, the incarnation, redemptive work, and resurrection glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, accomplishing the salvation of Godís elect to the praise of the glory of his grace. As they do so, the genealogies give us a picture of Godís sovereign electing grace. He includes some in the chosen line, and excludes others, altogether as it pleases him.
The genealogy that begins in 1 Chronicles 1 begins at the dawn of human history. It lists the sons of Adam (Seth, Enosh, Kenan, and Mahalalel). We know that among the sons of Adam were Cain, Abel, and Seth, but here Cain is excluded. His brother Abel, whom he murdered, is also excluded. The focus is on the descendants of Seth, because Abraham and Israel came from Seth.
Then the line of Seth is traced down to Enoch and Noah. The three sons of Noah, Shem, Ham and Japheth, are listed; but Ham, and Japheth are dismissed with a brief word and attention is focused on Shem and his family. From Shem we get to Abraham and his family. Ishmael is excluded from the promise and Isaac is chosen. Esau is rejected and Jacob is chosen (Rom. 3:3-4). The purpose of God according to election always stands immutable and sure (Rom. 9:11-13).
Then the genealogy focuses on Jacobís twelve sons, from whom come the twelve tribes of Israel. In the end, ten of the twelve tribes are rejected. Still, the purpose of God continues. He chose Judah and Levi, the kingly and the priestly lines. David, and Solomon, and the kings of the house of David down to the time of the Babylonian captivity came from the tribe of Judah. The tribe of Levi is traced down to Aaron, the first of the priests, and then to the priests who were prominent in the kingdom at the time of David.
Chapter 10 gives us an account of Saulís miserable reign and of the judgment of God upon him because he despised God and his Word and sought the counsel of a witch (10:13-14).
Chapter 11 opens with David being established as king over Israel. "Then all Israel gathered themselves to David unto Hebron, saying, Behold, we are thy bone and thy flesh. And moreover in time past, even when Saul was king, thou wast he that leddest out and broughtest in Israel: and the LORD thy God said unto thee, Thou shalt feed my people Israel, and thou shalt be ruler over my people Israel. Therefore came all the elders of Israel to the king to Hebron; and David made a covenant with them in Hebron before the LORD; and they anointed David king over Israel, according to the word of the LORD by Samuel" (11:1-3).
David is once more set before us as an eminent type of our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Zion, the King of Glory, whom God has exalted to be our Prince and Savior to give his salvation to chosen sinners (Acts 5:30). All Godís Israel shall be gathered to Christ. Even when he is not acknowledged, he is the One who leads, protects and defends his people. As David ďwaxed greater and greater: for the LORD of hosts was with him (11:19),Ē our great King, the Lord Jesus Christ, is great above all, exalted, preeminent, and glorious beyond compare.
Beginning in chapter 13 our attention is focused on the ark of God, the temple of God, and the worship of God. These are the things constantly held before us in the Book of God as matters of paramount importance. The ark of the covenant represents the Lord Jesus Christ, our Propitiation, our sin-atoning Substitute, and the salvation he accomplished for his people (Heb. 9:1-14; 1 John 1:7-2:2). The temple of God represents the church and the kingdom of God. It also represents the whole salvation of Godís elect (1 Cor. 3:16-17; Eph. 2:20-22). That is the purpose of God accomplished in and by Christ. The worship of God is that which we render to him by faith in Christ.
These things must be paramount in our hearts and in our lives. There is a cathedral in Milan, Italy with three doors and an inscription over each door. Over the right hand door a wreath of flowers is carved and the inscription reads, "All that pleases is but for a moment." On the left hand door the inscription is, "All that troubles is but for a moment." Over the main entrance are the words, "Nothing is important but that which is eternal." This is the lesson of 1 Chronicles. In a sense, it is the lesson of the whole Bible (1 Cor. 10:31; Col. 3:1-3, 17).
The Worship of God
Letís see what this instructive Book teaches us about the worship of our God and Savior. May God the Holy Spirit be pleased to inscribe its lessons upon our hearts. One of Davidís first acts as king was bringing the ark of the Lord back to Zion. It is recorded in chapters 13 and 15.
"And David consulted with the captains of thousands and hundreds, and with every leader. And David said unto all the congregation of Israel, If it seem good unto you, and that it be of the LORD our God, let us send abroad unto our brethren every where, that are left in all the land of Israel, and with them also to the priests and Levites which are in their cities and suburbs, that they may gather themselves unto us: And let us bring again the ark of our God to us: for we inquired not at it in the days of Saul." (1 Chronicles 13:1-3)†
For twenty years the Ark with its mercy-seat, Godís appointed meeting-place with his people, was neglected and almost forgotten. The sacrifice, the mercy-seat, the place where God meets with men (the Lord Jesus Christ) had been despised and neglected! David wanted to re-establish the worship of God in Israel. But he made several fatal mistakes.
What a picture that is of what goes on in most churches, in most of what passes for worship today. óMen and women, ignoring the gospel and ordinances of God, play before God with all their might, gratifying their own lusts, nothing more!
Then, suddenly, the oxen that pulled the cart stumbled. Their new cart tipped over. And the ark of God appeared to be falling. So ďUzza put forth his hand to hold the arkĒ (13:10). God required that no man touch that ark. It represented salvation by Christ alone. No manís hand is involved in Godís great work of redemption and grace. But Uzza dared to defy God. No matter what his intentions were, his act was the defiance of God. For that God killed him on the spot. Now, learn this lesson and learn it well. God almighty still kills men who dare put their hands to his great work of redemption and salvation! All who attempt to put their hand (or will) to Godís salvation shall perish for their defiance.
When the Lord God showed his disapproval of their devices, David got mad at God and was afraid of him. Then, in chapter 15, after he learned his lesson and prepared a place for it, David went and fetched the ark to Jerusalem. This time he did everything by the Book, acknowledging that what he had done before was altogether wrong and an affront to God. He said, "For because ye did it not at the first, the LORD our God made a breach upon us, for that we sought him not after the due order."
If we would worship God, we must worship him in the way he has prescribed in his Word, trusting Christ alone, adding nothing to his Word, and taking nothing from his Word. There is no place in the house and worship of God for anything except prayer, praise, preaching, believerís baptism, and the Lordís Table. All the inventions of men, the putting on of religious plays, political rallies, debate, infant dedications, infant sprinkling, all the inventions of men are but an abomination to God. His ordinances must not be perverted. And as we worship our God through faith in Christ, giving all honor and glory to him alone, we must expect to be despised by those who do not know our God, just as David was despised by his wife Michal (15:29).
"So they brought the ark of God, and set it in the midst of the tent that David had pitched for it: and they offered burnt sacrifices and peace offerings before God. And when David had made an end of offering the burnt offerings and the peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD. And he dealt to every one of Israel, both man and woman, to every one a loaf of bread, and a good piece of flesh, and a flagon of wineĒ (1 Chronicles 16:1-3).
These burnt offerings and peace offerings speak of Christ, by whom we have peace with God. Once the offerings were accepted, David blessed the people, upon the basis of Godís acceptance of the offerings. That is the only way Godís blessings come to chosen sinners, upon the basis of Christís finished work and accepted sacrifice. Not only did he bless them, he gave them each a loaf of bread and a flagon of wine ópictures of Christís sacrifice and of our communion with God by his blood and righteousness.
Next, we read of Godís promise to David (chapter 17). The great desire of Davidís heart was to build a temple for the Lord. But the Lord would not allow him to do it because David had ďshed much blood upon the earth.Ē However, the Lord promised David that a son should be born unto him, who should be ďa man of rest,Ē that he would build his house, and that God would establish his throne forever.
David bowed to Godís will without a murmur, and poured forth a song of praise for his great goodness. In the promised son we see Christ our Lord, ďa Greater than Solomon.Ē ďThou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the highest; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no endĒ (Lk. 1:31-3).
The preservation of Israel (not the physical nation, but the spiritual Israel of God) was here guaranteed till the end of time, ďas long as the sun and the moon endureĒ (Jer. 31:35-37). Davidís throne (Christís throne) was permanently secured with the added sign, ďand as the faithful witness in the sky,Ē the rainbow (Ps. 89:3, 4, 27-37; Rev. 4:2-3). The bow of Godís covenant ever stands before the throne of his grace. All that he does as the Monarch of the universe, he does in fulfillment of his everlasting covenant of grace for the salvation of his people (John 17:2). Davidís Son (the Lord Jesus Christ) shall sit upon Davidís throne (the throne of grace) in that Jerusalem which is above forever.
The next very significant and instructive event recorded in 1 Chronicles is Davidís sin in numbering the people (chapter 21). His sin in this was, I am sure, at least in part, a display of personal pride because of the greatness of his kingdom. But there is much more to it than that. Davidís numbering of Israel seems to have conveyed the thought that the success of Godís purpose depends upon the number of those who are with us in our efforts. He wanted to see the number of people that were available to him, and thus to glory in the physical strength of his realm.
God never works by a majority. When we begin to think that the cause of Christ is losing out because our numbers are small, we dishonor God and the gospel of God. Godís cause does not depend upon us, our strength, or abilities, or our numbers. I cannot help thinking of Gideon and God's deliberate reduction of the number of men from 32,000 to 300. David slew Goliath and delivered Israel with a single sling and a rock from the brook. Samson slew the Philistines with nothing but the jawbone of an ass. Godís cause does not depend upon us.
Still, there is more. Davidís sin displayed a neglect of Christ and his sacrifice. When he numbered Israel, there was no payment of ransom money, atonement money, as required by Godís law (Ex. 30:11-16).
"And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, When thou takest the sum of the children of Israel after their number, then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul unto the LORD, when thou numberest them; that there be no plague among them, when thou numberest them. This they shall give, every one that passeth among them that are numbered, half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary: (a shekel is twenty gerahs:) an half shekel shall be the offering of the LORD. Every one that passeth among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering unto the LORD. The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when they give an offering unto the LORD, to make an atonement for your souls. And thou shalt take the atonement money of the children of Israel, and shalt appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of the congregation; that it may be a memorial unto the children of Israel before the LORD, to make an atonement for your soul" (Exodus 30:11-16).
Again, we see a terrible judgment brought upon Israel by the neglect of Godís sacrifice, by the neglect of the atonement, by the neglect of Christ. This numbering of the children of Israel and the atonement money they paid so that no plague come upon them was typical of our ransom by Christ. None but Israelites were ransomed. A specific, numbered people were ransomed. The ransom price was the same for all. Those who were ransomed were preserved from any plague (Pro. 12:21; Ps. 91:10).
Yet, against this backdrop, the Lord gives us a blessed picture of that very thing which David had neglected, substitution. And that is the message of the whole Book of God (21:17).
"And David said unto God, Is it not I that commanded the people to be numbered? even I it is that have sinned and done evil indeed; but as for these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, O LORD my God, be on me, and on my father's house; but not on thy people, that they should be plagued."
††††† What a beautiful picture this is of our great, sin-atoning Substitute, the Lord Jesus Christ. He made our sin his own (Ps. 40:12; 69:5). When the Lord God said to the angel of judgment, ďIt is enough, stay now thine handĒ (21:15), he had his eye on the substitutionary work of Christ portrayed in the sacrifices offered on Mt. Moriah, which David purchased from Ornan. All that transpired there spoke of our Saviorís sacrifice at Calvary.
When David had finished his work, when all the material for the temple was gathered, he went home. Here, again, our Lord Jesus Christ shines forth brilliantly. When he had finished all his work, when he had brought in everlasting righteousness, when he had put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, when he had magnified the law and made it honorable, when he had done all the will of God, he returned home (John 17:1-4; 19:30). And all the people worshipped and served God with a willing heart (29:9, 16). The Lord God chose them; and they honored him as his willing servants.
Here is a great thought to cheer our hearts as we seek to serve our great King and Savior, the Lord Jesus. It brings joy to the heart of our King when we offer willingly to his service, whether it be ourselves, or our substance that we give. Davidís thanksgiving shows the right attitude of heart, the recognition that all indeed belongs to God. ďWho am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? For all things come of Thee, and of Thine own have we given TheeĒ (29:14). God give me such a heart!