Sermon for July 18

First Reading 2 Samuel 7:1-16

Second Reading Ephesians 2:11-22

Gospel Reading Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

Sermon “Who Will Build a House for Whom?”

As we have been following David’s story the last few weeks it has been a story of nonstop action and intrigue. Now finally things are calming down and becoming stable. Do you remember how last week we read as David conquered Jerusalem and made it his new capital city? How his friend and neighbor to the north, King Hiram of Tyre, sent him craftsmen and cedar to build a magnificent palace for he and his family to live in? How he brought the Ark of the Covenant into the city with a huge celebration, with singing and dancing? Now, as they say the party is over, and David has time to sit back and consider things. David is feeling awe and wonder at it all and perhaps a little unworthy as he reflects on how far God has brought him – from a young shepherd boy to fugitive outlaw to King of Israel. And so it is that one day he said to the prophet Nathan, (2 Samuel 7:2 NLT) “I am living in a beautiful cedar palace, but the Ark of God is out there in a tent!”

This is both a beautiful and problematic thought. David is secure in his capital and new palace, and his thoughts turn to the Ark sitting in the tabernacle, designed for it by God and built by Moses and his craftsmen so many years before. The whole system of screens, altars table, lamp, curtains and tent was designed to be extremely portable and it had journeyed with the Israelites from the foot of mount Sinai through the wilderness for 40 years, into the promised land for the 300+ years of the Judges and now into Jerusalem, the City of David. At first Nathan thinks that David has a fine idea and that he should proceed, But God visits Nathan that night and informs him that God has a better idea. In fact, God says (2 Samuel 7:6-7 NLT) “I have never lived in a house, from the day I brought the Israelites out of Egypt until this very day. I have always moved from one place to another with a tent and a Tabernacle as my dwelling. Yet no matter where I have gone with the Israelites, I have never once complained to Israel’s tribal leaders, the shepherds of my people Israel. I have never asked them, “Why haven’t you built me a beautiful cedar house?”

The thought of the tabernacle – the Tent of Meeting as it was also called, is a beautiful concept – God journeying with his people – leading them and guiding them on their journey. God was literally represented in their midst. The tabernacle was set up in the middle of the camp wherever they went and there God met with this nation dedicated to his presence. There are even places in the Torah that seem to prohibit extravagant, permanent constructions, almost as if they were violation of the first two commandments – listen to one of them: (Exodus 20:22-25 NIV) [22] Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites this: ‘You have seen for yourselves that I have spoken to you from heaven: [23] Do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold. [24] “ ‘Make an altar of earth for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, your sheep and goats and your cattle. Wherever I cause my name to be honored, I will come to you and bless you. [25] If you make an altar of stones for me, do not build it with dressed stones, for you will defile it if you use a tool on it.

Perhaps, we might even consider that a permanent temple, even the one to be built by David’s son Solomon was not what God apparently intended, rather it seems and accommodation to the desires of the people – like when they asked to have a king rather than trusting God to appoint Judges as the occasion arose. You see, a temple is limited to one location, people come to it, pray, sing and worship and then go away from it – to come back at some future time. It is inherently different than the thought of God who journeys with you day by day.

Such a beautiful thought – God is the one who goes with us as we journey through life. Wherever we go, God journeys with us – we don’t have to go somewhere special to find God, God is with us and God is for us. That is why God goes on the briefly remind David of the journey they have been on together, as God proclaims (2 Samuel 7:8-9 NLT)

“Now go and say to my servant David, ‘This is what the LORD has declared: I took you from tending sheep in the pasture and selected you to be the leader of my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have destroyed all your enemies before your eyes. Now I will make your name as famous as anyone who has ever lived on the earth!”

God’s journey with David is by no means complete, and God’s plans will extend on through David’s descendants as well: (2 Samuel 7:11-16 NLT) ”Furthermore, the LORD declares that he will make a house for you – a dynasty of kings! For when you die and are buried with your ancestors, I will raise up one of your descendants, your own offspring, and I will make his kingdom strong. He is the one who will build a house-a temple-for my name. And I will secure his royal throne forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. If he sins, I will correct and discipline him with the rod, like any father would do. But my favor will not be taken from him as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from your sight. Your house and your kingdom will continue before me for all time, and your throne will be secure forever.”

Basically, God’s message to David boils down to something like this – I have been with you all along and now I have given you a secure place to live – a House. Now, you want to build me a house – a temple, which I have not asked for. Instead God promises to establish a different kind of house for David, not the kind you put together with stone and Cedar timbers, but the kind that refers to a Dynasty.

Here is an incredible promise to David and as we will see to us as Christians as well. His line would be established forever! Now God does not make idle promises. Forever, with God means literally forever. However, the history of Israel gives us cause to wonder, since we note that there has not been a king in David’s line on the throne of Israel for over 2000 years – not since the Babylonian exile in fact. You see, David’s children did fall away – frequently. Of the 20 or so Kings descended from David, only 8 are considered righteous – and of course none of them were perfect – not even David himself. Yet the promise of God remains true in a way more wonderful than David could know. The promise came to be known to the Jewish people as the promise of a messiah – God’s anointed one who would deliver God’s people yet again.

We Christians look to this promise as a prophesy ultimately fulfilled in our Lord and Savior Jesus – descended from the line of David as both Matthew and Luke make clear, and ruling forever – the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise to David – as the prophet Isaiah wrote of a day of hope that would come when all seemed lost: (Isaiah 11:1-9 NIV) [1] A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. [2] The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord— [3] and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; [4] but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. [5] Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. [6] The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. [7] The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. [8] The infant will play near the cobra’s den, the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. [9] They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”

These words of beauty and hope reach forward all the way to the eventual reign of Christ on earth in the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God. This is the ultimate goal of God’s creation – God’s people living in harmony with each other and in fellowship with their creator, redeemer and sustainer forever. Paul sees the church as an early form of that eventual blessed promise. It is to be another type of House to consider. That is he was writing to the church at Ephesus about. It describes a special kind of a house designed constructed by God, but not with timber and stone. Listen to these words, first just before our reading: Ephesians 2:8-10

[8] For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— [9] not by works, so that no one can boast. [10] For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

The result is as we heard before: (Ephesians 2:19-22 NLT)

[19] So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. [20] Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. [21] We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. [22] Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.

God tells us that we are part of this divine building project that stills goes on. The house of God. It is not some one special place, but a unity of heart and mind in service to the God who created all of us and binds us together. We are to be a kind of living temple. God does not dwell in a particular building, though we have built him many. Rather it is the gracious will of God to dwell with those who he has made in his image and redeemed though his Son, our Lord Jesus. Through his grace and love, we are made worthy to be the dwelling place of the very Spirit of God. That is a high and holy calling indeed. But this is not a solitary thing. We are individual blocks, which together make up the the whole. In other places Paul uses the image of different parts of the body, each insufficient by itself, but essential to the whole and of course, mutually dependent on each other. Likewise here, each is a portion of the whole structure with Christ as the chief corner stone. We – all of us together are to be the very house of God – founded on the Rock – our Savior Jesus Christ.