Worship with Us This Sunday - 10:15 a.m.
II Samuel 7:1-11, 16
1 Now when the king lived in his house and the LOR had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies, 2the king said to Nathan the prophet, "See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent." 3And Nathan said to the king, "Go, do all that is in your heart, for the LORD is with you."
4But that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, 5"Go and tell my servant David, 'Thus says the LORD: Would you build me a house to dwell in? 6I 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 for my dwelling. 7In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, "Why have you not built me a house of cedar?"' 8Now, 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, that you should 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. 10And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, 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.
16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.'"
Anyone who watches the news may feel like Christians are increasingly under attack and being pushed to the margins. At Christmastime, common are stories about a nativity display no longer allowed, or a “Merry Christmas” replaced with “Happy Holidays.” We’re used to having power, freedom, and influence, and being a well established and dominant force in society. In most areas, there’s a church on every corner, so we may feel uncomfortable when we sense our influence slipping away.
In his word to the prophet Nathan, God shatters our human idea of power, of what the people of God, and worship of him, should look like. It’s counterintuitive—we think God deserves something grand, but he describes a homeless nomad. He’s describing the days of Moses, when God’s people were more familiar with exile, wilderness, tents, and bread falling from heaven.
What a contrast to David’s time, with kings, temples, and mansions of cedar. The story that shaped the people of God was a temple-focused one; they felt safe, secure, and established, with monarchies and massive structures attesting to their power. We all know that the temple was later destroyed, a time of great upheaval for God’s people. After the temple’s collapse, there was another exile—this time to Babylon. The Lord later proclaims to Nathan that the Lord will be the one to establish his house. God is resisting the temple, one that will eventually be destroyed anyway. His dwelling place is defined not by power or grandeur, but by rest from enemies and oppression.
God says he brings down the powerful and lifts up the lowly. He even made his entrance to the world not through a triumphant spectacle, but by the humblest means: through a poor, teenage girl in a stable of hay, a girl who was unmarried when word got out about her divine pregnancy. Even Jesus described the kingdom of God as a mustard seed—a tiny little seed notorious for taking over whole gardens. I’m sure Jesus’ listeners were like David, expecting a parable about grand cedars. But God doesn’t use the powerful and influential means of this world, instead preferring tents, stables, an ordinary girl, and miniscule seeds.
So when we lament that our current “temple times” appear to be over, that our influence on society is at the brink of collapse, and that we’re being pushed to the margins, perhaps we should instead reflect on the Lord’s words to Nathan: the Lord will be with us wherever we go (even in exile), and he will establish his kingdom, a kingdom that endures forever.