Publication: Pastoral Letter, March 2008
Dear Friend in Christ:
David is recognized as the greatest king of Israel, and one of the greatest leaders in history; even our Lord Jesus is called the “Son of David.” Jews, Christians, and Muslims all recognize David’s place in history, and his tomb is still one of the most honored places in modern Israel.
In spite of all of that, he was not allowed to build the temple, though he assembled huge resources in order to build it. The Lord prohibited him from building the temple because he was a man of war (see 1 Chronicles 28:3). Nevertheless, it was in his heart, and God chose David’s son Solomon to build this great house of worship.
At the close of David’s life he appointed Solomon the new king and gave him orders concerning Solomon’s life and the temple. In 1 Chronicles 28, David assembled all the leaders of Israel at Jerusalem. Their greatest era was coming to a close and now they would see the new leader and enter the next phase of their kingdom.
A great throng of people gathered. David spoke to Solomon in the sight of “all Israel” and before God. The occasion could not have been more solemn or impressive. What would David say at such a time? I Chronicles 28 tells us what he said and commanded Solomon to do.I say he “commanded” because David spoke in the imperative. These words are more than advice or suggestion. And we view these words as God-breathed. Also, we should note that Solomon was not only David’s natural son; he was his spiritual son, carrying David’s heart and burden. We should all labor for the day when we will pass on our legacy to true sons who will keep the faith.
These are four key things that David told Solomon to do. These commands served not only Solomon, but will serve all of us as we pass on the resources that we have gathered, and the task we leave unfinished.
KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS
He said, “Seek out all the commandments of the Lord your God, that you may possess this good word, and leave it as an inheritance for your children after you forever.” God’s commandments are essential to possession and legacy.
Now I realize that salvation is by faith and that we live by faith. Nevertheless, the Law serves us in understanding the heart of God. The Ten Commandments teach us the priorities of life: love and honor God, love and honor family, and love and honor our neighbor. Observing these three principles establishes us in our lives and prevents both the resistance of God and distracting problems with others.
My intent here is not a detailed discussion of the Law and grace. Thank God for grace. But violations demote us in God’s Kingdom (see Matthew 5:19). They also cause untold problems that prevent our success in doing God’s will. Observance promotes us. Solomon was told to seek out all God’s commands and obey them. We should do no less. God is not merely giving us advice.
David also said, “Know the God of your father.” David had demonstrated to Solomon what it meant to know God. It would be wonderful if every father could say that. David had a heart to know God, and received personal revelation from God (see 1 Samuel 13:14 and 1 Kings 8:14-18). In Psalm 27:4, David wrote, “One thing have I desired of the Lord and that I will seek, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple.”
The great leaders of biblical history all knew God and sought after Him. Enoch walked with God; Abraham followed after God; Moses spoke with God face-to-face, Joshua met with the pre-incarnated Christ; Samuel said, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” We see this on through the New Testament: leaders knew God.
Of course, with the advent of Jesus, we have an even greater capacity to know God. He is the full revelation of God and has made us to be kings and priests. He made a way for us to the very Throne of God and intercedes there for us. But, we have a conflicting society with conflicting philosophies. The Hebrew focus was on knowing God, but the Greek focus was on knowing self. And the latter focus has profoundly affected us in recent times. The lesson of Isaiah 6 is that you cannot truly know self until you know God.Solomon was not told to know self; he was told to know God. There will be plenty of difficulty to introduce us to self if we seek God. Our nation did not come to its pinnacle of power by Greek philosophy. When President George W. Bush said that Jesus was the philosopher who most affected him, many scoffed. I applauded, not as a political observer, but as a fellow believer in Jesus. David would surely have applauded as well.
David’s advice to Solomon was to both know and serve God. Serving comes before ruling. Serving in the proving and training process to becoming a master. Every craftsman understands apprenticeship. David understood serving. He served his father as a shepherd; he served King Saul as both a soldier and a musician. He was faithful in both tenures. He fought off the lion and the bear to protect the sheep and fought the giant to protect Israel. He was also loyal to Saul, in spite of Saul’s weakness. Servants see their leaders’ weaknesses. But he refused to harm Saul, even when Saul turned against him. And he avenged the death of Saul at the hands of the Amalekites (see 2 Samuel 1). David was a loyal, covenant man. His allegiance was unquestioned and his service willing. His heart was like God’s own heart in those regards.
Service is the voluntary subjugation of our own desire and energy to the direction of another. It is the learning process of the bridle. No, it is not a popular concept, but a concept very central to the government of God. Jesus is our master and we are His servants (see Matthew 11:29). If we are not able to serve another person, how can we be sure that we are able to bear the yoke of Christ? (See also Luke 16:12.)
Jesus said that the greatest would be the servant of all (see Mark 9:35). The great among us become great through service; but being great, they never cease to be servants in heart and attitude. The words of Jesus are illustrated by people like Joshua, Samuel, Elisha, and countless others who through service to great leaders, themselves became great. We should also note that we become like who and what we serve. David’s advice was and is, “Serve God loyally and willingly.” In so doing, we grow more like Him.
Bear in mind, that David reminded Solomon that God knows our thoughts and motives. We cannot “fake it” with God. It has to be in our hearts.
Know, serve, and seek. If one knows and serves God, does this person still need to seek God? Yes. We never know God as we should and there is always a greater need that comes with greater responsibility. We cannot function in a promotion based upon past experience. New responsibility puts us in a new place of need. Solomon was soon to become king. He was soon to be charged with leading Israel and building the temple. He would need to seek God.
Seeking implies that God actually hides Himself from us. We have to “hunt” for Him. Why is that? One reason is that the Lord tests us to remain focused on our priority_God (see Matthew 6:33).
Seeking God causes us to put other issues aside and gain a higher perspective_His perspective.
Seeking keeps us focused on what matters and to avoid getting lost in the mundane. Unfortunately, it often takes trouble to cause us to seek Him.
I remember how, after September 11, Americans were moved to seek God. The shock and tragedies of life cause many to turn aside “normal life” to seek God. But alas, things seem to have returned to “normal.”But for our family, life is not normal. My wife’s illness has forced us into a different focus. Our prayer life has increased. So it is with many people. Trouble of any kind is a great place to find God again (see Psalm 40:1-17).
Trouble would come to Solomon’s kingdom also. His many wives and alliances would take his heart away from God, as David’s heart was diverted and trouble came to his house. As Solomon’s heart was divided, so later was his house, and tragedy ensued. Perhaps Proverbs and Ecclesiastes came out of the experience, reminding us that God is our priority. We do have this promise, “If we seek and keep on seeking, we shall find” (see Matthew 7:7).
WE ARE CALLED TO BUILD
David advised Solomon because he knew that Solomon had a tough task ahead. Solomon was chosen to build the temple. What a task! It would take years to accomplish this amazing responsibility. Building requires wisdom (see Proverbs 24:3); Solomon had wisdom to build according to the divine plan. He used all of the resources he received, and then added to them. Solomon’s servants were anointed to build and served him joyfully. Praise was offered continuously on the building site, and the sound of the hammer was not heard there. Stones were cut out in the field to fit perfectly. Much could be said about how the temple came together in beautiful harmony with splendid, majestic results. But things do not “just happen.” It takes wisdom to build. The greater the edifice_the greater the wisdom that is required.
We are also called to build, and we need wisdom. We are building an even greater house and serve an even greater Lord. We serve the Lord Jesus, Son of God, and are called to build His house (I Corinthians 3:10-17). We need the wisdom of God and we must build with enduring materials. The ultimate test will be if the results of our labor remain (see 1 Corinthians 3).
Having said the above, we are well-advised to know God, above all else. We are well-advised to serve Him loyally and willingly and to seek Him with our whole heart. We are not called to be contentious, or to fight with fellow servants over the building materials. The stones are out in the quarry. We must go and find those who are called to be in the house. We must help them to fit into the place to which they are called and do so in an atmosphere of praise.
David’s commands to Solomon can serve us well if we hear and obey. If we do these things, we can continue to build the house of the Lord, possess the land, and pass on a great legacy. Please continue to remember CSM in a special way this month, through your prayers and in your giving. If you know a friend who could benefit from our ministry, please let us know, and be sure to visit us online at www.csmpublishing.org. God bless you and yours!
Scripture Reference: 1 Chronicles, Matthew, 1 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Samuel, Mark, Luke, Psalms, Proverbs, 1 Corinthians