Monday, December 19, 2005

Sermon - Advent 4 - 2 Samuel 7:[1-7] 8-11,16

4th Sunday of Advent – December 18th 2005
2 Samuel 7:[1-7] 8-11,16
“David’s House”

I. Introduction – So with Christmas one week away, are you done with all your shopping? I have found in the past that some people are easier to shop for, and I get those done early. But then there are the more difficult cases. And the question that plagues many a Christmas gift-giver. “What do you get for the person who has everything?”

In today’s Old Testament reading, King David tries to answer that question. Not for a Christmas gift, but he wanted to give something to God, or do something nice for God. What do you get for the person who has REALLY has everything?

God had made David a king, had given him victory over all his enemies, and made him prosperous. David had enjoyed that prosperity, and after making Jerusalem his capital city had a fine palace built for himself. But he got to thinking – the ark of God, the dwelling place of the Lord – was still in a tabernacle, a tent. A temporary dwelling (sort of the ancient version of a mobile home). But David in a fine palace. This wasn’t right God deserved better. So David got his idea. I will make God a nice, big, permanent temple! God deserves it! And I can make it happen.

II. What Have You Done For Me Lately?
Like David, many of us think first of ourselves, and give to God as an afterthought. It’s a milder form of selfishness. Still, we might give credit to David for at least THINKING of the Lord. What he wanted to do was an honorable thing. It was nice. Surely David at least meant well.

But God had other plans. In fact, God (through the prophet Nathan) squelched the idea, shot it down. “David, when did I ever – in the last 200 years – asked ANY of my people to do something like this?”

We are not unlike David. We humans try to come up with our own ways to please God. And in doing so, we fail to please God. We think we know better than God does what he wants. We fail to listen closely enough to what he actually says, what he really asks for and demands.

How many people, even some Christians, think the message of the Bible is “be good – pretty good anyway – and get to heaven!” I heard a radio spot by a Roman Catholic priest just this week, which claimed Christianity teaches self-sacrifice is the way we get to heaven. This is simply wrong.

Christians know that we can do nothing for God that is good enough to please him. Nothing on our own, that is. “No merit or worthiness in me” our catechisms says. No bright idea. No exertion of effort. No persistence of prayer or worship or involvement in charity, no amount of financial sacrifice can put a smile on his face.

As the prophet Micah asks the rhetorical question, “with what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, shall I come before him with yearling calf, will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams? With ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give him my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” And rhetorical answer, of course, is no.

We know, like David, that we owe God something. We know that our sin is great, and something must be done. But we also know that God is the one to do something about it, in the person of his son, Jesus Christ!

III. God Builds a House for David
As usual, God has a better idea. His plan, as he tells Nathan and Nathan relates to David, is that “The Lord himself will establish a house for you!”
And in a twist on the word “house”, God makes a promise to David that comes true in Christ. Here’s how it goes.

“Your house” (that is your dynasty) “will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever”. David’s royal line is what God means. That a son of David’s (from David’s house) would rule on David’s throne forever.

You don’t have to be a professor of history to know that David’s throne, or his royal lineage, didn’t last forever. Like every other empire that rises and falls, so too did ancient Israel fall to the Babylonians. And never again, and certainly not to this day, did a king with David’s blood in his veins rule the promised land. But God is not a liar, and so we must understand this promise differently.

And I suspect you know the Son of David to which it truly applies. The one descendant of David in whom this promise is fully fulfilled. It is none other than the Son of God, and the Son of Mary (who was of David’s lineage). David’s house IS established forever in Jesus Christ. David’s throne is occupied forever in Jesus Christ. Jesus, whose royal birth was foretold by the angel to the virgin, that “The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

The same Jesus reminded Pilate, and he reminds us, that his “kingdom is not of this world”. He is not like earthly kings with all their wealth and pomp and majesty. He does not enter with a fanfare, but in the still of a Judean night. He is not dressed in royal finery, but wrapped in swaddling clothes. He grows not to lead armies in battle and make his name great, expanding the territory of his people and exacting vengeance on their enemies. He grows to preach, and heal, and serve, and especially to die. Not in glorious battle, but in humble shame, for the sins of his people. And so the cursed cross becomes his throne, the charge of criminal his title, and a borrowed tomb his royal burial chamber. Not much of a king by the world’s standards.

But what earthly king ever rose from the dead? What earthly king ascended to heaven’s throne, and God’s right hand? What earthly king gave his subjects the highest authority in the universe – the power to forgive sins in his name? No earthly king. But our king did, and does.

The Son of David, Jesus Christ, is our king, too. We are the new Israel over whom he rules. Our hearts and lives and spirits are subject to him alone, for he alone has saved us. We belong to him. By his royal blood, we are brought under the protection of God’s house. In his resurrection, we have the royal inheritance of life eternal. We couldn’t do anything for him. But he has done so much, and does so much for us. This is God’s plan. This is the promise to David, now fulfilled.

IV. What, Then, to Do?
So far we have seen that the best laid plans of men to please God are just not good enough. Much better to listen to God’s plans, and to trust him to bring them about. But having received so much, do we then sit idly? Should we then, do nothing at all?

No. For God’s plan is also that his people, forgiven and blessed by Christ the Son of David, would enact the love of Christ in their lives. That you and I, by the power of his Spirit working in us, would grow not only in faith but also in good works. Oh the works don’t build the house, they don’t even add anything to it. But they are expressions of the royal bloodline that we too are now a part of. For in Christ, we are a “holy nation, a royal priesthood”.

THIS is God’s plan. Not that we do things for him. But that he does for us first, in Christ, and then our works of faith follow… As Ephesians 2:8-10 puts it, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

David didn’t build the house for God, God built it for David, in Christ. So too in Christ, we are God’s workmanship – re-created in the waters of baptism and by His word and Spirit calling us to faith. Re-created to be holy and blameless in Christ, and to do the good works He intends.

May we, who now share now in that royal bloodline, respond to God’s plan as did the virgin Mary, “I am the Lord’s servant; may it be to me as you have said”. And may our faith in the God who alone builds the house, be followed by works of service and love, for the sake of Jesus Christ – our great king. In His Name, Amen.

V. Conclusion
David wanted to “do something for God”, but instead God does something for him (and us!). God fulfills his promises in Jesus, our eternal king. If we do anything for God, it’s because he has already done for us.

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