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1 Chronicles 29:10-18
Dear Friends in Christ,
As David looked back on his life, he was very thankful to the Lord. The Lord had chosen him to be king even though his brothers were bigger and stronger than he was. The Lord enabled him to protect his flocks from lions and bears. He gave him courage and trust to take on the giant Goliath and defeat him. He kept him safe all the while King Saul was hunting him and trying to kill him. He protected him during the many battles he fought against the Philistines and others. He made sure that Absalom’s attempted coup failed. But, the thing that he was most thankful for was this: that when he fell into sin, terrible sin, murder and adultery, God did not forsake him. He sent Nathan the prophet to call him to repentance. And when he repented, to assure him that all his sins were forgiven.
David was very thankful to the Lord and he wanted to show his thankfulness. He wanted to build a temple for the Lord that would bring glory to the Lord. After all, why should he, an earthly king, live in a palace fit for a king, while the King of the Universe had a tent! David was disappointed when God told him “No.” He was not going to be the one to build a temple for him. It would be his son, Solomon.
What did David do when God said no? Did he pout and mope and get angry at God for not accepting his gift? No! He found other ways to give thanks to the Lord. He set an example of true Christian leadership in doing so.
When David learned that Solomon would be the one to build the temple he showed his thankfulness to the Lord by making every preparation he could for the building of the temple. He received the plans for the temple directly from the Lord and he carefully recorded every detail God gave him. Then, since he knew what was needed to build it, he started setting aside those things, money, and materials- gold, and silver, and bronze, and lumber, and all kinds of precious stones, and marble.
When the time came for Solomon to take over the throne, David called Israel together. He wanted to make sure they shared his vision for building a temple for the Lord. He wanted to remind them that this was a project that was too big for any one person, especially a young and inexperienced king. They would have to help. He let them know that, in addition to what had already been set aside for the building of the temple, he was donating his own personal fortune to the project. And then he issued a challenge. Who will join me? The leaders of the people responded with very generous gifts for the building of the temple, and David and the people rejoiced and gave thanks and praise to God.
David led by word and example. Today we might say that he put his money where his mouth was. He set a great example for all of us, because all of us are leaders. Some are leaders in the church. Many are leaders in the home, as parents and grandparents. Others are leaders in school, as teachers, or even as upper classmen. We can all learn from David that leadership isn’t a position, or the ability to give orders to others. Leadership is setting a vision; making sure that vision is in line with God’s will; then, openly and confidently communicating that vision to others while demonstrating that you are all in by your own actions.
As a parent, or a grandparent, if you have a vision that your family be devoted to the Lord and to his word, and your goal is that everyone be kind and considerate toward each other, and do all they can to help the church reach as many as possible with the gospel; you know that’s in line with God’s will. Those are all things he asks us to do. But you can’t assume that everyone else in the family shares your vision. You have to communicate that vision and talk about it often. But if you stop there, just with talk, a lot of those goals that were part of your vision for a godly family won’t happen. You still need to set the example. The members of your family need to see you devoting yourself to God’s word and prayer. They need to see you being kind and considerate, and as Jesus said in our Gospel lesson, forgiving, even to those difficult family members that every family has. They will need to see you being generous in your offerings to the Lord, and being active in serving without grumbling.
I’m thankful that my parents followed David’s example. They led by word and example. We always went to worship together, even though my dad was in a wheel chair and it took a lot of extra effort to get him up and in the chair so that we could all be out of the house in time for church. They volunteered their time to serve. When the pay check came they not only talked about giving, but they would show us. They would cash the check and before they spent any of the money they would say, “this is what we do because of what God has done for us. We take this money and set it aside for God.” And they would put it in the envelope and take that envelope to church on Sunday. Every day I would see my dad at his desk studying his Bible, and he was an accountant, not a pastor. We had family devotions at the supper table as often as possible. My parents led by word and example as we see David doing here.
Where does the motivation and the ability to do this come from? David knew that it had to come from God. Our sinful nature would never do those things. It is only interested in “me, myself and I.” David understood that the motivation and ability to be a Christian leader by word and example comes from knowing who the true God is and what he has done for you.
David praised the Lord in front of the whole assembly. He confessed that the Lord is the one and only true, eternal God. He is the one who promised the Savior through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and most recently, through him and his descendants. He confessed what Jesus taught us to pray, Thine is the kingdom. God rules all things in heaven and earth. Everything that exists belongs to him. He knew what that meant. It meant that the generous gifts he and the leaders had given for the building of the temple weren’t anything to brag about. It all belonged to God already. Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. As Jesus said in the Gospel lesson for today, when we do something for the Lord we can’t brag, or expect that he owes us anything. We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.
David understood that the Lord loves a cheerful giver, and that what matters to God is not the size of the gift but the attitude of the heart. He says, I know my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things have I given willingly and with honest intent.
David acknowledged that godly stewardship, recognizing that everything belongs to God, and that we don’t give or serve in order to get something from God, but only to give God thanks and praise—he acknowledged that such godly stewardship can only come from faith, a faith created in us by the Holy Spirit. David prayed for such faith in those familiar words we often sing after the sermon, create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. And here he prays, O Lord, God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep this desire (this attitude of thankfulness) in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you.
As you think back on your life you will discover what David did. You have much for which to give God thanks and praise. I’m sure you will remember times when God helped you and protected you from danger. You will see that God may not have given you everything you wanted, but he did give you what you needed, and often times, much more than you needed to keep your body and life. Like David, you will realize that, some day, your body will wear out and your time on earth will come to an end, our days on earth are like a shadow David says. That’s when you will realize that the most important thing that God has done for you is to keep his promise to David. The most important thing he has done for you is to send Jesus to be your savior, to show perfect Christian leadership in word and action at all times, and to go to the cross to pay for all the times when you have failed to show such leadership; for the times your actions didn’t match your words, for the times when you failed to practice selfless stewardship. As you think back on your life and not only see God’s faithfulness and many blessings, but also your many sins, you will be most thankful to God that in Jesus every one of those sins has been removed from you as far as the east is from the west.
As we, in faith, realize who God is and what he has done for us we are moved to lead others in giving praise and thanks to God by both our words and our example.