Better Than Expected
Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matt. 6:33)
Celebrations are in order when something of importance has taken place. When the basketball team at Belleview won a Colorado divisional championship, you should have been at a "pep" rally in the school gymnasium. What a time of rejoicing and excitement there was!
David had been established as King of Israel in Jerusalem, and had decided to bring the "Ark of God" to a new tabernacle just built to house it. The elders of Israel, the captains, the Levites and the priests, with singers and instrumentalists, and a host of people, rejoiced as they walked along, with King David in the lead. (I Chron. 16) They "offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord," and the King even saw to it that every man and every woman was given a loaf of bread, a cake of dates, and a cake of raisins. (16:3, NIV)
During that great celebration David gave to Asaph and his fellow musicians a wonderful psalm to use in their service of praise and worship. Let us give it our careful attention. I Chronicles 16, beginning at verse 8.
Give thanks unto the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the people. Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him, talk ye of all his wondrous works. Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord."
Giving thanks and praise to God is appropriate for Christians. Another verse in the Psalms (33:1), says that "praise is comely for the upright. "Comely" is not a word used very often in general conversation, but it means "fitting," or "proper," or "appropriate." Even one who is not yet a Christian, but is seeking the Lord, has a right, and even a duty, to rejoice that he is able to seek the Lord, and to know that the Lord is knocking at his heart's door, eager for admission, to forgive and to cleanse.
Seek the Lord and his strength, seek his face continually. Remember his marvellous works that he hath done, his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth. . . .Be ye always mindful of his covenant.
When we consider our own weakness, as human beings, and that God is the source of unlimited strength, is it not a wonder that we are not more diligent in seeking Him and His strength? If it is a privilege and a pleasure to talk to a friend on the telephone, is it not even more enjoyable to speak to that friend face to face? And God invites that kind of close friendship and communion to you and me, and every Christian.
Some of God's wonders are those we see in the mountains, or at the seashore, or at the zoo: the marvels of creation. Other wonders are found in His Word, the Bible, that open up the way of salvation and holy living.
Notice the last word of the Scriptural passage above: covenant. Generations earlier God had made a wonderful covenant with the man first called Abram. God had years earlier called him and his family to leave home and friends, to go to a distant land that he did not know, the land of Canaan. Now he was almost a hundred years old, and the Lord appeared to him and made this wonderful covenant with him.
I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceeding. (Gen. 17:1-6)
As yet Sarai, his wife, had not given birth to Isaac, the son of promise, but God's covenant to Abram promised him that nations and kings would be his descendants. Further, He would give him all the land of Canaan for an eternal inheritance, and would be their God.
At this time it was appropriate for Abram to have a new and more meaningful name: Abraham, father of many nations. His wife, whose name meant "contentious," would also receive a new name. Her new name, Sarah means princess! She would be the mother of many nations, and kings would also come from her.
This covenant given to Abraham, as well as to his wife, Sarah, was confirmed to Isaac and Jacob, as we see later on, but let us carefully notice the command given to Abram before the details of the covenant were mentioned. "Walk before me," the Lord said to him, "and be thou perfect."
That is a large order, is it not? It could certainly not mean that Abraham would be perfect in the manner of Almighty God. He would not be omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all knowing), or omnipresent (existing everywhere). Nor would he possess the perfection of angels, for he was a man, a human being. What kind of perfection would be appropriate and possible for Abraham, and for his descendants, as well as the Gentiles that would also be "grafted in" to the olive tree of Israel as a "wild olive branch." Certainly it would include that perfection of heart and will that activate and empower the Christian, through the Holy Spirit, to seek His guidance and empowerment in every aspect of attitude and conduct.
That perfection is worth searching out, both in the Old Testament and especially in the New Testament. On another occasion it would be well for us to look at some of these riches, but for now, the words of Jesus, as found in the Sermon on the Mount must be quoted. The beloved Authorized Version phrases the passage in this way: "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." (Matt. 5:48) The Revised Standard is even more emphatic: "You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (emphasis supplied)
David, continuing in this psalm of praise and worship, urges his hearers to "worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness." (v. 29) This further reinforces the idea of the search for the kind of perfection commanded of Abraham. Since the giving of thanks to God is always in order, the Psalmist says: "Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For his mercy endures forever." (v. 34)
We hurry on to look at the next great "event" in David's life. The ark of the covenant had been brought to Jerusalem, although it was still to be housed in a new, though temporary structure. Meanwhile, David had built for himself a kingly residence: "a house of cedars." Was this appropriate? Should he, only an earthly king, live in such splendor, while the dwelling place of the Lord was a "tabernacle," or a tent?
David decided that he should build a temple for the Lord to dwell in. He did not take it for granted, though, that he should take such a great step entirely on his own. He wisely consulted Nathan the prophet, the one who had courageously confronted him when he had turned aside from the paths of righteousness to the paths of sin, in the matter of Bathsheba.
What was the prophet's quick reply? The words must have been very encouraging to David: "Do all that is in thine heart; for God is with thee." (I Chron. 17:2) But such was not God's will for David. That very night the Lord revealed Himself to Nathan with an entirely different message for His servant, David: "Thou shalt not build me an house to dwell in." (emphasis supplied)
Those words must have been a grave disappointment to David, but that was not the end of the message. God gave His word that He would "build him a house," and from his progeny He would establish a kingdom that would be eternal! Wasn't that better than the privilege of merely constructing a magnificent temple that would eventually fall into disrepair and ruin?
These were the words of Nathan, giving David a glimpse of the future, and of the reign of the coming Messiah: "I tell you that the Lord will build you a house." Then came this message from God: "He [Jesus] shall build Me a house, and I will establish his throne forever. . . And I will establish him in My house and in My kingdom forever; and his throne shall be established forever." Jesus, the
Messiah would be born of the house and lineage of David, Who would save the people from their sins!
Is there something, or perhaps more than one thing, that you desperately wish for? Is it for your good, or for your hurt, or is there something else that the Lord knows would be better for you in the long run? You may remember the story of the little girl who had a rag doll that she dearly loved. It was the only doll she had. Then, one day her uncle came to visit, and asked her if she would give the rag doll to him. She was somewhat distressed at this request, but she did love her uncle, so she handed the precious rag doll to him. Then he gave her a package he had been holding behind his back. When she opened it up she was delighted. In that package there was a beautiful china doll with real hair, and all that goes with such a doll to make it absolutely perfect! Can you imagine the little girl's excitement?
King David wanted to do something for his God: he wanted to build him a house to dwell in, a temple. God, on the other hand, wanted to do something far better for David: to give him an heir, Jesus Christ, Who would one day ascend the throne of an eternal kingdom, one that would never pass away.
The Lord wants for you, and for me, what is eternally best for us. Notice again that wonderful text, the words of Jesus: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." Let us not settle for a rag doll, when He has promised us a place in His Kingdom, if we will love and serve Him to the end, in holiness of heart and life.