Know God.

As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever. Consider now, for the LORD has chosen you to build a house for the sanctuary; be strong, and do it. (1 Chronicles 28:9-10)

If you could issue the next generation any challenge, what would it be? What pursuit do you hold dearest to your heart, do you consider all-encompassing and utterly fulfilling? If you could only lay down one command, what would you say?

In 1 Chronicles 28, David is nearing the end of his life and reign as king. He has this one legacy--the kingdom God has granted him--and it is about to pass into the hands of a young, inexperienced, frightened man. The kingdom itself is a huge mess, with resentments simmering right at the surface of the division between Judah, Benjamin, and the other ten tribes. Some of David's advisors are amazing; some are hotheaded, vengeful, and jealous (here's looking at you, Joab). And a great task awaits the young Solomon--the building of God's temple. David could issue a book on foreign policy, or political theory, or Managing Difficult Personalities, or Monotheistic Architecture. Instead, David calls Solomon to an all-engrossing heart pursuit.

"Know the God of your father," David says. This is not mere knowledge, a collection of facts to stimulate the intellect. While in Hebrew this word, yadah, can denote an intellectual understanding, it actually goes much deeper when it is between people--"Now Adam knew Eve his wife" (Genesis 4:1).  David's challenge to Solomon is to cultivate intimacy with the same God David has known. What is incredible about this is that intimacy takes two. Intimacy is only possible when the other person is present, open, and willing to be known. The challenge: Know God. Cultivate intimacy with Him. Invest time, vulnerability, dependence, and effort. Cultivating intimacy is difficult work, but there is perhaps nothing else in life that is so rewarding. Before anything else that could take his time up as king, Solomon is to invest himself in knowing God. Nothing else approaches this level of importance.

David doesn't leave the challenge at knowing, however; knowing God requires action. David tells Solomon, "Serve Him." To a king, this is a challenge. Solomon must serve, rather than rule; serve, rather than lip-serve; serve, rather than negotiate terms; serve, rather than exercise his authority; serve, rather than flout his position; serve, rather than revel in his independence. True authority understands what it means to answer to a higher authority. Deuteronomy 17:18-20 calls Israel's king to write his own copy of the Book of the Law, and read it all the days of his life, so that "he may learn to fear the LORD his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel." Solomon is to rule by serving.

In this context, service does not denote bondage. "Serve Him," David elaborates, "with a loyal heart and a willing mind." David speaks from experience. Service from a loyal heart is not a response to outward pressure, but action that bubbles up from love in the inner man. The heart being right, the hands will follow. David had people who served him with loyal hearts. Three of his mighty men had fought through a garrison of Philistines to bring David a drink of water from Bethlehem's well. When David had nothing, when he was on the run from Saul, fleeing for his life in the desert, with no reward to offer, his friends served him. They stayed with him loyally when he had nothing to give them. This is service from the heart; and this is what it is to serve God with a loyal heart--to be His in the desert, to be His on the run, to be His when it doesn't look like He is King, when it doesn't seem as if His kingdom is coming. To be His in prosperity, and not to allow possessions to strip away loyalty to Him.

The adjective that describes this heart is shalem, "whole, full, at peace . . . cherishing peace and friendship" (BLB, "shalem"). This is to serve God with all your heart, with your whole heart. David is saying to Solomon, "Serve God with a heart that cherishes His friendship. Know Him, and out of knowing, which is friendship, cherish Him by serving." This is covenant-serving, out of a complete heart, with nothing held back.

Heart and mind go together. David's instruction to Solomon to serve God with a willing mind takes the service just that extra step farther. "Mind," here is the word nephesh, the "soul, self, life, seat of the appetites, seat of the passions, mind" (BLB, "nephesh"). The adjective "willing" is chaphets, "desiring, delighting, having pleasure in" (BLB, "chaphets"). The verb from which it originates is often translated as being "well pleased with." Psalm 73:25 uses this verb: "Whom have I in heaven but You, and there is none that I desire besides You." Song of Songs' refrain, "Do not stir up or awaken love until it pleases," highlights one emphasis of the verb. Isaiah exclaims, "Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him" (53:10), and he uses the verb to describe God's feelings of delight in His people and His land when He calls them "Hephzibah" and the land "Beulah" (62:4). In Micah 7:18, the verb describes how God doesn't retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy.

These images of delight are disparate; some pertain to God, some to men; some to physical things, some to the intangible. In each instance, however, delight results in commitment and action. It is a delight that does. Thus, David tells Solomon, "Serve God with a heart that cherishes His friendship and a self that delights to commit to Him in doing, a self well pleased with Him. This flows from knowing Him intimately."

Behind this challenge to know and serve God lies a profound impetus, because David adds, "For the LORD searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts." "Intents"--yetser in Hebrew--denotes the framework or blueprint underlying a person's purpose or meditation (BLB, "yetser"). The phrase itself appears first in Genesis 6:5, when God sees that the intent of the thoughts of man's heart is only evil all the time. God is always searching hearts. This charge calls Solomon to action, therefore--Solomon must know and serve God with a right heart and mind because He is already knowing Solomon.

David finishes his charge with a promise and a warning: "If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever." As a last word to a young son, this could be a downer--unless it's true. If it's true, then it's vital. Solomon gets to choose what his relationship with God will be like, and the responsibility lies firmly in his hands.

Having thus challenged Solomon, David concludes, "Consider now, for the LORD has chosen you to build a house for the sanctuary; be strong, and do it" (1 Chron. 28:10). "Choose," David says, "for you have been chosen. Seek Him, because He's already sought you. Build, for this is your purpose."

I think David models for Solomon the very thing he's challenged him to do. When David had decided to build God a house, God halted his plans, but David prepared anyway, out of sheer passion and delight in God. David now gives Solomon all the materials, already weighed for their particular purposes. He's gone as far as he can for the construction of the temple, without actually making anything. He exhibits obedience plus passion--a delighting mind and a cherishing heart. He has every piece prepared for, with the materials weighed out for each fork, every bowl, all the way up to the new mercy seat. He has all of the priests and Levites picked out for their roles, and all the craftsmen recruited and ready. This is the product of a delighting mind. God has given David one limit, and he has pushed up to the very edge of it in his zeal. He so wants to build God's house, so loves God, that he does everything he can within the limits God has set him. Knowing God, he serves Him with a cherishing heart and a delighting soul.

What better call may be issued to the next generation? What better example can be given? None. For me, then, the "so what" is a greater passion to pursue intimacy with my Creator and Sustainer, for knowing Him is to love Him, and, God helping me, to push boldly, daringly, right up against the bounds of what's possible in my ministry. I can only hope to leave something as profound as David's legacy to the next generation.

Know God, friends.

Thank you for praying for me.

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