“Now David said, ‘Solomon my son is young and inexperienced, and the house to be built for the Lord must be exceedingly magnificent, famous and glorious throughout all countries. I will now make preparation for it.’ So David made abundant preparations before his death” (1 Chronicles 22:5 NKJV).
I have attended several gatherings of missionaries (some prefer “evangelists in foreign lands”) and one common characteristic of a great majority of those present is white hair. Most (thankfully not all) missionaries in the church today are well past middle age.
A common theme of such meetings is the need to replace ourselves with younger workers. While that is essential, David taught us by example another necessity. We must also provide from our experience and accumulated resources the tools, materials, and knowledge that the younger generation must have to be successful.
David’s great passion in his later years was the building of a temple. He had desired it soon after ascending to the throne of Israel (2 Samuel 7:2), but was not allowed to do so. Instead, God promised that David’s son Solomon would take the throne after him and he would build the temple.
As the time of transition approached, David made preparation for the temple his greatest priority. He received inspired plans for its design (1 Chronicles 28:11-12) and donated great amounts of his personal wealth to its construction (1 Chronicles 22:14). He acquired materials and skilled craftsmen, organized the service and worship to be conducted, and left everything ready for his son to implement.
David was well aware that Solomon would not be able to do all that he could do. There might be challenges to his reign. He lacked experience. He may not be able to enlist the people to support him. David could still accomplish all of that.
It is not only evangelists in distant places who are getting older. The Lord’s church in America is definitely aging. The great growth spurt in the decades after World War II is well behind us. Most congregations are at best “holding their own.” Many are declining. More than a few have closed their doors.
Will the church die with us? No! (Matthew 16:18). It is eternal and will always endure. But our congregations may well perish as many have since the first century. We pray that does not happen. But we need to add to our prayers our very best efforts to prepare for the succession of another generation – one that will be young and inexperienced and perhaps with fewer resources.
What must we do? First, we must pass on the design which God has given us, as David gave to Solomon God’s plan for the temple. The church is now his temple, built by divine hands and designed by the divine mind (Ephesians 3:9-10). It is not of human origin nor subject to human modification. We must teach God’s pattern in all things that all will obey his will (Matthew 7:21).
Second, we must instruct and encourage those who will follow us. David charged Solomon repeatedly in the closing chapters of 1 Chronicles to faithfully obey God’s laws, and to diligently build his house. Are we charging our replacements with the same clarity and urgency?
Finally, David invested his resources in God’s house. He gave much of his accumulated wealth that the temple might be magnificent. Our wills are too often all about our children and grand-children, favorite secular institutions, charities and other personal interests. Remember the rich fool who hoarded his treasure for himself and would not give to God (Luke 12:21). This is not to restrict our giving to only material things, but neither can we leave them out.
The future of the church where we know it depends in part on how well we prepare for our own death. David showed us how to do that effectively.