Shepherd to King (8)
“God Makes a Promise”
2 Samuel 7 & Psalm 132
During the seventeenth century the Mughal Empire was flourishing in India. One of their great kings was called Shah Jahan. In 1631 his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, died while giving birth to their 14thchild. Shah Jahan was grief-stricken. After several days completely alone grieving for Mumtaz he gave orders for the construction of a tomb for his wife. The tomb took 22,000 men & women over 20 years to complete & was made of gleaming white marble. Inside it was decorated with 28 different kinds of precious & semi-precious gems. A sheet of pearls was spread over the coffin. The doors were made of silver & a gold railing surrounded the monument. This magnificent building was declared a World Heritage Site in 1983. Does anyone know its name? Yes, it is the Taj Mahal.
Shah Jahan was not the first, nor the last person who wanted to build something beautiful for the one he loved. As we once again pick up the story of King David, we are going to see that this is exactly what he wanted to do for God. Of course David was not thinking of building a tomb. He wanted to build a temple.
In our last message in this series “From Shepherd Boy to King”, we saw how David made Jerusalem his capital. He also had the Ark of the Covenant, which represented God’s presence with His people, moved there. He made Jerusalem both the political & religious centre of the nation. And so we come to 2 Samuel 7.
We read in vrs.1 & 2, “After the king was settled in his palace & the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies around him, he said to Nathan the prophet, ‘Here I am, living in a palace of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.’” David knew the Lord had been with him through all the years of struggle. When he was just a teenager looking after sheep, God used him to win a great victory over the Philistine giant Goliath. Overnight he became a hero. But then he faced a major problem. King Saul became incredibly jealous. He was determined to kill David, but the Lord brought David safely through all the years he was on the run from Saul. Finally David was crowned king. He defeated Israel’s enemies & at last was able to start building the kingdom. No longer was he a hunted man on the run. He was king over a unified nation. No longer was he hiding in caves. He was living in a palace. In many ways it was a “rags to riches” story or at least a “shepherd boy to king” story.
David was not someone who only turned to God in a crisis. And he was not someone who forgot God as soon as the crisis was past & things had settled down. Even after he became established as king, David was very conscious of the good hand of the Lord upon him. Enjoying peace, comfort, wealth & power did not lessen his love for God. The fact he was living in a palace made of expensive cedar wood while the Ark of God was housed in a simple & ancient tent made David feel very uncomfortable. It just did not seem right! God deserved better than a simple tent. So David’s idea was to build a permanent house of worship in Jerusalem.
Actually, Elizabeth & I can understand a little of how David was feeling. We live in a lovely manse, built long before we came to MBCC, but still much newer than our old, rundown church building. I feel passionate about our church extension. I want the new & renovated facility to look so nice that the Name of the Lord is honoured. His Name is not honoured by a church building that looks neglected & second-rate. Let us be eager to make the Lord’s House nice & comfortable – no less nice & comfortable than we would want our homes to be. Let us make it so presentable that we are proud to invite our friends to church.
So then, David longed to build a temple for God, a place of magnificence that spoke of his love for the Lord. We can learn much from David, can’t we! Whatever his circumstances in life he had a heart for God. It is easy for us to seek God when we are struggling or facing a crisis. When we are trying to settle as immigrants or when we need to find a job or when we face some tragedy – yes, we come to church. We ask for prayer. We make our vows to follow Jesus. We offer to help in the church. However when everything seems to be going well, when we get settled, when we find a job, when the crisis seems to be behind us – then we have other priorities. We become so busy at work, making money, renovating the house, taking kids to sports activities & so on, that we have less & less time for God or church. We find lots of other things to do on a Sunday. We have no time to be involved in any ministries or groups. Why? Well, perhaps it is because we no longer have a heart of gratitude for all the Lord has done for us. We forget His many blessings. Unlike David, we think first of ourselves. We take our comforts, our families, our health, our blessings, for granted. We forget that every good & perfect gift comes from above. Where would we be without the good hand of the Lord upon us? Sometimes we allow petty differences with our brothers & sisters in Christ to distract us from loving & serving the Lord. We take our eyes off Him.
I have no doubt David had pure motives for wanting to build a temple. He was someone who loved to worship. He loved to sing praises to God. No wonder it was on his heart to build a magnificent temple where not only he but the whole nation could come to worship. David was passionate about loving & serving God. By the way, if we as Christians were half as excited & passionate about our faith as many Kiwis are about rugby & winning the World Cup our churches would be no less exciting than Eden Park will be tonight at the final between the All Blacks & France! Yes, David was excited about God & his motives were pure!
Another good thing about David was that he included amongst his advisors people like the prophet Nathan. Not all prophets were true prophets but Nathan certainly was. A true prophet was someone in tune with God, someone through whom God spoke to the king & the nation. This is the first mention of Nathan in the Bible. He was to play a very important role in David’s life helping keep David aware of his need to walk with God. Let us see how Nathan responded to David’s suggestion about building a temple.
“Nathan replied to the king, ‘Whatever you have in mind, go ahead & do it, for the LORD is with you.’” (v.3) Nathan thought that what David was suggesting, building something more permanent for the Ark of the Lord sounded really good. He knew that the Lord was with David & he presumed whatever David had in mind would be in accord with the will of God. However, the fact is Nathan jumped to conclusions. He did not first check with the Lord about what the Lord thought about David’s idea. Sometimes we too are also a little too quick to make decisions. We are faced with what seems an exciting option. It sounds brilliant. It sounds like a great plan – but we should always first check out what the Lord thinks about it.
Well, Nathan had not checked it out with the Lord & in a gracious but unmistakable way the Lord put a check on Nathan. The Lord let him know that He had a different plan. So we read in vrs 4 & 5, “But that night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, saying: ‘Go & tell my servant David, ‘This is what the LORD says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in?’” God was in no way angry with David. He knew his heart. And He referred to David as “my servant” – just think of that. David was king of the nation but he was also the servant of the Lord. Which was the greater honour? Of course there can be no greater honour than to be “the servant of the Lord”. Yes, God was not at all angry with David for wanting to build a Temple. However David needed to know that now was not the time & he, David, was not the one to build the Temple.
The message God gave to Nathan to pass on to David was gentle but clear. He said, “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. 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?”’ (vrs 6 & 7)
God reminded David, through the prophet, that in fact He did not need a fancy Temple. The tent that housed the Ark of the Covenant had all along been the symbol of God’s Presence with His people but in no way should they ever think God was limited to that tent. Many years later when the Temple was in fact built by Solomon, David’s son & successor, Solomon prayed these words, “But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built.” (1 Kings 8:27) Of course He who made the heavens & the earth doesn’t need us to provide a house for Him, no matter how magnificent it might be. We need to remember this too as we look forward to the completion of our extension & new auditorium. Far more important than the physical building is the presence & the blessing of God Himself!
But we are jumping ahead by mentioning Solomon. He had not even been born when this idea of building a temple first came to David. So let us return to see what else God told Nathan the prophet to tell David. He continues in vrs 8 & 9, “Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the LORD Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, & appointed you ruler over my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone …Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth.’”
God reminds David of how He called him from being a shepherd of sheep to being the shepherd of His people, the nation of Israel. He reminds David of how He had been with him & given him the throne. But there was far more to come. God went on to make some incredible promises to David. David had wanted to honour God’s Name by building a Temple but God says He is going to honour David by making David’s name great. David had wanted to give God a home, but God says He is giving His people a home. In v.10 God says, “I will provide a place for my people Israel & will plant them so that they can have a home of their own.”
God has of course fulfilled His promise. This promise was made to David in about 1000 BC. How incredible that the Jewish people even today, 3000 years later, are living in the land where God said He would plant them & give them a home. Yes, at times in her history Israel has been in exile away from the land – in some cases for many centuries. But God has not failed in His promise. Yet He had an even more incredible promise for David.
David wanted to build a house for God but see what God promises to do for David - “The LORD declares to you that the LORD Himself will establish a house for you.” (v.11) God goes on to promise that David’s descendants would succeed him. One of his sons would establish his kingdom. In vrs.13 -15 God says about this son, “He is the one who will build a house for my Name, & I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, & he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him …But my love will never be taken away from him.” This son was Solomon, who we mentioned a moment ago. God used Solomon to build the Temple.
Although God did not allow David to be the one to build the Temple He gave him a promise that showed He had a far greater plan. In v.16 God says, “Your house & your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.” God was to give David a dynasty that would last forever.
David’s earthly dynasty in actual fact only lasted for 400 years. That is quite a long time of course, but 400 years is not the same as “forever”. Does this mean God’s promise to David failed? No, it does not. God’s promise about his descendants sitting on an earthly throne was conditional upon their following in the ways of their father & ancestor David. When they stopped following the Lord, they lost the throne. Israel was taken into exile. However there is another aspect of the promise to David that we must not miss.
The promise is ultimately fulfilled in Jesus for He was a direct descendant of David. A thousand years later on the Day of Pentecost as Peter preached to the crowds in Jerusalem he spoke about David. He said, “God had promised him on oath that He would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, He spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was not abandoned to the grave …God raised this Jesus to life…” (Acts 2:30 & 31) Christ now reigns as King in His spiritual Kingdom & in heaven. One day He will reign over the earth in the New Jerusalem. As the angel said to the virgin Mary when he announced to her the fact she was to give birth to a child, “He will be great & will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, & He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; His kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:32 & 33)
I am sure David had no idea of all that was involved in the incredible promise God gave him through the prophet Nathan. However when Nathan reported to him all that God had said David had one reaction. It was not to argue or complain. It was not to feel disappointed that he was not the one to build the Temple. What was his reaction? We see it in the prayer he prayed.
“Then King David went in & sat before the LORD, & he said: ‘Who am I, O Sovereign LORD, & what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And as if this were not enough in your sight, O Sovereign LORD, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant…” (vrs 18 & 19) David felt overwhelmed. He felt totally unworthy & he prays a beautiful prayer full of worship & praise. He says in v.22, “How great you are, O Sovereign LORD! There is no one like you, & there is no God but you.” David realised that God’s plan was far greater than his plan had been. God’s plan was to work through the nation, His people, bringing blessing to the whole world. Obviously David had little idea of the greatness of God’s plan for God’s plan was the plan of salvation to bring a Saviour into the world, through whom even you & I are blessed.
David loved God & wanted to build something beautiful for Him – a Temple, not a tomb like the Taj Mahal. However God had a far greater plan. It was a plan to bless David & through the Jewish nation to send a Saviour to the world. I hope you have a heart for God like David had. If you do, then do not be surprised when the Lord blesses you & through you blesses many others. That is the way He works.