Monday, February 19, 2007

"I Give It All" - Devotional Thoughts on 1 Chronicles 21

To set the stage, King David had just acted foolishly by calling for a census of the people Israel. This census was not called for by God or one of the priest or prophets who spoke for Him, but by David himself and this in itself was sinful (cf. Num 1:2ff; 4:21ff; Ex 30:11ff). It would appear from the context given in 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21 that this census was driven militarily. David commanded Joab, the commander of his army, to conduct the numbering process (as opposed to one of his secretaries) and coupled with Joab’s report of “men who drew the sword” (1 Chr 21:5) this inclination is most likely true. By virtue of the Law that was given to Moses long before the establishment of the monarchy in Israel, a future king would have been required to physically write out a copy of the Book of the Law for himself:

"And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.” (Deut 17:18-20)
Joab also must have been aware of the dangers of calling for a census when the people were not ritually prepared (Ex 30:11-16) as he pleaded of David “Why should [the census] be a cause of guilt for Israel?” (1 Chr 21:3d). But David rebelled against the command of the Lord and thus fell victim to the gracious discipline of the Lord.

After the Lord had relented from the calamity that he was bringing upon the people of Israel and even stayed the hand of the Angel of the Lord from destroying Jerusalem, He sent a message to Gad who spoke to David with authority from on high. We pick up the narrative here:

1Chr 21 18 Now the angel of the LORD had commanded Gad to say to David that David should go up and raise an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. 19 So David went up at Gad's word, which he had spoken in the name of the LORD. 20 Now Ornan was threshing wheat. He turned and saw the angel, and his four sons who were with him hid themselves. 21 As David came to Ornan, Ornan looked and saw David and went out from the threshing floor and paid homage to David with his face to the ground. 22 And David said to Ornan, "Give me the site of the threshing floor that I may build on it an altar to the LORD-give it to me at its full price-that the plague may be averted from the people." 23 Then Ornan said to David, "Take it, and let my lord the king do what seems good to him. See, I give the oxen for burnt offerings and the threshing sledges for the wood and the wheat for a grain offering; I give it all."

When asked for his threshing floor, the instrument that was used to procure his livelihood, Ornan says “I give it all.” David had only asked for the site of the threshing floor which we later see was the site of Solomon’s temple (1 Chr 22:1) but Ornan says “I give it all.” He offers his oxen as an offering, the wood of the threshing sledges to be used as kindling for the burnt offering and even the wheat to be used as a grain offering. “I give it all.” Ornan clings to nothing, rather, he dedicates all to the Lord and for His purpose.

The attitude of Ornan stands in sharp contrast to that of King David. David, by calling for the census to take inventory of the king’s wealth and military prowess he was concerned with his own priorities. David, measuring the weight of silver and gold and other precious stones and counting the number of men who would willingly lay down their lives for the king, only sought to serve himself. Ornan said “I give it all” while David was saying “I want it all.” David neglected the great truth that it was the Lord who gave him the victories over other nations (1 Chr 18:6, 13). David forgot that it was the Lord who brought Israel into the land in the first place (Josh 1:1-9). David disregarded the reality “that the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD's” (1 Sam 17:47). David lost sight of the fact that the true treasure of Israel was to be found in the certainty they were a people who were chosen, not on behalf of their own righteousness but because of God’s great mercy (Deut 9:5; Dan 9:18-19) who had the privilege of being called by His name (1 Chr 17:21).

David said, “I want it all” and thus brought pestilence and judgment on the nation of Israel. Ornan said “I give it all” and found himself in the great delight of the Lord. It must be stated that the Lord will discipline those whom He loves (Pro 12:1; Heb 12:6) and therefore, the discipline that David found himself in should be seen as act of God’s mercy and grace even though it came in the form of destruction. It could have been worse. The Lord will discipline for the purposes of His glory those whom He has chosen to take great delight in, but this is not a cause for licentiousness so that grace may abound all the more (Rom 6:1ff). He will gain glory either way, for His ultimate purpose will always be achieved, but our heart’s cry should be to glorify God in our obedience to His revealed will prior to His gaining glory as a result of our sinfulness.

I want to be like Ornan. I want to say “Lord, I give it all. Take all that I have and all that I am for the purposes of Your glory so that ‘in me, as the foremost [of sinners], Jesus Christ might display His perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in Him for eternal life’ (1 Tim 1:16).” But, the truth is that my depravity leads me so far away from this reality. I cling to so many things. I embrace so much of this world and what it appears to offer as a satisfaction for my soul. I have often sung the words “I surrender all, all to Thee my Blessed Saviour, I surrender all” and have never been able to say with absolute conviction that I indeed live this way. I want to, but thus far have been unable to do so.

Father, thank You for calling me unto Yourself and for uniting me with a peculiar people who are called by Your name. Please grant me the desire to want nothing other than for Your glory, Your name, and Your renown to be spread among the nations (Is 26:8). Please grant me the desire to say “I give it all” and to trust that You will be all that I ever need. I know that this is only possible when I come to the truth that I have been crucified with You so that it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives within me (Gal 2:20). Make this the true cry of my heart. Cause me to willingly sing of Your grace that calls me to surrender. Let me not boast in the accomplishment of my surrender, but only in the cross of Jesus Christ that enables such a surrender to be possible. It is for the sake of Christ’s name I pray, Amen and Amen.

I Surrender All by J.W. Van Deventer

1. All to Jesus I surrender;
all to him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust him,
in his presence daily live.

I surrender all, I surrender all,
all to thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.

2. All to Jesus I surrender;
humbly at his feet I bow,
worldly pleasures all forsaken;
take me, Jesus, take me now.

3. All to Jesus I surrender;
make me, Savior, wholly thine;
fill me with thy love and power;
truly know that thou art mine.

4. All to Jesus I surrender;
Lord, I give myself to thee;
fill me with thy love and power;
let thy blessing fall on me.

5. All to Jesus I surrender;
now I feel the sacred flame.
O the joy of full salvation!
Glory, glory, to his name!

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