Here’s the sermon I’m preaching tomorrow from 2 Samuel 7:1-16. Not the usual Christmas text, but I think you’ll see the connection. I hope your final Advent Sunday in a blessed one.
David and the Subprime Housing Crisis
2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16
1 After the king was settled in his palace and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies around him, 2 he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a palace of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.”
4 That night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, saying:
5 “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the LORD says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? 6 I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. 7 Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” ‘
8 “Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the LORD Almighty says: I took you from the pasture and from following the flock to be ruler over my people Israel.9 I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men of the earth. 10 And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning 11 and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies.
” ‘The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you: 12 When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men. 15 But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’ “
An Old Testament Housing Crisis
The economic events of this past year have reminded us of how important the housing market is to our financial stability. Who would have thought that the phrase “subprime housing crisis” would have found its way into our everyday conversations? In this reading for today, we are encountering David’s version of a subprime housing crisis.
You remember David, the shepherd boy. David was selected by God to fill the role of king that Saul had betrayed. It would be many years, and involve much fighting before David would realize God’s promise of being king over a united Judah and Israel. But, David had finally found rest from his enemies and is at peace in his palace. He had ordered the Ark of the Covenant to be brought up to Jerusalem, and now everything seemed to be in place.
Reflecting on his fortunes one evening, David talks with the prophet Nathan. There is a restlessness in David, a restlessness that is seeking a challenge, something to occupy that strategic mind of his. A new campaign, not of fighting or warfare, but of building.
David observes that while he is comfortably reclining in the palace of the king, the Ark of God is sheltered in a tent, which is certainly not the kind of house that the manifest presence of God needs to be found in.
Nathan picks up on David’s inference, and says to the king, “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you.”
But that night, Nathan has a very different word from God. God says several things to Nathan for David’s benefit:
1. Are you the one to build Me a house?
Any right-thinking person, when asked if David was a good choice to build a house for God, would have answered, Yes! David had defeated God’s enemies, been faithful to God’s call, and had himself accompanied the Ark of God to Jerusalem, dancing in the streets before it as the Ark was carried into town. Of course David was the one to build God a house. Who else is more qualified, more dedicated, more committed to God than David? This was, of course, before David’s sin with Bathsheba, but that’s another story for later.
But for some reason, implicit in God’s question, “Are you the one?” lies the answer, No. David is not the one to build a house for God. Why? Because God has a plan.
God reminds Nathan to remind David that God brought the Israelites up out of Egypt, about 500 years before David’s time. God traveled with his people from place to place camping in their midst. And, to make his point absolutely clear, God says —
Wherever I moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”
In other words, God’s place has been with his people, and God presence had no need of a house made permanent.
You remember the story of the Tabernacle, the tent in which God camped among his people. Shortly after giving Moses the 10 commandments in Exodus 20, God gives instruction for the materials, design and construction of the tabernacle and its furnishings. So, if God needs a house, God is perfectly capable of rallying his people to build him one.
God’s point in all of this is to correct the notion that David has that David is going to do something for God. “I’m in a palace of cedar and marble,” David thinks. “I’m living better than God is. I’ll do something for God, I’ll build God a house like mine.”
The other notion that God wants to correct in David’s thinking is that God lacks anything. To begin any statement with the phrase “God needs….” is to misspeak. God does not need anything. God has no lack, only supply. God has no deficit, only abundance. God has no need, only blessing.
So, in answer to the question, “Are you the one to build Me a house?” the answer is is a resounding, No.
2. Here’s what I’ve done for you.
But, God isn’t finished with David yet. God says, Here’s what I’ve done for you:
- I took you from the pasture and from following the flock to be ruler over my people Israel. Just so we’re clear, God says, let me remind you where you came from. I took you from the pasture. You didn’t arrive at this palace because of your great military mind, your astute business skills, or your personal charm. I made you king of my people Israel.
- I have been with you wherever you have gone and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. The victories that David won, including the victory over Goliath, David owes to God. God has been with David, God has defeated David’s enemies, God has preserved David’s life. Everything David has, he owes to God, including his own life.
3. Here’s what I’m going to do for you now.
But, wait, there’s more, as the Ginsu knife commercial says. God is going to do something beyond David’s comprehension. God is going to establish the house of David forever. Forever. Israel had only had two kings, and Saul’s reign had not lasted long. David was just beginning to reign over a united kingdom. A nation that had been a ragtag assemblage of tribes and conflicting agendas had coalesced into a people, united and strong.
So, David’s offer to build God a house, a real house, resulted in God’s promise to establish David’s ancestral house forever.
God has a plan. And while we think we are doing something for God, I am sure that God just smiles and continues his business of completing his plan.
Others Announce God’s Plan
Oh, and here’s what happened with the promise God made to David. A prophet named Isaiah about 300 years after David picked up on God’s promise to David and to God’s people:
1 Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan-
2 The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death [a]
a light has dawned.
3 You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest,
as men rejoice
when dividing the plunder.
4 For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor.
5 Every warrior’s boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire.
6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, [b] Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this.
Oh, and then, about 600 years later, Luke records a very special event this way:
1In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)
3And everyone went to his own town to register.
4So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.
5He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there it is. God’s promise made real. A King of kings, a Lord of lords who would rule on David’s throne forever. God didn’t need a house, but he chose a household. And from that family line, imperfect as they were everyone, God blessed this world.
There is nothing God needs from us. Not a house, not a shrine, not our help. But what God desires from us is our obedience, our cooperation, our willingness to join his great plan to bless the world.