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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[2 Kings 5–6]

AFTER the death of Saul David was chosen king. He established his court in Jerusalem, where he became renowned for his great valour. He defeated the Philistines and many other nations. His reign was glorious, because he governed his people with justice and clemency. As he feared God, he was a just ruler, and never imposed on his people any but just and righteous laws.

The counsellors whom he chose to aid him in the government of his kingdom were not flatterers, but men of wisdom and virtue, whose advice was always founded on reason and justice. The promotion of God’s glory was the primary object of all their plans and views.

 

Fig. 41. David’s Tower at Jerusalem. (Phot. Bonfils.)

Near Jerusalem was Mount Sion, on which David erected a splendid tabernacle for the Ark of the Covenant. When the tabernacle was completed, he caused the Ark to be carried in triumph to Mount Sion. The procession was very grand, comprising all the princes of Israel in purple robes, the priests in their rich vestments, and thirty thousand armed men. The sound of all manner of musical instruments made the procession still more imposing. David himself went before the Ark playing on the harp and singing: “Lord, who shall dwell in Thy tabernacle, and who shall rest in Thy holy hill?”

At every few paces taken by the Levites who carried the Ark, an ox and a ram were sacrificed to the Lord. And when the Ark had been placed in its destined position, a great number of victims were offered. David then divided the priests into 24 classes, who were in turn to officiate in the divine worship. He established a like order amongst the Levites, four thousand of whom were chosen to sing the praises of the Most High.

 

Fig. 42. Musical Instruments of old Egypt (harp, flute, lute, lyre, little drum). Egyptian wall-painting. (After Champollion.)

Religion, the foundation of all government. David was, therefore, a wise as well as a holy ruler. He knew that a nation cannot be happy and contented, nor rights and laws be respected, unless religion be observed, and God feared. Hence, as far as lay in his power, he furthered religion. He arranged the solemn services of God, and he kindled the hearts of the people and awakened their religious sense by his sacred music and Psalms. Above all, he himself gave them the example of piety and reverence. He did not shrink from openly confessing his faith; he publicly humbled himself before God and danced in front of the Ark of the Covenant, singing and playing on the harp. In reward for David’s care and zeal for His glory God gave him the victory over all his enemies, increased his kingdom and promised him that the Redeemer should be born of his race, and should found and possess an everlasting kingdom.

The First Commandment. David was a shining example to high and low by his zeal for God’s glory. His heart was holy, he had a living faith, firm confidence in God, an interior love for Him, and he expressed all these holy dispositions in his wonderful Psalms. By these Psalms (some of which are sung at Vespers) he not only edified the Israelites of his own time, but he has edified all the faithful for 3000 years, moving them to worship God.

Religious Processions which the Church has instituted, give us an opportunity of outwardly confessing our faith and of honouring God. In the procession formed by David the Ark of the Covenant, held most sacred by the Israelites, was carried. We have far more holy processions, in which the Lawgiver of the New Testament, Jesus Christ Himself, present in the Blessed Sacrament, is carried about for our veneration and adoration.

 

Fig. 43. Musical Instruments of the Assyrians. Sculpture from Koyoundjik. London, British Museum. (After Layard.)

Religious Music. Its purpose is to glorify God and to edify the faithful. As to its necessary qualities, St. Bernard remarks that it must be earnest and grave and dignified, not effeminate, light or worldly. It should please the ear, but also move the heart; it should not obscure the words, but help to make them clear and bright and impressive. While the soft sweet sounds flow into the ear, says St. Augustine, divine truth should gently steal into our hearts. If the Old Testament, which was material and earthly, admitted of noisy instruments, it does not follow that the Church of Christ with its spiritual worship should do the same, or to the same extent. Church music is not a mere matter of musical taste, but of fitness and appropriateness to the divine worship of the New Testament Church. It is both a duty and a great privilege for any one to be a member of the choir or to promote good music in the Church.

Importance of the City of Jerusalem. Divine Providence brought it about that David should choose this old and naturally fortified city of the Jebusites as the capital of his kingdom, the centre of the Jewish religion, and the cradle of the Christian religion. Here it was that Melchisedech exercised his royal priesthood, and here it was that the great High Priest according to the order of Melchisedech offered and instituted His Eucharistic Sacrifice and Sacrament of love. Here on Mount Moria Abraham offered his son Isaac, and here the eternal Father offered His only-begotten Son for the sins of the world. Here David, the shepherd-boy of Bethlehem, entered as the meek, gentle, God-fearing king, and established the divine worship of Moses in its fullest splendour; and here the Son of David, the Son of man born in Bethlehem entered, riding on an ass and acclaimed by the Hosannas of the children of Israel. Here he died and rose, ascended into heaven, and poured out the Spirit of God on the day of Pentecost. Here He gave life to the Church of the Redeemed, and from here She began her world-wide work and mission. For these reasons Jerusalem is and remains the holiest city on earth, and is a type of the everlasting city of peace and happiness of heaven.

Joy in the House of God. David rejoiced and exulted that now the Ark would be close to his dwelling on Mount Sion, and that he would be able to assist at the sacrifices. How much more ought we to rejoice and thank God that in our midst are real houses of God, where we can visit our Divine Lord, and assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

APPLICATION. Do you like going to Mass? Do you take pleasure in the services of God? How do you behave in Church and during processions? Do you give a good example to others, or do you disturb them in their devotions?








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