I’ve quoted before A. W. Tozer’s famous line, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”1 And Tozer is no doubt right? In fact, I think we may be on safe ground to say that the most revealing thing about any individual is his or her doctrine of God. Think, for example, if you take an individual who thinks of God as the Creator, Lord, and Judge of his life and another individual who does not think of God in those terms, then their lives will most likely look totally different, won’t they? Our understanding of sin, forgiveness of sin, and the need for atonement is all tied to what we think of God and what he is like. Therefore, we shouldn’t be shocked that when we read our Bibles, we read much about God, what he is like, and what he is doing.
First Chronicles 10-29 is no exception to this. Now, to be fair, if you read these chapters this week, you might be saying, “Well, it sure seems like the focus is on David.” And it’s true that David is in the foreground again and again through these chapters. A brief survey of these twenty chapters reveal that truth. A summary requires the repetition of the named “David” again and again. We might summarize the chapters as follows:
10-11 – Saul dies and is removed as king so that the kingdom might be given to David.
12 – David gathers men as his loyal servants, seeing that the Lord is with him.
13 – David attempts (unsuccessfully) to bring the ark to Jerusalem.
14 – David’s kingdom is established, and he is victorious in battle
15-16 – David brings the ark to Jerusalem and put in the tabernacle.
18-20 – David has numerous military victories.
21 – David sins and bears guilt, but finds mercy.
22-26 – David gathers goods and people for the construction and working of the temple.
27 – David has a great army.
28 – David charges Israel to follow Solomon and Solomon to follow the Lord.
29 – David gathers everything for the temple, and passes the kingdom to Solomon.
It is obvious with the repetition of David’s name that he and his actions are in the foreground of these chapters. However, a careful reading of these chapters shows us that there is something greater than David that we’re to notice in these chapters, namely, David’s Lord.
As you read through these chapters, you see that though David is in the foreground, the main actor and focus of these chapters is on the Lord himself. We see what God is doing, what God is like, what God demands of us, and how God responds to us. That is to say, any reader is to leave these chapters thinking about David’s Lord even more than David himself. And I think this is intentional. After all, since 1-2 Chronicles is written to a people who have come out of exile and are living at a time long after David has already died, their hope cannot be in David. But their hope must be in the one who is David’s Lord – and their Lord! Therefore, this morning, I want to show you what these chapters remind us about our God as we look through them.
The first thing I want us to see from these chapters is that:
God is sovereign and good
Now, though most may be familiar with the term, by noting that God is sovereign, I mean that God is in control. This is the first element I want us to see. There is much going on in these chapters, but note that God is the one in control, doing in and through individuals and nations as he sees fit. I mentioned earlier that a description of each of these chapters would likely have David as its subject, but we could just as easily note God as the subject of each of these chapters.
In chapter 10, we have the death of King Saul. He fought against the Philistines, is wounded, and falls on his own sword. But look at the description of Saul’s death. The Chronicler writes, “So Saul died for his breach of faith. He broke faith with the LORD, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance. He did not seek guidance from the LORD. Therefore the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse” (10:13-14).
Thus, after Saul’s death, David is anointed king. But why? Again, the text tells us, “David became greater and greater, for the LORD of hosts was with him” (11:9). And this continues. Note the theme:
“And David knew that the LORD had established him as king over Israel, and that his kingdom was highly exalted for the sake of his people” (14:2).
“And David said, ‘God has broken through my enemies by my hand, like a bursting flood’” (14:11)
“And David did as God commanded him . . . and the LORD brought the fear of him upon all nations” (14:16-17).
When the Levites successfully transported the ark to Jerusalem, it was “because God helped the Levites who were carrying the ark of the covenant of the LORD” (15:26).
“And the LORD gave victory to David wherever he went” (18:6 and 18:13).
The Lord is the sovereign God of history. He is utterly in control. Saul did not die by accident. David did not become king by chance. David did not win military battles because of his strategic genius. He didn’t grow famous and feared by nations because of his good fortune. This was all God’s work. God was in control and directing history.
Now, I want to note that this is still true today and in regards to our lives, but before going there, let me add one other element – one other necessary element. God is not only sovereign over all of history, he is also good. This is good for us to know because if God is sovereign and not good, then there is nothing here to cause us to rejoice. But he is good.
Perhaps the clearest note of his goodness is seen in chapter 21. I mentioned last week that the book of 1 Chronicles says almost nothing bad about David. For example, look at 20:1. There, we read, “In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle … David remained at Jerusalem.” Now, if you know your Bibles, you know what happened at this time. David stayed behind, and happened to be walking on the roof of his house late one afternoon when he saw a beautiful woman bathing, and he committed adultery with Bathsheba, and then he had her husband, Uriah, murdered. But if all you had was 1 Chronicles 20, you wouldn’t have any idea. The Chronicler leaves that out entirely, as he does most anything negative about David (which, I think, is for the purpose of reminding us that there is another “David” to come, who is even greater than great David and is himself David’s Lord).
However, there is one sinful episode in David’s life that is mentioned. In chapter 21, we read of David ordering the commanders of his army to take a census of the people. And this angers the Lord. There is simply no need to do this, especially since the Lord promised to make them as numerous as the sand on the sea shore. And, we read, “But God was displeased with this thing, and he struck Israel” (21:7).
Now, before striking Israel, the Lord gave David a choice for the judgment he would face. Either he would suffer three years of famine, three month of devastation at the hands of their enemies, or three days where the Lord would destroy wreak destruction throughout Israel. And though David is not thrilled about any of these options, he declares, “I am in great distress. Let me fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is very great” (21:13). Even in facing the Lord’s discipline, David knows the goodness of God toward his children.
And sure enough, the Lord shows his sovereign goodness. After wreaking destruction through the land, the Lord ultimately commanded David to go build an altar on the threshing floor of a man named Onan. So, David did that, buying the piece of land from Onan, and building the altar. And we read that after David did that, he declared in 22:1, “Here shall be the house of the LORD God and here the altar of burnt offering for Israel.” You see, God even worked through David’s sin to provide a piece of land where the temple would be built so that God might dwell in the midst of his people.
Isn’t this a reminder that God is not simply sovereign but good? Can’t we say with David that we know the Lord is merciful? And he’s so gracious and so kind to us that he takes all things in our lives (even our sin) and works them for good in our lives (Rom. 8:28). Behold our God! He is sovereign, and he is good. But there is more. We also see in these chapters that:
God graciously makes promises and fulfills them
This summary of David’s reign in 1 Chronicles 10-29 is full of reminders of God’s promises. The reason David is made king is because God had promised in Genesis 49:10 to raise up a king not from the line of Benjamin (as was Saul) but from the line of Judah, and that king was David. The reason there was no need for David to count his armies is because the Lord had promised to make them numerous. In fact, we read in 27:23, “David did not count those below twenty years of age, for the LORD had promised to make Israel as many as the stars of heaven.” And if the Lord had promised it, it was sure.
And then we do have one chapter where God actually makes promises (covenant promises) to David in these chapters. In chapter 17, David decides that he wants to build a house for the Lord. He looks around, and he has this nice house, but the ark of the Lord (whereby the Lord manifested his presence) was housed in a tent (the tabernacle). So, David decides he’ll build a nice house for the Lord (the temple). But the Lord tells him that this is not his role, Solomon will build the temple. But the Lord doesn’t stop there. He promises to build David a house (that is, to make him a dynasty).
We read in 17:10-14, “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.’”
But consider the nature of the promise. I mean, if David’s line is always going to have someone on the throne, reigning over an everlasting kingdom forever, then there are only two ways this promise could be fulfilled. Either, 1) you always have another son who can replace the son who died so that he can now reign as king, and that pattern continue forever, world without end, or 2) you have one of David’s sons who can reign forever because he lives forever. Those are the only two ways this promise can be fulfilled.
So, what’s David’s reaction? Does he say, “Lord, I just don’t quite buy it. I mean, I’ve thought through this, and there are only two ways you can pull this off. And one of them involves me having a descendant who lives forever, so I’m going to rule that option out. But the other means that I’ll always have a descendant reigning as king forever because my line will keep going on forever, without ever coming to an end, I mean, that one seems impossible as well. So, again, I’m not buying it”?
No, actually 17:16-27 shows that David believes it wholeheartedly. In fact, he’s overwhelmed by this seemingly impossible promise. Rather than saying to God, “You can’t pull this off,” he gives thanks for this promise. He says in 17:26, “O LORD, you are God, and you have promised this good thing to your servant.”
I mean, really? This is almost the kind of faith that Abraham had when he went to sacrifice Isaac, assuming (as the book of Hebrews tells us) that if God had to, he would raise Isaac from the dead, just to keep his promise.
So, what happened? Well, David’s line did seem to end when Judah was conquered and the Jews were carried off into captivity. It was like a huge, thriving tree being cut down to a stump. But then, from David’s line, there was born a son, whose father, Joseph, was of the house and lineage of David. His name was Jesus, and not even death could hold him down, for though Jesus died on the cross for our sins, God raised him up on the third day that that he might live and reign forever. That is, God fulfilled his promise to David by sending his Son to take on flesh, live, die, and be raised to live and reign forever.
This is exactly how Peter understood Christ’s resurrection as he proclaimed on the day of Pentecost, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him, “‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”’ Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:23-36).
Among many other things, the gospel is a reminder that God keeps his promises, no matter how impossible they may seem. Jesus was the shoot that grew out of the stump that was David’s dynasty. He was the one God sent to reign and to be David’s son so that God might fulfill his promise.
Now, let’s just stop and consider who our God is, then. He is sovereign (in control of al of history). He is good. And he makes and keeps his promises. And that’s not who he is during the days of David only. That’s who he is now. So, why do we as he children fret? Why do we look at hard situations we find ourselves in and think he’s going to destroy us? Why do we think he has anything planned for us but what is for our good? Why don’t we trust him more? Why don’t we hold on to his promises more?
You see, because he is a promise-keeping, sovereign, good God, we of all people should trust him, obey him, and rest in him. When all seems dark around us, we should look to him and hold to him in faith. He’s given us no reason to do otherwise. But that actually brings us to the last observation I want us to see about our Lord from these chapters:
God must be worshiped
So much of what David does in these chapters is to establish the community’s ability to worship the Lord. The reason he brings the ark to Jerusalem in chapter 15 is so that the people might be able to worship with the Lord’s presence in their midst. And as they brought the ark, they worshiped. We read in 15:28, “So all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the LORD with shouting, to the sound of the horn, trumpets, and cymbals, and made loud music on harps and lyres.” And David was dancing and celebrating, according to 15:29.
Then, in chapter 16, we read that David had the ark placed in the tabernacle, but he didn’t stop there. In 16:4 we read, “Then he appointed some of the Levites as ministers before the ark of the LORD, to invoke, to thank, and to praise the Lord, the God of Israel.” Again, in 16:7, “Then on that day David first appointed that thanksgiving be sung to the LORD by Asaph and his brothers.” And in 16:8-36 we have David’s song of praise. But notice, even in the song itself, he’s continually exhorting the people to worship the Lord. He tells them to give thanks, call upon his name, make known his deeds, sing to him, glory in his name, rejoice, give thanks, praise him, worship him, tremble before him, and even for the sea to roar, the field exult, and the trees sing for joy. David knows that God must be worshiped.
But it doesn’t stop there. Chapters 22-29 are all about preparations for building the temple, which was essential for the corporate worship of the people. And David goes to great pains to make sure they’ll be able to worship. In chapters 23-26, he organizes the Levites, priests, musicians, and gatekeepers so that the Lord might be worshiped in his temple. In chapter 29, he has the people freely bring offerings to the Lord in worship, and not only do they bring their offerings, but they thank the Lord and praise him for the fact that the riches first came from him.
Now, I recognize that on this side of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, in the New Covenant, our worship does not revolve around the temple and the sacrificial system, as was the case in 1 Chronicles 10-29. However, there are a couple of ways we should feel this demand that the Lord be worshiped. First, it is good, right, and appropriate that we do what we do on Sunday mornings. It is right for us to get musicians in place, for them to practice, for us to sing praises to the Lord, to give thanks to him, to give of our money toward his kingdom, and to worship him corporately. We should worship corporately and delight in doing so. But that’s not the only way this command of worship carries over into our lives.
Paul tells us in Romans 12:1-2 that our spiritual act of worship in the New Covenant is not to offer sacrifices like they did at the temple but to offer the entirety of our lives as a living sacrifice. That is, our worship is found in devoting our entire lives in obedience to Jesus Christ.
Therefore, let me ask us again if that is our expectation. Are we approaching our lives simply looking for what is the easiest, most peaceful path? Are we hoping for our children to achieve simply what the world values? Are we building our lives as if this world is all there is? Or, are we pursuing how we might magnify the Lord? Are we looking for ways that we might sacrifice in order to fulfill the Lord’s commands? Are we teaching our children that the most important thing in their lives isn’t what the world tells them, but it is the Lord Jesus Christ and obedience to him?
Our lives simply can’t be about us when we have a sovereign, good, promise-keeping God who demands our worship. Therefore, this morning, let us proclaim our response of faith and faithful obedience to him even as we come to the table. Amen.
1 A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (New York: HarperCollins, 1992), 1.