In the midst of its lengthy genealogies and bloody battles, I’ve been struck by the extent to which 1 Chronicles stresses the necessity of dependence on God. King David demonstrates this sense of dependence through appealing to God for help and guidance (14:10), while his disastrous decision to take a census was sinful precisely because it sought strength in numbers and so turned away from trusting God (1 Chronicles 21).
The theme of dependence is also reflected in three prayers of David found throughout 1 Chronicles.
The first follows the arrival of the ark to Jerusalem (16:7-36), and – as a ‘Psalm of thanksgiving’ – recounts with gratitude the blessings God has given Israel. ‘Glory and strength’ are ascribed to the Lord (16:28), and the whole world is called to proclaim that the ‘Lord is King’ (16:31). The salvation of the nation is wholly due to the Lord, rather than to human activity.
David’s second prayer (17:16-27) is private rather than public, and follows Nathan’s prophetic announcement that the Lord will ‘build a house’ for one of his descendents, and establish his throne for ever (17:11-14) – a prophecy the New Testament sees fulfilled in Jesus. In his prayer of response, David wonders why God has chosen him as a beneficiary of such a promise (17:16). David is simply a ‘servant’ (17:18-19), and such mercy and grace can only be a source of wonder and praise (17:20-22).
The third and final prayer occurs in 1 Chronicles 29, and – as in chapter 16 – is given within a public setting. Following a collection for the construction of the Temple, which David’s son Solomon will begin, David again offers praise and thanksgiving for all that God has done (29:10-19). God’s work within Israel was a matter of grace, since God is the giver of all such gifts. As David puts it, ‘all things come from you, and of your own have we given you’ (29:14b).
Each prayer closes with blessing the Lord (16:36; 17:27; 29:20), and the final prayer also ends with the whole community prostrating themselves before God (29:20). It is striking that as a king David recognises his need for God. Although holding political power in the land, David knows that there is a ruler and authority greater than he.
Although we may not be kings or queens, new forms of technology give us the capacity (and power!) to acquire knowledge and to network with others in ways unknown to previous generations. We may not rule countries, but we rule our time and activities, including our use of social media and the internet.
In our online as we as our offline activities, then, how might we retain the sense of dependence on God reflected in the prayers of David?
How does following Christ as Lord affect the way we navigate the streams of information that flow across our screens?
And in a culture filled with information and activity, how can we keep time for prayer?