“Incidents in the Life of King David: God’s House”
By The Rev. Lorraine Diaz
Sunday, July 18, 2021
Reading: 2 Samuel 7:1-14a
I hope many of you are enjoying reading your way through 1 & 2 Samuel and the life of King David.
Personally, I’ve been really enjoying studying these passages about King David in more detail again – it has been a while, because I tend to focus on the New Testament on the life of Jesus and the early Christian church – and one of the things that has been exciting for me in my study of David’s life is to see how in many ways he illustrates the things that I’ve been teaching in the Hearing God course. Of course, the course is based on solid biblical and theological principles, but seeing it so clearly illustrated in the life of someone as great as David is fun.
Last week you might remember, I mentioned how David and his men took six steps and then stopped to make an offering to God, and that’s because in six steps God could have stopped them if it was not His will for them to proceed. It’s the same with us when we’re seeking God’s direction for our lives: if we’re not 100% sure what God wants us to do, we can take a few steps in that direction and see if God allows us to continue or not. So, the fact that God allowed them to move forward was the confirmation they needed that God wanted them to take the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem, as they had planned.
In these opening verses of Chapter 7 I found more illustrations of the principles from the Hearing God course: it’s clear here, for example, that one of the many ways that God speaks to us is through other people. In this case, David seeks the counsel of Nathan, who was a prophet – someone David trusted to be in close communion with God; someone who had a reliable history of interpreting the mind of God for David and for others with integrity and faithfulness.
In the opening verses of Chapter 7, as he’s settling back down from the great celebrations after bringing the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem, David explains to Nathan what’s on his mind. After all that God has done for him, he says, “I’m living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.” David – always faithful, always humble – feels like he has received more honour than God has for what God has done. David, the king, has a fixed structure to live in, something solid, something with dignity, while the ark of God is in a dwelling designed to be quickly taken down and moved along to a new place. David is established, while God is a nomad. So, David wants to remedy this and give due honour to God by having a more dignified structure built for the ark. The ark of the covenant is what holds the word of God; God’s word is God’s self, so to David this is the very dwelling place of God, and it deserves the very best that David has to offer.
Nathan heard what David wanted to do, and he only had to read the signs of all that God had done for the nation of Israel under David’s leadership in order to rightly assume that God was in David’s heart, guiding him with wisdom into what he should do, and that God was going to bless whatever David did. So it makes sense that when David indicated that he wanted to build a more dignified house for the Ark of the Covenant than the tent that was housing it, Nathan would believe that God himself had put this desire in David’s heart and would bless his endeavour. So, he says to David, without reservation, “Go and do what you have in mind; for the Lord is clearly with you.”
Before David can even begin, however, God corrects Nathan, which is the same principle from Hearing God that was illustrated in last week’s passage with the 6 steps that they took – that if we’re listening carefully and consistently for God’s direction, God will correct our course if we start to move in the wrong direction, and it’s important that we not ignore the signs he gives us or try to push through and just do what we want.
So, believing that God was in David’s heart, Nathan counseled him to go ahead and do the honourable thing that he wanted to do; but during the night – possibly in a dream, which is one of the many ways God speaks to people – God comes to Nathan and says to him to tell David something else; he says, “I don’t need a house. If I wanted a house, I could have had a house long ago, but I don’t need the things that you need; my glory and honour cannot be contained in a house of cedar. You forget who I AM!” It is NOT God’s will for David to build a permanent home for the Ark. In fact, God’s plans are much bigger than anything David can conceive! He tells Nathan to say to David, “You think you should, build me a house, but wait until you see the house I’m going to build for you!”
It’s an important lesson for David and for us as well, and the most important principle of the Hearing God course, that if we take the time to listen to God, we might be amazed by the things he has planned for our lives. What David wanted to do was an honourable thing, absolutely; but it was based on human logic, which is so natural for us. As humans, we trust in the things that we build, that we can control. If David has a cedar house built to house the ark of the covenant, he can make it of the best quality wood; he’s king, so he can hire the most skilled builders; he can ensure that it’s maintained to the highest standards. But even so, even the best he can offer is still just cedar, which – even though it’s one of the best woods you could choose (it’s still used today for shingles and siding) it might last 40, 50, 60 years in the best conditions. But no house made by human hands will last; weather deteriorates the wood, fire destroys it, and just one invading army could plunder an crush it and that’s the end of it.
The things we use to build our lives are just as temporal and fleeting, and yet we think much like David did. Nothing made by human wisdom and human hands can last, and yet we think we can build and structure our own lives, and that what we build will bring us lasting joy. We persist in placing our deepest trust in what we can build for ourselves: our homes, our families, our careers, our social lives, our dreams, our security…and we take pride in what we have built.
Only the things that God builds for us will last, and that’s what makes God’s response to David, through Nathan, so powerful and so amazing. When David talks about building a house for God, he means a temporary structure…sure, the best temporary structure he can imagine – one fit for a king! When God talks about building a house for David, he’s not talking about a physical structure; he’s not talking about something David will live in until he dies, and then someone else might occupy it. No, “the house of David” that God builds is something much more enduring.
Hear these words from this morning’s scripture again: “Tell my servant, David: I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. 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 I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. 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. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me.”
These are some amazing promises that God Almighty makes to David, a mere human being, someone who had been a shepherd boy, the youngest and least impressive son of Jesse, an ordinary man.
What is this house that God is promising to build, and who is this offspring? We might think, looking back, that he was referring to David’s son, Solomon. He was the one that God instructed to build a temple, but that can’t be it, because he was born in David’s lifetime, not “after his days were fulfilled and he lay down with his ancestors.” Solomon’s kingdom certainly did not last forever – it didn’t even last his own lifetime – it lasted only as long as Solomon remained faithful to God, which was not long. Now, Solomon did build a temple for the ark of the covenant, and it was a glorious structure, not made of wood even, but of stone; but even that was destroyed after the nation of Israel had turned their backs on God and Jerusalem was besieged by the Babylonians.
God promised that he would establish a Kingdom from the house of David, that he would give rest from all his enemies, and that his throne would be established forever. Jesus, who was of the “house of David;” who defeated the final enemy of death, and who proclaimed the advent of the Kingdom of God on earth, fulfilled the promises that God made to David in a way that went far beyond David’s limited imagination. Thousands of years after David’s death, the Kingdom of his son Jesus still stands. Because David trusted in the plans of God.
How could David have known that God’s promise was trustworthy, that the house God is promising to build would be more trustworthy than the house that David would build? Well, God reminds David of all the things He has already done: bringing Israel from Egypt; bringing David from his position as a lowly shepherd and placing him as King of Israel: “I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; 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.”
What God builds for us is much more enduring than the lives and legacies that we build for ourselves. To trust in that, we need only recall to our minds the amazing things God has already done in our lives and in the lives of others who have trusted in him.
Whenever I think of how wise and trustworthy God is for directing the courses of our lives, I can’t help but think of the incredible life of Joni Eraekson. Many of you are probably familiar with her story. A normal, fun-loving 17-year-old, Joni was spending a beautiful summer’s day swimming with her friends when she took a dive into shallow water that would change her life forever. In the blink of an eye she went from a care-free teen to a quadriplegic in a wheelchair.
Although deeply depressed about her sudden new circumstances and the shattered dreams for her life, she too listened to the wise counsel of Christian friends who encouraged her to fix her eyes on God. While reading the Bible, she says: “I learned that the God of the Bible is not sometimes sovereign. He does not occupy the throne one day and vacate it the next. He is supremely in charge, often for purposes we cannot understand this side of eternity.”
Since that day back in 1967, Joni – placing her trust in God completely – has gone on to write 35 books, she has spoken in more than 45 countries, she established a disability ministry that impacts people all around the world, and she has produced glorious paintings with a brush between her teeth.
To this day, Joni and her husband run an international ministry, “The Joni and Friends International Disability Center” based in Southern California, that offers life-changing programs, including:
- Radio and television programs that air on more than 1,000 broadcast outlets around the world.
- A retreat program that holds events for hundreds of special needs families.
- Her Wheels for the World program, that works with inmates who refurbish donated wheelchairs, and has thereby distributed 52,000 of those wheelchairs to disabled children and adults in 102 developing nations.
- As well as training and educational resources for churches, individuals and the government.
Joni accepted a presidential appointment to the National Council on Disability, and helped draft the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was signed into law in 1990. She has been honoured with 22 awards, including induction into Indiana Wesleyan University’s Society of World Changers, a Gold Medallion Lifetime Achievement Award by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, a prestigious Courage & Conviction award from Biola University, along with eight honorary university degrees, six of which are doctorates.
To think, her plans were for a normal life. As she learned to trust God, the purpose he had for her life in the face of these new circumstances became more and more clear to her. Joni leaned into that purpose, and over the last 54 years she has been able to impact the lives of millions of people over the world, while sharing the love of Christ.
She despaired of her circumstances as a 17-year-old whose dreams of a normal life and family were taken from her, and she could have given up hope. Instead, she trusted God, even in the face of a horrible tragedy, and went on to live a life of meaning and purpose and impact that would have been impossible if things had gone according to her plans. Her plans were for a house of cedar for God’s word to live in; God’s purpose was to build a house for her – a house that would endure well beyond her own lifetime and would change the world forever.
Whether we are a king, or a shepherd boy, or a teenage girl with our whole lives ahead of us, or an adult muddling through the day-to-day challenges of life, or we’re facing a life-altering dilemma; whether we’re dealing with uncertainty about the future, or whether we think we’ve got it all under control: if you are alive and breathing, God sees you and knows you and has a plan for your life; and the true sense of the purpose of your life will be clearest when you entrust it all to God’s wisdom, by praying and listening for God’s voice, and seeking the wise counsel of other people who also love God, and maybe taking a few steps in that direction to see what happens. And you will see what happens when it is God who is directing the course of your life. Amen.