David:  Man after God’s Own Heart, Part VI: The House Builder”

A sermon by Dr. Jim Somerville, Pastor
Richmond’s First Baptist Church
Richmond, Virginia
July 22, 2012

2 Samuel 7 

We are in the middle of a summer sermon series called “David, Man After God’s Own Heart,” based on the stories about David from 1 and 2 Samuel in the Bible.

I thought it might be helpful to begin with some review. If you’ve been here for the whole series you can let me know that you’ve been paying attention by nodding whenever you hear something that sounds familiar to you. And if you’ve been here since the very beginning then you probably remember that this whole thing, this whole idea of having a king in Israel got started because the people were terrified.

Nahash, king of the Ammonites, was gouging out the right eye of every Israelite who came to his side of the river, do you remember, and the people didn’t know what to do. They came to Samuel, the judge over Israel, and said, “give us a king to rule over us.” And Samuel said, “you already have a king, God is your king.”

And they said, “no, give us a king like the other nations have, someone who will go out before us and fight our battles and protect us from our enemies.”

And Samuel said, “no, you don’t want a king like that. A king like that will not be a giver, a king like that will be a taker, he will take your sons and your daughters, your land and your livestock, and finally he will take you yourselves to be his slaves. Don’t you remember how it was in Egypt?”

But the people insisted. “We want a king!”

And so God gave them one, King Saul, who was tall and handsome and rich. If you saw him today you would say he looked almost presidential. But his heart wasn’t in the job, and after his second flagrant act of disobedience against the Lord, the Lord said to Samuel, “fill your horn with oil and go down to Bethlehem to anoint the next king of Israel.”

Do you remember this? One of the sons of Jesse, the Bethlehemite. All of them paraded in front of Samuel but it wasn’t until the brought the youngest one in from watching over the sheep that the Lord said, “That’s the one, anoint him, David.”

Now the Bible says that he was ruddy, handsome, and that he had beautiful eyes. But it wasn’t because of that the Lord picked him. The lesson of this story is that Lord doesn’t look on the outward appearance, as people do, the Lord looks on the heart.

David’s heart was right for the job.

It was just a few weeks later, that the Philistine army came up against Israel at the valley of Soku, and they had this champion named Goliath of Gath, a giant of a man who stood ten feet tall and was armor plated. You remember this? Yes? Goliath, who defied the armies of Israel, stepped out on the battlefield day after day, and said, “Give me a man to fight with me!”

Now David was just a boy, but he came bringing provisions for his brothers and came to the front line of the battle, and when he saw this giant out there defying the army of Israel, he said, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he dare defy the army of the living God?” It is the first time in that story that the name of God is mentioned. It is as if everyone else has forgotten about God’s power.

But not David.

David depends on God’s power. He said, “Somebody should go out there and lop off the head of this giant.”

Talk like that will get you noticed. It got David noticed. They brought him in before King Saul and Saul said, “I understand you want to kill the giant?”

“Not only do I want to,” David said, “I will. The Lord will deliver him into my hands.”

And so the next day, in the power of the Lord, David went out onto the battlefield carrying nothing but a stick and a sling and a pouch full of smooth round rocks he had picked up out of the dry river bed. When Goliath saw him he laughed out loud. “Hah! Am I a dog that you send a boy with a stick to fight me?”

But David said, “You come to me with sword, and spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the God of Israel, the God of the army of angels, and this very day he will deliver you into my hand and I will strike you down and I will cut off your head and I will give the flesh of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth so that all the earth may know there is a God in Israel.”

And that’s just what happened. And when David killed Goliath, all of Israel fell in love with him. The young women of Israel would line the roads when David passed through, shaking their tambourines and singing songs of praise.

Michal, the daughter of Saul, fell in love with David,.Why not? He was handsome after all, he had beautiful eyes.

Jonathan, Saul’s son, his soul was knit to the soul of David. Those two were two of a kind, fierce warriors on the battlefield, they became best friends.

But Saul became insane with jealousy. Three times he tried to pin David to the wall with his spear, so that David fled from there and went down to the wilderness of Judah. Saul followed with three thousand handpicked men trying to hunt David down like a dog and kill him.

Twice David was so close to Saul that he could have easily killed him, but he dared not lift his hand against the Lord’s anointed. Eventually, however, someone did.

Saul and his son Jonathan died on the same day in a fierce battle on Mount Gilboa. And when David heard about it he tore his clothes and he wept. He wrote a song of lament and taught it to all the people of Judah.

“How the mighty have fallen, and how the weapons of warfare have perished.

“Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely, swifter than eagles, stronger than lions,

“the glory of the Lord lies slain on the mountains of Gilboa.”

Well, after the old king was dead, David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go up to any of the cities of Hebron, of Judah?”

“Yes,” said the Lord, “go to Hebron, the capital city.”

And David went up, along with all his fierce fighting men. When the elders of Judah saw him coming, they made their covenant with him. They crowned him king over that whole southern region, but in the north, Abner, Saul’s old general and bodyguard, put Ishmael, Saul’s sniveling son, on the throne in Israel. Made him kind of a puppet king over that whole part of the land. And now, with a king in the north, and a king in the south, conditions were favorable for a good old fashioned civil war. And that’s just what happened.

The south went to war against the north, the north against the south. They fought back and forth for years until finally, Abner defected. He went south to Hebron to pledge his loyalty to David. But David’s general Joab pulled Abner aside into a dark alley and killed him because of an old grudge he held against him.

And Ishmael, that puppet king on the throne of Israel, it wasn’t long before everybody figured out Abner was the real power behind the throne. And two men slipped into the palace one afternoon while Ishmael was taking a nap on his couch and assassinated him.

So with Saul gone, with Abner gone, with Ishmael gone, David made it clear that he had nothing to do with any of those deaths, but the elders of Israel came south to Hebron to make their covenant with David. They said, “for a while, when Saul was king, it was you, really, who led us out into battle, and the Lord took you from keeping your father’s sheep, and made you shepherd over his people Israel.”

They crowned David king over the whole land. Do you remember?

David took his fierce fighting men and went up to Jerusalem, which at that time was occupied by the Jebusites. It was such a natural mountain stronghold that the Jebusites it could be defended by a blind man and a cripple. But under the cover of darkness David and his men climbed up the water shaft, they took the Jebusites by surprise, and in the morning they all surrendered so that the city belonged to David.

Hiram, the king of Tyre, built a beautiful palace for David in Jerusalem, and David began to fill it up with wives and concubines, sons and daughters. He remembered the ark of the covenant, and went down to Keriath-Jeram to bring it home in a grand procession with thirty thousand people and David leading the whole parade, leaping and whirling and dancing before the Lord with all his might. Do you remember?

He brought the ark to Jerusalem and he put it in a tent there in the city. And at this point in the story it would be easy to imagine that every item on David’s to do list had been checked off.

Let’s see, become the king of Israel, unite the northern and southern parts of the kingdom, make Jerusalem your capital, build a palace for yourself, bring the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem, fill the palace with wives and concubines - yes, I think David had done it all.

And one evening, as I picture it, after supper he stepped out on the flat roof of his palace so that he could walk around and look out over his capital city, and when he did he saw that tent down there, that little tent in which the ark of the covenant was kept, and an idea came to him.

“I know what I can do next, I can build a house for the Lord. Bigger and better than my own house, grander and more glorious than anything that has ever been seen in Israel. That’s what I’ll do!”

And he went to Nathan the prophet and told him his plan, and Nathan clapped his hands together and said, “whatever you have it in your mind to do David, you do that. That’s sounds perfect.”

But no one thought to ask the Lord what the Lord wanted.

Now there was a time when the Lord had made it perfectly clear what he wanted. You may remember, back in the book of Exodus, beginning around chapter 25. The Lord was up on the mountain with Moses and he said to him, “Do this: Take up an offering from among the people. Let them give generously out of their hearts. Don’t force them, but, ask them to give silver and gold, and red and blue and purple yarn, and fine twisted linen and goats’ hair and acacia wood. Take all of this and build for me a sanctuary, where I can meet with my people. But before that, instruct the craftsmen of Israel to build a sacred box, about forty-five inches long, about twenty-seven inches wide and twenty-seven inches deep, covered on the inside and outside with pure gold and make the lid for the box with pure gold with two cherubim on the top facing each other with their wings outspread. This is where I will meet you, above the lid of this ark of the covenant, and between the wings of the cherubim, I will come to you and command all that I want the people to do.”

Do you hear what God is saying? This box, this ark of the covenant would be none other than the throne of God, the place where he would come to meet with his people. And God said, “I want you to put the ark in this tabernacle,” which was really nothing more than a very fancy tent made of fine twisted linen and tapestries made of red and blue and purple yarn, all of it set up on poles of acacia wood covered in silver and gold fit into their sockets resting on silver pedestals. All around the tabernacle was this curtain of twisted linen that enclosed a courtyard seventy-five feet by one hundred and fifty feet.

When it was all set up, when everything was finished, those were the days for God’s people. Those days when they were camping out with God in the wilderness, his big tent set up right in the middle and their tents all the way around. When God was with them and they were with God, and they were all together in one place. That pillar of fire and cloud hovered above the tabernacle. Moses would go in and out day after day and talk with the Lord as a man might talk with his friend. When he came out his face was shining. Those were the days for God’s people.

And in those days they carried the ark of covenant into the Promised Land, the priests went first, carrying it, and as soon as the soles of their feet touched the raging waters of the river Jordan, the water stopped flowing and the people were able to cross over on dry ground.

They took the ark of the covenant with them into battle against the Canaanites as they conquered and settled that land. Everywhere they went, God went. Everywhere God went, they went. Until finally they had conquered all their enemies, there was peace in the land and every man sat under his own vine and under his own fig tree.

And it was about that time that the people seemed to forget about the Lord.

Isn’t it funny how that happens? That the more prosperous we become, the more we are able to meet our own needs, the less we seem to depend on God to meet them for us? It isn’t long before we think we don’t need God at all, we can handle those emergencies that come up in our lives all by ourselves.

It happened like that for the people of Israel, they forgot about God until they were attacked by their enemies, and then they remembered, you bet they did.

You may remember last week, I talked about how the Philistines came up against the people at Ebenezer, and the people went down and they fought against the Philistines, and at the end of the day four thousand Israelites had fallen. That’s when someone remembered the Ark of the Covenant.

They said, “You know if we did that, if we brought the ark with us like we used to in the old days then God would be with us and God would fight our battles for us and we would beat those Philistines.”

That’s what they did. Tthe next day they carried the ark of God into the battle, and at the end of the day thirty thousand Israelites had fallen. Thirty thousand! This is what happens when you try to use God for your own purposes.

The ark was captured. For seven months it was kept by the Philistines until they decided they had had enough of that box. You remember from last week?

They sent it back to Israel and even the Israelites weren’t sure they wanted it. This sacred box was not exactly safe.

It ended up at the home of Abinidab, probably in a storage building out behind his house. The Ark of the Covenant tucked away with all those other yard sale items in a storage building. Imagine that!

It was there for twenty years. For all that time that Saul was chasing David around the wilderness of Judah. For all the time that it took for David to become king over Israel and when he did he remembered the ark and he went down there to Keriath-Jeram and brought it to Jerusalem with that grand parade, leaping and dancing before the Lord.

He put the ark in a tent. And looking down on that tent from the roof of his palace, he began to imagine the presence of God brooding there in that place, shimmering and pulsing just above the lid of that ark, between the wings of those cherubim. The presence of God in a tent? David said, “I know what I’ll do. I will do God a favor. I’ll build him a house! A big beautiful house! Bigger and better than my own, grander, more glorious than anything that has been built.”

And he went to Nathan and told him the whole plan, and Nathan thought it was good one. But that night, while Nathan was sleeping, the voice of the Lord came to him and whispered in his ear: “Go, and tell my servant David, ‘thus sayeth the Lord: Did I ask you to build a house for me? Since I brought my people up out of Egypt I have been living in a tent. Have I ever asked anyone to build a house for me? Do I need a house? No, David. You won’t build a house for me. I will build a house for you. A house, a dynasty, that will go on forever and ever. One of your offspring will build me a house sure enough, but your kingdom will become an everlasting kingdom. No matter what happens from here on, I will not take the kingdom away from you as I took it away from Saul. Your kingdom, David, will last forever.’”

In the years that followed that prophecy, people began to think that the offspring God was talking about who would build a house for David was Solomon, David’s son. And sure enough, Solomon built for David a big, beautiful temple, grander and more glorious than anything than anything that had ever been seen in Israel.

But after Solomon went the way of all flesh, the people began to think that maybe God had someone else in mind, that when he talked about this everlasting kingdom, when he talked about one who would be called not only son of David, but son of God, that he had someone else in mind.

In the first chapter of John we are told that the Word that was with God in the beginning, the Word that was God, that Word became flesh and lived among us. The word in Greek means literally “he pitched his tent with us,” and things were again like they were in the good old days. When God was with his people and his people were with God. He pitched his tent among us. He lived with us. He loved us. He taught us. And one of the things this Word made flesh taught us is that the dwelling place of God is not in some glorious temple, but in the heart of every human being who will receive him.

God doesn’t want some big fancy house. God simply wants a place to call home, a place with us.

The word of the Lord, thanks be to God.  

—Jim Somerville 2012

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