When God Pours Out Blessings, Part 3
A Miracle And Its Meaning (1 Chronicles 29:1-9)
King David was nearing the end of his life. Solomon was preparing to assume the throne of Israel, and perhaps his most important responsibility would be to build the Temple for which his father had spent his entire kingship preparing. And David remains concerned for the Temple. Not that it would not be built—God had promised that (1 Chr. 17:12), and David believed it (1 Chr. 22:10-11). No, David’s concern was that “Solomon my son, whom God has chosen, is young and inexperienced, and the work is great” (1 Chr. 29:1), or in other words, that Solomon would be able to do the task justice.
And so David, as we saw earlier, had stockpiled materials and amassed funds for the project. The riches set aside for the Temple were staggering. In First Chronicles 22, as David begins briefing his son on his task, he reports that he had secured “100,000 talents of gold” and “a million talents of silver” (1 Chr. 22:14): in modern terms, that’s 3,400 metric tons of gold and 34,000 of silver! Even by today’s standards that’s a mind-boggling amount of treasure; indeed, that’s almost as much gold as can be found in Fort Knox today, where the U.S. government presently keeps about 4,175 tons. Even more, the Chronicler seems to distinguish (1 Chr. 29:2-3) between the stockpile mentioned in chapter 22, probably drawn from Israel’s national treasury, and some additional funds and materials mentioned in 29:3-5 that were donated from the King’s personal funds: “3,000 talents of gold…and 7,000 talents of refined silver” (v. 4), which can be added to the figure above.
Even with all these materials put aside, David himself, after giving this list of available materials, tells Solomon in 1 Chronicles 22:14, “to these you must add.” See, it still wasn’t enough. Not all the gold and silver would be for decorating the Temple; there would be materials and expertise required for building God’s house that Israel simply did not have within its own borders, and so funds would be needed to obtain those things abroad (cf. 1 Ki. 5). And so David goes to the people, summoning them to an assembly. There, the king informs Israel that “the work is great, for the palace will not be for man but for the LORD God” (1 Chr. 29:1). He informs them of his own donation of personal funds: “in addition to all I have provided for the holy house [that is, from Israel’s national treasury], I have a treasure of my own of gold and silver, and because of my devotion to the house of my God I give it to the house of my God” (1 Chr. 29:3). After presenting the need, and after displaying his personal dedication to the Temple and setting an example to follow by giving his own funds away, he then challenges the people: “Who then will offer willingly, consecrating himself today to the LORD?” (1 Chr. 29:5).
David was the king. He could have imposed a tax or in some other way obtained the people’s funds by coercion or force. But David understood that more was needed than just money. God didn’t merely want a house in itself. David understood that the whole purpose of the house was for God to dwell among his people, fulfilling the covenant promise: “I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God” (Ex. 29:45). No, David wanted the people to be not just donors, but worshipers. Even the way he challenged them makes this clear: “Who will offer willingly, consecrating himself”—that is, setting himself apart, dedicating himself, to Yahweh?
In other words, David wasn’t merely asking the people for their help in fulfilling his personal mission to establish a place for the name of the Lord. No, he was asking them to join him in that mission, to make David’s mission their own mission. He wasn’t asking, “Help me glorify God’s name.” He was asking: “Will you glorify God’s name with me?”
What was Israel’s answer to the challenge? Drained from decades of war, following decades of oppression from the Philistines and others, and without the royal advantages David had to stockpile personal funds, the people’s response to David’s call was nothing short of remarkable—even miraculous:
…5,000 talents and 10,000 darics of gold” (that is, almost 180 metric tons in total), 10,000 talents of silver, 18,000 talents of bronze, and 100,000 talents of iron. And whoever had precious stone gave them to the treasury of the house of the LORD… (1 Chr. 29:7-8)
Not only did Israel join David in giving freely, but the people’s donations outstripped David’s personal contribution! No wonder, then, that “then the people rejoiced because they had given willingly, for with a whole heart they had offered freely to the LORD” (29:9). The sheer value of the gift, considered in its historical context, points to a remarkable providence of God at the very least, if not a miracle in itself. David himself recognizes this in the prayer that follows, when he thanks and praises not the people but God for this outpouring of wealth: “And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name” (1 Chr. 29:13, emphasis added). The king acknowledges that the treasures given were ultimately from God’s hand, not those of man: “Both riches and honor come from you….For all things come from you, and of your own we have given you” (1 Chr. 29:12, 14).
And yet there’s more to this response than just the money and materials given. What really makes First Chronicles 29:1-9 a miracle, even more than the worldly value of the offering, is that God did an amazing work in the hearts of the people. It’s not simply a rhetorical flourish when David credits God with making the people willing to give: “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you” (1 Chr. 29:14). All things: not just the physical items but the people’s ability and willingness, too, come from Yahweh. And this is precisely why David closes his prayer asking not for more “stuff” but for willing hearts: “keep forever such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of your people, and direct their hearts toward you” (1 Chr. 29:18). In short, God granted David not only the assurance that his son would build the kind of Temple David longed to establish, but also showed him that his people were now joining him willingly and wholeheartedly in that mission.
That’s the miracle, and the meaning, of First Chronicles 29: a sovereign God graciously enables God’s people, willingly and self-sacrificially, to join God’s king in God’s mission to establish God’s dwelling place.
We’ll look at how this meaning applies to the New Covenant people of God next time, before we begin praying through David’s prayer together.
*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, and the second here.