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Don't do great things for God

Back to all sermons The Life of David

Date: April 7, 2019

Speaker: Eric Stillman

Series: The Life of David

Scripture: 2 Samuel 7:1–7:29

This morning we are continuing to go through the Life of David as recorded in 1 & 2 Samuel. To briefly recap the past few weeks: King Saul is dead. After 20 years in the wilderness, running for his life, David has returned to Israel to become the next King. And so far, he is on a hot streak. David has put the Philistines in their place, he has united north and south into one kingdom, established Jerusalem as the capital city, and brought the ark of the covenant back. God reigns in Israel again, and all is good for David. He finally has peace. And so, he decides that he wants to do something special for God.

 

2 Samuel 7:1-29 - After the king was settled in his palace and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies around him,  2 he said to Nathan the prophet, "Here I am, living in a palace of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent."  3 Nathan replied to the king, "Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the LORD is with you."  4 That night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, saying:  5 "Go and tell my servant David, 'This is what the LORD says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in?  6 I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling.  7 Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, "Why have you not built me a house of cedar?"'  8 "Now then, tell my servant David, 'This is what the LORD Almighty says: I took you from the pasture and from following the flock to be ruler over my people Israel.  9 I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men of the earth.  10 And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning  11 and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies. "'The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you:  12 When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom.  13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.  14 I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men.  15 But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you.  16 Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.'"  17 Nathan reported to David all the words of this entire revelation.  18 Then King David went in and sat before the LORD, and he said: "Who am I, O Sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?  19 And as if this were not enough in your sight, O Sovereign LORD, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant. Is this your usual way of dealing with man, O Sovereign LORD?  20 "What more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Sovereign LORD.  21 For the sake of your word and according to your will, you have done this great thing and made it known to your servant.  22 "How great you are, O Sovereign LORD! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears.  23 And who is like your people Israel-- the one nation on earth that God went out to redeem as a people for himself, and to make a name for himself, and to perform great and awesome wonders by driving out nations and their gods from before your people, whom you redeemed from Egypt?  24 You have established your people Israel as your very own forever, and you, O LORD, have become their God.  25 "And now, LORD God, keep forever the promise you have made concerning your servant and his house. Do as you promised,  26 so that your name will be great forever. Then men will say, 'The LORD Almighty is God over Israel!' And the house of your servant David will be established before you.  27 "O LORD Almighty, God of Israel, you have revealed this to your servant, saying, 'I will build a house for you.' So your servant has found courage to offer you this prayer.  28 O Sovereign LORD, you are God! Your words are trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant.  29 Now be pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever in your sight; for you, O Sovereign LORD, have spoken, and with your blessing the house of your servant will be blessed forever." 

 

Quick summary – David wants to build a temple for God. Nathan says go for it. But that night, God tells Nathan no, so then Nathan tells David no, that instead, God will build a house, metaphorically speaking, for David that will last forever. And David praises and thanks God for this. Three things I want to highlight from this passage. First, let’s go back to the opening verses:

 

After the king was settled in his palace and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies around him,  2 he said to Nathan the prophet, "Here I am, living in a palace of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent."  3 Nathan replied to the king, "Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the LORD is with you." 

 

David tells Nathan his desire. I want to build a house for God. This is a normal thing in the Ancient Near East – a king gains success, and builds a temple for his God. It will honor the deity, and it will honor the king as the one who built it. This desire is understandable. After all, David has a great house, and the ark is in a ratty old tent  - "Here I am, living in a palace of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent." And Nathan is like, “go for it.” He doesn’t think about it, pray about it, or ask God about it; he just figures it must be a good idea, so he gives it the green light. But that evening, God speaks to His prophet Nathan and tells him that he has other plans, and that David is not going to be the one to build a temple. Instead, God is going to first establish David and His people before they establish a temple for Him.

 

The first thing I want to point out is this:

 

  • Discipleship is not about doing things for God, but following His lead

 

David wants to build God a temple, and Nathan is sure this is a good idea. But God tells them no. This pattern is common in 1 & 2 Samuel – very spiritual men thinking they know what is best, thinking they are seeing things from the proper perspective, only to be corrected by God. Eli with Hannah. Samuel with Eliab & David. David with Nadab. Now Nathan with David. But when they get before God, they realize that God does not see things the way that they do.

 

This concept flies in the face of what our culture tells us. The world tells you to trust your heart and you’ll never be led astray. No! Trust the Lord and you’ll never be led astray. Your heart is so full of baggage, sin, and issues that you can’t see clearly. You don’t have the right perspective. Think of Samuel thinking Eliab should be the next king – he has been culturally conditioned to think that God’s anointed must be a tall, strong man. In the same way, our perspective is culturally conditioned, affected by our backgrounds, by the family in which we grew up, by our own issues and baggage and sin. You do not see things with a pure or proper perspective. You need to follow the Lord’s lead.

 

This past week we were in Peru on a mission trip. I have been reflecting a lot upon short-term missions and reading articles. One missionary posted some blog posts about how frustrating it is when missionaries show up thinking they are doing good deeds instead of humbly following the lead of the host church or missionaries. For example, coming to paint walls in a city of 40% unemployment where the jobs could be given to locals to do. It is the same in our relationship with God – often we think we know what is best, when it would be better to ask the Lord what it is we should be doing.

 

I find this passage to be frightening. Is it possible that I have been doing lots of good things for God without actually following His lead?

 

Discipleship is not about doing for God. David wanted to do something great for God, which is noble. And Nathan was sure that God would approve, so he rubber stamped it. But God knows what is best. For whatever reason, God knew that would be a bad idea for David to build the temple. Maybe he knew that spending all their time on a building project would distract from solidifying the city spiritually.

 

And so, after Nathan goes back to David, what does David do?

 

18 Then King David went in and sat before the LORD, and he said: "Who am I, O Sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?  19 And as if this were not enough in your sight, O Sovereign LORD, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant. Is this your usual way of dealing with man, O Sovereign LORD? 

 

He sits before the Lord. He comes to listen, to learn, to pray, to thank Him, and most of all, to follow His lead and obey. He comes as a servant, not as the King.

 

He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

 

This morning, I encourage you to come and sit before the Lord. Get off the throne and sit before His throne as a servant, ready to do His will. Let him reorient your perspective so that you see the world as He sees it and do what really matters. How can you start your day without sitting with the Lord? How can you make major decisions without sitting before the Lord? Just because you’re doing a lot of good things does not mean that you are following the Lord.

 

Romans 12:1-2  Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-- this is your spiritual act of worship.  2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-- his good, pleasing and perfect will.

 

Now, how do I hear from Him? I don’t know. I admit that this is more of a mystery than it was for the prophets who heard directly from God. He speaks primiarly through Scripture. For me, it is about spending time with Him and writing down as people and tasks come to mind.

 

The second thing we learn from this passage is this:

 

  • God is a God of grace and condescension

 

6 I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling.  7 Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, "Why have you not built me a house of cedar?"'  8 "Now then, tell my servant David, 'This is what the LORD Almighty says: I took you from the pasture and from following the flock to be ruler over my people Israel.  9 I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men of the earth. 

 

God is a pilgrim God, traveling with his people. He is “God with us,” Emmanuel. And he tells David, “I chose you when you were a shepherd. I protected you when Saul wanted you dead. I brought you back to establish you as king. You don’t have to do anything for me. This relationship is about grace – an undeserved gift given by an unobligated giver. You didn’t deserve this, and I owe you nothing, but I give to you because I love you. God is a God of grace, giving us what we don’t deserve, and a God of condescension, who desires to dwell among His people, even in a tent.

 

In fact, this condescension will continue in a way that David could never have imagined:

 

John 1:14 - The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us

 

“Made his dwelling” is “tabernacled” among us. He pitched his tent with us. He was Emmanuel. This is why Paul writes:

 

Philippians 2:3-11 - Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:  6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,  7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross!  9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,  10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 

God is a God who condescends to our level. He gives us grace. Think of Jesus on the cross.

 

Romans 5:6-10  You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!  10 For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

 

It is all grace.

 

John 15:16-17   16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit-- fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 

 

Do you understand this? Do you believe that God chose you, not because of anything in you but just because He loves you? That it wasn’t your choice, that even if you chose, it was because He drew you to Himself, lifted the veil and allowed you to see Him for who He is? I used to think that God was lucky to have me on his team. But it’s all grace.

 

What is your reaction to this grace, this condescension? How does David respond?

 

18 Then King David went in and sat before the LORD, and he said: "Who am I, O Sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?  19 And as if this were not enough in your sight, O Sovereign LORD, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant. Is this your usual way of dealing with man, O Sovereign LORD?  20 "What more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Sovereign LORD.  21 For the sake of your word and according to your will, you have done this great thing and made it known to your servant.  22 "How great you are, O Sovereign LORD! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears.  23 And who is like your people Israel-- the one nation on earth that God went out to redeem as a people for himself, and to make a name for himself, and to perform great and awesome wonders by driving out nations and their gods from before your people, whom you redeemed from Egypt?  24 You have established your people Israel as your very own forever, and you, O LORD, have become their God. 

 

He is in awe at the grace of God. Who am I, that you have blessed me like this? God does not need me. But he has chosen me. Just sit before God and marvel. Be in awe. Like a child. Love because He has loved you. And see how David just wanted God’s name to be made great. When you see someone do something great for you, you just want them to be honored.  As John the Baptist said in John 3:30 - He must become greater; I must become less. 

 

The third thing we learn from this passage is this:

 

  • Trust in His promises and let them guide your life and prayers

 

God promises David some great things beginning in v. 11:

 

"'The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you:  12 When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom.  13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.  14 I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men.  15 But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you.  16 Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.'" 

 

God promises that he is building an everlasting kingdom that will be fulfilled partially in his son Solomon, who will build the temple, but ultimately in the Son of David, Jesus.

 

Luke 20:41-44 -  Then Jesus said to them, "How is it that they say the Christ is the Son of David?  42 David himself declares in the Book of Psalms: "'The Lord said to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand  43 until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet."'  44 David calls him 'Lord.' How then can he be his son?"

 

Jesus declares that he is the son of david, but is greater than David. He is the eternal King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

 

Revelation 11:15 - The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever."

 

Neither sin nor death will stop this promise. Even with all the foolish and wicked kings that will follow David, God’s promises will come to pass. Nothing can stop his covenantal love.

 

David responds by praying according to His promises.

 

25 "And now, LORD God, keep forever the promise you have made concerning your servant and his house. Do as you promised,  26 so that your name will be great forever. Then men will say, 'The LORD Almighty is God over Israel!' And the house of your servant David will be established before you.  27 "O LORD Almighty, God of Israel, you have revealed this to your servant, saying, 'I will build a house for you.' So your servant has found courage to offer you this prayer.  28 O Sovereign LORD, you are God! Your words are trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant.  29 Now be pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever in your sight; for you, O Sovereign LORD, have spoken, and with your blessing the house of your servant will be blessed forever." 

 

Best way to pray is according to God’s promises. Pray them back. Then you know you are walking in the will of God.

 

Come and sit before the Lord. Marvel at His grace, remind yourself of the gospel and let it transform your mind. Read His word, learn His promises, and pray and trust in them.