“It’s not for you, David, to build the temple. The permanent bloodstains on your hands won’t allow it.” No doubt, these were difficult words for David to hear. He was a man after God’s own heart. He saw to it that the ark of the covenant returned to Jerusalem. The great singer of Israel devoted himself to the construction of the temple.
Of the twenty-one chapters in Chronicles devoted to David, seventeen of them highlight his preparation for the temple. As Bruce Waltke reminds, Chronicles centers around two themes: the Davidic throne and the Jerusalem temple. But all the preparation for construction, the details of which are staggering according to the Chronicler, remained unfulfilled possibilities for David. Solomon would have to see to it.
Narratives such as this one evoke multiple reactions from readers at different phases of their pilgrim lives. Two matters stand out in my current reading. One, David has to trust the fulfillment of God’s plan and his wishes to the providential hand of God. David certainly worked hard, laboring to provide Solomon an easy entry to bring the project to fulfillment. But still, when David breathed his last: no temple. Such a narrative strikes me as symbolic of the Christian life.
The anticipation of the future is built into the very fabric of Christian faith and hope. Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Heb. 11:1). Abraham, all this land will be yours. And Abraham dies owning one plot of land: his wife’s burial plot. Hope for that which is seen, Paul tells us, is not hope.
The second matter is liturgical in nature. We sing it almost every Sunday in the presentation of the offering. “All things come of thee, O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee.” I’m not sure why, but I find myself humming this tune regularly. Perhaps God wants to remind me of something. Just perhaps.
David prays the familiar “all things come of thee, O Lord,” in the context of the temple dedication. People gave from their wealth and, we should assume, from their poverty as well.
“Who are we,” David asks, “to have such a privilege as giving to the honor of the Lord’s name?” It’s all God’s anyhow, David prays. Of thine own we have given thee.
I’m still reminded of a dear sister at the Advent who during stewardship season shared with the congregation her longstanding misreading of the pronoun. She read, “and of mine own have we given thee.” I remember when I heard her good and honest words, thinking, yes, I feel that way too. But it’s not mine. None of it. It’s his.
I’ll confess not remembering the next verse in David’s prayer. But it goes like this: “For we are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding” (1 Chron. 29:15). This beautiful phrase of David’s boils down to an essential, if hard, truth of life. We’re going to die. I know it’s cliché. “You can’t take anything with you.” But perhaps David wants us to pass beyond the cliché to the profound reality that our lives are but a blowing of the dust. And during our small dust storm of an existence, everything we have is his.
Maybe this is why I need to keep humming: All things come of thee, O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee. Anybody care to hum along?