1 Chronicles 16 (NIV)✞: Ministering Before the Ark
Because I go back and forth between Old and New Testament books in this blog I ended up halfway through a story when I switched from 1 Chronicles to Romans. Here’s where we were before “the break” from Chronicles to look at Romans 1–8:
- In 1 Chronicles 13 David wants to bring the Ark of the LORD to Jerusalem. He makes the initial attempt to do so but does it incorrectly; he and the Levites don’t follow the prescribed method for moving the Ark. As a result, the attempt fails when a man named Uzzah is forced to prevent it from falling off an ox cart by grabbing it – which ends in his death.
- In Chapter 14 the author(s) of Chronicles move away from this storyline to talk about David’s wives and children, and his defeat of the Philistines.
- I briefly talked about why the author(s) might have decided to have this “pause” in the storyline—which is out of order from the actual events—but didn’t actually come up with any good theories to fully explain it. Sorry. 😊
- In Chapter 15 David makes a lot of preparations to bring the Ark back properly, and then successfully does so.
Now, in Chapter 16, we resume the story: now that the Ark is in Jerusalem all of the preparatory work he’d done in Chapter 15 kicks into gear.
First, now that the Ark is “home” in Jerusalem, where David’s palace is, he, of course, offers sacrifices: burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. He then blesses the people and gives them some food: “a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each Israelite man and woman” (v. 3✞).
Then, in verses 4–6✞, the author(s) list a number of Levites who are now in charge of ministering before the Ark, as well as their duties. From what I can tell it’s the same people who were mentioned in Chapter 15: in Chapter 15 we get a list of a bunch of people, appointed by the Levites, who will have specific responsibilities for caring for the Ark, and then in Chapter 16 we get those same people listed, now appointed by David, when they’re actually starting the duties they’ve been assigned.
After this, verses 7–36✞ recount a Psalm that David instructs the Levites to use in their worship. (I’m sure it’s not the only Psalm/song they’re supposed to use!) The ESV Study Bible points out that this Psalm actually includes bits and pieces of various Psalms we have in the book of Psalms:
- Verses 8–22✞ is Psalm 105:1–15✞
- Verses 23–33✞ is Psalm 96✞
- Verses 34–35✞ is Psalm 106:1✞ & Psalm 106:47–48✞
Finally, in verses 37–42✞ David “leaves” the Levites to their work – and I’m sure the author(s) don’t mean David stops worshipping, leaving it in the hands of the Levites, I’m sure they just mean that he lets the people with assigned tasks do those assigned tasks.
And finally, in verse 43✞, the people leave Jerusalem to go back to their homes. I’m presuming this is at least part of the reason why David gave them food – for this journey home.
So let’s go back and look at David’s Psalm as it’s outlined here. Often, when a Psalm is quoted in another book, I’ll just blog about the Psalm instead of doing it “in place” in the book, but since this is a mashup of a few Psalms, I’ll cover it multiple times, I guess!
8 Give praise to the LORD, proclaim his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
9 Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts.
10 Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
11 Look to the LORD and his strength;
seek his face always.
The most interesting thing to me about this starting point is how incongruous it might seem to modern ears, given the fact that we just read about Uzzah’s death a couple of chapters ago. Is that the kind of God we should be praising, we might ask?
To David, the answer to that question is a resounding yes. He’s not giving any caveats; he’s not saying “Praise the LORD, but be careful! You never know when He’s going to lash out at you!” As far as David is concerned—as far as the Bible is concerned—God is worthy of praise, full stop.
If we’re ever having trouble praising God, one thing we should do is recall all that He has done for us:
12 Remember the wonders he has done,
his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,
13 you his servants, the descendants of Israel,
his chosen ones, the children of Jacob.
14 He is the LORD our God;
his judgments are in all the earth.
When David says that God’s “judgements are in all the earth,” we should remember that he is saying this to give his people comfort, not to make them worry! He’s not saying to the people of Israel, “Be careful, because God’s judgements are in all the earth,” he’s saying, “Remember, our God is judging all the earth.” The focus is on God’s relationship with His people, and that He, the One who loves them, is in control. In all the earth.
In verse 13 he calls the Israelites “descendants of Israel” and also “children of Jacob” (two names for the same man), but I don’t think there’s any special meaning he’s trying to call out by doing so; I think he’s just not wanting to repeat the same words twice in a row in a poem/song.
And if we think this “remembering” thing is a one-way street, we should think again:
15 He remembers his covenant forever,
the promise he made, for a thousand generations,
16 the covenant he made with Abraham,
the oath he swore to Isaac.
17 He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree,
to Israel as an everlasting covenant:
18 “To you I will give the land of Canaan
as the portion you will inherit.”
19 When they were but few in number,
few indeed, and strangers in it,
20 they wandered from nation to nation,
from one kingdom to another.
21 He allowed no one to oppress them;
for their sake he rebuked kings:
22 “Do not touch my anointed ones;
do my prophets no harm.”
God made a covenant with His people, and whether His people remember it or not He will never forget! Abraham never saw the final result of that covenant but David and his fellow Israelites do – and we see that plus the work Christ did on the cross.
It’s also interesting to see David pointing out God’s covenant with Abraham here given that God will make a covenant with David himself in the next chapter.
The rest of the Psalm is now praises to God, and reminders to the people to praise Him:
23 Sing to the LORD, all the earth;
proclaim his salvation day after day.
24 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples.
25 For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;
he is to be feared above all gods.
26 For all the gods of the nations are idols,
but the LORD made the heavens.
27 Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and joy are in his dwelling place.
28 Ascribe to the LORD, all you families of nations,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
29 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
bring an offering and come before him.
Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.
30 Tremble before him, all the earth!
The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved.
31 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
let them say among the nations, “The LORD reigns!”
32 Let the sea resound, and all that is in it;
let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them!
33 Let the trees of the forest sing,
let them sing for joy before the LORD,
for he comes to judge the earth.
34 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
35 Cry out, “Save us, God our Savior;
gather us and deliver us from the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name,
and glory in your praise.”
36 Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting.
I don’t have much to say about this, not being one who knows a lot about poetry, but I’ll repeat myself that that last point about God coming to judge the earth is, once again, being said to give comfort to His people, not to strike fear in their hearts. If anything, David would want to strike fear in the hearts of God’s enemies by saying that, but give comfort to His children.