20th Sunday after Pentecost
1 Chronicles 29:1-2, 10-18
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus,
Alexander the Great conquers a city and he names it “Alexandria.” Donald Trump develops a 58 story sky scraper on fifth avenue in midtown Manhattan and names it what? “Trump Tower”. In 2007 Thomas Denny Sanford gave a generous 400-million-dollar gift to South Dakota Sioux Valley Health which then was subsequently renamed Sanford Health. We see it all the time, don’t we? Buildings or monuments are continually constructed to honor and memorialize the individual who did or accomplished or gave something great. Buildings are named after them, foundations are established in their honor, books are written about them and their accomplishments. I’m not sure that any of us here will ever have a building named in our honor, a book written about our life, or a foundation established in our name. But what legacy, what monument, what memorial are you going to leave in this world?
Well, buildings are taken down, foundations are used up, books are lost. It’s highly unlikely that 1,000 years from now anyone is going to be talking about Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, people probably aren’t going to remember Adrian Peterson or Aaron Rodgers, and quite unlikely that people are going to be talking about you or me. So, today we ask, as a Christian what’s the best legacy that you can leave? What is a God-pleasing monument you can make for your life?
Our text is some of the final words and actions of King David. He’s at the end of his life. Earlier in his life David had wanted to build a permanent temple to the Lord. But the Lord came to David through the prophet Nathan and told him that he wouldn’t be the one to build the temple, but his son Solomon would. So at the end of his life David made plans, saved money, gathered resources in order to build not David Memorial Building or the David Monument or David Stadium, no he gave his life’s fortune, he gave his personal treasury – it seems not just part of it, but the whole thing, in other words, he didn’t just give of his wealth, he gave his wealth- to the construction of the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem. And we’re told how much it was: 110 tons of gold and 260 tons of silver. I calculated how much the gold would be worth in today’s standards and it would be about 4.5 billion dollars.
Well, we have to ask: why? And to understand that we need to understand two things: the purpose of the temple and David’s heart. What was the point of the OT temple? The temple served to do a number of things. The temple was the connection point to God. It was the place where the people could picture the presence of God among them. It was a symbol to assure them that God was with them as their protector and provider. It also served as a means by which God communicated with His people. At the temple God’s Word was taught to the people, at the temple the sacrifices were carried out, blood was shed for the forgiveness of sins, at the temple there was a visible demonstration of God’s grace when the people gathered before God as sinners and instead of them being punished for their sins, a lamb or a sheep was killed in their place, as their substitute. The temple was a big deal because it was their connection point to God and David wanted it to be the very best.
But there’s a second reason why David did what he did. And we see it in his prayer in our text. We see here a picture into David’s heart at the end of his life. “Praise be to you, Lord, the God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting.” In other words, God gets all praise because he alone is eternal. “Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.” There is no greatness except that which comes from God, there is no power except that which comes from God, no glory, no majesty, no splendor except that which comes from God. God brought the universe into being- it belongs to him. Everything David was, everything that David accomplished, everything that achieved, it was all God’s. Everything that you have- from the air you breathe to the food you eat to the warmth of the sun you enjoy to having a home to live in, everything that you’ve accomplished in life, it’s all God’s, it’s all a gift of God’s grace.
David goes on, “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.” David is amazed, he is astounded at how everything is a gift of God’s grace. He didn’t earn it, he certainly didn’t deserve it – it’s all grace. When beggars like us catch a glimpse of the amazing love of God we’re amazed! Who are we and what have we done to receive such a wealth of compassion from God? Everything comes from God. You see, when we understand God’s grace, we see that really we can never truly give to God. We only receive. Even when we offer God our service, our money, our worship, all we’re doing is returning to God what He first gave us!
“We are foreigners and strangers in your sight, as were all our ancestors.” If you know the grace of God, then you can’t call anything that you have a possession by personal right. Nothing we have we earned, it’s all a gift, a trust, from God. “Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope.” Nothing in our lives is permanent, we didn’t bring anything into the world and we won’t take anything out of it when we die. Your health, your wealth, your stuff, your knowledge, it’s like a shadow, it can’t give you hope, it can’t save you.
“Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you. I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things I have given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you.” Even the intent to give, the motive in the heart – it all comes from God’s grace. “Lord, God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, keep these desires and thoughts in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you.” You see, David is praying for you and for me.
And what is he praying for? He’s praying for your lasting legacy. What memorial are you going to leave in the world? You can’t do better than this: having a heart so grateful for and so amazed by God’s grace that you can’t help but respond to it. What about this for your life legacy? A heart so grateful for and amazed by God’s grace that you can’t help but respond. If everything is the Lord’s, then, whatever I have, I have only by God’s grace.
But what’s the problem? We forget that everything we have is by grace. And what happens? When I do that I serve God conditionally and treat Him like my bank account. I’ll go to church if God makes my life happy as I define it. I’ll pray to God if I think it’s improving my life. I’ll be happy to study my Bible if God is going to make my life easy, if it’s going to benefit me, if it it’s going to help make things go my way. But the problem with that is that “if” has become your God. That’s trying to love God with a condition- I’ll love you, IF you do this for me. God has become a means to an end, a commodity.
Why do so many people end up becoming disappointed with God? They came to church not for God, but for them, they served God not for God, but for them, they didn’t love God for God, they loved God for them! So when God didn’t do for them what they wanted or what they felt he should, they left. That’s not understanding grace. That’s treating God like He owes me for everything that I’m doing for him. Think about that. Imagine you’re single and you’re dating someone and that person says to you, “I want to marry you.” And you ask, “Why?” And he or she responds, “Because I get so excited when I think about that large trust fund that you have” or “I want to marry you because I really want to spend your money.” What would you do? You’d leave! But how tempting it is for each of us to treat God like that! “I love you God because of what you can do for me.” As long as I follow God’s commands, as long as I keep God happy, He better do what I want Him to do for me. And that ought to scare us to death because that thinking is just a short step from falling from the faith!
Each of us is tempted to treat God like that. But how do we get a heart like David’s heart here? How do we get a heart that so amazed by and grateful for God’s grace that it can’t help but respond? David’s son Solomon built a beautiful temple, but David’s greater Son, Jesus, is the temple. Jesus came and said essentially, “I am the temple- destroy this temple and I will raise it in 3 days.” He was talking about himself. He was the temple – He came not just to tell us God’s grace but to visibly show us God’s grace. Jesus came to be the perfect temple, God with us, Jesus came to offer God an absolutely pure and holy heart- something you and I could never give to God. Jesus is the only one who really did earn and deserve God’s gifts, but what did He get? On the cross He got the absence of God, He was shut out of God’s presence. Why? So you never would be. To unconditionally, fully, and freely forgive you completely. Jesus was the sacrifice of all sacrifices- He didn’t give us a temple of God’s presence with his gold, but with his own lifeblood. And he rose from the dead to give you the victory freely.
So, once again as you hear in His Word, as you recall and relive your baptism, as He presses to your lips His body and blood in the Lord’s Supper- hear it: It’s all grace. And you know what? You can give a legacy to your family, your friends, your children, maybe not an inheritance, maybe not a building, maybe not a family foundation, but a model, a memory of: Someone with a heart so grateful for and so amazed by God’s grace in Christ Jesus that it couldn’t help but respond to it with joyful service to God and to people. Amen.