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2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16
Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26
by the Rev. Dr. John P. Fairless
I’ve always heard that “it’s good to be the king!”
You get to live in a palace, there are lots of people around to do what you say…they bring you food and wine and entertainment of all sorts. In fact, most everybody in your life is there to do pretty much whatever you want. After all, nobody outranks the king!
And so, we meet King David — the Shepherd Boy/Giant Killer/turned Warrior Prince and King. As Samuel records, David had no more worlds to conquer; God have “given him rest.” All well and good, correct?
As it turns out, the whole “given him rest” thing wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be — and David soon found himself restless. He needed something to do, some plan to conceive, some great deed to achieve. So, he cooked a little project up for himself. He was going to build God a house!
Oh, it would be glorious! David began to imagine the details in all their rich variety. One can almost feel his excitement as he shared his vision with his pastor — otherwise known as the prophet, Nathan. Brother Nathan liked the sound of the idea (remember, who’s going to tell the king, “No, that sounds really stupid?”) He gave David his spiritual imprimatur — “Go, do what you have in mind. The LORD is with you!”
There was only one problem with this awesome undertaking for God. Neither David nor Nathan had stopped long enough to ask God what it was that God wanted them to do.
So, Nathan gets a wake-up call around midnight one night; God has a message to be delivered to David.
“Do you think that I need you to build me a house? I’ve been doing pretty well for the last thousand years or so, in case you haven’t noticed — I got Moses and your great-great-great grandaddy out of a pretty tight squeeze there in Egypt. I managed to keep your whole straggling lot of ancestors together for forty years in the wilderness. I got them all here to the Promised Land and have been with all of you every step of the way.
“And in all that time, I’ve lived in a tent and a tabernacle and I’ve never, ever asked anybody to build me a house. What makes you think that I need you to build me one, David?
“Remember, I picked you fresh from the sheep shift, young man — I stayed with you, helped you, strengthened you — why, I made you, David! And I’m here to tell you, I didn’t grant you victory over Goliath and Saul and the Philistines and Me-knows-whoever-else just to turn you into a glorified building contractor!
“I have something else in mind — something greater that I have planned for you to do. So, what I need from you is for you to just settle down, take care of the business I have set before you — and get back to being a king who cares for his people. Is that too much for me to ask?”
I would imagine you could have heard the veritable pin drop after God finished that comeuppance with both Nathan and with David.
The gentle correction of God is sometimes not so gentle in our lives. God needed David to understand — as I’m sure God sometimes is trying to get us to understand — that God was building David’s life for a purpose. He was to be the progenitor of the family line that would lead to Joseph and Mary and to the baby in Bethlehem — the baby that was born to be the Savior of the world.
That’s a pretty awesome assignment!
As we bring the season of Advent to a close and prepare to welcome the Christ anew into our lives, perhaps we can hear the word of the Lord for us in the midst of David’s call:
- Be careful when you think you have finally arrived; it is often most difficult to live successfully right after our greatest victories have been won.
- Telling God what it is that you want to do can be a dangerous proposition. While God often works according to the desires of our hearts — and God certainly understands the ways that we are fearfully and wonderfully made — the basic commitment of our lives remains, “nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.”
- Even preachers get it wrong sometimes! Nathan got ahead of himself, or got a little carried away with the ambition of his most powerful and influential parishioner. Ministers are not perfect (in case you haven’t figured that out) and shouldn’t be expected to be. But, both members and ministers should be people of prayer — and certainly willing to admit it when they are wrong!
- Whatever God has planned for you, you can trust that it will be better than anything that you may have imagined for yourself.
In his book, The Man God Uses, Dr. Henry Blackaby tells of reading the gospel story of the devoted friends who brought their paralyzed friend to Jesus one day. They wanted Jesus to heal their friend so that he could walk again. And yet, Jesus’ response was, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” (see Mark 2:1-12)
Why did Jesus not respond according the wishes/prayers/faith of the friends? They asked for healing; Jesus offered forgiveness. Dr. Blackaby says, “I began meditating on this passage…it was as if God said to me, ‘Henry, these men were asking for one thing but I had so much more to give them.’ If God had healed the man without forgiving his sins, he would have lost out on so much more God had to offer. Jesus not only provided for a physical problem, he provided for the spiritual one as well.
“When I realized this, I began to pray, ‘Lord, if I ever make a request and you have something better in mind for me, please cancel my request.'” (Blackaby, Broadman and Holman Publishing Group, 1999, p. 90)