The Legacy of David
Hain-Lee Hsueh—Hillsborough, New Jersey, USA
Have you ever had a dream to serve God, having high hopes or expectations for your servitude? Have you thought about the wondrous differences you can make in God’s ministry? Have you ever experienced rejection or slight bitterness when it seemed like God didn’t want your service despite your apparently good intentions?
Just like any of us might have, David had an admirable vision for God, a glorious ambition—he wanted to build a temple for God.
Now it came to pass when the king was dwelling in his house, and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies all around, that the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells inside tent curtains.” (2 Sam 7:1, 2)
God gave David prosperity and rest from his enemies. He had the resources, the manpower, and the authority to do what he wanted for God. In his eagerness and excitement he went and told the prophet Nathan his plan. Nathan gave an encouraging answer, an almost definite affirmation of David’s aspiration: “‘Go, do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you’” (2 Sam 7:3).
David probably spent the rest of the day drawing up designs, making rough measurements, and gathering an inventory of materials. We can only imagine how he might have felt—possibly a combination of glad, noble, and honored to build the house of God.
Later, however, God told David, “‘You shall not build a house for my Name’” (1 Chr 28:3). David made an apparently gracious offer of noble servitude, but God said, “No.”
If we were David we may have simply given up our plans right then and there, but is that what David did? Unfazed, David continued to toil with all his might in making preparations for the temple to pass onto his son Solomon. He offered his own gold, silver, bronze, and precious stones in front of the assembly of Israel:
“Now for the house of my God I have prepared with all my might: gold for things to be made of gold, silver for things of silver, bronze for things of bronze, iron for things of iron, wood for things of wood, onyx stones, stones to be set, glistening stones of various colors, all kinds of precious stones, and marble slabs in abundance. Moreover, because I have set my affection on the house of my God, I have given to the house of my God, over and above all that I have prepared for the holy house, my own special treasure of gold and silver: three thousand talents of gold, of the gold of Ophir, and seven thousand talents of refined silver, to overlay the walls of the houses; the gold for things of gold and the silver for things of silver, and for all kinds of work to be done by the hands of craftsmen.” (1 Chr 29:2-5, emphasis added)
Wait a minute. How did David do that? God rejected his offer to construct the temple, effectively shattering his personal ambition, and gave the noble undertaking to someone else with practically no experience. Why wasn’t David disappointed? What compelled him to generously offer all his resources?
What was David really offering to God?
DAVID’S LAST WORDS
Shortly before his death, David delegated the task of building the temple to his son Solomon. Taking a look at David’s final words of encouragement to Solomon allows us to gain a deeper understanding of the answers to these questions:
“As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever. Consider now, for the LORD has chosen you to build a house for the sanctuary; be strong, and do it.” (1 Chr 28:9, 10, emphasis added)
A loyal heart and willing mind—let’s try to think about what these words mean concretely. We may have a general and abstract idea of what the heart and mind are, but what are they exactly?
In the Bible, the Hebrew word for “heart” (leb) means not just our inner man or feelings, but also resolution, determination, and inclination. The Hebrew word for “mind” (nephesh) refers to our own self, our soul, desire, and passion. Today the word “heart” is often used to encompass all of these attributes.
Now let’s look at “loyal” and “willing.” “Loyal” is translated from the Hebrew word for “perfect” (shalem), meaning complete, whole, full, and in some cases peaceful.
“Willing” is particularly
Now let’s put those words together again. Loyal heart—a complete resolution. Willing mind—a desiring soul. Take a few moments to let the definitions and concepts sink in.
David encouraged Solomon to serve God with a perfect, complete, and peaceful resolution, with every inclination of his heart. He counseled Solomon not to be willing in the sense of the word today, but to desire and delight in serving God. Why?
Because before God, the heart and mind are transparent. God can see every distinct purpose in the mind and distinguish between every inclination of the heart. Finally, David exhorted Solomon simply to “be strong” in building the temple of God, to carry out the task with urgency and firm resolve.
So what does David’s
encouragement to Solomon have to do with what David was giving to God? Looking
And then David made the following plea—read it carefully:
“O LORD our God, all this abundance that we have prepared to build You a house for Your holy name is from Your hand, and is all Your own. I know also, my God, that You test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. As for me, in the uprightness of my heart I have willingly offered all these things; and now with joy I have seen Your people, who are present here to offer willingly to You. O LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our fathers, keep this forever in the intent of the thoughts of the heart of Your people, and fix their heart toward You. And give my son Solomon a loyal heart to keep Your commandments and Your testimonies and Your statutes, to do all these things, and to build the temple for which I have made provision.” (1 Chr 29:16-19, emphasis added)
On the surface, we see that
David passed his wealth of material resources to Solomon for him to use to
build the temple (an extensive list is in
David had a perfect and willing heart. Building the temple of God would have been glorifying to God and for David himself, but every inclination in his mind and heart was for God alone. Because of that, he could accept God’s refusal with a peaceful resolution to make preparations rather than with confused discouragement.
He knew that the complete and delightful heart behind the construction of the temple was what was precious in God’s eyes, because everything he and the people could physically offer came from and already belonged to God.
He knew that when the temple was complete, God wasn’t going to make an inspection of it to see that all the right measurements were made, all the correct materials were used, and all the rooms were properly furnished. He was going to make an investigation of the heart.
That’s why David prayed that Solomon and the Israelites would forever keep that perfect and willing heart fixed on God—it was the only thing they could really give and what God ultimately looked at.
WHERE WE ARE TODAY
In our service today we often get caught up with the physical results. We build new chapels and think that their beauty and grandeur are pleasing in the eyes of God.
We weigh our devotion to God by the things we’ve done: the donations we’ve given, the religious education classes we’ve taught, the sermons we’ve delivered, the meals we’ve cooked, the floors we’ve cleaned, and the articles we’ve written.
We may even look at other people’s work and think that we could do a better job. If this is how we judge our servitude, then we only see the physical things that David contributed. We see only the gold and silver and not the pure and selfless heart behind them.
Everything we can physically give—our money, our possessions, our talents and abilities—is from God and belongs to God, yet too often we look at the outward things we have done for church and take pride in them, even if just a little.
If David were living with us today, he would rebuke us. He would tell us that we had missed the point, and that God doesn’t look at what we’ve done for Him, He searches and understands our hearts and intent of thought. However glorious and spectacular the physical result may be is secondary; having a truly perfect and willing heart is primary.
Upon examining the core of David’s servitude, the words that God spoke to Samuel before he anointed David now resound with a deeper significance:
“For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Sam 16:7)
So let us ask ourselves today—what is the motivation behind our service to God? Do we serve God with our own notions of what’s right, automatically assuming that whatever we do with good intentions is acceptable in front of God? Do we serve God to publicly display our devotion and love?
Are we more concerned with the quality of our physical service or with the quality of our hearts? Is our servitude unconsciously conditional, or are we content and at peace with serving in any way, regardless of the task? Is our service to God just a part of our life that we do when we can, or is it the goal and joy of our life that we pursue eagerly and with urgent resolve?
What are we really offering to God?