Pastor Sherry’s Message for December 20, 2020
Scriptures: 2 Sam 7:1-11, 16; Ps89:1-4, 19-26; Lk 1:26-38
How many of you are aware of the Jan Karon series about the town of Mitford, in western North Carolina, and the pastor there named Father (Fr.) Timothy Kavanaugh? Karon has now published 14 books in this series. They are “clean,” Christ-centered, and heart-warming stories. In seminary, many of us hoped to serve at a parish like Mitford (the church there is called “Lord’s Chapel”). We would have done much better, however, had we hoped we would be more like Fr. Tim himself. Karon’s Fr. Tim is modest and self-effacing. He is honest but also tactful. He is inordinately patient with the elderly, children, and even unruly pets. He displays a great sense of humor. He has a pastor’s heart for his people, and he clearly loves Almighty God!
I recently read the 12th book in the series titled Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good, and what I found to be most noteworthy is Fr. Tim’s remarkable prayer life. Fr. Tim frequently lifts up the needs of his parishioners. He prays with them, he prays for them while engaged in other activities, and his favorite come-back for a prayer request is, “Consider it done!” A Bible-believing Episcopal priest, he has memorized many of his denomination’s beautiful prayers called “Collects.” Quite a few were written by Archbishop Cranmer following the Protestant Reformation in the mid-1500’s. Fr. Tim wakes up and ends his days reciting them. He praises God when things go well. He often prays what he calls the prayer that never fails: Lord, thy will be done….
Isn’t it true that most of us pray for help when our world is looking grim? Or we pray to know God’s will when facing a big decision. We may even remember to thank and praise Him for the wonderful moments, the miraculous events, the blessings in our lives. But do we ever think to ask Him what He’d have us to do bless Him? “Lord, how can we give back to You?” Or, “What could we do that would please You?”
Today’s Old Testament lesson (2 Sam 7:1-11+16) sheds some light on what tends to happen when someone wants to gift God.
We are presented with King David, who lived about 1,000 years before the 1st Coming of Jesus. Though he was a member of the tribe of Judah, he united all12 tribes to form the nation of Israel. He also established Jerusalem as his capital. With God’s help, he subdued all of Israel’s enemies and, at the time of this passage, is experiencing an unprecedented period of peace. Furthermore, he brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem and danced before it, worshipping God as it entered the city. He composed some great worship music, many examples of which are preserved for us as Psalms. As you can imagine, our passage finds him very grateful to God for having blessed him in all of these ways.
My favorite Bible Commentator, Dr. J. Vernon McGee, suggests it might have been on a rare stormy or rainy day that the king spent some time and energy comparing his situation in his palace with that of God’s in the Ark. He may have fretted, “Here I am sitting in this lovely cedar-lined palace, dry and warm, while God’s Ark sits out in the rain. That is hardly right. Why don’t I build God a house?” Truly, the “tent” which held the Ark was not covered. Nevertheless, David doesn’t pause to ask God if this is something that will please or bless Him. He just assumes it will. To King David, it probably seemed like a slam-dunk.
Even the prophet, Nathan, agreed with the idea, saying essentially, “Great concept! Run with it!” But God grabs ahold of Nathan and says, Go back! Tell David I said “no.” Furthermore, God adds, whoever said I needed a house? For years, God had lived in a tent! It has the advantages of being mobile, flexible, and portable (Other people groups in that day believed their local gods were confined to one geographic area; but the Hebrew God went all over the place). God is saying, essentially, I appreciate the thought, but I will not be contained by humankind.
Afterall, He’d manifested as a cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. When He gave directions for them to build the “Tent of Meeting”—in which He met with and spoke to Moses and Joshua– He was present but not confined by the tent. All of this was so until God allowed David’s son, Solomon, to build His Temple; and until informs us in John 1:14–The Word became flesh and dwelt (tented; pitched His tent) among us–a tent of flesh!
God denied the gesture but honored David’s intention. He then proceeds to give David more than he could have asked for or imagined.
- First, He calls David “Servant.” This is actually a Biblical term of endearment indicating a special relationship between a person and the Lord. Typically it is used only with some patriarchs, the prophets, the nation of Israel, and Jesus.
- Next he tells Nathan, “Tell David I will build him a house” (dynasty). David already has a luxurious palace. The word House is bayith in Hebrew. It has 3 meanings: (1) David’s palace (vv.1-2); (2)Yahweh’s Temple (vv. 5-7, 13); and (3)David’s dynasty (vv.11, 16, 18, 19, 25-27, 2 times in 29). This is the only royal house that the Lord would ever sanction in perpetuity.
- God then sets out the terms of His Covenant with David. God promises:
1.) I will make your name great (famous/renoun)
2.) I will provide a place for My people;
3.) I will give you rest from your enemies;
4.) I will raise up offspring to succeed you;
5.) I will establish the throne of your kingdom forever. This means that God would not allow anyone to usurp David’s throne from him. It also means that while the dynasty may fade, it will not disappear completely.
6.) I will be his Father/He will be My son. God will father Solomon after David passes away. And later, God will be/is still the Father of Jesus.
7.) I will discipline Him….God allows David’s wicked descendants to be taken out by the Assyrians or the Babylonians. And much late–though He was without sin–Jesus is flogged and crucified.
8.) But I will always love him!
9.) Your throne will be established forever: In Luke 1:32–Gabriel says to Mary, He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God shall give Him the throne of his father David.
This 2 Samuel 7 passage is a very important section in the Old Testament as it expresses the Messianic Hope! Our God is a Promise-Keeping God. He placed the scepter (symbol of kingly power and rule) in the tribe of Judah way back in Genesis 49:10. This Messianic Hope is reiterated time and time again in the Old Testament: 4 times in Isaiah; 3 times in Jeremiah; 2 times in Ezekiel; and once each in Hosea, Amos, and Zechariah.
Additionally, this passage shapes our Christian understanding of Jesus Christ:
- He is a son of (descendant of) David;
- One who will rise up from the dead;
- He is the capstone or cornerstone of the House of GodàJohn 2:19–Destroy this Temple (His body) and I (Jesus) will raise it again in 3 days.
- He is the possessor of a throneàRevelation 3:21–To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with Me on My throne…
- He rules over an eternal Kingdom:
- Jn 18:36–Jesus said, My Kingdom is not of this world. If it were, My servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But My kingdom is from another place.
- Matt 28:28–And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
- He is the Son of God:
- Mark 1:1–The beginning of the Gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
- Acts 9:20–At once [Paul] began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus was the Son of God.
- He is also the product of an “immaculate,” miraculous
- conception since God is His Father.
Now what does this mean to us today? For one thing, our God keeps His promises, both to David and to us! Jesus Christ, God’s Son, is descended from King David’s line. He thus fulfills all of the Old Testament prophesies about His identity. Just as He was the hope for David (and for many down through the ages), He is our hope, right now! He has made us for relationship with Himself. He loves us with a steadfast and loyal love. He is faithful and true. He will never leave or forsake us.
For another, we can never out-give God. Jesus Christ died on the cross to save us from the penalty for our sins. The great temple built by Solomon (later rebuilt by Herod the Great) is gone (destroyed by the Romans in 70AD, and not yet to this day rebuilt.) The point of that is thatGod’s house is not a building! Now, it’s us. By the indwelling power of His Holy Spirit, our bodies are God’s temple.
I think the literary character, Fr. Tim Kavanaugh, truly demonstrates how to live and pray in a way that honors God. As we approach Christmas this week, let’s come to God with grateful hearts. Like dear, humble Mary, let’s seek to do God’s will at all times. And, while we can’t out-give God, let’s ask Him how we might bless Him this Christmas. Amen.
©2020 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams