READ – 1 Chronicles 17:1-15
Chronicles was written to bring about a renewal of heart and mission for people who struggle with disappointment, disenchantment and doubt. Israeli scholar Sara Japhet says the whole book is geared around addressing what she calls the “gap” - the gap between our lives and what we read in the bible, the gap between the life we want to live and the life we have. She writes, “[t]he book of Chronicles represents a powerful effort to bridge this gap.” Chapter 17 in Chronicles shows us how God meets us in these “gap moments” to renew us by his promise.
In 1 Chronicles 13-16, we read how, after uniting the people and organizing his military, David was laser focused on one thing - retrieving the ark of the covenant. Why? The ark was the most important and powerful symbol for Israel. It was meant to be in the Most Holy Place in the tabernacle. The ark was the symbol of God’s rule and presence on earth. Inside were the most important reminders of the covenant relationship between God and his people - the tablets on which were written the 10 commandments. So, the ark was a reminder to the king and to the entire nation that their life revolved around and centered on God and the covenant relationship they had with Him. After retrieving the ark, David’s next goal was to build a temple to house it.
SUMMARY: When we are living in the gap of disappointment and disillusionment, renewal comes as we look to and trust in the promises of God.
1. THE PROMISE AND IMMEDIATE RESULTS
Chronicles shows us David had a very clear plan - unite the people, gather the army, secure the capital (Jerusalem), get the ark, build the temple. When we read 17:1, the strategy seems sound and we think David is being very humble and spiritual when he says, “How can I live in a better house than God?” But there is more going on. In the Ancient Near East, temple building was very common. It was the expected final step for a real king to demonstrate legitimacy; to say, “I’ve arrived!” David is following the script of all the other nations, kings, gods of his day. He’s essentially saying, “God, in order for us to show the world we are for real, this is the next step. Let’s do this now!”
Through the prophet Nathan God responds to David’s plan and tells him, “Not now and not you. When it comes to the temple, you are called to the work of preparation not to the work of completion.” For the first time since he became king, David experienced a “no, not now” from God. God told David that He would build a house for him (not vice versa). Both houses – the temple and his future dynasty – would be things David would not live to see completed. David’s prayer (17:16-27) shows he got it. He experienced a renewed sense of humility, gratitude and praise. All because God said, “not now.”
Much of our disappointment in life and disillusionment in faith is a failure to see the significance of the work of preparation versus the pull and tug of instant gratification. This text shows us that God renews us in times of preparation just as much as in seasons of completion. Renewal of heart and mission comes when we learn not to demand or expect immediate results from God. To do this requires hope and trust in his promises.
2. THE PROMISE AND VISIBLE RESULTS
It wasn’t only David’s timeline that God had to address. In 17:5-6, God challenged David’s motivation for building the temple. At this time, a temple was the visible result people were looking for as proof of a king’s success and of a deity’s power and reality. Though God does approve of this project for David’s son (v12), he approves of the project with an important correction. In 17:5-6, God says, “Why do you think I need a temple anyway?” God was issuing a warning to David and to the readers of Chronicles: The temple can be the most visibly impressive building in the world, but it can be empty and devoid of His presence. Far more important than the temple is what it represents - the promise of His presence to be with his people.
Just like David, we often measure our lives and faith using our culture’s narratives and metrics for success. But God’s presence cannot be contained in what we can see. God’s work cannot be measured if we are only looking for visible results. Much of our disillusionment comes from measuring God’s work in us and in the world using the dominant cultural scripts of success that are solely focused on looking at the visible results. This will either create a gap of unfulfillment – the visible results are never enough or discouragement – we are failing to achieve the visible results we think we are supposed to. In these moments, we need to look to the promise of God’s presence with us.
3. THE PROMISE AND ACHIEVABLE RESULTS
Judging by God’s response to David, it appears that David needed a fresh dose of humility. Maybe his success and prosperity had gone to his head. Underneath his desire to build the temple was a prideful attitude that said, “Look at all I have achieved and what I will achieve next!” God reminds him of where he came from and who got him there. The most obvious feature of verses 7-14 – is the overwhelming emphasis on God speaking in the 1st person: I took, I have, I declare, I will. (11X!!)
God reminded David - You did not achieve this. You received this. Though God’s future promises to David were unachievable for him, he experienced a renewal of hope, humility and faith when he heard them. What was unachievable to David seemed even more impossible for those to whom Chronicles was written (600yrs later). There were no descendants of David to be seen. Why write this to them? The answer is that Chronicles is saying to them and to us: Don’t give up hope! God will keep his promise even when it seems impossible.
All other approaches to life offer us a goal and tell us that it’s up to us to achieve this goal. Christianity is unique among all belief systems in that its main message is the life God calls us to and wants for us is unachievable for us. The gospel is that a descendent of David has come to achieve the unachievable, to fulfill the impossible. Jesus, David’s greater Son, is the fulfillment of the promises of 1 Chron. 17. His life, death and resurrection achieve a salvation for us that we could never achieve on our own. Because of how God has fulfilled his promises in Jesus, we can be confident that those promises yet unfulfilled will be accomplished in his timing.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. What about the sermon most impacted you or left you with questions?
2. Is there an area of your life where you are experiencing disappointment or disillusionment because you are looking for immediate results or instant gratification? How does it change things to know God can renew us in times of preparation just as much as in times of completion? See Philippians 1:6 for an example of a promise that God can encourage us in times of preparation.
3. In the sermon, it was said that there are two basic narrative scripts that can shape our lives and expectations (see below). What narrative is currently shaping you more? How can you tell?
· Results-Oriented Narrative of Success. Driven by performance and visible results.
· Relational-Oriented Narrative of Presence. Driven by promise/covenant.
4. “Renewal comes when we realize that God’s goals for us are unachievable in our own wisdom, ability, strength and power. It is then we realize we are fully dependent on his promise.” How does this challenge you? How does it comfort you? How does it drive you toward a renewal of trust in what Jesus has done, is doing and will do for you?