When God Pours Out Blessings, Part 2
A Man On A Mission: Background to First Chronicles 29
We can’t understand the amazing prayer offered in First Chronicles 29 unless we first understand the man who offered it. In today’s article, we’re going to look at King David, a "man on a mission." We’ll review what brought him to that moment, in order to help us grasp why he prayed the way he did.
David, ancient Israel’s greatest king, devoted his entire life to serving God. His deep desire to see God glorified in all he did was evident throughout his life. As a youth he had honoured his father (Ex. 20:12) by caring for Jesse’s flocks, in so doing facing sometimes mortal perils with an unshakable confidence in God (1 Sam. 17:37). Visiting his older brothers on the battlefield at his father’s request (1 Sam. 17), David saw the giant Goliath “defy the armies of the living God” and, moved with holy indignation, volunteered to accept his challenge and struck down the Philistine champion for this reason: “that all the earth might know that there is a God in Israel” (17:46). Even after being anointed as God’s ordained successor to the rejected King Saul, and despite several attempts by Saul to murder him, David—against all the expectations of men and the ways of the world—could say, “I will not put out my hand against my lord, for he is the Lord’s anointed” (1 Sam. 24:10).
Along the way, David’s devotion to seeing God glorified in his life developed into a personal mission to establish one central “place for the name of the Lord to dwell.” Perhaps David, as king-in-waiting, remembered Deuteronomy’s command to Israel’s kings that each “write for himself in a book a copy of this law” and “read it in all the days of his life” (17:18, 19). Maybe it was while obediently obeying that command that he discovered a deep personal desire to fulfill Moses’ command to Israel that “you shall seek the place that the Lord your God will choose out of all your tribes to put his name and make his habitation there. There you shall go” (Deut. 12:4-5). However he developed this conviction, it’s telling that upon being crowned king of all Israel one of David’s first acts was to capture Jerusalem, which did not then belong to any of the tribes, as a capital for a united people (2 Sam. 5:6-9). Then, soon afterward, he tried to bring the Ark of the Covenant there as a way to establish the city as God’s own dwelling place (2 Sam. 6:1-7). When the Lord stopped that attempt, David’s frustration showed his profound longing to have God’s presence in his city: “How can the ark of the Lord come to me?” (v. 9). When after three (to David, long!) months God finally did allow the Ark to make the trip, David’s reaction makes plain his excitement that God would make his dwelling in Jerusalem: “David went and brought up the ark…with rejoicing….And David danced before the Lord with all his might….with shouting and with the sound of the horn” (vv. 12-15).
His capital secured, his power consolidated, his enemies vanquished, and the Ark of his God now relocated to Jerusalem, David turned to his final goal: establishing a permanent Temple for the Lord. He approaches Nathan the prophet with the idea, who (too hastily) tells David he can proceed (2 Sam. 7:1-3; 1 Chr. 17:1-2). God had other plans, however, and Nathan was sent back to give David the bad news: “It is not you who will build me a house to dwell in.” First Chronicles 28:3 explains why: “You may not build a house for my name, for you are a man of war and have shed blood.” After years of conflict and war aimed at uniting and securing God’s people in God’s land and providing a place for God to “put his name and make his habitation,” David finds out that all that conflict and war actually disqualified him from being the builder of the Temple he longed to build.
For David, that must have been bitter news, indeed. But God’s ways are higher than man’s. God “turned the tables” on David and promised to build David a house—an eternal dynasty—instead, meaning that God’s reply to David was not so much “no” as it was “not yet, and not in this way.” The Temple would, indeed, be built, even if David would not do so himself. God’s promise of a royal house and a son to sit on David’s throne was also a divine promise to David that the Temple he longed to see would, indeed, happen.
David, his burning desire to see “the place…to put his name and make his habitation” established, and seizing upon God’s reassuring promise, instead threw himself into preparing for the Temple’s construction. If he could not build God’s house, he would make sure his son would be ready to do so! And in one of the truly divine ironies of redemptive history, while David's experience as a man of war may have disqualified him from building the Temple himself, it may actually have uniquely qualified him to lay the groundwork for it. Soldiers are often caricatured in popular culture today as dumb brutes, but there's a modern military adage that David personally exemplified and which surely contributed to David's success on the battlefield: "amateurs study tactics, but professionals study logistics." David's logistical groundwork for the Temple's construction is a woefully underappreciated but nonetheless astounding accomplishment.
Just start reading at First Chronicles 21. David selected a site (1 Chr. 21:18-22:1). He prepared dressed stones for construction (1 Chr. 22:2) as well as iron and other materials in “great quantity” (v. 5). He briefed his son Solomon, his co-regent (1 Chr. 23:1) and successor, who would oversee the project (1 Chr. 22:6-16). He organized the Levites (1 Chr. 23). He organized the priests (1 Chr. 24). He organized the temple musicians (1 Chr. 25). His passion for logistics and administration is seen in the seemingly mundane preparations for Temple gatekeepers (1 Chr. 26:1-19), and accountants and bookkeepers (26:20-28). Even David’s organization of the military and tribal leaders (1 Chr. 27) was done with an eye to preparing a workforce for Temple construction, for David later says to Solomon, “All the officers and all the people will be wholly at your command” for building the Temple (28:21). Finally, David drew up site plans and blueprints (1 Chr. 28:11-12), and even determined the weights of various ritual vessels and implements (28:14-18). And he stockpiled funds, immense amounts of gold and silver and precious jewels (1 Chr. 23:14; 29:2-5).
In short, all of David’s life’s work had been directed, by God, toward this purpose of establishing a “place for the name of the Lord to dwell.” And all this brings us to the events of chapter 29 and the miraculous outpouring which took place there—which we’ll look at next time.
*Saturday, February 17, 2018 marked Calvary Grace Church's first anniversary as "homeowners" of our own building. To mark the anniversary we've chosen to meditate upon and pray through David's prayer in First Chronicles 29. The first post of this series can be found here.