A sermon based on 2 Samuel 7:8-11
Sunday, December 24th, 2017 – Advent 4B/Christmas Eve
Have you ever built a house? Ever wanted to? I'll be honest: I don't know that much about house building. When Becky and I bought our brand new house in Raleigh, we just got in on the very tail end of the construction and didn't even get to choose the paint color. (It was "builder brown.")
So if you want to know more about building your own house, don't ask me. You'd be better off asking Phil or Bob and Kelly, Greg and Emmanuela, or Marian, or someone else who's done it before and not me. All I know is that it's a lot of work, whatever you think it's going to cost, you should add at least 30% to that estimate, and however long you think it's going to take, you should add 30 to 50% more time.
Well, today, we're going to talk about building a house. But it's not just any old house. We're talking about building a house for God. And we're not just talking about building a church, like the Builders for Christ do, but we're talking about building the Church—the Kingdom of God as he rules in hearts and lives. And that takes us back to the Old Testament, to the time of the kings, to the time of Israel's glory days under King David…
King David was now living in a beautiful palace. He had taken the throne after Sauls' death, he had ended the civil war that ensued, he united the kingdom under one banner and one king, and he had defeated all the enemies that surrounded the nation on every side. And David recognized that it was clearly God who was handing this all to him. God was fighting for him and through him. And all he had was by God's grace alone. So he naturally thought, "It's not right that I'm living in this beautiful mansion covered in gold, while the Ark of the Covenant, which represents God's presence here on earth, is still sitting next door in a canvass tent. I'm going to build God a house. And it's going to be awesome.
At first, the prophet Nathan (David's pastor) said, "That's a great idea, David! Get to it!" But God came to Nathan that night and told him otherwise. He told Nathan that he didn't want David to build a house for him. Instead, he (God) would build a house for him—for David and his descendants—for all of us. Listen to what Nathan told David in 2 Samuel 7(:1-18)…
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."
3 Nathan replied to the king, "Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you."
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.' "
So, a while ago I noticed that the headlights of my van weren't really very bright when I was driving around in the dark. I tried cleaning my headlights and then polishing them. I tried Rainex and Windex wipes every time I filled the tank with gas. And I finally decided that I needed new bulbs. And not just the same old halogen that were so dim. I needed those super bright LED lights so I could see a mile ahead as I drove. But… I figured I could save some money if I ordered them at Amazon and installed them myself.
Well, let me tell you how that worked out: When I was done, the headlights didn't really work right. One hardly turned on at all. The other pointed a bit high, so everyone thought I had my brights on and constantly flashed theirs at me. Actually, I may have had the brights on, because whenever I tried to turn on my brights, the lights went out completely. I tried to do the project myself and, as a result, messed everything up.
And if you have small kids at home, you get how this works, don't you? "Let me do it! I'll do it myself!" often ends up creating more work for mom or dad who have to undo the mess and start all over from scratch, if the project isn't already broken beyond repair. That's the way it often is when people want to do great things for God. We think, "I got this! Let me do it!" and then, subsequently, end up messing everything up.
David wanted to build a massive temple for God. He wanted a palace for God that would make his own look small. He would do great things for God! And isn't that the way that we often think too? God, I'll do good things for you. I'll make an impact. I'll make a difference. I'll change the world for you! But that's not what God wants. Not really.
You see, before we build anything for God, God wants to build something for us. Before we do great (or small) things for him, he wants to do great things for us. So, while David told his pastor, Nathan, all about the great things he was going to do for God, Nathan came back the next day and told David what God said: "I don't want you to build a house for me. I want to build a house for you."
And it's not just in our projects that we want to do great stuff for God. Sometimes we even think we can do great things for him for our salvation. "I got this God. Let me do it. I'll do it myself. You'll see how awesome it is when I'm done." And inevitably we mess it up every time. Because our sinful nature—our selfishness—gets in the way. We sin—against God… against each other. And we prove how broken we are. We've ruined our relationships with each other. We've ruined our relationship with him.
And just as stubborn and rebellious adult child will eventually get kicked out of the house, we deserve to be kicked out of God's house. We deserve to be banished from his heaven. We deserve to be left outside forever in hell.
Nevertheless, because of his great grace—his love that we don't in any way deserve—God has built a house for us…
And he built it on his Son…
Now, at first read, when God told David, "I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name…" it sure seems like he's talking about King Solomon, David's son, who did build the temple of the Lord using all the materials his dad had stockpiled for him for that very purpose. But… keep reading…
"He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever… Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever."
Now, I'm not sure if you were aware of this, but King Solomon… is dead. That means his reign came to an end. In fact, the temple that he built was destroyed when the Babylonians invaded Jerusalem. In fact the subsequent temple that was rebuilt over the ruins has also been destroyed—that one by the Romans. So, it couldn't have been to the physical temple that God was referring when he said, "Your house… will endure forever… your throne will be established forever."
So what was he talking about? Well, fast forward a thousand years (give or take). The angel Gabriel came to the virgin Mary and told her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." (Luke 1:30-33)
So what's the house that God promised to David that he would build? It was his Church (with a capital "C"). That is, it's not some physical building of brick and mortar, but where God reigns in the hearts of his believers through faith. This is the house that God built though his Son, David's descendant, Jesus.
In John 2:19 Jesus pointed that out. He said of himself, of his own body, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days." And that's exactly what he did. And by his death and resurrection, he built the Church (the House) of God.
Lately, I've been reading a little in the Church Fathers and have been reading a book called "The Shepherd of Hermas." In one vision, the shepherd sees a huge tower being built and is told that the tower represents God's Church and all who are saved though Jesus. The shepherd asks about the oddly shaped stones that are lying far away from the tower and he's told that those misshaped stones weren't fit to be used in construction of God's holy dwelling.
Well, that's what we deserve: to be cast away from God's house because we're not perfect, we're not square, we're not even close. But we don't get what we deserve… because Jesus didn't get what he deserved. He who was sinless and deserved only the mansions of heaven, came to earth to live for us, keeping God's law in our place. So that we who so often neglect God's church and are apathetic to worship and his Word, get his perfect record. He came to die on a cross in our place, to pay the penalty our sins deserve so we are forgiven. Now we aren't cast away from God's church. We'll never be cast away to hell.
But instead we're brought into God's Church, as Peter said in 1 Peter 2:5, "you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house…" We're brought into God's Church—into his eternal church—which, "will endure forever…" (2 Samuel 7), which, "will never end." (Luke 1:33) The salvation that we have in Christ can never be lost or destroyed. Because it's something we didn't do… because it's something that we didn't build… because it's something God has done… something he has built for us… we can't mess it up. It will last forever. You are forgiven. You are heaven-bound. You have true, spiritual peace, and rest from all of your real enemies: satan, sin, guilt, and shame. And you have God's certain promise that he will take care of you, especially protecting and preserving your faith, until he brings you into the eternal kingdom of his heaven.
So… what do we do in the meantime while we wait to be a part of God's heavenly Kingdom? Well, we keep building. You, dear friends, are a bunch of tools. I know that sounds like an insult. But it's not. You see, God has not only made you stones in the building project of his house, but he's also made you the tools he uses to keep building it. You are the hammer and saw, the ladder and the square, the chisel and the paint brush, each with your own roles and your own gifts given to you to help build God's church—the very Church God built for you.