SHABBAT, 3 Iyar 5777 — יוֹם שַׁבָּת ג אִיָּר ה' תשעז Saturday, 29 April 2017
Where Is Your Heart?

Intro -

Today, we want to take a look at one of the most beautiful prayers to God ever recorded in the Bible. The scene of this tremendous prayer was at the largest offering ever recorded in the Bible.

Most of us don't consider offerings, the times for great prayers. And if you are wondering if we are going to take an offering, the answer is no, we don't take offerings except on special occasions, we just have a box in back for regular attendees to give.

But in our passage, King David, takes this offering, as an opportunity Praise and extol God, and to acknowledge amazing characteristics about God.

Does that seem odd? What is the connection? We kick out some dough, and David is overcome with Praise of God and his attributes.

That is what we are going to look at today, why was this so remarkable? Why was this such an occasion for praise? What can we learn about God from this Prayer? And lastly what can we learn about what God expects from us from this prayer?

Let's first take a closer look at the setting.

In verse 1, David is speaking to the entire assembly; well what assembly is that? If you go back a chapter to the start of 28, you see who is gathered. All of the officials of Israel, the princes of the tribes, the commanders of divisions that served the king, the commanders of thousands, and the commanders of hundreds, and the overseers of all the property and livestock and all the valiant and mighty men.

Basically, anybody who is somebody. A convention of Big Machers. And what is the occasion? This is actually the last address we know of David ever making. He is at the end of his life, and he is handing the reigns over to his son, Solomon. Its about 971 BC. And David is making preparations for the building of the first Temple.

If you remember, it was in David's heart to build it, but God said, "you will not build it for you are a man of War, but your son will build it. Well the last 8 chapters of 1st Chronicles are dedicated to carefully showing all the preparations for the building of this temple. David explains to his son, all the exact plans God has given for how it is to be built. He put together and organized the priests and levites; he organized the people dedicated to leading worship, he set apart those who would manage the funds, who would be the guards, everything down to the last details of how Solomon was to build this Temple.

And he keeps telling everybody, like in verse 1 of chapter 29, "My son Solomon is young and inexperienced, and the work is great" Boy, Jewish parents never change, "your young, inexperienced, do it this way" "Look at all I've done for you"

But seriously, David had reason for concern as he said in chapter 22, "...the house that is to be built for the Lord shall be exceedingly magnificent, famous and glorious throughout all lands." Because this temple, was to be for the Lord.

So the last preparation to be made was a capital campaign. He is going to raise money for it and that is where we are.

Now it says in verse 2, he has already provided much for the house. You see this in chapter 22 as well; it talks of a staggering amount, which David had already set aside for the building of the temple. Probably most of it came from plundering surrounding nations.

Plundering can be a profitable business. As a kid, I always wanted to become a plunderer.

The plundered money wasn't sufficient. And to tell you the truth, I am not sure it was because there wasn't enough money, this was a ton of money. I think David knew he had to give the people this opportunity to give as well. But that is purely speculation, so ignore it.

We see David saying here, that on top of all the preparations I have made, I am going to kick in out of my own money. Then he goes on to tell them exactly what he is kicking in.

I think most people would think this a horror if a leader did this, just stand in front of the people and announce exactly what he is giving. And boy did David kick it in, 3000 talents of Gold, a talent is about 75 pounds, this is 110 tons of Gold, 7000 talents of silver, that's 260 tons.

Then David says to these leaders at the end of verse 5, "who then will consecrate himself to the Lord." Now that is an offering schpiel! I am giving incredible amounts to the House of my God, what are you going to do? Who is going to consecrate himself, literally fill his hand to the Lord?

And wow, did the people respond

They gave 5,000 talents, and 10,000 darics of gold, 10,000 talents of silver, 18,000 talents of brass, 100,000 talents of iron. Again, there are 75 pounds to a talent.

You cannot wrap your mind around these quantities. They are almost inconceivable. When I was in Namibia, Nici's grandfather gave me a Kruger-rand. It's a coin, which is one ounce of pure Gold, worth about $350 today. I actually got a gold filling this week, it cost me about $350 but I don't think it was a Kruger-rand. In any case, imagine this coin, maybe a roll of 20 of them, 5 rolls to make a hundred, imagine a thousand of them now. Well, the gold these leaders kicked in was 6 million ounces or 6 million of these coins, 2 billion dollars worth, and that is just the Gold the leaders gave.

All in total, between the amounts set aside by David in chapter 22, what he put in here and what the leaders put in, there was some 93 million pounds of precious metals dedicated for the temple. I believe I read the total gathered would have had an approximate value of 20 Billion.

Boggles the mind. Like a said, it was a big offering. So you see in verse 9,

The people rejoiced, and King David rejoiced. Then it says David then blessed the Lord in the sight of all the Assembly.

Now this is the prayer I want to talk about. I think this prayer contains the key to a real understanding of what all this rejoicing is really about. I want to concentrate on three attributes of God, which David brings out in this prayer.

1st - Our God is a God who gives

2nd - Our God is a God who tests

3rd - Our God is a God who delights

He begins his prayer, Baruch ata adonai, elohei Israel, avinu, Blessed are you Lord, God of Israel, avinu, our father, me-olam v' od olam, from everlasting ... unto everlasting, forever and ever.

Yours O. Lord is the greatness, the power, the glory, the majesty, the splendor. Everything in heaven and earth are yours O'Lord.

Wealth and honor, they come from you. You are the ruler over everything.

Completely sovereign. Everything comes from God, and he rules over everything.

David goes on to say,

in your hands is strength and power to exalt and to give strength.

It is God who gives strength to people, who exalts them, who gives them riches and honor.

It is amazing what a liberating revelation it is to us, when we really absorb this reality. That everything is God's, he has made everything, and all of creation including ourselves are his. That everything is a gift. How that changes they way you view your life.

I was in Maine a couple of weeks ago. After I had spoke in a church I had a meal with someone. There were some people in the restaurant who had seen me speak. After we had gotten the meal, the waitress came over and said that the couple who just left had paid for our meal. How humbling it was. It was a unique experience; suddenly we both had this overwhelming feeling of grace. Even the food that was in front of me, originally when they gave it to me, and I thought I was paying, I was actually quite disappointed with it to tell you the truth, Palermo, Maine is not exactly high dining. But suddenly when I looked down, and realized it was a gift from someone. It just changed my view of the plate entirely; suddenly I had an amazing sense of gratitude and thankfulness for my pancakes. I praised God for my pancakes.

David here is acknowledging before the assembly of all the most important men of Israel, the most accomplished, the most influential, the wealthiest...that everything is God's, and everything comes from God. It's not really yours anyway,

And David reflects on all that the Lord is, and all that He gives, he says in verse 13:

"we give you thanks, and we praise your glorious name."

But then David reflects on the irony of this whole event, how can we even be glad, when we have simply given to you what you have given us.

Here in verse 14, he says,

"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."

What right have we to rejoice or think much of this?

He goes on, who are we,

"we are aliens and strangers in your sight, as were all our forefathers. Our days on earth are like a shadow."

We are nothing. This word for stranger here, gets translated all kinds of ways, sojourners, pilgrims, tenants. To-sha-viim. The idea is that you are temporary. All of us on this earth, are just tenants, this place isn't ours, the house we are in is not ours, we are all just tenants of God's property, there is not a real owner among us.

It may feel like you own something, but we don't really, we will die, and it will be pass to someone else. As they say, "you can't take it with you."

Howard Hughes may have been the world's richest man, but he didn't really own anything, he was just a tenant too, but now he has given up his lease and doesn't use any of it.

So David in a sense holds up his hands, at this quandary in verse 16.

O LORD our God, as for all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name, it comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you.

So what is this all about? What reason to we have for rejoicing? None of it was ours anyway, it was God's, and then we just let him have it back.

But then he says.

In verse 17,

"I know my God, you test the heart."

God is a God who gives, but he is also a God who tests.

What is testing?

There are some different words for testing in the Tenach. But this one Bohen is unique in that it almost always appears with God as the subject or the tester. Almost always used in regard to testing in the spiritual realm. Not testing objects, or things between men, but God testing what's in a man.

to quote the theological wordbook, "(Bohen) denotes examining to determine essential qualities, especially integrity."

And here it says he tests the heart, Levav. The heart, the seat of the mind, the emotions, the personality, the will. God tests it.

The God of the Bible is not one who sits back and waits to judge you after you die, or is detached from this world. No, he is intimate with his creation, he is intimate with us, he knows all our ways, and he tests our hearts. As it is written:

Jer. 12:3 Yet you know me, O LORD; you see me and test my thoughts about you

Prov. 17:3 The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart.

And the spiritual man recognizes this and even seeks if from the Lord.

Psa. 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.

So how is this event a test of the heart?

This was David's challenge to them, that's why he gave first, he essentially turned to them and asked,

"Do you really believe all of this is God's, that it is God who has given you wealth? That you are really just a tenant? Where is your heart, if you believe these things, you will be willing to give them back to their owner for the building of His house."

David's exhortation here to get in touch with reality, reminds of an exhortation Y'shua gave to his disciples. He said:

Luke 12:22 _ Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear.

Luke 12:23 Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.

Luke 12:24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!

Luke 12:25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

Luke 12:26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

Luke 12:27 _ "Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.

Luke 12:28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!

Luke 12:29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it.

Luke 12:30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them.

Luke 12:31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

Luke 12:32 _ "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.

Luke 12:33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.

Luke 12:34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. David is asking people, "where is your treasure?"

David stood up in front of the assembly, and told them what he gave, in a sense saying, the Lord is my treasure, and my heart.

Oh, Israel where is your treasure, where is your heart? The Lord is testing you.

But lets be careful here, yes, this situation may be a test with their wealth, but God's tests of our hearts do not stop there.

Do we understand that all the abilities we have God has given us,

* all our stations in life,

* all the opportunities we have,

* all our relationships,

everything is his. And the Lord will test us, are we willing to see them as his. Are we willing to give them to him?

When Esther was raised up as queen, Mordecai turns to her, and challenges her to go to the King about Haman's threat, but she says I may die, but what was Mordecai's challenge, " who knows if you have been raised up for such a time as this?"

Perhaps this is why God has elevated you to here. Are you willing to give it back to him? Where is your heart Esther?

Moses was raised in the palace, are you willing to suffer on behalf of God's people and give up your position. Are you willing to give this all to God. Where is your heart Moses?

Abraham, will you offer your son? Do you know I gave it to you, I have a promise through him? Will you trust me? Where is your heart Abraham?

And this chapter describes another test? This one to the nation's leaders.

Oh Israel, where is your heart? Am I your treasure? Am I your exceedingly great reward?

Then what happened, they passed, they offered up gifts beyond the imagination. Gold, silver, bronze, precious stones all for the Lord. They praised God, for they had confessed the Lord is their treasure.

The Lord delights in this.

Because God is not just a God who gives and who tests, but also one who delights.

And as David continues in verse 17, he says

I also know that you are a God who delights in uprightness.

Again God is personal with his creation. God delights in his children. He takes pleasure in them. As it says in Zephaniah:

Zeph. 3:17 The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing."

Sometimes it is hard for us to imagine God taking pleasure, that God actually enjoys things, and is pleased with them. But he is. What a verse from Zephaniah. "he will take great delight in you, he will rejoice over you. "

Is God's pleasure with us, so hard to understand? We are his children. Think of the pleasure a parent takes in their child. The joy the parents feels as the child grows, learns, as they begin to walk and talk.

I know many new believers, who ask me, "but how do I pray? I sound stupid, I am embarrassed."

I respond, "what do you think about when your child starts talking for the first time?"

Are you really thinking about content?

Are you expecting to learn something from your child? Of Course not, you just want to hear from them. And when they say daddy or mommy, you rejoice over them. You delight. So God delights to hear us talk to him.

And what a parent is most blessed over is their Child's love. That is the joy! I don't have kids yet, but I think I have experienced some of this joy even here at the congregation.

One morning, I was holding up the end of the Tallit as we were singing with the kids. Little Noah Levitz, about 2 years old, looks up at me, and with a big smile, he stumbles over to me and hugs me. I melted.

God longs for our affections; he longs for us, to long for him, to look for him.

As there are many parents who have children who refuse to receive their love, so God has many children who will not look to him, who will not receive from him, who will not call on him.

God did not make us little robots. Or else using the term love to describe our relationship with God would be impossible. Love requires a decision to both love and be loved.

What kind of marriage would you have if the spouse had no choice but be with you? It's the fact that your spouse has chosen to make you the object of their love that melts you, that delights you.

God wants us to choose for him. That is why David knew God delighted over the leaders of Israel giving so generously.

As it says in both verse 9 and verse 17, they offered willingly, and with a whole heart.

God delights in those whose hope is in him. God's pleasure is his children looking to him, their contentness with his will, and his hand to look after them.

Psalm 147:10-11

Psa. 147:10 His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man;

Psa. 147:11 the LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.

John Piper writes about this verse:

God is not displeased with the strength of a horse and the legs of a man as good things that he has made. He is displeased with those who hope in their horses and in their legs. He is displeased with people who put their hope, for example, in missiles or in make-up, in tanks or tanning parlors, in bombs or bodybuilding. God takes no pleasure in corporate efficiency or balanced budgets or welfare systems or legal processes, when these things are the treasure in which we hope or the achievement in which we boast. Why? Because when we put out hope in horses and legs, then horses and legs get the glory, not God."

Thus when we say God exults over his people with loud singing, we mean he exults over those who hope in his love."

Piper is not saying there is anything wrong in itself with any of those things, he is saying it is wrong to hope in them, to look to them for deliverance, because you give them glory, glory that should be God's. Hope that should only be in God.

Basically if you hope in something else, you are cheating on God.

Again, that is why David knows God is delighted here. The people spoke from their wallets; our hope is in you Lord, not our wallet, not our riches, it's all yours anyway.

When God said to Israel here, "where is your heart?" Israel said to God, "our heart is yours." You are our only hope."

And God delights.

And that is why David goes on and closes this remarkable prayer with a request:

In verse 18, he continues,

O'Lord, God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep this desire in the hearts of your people forever and keep their hearts loyal to you. And give my Son Solomon, wholehearted devotion,

"or an undivided heart to keep my commandments."

David as he rejoiced over the people, stood before God and asked, please Lord, keep this in their hearts, keep it in my son's heart.

And in verse 20, he says to the people,

"Now praise the Lord your God."

And it says that all praised him, bowing low and even prostrate on the ground.

Now to us. Do we believe these things?

Do we believe God is the God who gives everything? Let me confess this is a very hard for me, especially as I go to buy a house. If this is really all God's, and I am not a real owner, but just a tenant and a steward of God's resources he has entrusted to me, why am I so anxious and worried?

This should transform the way I am looking at this. And Frankly, God has been showing that He is in charge, I don't need to hold the steering wheel so tight.

And Do we believe he tests us, I believe it with all my heart, and it scares me. God is going to put challenges in our lives, "opportunities" to show that all our gifts, abilities and resources are His. His to use as he sees fit, not as we do.

And do we really know and believe God desires to rejoice over us and take delight in us. Have we internalized this truth, that we are not to live condemnation, that God is not sitting up there waiting for us to trip up, that he is more like a parent who delights in us, hungering for us to do right, to grow up and mature into the image of his Son.

And when these tests do come to us as well. It will be the times to ask ourselves,

Where is our heart?

What is competing for our hopes?

What do we trust in?

Who do we run to?

My prayer is that we may say with Israel, the Lord is our hope and our exceedingly great reward.

And may God place this intention in our hearts. That when God tests our hearts, we too may be able to say, "Our hope is in you."