Handfuls on Purpose
by James Smith, 1943
YOURS ARE WE. 1 Chronicles 12:16-18.
The "love of Christ" is the mightiest motive power that ever touched a human soul, in constraining to self-sacrifice for the good of others. The true Christian is not a self-centered mystic, but a Christ-centered evangelist. He is not only a consumer of the things of God, he is a producer of the fruit of the Spirit. In the light of such like teaching, let us look at this portion. It involved a—
I. Decided Step. "There came of the children of Benjamin and Judah to the hold unto David." This may have been the cave of Adullam, or some such secret place of refuge, but to those who came to David it meant on their part a willingness to take their stand for him, and to share, if need be, the shame of rejection with him. The pros and cons about this step would likely be closely discussed before any definite action was taken. Those who would identify themselves with the rejected Son of God will do well to count the cost, but they will do ill if they go on counting and never come.
II. Conditional Offer. "David went out to meet them, and said, If you be come... to help me, my heart shall be knit unto you." David is more anxious for quality than quantity. He well knew that it would not be for the good of his cause to have a heartless crowd following him. All who are prepared to help in the cause of the Lord Jesus Christ may depend on having His heart's affections knit unto them. The Lord's work, like David's, must be heart work. David could see but two motives they could possibly have in coming to him—either to help or to betray; they must be either for him or against him. His heart was open to embrace all who were ready to help him in the cause of God. Did not Christ also declare that "He who is not for Me is against Me?" (Matthew 12:30). Is not His heart also ready to receive all who come unto Him in sincerity and in truth?
III. Personal Surrender. "Amasa said, Your are we, David, and on your side." He said this after the "Spirit came upon him." It was a Spirit-indited confession; it was a Spirit-led act. There was no uncertainty about it. It implied the yielding of their lives to David for the furtherance of his cause and the fulfillment of his will. In giving themselves to him, they were no longer their own they became his instruments for the carrying on of his work. To be on David's side was to become a sharer of his sorrows, as well as of his resources; a partner in his tribulations, as well as his victories. To become a partner in the resources and triumphs of David's Lord and ours we must also yield ourselves wholly to Him, as those ready to suffer for His sake, if so be that His will might be done in us and by us. His servants you are to whom you yield yourselves (Romans 6:16). Consecration of service will surely follow when, like Amasa, we are clothed with the Spirit (v. 18, margin).
IV. Confession of Faith. "Peace be unto you, and peace be to your helpers; for your God helps you." They were convinced that the God in whom David trusted was with him, and that He is greater than all that were against him. Perhaps it was the evidence of this fact that led them first of all to think of joining his band. Somehow or other men will be drawn to those whom God undoubtedly helps. The man or the cause that is espoused by the Almighty is absolutely certain to succeed. They are wise who join themselves to that movement which has God in it, and that cannot be defeated. Such a movement we have in the work of the Greater David—the Lord Jesus Christ. Did not His God mightily help Him, and are not all His helpers helped of God? What an abundant proof there is that God was in Christ, and that the help that is mighty was laid upon Him. This is seen in His words and works, and especially in His being raised again from the dead. As we can truly say of Him, "Your God helps You," (1 Chronicles 12:18), so let us also add, "Your are we, Jesus, You Son of God; peace be to Your helpers." Those who would serve the Lord must not only believe in Him, but also possess such a spirit as will make for peace with all His helpers.
V. Successful Issue. "Then David received them, and made them captains of the band." They came in the right spirit, and they found an open door into the heart and service of their Lord. This was no formal reception. They were received as Christ also receives those who so come to Him—into the affection of His heart, and into the sacred business of His life. All who come to the Lord Jesus Christ are welcome to His love and service. But, as it was in David's case, so is it now; these two, favor and service, go together. If these children of Benjamin would enjoy the love of David they must join his service. He made them captains, for they that honor Him shall be honored (Acts 1:8).
A SONG OF THANKSGIVING, AND WHAT IT TEACHES. 1 Chronicles 16:7-36.
This chapter throbs with vital teaching. The song of praise and thanksgiving comes after the Ark of God has found its rightful place "in the midst of the tent that David had pitched for it," and after sacrifices had been offered unto God, and the people blessed in the Name of the Lord (vv. 1-3). Thankfulness is sure to come when God has got His rightful place in the life. This song teaches us—
I. What we Should Seek. "Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His face continually" (v. 11). There is here a threefold object set before the seeker.
1. Seek the Lord; seek Himself for salvation. He who finds Me, He says, finds life. This is eternal life to know Him.
2. Seek His strength for service. They that wait on the Lord shall exchange strength. To them that have no might He increases strength.
3. Seek His face continually for fellowship. To have the light of His face is to have the light of His presence. "Seek and you shall find."
II. What we should Sing. "Sing unto Him, sing psalms unto Him" (v. 9). If "all the earth" should sing unto the Lord (v. 23), how much more so those who have been redeemed by His Son, and strengthened by His grace and Spirit. Those whose hearts are brimful of thankfulness to God are never at a loss to know what they shall sing. They have songs which can only be sung by lips touched with live coals from the holy altar. They have many psalms to sing unto the Lord: the psalm of deliverance, the psalm of forgiveness, the psalm of peace, another of hope, another of joy, and that other, which is the sweetest of all, the psalm of His presence. We would not be asked to sing unto the Lord if the Lord did not hear and take pleasure in our singing. He hears our singing as well as our praying.
III. What we should Give. "Give thanks unto the Lord" (v. 8). "Give unto the Lord glory and strength" (v. 28). "Give the glory due unto His Name" (v. 29). The best thanks we can give to the Lord is to live a life of grateful trust in Him day by day. We give Him "glory and strength" when we act as those who believe in His glory and depend on His strength. We cannot give Him "the glory due unto His Name" by merely talking about it, but by allowing that glory so to fill us that His Name will be glorified in us. "Freely you have received, freely give." Give out that light and love so freely given in Christ Jesus.
IV. What we should Remember.
1. "Remember His marvelous works; His wonders" (v. 12). The Israelites were never to forget the pit out of which they had been dug, nor the manner in which they had been brought out. They were saved by such marvelous works and wonders as can find their only antitype in the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
2. "Remember the judgments of His mouth." Remember His words. The works and words of God our Savior are inseparably bound together. The words of Christ are "spirit and life," so are His works. The Jews wept when, in their affliction, they remembered Zion; we may rejoice at every remembrance of Christ.
3. Remember His faithfulness. "Remember His covenant forever: the Word which he commanded to a thousand generations" (v. 15, R.V.). He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Remember His covenant of grace in Jesus Christ, and reckon on His faithfulness to all His promises. The sin of forgetfulness is a very common one.
V. What we should Speak. It is well to remember God's works for us, and His words to us, but with the mouth confession is to be made.
1. We are to speak to one another of "all His wondrous works" (v. 9). "They that feared the Lord spoke often one to another, and the Lord hearkened and heard." The conversations of God's own people with each other are often such as must grieve the heart of the Divine Listener. If the works of our Lord are not really wondrous in our eyes, we shall not be inclined to talk much about them. Let your conversation be as becomes the Gospel—that Gospel which is the greatest wonder in Heaven, earth, or Hell.
2. We are to speak of "His glory among the heathen; His marvelous works among all nations" (v. 24). We who are witnesses unto Him, as our redeeming Lord and Savior, must seek to spread abroad the savor of His saving Name. Fellowship one with another ought to lead up to missionary enthusiasm for the cause of Christ. Blessed are all they whose consecrated lives sing this song of thanksgiving.
THE KING'S REQUEST; Or, CONSECRATED TO SAVE. 1 Chronicles 21:22-28.
Satan sought to oppose Israel, and he did it by "provoking David to number the people" (v. 1). It is still a wile of the Devil to get us to trust in numbers instead of in God. Glowing reports of numerical strength are very gratifying to the flesh, and may lead to the lessening of faith in God. David's act of unbelief led to awful consequences—70,000 men perished. But David's confession was followed with this message of hope: "Set up an altar unto the Lord in the threshing-floor of Ornan" (vv. 17, 18). This way of escape from the judgment of God was a revelation from God Himself. Who else could do it? "Look unto Me, and be you saved, for I am God" (Isaiah 45:22)
I. The Request. "David said to Ornan, Grant me the place of this threshing-floor " (v. 22). It was a big demand to make at that moment when "Ornan was threshing wheat." It was no mere idle floor, for the treasures of the owner were on it and in it. Does not our Lord and King sometimes make sudden and strange demands of us when He asks for the full control of our business, or of that scheme in which we are presently engaged. Like David, He will not take it by force; He will give us the privilege of granting it to Him.
II. The Reason. "That I may build an altar unto the Lord... that the plague may be stayed from the people" (v. 22). The royal request was accompanied with reasons abundantly worthy of it. Because of sin a plague was mowing down the people as a sword in the hand of the messenger of divine vengeance. A place and an altar were needed that a sacrifice might be offered unto the Lord, that judgment might be averted and the people saved. Ornan possessed that place, and was now asked to surrender it as a means in the hands of the king of delivering the people from death. This great salvation could only be secured by Oman's place of business being converted into a place of sacrifice unto the Lord. The threshing-floor must give place to the altar. There are some men's minds that are mere threshing-floors, nothing more. Their chief business is to thresh out problems and theories. The King of Heaven demands that such threshing-floors should have an altar, that the plague of sin may be arrested, and sinners saved. The intellect can become something more useful than a mere threshing machine.
III. The Response. "Ornan said unto David, Take it to you,... and do that which is good in your eyes; lo, I give you the oxen also... and the threshing instruments... I give it all" (v. 23). He might have made many excuses, such as "The time is not convenient," or "I will need to think over it," etc.; but no, he grasped the situation at once; his whole soul was captured for the cause. He not only offered the threshing-floor, but all that was on it— the oxen, the instruments, and the wheat. "I give it all." This is the language of one who evidently has the best interests of the people at heart. It is the expression of a truly missionary spirit. He yields his own personal claims to the greater claims of God and of his perishing fellow-creatures. The mercenary bargaining spirit is allowed no place in Ornan's mind in his answer to the kingly call. Are we ready at the call of our King to yield to Him the threshing-floor of our hearts as an altar; the faculties of our mind and intellect as threshing instruments to spread the fire of His holy sacrifice; and the wheat of our riches as a meat offering unto the Lord? May not the love of Christ and love to perishing souls constrain us? (Romans 12:1).
IV. The Result. The result was a threefold success.
1. Ornan was Rewarded. "David gave to Ornan for the place six hundred shekels of gold." The price mentioned in 2 Samuel 24:24—fifty shekels of silver—was for the threshing-floor alone. This six hundred shekels of gold ( 2400) was for the whole place, and was in all likelihood a second transaction. This is in beautiful correspondence with the parable of the treasures in the field. The whole field is bought for the treasure it contained (Matthew 13:44). Ornan was willing to give it all to David, but he is like the greater David who bountifully rewards those who yield their all to Him. "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and running over." Surely this is "full price."
2. God was Satisfied. "The Lord answered him from Heaven by fire upon the altar" (v. 26). The sacrifice for sin was accepted, and the fire from Heaven that fell upon the altar, consuming the offering, was God's token of peace. What a comfort to Ornan to know that his gift of the threshing-floor and its contents was a means in bringing from Heaven the assuring fire! We never know all that our gifts to the cause of God may accomplish. "Prove Me, and try Me, if I will not pour out a blessing upon you."
3. Judgment was Averted. The plague was stayed. "The Lord commanded the angel, and he put up his sword again into the sheath thereof" (v. 27). David's sin of numbering the people was a sin against God, and, explain it as we may, God demands sacrifice for sin. There is no way of securing deliverance from His wrath, and gaining the assuring token of His favor, but by the altar of atoning blood. The Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ is God's final effort to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. Only when the Sacrifice is accepted and trusted by the individual soul will the sword of judgment be sheathed. "When I see the blood I will pass over you."
A CALL FOR CONSECRATED SERVICE. 1 Chronicles 29:1-9.
"With bowed heads and open hearts we may offer ourselves.
We can do no more, and we dare do no less."—Westcott.
It is a great privilege to be able to do anything for God. There is not an angel in Heaven but what glories in every opportunity of service. Why should not His angels on earth do the same? David had an earnest desire to build a house unto the Lord, but this was not permitted him because he had been a "man of war" (chapter 28:2, 3). War and worship never go easily together. Although not allowed to build the temple he made great preparations for it. He gathered gold to the value of 547,500,000, and silver to the amount of 342,000,000 (Newberry, chapter 22:14.) Why should our interest in God's work be lessened because we are not permitted to do that piece of work which we so much desire to do? Some slacken their efforts for Christ's cause at home because their way has not been opened for going abroad. There are others who, if not asked to do some great thing, they will do nothing. Note—
I. The Work. "The work is great, for the palace is not for man, but for the Lord God" (v. 1). It is a great work to prepare a palace for the King of Heaven. David was anxious that God should have a house worthy of His Name, and the Lord Himself greatly desired this. But let us not forget that God was as great when in the bush as when in the temple. The glory does not consist in the character of the house so much as in the character of the occupant. "Know you not that your body is the temple, the palace of God, and that God dwells in you?" (1 Corinthians 6:19). Does not He desire that you should be a house worthy of His great and glorious Name? This is a "great work." It is the work of the Spirit of God, in union with our spirits. You are not your own. Like this palace, you are "not for man, but for the Lord God."
II. The Example. David does not ask others to consecrate their service unto the Lord without having first set a worthy example before them. He says, "I have prepared with all my might for the house of my God" (v. 2). And again, "I have set my affection to the house of my God. Moreover, I have of mine own... gold and silver given to the house of my God" (v. 3). David's private gift amounted in gold to 16,420,000, and in silver to 2,394,000 (v. 4). His example was one of love and liberality. He sought first the Kingdom of God. How does this example compare with that of David's greater Lord? Did He not prepare with all His might for the new spiritual House of God? Did He not set His affection upon this great work? Did He not give of His own untold wealth of grace and suffering? Has He not left us an example that we should follow His steps?
III. The Call. "Who then offers willingly to fill his hand this day unto the Lord?" (v. 5, R.V., margin). This was a call for full hands and willing hearts. There are multitudes who are ever ready to fill their hands with service for their own personal profit, but how few are willing to have full hands for God. Full hands imply whole-heartedness. Half empty hands mean half empty lives. Who, then, is willing? It is a call for voluntary self-sacrificing service. It is also an urgent call—"This day." The King's business requires haste. What you do, do quickly, for the day of service and holy privilege will soon be past.
IV. The Response. "Then the chief of the fathers,... the captains,... with the rulers, offered willingly" (v. 6). "With a perfect heart they offered willingly to the Lord" (v. 9). When the heart is perfectly yielded to the claims of God's work, the hands will soon be filled with voluntary offerings. The "perfect heart" is needed to make the service acceptable unto the Lord. "The Lord loves a cheerful giver." The gifts were different in value, but all were needed and acceptable. "Gold, silver, iron, precious stones" (1 Corinthians 3:12). Iron may have been the best that some had, but they gave it. There would never be any lack in the house of God if those connected with it had this "perfect heart" toward the Lord. The outstanding characteristic of the great majority of professing Christians is that they "mind earthly things."
V. The Result. "Then the people rejoiced,... and David the king also rejoiced with great joy" (v. 9). They rejoiced because the offerings were given "willingly, with perfect heart." Joy is the fruit of the Spirit, and is the outcome of the heart made perfect toward the Lord and His cause on the earth. The happiest Christians are those who willingly fill their hands for God. Joy in the Lord is power, "for the joy of the Lord is your strength "(Nehemiah 8:10). "The Kingdom of God is righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14:17).