From Thy Hand We Have Given Thee
Celebration of Freeing the Future: Being Debt Free as a Church
So David blessed the LORD in the sight of all the assembly; and David said, "Blessed art Thou, O LORD God of Israel our father, forever and ever. Thine, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Thine is the dominion, O LORD, and Thou dost exalt Thyself as head over all. Both riches and honor come from Thee, and Thou dost rule over all, and in Thy hand is power and might; and it lies in Thy hand to make great, and to strengthen everyone. Now therefore, our God, we thank Thee, and praise Thy glorious name. But who am I and who are my people that we should be able to offer as generously as this? For all things come from Thee, and from Thy hand we have given Thee. For we are sojourners before Thee, and tenants, as all our fathers were; our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no hope. O LORD our God, all this abundance that we have provided to build Thee a house for Thy holy name, it is from Thy hand, and all is Thine. Since I know, O my God, that Thou triest the heart and delightest in uprightness, I, in the integrity of my heart, have willingly offered all these things; so now with joy I have seen Thy people, who are present here, make their offerings willingly to Thee. O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our fathers, preserve this forever in the intentions of the heart of Thy people, and direct their heart to Thee; and give to my son Solomon a perfect heart to keep Thy commandments, Thy testimonies, and Thy statutes, and to do them all, and to build the temple, for which I have made provision."
Then David said to all the assembly, "Now bless the LORD your God." And all the assembly blessed the LORD, the God of their fathers, and bowed low and did homage to the LORD and to the king.
The Facts on the Human Level
Verses 6-9 describe the facts on the human level. There was an incredible generosity in Israel for the collection to pay for the building of the temple in Jerusalem. David led the way and the fathers and princes and commanders and overseers gave gold and silver and brass and iron. Everyone who had precious stones gave them to the Jehiel—the Paul Johnson (our financial secretary) of David's court. Those are the facts on the human level: there was enormous generosity. Money had come in. There was enough to build the temple. There was enough to eliminate all debt.
Now the question is: How do you account for this? At one level, David is not the least afraid of saying that people did the giving. He stresses that their wills were profoundly involved in the giving. Look at verse 9: "Then the people rejoiced because they had offered so willingly, for they made their offering to the LORD with a wholeheart." They were not coerced. They made choices. Human choices. This is what anyone would see from the human level.
If the news media arrived and gave a report on what happened, they would say that the cause was perceived by the people as exciting; they would say that David was a charismatic leader; they would say that the overseers and princes and commanders set an inspiring example; they would say that Jehiel and the financial officers had won the trust of the people; they might say that the economy was bullish that year; and that a new building in Jerusalem was a matter of pride. And then perhaps they would let the cameras pan out over the soon-to-be temple site and close the report with the best of their profundity: "This is where the temple will stand some day—if the amazing free will of the people keeps generating this kind of commitment."
And thus the media would have come and seen and reported—and missed everything that ultimately matters.
The Reality Hidden to the Physical Eye
What matters on this day is not what you see with the eye of the body. What matters is the great invisible reality of God. To help us see that, the writer records for us the prayer of David. And what David does for us is pull back the curtain of invisible reality and show us what is really happening when the people of God give so generously—then and now. That is what we need to see this morning—what really happened in Israel and at Bethlehem when the people gave so generously.
What really happened was that God revealed himself. The giving of money for the house of God was the work of God to reveal God so that we would stand in awe of God. That is what David sees and that is what he says. Of course this is invisible. No camera would pick up God. No reporter could interview God—then or now. And there would be psychological, sociological, economic explanations for all that happened. Technically, there were no miracles. No signs and wonders. But David says: it's all about God. This is the lesson for us this morning: Shall we see God in our lives and in the life of our church and our world the way the Bible does? Or will we always be seeing and thinking and talking the way our secular world does—while they miss everything that ultimately matters.
Start with me at verse 10: "So David blessed the LORD in the sight of all the assembly." David's response to all the human willing and human giving, is to bless the Lord—the Lord, not man. So he goes on and says, "Blessed art Thou, O LORD God of Israel our father, forever and ever." What does it mean to "bless God"? It means to say true and good and wonderful things about him that account for what happens in the world. That's what David now does. He mentions at least twelve things about God that are being revealed in this huge generosity of giving. That is what God wants us to see this morning. This is what has been happening at Bethlehem. It's the meaning of Freeing the Future. It is all about the revelation of God and the worship of God. Freeing the Future was and is about God—spreading a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples. We turn now to the twelve attributes, or ways, of God revealed in his people's generosity.
God Revealed in His People's Generosity
1) "Thine, O Lord, is the greatness . . ." God is great. He is expansive. He is larger than any reality in the universe. When any little human greatness happens on the earth God means for your mind and heart to think about his magnitude and be more moved by him than by the little echo of his greatness that moves you here.
2) "Thine, O Lord, is the greatness and the power . . ." God is powerful. All power belongs to God. He is not only big, he is strong. He is stronger than any atomic power like a hydrogen bomb, or any natural force like a hurricane or the ocean tides or an exploding star. He is not only great in size, but he can move that greatness to accomplish all he wills. He is very powerful.
3) "Thine, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory . . ." God is glorious. The word implies beauty and splendor. In other words, his greatness and power together are beautiful. They are not ugly. When we see God for who he is, our souls respond with tremendous satisfaction because we were made to behold glory. We were made to exult in infinite beauty. God is the source and essence of all great and powerful beauty—all glory.
4) "Thine, O Lord is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory . . ." God is victorious. The word means endurance—lasting and persisting and prevailing until all resistance is exhausted and God alone stands triumphant. God is always victor. He cannot be defeated.
5) "Thine, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty . . ." God is majestic. This means that he has the marks of royalty or kingliness. When he rides by, you take off your hat or you salute. You don't slouch and you don't swagger. You don't joke and you don't jest. You stand in awe, and tremble with joy that you have been granted to see and not die. God is majestic.
6) "Thine, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth." God owns all things. "Thine, O Lord, is . . . everything that is in the heavens and the earth." God owns the world and everything in it. He owns your home and car and television. He owns your mind and emotions and will and your very life. He gave it freely as a trust, and he may take it whenever he pleases and do you no wrong. We are not our own. Nor is anything we possess our own. God owns all of it. We are only trustees—of life and thought and possessions. What a revolutionary truth this is—we need to ponder it far more often than we do.
7) "Thine is the dominion, O Lord." In other words he not only has the splendor of royalty, he has the authority of royalty. He actually rules as king over the world. He owns all that is in the heavens and the earth and he governs what he owns—namely, everything. He has dominion—ruling authority as king over all. His kingly decrees always hold sway.
8) "Thine is the dominion, O LORD, and Thou dost exalt Thyself as head over all." God is the head over all things, that is, the leader and final authority. But not just that: it says he makes himself known as head over all. God is not incidentally or accidentally over all. He chooses to be head over all. He exalts himself over all. His position in the universe is a position he chooses to keep, his reputation as head over all is something he wills to make known. That is what was happening in Israel when the collection was taken for the temple and when Bethlehem Freed the Future from debt. God was exalting himself as head over all. Not to see that is to miss the main thing that has been happening.
9) "Both riches and honor come from Thee . . ." Not only does God own all things and rule all things and exalt himself as head over all things, he also is the source of all riches and honor that come to any man or woman or child. This is a direct challenge to media assessment of the event. From a merely human standpoint the riches and honor came from inheritance or good stock markets or shrewd real estate deals or savings accounts or hard work. But David says, "No, riches come from God." This is the invisible work of God in and under and behind our work. You can't see it. You believe it and exult in it because you believe in God, not because you see it with your physical eyes. And this invisible reality is the main thing in our lives and in our church and in our world.
This is why it is so important for us to be free in the future to pursue our mission—to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things . . ." Because so few people in our world see the main truths about life—namely, that all things have to do with God. They only see things and events and humans. They don't see the main reality—God. Who exalts the supremacy of God in their paychecks, in the stock market (up or down), in their year-end bonuses? Hardly anyone. That is why we exist—to exult in God's invisible hand in it all and to spread a passion for that supremacy in all things—all things. Riches and honor come from God.
10) "Thou dost rule over all, and in Thy hand is power and might; and it lies in Thy hand to make great, and to strengthen everyone." The new thing here is that all human greatness and all human strength are the work of God's invisible hand. Was there some great systems management by Tim Johnson? Was there some great home group management by Char Ransom and Joby Morgan? Was there some great financial management by Scott Lastine and Paul Johnson and Chuck Morris? Well, God's point in all of that was to show that "it lies in his hand to make great." That is what has been happening in these days. God has been opening his hand to us.
11) After pausing in verse 13 to burst with thanks and praise for all of this, David goes on with more about this great God who has been at work in this whole affair of giving. He says that this great God is merciful—God helps us do what we do not deserve help to do. He says in verse 14, "But who am I and who are my people that we should be able to offer as generously as this? For all things come from Thee, and from Thy hand we have given Thee." In other words, God has enabled us to give like this, even though we do not deserve to be helped. Who are we to be so helped to give like this? We are sinners. Bethlehem is a fellowship of graciously saved sinners. As verse 15b says, "There is no hope" for people like us. Nevertheless God acts for us in mercy. And behold, we give! So the eleventh tribute to God in this matter of giving is that God is sovereignly merciful.He helps us give even though we do not deserve it. "Who are we that we should be able to give $1.1 million in seven weeks?" We are utterly undeserving. Yet from his hand we have given to him. For he is merciful.
12) Finally, jumping down to verse 18, we see that God's enabling in this matter is not simply that he gives the funds, but that he gives the willingness to give. This takes us back to where we started. Remember we said, the people did the giving. David even stresses that their wills were profoundly involved in the giving. In verse 9 he says: "Then the people rejoiced because they had offered so willingly, for they made their offering to the LORD with a whole heart." They made choices. Human choices. Real choices. Joyful choices. That is what you can see. And that is all some people can see. But that is not all that David saw.
O God, Give a Whole Heart to Keep Your Commandments.
What David saw he makes known to us with a petition in verses 18-19, "O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our fathers, preserve this forever in the intentions of the heart of Thy people, and direct their heart to Thee; and give to my son Solomon a perfect [or whole] heart to keep Thy commandments, Thy testimonies, and Thy statutes, and to do them all, and to build the temple, for which I have made provision."
Where would Solomon get a heart to keep the commandments of God? Answer: From God. "O God, give to my son, Solomon, a whole heart to keep Thy commandments." And what about those who were giving so generously already—and giving, as it says in verse 9, "willingly" and with a "whole heart"—just as David prayed for his son? What about them?
David prays in verse 18, "O Lord . . . keep this forever in the intentions of the heart of Thy people, and direct their heart to Thee." When a sinner directs his heart toward God, God has done it. David prayed, "Direct their heart toward Thee." Apart from God our hearts go after anything but God. And apart from God we do not give willingly and joyfully to the cause of God. That is why David prays. A prayer is asking God to do what man cannot do. We cannot direct our hearts to God or give willingly to God unless God directs our hearts and God gives us the willingness.
The Meaning of Freeing the Future
So what is the meaning of Freeing the Future? I would answer from this text that Freeing the Future was a manifestation of God. That God is
owner of all things,
with dominion over all and
exalted as head over all and
source of all riches and honor
who gives greatness and strength to all,
who is merciful with his help when we don't deserve it and
who gives the heart and the willingness to give freely and joyfully as we have.
Freeing the Future is a manifestation of God. Specifically it is a manifestation of the passion of God for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples. Which means for us as a church that if we live this mission, incredible things are in store for us. Because this passion is God's passion. To this he will be faithful no matter what.