Day 2: Generosity and Israel
“But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you.” – 1 Chronicles 29:14 (emphasis added)
It is easy to forget who really owns things.
- Children lose sight of the fact that their toys are gifts and instead treat them as inherent rights.
- Teenagers are prone to forget their room, car, and meals are provided to them through the generosity of their parents.
- Newlyweds have a difficult time adjusting to the idea of shared property, still treating their time and resources as though they belonged to them individually.
God owns all things. Everything we have is a gift from him. When we lose sight of this fact, we behave as spoiled children. When we see all things as gifts from God, we praise Him and make offerings to Him. Unfortunately, it is easy to forget who owns all things.
In his prayer, David reminds himself and God’s people that everything they have is on loan from God. David considers it a privilege to give some of the LORD’s own wealth back to him: “For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you.” He only gives to God what belongs to God in the first place. Even more, David recognized how privileged Israel was to have been chosen as the people to whom the LORD revealed himself. David’s words were spoken as Israel made preparations to build the temple, the place where God instituted rituals to be repeated in order to teach His children important truths about Himself and their relationship to Him.
Repetition is an important part of learning. Children learn the alphabet and the Bible by memorizing and repeating it. It is why coaches put their athletes through the same drills day after day. Repetition makes something more natural and less forgettable.
God taught Israel through repetition. They built a temple according to His instructions. It was a sanctuary, a place of worship. Yet, it was also a schoolhouse, where God taught His people through the ceremonies He instituted. God gave Israel daily, weekly, and annual rituals to remind them that He is Lord of all things. More importantly, they made offerings to God as part of their temple rituals. As David said, “of your own have we given you.”
What was God trying to teach His people through the rituals of the temple? Everything belongs to Him, and giving is an essential part of worship.
Repetition was important for God’s people in the Old Testament and it remains important today. We are encouraged to gather ourselves weekly because we need to be reminded that God is Lord over all things. We also need to be reminded of the gift of his Son to us. In the New Testament, God provides the sacrifice in the form of his Son. The gift of his Son compels gifts of our own. The New Testament reinforces the importance of “not neglecting to meet together” (Heb. 10:24) and to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1). We come together and we offer our whole lives to God because he has already offered himself to us.
Worship and offerings were at the core of Israel’s life. As the Israelites entered the temple their senses were overwhelmed with evidences of God’s generosity: the smell of the incense, the glittering of the gold, the light from the candles, and more. They saw an angelic host surrounding them with images of the cherubim woven into the curtains. Even the bread of presence would have likely reminded the Israelites of God’s provision of manna in the wilderness.
Wherever Israel turned, the temple reminded them God is Lord and God is good. This remains true for Christians today. Everywhere we look, we see evidences of God’s generosity. From the basic aspects of life (food, shelter, work, etc.) to the proclamation of the gospel, we experience God’s hand of provision. Like the Israelites, it should lead us to worship and make offerings to God.
All that we are and all that we have comes from God. He is Lord of all things.
- The New Testament writers commonly name the body of believers as the fulfillment of the image of the temple in the Old Testament. So Paul says in 1 Cor 6:19-20: “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” How can you “give back” your body to God and “glorify God with your body” (see also 2 Cor 6:16)?
- In the letter to the Ephesians, Paul says that those who are in Christ are members of God’s household, and that he is building his people up together into a temple, with Christ as its cornerstone. “In [him] the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord” (Eph 2:21). How are you growing together with others in Christian community that makes its foundation on Jesus Christ? How can you encourage one another to give back “all things” to God that he has so generously given to you?
All things come from you, O God, and we give back to you only what is already yours. As a gracious gift, you have dwelt among us in the person of Jesus Christ. You have poured out your Spirit that unifies us into one body and that comforts us until you dwell among us once again. Through your Spirit, O Lord Jesus Christ, give us the power to offer our bodies back to you, even if it means giving up our lives for the sake of your kingdom. While in this body which you call your temple, give us the same generous spirits that moved you to move toward us, even when it meant your death. Amen.