Thursday, November 22, 2012

1 Chronicles 17: The Promise of Greatness

1 Chron 17:3-14 But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, "Go and tell my servant David, 'Thus says the Lord: It is not you who will build me a house to dwell in. For I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up Israel to this day, but I have gone from tent to tent and from dwelling to dwelling. In all places where I have moved with all Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people, saying, "Why have you not built me a house of cedar?"' Now, therefore, thus shall you say to my servant David, 'Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be prince over my people Israel, and I have been with you wherever you have gone and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall waste them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will subdue all your enemies. Moreover, I declare to you that the Lord will build you a house. When your days are fulfilled to walk with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from him who was before you, but I will confirm him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever.'"

The Gospel of the Kingdom begins with this promise given to David. David thought he would want to do something FOR God, viz., build him a house. He was probably suffering from some kind of guilt-trip, seeing that he, a mere human king, was sitting in a magnificent palace while God his Lord and King was dwelling in a tent of canvas.  He wanted to build God a proper house to dwell in. David's conception of God was too small, and God told him so: "For I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up Israel to this day, but I have gone from tent to tent and from dwelling to dwelling." God is too big to fit into any man-made house. He is bigger than any human tent, bigger than the earth itself, bigger than our galaxy of 100 billions suns, bigger than the universe of 100 billions galaxies. If the Universe  cannot even contain God, how could David imagine that God would need a house to dwell in?

The Tabernacle (tent) was simply a place of God's manifest presence, not a "house" that "contains" God. I cringe whenever I hear church elders or pastors refer to their church premise as the "house of the Lord". God no longer dwells in houses of bricks and mortar. This view of God limits Him to the weekend worship services and excludes His presence and power from our weekday workplaces and community events. Unfortunately, such conception of the church premise as the "house of the Lord" makes the church building like all religious temples - the "gods" are found in those places because they cannot travel with us. So when we leave the church premises, we also leave God behind.

But instead of David doing something for God, it was God who told David that He would do something for him. Ministry is not something we do "for" God--He really doesn't need us to do anything for Him because God is self-sufficient and all-powerful. But ministry is allowing God to do something FOR US and THROUGH US. God promised David that He would do something for him and through him--He would raise up a Son who would establish an eternal kingdom - and David's name would be associated with it: "And I will make for you a name, like the name of the great ones of the earth" (v,8). When we allow God to do something for us and through us, we will become not just good but great!

Father, what a relief and joy to know that ministry is not about us doing something  for God but ministry is about God doing something for us and through us. Amen.

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