and Source of Blessing
The mistake which David made in the removal of the Ark arose from carelessness of the Scriptures. David forgot the orders which God had given about the carrying of the Ark (Numbers), and therefore, in the 13th chapter of 1st Chronicles, we find him carelessly hazarding the life of his friend Uzza, who no doubt was a true Israelite, by giving him charge of the cart which bore the Ark. The death of Uzza was simply judicial, as in the case of Achan and of Ananias and Sapphira. Paul speaks of such like deaths-"Many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep." Eternal death is not contemplated here. We do not raise that question. It is ecclesiastical death.
The mistake which we have to deal with in the 17th chapter does not arise from neglect of the Word, but of Divine principles. You cannot here charge David with any moral obliquity, or carelessness of Scripture; his fault arises from ignorance of the Divine mind. You will ask, Is not Scripture the only standard? Most jealously I adhere to it: Scripture is the only standard. There are no true weights and measures but those of the Sanctuary. Oh, but there is an acquaintance with the ways of God that lies hid from the eyes of many of His saints, yet is open to others. Many a saint may be a diligent student of Scripture, and yet make great mistakes: his heart may be with God all the time. The Lord said that David's heart was right, but his mind, his understanding, was wrong. This is often to be seen, especially at the present time; loving saints, most acceptable to God, making great mistakes by not knowing the Divine mind and ways.
So it was with David. He was comfortably settled in his house of cedar, ornamented, no doubt, in the eastern mode; and looking around, he said to his friend Nathan, "Think of me living in a house of cedar, and the Ark of God under curtains!" This was a most beautiful meditation of David's heart. No sooner was he in possession of the throne than he made it subservient to the glory of God. The first thought was, "How shall I bring back the ark?" Now, do you make your circumstances subservient to the glory of God? How often are they made to serve the ends of your own vain desires? Not such was David. No sooner was he settled in his house of cedar, than he bethought himself of the Ark of God. Well, we sometimes see this still. There are saints met with here and there who make their circumstances the servants of God!
Nathan, seeing that David's heart was right with God, concluded that all was well, and answered at once, "Do all that is in thine heart, for God is with thee." But that same night, God entered the scene, and corrected the mistake of David and his seer:--"Go and tell David, my servant, Thus saith the Lord, Thou shalt not build Me an house to dwell in." Do not think of it! Why should God forbid this? Was there any charge against David's heart? No, there was no pravity to be corrected; nor, as in the case of Uzza, was there any neglect of Scripture, but there was deep misunderstanding of the mind of God. Does David know Me so little, said God, as to suppose that I will dwell in a house, until he and My people Israel are at peace? Does he think to out-do Me in goodness? This is but a paraphrase of the message of God to David. Am I to let you be first, David; and shall I take a dwelling from you before I make you one? Shall I dwell under cedars while you are in battle? Nay, in all things, God must have the pre-eminence (Col. 1:18). Where sin abounds grace abounds still more, and where faith abounds, grace goes beyond it. This was the word by Nathan to David---I cannot rest, while you are a man of war.
We see this again, in the New Testament. When Stephen was stoned he looked up to heaven, and saw our Lord Jesus standing, not seated, which is His usual and proper attitude, as having finished the work of salvation. But could the Lord Jesus sit to see Stephen stoned? Nay, Stephen saw Him standing on the right hand of God. So, in David's case, were not the Ammonites and Philistines around him? Think no more about My dwelling, said God, until I give you rest, Ah! is it not God who has said, " It is more blessed to give than to receive?" The blessed sympathy of Christ with His people! "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" "He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of Mine eye." Old and New Testament concur to show the heart of God. Could we have a more rich example than the present?
Never forget that precious sentiment, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." Now, if you do not acknowledge this, you have not got the inlet into the mind of God. In the Gospel, God satisfies Himself; under law, He was the receiver; man was working and bringing the result to God, and God, remaining quiet, accepted the offering. But, in the Gospel, God and man change places. In the activities of grace, God comes forward and sets his seal to the saying of Christ, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." Now, this is just what David did not understand. The heart was right in the desire to build God's house, but the understanding was ignorant of the secret that lay on the bosom of God. Now, I say it boldly, you ought to know the pulses of the Divine affections. Nathan is sent to stop David's hand, not to correct his heart. Quite otherwise. Indeed, his heart is commended; but then he must be taught to understand the heart of God. And this is what the Gospel does for you; it lets you into the secret of the heart of God, and the more you interpret that secret the happier will your heart be. This is the preaching of God to Nathan.
It is the Gospel that explains God to you, and shows you how He has devised a way whereby He may be just, and yet be the justifier of the sinner. "Mercy and truth have met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other." The Gospel is a communication of God to the sinner. God reminds David of His grace. I brought you from the sheepfold, where even your father despised you. It was wretched to see a father forgetting his child, but that despised child was God's elect. What is the music of "the spheres" to that of the grace of God? Grace had elected David, grace had called him, and grace is about to lead him into glory. The issue of grace was glory (verse 13). Oh, for an ear to hear the tale of grace! How charming is the sound of harmony floating on the air, and falling on the enchanted ear; but, Oh, for an ear to hear the tale of grace! This is the song to which the harps of God are strung; they are attuned to celebrate the one only story. Their music is the grace of God, and this should be our music now. I have often wondered what Nathan thought of this message. He would naturally say, it was only yesterday I told him to go and prosper. If my king has made a mistake, so have I. Well, surely David never meant it, but this thought of his was a gross slander of God's love. It reminds me of the dear women at the sepulcher; their hearts were right, but if their act were analyzed, it would be found a slander on the Prince of Life. They never meant it, but they should have known that the sepulcher would be empty.
Now God has a controversy with David about this misunderstanding; not, indeed, such as He had later, in the matter of Uriah, when there was moral obliquity. Still there is controversy. We must now look at David's answer when he received the tale of grace. David, the king, came and sat before the Lord (16th verse to the end). How precious the communion between grace and faith! Into this fallen world, God comes and communicates His purposes. We hear them, and sit down and render back our thanks. Give Him what you will, praise must be your greatest gift. Nothing is so sweet to God as praise. But, first, there must be confidence. If you do not first know He loves you, you cannot love Him. David expresses this confidence by going in and sitting before the Lord. Could he have fallen upon his face? He could not have done it. It is a poor business when saints are asking God to pardon and accept them, while listening to the tale of grace. They should be rejoicing in the blessed sense of sin pardoned and put away forever.
There are very proper occasions for falling on the face. In the matter of Uriah, David had occasion to be there; but when he listened to the story of God's love to him, he could not take the place of a criminal. There are seasons for all these things. It is beautiful when saints know the season to sit or stand, to laugh or weep. David goes in and sits before the Lord, and when he opens his mouth, it is to say that he is "lost in wonder, love, and praise."
Beautiful expression of faith! The soul listens to the story of God's love, and loses itself in wonder, love, and praise. You may say, "This is not my attitude." That may be; but surely it is the proper attitude of the saved soul! "Who am I, O Lord?" Well said. Surely we can join in this language of David, the servant of the Lord! All that Thou hast done is little in Thine eyes, compared with Thy purposes for the future (verse 17). According to Thine own heart, Thou hast done it (verse 19). I pause here to ask you if you can trace the Gospel to the heart of God? If not, you have not reached the source. Is the cross the source of blessing? No, the cross stands a long way down the story. If you had not the love of God, you could never have had the cross of Christ. The blood is your only title to blessing. But how did you get the blood? "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Your response to the Gospel is "Out of Thine own heart Thou didst it. Thy bosom was the birthplace of this grace, the birthplace of all blessing." Thus, David responds to grace, "Oh Lord, there is none like Thee! And what one nation in the earth is like Thy people Israel?" Would to God we knew something of this spirit! Would that our experience were more the joy of what God is, than of what we are in ourselves! In books of saints' experience, what miserable strivings we find! The Lord bears with all this, but the normal character of the saved soul is praise. This is true Christian experience. Now David has but to say, "Thou hast promised, now therefore perform it." Nothing remains but for God to make good His own word.
In the 24th verse David says, "The Lord of Hosts is the God of Israel, even a God to Israel." Perhaps you think of God as God of you, and not God to you. You know He has authority over you, but doubt His love to you. God has authority over you, and Christ is "Head over all things to the Church." In Ephesians, He seats the Church in His own place of authority above principalities and powers. The Lord Jesus is your Lord; but besides that, He is watching over your soul in love. Angelic communion is not to be compared to that of the believing sinner! There is nothing more lovely than the outgoings of faith met by the inworking witness of grace. - excerpted from "Words of Truth"
1 FATHER, Spring and Source of blessing,
Grateful praise to Thee we bring;
Objects of Thy sovereign favour,
Gladly of Thy love we sing.
Love that found its full expression
In Thy gift unspeakable,
Him Who dwelling in Thy bosom,
Could alone its secrets tell.
2 Thine eternal, gracious purpose,
Now to us in Christ is shown,
Purpose fraught with richest blessing,
For the sons Thou hadst foreknown.
Brought to rest within the circle
Where love's treasures are displayed,
There we drink the living waters,
Taste the joys that never fade.
3 Brought to know Thy Well-Beloved,
Drawn to Him in boundless grace,
Thy effulgence, love and glory
Shining in His blessed face.
We adore Thee, God and Father,
May Thy name exalted be!
Praise and worship we would render
Now as in eternity. (Spiritual Songs, Hymn 415)