As you read through 1 Chronicles 12, did you catch the nationalism? The writer is bursting with pride as he recounts the grandeur of an age once upon a time. Frances Havergal also was moved by this passage as well. She wrote the song, “Who Is on the Lord’s Side?” expressing her loyalty to the King. The question for you this morning is this: Will you serve the King?
The chapter approaches folklore status as the most valiant and talented of all Israel yield their services to their king. With such a gathering of talent, David had to be a superb leader. In many ways he was, and his first orders of the state were to inquire after God and fight against God’s enemies. The key to leading a nation, even more, a league of talent resides within these two stories. The first story highlights an oversight the second highlights the power of proper reliance. David’s first desire was to bring the ark of God to Jerusalem. This truly was noble, but the transportation of the ark was a grizzly oversight. The oversight might have been linked to presumption which is this: All that matters is if you are doing a good thing; how you do it is inconsequential. Probably the chief nemesis of functional Christianity is doing good things, yet never considering the will of God. It really is a testimony to our own legacy. We desire to worship God, but we whittle it down to questions like, “What works in my community?” or “What style does the next generation appreciate?” We are parading God around on an ox cart. People desire to do a good thing, but when it gratifies some internal desire or tickles their ears, is it done for the right person? The dormant truth lying within each person is we naturally pursue our own desires instead of truly serving the King. When David’s good intention was rebuffed by God, he questioned, “How shall I bring the ark of God home to me” (1 Chronicles 13:12)? Does that not sound a little self-centered?
In the next chapter, David learned to rely upon God. This step-by-step reliance wisely counseled him to victory. David learned doing a good thing in itself is not satisfactory. Who are you serving? This is really the question. If you are serving the King, then you do what the King wants the way the King wants it. Doing a good thing and doing it God’s way yields reward. Don’t fill your life with good things to serve yourself. It is not about you. It’s about the King. Keep it about the King by doing it His way.
The book of Chronicles begins and you probably wonder when the names will stop. Imagine looking through a photo album, but not of your family. It is your neighbor’s or your friend’s album. Maybe you recognize a few faces because you grew up together, but that is the extent of your familiarity. In Chronicles, you are looking through someone else’s photo album. Each name contains a story. There are stories of celebration and distress, of wickedness and righteousness, of renown and obscurity.
Keep in mind the author’s intent. He was not writing a cure for insomnia. A few decades earlier, the Jews returned to Jerusalem after spending a few decades in exile. The promises of God were fulfilled. He did bring them back to Israel, which meant His other promises were also possible. The promise of a perfectly just ruler in Jerusalem from the line of David who would reign with unrivaled righteousness. All the nations of the earth would flood into Jerusalem to worship Him. The Messiah would sit on the throne. This chronicler is simply stimulating the hope of Israel.
By replaying all the known history via a catalog of names, the reader is to quickly refresh his memory of God’s work in times past. The accounts of King David and his sons builds the anticipation. The King is coming! In the Hebrew Bible, Chronicles is the last book. Can you appreciate the Jews excitement as you turn the last page of Chronicles and live out the incredible arrival of the Messiah in the Gospel accounts? The memories are fresh, the promise reviewed, the nation waits with bated breath as the forerunner announces the Messiah’s arrival. Can you also grasp their devastation as their Prince of Peace was not sitting on a throne, but hanging on a cross? The story continues. Just as the chronicler wrote, the future is bright because the promises of God are still alive and well. Get ready to herald the King’s entrance!
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever” (Revelation 5:12-13).
Social media has reduced the grandeur of life into soundbites and text-bites. Authors used to write copy like the sprawling, lush imaginative landscape. Now, they write to be quotable. Public speakers used to titillate their audience by immersing all five senses into a story or incite a passionate rebuttal to unjustice. Now they speak in tweetable, 140-characters-or-less, blurbs. In general, public communication is about as deep as a spring rain’s puddle.
Sometimes, such brevity can be found in Scripture too, but do not underrate the spiritual depth. In 1 Chronicles 4, you will come across an oasis in the middle of a desert of names. Because you disciplined yourself to read through the first nine chapters of Chronicles, you are rewarded with a fifty-word biographical entry.
Could you tell the story of your life in fifty words or less? Jabez was a man of success, fame, faithfulness, devotion, prayer, and righteousness. Much like another genealogy, it is safe to say Jabez walked with God. In fifty words or less, we learn Jabez prayed on prayer and God answered. His desire was to be kept from evil. Unlike Solomon’s uniquely answered prayer request, Jabez maintained his uprightness before God. He coveted God’s hand to be with him.
In your fifty word biography, would it rave about your accomplishments?
Would it record your achievements?
Would it relate your affections?
Or would it reflect your allegiance? To leave this earth with the obituary naming your accolades of business prowess or you engagement as a father or your maternal care as a world-class mother or a constant friend is too cheap and petty. The world can generate such eulogies. To covet the blessing of God and live a life counted worthy of such blessings, such a story would be the pearl upon black velvet.
May your biography tell a story of dependence upon God, devotion to God, and delight in God. All of this was wrapped in Jabez’s fifty-word biography. He prayed; God answered; end of story. Oh, the incalculable richness of such a legacy! May you be as wealthy.
Praise ye the Lord. Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord, That delighteth greatly in his commandments. His seed shall be mighty upon earth: The generation of the upright shall be blessed. Wealth and riches shall be in his house: And his righteousness endureth for ever. (Psalm 112:1-3)
Last words are impregnated with meaning and value. As you read 2 Samuel 23, each word sags with a lifetime of illustrative lessons. Verse three stands out where David says, “The God of Israel said, The Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, Ruling in the fear of God” (2 Samuel 23:3). David’s honest self-evaluation lifts this truth out of the dross of his life’s failures.
Nearly every chapter at the beginning of 2 Samuel has some form of a public statement from David. It is interesting to note how he emphasized mourning Saul, Abner, and Ishbosheth and even how he made a public spectacle of the transportation of the ark of the covenant back to Jerusalem. He immediately executed the reward-seekers who reported on Saul’s death and Ishbosheth’s mutinous murder, yet, as far as Joab is concerned, he is only served a tongue lashing. Why were the sons of Zeruiah so hard for David?
To answer the question, one must consider allegiance. Study the origin of the word “allegiance” and it adds value to its meaning. You may have heard a character in a story say, “My Liege! My King!” Allegiance simply means “to increase supremacy or importance; magnify beyond all others.” In order for one to rule over men correctly, they must rule with justice. Justice, an esteemed virtue among nations, has been personified by the blindfolded, fair maiden holding a scale and sword. Justice is no respecter of persons but weighs the actions against the code with a readiness to respond with discretion. However, since man is corrupt, many have peaked from behind the blindfold or have unjust weights or have forgotten their sword.
The Bible says, “The fear of man bringeth a snare” (Proverbs 29:25), and sadly, even David was ensnared from time to time. David’s allegiance was strained. Joab was family. Joab had been a fellow during David’s fugitive years. Joab was too valuable. Yet, one of the final instructions David gave to Solomon before the responsibility of ruling was passed to him, was to show no mercy to Joab. David recognized the error of his ways in 2 Samuel 23:3. The only way to rule with perfect justice is to rule with a fear of God.
David’s system of justice was inconsistent based on the variables. As much as we love David, he represents our deficiencies. A King is coming who will one day rule with a rod of iron. Justice will be his pedigree. For now, you lead people in some fashion. “He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.” Make sure your allegiance magnifies God and not men. As John the Baptist exclaimed, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).