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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

1 Chronicles 12

 

 

Verse 1

1 Chronicles 12:1

Now these are they that came to David to Ziklag.

Good men centres of lawful activity

The good and the great draw others after them; they lighten and lift up all who are within reach of their influence. They are so many living centres of beneficent activity. Let a man of energetic and upright character be appointed to a position of trust and authority, and all who serve under him become, as it were, conscious of an increase of power. (S. Smiles.)


Verses 1-40

Verses 8-15

1 Chronicles 12:8-15

And of the Gadites there separated themselves unto David.

David and his volunteers

David, compelled to flee from his own country, and to hide himself from the malice of Saul, was eminently a type of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, in the days when He dwelt here among men, was despised and rejected of men. All who would repair to Him must go forth likewise, bearing His reproach. These eleven Gadites--all of them remarkable men--espoused the cause of David when he was in his very worst condition; they left the ease and comfort, the honours and emoluments, of their own home to associate themselves with him when he was regarded as an outlaw under the ban of society. And to this day every Christian who is faithful to his profession must separate himself from his fellow-men to be a follower of the despised Jesus.

I. The leader, whom we regard as a type of our Lord Jesus Christ, was David, the son of Jesse; and in tracing out some points of analogy we begin by noticing--

1. That, like David, our Lord was anointed of God to be the leader of His people. It is an honour to follow one who has the highest sanction of heaven in taking the command and exercising the authority that pertains to him.

2. Jesus was like David, too, in that He was personally fit to be a leader. David, alike by his character and his deeds of prowess, had become the foremost man of his times. So our blessed Lord, as to His person, is just such a King as one might desire to obey; and, as for His achievements, O tell what His arm hath done--what spoils from death His right hand won! Let His fame be spread over all the earth! He stood in the gap when there was none to help. He vanquished the foe who threatened our destruction.

3. But our Lord, though anointed of God and meriting the distinction which He gained, was, nevertheless, like David, rejected of men. So the seed of the serpent hates the seed of the woman. But notwithstanding the pains and penalties they incurred in those dark days, the really good and pious people in Israel rallied to the standard of David. I know it is said that those who were in debt and discontented came to David. That is quite true; and when it typifies the abject condition of those poor sinners who come to Christ for refuge; but many of those Israelites were reduced in circumstances and brought into debt through the bad government of Saul. There was with David, Abiathar the high priest. With David likewise there was Gad the prophet. Does not the like thing happen among those who ally themselves with the Son of David at this day? Although He whom we worship is despised and rejected of men, yet unto you who believe He is precious. We need not be ashamed to side with Jesus, for we shall be in good company.

4. Despised as David was among men, yet, being anointed of God, his cause in the end was successful. He did come to the throne: and so it is with our Lord Jesus Christ. Notwithstanding all the opposition that still rages against His cause, it must prosper and prevail.

II. Having thus drawn your attention to the Leader, whom David the son of Jesse prefigured, let me turn now to speak a little of those who gathered round him and enlisted in his service. The recruits who came to David were eleven in number. The first characteristic we read about them is that they were separated. “Of the Gadites, there separated themselves unto David” eleven persons.

1. They were separated. Observe that. They separated themselves. They seem to have been captains of the militia of their tribe. The very least among them was over a hundred, and the greatest over a thousand. But they separated themselves from their commands over their tribes--separated themselves from their brethren and their kinsfolk. I daresay many of their friends said to them, “Why, what fools you are! You must be mad to espouse the cause of a fellow like David!” and then they would call David ell manner of foul, opprobrious names. In these times it is most important that every one who is a Christian should understand that he must separate himself from the world. Ye cannot serve Christ and the world too. You cannot be of the world and of Christ’s Church. It is in his intercourse with the world that the Christian shows the morel forces of his character. There it comes out because it cannot be hid. If his trade has become used to tricks and stratagems which will not bear the light, he cannot conform to them; he will shrink from them with abhorrence: he must keep a clean conscience.

2. But observe that these people separated themselves unto David. You may separate yourself and not separate yourself unto Christ; and if not, you only change from one form of worldly-mindedness to another. We ere not to separate ourselves unto self-righteousness, or unto affectation, or unto a sect, but unto Christ. These people got away from their friends that they might get to David. We are to get away from the world that we may get closer to Christ.

3. And then, as you read that they separated themselves unto David in the wilderness, let me entreat you to ask yourselves it you are ready to take part with a rejected, crucified Christ. Tens of thousands would separate themselves to David if he were in Hebron on the throne of Israel. If the truth should lead us down into the hovel, where we could only associate with the very lowest of the low, if they were the Lord’s people, they should be our delight.

4. Note, next, about these men that they were men of might. It is said of them that they were men of might, whose faces were like faces of lions, and they were as swift as the roes upon the mountains. All that came to David were not like that. David had some women and children to protect, but he was glad to receive others that were men of might. Now there came to Jesus, the greater David in His day, the weak ones of the flock, and He never rejected them. He was glad to receive even the feeblest; but there did come to our Lord and Master eleven men who, by His grace, were like these Gadites. Truly, I may say of His apostles, after our Divine Lord had filled them with His Spirit, that they had faces like lions and feet like hinds’ feet, so swift were they for service and so strong for combat. The grace of God can make us brave as lions, so that wherever we are we can hold our own, or rather can hold our Lord’s truth, and never blush nor be ashamed to speak a good word for Him at all times.

5. But it is worth noticing that they were men of war, inured to discipline--men fit for the battle, that could handle shield and buckler. Now there are some men of might who do not seem to be good men of war, because they cannot keep rank. What exploits they may do they must needs do alone, for they cannot march with the army. There are some brethren I know who are most excellent people as individuals, but they seem never to be meant to march in the ranks; they must every one of them lead, they cannot be second to anybody; neither can they be under any discipline or rule.

6. These Gadites likewise furnish us with a noble example of strong resolution. When the eleven men determined to join David they were living the other side of a deep river, which at that season of the year had overflowed its banks, so that it was extremely deep and broad. But they were not to be kept from joining David, when he wanted them, by the river. They swam through the river that they might come to David. Do you stand back and shrink from avowing your attachment to the standard of God’s anointed because it would involve loss of reputation, displeasure of friends, the frowns of your associates in the world, or the heartbreaks of anguish of those you tenderly love? Know, then, that our Lord is worthy of all the troubles you incur, and all the risks you run; and be assured that the peace which a soul enjoys that once joins Christ in the hold, and abides with Him in the wilderness, well repays a man for all that he has to part with in getting to his Lord and Master. Now, it would appear that after they had got across the river they were attacked, but we are told that they put to flight all them of the valleys, both toward the east and toward the west. O ye that love the Lord and Master, I beseech you in this evil day, this day of blasphemy and rebuke, stand not back: be not craven. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Fitness for service

The secret of success religiously is precisely the same as the secret of success in ordinary things. Look at the splendid qualities that go to the making of a successful housebreaker. Audacity, resource, secrecy, promptitude, persistence, skill of hand, and a hundred others, are put into play before a man can break into your back kitchen and steal your goods. Look at the qualities that go to the making of a successful amuser of people. Men will spend endless time and pains, and devote concentration, persistence, self-denial, diligence to learning how to play upon some instrument, how to swing upon a trapeze, how to twist themselves into abnormal contortions. Jugglers and fiddlers, and circusriders and dancers, and people of that sort, spend far more time upon efforts to perfect themselves in their profession than ninety-nine out of every hundred professing Christians do to make themselves true followers of Jesus Christ. They know that nothing is to be got without working for it, and there is nothing to be got in the Christian life without working for it any more than in any other. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)


Verse 16

1 Chronicles 12:16; 1 Chronicles 12:18

And there came of the children of Benjamin and Judah to the hold unto David.

Recruits for King Jesus

I want to run a parallel between the case of David and that of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I. Here is a very commendable example. Many of these men of Judah and Benjamin went to join themselves to David.

1. Because they bad heard that he was the Lord’s anointed If Jesus be God’s anointed, let Him be your beloved.

2 Because of his personal excellences.

3. Because he was so misrepresented and abused by his enemies.

4. Because they believed that he had a great future before him.

II. A. cautious inquiry. See what David said to them.

1. He set before them the right way; He said, “If ye be come peaceably unto me to help me, mine heart shall be knit unto you.” Here are three questions--

2. He set before them the wrong way: “But if ye be come to betray me to my enemies, seeing there is no wrong in mine hands, the God of our fathers look thereon, and rebuke it.”

Some betray the Lord Christ to His enemies--

1. By giving up the doctrines of the gospel.

2. By their inconsistent lives.

3. By apostasy.

III. A cordial enlistment. “Thine are we, David, and on thy side,” etc. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

David and his helpers

Man is not an independent being. He is dependent for his life, his thought, his feeling--dependent upon God his Creator and his Preserver. He is dependent for the comforts and conveniences of life--dependent upon his fellow-men. And he that seems perhaps to be the most independent amongst us, is after all the most dependent upon his fellows. Man was never made to be independent here. He was never made to be alone. Some such circumstances as these gave rise to the peculiar position of the son of Jesse, as we read of him in the text. David was then combating against a twofold enemy--Saul, the king, his predecessor in office, and the Philistines, the hereditary foes of Israel. Let us mark the concurrent circumstances of these times. David’s cause was not the winning side when these secessions broke off from the strength of Saul and attached themselves to the cause of the son of Jesse. He was as yet in point of numbers and of strength in a very small minority. He was not in power; and, so far as human appearances went, he was very far from power. Every appearance was against him. He himself, though the captain of a band, was a fugitive. And Saul was in power, for Saul was king. David is possessed of but scanty resources, but Saul can command the ways and the means and the supplies of a kingdom. And yet these men come, and they volunteer their services to the son of Jesse. They came not to the throne of one that rules, but they came to the cave of one that hides himself. No marvel that David should have suspected their proper aim, and should have inquired, inquisitively, as to the motive of their coming, as to the object of their visit in this the day of his distress and of his darkness. And this accounts for his inquiry in the verse preceding my text. We would learn from this text the value and the estimate to be set upon Christian co-operation. The downcast and the down-trodden may be rallied by a sympathising word, and may be aroused; and thus arise to his work and to his labour from the very consciousness that he is not altogether alone. Christian co-operation was given to Elijah. The assurance that God one day gave the Tishbite, that there were still seven thousand men who had not bowed the knee to Baal, mightily reassured the prophet. And when we come to inquire into the circumstances of this case a little further, respecting David, we are enabled to find out what was the kind of help, the quality of the help that he obtained. This may be judged of by considering the time in which the help was vouchsafed. As I have said, it was not in the time of his prosperity, but it was some time anterior to that, and in the time of his greatest adversity. Now, it is a law, or axiom, a practical law, that those men are most to be trusted in prosperity that have stood the firmest in the day of adversity. And verily, in practice, these men receive the reward of their fidelity. These men came and chose not the winning side; but there was a mark about even that declining interest--“Thy God helpeth thee.” That decided the question. If God be for David, what can Saul do against him? “If God be for us, who can be against us?” God is not forgetful of your work and labour of love which you have showed toward His name. Mark, for instance, His twelve--His chosen ones. They had attached themselves to the person of the lowly Jesus, when there was no mark of distinction, of royalty, of kingly power: at His call they obeyed. Never were there purer days in the Christian faith than when the Christian faith was persecuted. Thus was it with David’s auxiliaries: they looked not to the present adversity, but to the future glory. “Thy God helpeth thee,” was sufficient as an indication of what would be. These were powerful men. Their faces were like the faces of lions; bold as a lion; “and they were as swift as the roes upon the mountains.” They were able to ford the depths of Jordan at its full, and in its overflowing, and to rout their enemies to the east and to the west. Truly, with such auxiliaries, David might well thank God, and take courage. But this was not all. His hopes begin to brighten, his prospects begin to look up. Day after day added its gradual increase to his army, until by and by it became a mighty host like unto “the host of God.” That is what the Scripture says. Each tribe sent its proportion. Thousands, tens of thousands, flocked to the standard of David, and enlisted in defence of the cause of the son of Jesse, until well-nigh half a million of men may be counted, from the enumeration of our context, as having resorted to his cause. This, from beginnings small, but good; this, from incipient stages scanty, yet hopeful. And all these men are well spoken of. They were “mighty men of valour”; they were “ready armed”; they were “famous throughout the house of their fathers”; they were no anonymous helpers, but it is said they were “expressed by name to come and make David king.” And the value of that help was great because it was a right hearty help--such a help as we need, such a help as is indispensable if we are to be helped at all. We want no halfhearted men, but we want men of God--they are the best, they are the surest, they are the safest, they are the most and the longest to be depended upon. Our experience of human helpers has been a chequered experience. Some that began with us have not continued; some from whom we expected much, perhaps, have broken down midway, departed from us, and went not with us to the work; some that promised nothing, and from whom we expected nothing, have been the most ready, and have been the foremost to come and say, “Thine are we, David, and on thy side, thou son of Jesse: peace, peace be unto thee, and peace be to thine helpers.” (R. Maguire, M. A.)

Fitness for the service of the great King

I. Intelligence is required.

II. Courage is required.

III. Unity is required.

IV. Enthusiasm is required. (J. Wolfendale.)


Verse 18

1 Chronicles 12:16; 1 Chronicles 12:18

And there came of the children of Benjamin and Judah to the hold unto David.

Recruits for King Jesus

I want to run a parallel between the case of David and that of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I. Here is a very commendable example. Many of these men of Judah and Benjamin went to join themselves to David.

1. Because they bad heard that he was the Lord’s anointed If Jesus be God’s anointed, let Him be your beloved.

2 Because of his personal excellences.

3. Because he was so misrepresented and abused by his enemies.

4. Because they believed that he had a great future before him.

II. A. cautious inquiry. See what David said to them.

1. He set before them the right way; He said, “If ye be come peaceably unto me to help me, mine heart shall be knit unto you.” Here are three questions--

2. He set before them the wrong way: “But if ye be come to betray me to my enemies, seeing there is no wrong in mine hands, the God of our fathers look thereon, and rebuke it.”

Some betray the Lord Christ to His enemies--

1. By giving up the doctrines of the gospel.

2. By their inconsistent lives.

3. By apostasy.

III. A cordial enlistment. “Thine are we, David, and on thy side,” etc. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

David and his helpers

Man is not an independent being. He is dependent for his life, his thought, his feeling--dependent upon God his Creator and his Preserver. He is dependent for the comforts and conveniences of life--dependent upon his fellow-men. And he that seems perhaps to be the most independent amongst us, is after all the most dependent upon his fellows. Man was never made to be independent here. He was never made to be alone. Some such circumstances as these gave rise to the peculiar position of the son of Jesse, as we read of him in the text. David was then combating against a twofold enemy--Saul, the king, his predecessor in office, and the Philistines, the hereditary foes of Israel. Let us mark the concurrent circumstances of these times. David’s cause was not the winning side when these secessions broke off from the strength of Saul and attached themselves to the cause of the son of Jesse. He was as yet in point of numbers and of strength in a very small minority. He was not in power; and, so far as human appearances went, he was very far from power. Every appearance was against him. He himself, though the captain of a band, was a fugitive. And Saul was in power, for Saul was king. David is possessed of but scanty resources, but Saul can command the ways and the means and the supplies of a kingdom. And yet these men come, and they volunteer their services to the son of Jesse. They came not to the throne of one that rules, but they came to the cave of one that hides himself. No marvel that David should have suspected their proper aim, and should have inquired, inquisitively, as to the motive of their coming, as to the object of their visit in this the day of his distress and of his darkness. And this accounts for his inquiry in the verse preceding my text. We would learn from this text the value and the estimate to be set upon Christian co-operation. The downcast and the down-trodden may be rallied by a sympathising word, and may be aroused; and thus arise to his work and to his labour from the very consciousness that he is not altogether alone. Christian co-operation was given to Elijah. The assurance that God one day gave the Tishbite, that there were still seven thousand men who had not bowed the knee to Baal, mightily reassured the prophet. And when we come to inquire into the circumstances of this case a little further, respecting David, we are enabled to find out what was the kind of help, the quality of the help that he obtained. This may be judged of by considering the time in which the help was vouchsafed. As I have said, it was not in the time of his prosperity, but it was some time anterior to that, and in the time of his greatest adversity. Now, it is a law, or axiom, a practical law, that those men are most to be trusted in prosperity that have stood the firmest in the day of adversity. And verily, in practice, these men receive the reward of their fidelity. These men came and chose not the winning side; but there was a mark about even that declining interest--“Thy God helpeth thee.” That decided the question. If God be for David, what can Saul do against him? “If God be for us, who can be against us?” God is not forgetful of your work and labour of love which you have showed toward His name. Mark, for instance, His twelve--His chosen ones. They had attached themselves to the person of the lowly Jesus, when there was no mark of distinction, of royalty, of kingly power: at His call they obeyed. Never were there purer days in the Christian faith than when the Christian faith was persecuted. Thus was it with David’s auxiliaries: they looked not to the present adversity, but to the future glory. “Thy God helpeth thee,” was sufficient as an indication of what would be. These were powerful men. Their faces were like the faces of lions; bold as a lion; “and they were as swift as the roes upon the mountains.” They were able to ford the depths of Jordan at its full, and in its overflowing, and to rout their enemies to the east and to the west. Truly, with such auxiliaries, David might well thank God, and take courage. But this was not all. His hopes begin to brighten, his prospects begin to look up. Day after day added its gradual increase to his army, until by and by it became a mighty host like unto “the host of God.” That is what the Scripture says. Each tribe sent its proportion. Thousands, tens of thousands, flocked to the standard of David, and enlisted in defence of the cause of the son of Jesse, until well-nigh half a million of men may be counted, from the enumeration of our context, as having resorted to his cause. This, from beginnings small, but good; this, from incipient stages scanty, yet hopeful. And all these men are well spoken of. They were “mighty men of valour”; they were “ready armed”; they were “famous throughout the house of their fathers”; they were no anonymous helpers, but it is said they were “expressed by name to come and make David king.” And the value of that help was great because it was a right hearty help--such a help as we need, such a help as is indispensable if we are to be helped at all. We want no halfhearted men, but we want men of God--they are the best, they are the surest, they are the safest, they are the most and the longest to be depended upon. Our experience of human helpers has been a chequered experience. Some that began with us have not continued; some from whom we expected much, perhaps, have broken down midway, departed from us, and went not with us to the work; some that promised nothing, and from whom we expected nothing, have been the most ready, and have been the foremost to come and say, “Thine are we, David, and on thy side, thou son of Jesse: peace, peace be unto thee, and peace be to thine helpers.” (R. Maguire, M. A.)

Fitness for the service of the great King

I. Intelligence is required.

II. Courage is required.

III. Unity is required.

IV. Enthusiasm is required. (J. Wolfendale.)


Verse 29

1 Chronicles 12:29

Until it was a great host.

The accumulation of power

It seems quite possible in the presence of this incident to find an easy statement of the law of the accumulation of power. The law may be stated thus: Persistent action in one direction brings, after a time, surprisingly added power for further action in that direction. Consider this--

1. In the accumulation of property.

2. As to the formation of habits.

3. As to increase in intellectual force.

4. As to advancing power in the spiritual life.

Lessons:

1. Be careful of the day. Day by day, because he day by day had been the man he was, they gathered to David. Especially towards the accumulation of any sort of power do not lose time in youth.

2. Have courage. Front towards such right accumulation of power, and this great law of its accumulation is steadily working for you.

3. This great law works as steadily the other way; e.g., King Saul, fronting and choosing wrong, was losing righteous power day by day, until at last he came to the sad wreck he made. (Wayland Hoyt, D. D.)


Verse 32

1 Chronicles 12:32

Men that had understanding of the times.

Wants of the time

It is an important thing to understand the times in which we live, and to know what those times require (Esther 1:13; Matthew 16:3; Luke 19:44). Next to our Bibles and our own hearts our Lord would have us study our own times.

I. The times require of us a bold and unflinching maintenance of the entire truth of Christianity, and the Divine authority of the bible. Our lot is cast in an age of abounding unbelief, but when sceptics have said all they can, there are three broad facts which they have never explained away.

1. Jesus Christ Himself. How is it that there never has been one like Him, neither before nor after, since the beginning of historical times?

2. The Bible itself. How is it that this book stands entirely alone, for high views of God, true views of man, solemnity of thought, grandeur of doctrine, and purity of morality?

3. The effect which Christianity has produced on the world.

II. The times require at our hands distinct and decided views of Christian doctrine. The victories of Christianity, wherever they have been won, have been won by distinct doctrinal theology. Christianity without distinct doctrine is a powerless thing.

III. The times require of us an awakened and livelier sense of the unscriptural and soul-ruining character of Romanism.

IV. The times require of us a higher standard of personal holiness, and an increased attention to practical religion in daily life.

V. The times require of us more regular and steady perseverance in the old ways of getting good for our souls.

1. Private prayer.

2. Private Bible-reading.

3. Private meditation and communion with Christ.

Conclusion: Consider what the times require in reference--

1. To your own souls.

2. To the souls of others.

3. To the Church. (Bp. Ryle.)

The characteristics and duties of the times

Such was the character ascribed to the children of Issachar, at a remarkably interesting crisis in the circumstances of the nation to which they belonged. The period was that, when, by the death of Saul and his more worthy son in battle, the minds of the Jewish people were divided on the question whether the royalty was to be continued in the family of the departed monarch, or was to be transferred to the hands of the anointed David. The historian enumerates the individuals and the classes who were induced to announce their adherence to the latter; and amongst them are mentioned the persons whose names are recorded in our text. It may be considered as the duty of men, as the subjects of civil government, always to cherish an accurate acquaintance with the characteristics of the times in which they live, in order accurately to fulfil their ordinary duties, and those duties of a more peculiar nature, which the occurrence of seasons of exigency may sometimes impose upon them. We propose--

I. To state some of the characteristics by which the present times appear to be prominently distinguished.

1. Flagrant indulgence of iniquity on the part of ungodly men.

2. A heavy and extended pressure of national distress and perplexity.

3. A wide diffusion of the influence of knowledge and of freedom.

4. Extraordinary and delightful facilities for the dissemination of the gospel of Christ.

5. An awakened and an increasing concern among the people of the Saviour as to the progress and final triumphs of His cause.

II. The duties which the characteristics of the present times impose upon professing Christians.

1. Distinctly and always to recognise the providence of God.

2. To compare all that is apparent with the predictions of Divine truth.

3. To cultivate uncompromising decision in the exemplification of personal religion.

4. Diligently to labour in all the spheres of exertion by which they may advance the gospel of Christ.

5. To engage in fervent and continued prayer for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. (James Parsons.)

The men of Issachar, an example to British citizens

These were men who knew what it was best for the nation to carry out in the great crisis which had now arisen. It was important that Israel should wisely decide what ruler to select; it is of equal importance that we as a country should decide under what rule--whether that of strong drink, or that of unqualified temperance--we should abide. There are certain things that are needful in order to a good result in this matter.

I. There should re a right understanding of our own times. Our own times are--

1. Times of much evil from strong drink.

2. Times of much good.

3. Times of much hopefulness.

II. A right understanding of our own times ought to lead to proper action. They understood the times, to know what Israel ought to do. Right action must--

1. Be directed by intelligence.

2. Be inspired by Christian philanthropy.

3. Be embodied in practical forms.

4. Be animated by a self-denying enthusiasm.

III. In order that this right action may fully accomplish its ends there are certain requirements.

1. Individualisation. God invites us one by one, saying to each of us, “Do the work I give thee to do.”

2. Organisation. Combination multiplies force. In the moral world, one and one make a good deal more than two; they often make four, and three and three often make thirty.

3. Consecration. (Dawson Burns, D. D.)

The state of the times and the corresponding duties of the Church

The peculiar tribute which is thus paid to the tribe of Issachar--a tribute which distinguishes them most honourably from all the other classes of their countrymen, will appear the more remarkable when we took at the smallness of their number and the comparative seclusion in which they lived. In point of numerical strength they were by far the least considerable of all the tribes of Israel. While the rest could muster their hundreds of thousands, the children of Issachar, though “all their brethren were at their commandment,” could only furnish a body of two hundred men. But their lack of numbers was more than counterbalanced by their pre-eminent zeal, sagacity, and discipline--qualities which rendered them the ablest advisers in the council, as well as the best soldiers in the camp. But how, it may be asked, did they come to acquire this superior wisdom and intelligence? Were they more favourably circumstanced for obtaining information, and for observing the signs and duties of the times, than the general body of their fellow-subjects? Had they access to the private circles of the capital, or to the secret conferences of the court? On the contrary, they lived remote from cities--buried amid the tranquil retreats of the rural provinces, away from the sordid cares and the sickening crowds and the unquiet rumours of the metropolis, breathing the air of freshness and of freedom among their native mountains. From their peaceful solitudes they looked forth with a calm and dispassionate eye on the various movements that took place; and having leisure to reflect on the nature o! these movements, to compare them with the past transactions of their history, and to test them by the principles of the Divine Word, they were in a better condition for forming a sound judgment regarding them than those who might have an opportunity of seeing them through a closer, but, for that very reason, a more contracted and clouded medium. In this matter the children of Issachar have left an example which is well worthy of our thoughtful regard. We are required, by the authority of our Lord Himself, “to mark the signs of the times”--to keep a wide and wakeful eye on the revolving events of Providence, with the view of discovering their bearing on the position and prospects of the Church. It is, no doubt, generally supposed that religious men are very incompetent judges of public affairs. Like the tribe spoken of in the text, they are, as a distinctive party, the smallest in the state; and like them, too, they live in comparative seclusion from the cabals and contentions of the world; and it is, therefore, presumed that they can have but little acquaintance with the movements which are going on around them. Let it be admitted that they are not, as a body, so conversant with the details of public transactions as those who are directly engaged about them, yet still we hesitate not to say that they may be, and that they generally are, even better fitted than these for apprehending the great moral principles which such transactions carry in their bosom, and the manner in which they are likely to affect the welfare of the community. We need not remind you that religious men are accustomed to view questions of this kind in a very different light from the men of the world. The latter look upon them as they stand related to the opinions and interests of their fellow-creatures. It is in this respect that religious men--men of enlarged and enlightened piety--have the advantage of mere worldly politicians. They form their estimate of passing events not as they influence the temporary interests either of one party or another, nor as they are reflected through the fluctuating medium of public opinion. They judge of them by a far higher and more comprehensive standard. They view them in connection with the great chain of Providence. They compare them with the fixed purposes of the Divine administration, and with the unalterable rules of the Divine Word; and, by examining therein the light of these clear and all-controlling principles, they are enabled to group in the disjointed and fragmentary measures of public men under distinct moral classifications, to analyse the impulses and the agencies from whence they proceed; and, by means of these testing and discriminating processes, they are led to an “understanding of the times to know what Israel ought to do.” It is important to mark the connection between the two separate members of the passage before us. It is stated, regarding the Children of Issachar, that they had “understanding of the times.” They comprehended the circumstances in which their country was placed; they marked the spirit which prevailed among the people. It was not from any motives of mere curiosity that they studied the movements of the day, nor was it with the view of descanting upon them in private meetings or in popular assemblies; far less was it their object to busy themselves with public matters for personal ends or for party purposes. The welfare of their country was the subject of their concern and the source of their inquiries. For the same reason it is incumbent upon us, not merely as subjects of the State, but as office-bearers and members of the Church of Christ, to study the phenomena of the age in which we live--to watch the moral forces that are operating upon the mass of society, swaying the tide of public opinion, and influencing the measures of public men.

I. The grand capital characteristic feature of these times consists in the general prevalence of national indifferentism or negative infidelity.

a general want of faith on all subjects, whether moral, political, or religious.

II. The duty of the Church requires--

1. That she should maintain a clear and decided testimony on behalf of the great fundamental principles of Divine truth.

2. A determined effort to resuscitate the sinking power of principle, and also a vigorous and combined movement to repel the creeping invasions--the subtle but forceful and successful encroachments of error. (Walter M’Gilvray.)

Understanding the times:--Some of the chapters of this book look as though they were so many of the newspapers of the period, that had been preserved; and there would be no history like that of a collection of newspapers, supposing there had been such things, successively issued, day by day, by different parties, affording a general view of events and transactions. We have here a very minute account of the political, military, and religious position of things at this time. We find different persons resorting to David, in larger or lesser numbers, and welcomed as they came. And among the rest there came a number of persons peculiar and distinct in character from all others. Instead of being told of their physical strength and vigour, their prowess and skill in using swords and spears, their incomparableness in war, we are told that they were “men who had understanding of the times, and knew what Israel ought to do”--men of political intelligence and sagacity, who could look about and see into things, who could interpret the prediction written upon a circumstance, who could tell what was the line marked out by such and such an event. They were not antiquarian men, who could tell you of the past; nor dreaming, poetical, prophetic men, talking about the future; but men who understood their own times--men who felt the great realities that were stirring about them. It was a great matter to have this understanding; for the consequence of having it was, they deduced “what Israel ought to do”--the movements that should be made, the things that the nation should determine upon. The accession of these men to David was, perhaps, of greater value than that of the thousands of fighting men; for wisdom and valour strengthen more than weapons of war. The wise man is strong. And these men, as a consequence of their understanding, ruled; “their brethren were at their commandment”; they had influence; other men and other minds recognised them as regal men, for, after all, I suppose, in the long run, it will always come to that--those that ought to rule, because they can do it, ultimately will do it. It is a blessed thing for a people, and for the world, when those who rule understand things, and really know what ought to be done, and every other body is at their command; for after all, the world wants guiding and ruling, and it is willing to be guided when it has confidence in the wisdom of those who are doing it, and knows it is being governed well. Well, we live in very stirring times; it is a great blessing to the world--though the world does not think of it or believe it--that God has an Israel in the world; an Israel mighty with God in prayer. And this Israel that is in the world ought always to remember that it is in the world; that it has not got to heaven yet. It belongs to earth, and to the movements of nations, political convulsions, and all things that are going on around it. The Israel of God has relations to them all, and is to look at them through that blessed atmosphere--the light of God’s truth, and God’s love--in which it lives. Let us, then, endeavour to understand our times, that we may know “what Israel ought to do.”

I. Religious men naturally look--

1. At the religious movements.

2. At the national and political movements of the times.

II. What Israel ought to do.

1. It is the privilege of the Church to be making intercession and prayer, that God may guide and superintend the movements of politicians and the masses of men.

2. They should observe the bearings upon the Church of all the movements of peoples and countries.

3. They should remember that all times, of all sorts are hastening us on to eternity. Let us not forget that while it is very proper for us to have certain relations to the times that are passing over us, the great business of all times is, to save our souls, to be at peace with God through Christ, and be prepared for the everlasting glory of heaven. (Thomas Binney.)

The propriety of considering times and circumstances

From the character given of the men of Issachar we shall show--

I. That our conduct must often re affected by times and circumstances of whatever nature.

1. Civil.

2. Social.

3. Personal.

II. How far it may be properly affected by them in the concerns of religion.

1. That we may attend to times, etc., is certain (example of Christ and apostles).

2. But how far is not easy to determine.

III. What there is in the times, etc., of the present day to affect our conduct. Application:

1. Guard against yielding to any corrupt bias.

2. The future judgment will be according to motives.

3. Seek for wisdom that is profitable to direct. (C. Simeon, M. A.)

Adaptation to conditions

How important it is that men should study the times in which they live, and adapt their work to the conditions which constitute their opportunity. He is the wise man who considers all the features of a case and adapts the treasure of which he is possessed to meet new desires and new demands. There may be change without change; in other words, the change may be but superficial, whilst the immutable may be within, giving order and dignity and energy to all that is attempted from without. Love is eternal, but its expression consists of continual variety. Prayer never changes aa to its spirit and intent, yet every day may find it laden with new expressions, because human history has revealed wants which had not before been even suspected. He who understands every time but his own, will do no permanent work for society. He is like a man who knows every language but his own native tongue, and is therefore unable to speak to the person standing at his side. (J. Parker, D. D.)


Verse 33

1 Chronicles 12:33

Fifty thousand which could keep rank.

Keeping rank

I. Our great want is more men who can keep rank.

II. To keep rank implies practice--discipline.

III. To keep rank in actual conflict requires old-fashioned valour. The great trouble in the Church to-day is the cowards. They do splendidly on parade-day, but put them out in the great battle of life and they soon break rank. We confront the enemy, we open the battle against fraud, and lo! we find on our side a great many people that do not try to pay their debts. We open the battle against intemperance, and we find on our side a great many men who make hard speeches. Oh! for fifty thousand armed men, heroic men, self-denying men, who can go forth in the strength of the Lord God Almighty to do battle, able to keep rank! Men like Paul, who could say, “None of these things move me. Neither count I my life dear unto myself, so I may finish my course with joy, and the ministry I have received of the Lord Jesus to testify of the gospel of the grace of God.” Men like John Bunyan, who, after lying years in a loathsome prison, said, “I am determined, God being my helper and shield, to stay here until the moss grows over my eyebrows, rather than surrender my faith and my principles.” Men like Thomas Chalmers, who, notwithstanding all the jeering in high places at his theory of reform and elevation of the poor, went right on to do his whole work, until Thomas Carlyle, then a boy, wrote of him: “What a glorious old man Thomas Chalmers is!” (T. De Witt Talmage.)


Verses 38-40

1 Chronicles 12:38-40

All these men of war.

The joyous entertainment

.

I. The cause of joy.

1. United under one king.

2. A king chosen of God.

3. Universal loyalty to the chosen king.

II. The manifestation of joy.

1. In unity of purpose.

2. In sincerity of feeling.

3. In social fellowship.

III. The extent of the joy. (J. Wolfendale.)

For there was Joy in Israel.--

The manifestation of Christ a cause of great joy

The man who was the darling of the people, and from whose administration they had raised expectations, being now, by Divine appointment, made king over all the tribes, “there was joy in Israel.” There is abundant reason for much greater joy in the spiritual Israel, on account of David’s illustrious son, the King Messiah, the Saviour of His people (Zechariah 9:9; Isaiah 25:9).

I. The cause of joy of Israel, with relation to the King Messiah, the son of David, the Lord Jesus Christ.

1. This coming in the flesh is a matter of joy, as He then appeared King of Israel, and the Saviour thereof. Salvation is the source, the foundation of spiritual joy in Israel.

(a) From sin;

(b) From wrath to come;

(c) From eternal death;

(d) From every spiritual enemy.

2. The spiritual coming of Christ in the hearts of His people at conversion is another event that causes joy in Israel.

3. In the latter day, when Christ will be more manifest, and, like David, will be King over all the house of Israel, and over the whole world, then there will be joy and gladness.

II. Where and among whom is this joy? Not only in Israel but in the whole world. Christ is not the God of the Jews only.

III. The nature of this joy.

1. It is spiritual.

2. It is the joy of our Lord.

3. It is the joy of faith.

4. It is a joy that the world knows nothing of.

6. It is unspeakable.

6. It is a joy to be continually exercised.

7. This joy will be at last full and complete. (J. Gill, D. D.)

What is essential to constitute a happy people

Professor Fairbairn says you cannot have a happy world without having happy men; you may have good health, good business, good children, good balance at the bank, life insured. So far so good, and yet ii the soul be unadjusted there is no peace. You may place an organ that is out of tune in a magnificent cathedral, but you have no harmony, and the discord is the more striking because of its lofty nave, its painted windows, and chiselled arches. But you take that organ well tuned and richly toned into a plain Methodist chapel, with its brick walls and flat ceiling, and you shall have the sweetest harmony. There can be no peace till the soul is brought in harmony by the grace of God. Peace is the inner condition of the soul arising from reconciliation to God. (G. Turner.)

The highest joy

“I had lived,” says the Countess Schimmelmann, “all the spoiled child of the Court; so much so that the Crown Priam (afterwards the Emitter) Frederick introduced me to a stranger as ‘the most highly favoured young lady of Germany, and of several other kingdoms besides.’ These worldly honours had never satisfied me, and the longing for something higher and better became increasingly stronger. My prayers at that time always culminated in the cry, ‘O God, give me but a drop of the love of Christ and a spark of the fire of the Holy Ghost.’ A short time after, in response to my prayer that I might love Jesus and Jesus only, I heard the Saviour say to me, ‘My child, thy salvation does not depend upon thy love to Me, but upon My love to thee, just as thou art.’ Then broke upon my heart a sun of joy, in the beams of which I still rejoice, and whose light will shine upon me eternally.”

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "1 Chronicles 12:4". The Biblical Illustrator. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/1-chronicles-12.html. 1905-1909. New York.

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