Seward United Methodist Church
Saturday, May 26, 2018
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God Is Still God

2 Samuel 7:1-16

 We are told more about the life of David than any other person in the Old Testament.  We follow his life in Scripture from the time when he was a teenager until his death.  There is more material about his life than anyone else, including the entire book of 2 Samuel.

 Now at this point, David is past the early trials of his life.  He was the boy chosen by God to be king in place of Saul, a choice that put his life at risk.  He has already defeated the giant, Goliath.  He has already endured more than a decade of his life on the run from Saul.  He has lived as an outlaw in the wilderness and even in the presence of his enemies to escape from a murderous king.  And at every step on that journey, he has depended on God.  He trusted God to save him Goliath’s sword, Saul’s spear, and the Philistines.  

 No doubt it was easier for him to trust God in those earlier days.  But things have changed now.  Goliath is dead.  Saul is dead.  Saul’s heir is dead.  David has been made king.  He has captured Jerusalem and made it his capital.  And he has brought the Ark of God to the city.

 Does David still need God?  Will he continue to trust in God and ask of God?  Or has David outgrown God?  Is God just a relic of his childhood now?  

 God was a necessity when David was young and weak and poor.  But now David is in his prime.  He is rich.  He is powerful.  He is strong.  He is accomplished.  He is a grown man, not a child.  Perhaps God is no longer necessary.  

 In the cultural context of the ancient Near East world, the king was divine.  The king was a god.  Does David still need God?  Perhaps David can be his own god.

 Maybe it’s easier to believe in God when we are young, inexperienced, weak, lacking in knowledge, competence, and skill.  Perhaps it becomes harder to believe in God when we come into our prime, when we are accomplished and strong.  We feel more self-sufficient in our prime.  

 What’s David going to do?  He’s going to build a Temple for God.  He looks at his situation and says, “I’m living better than God.  I’m living in a palace and God is in a tent.  I should rectify this situation.”  

 So he’s going to build God a Temple, in Hebrew a BAYITH.  BAYITH basically means “house,” but it could also mean temple, because a temple was the house of a god.  A temple was a place for a god to rest.  And what David is doing here is all typical of his culture.  The understanding was that when a king ascended to the throne, when he was victorious over his enemies, then he should build a temple for his god.  It was a way of thanking the god and securing the favor of the god.  You build a nice temple for the god, and that god will give you rest and peace and prosperity.  

 David never asks God about his plan.  He just lays it out there.  “I’m in a nice cedar palace.  God’s living in a tent.  I’ll build him some new digs.  He’ll love it!”

 What is David’s motivation?  We have no way of knowing, but we can guess.  

 Perhaps it is a demonstration of gratitude.  “I’m glad for all God has done for me.  I will do this to repay him.”  That’s not a bad motivation.  But David is certainly missing something here.  He doesn’t ask God for direction.  Never a good way to go.

 Perhaps David wants to curry favor from God.  “If I build God a nice Temple, then he will continue to bless me.”  It’s the cosmic vending machine concept of God:  You put something in and you get out what you want.  Not a good motivation.

 Perhaps David wants to pay God back.  “God, you did so many nice things for me.  I’m going to make things right.  I’ll settle us up.”  It’s like the kid who grows up poor, makes it big in the NFL or the NBA or MLB, and they turn around and buy a nice house for mom and dad.  “You were there for me.  Now I’ll take care of you!”  David owed God for his help earlier, now he’s going to settle the debt.  Not a good motivation.

 Perhaps David wants to contain God, to use God.  You see, idols and temples were a way of controlling the gods in the ancient Near East.  You build a nice temple.  You put a nice idol in it.  You tend to the needs of the idol, and you are able to manipulate your god.  Definitely not a good motivation.

 I don’t think David sees his relationship with God in the same way anymore.  God and David are no longer master and servant.  Now, they are more like equals in David’s mind.  

 God isn’t pleased.  He sends his answer back to David through the prophet Nathan:  “I’ve never needed a Temple.  I haven’t complained.  But I raised you up from a

shepherd boy to a king.  I kept you safe all along the way.  You presume to build a house for me, but I will build a house for you.”  

 You see, David has no heir, no son from his royal wife, Michal.  Michal was the daughter of Saul.  She is David’s royal wife, the daughter of the former king, his connection to the dynasty.  She is childless.  So God says, “I will build a house for you.  You will have an heir.  In fact, you will have a dynasty,” which was another use of the Hebrew word, BAYITH, “and not just any dynasty, but one that will last forever.”  

 The promise is fulfilled in Jesus.  Jesus is the descendant of David who will reign forever.  Jesus is the one of whom God says, “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son.”  

 Our Scriptures this morning are backwards.  We ended with 2 Samuel, which is God’s promise.  Earlier we heard from Luke 1:26-38, which is the fulfillment of that promises.  And we began the service with Luke 1:46-55, which is Mary’s praise to God for that fulfillment.  So we’re backwards today.  

 God is a debtor to no one.  David can’t “settle accounts” with God.    David was in danger of losing sight of God and becoming full of himself.  So God set him straight.  Self-sufficiency is nothing more than an illusion.  We depend on God.  And sometimes, in our prime, we forget we need God.  Or maybe we make our plans for what we want to do for God.  And those plans can distract us from what God is doing.  

 But God will always be God.  And we never will be.  And we had best not forget that!

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