Sunday, 22 July 2012

David sat 2 Sam 7

2 Samuel 7:1-14a

7:1 Now when the king was settled in his house, and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies around him,7:2 the king said to the prophet Nathan, "See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent."7:3 Nathan said to the king, "Go, do all that you have in mind; for the LORD is with you."7:4 But that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan:7:5 Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the LORD: Are you the one to build me a house to live in?7:6 I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle.7:7 Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, "Why have you not built me a house of cedar?"7:8 Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the LORD of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel;7:9 and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth.7:10 And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly,7:11 from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house.7:12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.7:13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.7:14a I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me.

David is in a good place. He is no longer living in the wilderness. He is no longer fighting King Saul. The country is no long torn by civil war. David has established a new capital city in Israel. David is the new king. He has moved the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. … This is the beginning of a golden age, where the people will be unified once again. David is on top of the world.

David is riding high on the wave of his success. David is full of momentum. He is full of energy. He feels unstoppable. He is full of stories of his own success. David is also in danger of being full of himself, which is always a danger for us when we meet with success. Just as a side note. The way we look at David’s life is not as an example to always be imitating. When we look at David’s life we are looking at our own lives. We are looking at a very human life. It is a human life that wants to honour God, but there are also many times that David acts inconsistent with that ideal. David’s life is not necessarily an ideal life. His life isn’t one we should always imitate. His life is much like our lives. Sometimes he’s got it, and sometimes he doesn’t. When I look back over my life there are parts of my life I wouldn’t mind my sons imitating, but there are many parts of my life I hope my sons never know about. David, like us, often has mixed motivations.

So David has met with success. David wants to keep going. He is restless. There are no more enemies to fight. There are no more cities to conquer. David wants to keep going. Bigger, more, better. “Let’s build a temple!”- David says.

He wants to build a temple to house the Ark of the Covenant. Part of this is genuine desire to honour God, but part of this might also be political maneuvering. A temple can honour God, but it can also trap God (in a way). The Ark is mobile, but that means the Ark can leave David’s city. A temple would be a stable place for God’s presence to dwell. A temple can’t leave so easily if David messes up. The Ark of the Covenant is troublingly mobile. A temple would also help establish David’s reign, and it would also help establish David’s city, Jerusalem, as the new capital city that will unite the tribes of Israel. Again we don’t want to be too suspicious, but we don’t want to be too na├»ve either. David wants to do something more to establish his rule. A temple is a good “something”. Like us David is filled with mixed motivations. He, like us, might not even be aware of it.

David mentions his idea to the prophet Nathan. David basically says, I want to build a new church and I’m going to pay for it all. And like most pastors, Nathan says “go for it”. It seems like a good idea. What pastor would say no to that?

However… Nathan hears from God that evening. And God says “no, don’t build a temple. You’re not going to build me a house. I’m going to build you a house”.

It is surprising, because it seems like it is a non-issue. It seems so obvious that it is a good thing to do that David doesn’t even think to ask God about it. It seems so obvious that the prophet Nathan tells him to go for it without even really having to think about it. Of course, build God a temple. You want to build a youth drop-in centre attached to the church and pay for youth workers for the next 10 years- of course! You have my permission! We don’t even have to ask Vestry! Do it! How could it not be the right thing to do?

God’s answer is surprising. We are so used to “doing”. We are used to being active. We are used to being asked to take part and get involved. We need Sunday School teachers. We need volunteers to support a youth ministry. We need volunteers for Coffee and for cutting the grass. Imagine being full of energy and showing up to help set up tables for some event and then those who are organizing say, “actually…. You know what? … We’re not going to set up. We’re going to go pray.” But you’re full of energy. You want to do something. You want to accomplish. More, better, bigger.

God says to David, “You’re not going to build me a house. I’m going to build you a house.” David’s building plans were going to interfere with God’s building plans.

When God said “no” David didn’t pout or get angry. Instead he did something very important- and it is an underrated activity in our world. David sat. He sat in God’s presence. He heard from God and he sat. There are times when that is what God is calling us to do. It is not always an easy thing to do. It sounds easy until you’re doing it for any length of time without a TV, or an iPod to entertain you, or a friend to talk to.

This is what one commentator said, “When David sat down before God, it was the farthest thing from passivity or resignation; it was prayer. It was entering into the presence of God, becoming aware of God’s word, trading in his plans for God’s plans, letting his enthusiasm for being a king with the authority and strength to do something for God be replaced with the willingness to become a king who would represent truly the sovereignty of God the high king.” (Eugene Peterson, Leap Over a Wall, 164).

All the good parts of David’s life come out of this stance before God. When David considers God first and then acts- When David acts when first placing his eyes on God- those are the most beautiful and powerful parts of David’s life. They are probably the most beautiful and powerful parts of our lives as well.

This is the moment when David will have to decide what kind of a king he will be. Will he be full of God or full of himself? And this is a question we all have to ask ourselves each day when brushing our teeth. Who am I living for today? We might even want to do something good, but sometimes it’s coming out of a place that’s not God.

The same commentator I just quoted said this, “When we do wrong, we usually find out soon enough and repent and get back on track. But when we do good, become pleased with ourselves and receive applause and commendation from our leaders and friends, we easily lose our sense of dependence on God and our always and ever increasingly desperate need for grace, God’s grace.”

We can lose our way, even when we think we are doing something good. In our ambition our own motivations can become just slightly twisted, so that suddenly the good thing we intend to do stops being about God and starts being about us.

I remember when I first moved to Toronto. The situation on the streets downtown was pretty overwhelming. Everywhere I turned there were people asking me for money. In Lethbridge I could “give to anyone who asks” because I really wasn’t asked that often. But, in Toronto I was getting asked 6 times on the way to get groceries and six times back. If I gave to everyone who asked in Toronto I would pretty quickly run out of money. In that time I noticed something inside myself. It was very subtle. I noticed that what was bothering me wasn’t entirely the plight of those who were forced to beg for money on the streets of downtown Toronto. What really bothered me was how I viewed myself. In Lethbridge I could give to anyone who asked and feel like I was a generous person. But now I wasn’t able to see myself as generous anymore. In each person who asked me for money I didn’t see them, I saw myself. They were mirrors. I saw myself as generous or not generous. It became all about me. It was a subtle shift, but it was enough for me to stop seeing the person in front of me. I had to stop and sit before God. I had to get my eyes off myself and onto God, and then I saw actual people on the street, not just mirrors.

God speaks. David stops. David sits. David focuses on God and God resets David’s focus. God is not in need of a temple. He has never asked for one. From the time of Moses he has never asked for a temple to be built. Rather than asking David for a temple, God has been busy building up David. When David was shepherding sheep, as the smallest of his brothers, God started preparing him. When becoming a king was the furthest thing from his mind, God was preparing him to be king. God’s plans are always better than ours, even though we don’t usually know where they will bring us when we start out on the journey. God protected David and blessed him. David didn’t deserve any of it. It was completely free. God picked him- a nobody from nowhere- and made him king. He didn’t deserve it. It didn’t even cross his mind to ask for it. It was grace. It was pure gift.

God piles on the promises. Usually God says to Israel, if you do this then I’ll do this, but not here. God makes pure promises with no conditions. He will make David’s name great and make him a great house. God promises that a Son of David will sit on an eternal throne in an eternal Kingdom. God will be a Father to him, and he will be a Son to God. The Son of David will also be known as the Son of God and will have an eternal reign in a kingdom that will last forever. Sound familiar? Here is the root of God’s promise about Jesus. Of course these words also point to David’s son Solomon, but folded up in that promise is a greater promise- The promise of God’s reign through Jesus. And the promise of Jesus is more than David could even think to ask for. Jesus will replace the Ark, and even the temple which David’s son will build. The ark and the temple were to be places where heaven and earth overlapped. In Jesus heaven and earth will overlap in a way David could have never imagined or even thought to ask for. God’s Grace is unexpected. God gives to us in a million unexpected ways. His plans are always greater and more amazing than our plans- if we can only see the end result. We might not understand those plans when we are in the middle. When God says “no, don’t build me a temple” we want to argue. “But, it’s such a good idea because….”. We don’t understand God’s grace at that moment, but the end point will always be better than we can imagine.

We all have ambition. We all have plans- Just like David. They might make all kinds of sense, but it is important to take time to sit before God- To allow him to remind us who we are, and who He is. Psalm 127 says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain who build it”. Sometimes we are called to sit, like Mary in the presence of Jesus. There are plenty of things that we could be doing. Martha would understand David’s desire to build a temple, but sometimes the better thing to do it to sit at the feet of Jesus like Mary.       

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