Click here for a print-friendly version
Winter Quarter: Honoring God
Sunday school lesson for the week of December 29, 2019
By Dr. D. Craig Rikard
Lesson Scripture: I Chronicles 17: 16-27
Supplementary text: II Samuel 7: 17-25
Key Verse: I Chronicles 17:20
“There is no one like you, Lord, and there is no God but you, and we have heard with our own ears.”
Aim and Goal of the Lesson
To comprehend the beauty and humanity of David’s prayer. To recognize the power of acceptance in David’s prayer as he embraces God’s history with Israel. To learn those dynamics of his prayer that enrich our own prayer life, such as stillness and quiet.
Historical, Geographical, Theological and Experiential background of I Chronicles 17:16-27
Prayer is the lifeline for all spiritual life. God’s invitation to pray allows us to address him, the King of Creation! Knowing that the Lord listens to our prayers is a gift all too often taken for granted. There is no human dignitary with great authority to whom we can speak that is as dear and privileged as praying to God. David understood this privilege well when he prayed, “There is no one like you, Lord, and there is no God but you!”
This unique narrative actually allows us to “listen in” as David speaks to God. We are not the people praying in this text, David is. We have been given access to listen to the great king of Israel pray to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! This beautiful session of prayer is also unique in that David is asking for nothing. He is not engaged in repentance or pouring out his heart in need. There are occasions when we find comfort in conversation itself, especially with one we love and respect. Prior to my father’s death, my favorite visits with him involved conversations just for the sake of talking together, as two friends, and as two who deeply loved one another. David is discovering comfort and calm as he sits in stillness before the Lord.
There is a lesson to be learned in this unique prayer of David before God. We must admit that most often our prayers involve our need to confess our sin and ask that God clean up the messes we have created with our sin. And, we most likely pray even more so that God grant us something we need in life, or that we “think” we need in life. If we could attach a title to this prayer of David we might call it a “prayer in which a spiritual son talks in serenity with his father.” Prior to this text David desired to build the Lord a house, a house better and more majestic than the house in which he personally dwelled. However, Nathan the prophet informed David the act of building such a holy dwelling would belong to another: David’s son, Solomon. David could have entered this time of prayer in utter disappointment at being passed over. After all, it was his idea and dream. However, David is calm and accepting. He is accepting the wisdom of God and accepting the greater will of the Lord who knows far more than David regarding the building of the house. David is actually thanking God in his prayer for God’s higher wisdom and humbly accepting his role in the divine will.
When is the last time we have enjoyed calmly sitting before the Lord in gratitude? When have we last thanked the Lord for choosing another path than the one we assumed was best? When have we last thanked God for using another person to accomplish a dream that was birthed in our heart? Would we have been as calm as David? As gracious? Should this be an example of a unique prayer, or an example of the kinds of prayers we should pray with greater frequency?
Historical, Geographical, Theological and Experiential reflection on I Chronicles 17: 16-27
I Chronicles 17:16
Who cannot be touched by David’s opening words, for most of us have asked them. “Whom am I, Lord God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?” Pride is the “sin of sins.” Pride allows all other sins “to stick.” That is, the prideful person sees no need for repentance and thus remains in a state of sin. Humility is that great state of the soul that recognizes our “smallness.” Notice, we did not say our “worthlessness.” We are worth everything to God, even the gift of the Christ. Feeling small is the recognition that we are not the center of the universe, and that life does not revolve around us. We are one very special person in God’s creation who owns a very special place in the Lord’s will. To feel small is actually to feel special, minus the pride. If a lily of the field possessed a sense of consciousness I can almost assure you it does not feel like the most important lily, or that the beauty of the filed depends upon its existence alone. The lily would understand its place, and what a beautiful place it is. The field would prove beautiful without it, but not as full nor as beautiful as it does with it. So it is with us. David knows there is no logical or even spiritual reason for God to say, “Among all people I know you, and I know your family!” He is but one man among many, from one family among thousands. The fact that God knows him and uses him is an overwhelming act of grace. Repeatedly in the Psalms we are reminded that God knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows the number of hairs upon our head (Mat. 10:30) and when we rise and when we lie down. (Psalm 139) David is very aware that to sit in the presence of God and to be known and heard is an unfathomable act of grace. Notice, when David asks, “Who am I?” God doesn’t answer. He doesn’t need to. God loves and knows each of us for reasons we could never fully understand. Therefore, simply embrace the beauty and wonder of the eternal truth that God knows us intimately and loves us as deeply.
I have always been a lover of all genres of music, from pop to country. One of my favorite photographs with my dad is us standing together on the stage of the old Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn., home of the original Grand Ole Opry. In my teen years, Kris Kristofferson penned a song that soared up the charts. Honestly, as much as I like music, I struggled to recognize the attraction our culture possessed for this simple song entitled, “Why Me Lord?” Later however, I realized that the simple song asks one of the more profound and unfathomable questions with which we all struggle. “Why me Lord?” “What have I ever done, to receive even one, of the blessings I’ve known?” Who can honestly say they haven’t asked that question on some occasion? Years before Kristofferson, David was already asking that question.
Can you remember occasions when you thought, “God, who am I to you?” Or, “What qualifies me to serve you in any manner?” “What gives me the right or privilege of speaking to you and especially to be heard?” “Why do you think God knows you, loves you, cares for you and uses you?” “If we cannot arrive at an answer, then what should be our response to the One who knows us so well even when we just don’t understand it?”
I Chronicles 17:17
It is evident that David in no manner feels passed over since Solomon will build the temple. David understands that he spiritually is and will always remain “connected” to the house that will be built. Of course, David is honored that his son will construct such a holy place. Yet, David’s connection seems deeper than mere kinship. David is learning that he is but one part in a lineage of service. He is one part in a process that expresses and constructs expressions of God’s holiness in life. He is the dreamer, Solomon will see that the temple is built, but craftsman and craftswomen with every gift and grace will do the fine, meticulous work. When the temple is complete it will be the product of many prayers, many ideas, the work of many artists and many who will diligently engage in difficult manual labor. The temple will not stand as a monument to David or Solomon. It will stand as a holy structure unto the Lord
, constructed by the Lord’s people. David is utterly humbled that God has chosen him to be just a part of the holy endeavor. Paul understood the spiritual construction of Jesus’ church in the same manner. It wasn’t Paul’s church, nor would it be the product of any individual. God’s spirit would use men and women for centuries to place in our hands the needs that create the holy gift of the church. (I Cor. 3:5-11) Though no single person is responsible for the gift of the church in the world, each of us stands in that long lineage of faithful servants who gave of our time, talent, gifts, and offerings. Like David, let us be utterly amazed that we too were and are a vital part of one of the holiest undertakings in life.
Do you understand your place in God’s gift of the church? Do we think of the church in terms of individual contributors, or in terms of a long line representing a spiritual lineage? How would you interpret Paul’s words in I Cor. 3 in the existence and continued development of your own local church? Do you feel you know your special place? Have you realized how special your place is? Have we realized how precious every person in our church truly is in the construction of the physical and spiritual church?
I Chronicles 17:18
Have you ever exhausted your vocabulary when talking with God? Often in crisis Christians will struggle to find the words that express their deep longing for God’s help. In Romans 8 Paul recognized this limited vocabulary. In Romans 8:26 Paul admits we often do not know how to pray. Therefore, the Spirit has to intercede for us. Likewise, we can exhaust our prayer vocabulary of praise or gratitude. David is asking, “What more can I say to you for all that you have done for your servant?” We must never forget that some of our most beautiful and meaningful prayers are unspoken. The human spirit, along with the intercession of the Holy Spirit, expresses to God our deepest thoughts, words and affections. We often call for a time of silent prayer in worship. However, we are actually asking that people simply speak quietly in their hearts. True silent prayer isn’t looking for words for it recognizes there are none. We sit quietly and allow the quiet heart itself to become the prayer. Often I will pray in church in quiet, and say, “God, I have no words to express myself; hear the unspoken words of my heart.”
Then, David offers a tender, heartfelt expression of his humble humanity. “For you know your servant.” Could David not be saying, “Lord, though I am exhausted of word, you know me so well you know all I think and feel?” As cited above, we should be filled with wonder and awe that God, who made the heavens and the earth, who holds the cosmos together by his great power, knows the number of hairs on our heads, the joys and pains of our hearts, and our deepest loves.
I Chronicles 17:19-27
It takes a measure of comfort and courage to sit before the Lord and honestly pour out one’s heart in word or silence. However, David is confident in God’s promises. The promise of building the temple through his son is made by the God of Israel’s history. In the next series of verses David recalls the manner in which God has worked in the history of his chosen nation. God has fulfilled every promise made to his people, especially in relation to the covenant with Abraham and Sarah. God initiated in Gen. 12 a covenant relationship with Abraham, Sarah and their offspring for all eternity. The Lord’s faithfulness to his covenant was demonstrated and fulfilled in the Exodus, in the giving of Law at Sinai, in protecting them in their 40 years of wandering, their entrance into Canaan, and now as the holy city on Mt. Zion is established as the site for God’s love and justice to flow through the earth like a healing stream (Amos 5:24). David knows the God of his yesterdays is the God of his present and future. Therefore, he can speak confidently, though reverently, with the Lord of Israel. Yes, as David was previously cited, “God, you know your servant;” now, David is saying, “God, I know you.”
Does God’s loving actions in your past grant you comfort and hope in your present? Is our hope and faith in God which is founded upon the Lord’s faithfulness in past years filling us today with a holy confidence that God will not fail us? Can you name specific promises God has fulfilled in your life that fill you with greater courage and faith in facing the future?
When is the last time you contemplated just how deeply the Lord knows you? And can you say in confidence, “God, I know you in Christ?”
Christmastide has arrived! God has joined humanity in Jesus Christ that we might know the depth of his love and just how far that love will walk to reveal how precious we are to the Savior. Through Luke’s Gospel and Matthew’s, we are allowed to “sit above it all” and watch the divine, redemptive drama unfold. We can listen in to the conversations of Mary, Joseph, the innkeeper, shepherds and angels. The entire world has been invited to watch the greatest story in the world in its infancy. God’s promise of redemption to his beloved people is present in all that unfolds, and will come to fruition in the days ahead through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Let us join David this Christmas in sitting quietly before our loving God, allowing our hearts to express what our thoughts cannot think, nor our words say. Let us sit before the Lord, knowing that “he knows us better than we know our own selves.” And, let us pray that we might continue our spiritual journey in learning to say, “And, we know you Lord.” Our journey with Christ is anchored in the Lord’s historical drama dating back to the covenant and before, and will continue until the new creation in Rev. 21 springs forth in magnificent splendor and unimaginable life! We know the Lord, what He has done, what He is doing even now in Christ, and what God will accomplish when the Kingdom arrives in all its glory!
Almighty God, Advent and Christmas is such a profound story of love and hope. At best we can sit silently in worship, allowing the wonder of what you have accomplished through Christ to fill us with a holy hush. Teach us to quieten our hearts until we can spiritually hear the angelic chorus in the shepherd’s field, until we can hear Joseph’s plea for a place for his dear bride to lay her head, until we can hear the moving sound of birth fill a crude manger. Allow us to sit with you, our Lord, until we realize you have invited us to experience a drama of truth and redemption the world could never replicate or diminish. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Dr. D. Craig Rikard is a South Georgia pastor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.