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Exclusively published to the Touchstone website each week, these Daily Reflections are brief commentaries on the lectionary readings contained in the St. James Daily Devotional Guide. The reflections are penned by Patrick Henry Reardon, editor of the Daily Devotional Guide and a senior editor of Touchstone. Father Reardon provides here a very brief directional clue for one of the texts each day. Long-time readers of the Daily Devotional Guide will find these reflections an additional help to their reading of Holy Scripture which they can print and keep with their Guide.

The Daily Reflections will be updated weekly.

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Sunday, October 2

1 Chronicles 13: In 2 Samuel 5:11-25 David first builds his own house and does combat against the Philistines, before beginning to make Jerusalem the religious center of the kingdom. The Chronicler, however, more interested in theological principle than in historical sequence, postpones that narrative in order to concentrate on Jerusalem's theological importance. He first tells the story of David's attempt to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem.

Since the destruction of the ancient shrine at Shiloh, when Samuel was but a child, the Ark had apparently been a bit neglected (verse 3). As a religious and historical symbol, however, it was an object without peer in Israel's experience. It evoked Moses and the Exodus and the Covenant and a thousand things in Israel's deepest memory. David, then, was anxious to secure it for his new capital.

David found the Ark at Kiriath Jearim, "the city of woods" (verse 6; 2 Samuel 6:2). Although the Septuagint here calls it "the city of Jearim," that same version does translate the expression in Psalms 131:6 (with reference to the Ark) as "the fields of the wood." Even late in the fourth century after Christ, St. Cyril of Jerusalem remarked of the place, "Just a few years ago it was still woody" (Catechetical Lectures 12.20).

In this chapter the author begins an implicit contrast of David with Saul. Whereas the Ark had been little consulted in Saul's time (verse 3), David will "inquire of" it. Perhaps this is why Michal, Saul's daughter, will scoff at David's devout treatment of the Ark (15:29).

Twice in the next chapter we will find David's consulting the oracle at the Ark of the Covenant. Unlike Saul, who “also consulted a medium, seeking guidance, and did not seek guidance of the Lord” (10:13-14), David will be guided only by God's revelation of His will. The Chronicler returns to this theme in the following chapter.

Though he had no trouble getting the Israelites to agree with his plans for the Ark, David found that getting God's cooperation in the project was a tad more complicated. Although he arranged for the most elaborate of processions to bring the Ark to Jerusalem (verse 8), the event ended in tragedy because of an unforeseen mishap (verses 9-10). David's own reaction was a mixture of anger and fear (verses 11-12).

The interest of the Chronicler here, however, is deeper. He knew that the Ark was not being carried in the proper way - that is, by the appointed Levites. The accident occurred on the road because the Ark was being carried on a cart drawn by oxen. In the next chapter (15:2), David will see to it that this sort of thing never happens again.

With respect to Uzza, the man who stretched forth his hand to steady the Ark so that it would not fall, it will seem to many modern readers that he got a sort of bum rap. After all, his intentions (to the extent that he could be said to have any) were not reprehensible. Generations of commentators have tried to find some moral failing in the man that would explain the severity of his punishment.

For example, Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews 7.4.2) believed that Uzza died because he was assuming the rights of the priesthood (cf. Numbers 4:15; Hebrews 5:4). This is an unnecessary interpretation. There is nothing in the Sacred Text to suggest a moral failing on Uzza's part.

The forgotten premise in such an interpretation of the story is that, according to the Bible, holiness is a very physical thing. And it is also a very dangerous thing. Uzziah learned that truth the hard way. Like the Corinthians later on, he died because he failed to “discern” what he was dealing with when he touched the sacred (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:27-30).

The things of God are not what we want or understand them to be. God Himself determines what they are, and God has not the slightest concern for our own interpretations of them. Someone approaching the Lord's Supper in an unworthy manner may or not believe that he is receiving the Body and Blood of the Lord. If he receives that Mystery without faith, it is still the Body and Blood of the Lord, and the receiver will partake of damnation.

The holiness is real and objective. It has nothing to do with man's recognition of it. The trespasser who is electrocuted when climbing too high on a high voltage tower perishes without regard to his own understanding of what he is about, or his personal theories on electricity, or his perhaps laudable intentions. “And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow” (Hebrews 12:20).

Monday, October 3

1 Chronicles 14: The three months' delay in the execution of David's plan (13:14) now permits the author to treat of the geopolitical matters contained in 2 Samuel 5, which he had earlier postponed. From a literary perspective this arrangement allows the author, not only to state explicitly that a certain time period elapsed between David's two attempts to introduce the Ark into Jerusalem, but also to “fill in” those three months with other activity that suggest the passage of time.

The narrative thus provides the chief character, David, some breathing space, as it were, some opportunity, while engaged in other business, to reflect on the tragedy contained in the preceding chapter. Hence, when the Chronicler again turns our attention to the Ark in the next chapter, we find David gifted with a new and important insight about the meaning of that tragedy (15:12-13).

The reference to David's multiple wives (verse 3) is the one place in Chronicles which may reflect badly on the king, but even here the author omits the reference to David's concubines in 2 Samuel 5:13. Although he also excises David's adulterous affair with Bathsheba, he does here include a reference to Solomon, Bathsheba's son (verse 4). Given the importance of Solomon to this whole history, the Chronicler could hardly fail to take note of him!

In Josephus (Antiquities 7.4.1) this attack of the Philistines is expanded into an international coalition of enemies, which (in spite of the testimony of verses 1-2)) included the Phoenicians. It is more likely the case that David's defeat of the Philistines, who were part of a larger body of European invaders (from Crete and Greece) known in antiquity as “the Sea Peoples,” proved to be beneficial to the mercantile aspirations of the Phoenicians. Only with David's defeat of the Sea Peoples does Phoenicia rise again to become a great mercantile power. That is to say, David was every bit as helpful to Hiram, king of Tyre, as the latter was to him. The defeat of these enemies leads to an international recognition of David's stature and prestige (verse 17).

It is clear that the Chronicler had in mind to suggest a contrast between Saul and David. He does this by contrasting the Battle of Gilboa (10:1) with the Battle of Baalperazim (verses 11-12). In the latter case David took care to “inquire of” the Lord (darash, verse 13), whereas Saul, who had not “inquired of” the Lord (darash, 10:14), “inquired of” (darash, 10:13) a medium instead. Indeed, apparently it was Saul who had put a stop to “inquiring of” the Lord (darash, 13:13). Josephus perceived this contrast, remarking that David “never permitted himself to do anything without prophecy and the command of God, and without depending on Him as a safeguard for the future” (Antiquities 7.4.1).

Adhering closely to the narrative in 2 Samuel 5:17-25, the Chronicler speaks of a second victory over the Philistines (verses 13-16).

Tuesday, October 4

1 Chronicles 15: To house the Ark, David provides a tent, presumably on the model of the Tabernacle that Moses constructed in the desert (Numbers 1:50). When the Ark was brought to Jerusalem this time, it was borne on the shoulders of the Levites (verses 2,15), as Moses determined (Numbers 4:2,15; Deuteronomy 10:8; 31:25; 1 Samuel 6:15). From now on, David insists, there are to be no mistakes on such matters (verse 13).

David perceived what must be perceived by any who would approach God in worship-God determines the nature, structure, and spirit of the worship. Correct (“orthodox”) worship is not the uninformed, spontaneous outpouring of human activity, and the worshipper must be on guard against identifying his own impulses with the agency of the Holy Spirit. Undisciplined, uninformed people are far more likely to act under the impulse of suspect and impure spirits than under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Mere spontaneity and a “sense of fulfillment” are no adequate indications of the agency of the Holy Spirit.

The Chronicler's introduction of a different subject hints that some time was needed for David to arrive at the perception of this truth. Whereas in 2 Samuel (6:12) David's motive in again attempting to move the Ark was a response to the blessings poured out on the family of Obed-edom, himself a Levite (16:5,38; Josephus, Antiquities 7.4.2), here in Chronicles David is credited with a deeper perception. He perceived that the real problem was the people's relative nonchalance and carelessness in the proper conduct of the worship (verses 12-13). He discerned that in worship it is God that measures man, not the other way round.

David perceived that correct worship is not directly and immediately concerned with the religious needs and aspirations of human beings, but with the glory of God, which is inseparable from His holiness. The fundamental ground of true worship is not the religious nature of man, but the manifestation of God. Indeed, any worship that is not a response to God's Self-revelation must of necessity be idolatrous, the worship of something that man himself creates from the resources of his own religious nature.

For worship to be authentic and true, God Himself takes the initiative. God must be revealed in order for man to worship correctly. Otherwise, man is simply worshipping the works of his own hands, the ideas of his own imagination and reason. Two chapters earlier the divine revelation was of a particularly disturbing kind, resulting in a man's death, but it was a true revelation nonetheless, and David properly regarded it as such. He perceived that correct worship does not consist in the attempt to express man's religious aspirations, but in meeting in faith the manifestation of God in His truth. David concluded, therefore, that from now on, everything would be done decently and in order, as determined in the rules that the Lord had given to Moses on the mountain.

This principle pertained first of all to the proper arrangement of the sacred music (verse 16), a matter about which David, himself a musician, took special care. This included instrumental music as well as vocal. This entire section on music (verses 15-24) we owe to the Chronicler.

The references to “Alamoth” and “Sheminith”(verses 20-21) may indicate the high (soprano) chords of the harp and the low (baritone) chords of the lyre. The Hebrew word translated as “music” (verse 22) literally means a “burden.” This sense is suggested even by the expression “to lift the voice” and is indicated in our modern way of saying that someone must “carry a tune.” There will be more about this in Chapter 25.

“All Israel” (verse 38) brought the Ark to the resting place (Psalms 131 [132]:8,14). Once it became clear to this whole assembly-the catholicity of Israel at worship-that the Lord, not man, determines the proper structure and spirit of man's worship, then the Lord assisted and strengthened the worshippers (verse 26, a detail not found in 2 Samuel).

David himself supervised the worship and took an energetic role in its execution (verses 27,29).

Michal's scorn of the worship (verse 29) is contrasted with the enthusiasm of the others, especially the Levites, priests, and singers. Continuing the Chronicler's contrast between Saul and David, Michal represents the family of Saul, who had failed to “inquire of” the Lord at the Ark.

Wednesday, October 5

1 Chronicles 16: The first three and the final verses of this chapter are the only parts paralleled in 2 Samuel. Josephus himself has none of the material in this chapter.

The psalms appointed for this inaugural celebration of the Ark, sometimes referred in modern scholarship as “The Enthronement of the Lord,” correspond very closely to texts contained in the Book of Psalms. Thus, verses 8-22 are substantially identical to Psalm 104 (105):1-15, verses 23-34 to Psalm 95 (96):1-13, and verses 35-36 to Psalm 105 (106):47-48.

In deed, verse 36 corresponds to the closing verse of Book 4 of the Psalter. If we were to take that verse apart from that context, forgetting its earlier history in the Book of Psalms, we would imagine that the Babylonian Exile preceded the reign of Solomon!

The title of Psalm 95 (96), which ascribes its composition to David himself, records that it was also used at the dedication of the Second Temple “after the Captivity.” The Chronicler appreciated the significance of its also having been sung at the Ark's first appearance in Jerusalem more than a half-millennium earlier.

In verse 4 we observe three kinds of prayer: invocation, thanksgiving, and praise.

David's offering of the sacrifices (verse 2) should be understood in the same sense as his constructing of the ritual tent. That is to say, he caused these things to be done by others (verse 1; cf. 15:26). David no more “sacrificed” in the sense of taking the place of the priest than he “built” his house in the sense that he grabbed the chisel to replace the stonemason or the adze to replace the carpenter.

The tent at Jerusalem is distinguished from the one at Gibeon (verse 39), which was instituted by Moses (21:29). It is clear from 1 Kings 3 that the shrine at Gibeon continued to be held in high regard in Israel. This means that for a while Israel had two centers of national worship, and after the translation of the Ark to Jerusalem David took care that the regular sacrifices were still to be offered at Gibeon, along with the sacred chants (verses 40-42). It was to Gibeon that Solomon would have recourse to the Lord at the beginning of his reign.

Thursday, October 6

1 Chronicles 17: In the view of the Chronicler, the temple was supremely David's idea. Whereas in 1 Kings its construction is ascribed to Solomon as the fulfillment of a prophecy made to David, in Chronicles Solomon's role is reduced to carrying out David's own detailed plans.

This view of David's place in the planning of the Temple was fixed in Israel's memory by the insertion of Psalm 131 (132) near the end of the Psalms of Ascent, that section of the Psalter (Psalms 119-133 [120-134]) chanted by the pilgrims as they climbed Mount Zion to worship in the Temple on the high holy days. In this Psalm they called to mind how thee construction of God's house had been David's idea. Indeed, Solomon is not so much as named in this psalm. Thus, there is a close historical link between this psalm and the theology of the Chronicler.

This present chapter of Chronicles, which is profitably supplemented with 2 Samuel 7, Psalm 88 (89), and Josephus (Antiquities 7.4.4), describes how those plans of David were delayed.

In this scene David wants to build a house (bayith) for the Lord, but in fact God also intends to build a house (bayith) for David (verse 10), a house, which is the lineage of the royal family that will form the Davidic dynasty (verse 12). Only then will there be built a house for the Lord (verse 13). David's own heir will be established in the Lord's house (verse 14). In his prayer of response to this oracle of Nathan, David again refers to his own house in the context of that promise (verses 16-17,23-25,27).

Thus, the “house of the Lord,” which is the Temple, and the “house of David,” which is the Davidic throne, are united by an indissoluble theology. We observe how the Chronicler changes “your house and your kingdom” (2 Samuel 7:16) to “My house and My kingdom” (verse 14). God is Lord of it all, and there virtually disappears much distinction between David's house and the Lord's. The Christian reader will see in this association of God and David an allegory and prophecy of the Incarnation itself, that union of divinity and humanity in a single dwelling place, which is the very flesh of the One of whom the Apostle Paul wrote, "in Him dwells all thee fulness of the Godhead bodily" (Colossians 2:9).

David, in the prayer that he offers in response to this promise, is said to “sit” before the Lord (verse 6; 2 Samuel 7:18). Since this is the only place in the Hebrew Scriptures when someone is said to sit in prayer, it is not surprising that Josephus (loc. cit.) changes the verb to “prostrate.' The uniqueness of this case, however, suggests that the act was symbolic, perhaps suggesting a sense of rest in God's presence, of acquiescence in God's decision.

It is also possible that this verb was chosen to parallel the Lord's own “rest” in the Temple that David will design. Thus the psalm we cited earlier: ““Arise, O LORD, to Your resting place, You and the ark of Your strength. . . . This is My resting place forever” (Psalms 131 [132]:8,14). Later on here in 1 Chronicles (28:2), David will use the same Hebrew word for “resting place”(menuhah) that we find in this psalm: “I had it in my heart to build a house of rest (beth menuhah) for the ark of the covenant of the Lord.”

Later on, the Chronicler will tell us that the reason David was prohibited from actually building the temple was all the blood he had shed as a warrior (22:8; 28:3). In order to warrant that explanation of the matter, the author proceeds, in this next chapter, to describe David's military exploits.

Friday, October 7

1 Chronicles 18: These next three chapters are devoted to David's military campaigns. First comes a mention of his conquest of the Philistines (verse 1), already narrated in detail in 14:9-16. Next are the Moabites (verse 2), whose defeat is told here less graphically than in 1 Samuel 22:3. Moving north, David defeats the Zobahites (verse 3) and the Syrians (verse 5). Subjecting all of these nations to his authority, David really did rule eastward to the Euphrates.

Much of this material, with variations, was available to the Chronicler from 2 Samuel 18:1-14, but not the detail about the bronze shields from Syria. It is entirely consistent with the Chronicler's interest in Israel's worship that he should write of Solomon's use of this bronze in the appointments of the Temple (verse 8).

Turning south, David conquered the Edomites (verses 12-13), gaining thereby a port on the Gulf of Aquaba, opening on to the Red Sea and beyond. In due course Solomon will exploit that seaway for vast commercial ventures.

With respect to the slaying of all those Edomites in verse 12, it must be said that several men seem to have been credit ed with the feat. Here it is ascribed to Abishai, whereas in Psalms 60 (59):1 it is said of Joab, and in 2 Samuel 8:13 David gets the credit.

With respect to David's “court” three items are worth mentioning: First, the “Shavsha” who serves as secretary in verse 16 is called “Seriah” in 2 Samuel and “Seisan” by Josephus. Second, the Cerethites and Pelethites in verse 17 are mercenaries in David's employ. The Cerethites are Cretans, and Pelethites is another name for Philistines.

Third, with respect to David's sons, whom that same verse calls “chief officials in the service of the king,” there is also some confusion. 2 Samuel 8:18 says they were “priests,” while Josephus (Antiquities 7.5.4) makes them “bodyguards.” Perhaps various of them functioned in various ways at various times, though it is difficult to understand how they could have been priests, since they were of the tribe of Judah, “of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood” (Hebrews 7:14). It may also be the case, one suspects, that the biblical writers simply never could agree on just what David sons might be good for. Indeed, eventually David had to appoint two other men just to keep an eye on them (27:32).

Saturday, October 8

1 Chronicles 19: Following the sequence in 2 Samuel 9, we would expect David's kind treatment of Mephibosheth to be the next subject. The Chronicler does not tell this story, however, apparently because he wants to forget all about the house of Saul. As far as the Chronicler is concerned, they are all dead (cf. 10:6).

The Ammonite kings, pretty slow learners it would seem, demonstrated a consistent penchant for bad decisions. It was this same Nahash, we recall, whose rash treatment of Jabesh-Gilead provoked the crisis that brought Saul to power more than twenty years earlier (1 Samuel 11). Now, Nahash having died (repentant), his son also acted irresponsibly, in curing the wrath of David (verses 1-5). The provocation described here differs only slightly from the account in 2 Samuel 10:1-9.

Even before David had time to react, the Ammonites began to prepare for war. This was not David's first time to be thus provoked by a stupid man. One recalls his prompt wrath at an earlier incident when the churlish Nabal treated David's emissaries with disdain (1 Samuel 25).

The ensuing wars against the Ammonites provided the occasion (thee siege of Rabbah in the next chapter) on which David and Joab conspired to murder Uriah the Hittite, but we have already noticed that the Chronicler tends to keep his work innocent of such disedifying behavior on David's part.

The descriptions of David's campaign, both here and in 2 Samuel 10, are fairly straightforward and without comment of a religious nature. In neither account, in fact, is God so much as mentioned except by Joab (verse 13; 2 Samuel 10:12). In the story as told by Josephus, however, there is the moral/theological reflection, “But David was not bothered by this alliance, nor disturbed at the might of the Ammonites, but he put his trust in God, conscious of battling for a just cause”(Antiquities 7.6.2).

David, after defeating Hanun, appointed the latter's brother Shobi to replace him (2 Samuel 17:27). This detail suggests the breadth of David's recognized power in the region.



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