David became greater and greater, for the LORD of hosts [was] with him.
1 Chronicles 11:9
The first nine verses of chapter eleven are the account of the establishing of David as king of Israel and David capturing and rebuilding the city of Jerusalem and making it the capital of the kingdom of Israel. One item of note is that The Bible records a people group living in the city of Jerusalem before the Israelites — under David’s leadership — conquer and rebuild it: the Jebusites.
This is noteworthy, in part, because it is consistent with The Bible‘s complete portrayal of things. The Bible does not pull punches on its heroes or villains. People are on display as being completely human — even the greatest men and women of faith. Locations are not given into the ownership of the Israelites without them dispossessing another people group. Our modern Western sensibilities often recoil at thoughts of that sort of conquest, but the truth is that it was commonplace in the ancient world. And the Israelites would later be dispossessed of the very same land by other nations. It is not an endorsement or a condemnation by The Bible, though some of the property swaps are foretold by prophets. It is merely a statement of fact.
Which brings me to this morning’s verse. Since I take the rest of this passage as being simply factual, I also take the statement that David became greater and greater, for the LORD of hosts [was] with him as fact. And that is where I find my application. God being with David is was made him (David) great. If I want to be great, then I must live in such a way as the LORD can be with me.
Not all of David’s greatness is the greatness to which I want to attain. I do not want the military prowess or the governmental authority or even the notoriety as a great writer, though I am grateful for being able to make my living with my pen, as it were. The greatness to which I would attain is that David is known as the man after God’s own heart. I would have that said of me. The great men and women of faith received titles to which I ought to want to attain: friend of God, father of faith, man after God’s own heart. The only path to this sort of greatness is the path walked beside God in fellowship with Him.
Father, thank You for the men and women whose titles challenge me to seek more in my relationship with You. Thank You that Your Word does not flinch from speaking Truth, but does so plainly. Please stoke the fire in my heart that I might burn for more; might seek to, as the song says, see You more clearly, follow You more dearly, love You more dearly day by day.
And they were all amazed at the greatness of God.
Have I been amazed at God’s greatness; God’s majesty recently?
The Bible tells me that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His greatness is undiminished. His majesty just as majestic as it ever was or will be. Does it still amaze me?
God has not stopped working in the world. While the crowd in this verse was amazed at God’s greatness after Jesus casts out a demon from a child, this does not mean that God is not still doing miraculous things. I know those who have experienced those miraculous doings. I have been the object of miraculous doings. Does it still amaze me?
Like all things, my amazement can become commonplace. I can come to expect God to do the unexpected; anticipate that God will do things that blow my mind. And in so doing inure my mind to the impossible things that are just another Wednesday for God. For Him, the amazing is commonplace. For me, it should remain amazing.
That my wife loves me, despite all my faults and flaws and shortcomings amazed me at the first. I need to regularly come back to the stark reality of how little I deserve her love in order to remain amazed by it. Likewise, I need to remember that God sees nothing as unanticipated — His omniscience prevents Him from being amazed or surprised — but His anticipation of a thing does not mean that I cannot be amazed at what He has done. In point of fact, I should be amazed at what He does. He does the impossible. How can I allow that to become my normal?
I need to forbid myself to become accustomed to God’s greatness. It must inspire my awe every time I encounter it. And I encounter His greatness anew every morning in the form of His mercies.
I need to permit myself the wonder; the childlike amazement at what God does. My daughter teaches me much and her gasp of delighted amazement when I do something of which she is simply not capable and the answering spark of joy in my heart at her wonder are a regular reminder that my amazement at God’s greatness is not only appropriate and acceptable but brings joy to the heart of my Father in Heaven.
Let me delight in my Lord’s greatness and in so doing delight His heart.
“Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”
I find that I need this reminder from time to time — the reminder that humility is a good thing in God’s kingdom and that striving after greatness is not what I am called to. Admittedly, the verses preceding say that the greatest among believers will be the servant of all, so seeking to serve my brothers and sisters could be a form of striving after greatness, but only insofar as greatness is encapsulated in Christ, Who took the form of a bondservant.
Sometimes — just sometimes — I fantasize about being a successful author and all the things that might come along with that. I am not a successful author, thus obviously have no clue what one’s life looks like. Sometimes, I daydream about what it would be like to be successful as the world counts success. I am often disappointed at where the reveries end.
While monetary success would be nice — who would not like the opportunity to be free from concerns about the cost of a house or the availability of jobs — that is not what Jesus talks about in this morning’s verse. He reminds me that the greatest in God’s eyes is not the one whose life is free from monetary concerns or able to command legions of fans, but the one who has put on Christ. Since Christ came as a servant, God expects me to be a servant. Since Christ came to set people free from bondage to sin, God expects me to preach the gospel of freedom from sin through Christ’s death and resurrection. Since Christ came to demonstrate God’s love for human beings by laying down His life for them, God expects me to demonstrate my love for Him by laying down my life. Since Christ laid aside the glory of Heaven, God expects me to lay aside whatever glory I might otherwise have and to humble myself. The greatest in God’s kingdom are those who are most like Him.
If I wish to be great in His kingdom (the only place wherein greatness means anything at all), let me learn to be like Him.
“It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Jesus is the example for every believer. He Who is greatest of all came and took the humblest position possible; died the most ignominious death; emptied Himself of glory that He might impart glory to His followers and bring still more glory to His Father.
When I find that I do not want great things for myself, I am not troubled by it. That, I think, is as it should be. My concern should be to do justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with my God. I should seek to serve my brethren and to further my God’s agenda of saving souls. Anything that might happen beyond this is at God’s pleasure.
What, then, is the big deal? Well-meaning friends sometimes tell me that I should want great things for myself in God’s kingdom. This verse; this adjuration to service comes on the heels of James and John and their mother doing just that: asking Jesus for great things for them in His kingdom. Am I looking for greatness in His kingdom? Not at all. I just want to be there. I am well content to be nothing more important than a street sweeper. The invisible work is the best for me, I think, as it does not lend itself to being noticed. While I love to do things like teach and praise that — for good or ill — are noticed, being noticed is not the goal. Serving my Master well and earning His approval is.
For me, I am reminded that Godliness with contentment is great gain. I still do not want greatness — in the world or in God’s kingdom. I am well content to be one more citizen of God’s kingdom. While I may be nameless in the throng and press of those who have done great things for our Lord, I am not nameless to Him. And He is all that matters.