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Bible Commentaries

The Church Pulpit Commentary

1 Chronicles 29

Verse 2

A CO-WORKER WITH GOD

‘Now I have prepared with all my might for the house of my God.’

1 Chronicles 29:2

I. It is a natural and reasonable custom that we should pay great respect to the last words of the dying.—In truth what we call last words might very often be first words of faith and hope, a kind of link in the conversation that continually should go on unbroken through eternity. The words of the text are last words, or the first words of a man who was after God’s own heart—King David. It was work for God’s house, for the Church of God, that was satisfactory to the soul of David. He worked hard, and so there is a lesson for us. Even Adam in Paradise before the Fall had to till the ground and keep it. Labour is good for all in whatever station in life they may be. The Son of God laboured, so we may put away the fallacy that is current in some people’s minds that they should work until they get enough money to do nothing.

II. But there are different kinds of labour.—Would they say that the man who was called to some great position in political affairs had an easier life than the clerk in his office, or that a greater weight of responsibility was not felt by the general on the eve of battle than by the soldier serving in the ranks? The reward in the end, however, was one and the same, for we read in the Bible, ‘She hath done what she could.’ If a man did what he could, God would give him his full reward. The soldier whose name perhaps was never known, except in the roll, would receive his reward just as much as the general who won the battle. God knew our capacities, and required that we should all do what we could. David handed over the pattern of the building which Solomon was to build, and he gave them an example of self-disciplined work. If every one sang strictly from music, instead of sometimes introducing their own notes, how different the harmony would be! So it is in our own lives. Discipline is needed, and if we wanted to know what God would have us to do we must study the Bible and attend to the ordinances of the Church, which was the witness and depository of the faith. We were earnest about the Church because we believed that man would find his great wants satisfied there, and we were also desirous that the sacred edifices in which we worshipped should be befitting the holy purposes for which they were called into use. A bare, beggarly church does not suggest to the people that it is the House of God. David said he had prepared for the house, but Solomon built it; and so those I am addressing have something to do to hand on the pattern to their children, for it is a noble and glorious work.

—Bishop C. Wordsworth.

Illustrations

(1) ‘In April, 1848, there was gathered a great crowd in the square of Bologna. Garibaldi’s friend, Ugo Bassi, had been calling on the people for their gifts, to aid the patriot-leader in his venturesome campaign. Soon there was a mighty heap in the centre of the square: money, and tapestries, and Venetian crystal, and precious stuffs from Eastern looms, and the jewels of princely houses. But then a poor girl, dressed in coarse blue serge, barefooted, took from her neighbour’s belt the hanging shears and cut off her tresses of golden hair, and sprang forward and laid them in Ugo Bassi’s arms, and said: “Sell that for Italy!” And she gave more than all the rest.’

(2) ‘So long as the king prepared for the House of God from the spoils of war, we do not read of the uprising of national enthusiasm. His zeal might be interpreted as emanating from the desire to leave a great monument to himself, and nothing so kills public generosity as the least suspicion of vanity or self-seeking; but when the people realised that he was giving his own private stores, then they answered in a magnificent outburst of generosity. The king could make the appeal, and the people would respond to it. Altogether a sum of £17,000,000 was contributed; and it was done with the most exquisite grace. Oh, that Christian people realised the abounding joy of offering willingly and with a perfect heart that which costs them something!’

(3) ‘David’s devotion to the Lord’s House was very beautiful. He had set his affection on it. He refused merely to incite others to generosity by his words, but gave in a princely fashion of his own property. As the figures stand, David contributed of his own resources eighteen million pounds, and his rulers thirty-one millions; but these amounts are so immense that it is supposed that some error has crept into the copies from the original text. He was surely justified in saying that he had prepared with all his might.’

Verse 5

WILLING SERVICE

‘Who then is willing to consecrate his service this day unto the Lord?’

1 Chronicles 29:5

This old-time question comes to us with special force and fitness on the day on which we commemorate the life of St. Matthew. At the call of the Master—‘Follow Me’—he rose and left all and followed Christ; he consecrated his service, his life, himself unto the Lord. As a result of that call the current of his life branched out in two great directions—the direction of devotion and the direction of service. It was nothing but intense devotion to the personality of Christ as revealed to him that could have enabled St. Matthew to have lived the life he did.

I would speak specially of service and of some of its characteristics.

I. A matter of obligation.—Let us be quite sure that all service is a matter of obligation. No one has ever yet been compelled to serve God, and there are plenty of people to-day who quite forsake the idea of ever serving God. But the Church never ceases to raise her voice—the voice of the holy Head of the Church—calling them in and reminding them of their obligation.

II. A matter of responsibility.—Being a matter of obligation, it is a matter of responsibility. It is a matter of responsibility, first, as to whether we think of it as a matter of obligation at all, and as to how we discharge that obligation if we at all recognise it as such.

III. A matter of fitness.—There is the law of fitness. This is a wonderful world, and we are wonderful people. It is mysterious how we fit into a certain niche and do a certain sort of work. It seems to us such a very little service, yet amongst all the great services rendered to this world, there we are in God’s eyes fitting that very niche that He has called upon us to fit. Do not you think that all labour is ennobled by the belief that we ourselves are given a work to do, which no one else could do? If we do it badly, the people with whom we mix, and those coming after us, must suffer.

IV. A matter of care.—Then there is the law of care in service. After all, what was there in the service of St. Matthew? Not, surely, How little can I do for Christ? but, How much? Only those who thus consecrate their work are doing their proper service to God and their generation.

V. A matter of diligence.—Again, there is the law of diligence. You know some people who are diligent—never weary in well doing, hiding their weariness, spending themselves in the service of others, by one idea—to do that which their hand finds to do, and to do it with their might.

VI. A matter of loyalty.—All service is consecrated to a Person—the Person of Christ Himself. Therefore, there must be loyalty in the performance of it. What caused the great sin of the betrayal? People say it was covetousness, and many other things. But what underlay it all? Absolute disloyalty. We have all to learn in serving the sacred Person of Christ that the first essential is that we should be loyal. So let it be with us. May we learn the lesson of loyalty to the Person of a living Saviour.

Rev. E. Tritton.

Illustration

‘It was David who laid the foundation of the Jewish kingdom. We trace the kings not up to Saul, but to David. Moreover, God had surrounded his life with promises, and he knew that what he left unfinished his seed after him would accomplish. He had raised his nation, and brought it into the front rank amongst the nations of the earth. He had developed its resources and its wealth. He had brought together its varied elements and consolidated them. And now for years he has been making preparations for a building which was to be the grandest in the whole land. It was work that any man might be proud of.’

Verse 13

THANKS AND PRAISE

‘Now therefore, our God, we thank Thee, and praise Thy glorious name.’

1 Chronicles 29:13

Let us consider our text in the following way:—

I. There is the argument for praise.—‘Now therefore.’ This brings us, of course, clearly back to the beginning of the prayer. David begins: ‘Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is Thine; Thine is the Kingdom, O Lord, and Thou art exalted as Head above all.’ Notice ( a) the first argument for praise which we see in these words: David recognised the personality of God. Take away the personality of God, and what have you left? See how David thinks on this occasion: ‘Blessed be Thou, our Father, for ever and ever’; ( b) and so we see a second argument for praise, namely, the perfections of God. You notice He is spoken of as our Father. Here, then, is an argument for our praise, that in Christ we sinful men and women—and none of us knows the extent of our sin—are permitted not only to have our forgiveness assured, but we are brought into perfect relationship with our Triune God. Then notice the other perfections: ‘Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty.’ The more we study our God as He is revealed to us in the Scriptures, the more will our hearts well up in praise unto Him. ( c) David points out another argument for praise, the perpetuity of God: ‘For ever and ever.’ Our God never can change. He is for ever and ever eternally the same. Is not that an argument for praise? ( d) There is another great argument, and this is brought out very clearly by David: ‘Thou art exalted as Head above all.’ Hence the pre-eminence of God is an argument for praise. Our God is pre-eminently the Highest of the high, the King of kings, Lord of lords. ( e) Notice once more: David writes that the Providence of God is an argument for praise. He points out that if he had collected this wonderful, almost fabulous, amount of wealth for the building of the Temple, it was, after all, only because God had provided it. God had led the people to give, God had inclined their heart to give willingly. ( f) Then notice, David brings out another argument for praise in the poverty of man. He says, ‘Who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer?’ We are paupers. Whatever we have we have of Him, through Him. Were it not for His grace which David magnified in this prayer, and which is another argument for praise, we should not be where we are to-day.

II. Let us notice the analysis of praise: ‘Now therefore, our God, we thank Thee.’ Thankfulness comes from thoughtfulness, and we say, ‘Praise Thy glorious Name.’ Praise is the price or value we put upon God; hence the old English word ‘appraiser,’ a man who puts a price on goods. When we think of our God, oh, what cannot He do! ( a) We will praise Him first for His pardon—a present perfect one: ‘Thy sin and iniquities will I remember no more.’ ( b) Then praise Him for His righteousness, the imputed righteousness of Jesus. ( c) Then we thank Him for His acceptance. He has accepted us. ( d) We praise Him for His inheritance. As a loving Father He lavishes His gifts upon His children, temporal, spiritual, physical. ( e) We praise Him because He calls us into His service. Earthly people think it a high honour to serve an earthly king, to be an ambassador for a king. Look at us going forth with a message of reconciliation as ambassadors, proclaiming to the world, ‘Be ye reconciled to God.’ ( f) We will praise Him for His exceeding grace. Some day we shall understand that that loving Father of ours, Who sent a Saviour to die for us, is just simply anxious to give all to us on one solitary line of argument—that is, the argument of grace. It is because we are nothing and doing nothing that He will give everything.

III. In conclusion, I touch on the absorption of praise: ‘And praise Thy glorious Name.’ The Name of God—study it; it reveals His character. Let us praise His Name—( a) His nature; ( b) His attributes; ( c) His mercies; ( d) His eternity.

IV. But there is an anxious inquiry.—Are we praising Him? It is perfectly clear that if the Spirit of God works a work in us He does two things: He brings us down, first of all—down from our idea of ourselves to the very lowest point. And then He lifts us up. Oh! if I see the depth into which I have gone through sin, and then I see the height to which I am attained, shall I not praise Him?

—Rev. W. R. Mowll.

Illustration

‘David here exercises a priestly function. He voices the joy of his own heart and that of his people in a psalm of great beauty. It first ascribes all inherent excellencies to Jehovah, and recognises His throne and kingdom. Then it recognises that all the riches and honour which men possess are from Him. Thus it acknowledges the fitness of their giving of their best to Him, and at the same time confesses that their very gifts have first been received from Him.’

Verse 15

‘AS A SHADOW LIFE IS FLEETING’

‘Our days on the earth are as a shadow.’

1 Chronicles 29:15

I. The shadow is a fit emblem of human life.—From the hour it falls on the dial it moves round the little circle until the sun sinks, when in a moment it is gone. A few hours past, and its work is done. The shadow thrown by the brightest sunshine must vanish when the night comes. Thus it is with life. As the hours pass, life draws to its close, and at last ‘the night cometh when no man can work,’ for it is the night of death. A few years at the most, and man’s life is over—his work is done.

II. Think, too, how soon a shadow may vanish from the face of the sun-dial even when the sun is high in the heavens and the night long distant.—Look on a sun-dial when a little cloud passes between the earth and the sun. In a moment the shadow is gone. So it is with life. How slight a cause may lead to death! How many pass away from this earth in the bloom of youth—in the meridian of life when age is as yet far from them, cut off by a sudden illness or launched into eternity without a moment’s warning by an accident! Truly life is frail and fleeting as a shadow. Well may the holy men of old have spoken of the shortness of their pilgrimage here on earth. Read the poetry of the Old Testament, and over and over again you must alight on passages which speak of life in the rich imagery of the East. ‘As the waters that are dried up’; ‘as the flower of the field’; ‘as the grass that is cut down’; ‘as a watch in the night’; ‘as a tale that is told.’ Such is the life of man.

III. In all times have men been led to meditate on the shortness of human life.—You cannot open a volume of poems without finding life compared to all that is transitory. This is not because such comparisons furnish materials for beautiful word-painting—for pretty verses that will please the ear, but because the world of nature abounds with true images of mortal life—images which constantly present themselves to the thoughtful mind and teach the one lesson that ‘brief life is here our portion.’ ‘What is life?’ we ask, and Nature answers:—

‘In the garden of a vicarage in Lancashire there is an old sun-dial, with an inscription engraved on its pedestal. The words tell the reader that the hours will not wait for any man, but that they glide away never to be recalled; and the verses conclude by exhorting all who read them to labour while life lasts, and “watch and pray” lest their labour be in vain. There are very few of these old sun-dials which have not some inscription on them relating to the shortness of human life, and the value of that life, short as it is. On a curious old dial in the College of All Souls, Oxford, there is an inscription which warns all who go to look at the moving shadow, that the hours of their lives not only pass away for ever, but are laid to their charge. These inscriptions were written by pious men who wished their sun-dials to be silent witnesses to the transitory nature of life, reminding those who saw them that their lives were as fleeting as the shadow which fell across the dial.’

Verse 19

A PERFECT HEART

‘A perfect heart.’

1 Chronicles 29:19

There are two things which ought to be as near as can be synonymous terms—the heart of God and the heart of man. How can this be?

I. Turn to the Old Testament, and consider the heyday of Israel’s prosperity and devotion.—The sun of David, the man of war, is setting with all the mellowed radiance of peace. The king, the rulers, and the people offered willingly to the Lord, with a perfect heart, a sum as large, probably, as was ever spent upon any one sacred edifice at any one time. Both parties did so with sincerity. The king and his people had each all they desired, in the peace which had come at last, and in the enlarged territory and the universal prosperity of Israel. Each was sincere; there was no ‘behind thought’ as the French would say. The scene in to-day’s evening lesson changes from the reign of the father to that of the son, and shows us Solomon pleading ‘as a little child’ for ‘an understanding heart.’ And the answer comes back, ‘Behold, I have done according to thy words’ ( 1 Kings 3:7; 1 Kings 3:9; 1 Kings 3:12). The sequel showed that Jehovah was as good as His word. Yet no failure in all history is more sudden, more mysterious, more hopeless, than that of Solomon. God appeared to him twice, yet he fell. Yet clearly there was hope even for Solomon, who grew old in wickedness. The Old Testament stands or falls with the truth that perfectness of heart was possible and could be attained. The yearnings of David and Solomon and others were natural for man to have and possible for God to satisfy. But many failed, and the ‘perfect hearts’ in each generation were a very small remnant, or were wanting altogether.

II. And so the dispensation went down before the bringing in of some better thing to take its place.—The old law is to give way not only to a new law, but one which shall be obeyed by a new creation. The hearts of men underwent no organic change, but only a change in their aspirations. Hitherto the best of them had desired to acquire a certain blamelessness by conformity to statutes, which when they had performed, they were still unprofitable servants. They had desired to be perfect in themselves and for themselves. They were to qualify for the friendship of the Son of Man by obedience, not to their own will, but to Another’s. ‘Ye are My friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.’ The ‘perfect heart,’ under the New Covenant, will belong only to him who can say ‘Abba, Father,’ in any language, and who can say it, not on the strength of what he himself has done, but because of something which Another has done, and which he has received.

III. Observe the contrast between the Old and the New.—( a) David’s verdict upon himself and his doings ( 1 Chronicles 29:2-3). St. Paul’s verdict: ‘Ye have received the Spirit of adoption’ ( Romans 8:15). The one has given to God what was God’s before. The other has received as a free gift the ‘adoption,’ which no deed, no sacrifice of his could claim in return. ( b) How fleeting the satisfaction of obedience and sincerity and ‘perfection’ under the Old Dispensation! ‘We are strangers before Thee, and sojourners’ ( 1 Chronicles 29:15). The gold and other offerings outlast the ‘perfect heart’ that offered them; the givers go their way, the gifts remain. But under the New Covenant the sons are joint-heirs for eternity with Him ‘Who only hath immortality,’ and from Whose love neither ‘things present nor things to come’ shall separate them. ( c) Once more the ‘perfect heart’ finds a standard for its perfection even in ‘this present time.’ Its sincerity will appear not only in its dependence upon its Author, in being led by His Spirit rather than going its own way, but in its ‘works.’ By our ‘fruits’ men shall know us. ‘He that doeth … shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven.’

—Rev. E. H. Pearce.

Illustration

‘Above all, the strength of David’s character was his piety. That piety was altogether practical and real. It was a joy in God in times of good; a quenchless thirst for God in times of declension, never failing to bring him back in contrition; a chastened submissiveness to God in times of trouble; and at all times a clear trust in God, which grew in power and beauty as years and experience grew on him. But, indeed, David’s character is so extraordinarily rich and varied that historians and poets alike have tried in vain to describe it worthily.’

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Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 29". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cpc/1-chronicles-29.html. 1876.