A Tale of Two Houses
2 Samuel 7:1 – 29
Acts 2:22 – 36
A Tale of Two Houses
What’s an ark?
There’s an old comedy routine you may have heard which involves a re-telling of the story of Noah, of course, with a few additions!
It’s a slightly different version of the story to what you’ll find in the Bible! After lots of effort, finding and herding 2 hippos, God tells Noah he’s actually got 2 male hippos, not a male and a female. And Noah gets grumpy with God because God won’t just turn one of the males into a female then and there,
And so Noah gets more and more angry, and eventually God rather pointedly asks Noah how long he reckons he can tread water.
But early on in the dialogue, God says to Noah, “I want you to build an ark …” and probably the most quoted line from this routine is Noah responding “Right, What’s an ark?”
A (m)ark of God’s faithfulness!
And it’s a question that you might have asked, as we heard 2 Samuel 7 read, what’s an ark?
What drives this whole narrative, is that King David has a dilemma, while things are going well for him, and he’s living in a palace of cedar, the ark of God remains in a tent.
And depending on how familiar you are with the Old Testament, one of three things might come to mind.
Because Noah’s ark in Genesis 6 – 9 isn’t the only ark in the Bible so far.
The basket that the baby Moses was placed in on the river, as an escape, that basket, is described as an ark, in Exodus 2 verse 6.
And then there was the Ark of the Covenant, which, wasn’t something just made up for the Indiana Jones movies, it was a real thing!
And this is the ark we’re talking about, the Ark of the Covenant.
Ark simply means “box”. So Noah’s Ark just means “Noah’s Box”. It doesn’t sound quite so inviting, does it? “Come for a cruise in the box!”
But that’s what it is.
And the Ark of the Covenant, or the Ark of the Lord, was a box about 1.2 metres long and about 76 centimetres deep and wide.
It was covered in gold …
It had two statues, of heavenly creatures, 2 cherubim on top.
Inside the ark were the 2 stone tablets with the 10 Commandments written on …
A pot of manna, the food that God had provided in the desert, and Aaron’s staff, which had budded when God was demonstrating his power to Pharaoh, king of Egypt.
And the ark was the meeting place, for God and his people. So Moses, and Aaron, and Joshua, the leaders of the people of Israel would come and stand before the ark, and God would meet them there, and speak to them.
So the ark was a symbol of God’s presence with his people.
And the ark, as David says, lived in a tent.
This is just an ordinary tent, the tent that David had pitched for it, we’re told in the previous chapter.
The ark had previously been kept in the tabernacle, a special tent, but now the tabernacle is pitched in Gibeon about 8 Ks away, and so David has more or less just gone to the party hire place, and hired a marquee for the ark to live in, in Jerusalem
So David’s in his palace …
And the object that symbolised God’s presence, is in a tent.
But while this disparity has given David this dilemma, things are actually going really well for him.
The story opens , the king was settled in his palace and the Lord has given him rest from all his enemies around him
It sounds a bit like, “and they all lived happily ever after”, just that it comes at the beginning of the story, but it’s much much more than just, “it was happy days.”
This introduction tells us that God has been faithful to his promises.
The covenant that God made with his people still stands,
Even though they’ve been disobedient …
And even though they rejected God and demanded a king …
Peace and stability and possession of the land, these were the promised blessings of the covenant that God had made with Abraham, and Moses.
As long as the covenant relationship stood, these things would flow from that,
And when we see the language like “rest”, and “a great name”, the promise to “raise up your offspring”, this kind of language comes straight out of the promises that God made in places like Genesis 15, and verse 1 is basically a quote straight out of God’s promises in Deuteronomy 12.
The backdrop to this section, which is considered one of the most significant passages in the Old Testament, reads “God is faithful to his promises”.
David wants to build a house for God
And so it seems quite appropriate for David to want to build a house for God. And so he says to the prophet Nathan, “how ‘bout it?”
David said, “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.”
The Canaanite kings, the kings of the nations around Israel, basically the very first thing they did when they settled in a new place, or won some significant battle, was to build a temple for the god they thought had helped them, because if you didn’t do that straight away, then the highly unstable and unpredictable gods that you worshipped, might turn on you, and destroy you.
But that’s not what David has done, is it?
He’s not trying to placate or pay off God,
He’s not trying to buy a few years of peace by building a temple, the day he moves into the land. This even is somewhere near the end of his reign, not the beginning of his reign.
David’s demonstrating that he’s a different kind of king to the kings of the nations all around,
So David’s not driven by superstition or self-preservation,
His motivation is that he’s genuinely concerned for the things of God.
And so even though God says, “No, you’re not going to build me a house”, it’s still a good reflection on David that he wants to do this …
And in fact, it’s actually more a reflection of who God is, that David wants to do this.
How could David be concerned for the things of God, if God had not first enabled him to be?
How could David be so motivated by concern for God’s name …
And God’s honour,
If God had not first been changing his heart, taking away the natural preoccupation with self, and putting in its place, a desire that God might be known and celebrated.
It’s not natural to be concerned with the things of God.
In fact the Bible tells us that all of us are far from God …
Running from God …
Rejecting him and his rule, until he turns us towards himself, and enables us to be concerned for the things that he is concerned for.
From a Christian perspective, 3000 years after David, we know it’s only because of the life and death and resurrection of Jesus that we can be turned from a life running away from God,
Preoccupied with things opposed to God …
And turned towards God …
Given new hearts that beat for the things of God.
We saw right at the end of our passage last week how God gave his Spirit to David. What’s interesting, is that with Saul, the previous king, we’re told the Spirit of God came on him multiple times, and was also taken away, but with David, the Spirit was with him from that day on, we’re told in chapter 16.
Which means David’s experience of the work of the Spirit of God, is more similar to the Christian’s experience, than most of the others in the Old Testament, who, if they receive the Spirit, it tends to be more short-term and for a particular task.
What happens to David isn’t identical to the Christian experience, but there is similarity, and so we shouldn’t be surprised that David can be concerned for the things of God.
During that time wandering the desert, God had said to the people, when you’re in the land, when you have rest from your enemies, then I will choose for you, a place, where I will dwell.
A place where I will come and meet with you …
A place for offerings and sacrifices …
A place where our unique relationship can be developed and expressed.
And so David has seen the promises of God partially fulfilled.
He understands that God has been faithful to his promises…
He know that the fact that they have peace and rest, means that what God promises, God delivers, and so he thinks now is the time to step out in obedience, and build the place, a house for God.
Not you and not now
But despite the fact that this is a good desire for David to have …
That he has this desire because God has been at work in him,
God has something better in mind, and so he says to David, not now , and not you.
See there in verse 5, Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in?, rhetorical question, implying “No, you’re not”! 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. , 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?
And then down in verse 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,
Not you David, and not now.
This section, from verse 5 down to verse 16, is the longest recorded message from God since the time of Moses. This is the most significant Word from God for hundreds of years.
Really God’s saying, “I don’t need a house.”
Not that a house is bad, he says, “Solomon is going to build me one!”
“But I’m not sort of, feeling incomplete because I don’t have a house, David.”
All the other nations thought their gods were more or less like hermit crabs, always looking for a bigger and better shell to live in.
So if you didn’t give them a nice house, they’d run off to the nation down the road who did know how to build a good temple.
But God’s presence with his people isn’t contingent upon a physical structure.
It never has been, and it never will be.
When he brought the Israelites out of Egypt, verse 6, he had no dwelling place, not even the tabernacle, and yet that didn’t stop God from dwelling with his people, or from making his name and character known to the other nations.
He showed his presence with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
Some of the most impressive displays of God’s power, and character, and presence, occurred during those days, and he didn’t need a house to be able to do that.
And in lots of ways, for all that time in the desert and in the early years in the Promised Land, for a God who leads, and guides, and goes before, a tent was a better symbol than a big stone building.
Remember that airline that used to operate out of Adelaide, Emu Airways. And you think “Hang on, the symbol you’re presenting me with, doesn’t convey what I think you want to convey, that you can get off the ground, for example!”
And there’s a little bit of irony in the question in verse 7, anything that a temple would be built out of, like cedar, is all part of the creation that God had made in the first place!
It’s like those of you who have got kids at school. Around well, Father’s Day, in my case, you give them a dollar, and they go off to school, and they spend the dollar that you gave them, on some little crafty thing someone has made, which they then give you, for Father’s Day.
It’s a nice gesture, and in 15 years time, my children, if you’re listening to this recording, on your implanted audio chip or something! I appreciated each one!, but it’s not really necessary is it?
God doesn’t need someone to build him a house, made out of stuff that God made in the first place, in order for that person to know God and relate to him.
There will be a time for a temple, we’ll see that next week …
But it’s not now, and David’s not the one to build it.
I want us to have a think about this for us, for a moment. And let me say, I am not David …
You are not David.
We do not stand, where David stood, as a significant character, in God’s plans for the redemption of the world through Jesus Christ.
We must not read ourselves in to this story, any more than we can read ourselves in to the story of Moses and start trying to part the ocean when we go to the beach.
But as Christian people, this side of the cross of Christ, I wonder if there are still occasions where God might say to some of us, “not now”, or “not you.”
You might have a really strong desire, to step out into some new ministry …
You might have a burden for a particular people group in some part of the world …
Maybe you’re thinking, I’d like to try a new way of using my gifts for the building up of God’s church.
Those are all really great desires to have.
But the inward desire to do these things, may not be the call, or the leading, or the provision of God.
It’s not to say it’s wrong to have those desires, It wasn’t wrong for David to want to build a temple …
But just because we might have that desire, even a burning passion, to serve God in that way, doesn’t mean that it’s God’s call.
When I was at high school and university, I was interested in overseas mission work, I hoped I’d end up in Africa.
It was something I was passionate about …
It seemed like a good way to serve God, and one Sunday in my highschool years, a great godly man, who worked for a mission organisation told me, it generally takes 8 years, from when someone decides they want to become a missionary, to when they end up on the mission field.
8 years! That was half my lifetime!
If God wanted to keep me in Adelaide for a year or two, I’d be happy with that, but 8 years?!
That was very much a “not yet.”
And as time’s gone on, it’s also proved to be a “not you”, as in “not me”! As God has provided other opportunities for me to serve, that in his wisdom and kindness, are a better fit with my personality and character and gifts, not to mention my flaws and idiosyncrasies.
But it wasn’t wrong for me to be passionate about going to Africa …
And in fact I still thank God that he enabled me, to have his heart for lost people, that was only due to the grace of God in my life.
So what do we do with our burning desires to serve God? Well I think we just do what David does, but we do it Christianly, not pre-Christianly.
David says, OK, I’ll take the first step.
He enquires of God,
He goes to the place where God speaks, the prophet Nathan,
We know that he has in his mind God’s written Word, because he quotes it word for word.
And when God speaks, when his Word makes it clear not to proceed, he submits.
Now if you’re a Christian person, you have a distinct advantage, in that while we saw that David’s experience of the Spirit was similar to ours, it’s not identical.
We live in the era after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, when God’s spirit dwells in all his people, and we know that the Spirit takes the final, authoritative Word of God in the Bible, and brings it alive for us, and gives wisdom and understanding, not only to us, but also to others around us in the body of Christ.
You want to serve God in something new and different …
Step out, Do it!
But do so, immersed in the Word of God, asking the Spirit of God to shine God’s Word into your life.
And remember also that others in your Christian family also have the Spirit of God, and may have insight that you don’t.
And the question is, would we be like David, and be willing to let someone else do it.
How will you respond if God raises someone else up to do that thing you had your heart set on?
God says “Solomon is going to build the temple.”
David says “OK”
He makes some preparations to help Solomon, but David doesn’t build it.
Perhaps, for someone, the possible application of this section, is “not yet”, or “not you.”
That’s a bit of an aside, but I think it’s a question worth thinking about.
God wants to build a house for David
And so God doesn’t want David to build a house for him, but God is going to build a house for David, and there’s this play on the word for “house” which in the original language, as in English, can mean both a dwelling place, and a dynasty.
Pick it up with me in the middle of verse 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…
And then we get a bit of a description of Solomon, who’s going to build the temple, and how even though he sins and does wrong, God isn’t going to take away the throne from David’s line.
So jump down to verse 15, But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, 16 Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’
Like some of you, we have a mortgage. And at some point in the distant future, I expect to pay off our mortgage, and then I will be have in my possession, the title deed to our house.
These verses here, are the title deed to the kingship of God’s people …
And God is giving the title deed, entrusting it, to David and his house, his dynasty.
But it’s not just a promise, for a good long, stable dynasty, this is a promise of an eternal dynasty
But in the short term, there’s both good news and bad news.
God is going to have to judge, some of David’s descendents.
They will suffer for their rejection of God, and for their sin and rebellion.
And as goes the king, goes the kingdom.
When the leaders go wrong, the people suffer, and so verses 11 – 14 are a prophetic summary of the history of the nation of Israel, from David in a thousand BC, give or take, down to 587 BC, when Jerusalem, the city in which he now sits, is destroyed by the Babylonians, and the people are taken off into exile.
There was never any Israelite king, who could fulfil these promises: an eternal dynasty, a kingdom that would endure forever, and so in the years leading up to Jesus, God’s people came to understand that these promises would be fulfilled in the rule of someone who’s throne would be literally, eternal.
So in the Dead Sea Scrolls, for example, which date from about 150 BC, and also in the later prophets of the Old Testament, we see that this promise, forms the basis for all the prophecies, and the message of hope and restoration that God’s people were holding on to.
Especially the hope for that great day, when God himself would come, and be with his people.
Only when that day comes, and when that great ruler, the Messiah, God’s chosen king comes, could these things possibly be fulfilled.
I mean, look at the promises,
They are stupid promises, if God only ever had in mind, the natural descendents of David.
We saw in Acts 2, everybody knew that David died, his tomb was just down the road.
All his sons died.
But there was one descendant of David, whose body did not see decay …
Who was not abandoned to the grave…
The New Testament authors make it clear, that no one other than Jesus of Nazareth, born in David’s line, can live up to promises made here.
Have a think about ways that Jesus is described in the New Testament, and see how he clearly is presented as the fulfilment of these promises.
He’s the son of David, Matthew 1 verse 1.
He’s the builder of God’s house in John 2 …
He sits on the throne ruling over God’s people, Revelation 3:21 …
His kingdom is eternal, Hebrews 1:8, 2 Peter 1:11
You cannot turn the pages of the New Testament, without being confronted by the claims that Jesus is this king …
In fact, in 1941, the Anglican theologian A G Herbert wrote a book about the fulfilment of the Old Testament in the ministry of Jesus, and he could think of no better title for his book than “The throne of David”
Jesus is the one who rules in David’s house.
Solomon did eventually build the temple.
It was destroyed in 587 BC.
A second temple was built in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah,
That was destroyed, in the first century BC.
King Herod, built a third temple in the same spot. That was destroyed, in 70 AD.
Do you detect a pattern?
The houses that people build for God, fall down, get destroyed.
I remember when I was in the UK a number of years ago, there was a debate raging about the conservation of buildings, particularly church buildings, the great cathedrals of England. And some scholars were saying “buildings fall down and break! That’s what buildings do! And so it’s artificial to prop them up with cleaning and restoration, and millions of dollars spent on making it look new again”.
And God would agree!
All the houses that people build for God, are destroyed, but the house that God built for his people, a dynasty, with Christ as the eternal king, that house lasts.
David sees grace
Let me close with a couple of quick observations about David’s prayer.
Firstly we see that David knows he’s been the recipient of God’s grace. This promise of an eternal dynasty isn’t some kind of quid pro quo from God, because David at least offered to build the temple, even though God turned him down.
Look at verse 18, Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? Or verse 19 …
Is this your usual way of dealing with people, O Sovereign Lord?
This prayer is so steeped in God’s grace, that it was actually through reading these words that John Newton was moved to pen the words to his hymn Amazing Grace.
The kind of romantic notion is that he wrote the hymn suffering pangs of guilt for his slave trading while his slave ship was being tossed in a storm,
But the truth is, in the Word of God, Newton saw the kindness and grace of God.
The other thing we see is that David is still is concerned for the things of God, even after what God has just promised him about his own family.
Do you see the language?
For your Word…
For your name …
What God wants is for his name to be honoured …
And while that might sound egotistical to us, what else could God want?
If God wanted anything else before his name being honoured, that would God an idolater!
See, praise, is simply, speaking the truth.
And David’s concern is that people would speak the truth about the God who acts graciously for his people.
Early in the 19th Century, Henry Martyn was a missionary to Persia. He wrote in his diary, “I cannot live, if God is not honoured.”
I cannot live, if God is not honoured.
I wonder if we would write that in our diaries this week?