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Winter Quarter: Honoring God
Sunday school lesson for the week of December 15, 2019
By Dr. D. Craig Rikard
Lesson Scripture: II Samuel 7:1-17, 24:18-25; I Chronicles 17: 1-15, 21:18-31
Key Verse: I Chronicles 17:11, 12
“When your days are over and you go to be with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever.”
Aim and Goal of the Lesson
To understand the grand sweep of God’s will at work in the world, and that each of us possess a special calling in seeing that will to fruition. To understand that grace is always at work in the will of God, even when we make well intentioned mistakes.
Historical, Geographical, Theological and Experiential study of I Chronicles 17: 1,3,4, 11-14; 21:18-27
I Chronicles 17:1
Temples, altars, and various structures were important to the people of the near eastern world. In the Christian era we understand that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirt, and that God dwells within us. Remember, there existed a clear distinction between the eternal realm and the secular in the Old Testament. For the Old Testament people, God was removed from the people, and near only by his choice and invitation. Therefore, a structure in which they believed God dwelled was vital for them. They needed a place to approach and believe God was there. Since the Lord was present in the structure, they could offer prayers, worship, and seek the Lord. Therefore, the Ark of the Covenant was the most vital vessel for interacting with God. Yet, since they could not touch it and only the chosen priests could approach it, the ark needed to be housed. If the ark dwelled in a house, thus God dwelled in the house. Though the people still could not touch the holy ark and depended upon the priests to approach the ark on their behalf, being able to look at the house of God at least reminded them God dwelled in their midst.
What role does your church building play in your faith? What would you most miss if it were not present? What occurs in your church building that does not happen elsewhere in life?
David was a king of great heart and very sensitive. Once settled in Jerusalem he moved into a very nice house made of cedar. Cedar was a strong precious wood, used mostly for palaces and temples. In the future, Solomon will have the “cedars of Lebanon” shipped to the Israelite coast and transported upward to Zion to build the temple of the Lord. No other wood would do.
David quickly becomes aware that he is dwelling in a beautiful, permanent house while the ark is housed in a tent. Since leaving Egypt, the ark has been transported and placed in the tabernacle, a portable place of worship constructed of tents. Now that the journey to Canaan was complete and a permanent capital constructed, David felt it was time to house the ark in a permanent structure as well, and, that structure needed to be grander and more majestic than David’s house. David was asking the prophet Nathan, “How can I live in my palace without having built a house for God to reside among his people?” Of course, we know that God cannot be contained in any structure and is everywhere at all time. But, remember, in David’s world they did not always think of God in those terms of depth and breadth. They were just beginning to understand he is Lord of the entire world. Furthermore, symbols were extremely important to them. If God’s presence could abide upon the Ark of the Covenant, then God could certainly indwell a house, which will later become the temple.
Can you understand how David might have felt while living in a nice house and yet there is no structure for God? Remember, this is a day when altars and structures were very important to their belief in the presence of God in their midst.
I Chronicles 3, 4, 11-14
Yet, God has not yet requested a house for himself. Furthermore, the permanent house of the Lord was not to be built by David, but rather by his son Solomon. God sends his word to David through the prophet Nathan. Using Nathan as the instrument to share God’s word to David reveals the great role of God’s prophets at this time and the great respect the king had for the prophet. As the years pass the kings will assume more power for themselves and often ignore the prophets. We might recall that Jeremiah was placed under house arrest for delivering God’s message to the king, a message that displeased the king. It should be noted that Israel suffered and struggled when they ignored God’s prophets. However, during these early years in Israel’s history the prophets possessed great power, and thus, David listened.
Nathan informs David that the king is not the one whom God has chosen to build the temple. This dialogue reveals that God chooses those for leadership for particular ministries. Though David’s heart was in the right place and he was passionate that God have a house greater than his own, it was not God’s will that he build the temple.
There are occasions when we are the “dreamers” of great ministries, but we may not be the person used to help those ministries become a reality. Paul wrote in I Corinthians 3:6-10: I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, and God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For, we are God’s fellow workers, you are God’s field, and God’s building. By the grace God has given me I laid the foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building upon it.
David will lay a foundation of vision. The foundation will exist in David’s heart, but Solomon will build upon it. In hindsight we can understand the wisdom of God in using Solomon rather than David. Building a temple and maintaining it would require taxing the people of Israel. Under David the kingdom is new and young. However, under Solomon the kingdom of Israel will grow tremendously. Solomon’s reign will be called the “Golden Age.” Resources will be far more available to build and maintain the temple under Solomon. He will annex new territory and add to the number of residents dwelling within Israel.
David will learn the grand sweep of God’s redemptive history. Though he may not construct the temple, one of his sons will. And, the Kingdom of Israel will not be defined by buildings or even territory, but rather through a bloodline, the line of David.
We regularly read in the season of Advent the beautiful prophetic word of Isaiah 9. And he will be called wonderful counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing it and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.
Thus, God has a purpose for David, and a purpose for Solomon, just as he has for each of us. Some of us may be the “idea people, the dreamers.” Others may be those who actually see the dream to reality. It will not matter exactly what our calling might be, for all are working toward that high calling of God that will eventually be revealed in Jesus Christ.
From the narrative, can you offer reasons why you think God did not want David to build the temple? Was David wrong in desiring to do so? What is it God wants David to understand about the working of God’s will in the world?
I Chronicles 21:18
After several military excursions, David had Joab take a census in Israel. This decision greatly displeased God. There are a few suggestions as to why God was angry with David over the census. First, a man was only allowed to count that which belonged to him. The people of Israel did not belong to David, they belonged foremost to God. Perhaps David was counting his people to measure military might during a time when God has proven to be their strength. Finally, a census was taken for tax purposes. Remember the story of the nativity. Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem to be obedient to a census demanded by government for reasons of taxation. Israel was still a new nation. Was it time to level a large tax upon them in addition to their customary giving to God? The text does not offer the reason for God’s anger, only that he indeed is angry with David. God grants David three consequences he may choose for his poor decision. David chooses a plague that will fall upon his people. The plague lasted three days and 70,000 men died. If the census had been to count his military might, the census only weakened the nation. If it was for taxation, there were thousands less to pay. The census proved a disaster.
Initially the angel of the Lord was sent to destroy Jerusalem for this sin, but informed the prophet Gad to tell David the Lord wanted him to build an altar on the Jebusite threshing floor. David had taken Jerusalem from the Jebusites, yet some continued to live with permission in the town. The altar represented the end of the plague. God’s mercy had again been revealed. The city was certainly punished, but also ultimately spared by God’s mercy. Altars were almost always raised to remind the people of an act of greatness on the part of God for his people. This altar would always remind them that though they deserved destruction for so quickly forgetting he was the source of their strength and life, he choose mercy and spared his people once again.
Can you think of other reasons why David should not have taken the census? Why do you believe the penalty seemed so severe? What do you think might have happened if the census had been taken and there had been no consequence concerning Israel’s future?
I Chronicles 21: 21-27
The remainder of our texts offers the negotiation between David and the Jebusite owner of the threshing floor, Araunah. Araunah was willing to give David the floor yet David was insistent on paying full price. Araunah was paying homage and respect to his king through offering the floor as a gift. He was holding back nothing. However, David was paying homage, respect, and reverence to the greater king against whom he had sinned, and he was holding back nothing. David would not diminish his offering to God one iota. Sin has to be paid in full
and David was going to do just that. In the New Testament, the proclamation of grace is that Jesus paid for all sin, all time, and in full. God gave all in Jesus. David’s action becomes a metaphor of what God will later do in Christ.
In our world, we are taught it is a better deal to receive the Jebusite’s offering; after all he wanted to give it to David. So, why do you think it was important for David to pay the full price? What was David attempting to spiritually express in being determined to pay full price? What did he show about the manner in which he viewed his sin and God’s mercy?
The Kingdom of God is always at work in the world, accomplishing his high, perfect, and loving will. Each of us possesses an important role in that will. However, our gifts and graces may differ. One calling is not more important than another. Without David’s dream and passion, Solomon would not have been as inspired to build the temple. Without Solomon, David’s dream would have been only that, an inspired dream. God chooses whom he will for the purposes he decrees. Often in our pursuit of doing the right thing we can get ahead of ourselves, or attempt to do something God has not asked of us. This can result in painful circumstances. Yet, God, in his mercy, understands and will see that the divine will comes to fruition. We are to give all to God when serving, and give all to God in repentance when we fail. He lovingly accepts both. Advent is a beautiful, moving liturgical season to witness the movement of God’s love in the world. Through adversities, poor decisions and even sins nothing will stop the gift of Christ from being given to the world. God will give all that we might offer all our love and gratitude in return.
Almighty God, we bow before the mystery of your loving will. We cannot always see or understand what you are doing in the world, but by faith we trust you. You have proven yourself trustworthy, especially in the gift of Jesus. Reveal to us our calling, and grant us courage to fulfill that call. Should we falter, forgive and restore us by your great mercy. May your will come upon earth as it is in heaven. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Dr. D. Craig Rikard is a South Georgia pastor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.