Once a year, each year, we appoint one particular Sunday to focus our attention especially on the subject of Christian giving. There are so many demands upon us, aren’t there, especially on our finances. It’s helpful to be reminded about why and how we give to the local church. And the verse of Scripture, as Neil Witherow pointed out earlier, the verse of Scripture that has been chosen to help us think about giving this year is 1 Chronicles chapter 29 at verse 5. And so if you would, please go ahead and take a copy of the Scriptures in your hands and turn there with me; 1 Chronicles chapter 29. You’ll find it on page 356 of our church Bibles. 1 Chronicles 29; page 356. In a moment, we’ll read the first nine verses together. Before we do that, if you would, please bow your heads with me as we pray.
O Lord, we pray now that You would give us ears to hear what the Holy Spirit would say to the Church from this portion of Your inerrant Word. For we ask it in Jesus’ name, amen.
Allow me to set the scene a little before we read and give you just a little context. King David has purposed to build a permanent temple for the Lord in Jerusalem to replace the tabernacle, the tent that Israel have been using since the exodus. But God had told David that he would not be the one to build the temple. Rather, it would be his son, Solomon. And back in chapter 28, we hear David relay that fact to the people of Israel. In 28 verse 6, “He said to me, ‘It is Solomon, your son, who shall build my house and my courts, for I have chosen him to be my son and I will be his father.’” And in our passage this morning, after David is charged Solomon with the task to which God had called him, he turns back to the people to ask for the material support that Solomon will need to accomplish the work of constructing the temple. And so we pick up the reading at verse 1 of chapter 29. This is the inerrant and authoritative Word of Almighty God:
“And David the king said to all the assembly, ‘Solomon my son, whom alone God has chosen, is young and inexperienced, and the work is great, for the palace will not be for man but for the Lord God. So I have provided for the house of my God, so far as I was able, the gold for the things of gold, the silver for the things of silver, and the bronze for the things of bronze, the iron for the things of iron, and wood for the things of wood, besides great quantities of onyx and stones for setting, antimony, colored stones, all sorts of precious stones and marble. Moreover, in addition to all that I have provided for the holy house, I have a treasure of my own of gold and silver, and because of my devotion to the house of my God I give it to the house of my God:4 3,000 talents of gold, of the gold of Ophir, and 7,000 talents of refined silver, for overlaying the walls of the house, and for all the work to be done by craftsmen, gold for the things of gold and silver for the things of silver. Who then will offer willingly, consecrating himself today to the Lord?’
Then the leaders of fathers' houses made their freewill offerings, as did also the leaders of the tribes, the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, and the officers over the king's work. They gave for the service of the house of God 5,000 talents and 10,000 darics of gold, 10,000 talents of silver, 18,000 talents of bronze and 100,000 talents of iron. And whoever had precious stones gave them to the treasury of the house of the Lord, in the care of Jehiel the Gershonite. Then the people rejoiced because they had given willingly, for with a whole heart they had offered freely to the Lord. David the king also rejoiced greatly.”
Amen, and we give thanks to God that He has spoken in His holy and inerrant Word.
I read the story this week of George and Dorothy Doughty. They met and were married shortly after Dorothy lost her first husband in World War II and from that day until the day they died – they both died within ten hours of one another – from that day to the day they died, they never spent a single day apart. For sixty-eight years, they were together every single day. It’s a beautiful picture of two people totally devoted to one another, dedicated to each other. They never spent a day apart for sixty-eight years.
In our passage, King David is calling on the people of Israel to assist his son, Solomon, in the construction of the temple. Our stewardship text is verse 5 and that’s David’s request to the people, “Who then will offer willingly, consecrating himself today to the Lord?” Now just notice the two parts to that question. The second part explains the first. The offering David is calling for is obviously material and financial in nature. The context makes that plain, doesn’t it? But David also wants to make it very clear that merely giving financially will not do. The gift that the Lord seeks is far more thoroughgoing than that, far more radical. Like George and Dorothy Doughty’s dedication to one another over all those years, David is calling for God’s people to give themselves to lifelong, never-spending-a-day-apart, total dedication to God and to His service forever. “Who then shall offer willingly, consecrating themselves today to the Lord?”
The monetary gifts are meant to be tokens of the surrender of their entire lives to the Lord. And in a moment, I want us to try and think through why God’s people would give themselves first to concrete, material, radical, sacrificial generosity and then even more profoundly to the complete consecration of their whole lives to the service of God. We’ll think for a moment about the “Why?” question, the question of motivation.
How God’s People Give!
Before we do that and answer that question, it will be helpful to us to wrestle with “How?” How did they give? Let’s take in the manner and extent of their giving first of all. And the very first thing to say about the way in which God’s people gave is they gave following the example of their leadership. Do you see that in the text? David doesn’t simply say, “Solomon, my son, is young and inexperienced,” and then leap to verse 5 asking for the peoples’ help. No, before he asks for help he outlines his own commitment personally to giving to the work of the Lord. He sets an example. He tells them about his own dedication to giving. It’s hard to call the people of God to radical consecration and sacrifice without leaders who will model it themselves. If you are in leadership in the Church of Jesus Christ, that is still an abiding principle you can’t ignore. Ministers, elders, deacons, small group leaders, Sunday school teachers, disciplers of men and women, you cannot call for a dedication to Christ in others if you’re not willing to give yourself in dedication to Christ. Are you modeling the generosity and consecration that you’re calling for? God’s people give, in our passage, following the example of their leaders.
God’s People Give to the Best of Their Ability
Then secondly, notice that we are to give to the best of our ability. That is David’s language in verse 2. Do you see it? Verse 2, “So I have provided,” he says, “for the house of my God so far as I was able.” He’s not making an excuse for giving badly. He’s not saying, “Well, I did the best I could.” That’s not what he means. Rather, he’s saying, “I gave with all my might. I gave to my capacity.” What he could give, he did give. And look how generous he was. Verse 2, “So I have provided for the house of my God so far as I was able, that is, with all of my strength. The gold for the things of gold, silver for things of silver, bronze for the things of bronze, iron for the things of iron, wood for the things of wood. And as well, onyx stones, antimony colored stones, all sorts of precious stones, and marble.”
God’s People Give Personally
Thirdly, we learn from our passage that we should give personally. Again, notice David’s example. Verse 3, “Moreover, in addition to all that I have provided for the holy house, I have treasure of my own, of gold and silver. And because of my devotion to the house of my God, I give it to the house of my God.” David isn’t using extra cash! He’s not dipping into the public coffers to fund the work. This is his own money and these are his own resources. He’s not giving what’s left over. He’s giving what he has and he’s giving in a way that is costly and sacrificial. Is that how you give, from what you have in a costly manner? Are you giving such that you must make an adjustment to your lifestyle in order to give?
God’s People Give Willingly and Joyfully
And then fourthly, notice God’s people give willingly and joyfully. Verse 6, “Then the leaders of the fathers’ houses made their freewill offerings as did the leaders of the tribes and the commanders of thousands and hundreds and the officers over the king’s work.” They made their freewill offerings. That is to say, they understood the gifts they were bringing to be an act of worship offered as an offering to the Lord but not under compulsion but freely; they gave willingly. The same point comes out again in verse 9. Look at verse 9. “Then the people rejoiced because they had given willingly, for with a whole heart they had offered freely to the Lord, and David the king also rejoiced greatly.” Notice the connection. Do you see the connection between a freely given gift and the joy of the people? They rejoiced because they had given willingly. There is joy when you give willingly to the service of God in an act of worship.
2 Corinthians 9 at verse 7 makes that very point, doesn’t it? 2 Corinthians 9 verse 7, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves,” we would expect them to say, “God loves a willing giver,” but what he says is, “God loves a cheerful giver.” There’s joy connected with willing, glad-hearted, sacrificial giving. Or 2 Corinthians chapter 9 verse 11, Paul goes on to say, “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.” Your generosity will generate thanksgiving. There’s a connection between joy and cheerfulness and thankfulness and generosity in the hearts of Christians.
Four Keys to Sacrificial Giving
So when David here calls for sacrificial giving, he is calling for these four things. First, giving must start with our leaders. They must set an example. Second, we’re to give with all our might. Thirdly, we’re to give personally til it costs us something to give. And finally, we are to give willingly and joyfully, not under compulsion but cheerfully, for the glory of God. And the pattern of our giving, verse 5 is saying, the pattern of our giving is to reflect the deeper, underlying pattern of our consecrated lives, our whole selves given up to God. And so the leaders were to be themselves dedicated, consecrated to the Lord and we are to imitate them. We’re to serve the Lord with all of our might as far as we are able, giving ourselves for God’s glory with glad and happy hearts. Romans 12 verse 1, “Therefore brothers, in view of God’s mercy, I urge you to present your bodies, your whole selves, as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God. This is your spiritual worship.” Not just your monetary gifts, but your whole selves. That is the answer to the “How?” question. Here’s how they gave.
Why Should We Give?
But our initial question still needs to be answered. Seeing that we are to give like this – radically, generously, sacrificially, willingly, cheerfully, with the consecration of our lives and not just our bankbooks – why should we? That question still remains to be answered. Why did they and why should we? And the answer has to do with the temple and its significance. Look again at what David says in verse 1. “The work,” he says, “is great, for the palace will not be for man but for the Lord God.” The temple to which they contribute will be the dwelling place of God Himself by His Spirit. The glory of the Lord will fill it and the presence of the Lord will dwell there in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. It was an electrifying project in which to be engaged. To be participating in the construction of the one piece of real estate in all the universe where the glory of God will reside – what a thing! And so the people gave willingly.
The Perspective of the Chronicler
But if you’ll look again at verse 7, we get a glimpse of the perspective of the author of the book of Chronicles. The author of the book of Chronicles is writing about five hundred years after these events take place. And he uses in verse 7, as he’s listing the various units of measurement – talents, where is it, verse 7, 5,000 talents of gold, 10,000 darics of gold, 10,000 talents of silver, 18,000 of bronze, 100,000 of iron – he uses the units of measurement, talents, except for once he calls one set darics. Darics, that’s an anachronism that comes from the chronicler’s own time, 500 years out of date. He’s got his own generation in mind, do you see, as he’s writing. The circumstances in which the chronicler finds himself are not entirely dissimilar to these. The temple that Solomon would eventually build, in the chronicler’s day, now lies in ruins. The people of Israel have come back home to Jerusalem from exile and under the leadership of Ezra, the work of rebuilding a second temple is underway. And so the chronicler is writing for his generation using something from their era as though to connect the dots between this moment and theirs, to say, “You are here in this text. This is your moment. And like your fathers those many years ago, you also are to contribute to the construction work of the temple.”
You may see, if you ever visit Italy, if you look at the great Renaissance masters and their paintings, especially of Biblical scenes, you will see them often painting with anachronisms. You know, they’ll paint Babylonian royalty in the dress of a medieval prince or an ancient Roman soldier in the uniform of a 16th-century Italian soldier. They’re not being naïve about that; they’re simply trying to make the point, “We are in these stories. These stories speak to us. They have a contemporaneity about them to which we must all attend.” And that is exactly what the chronicler is seeking to do. He’s using their language, a unit of measure from their day, to say, “This speaks to you!” Now of course even the second temple that was one day constructed, at last constructed, went the way of the first in the end didn’t it? A.D. 70, the Romans destroy the temple.
The Temple of Jesus Christ
But even by then, a third temple was already under construction. Not this time a temple made with bricks and mortar and human hands; this time it would be a temple built without hands, built of “living stones” as Peter calls them, built from human hearts and lives, saved by the grace of God through the person and work of Jesus Christ; built together upon Jesus as the chief cornerstone. The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, not now a physical building but a world-spanning kingdom embracing every tribe and language and people and nation. The Church of Jesus Christ today is the temple of God. 1 Corinthians chapter 3 at verse 16, “Do you not know,” the “you” there is plural, “Do you the people of God, God’s people together, do you not know that you are God’s temple and that His Spirit dwells in you?” “In Jesus Christ,” Ephesians 2:22, “we are being built together into a dwelling place for God by His Spirit.” We are, and the world Church is, the temple, the greater than Solomon, the Lord Jesus is building. And brothers and sisters, we are engaged in a construction project far more electrifying than that first generation of which we read here in 1 Chronicles chapter 29. We are engaged in the building of the edifice of the temple of Jesus Christ, the Church of God in every land and in every place.
And so, as we take the message of the good news about Jesus Christ crucified and risen for sinners across the street and around the world, brick is laid upon brick as human beings who once were lost in sin bend the knee in repentance and faith to King Jesus. Brick is laid upon brick, living stone upon living stone, as Jesus the Master craftsman shapes of human hearts building blocks until His global temple rises. He’s building the temple and our giving participates in that mighty work. So why should you give sacrificially and generously, consecrating yourself holy to the Lord? You should do it because Jesus is building a temple that makes that first temple of David and Solomon pale and look like a poor show. He’s building a temple from human hearts won by the Gospel of grace, bought by His blood, and saved by sovereign mercy.
The Fastest Growing Church in the World
Just one quick example of how Jesus is building His Church and the gates of hell are not prevailing against it. From the global Church, last week I read about the fastest growing church in the world. Do you know where it is? Any guesses? Not China, not Indonesia, not Latin America. The fastest growing church in the world is in Iran. The fastest growing church in the world. When the shah of Iran was deposed during the Islamic Revolution in 1979, there were estimated to be about 500 Christians in Iran. Today, there are hundreds of thousands, possibly a million; hundreds of thousands of believers in Jesus living in Iran. Jesus Christ is building His Church. The temple of the living God is rising as living stones are being built one into the next as sinners are saved by grace. He’s doing it over there and He’s doing it right here. I wonder if you know, by the way, what the second fastest growing church in the world is, after the church in Iran – it’s Afghanistan. Iranian believers speak a language similar to the language spoken in Afghanistan and so Iranian believers brought to know Jesus Christ are witnessing to their Afghan neighbors and bringing them to Christ. Jesus is building His kingdom, His Church, right there in the gates of hell. The Gospel is advancing.
Jesus is building His temple from lives that once were lost in bondage to sin and Satan. Now they’re redeemed by the free grace of God in the Gospel. And our church, you, are part of that global movement. What Jesus is doing in the darkest, hardest places of the world – places like Iran and Afghanistan – He can do right here. He is doing right here. In our community, across the street, in our backyard, among our friends and neighbors and all across our country. That is our task. That is the mission into which Jesus Christ invites you. So as you hear David’s question in verse 5, we need to be hearing the call of the risen Christ who is busy building His global Temple calling to us, “Who then will offer willingly, consecrating themselves to the Lord today?” Will you join the Lord Jesus in His global mission building the Temple, right here in our city, in our community, in our neighborhood, in this place? That’s why we give. That’s why we ought to give. Not just sacrificially and generously monetarily, but with our whole selves, given up to the glory of God, living sacrifices, holy and acceptable, our spiritual worship.
May the Lord give us the grace to catch a vision of the electrifying work of the greater than Solomon taking place right now as He builds His Temple, the global Church. And as we begin to see it, may we resolve like our fathers in the passage that we have read, to give our whole selves to the praise and glory of God. Amen, and may the Lord bless to us the ministry of His Word!
©2016 First Presbyterian Church.
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