Posted: 21 Nov 2010 11:00 PM PST
FIRST CHRONICLES 17 FAIRLY CLOSELY parallels 2 Samuel 7. In both passages, David expresses his desire to build a "house" for God. The prophet Nathan initially approves the project, and then, after receiving explicit revelation from God, presents David with a very different picture. Far from David building a "house" for God, God will build a "house" for David—that is, a "household" (as the original word is ambiguous, the play on the meaning intentional). The "house" or "household" that God will build for David is nothing other than the Davidic dynasty. David's line will never suffer the fate of Saul and his line. When David's line sins, God's judgments will be temporal (1 Chron. 17:12–14); the line will not be destroyed.
David responds in a moving prayer (1 Chron. 17:16–27) pulsating with gratitude. The prayer is wonderfully God-centered; David is fully aware that if his line is treated so differently from that of Saul, the ultimate difference is grace. So the closing words of the prayer are frankly touching and revealing: "You, my God, have revealed to your servant that you will build a house for him. So your servant has found courage to pray to you. O LORD, you are God! You have promised these good things to your servant. Now you have been pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever in your sight; for you, O LORD, have blessed it, and it will be blessed forever" (1 Chron. 17:26–27).
One must not forget, however, that these words must be read as part of a two-volume work—1 and 2 Chronicles—whose storyline ends in unmitigated disaster for the Davidic line—apart from the last two verses of 2 Chronicles, which offers a sliver of hope. Today we automatically place them within the larger framework of the Bible's storyline, and see where they fit into the pattern that brings forth Jesus, the ultimate Davidic king. But the first readers did not enjoy our perspective; the unknown compiler who put together the court records and other sources, covering about five hundred years of history, into the form of our "1 and 2 Chronicles," did not enjoy our perspective.
Mere cynicism, or the brutality of their experience under the Exile, might have led them to downplay the words we find here in 1 Chronicles 17:27: "Now you have been pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever in your sight; for you, O LORD, have blessed it, and it will be blessed forever." Instead, the words function for them as a stabilizing promise when all of their recent experience seemed to controvert them. In short, they show us what it means to walk by faith in the promises of God, and not by sight.
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